A Mind That Suits
What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.
Monday, July 25, 2011 :::
One has to defer to David Pryce-Jones, and James Taranto rightly highlights his thoughts over at the indispensible Best of the Web Today. A Mind That Suits adds some further thoughts at the end.
One quick thought, and then a longer reflection:
When, in April, 1999, two disaffected students opened fire at Columbine High School, killing 13 people and wounding 24 more, most people were rightly horrified. Yet there was a drumbeat on the left that the whole thing was understandable, because--this is no joke--the school had an overenthusiastic booster club. A leftwing friend snarled in contempt that the victims were "horrible people," and a whole book was manufactured pushing that thesis, one that was uniformly rejected by most people who went to school there. Of course, they could have had false-consciousness.
When Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on a Congresswoman, politcal rhetoric that he never read or expressed support for was blamed.
When Anders Breivik set off a bomb and then appeared on an island and killed nearly 100 children, a religion he barely seems to have subscribed to was blamed.
If that makes sense to you--that two killers were understandable, and two were not--you are ideologically and utterly unconcerned with any of the people who got killed, and that is wrong.
Now, for the longer reflection:
One wishes that such things were not so predictable, but they have become that way.
First, let us remember one inescapable truth: according to those who study such things, somewhere between two and five percent of the population is mentally disturbed in some serious way.
That is a lot of people.
And then let us remember one of the few valuable observations on society made by Albert Einstein, whose capacious brain was at its best when it was occupied with matters far from the world of politics and morals. Technological advance, he observed correctly, is like putting an axe into the hands of a madman.
The horrors inflicted in tiny Norway by one of her own sons appear to be quite sui generis in their origins. What emerges from glimpses of his 1500 page “manifesto” is that he was remarkably adept at English, the kind of thing that merely reinforces the opinion of A Mind That Suits, who has taught the English language for many years, that teaching English is neither intrinsically good or bad.
After that, the killer is clearly obsessed with the inroads Islam has made in Norwegian society. But let us not forget that he killed nearly 100 Norwegians. If there is some rational connection between his obsessions and his violence, he would have killed a different set of people.
Or one would think. (For an alternative view, see David Pryce-Jones's interpretation.)
Yet once again—this is the predictable part--the intellectual elite has rushed to a judgment that the barbarians are at the gate and the lunatics are running the asylum.
Because the killer identified himself on his Facebook page as Christian and conservative, that became the first cause célèbre, as it were. Except that, as with Jared Lee Loughner, his list of self-confessed influences is rather broad. Actually, it is extremely latitudinarian, including, apparently, every Anglo-Saxon proponent of the rule of law as a guarantee of societal harmony and advancement, including the anti-violence and anti-revolutionary Edmund Burke.
The list of books, we are told, ran to forty-nine pages. If it turns out to be nothing more than an autodidact’s list of every important book ever written on politics, A Mind That Suits will be very surprised. The killer is apparently smart enough to have actually read them all, which would make him different than some other killers with delusions of grandeur.
As for the Christian part, he seems to have desired that all religious groups in the West unite to fight Muslim immigration. He was himself a Free Mason, and any Catholic, which A Mind That Suits unapologetically is, must perforce view him as sympathetic to syncretic paganism. Protestants will be more comfortable saying that he is probably a pan-theistic Deist or leans that way. This means that there is usually no impediment to a Mason’s belonging to most Protestant churches, except the fundamentalist ones, whose views on Freemasonry are identical to those of the Papal Magisterium, uncomfortable as that might make them.
Which means that the killer cannot be any kind of Christian fundamentalist.
Ah, well, details.
Now that the explanation seems to have settled on as firm a ground as can be found in this sociopath’s mind—his anti-Muslim obsession—the 100 dead Norwegian children are quickly being forgotten as accusations fly on that issue.
A Mind That Suits was reminded of three serious situations in which a large segment of the population felt that there was a serious problem that needed a drastic cure: opposition to the ex cathedra imposition of the most liberal abortion regime in the West by the Supreme Court, the need to protect women from domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, and exploding crime rates following, again, capricious Supreme Court rulings.
In each case, the overwhelming majority of concerned citizens took advantage of their rights to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances and ultimately had an impact---against crime most notably, against abortion least successfully. But all had some success.
Despite extremists on their side. For abortionists, it was clinic bombers who took life illegally in the name of defending life. For sex crimes, it was instigators of 'date rape' hysteria on campus and the
'recovered memory movement' who ruined lives through false accusations. Against crime, it was vigilantes.
And some---many?—now wish to discredit people who are worried about how well Muslims will fit into a liberal society, and they will point to Anders Bleivik.
A Mind That Suits is always against people who say that a problem shouldn’t be mentioned so it will go away. During the Cold War, this took a strange twist: if you knew any actual facts about life inside the Soviet Union, you would be said to favor nuclear war. Presumably, pointing out real differences would lead to war, in this way of thinking, so just say both sides are the same—cf., Dr Seuss—and all will be well in the garden.
In the case of Islam, A Mind That Suits is of the firm belief that everyone should study what Islam actually says. Only by truly understanding Islam can there be hope of any progress in navigating the waters in which we find ourselves. He has occasionally made a serious study, and found it endlessly fascinating.
But the sociopaths of the world—the Jared Lee Loughners and the Anders Breiviks of the world—are a separate issue. They need to be disarmed and locked up before they do any more harm.
If that is possible. Which it isn’t. So prepare for more as—pace Albert Einstein—more madmen get more advanced axes.
In Peter Jackson's magnificent but flawed adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf finds out that Saruman wants the One Ring for himself, he accuses Saruman of leaving the path of reason and going "the way of madness," or words to that effect. This is the modern, therapeutic mindset speaking. In the book, Gandalf tells the allies assembled at the Council of Elrond that Saruman has yielded to the temptation of evil, which was closer to the truth. Nowhere in the book (or the movie) does Saruman act insane. He acts evilly.
David Pryce-Jones, in an insightful and disturbing discussion of the massacre in Norway entitled More Dangerous Than Insane . To put it shortly, he takes the line that Gandalf does in the books. (See a meditation on the enduring wisdom of J.R.R. Tolkien in a previous post.)
Dr. Pryce-Jones cites the comprehensive and methodical nature of the "manifesto" and the attacks themselves. That itself is not dispositive, because plenty of crazy people are methodical. Not all mass murderers kill themselves when they are caught. And there is the complete inconsistency of the works the murderer cites and of his ideas.
And yet, and yet...
Goethe commented that if one wanted to drive a young man insane, one need only set him to study the works of Hegel. Hegel does indeed frequently make connections that make sense only to himself. At one point, he declares that the most morally significant relationship in all of literature is between a brother and sister in Greek mythology. The English translation of his most frightening work, the Phenomenology of Power (or of Right--the German is conveniently slippery), has large sections of paraphrasing, so incomprehensible is the German.
Hegel inspired much Continental political thought over the last two hundred years.
Dr. Pryce-Jones makes briefly a point made at length this morning by Bruce Bawer, a minor official of the George H.W. Bush administration who is famous in this country for having published a conservative defense of gay marriage. He decamped to Norway, if memory serves, because he felt that gays were more accepted there. He has argued at book length that if the elites cannot address the problems posed by the failure of Muslim immigrants to integrate, then violence will ensue.
It must also be remembered that the European governing elites have never cottoned to democracy. Their heads of state may in most cases by appointed, in some elected, and their heads of government are all elected. But it simply cannot be said that they govern democratically. Most egregiously, the public accepts the idea of closer cooperation, but not union, and at every step the EU Constitution (The Lisbon "Treaty") has been rammed down their throats. As Dr. Pryce-Jones himself has pointed out, the European parliament building is designed with its back to the general public. Europeans have been docile because they have been paid off and the United States has done all the heavy lifting militarily.
Or just any lifting recently, as outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said bluntly to the NATO governing body. And do not be surprised, he added, if the people of the US decide the alliance has no meaning any more.
So if the peoples of Europe are disenfranchised by their own leaders, and the US is no longer willing to defend nations that will not defend themselves, is there anything in European history to indicate that her peoples themselves cotton to actual democracy, or will they be tempted yet again by their unique gift to political theory, totalitarian socialism.
Albert Einstein, quoted above, was very sympathetic to socialism, as many scientists seem to be, despite the fact that nothing about socialism is scientific. He failed to see that totalitarian socialism is his worst fear, the "madman with the technologically advanced axe" writ large.
The Norwegian assassin still seems to be a lone operator. But has he jumpstarted something, as he clearly desires? Dr. Pryce-Jones cites Hitler's failed "Beerhall Putsch," which ended in his humiliation and imprisonment.
And transformation into a folk hero.
Hitler was no doubt insane. Joachim Fest's magisterial biography of Hitler is filled with days when he obsessed on suicide, only to be dissuaded by the likes of the execrable Cosima Wagner, Richard's daughter.
The term "Beerhall Putsch" is an Anglo-Saxon bit of condescension, forgetting what beerhalls are in Bavarian culture. It is about as serious as Charlie Chaplin's attempt to humiliate Hitler by making fun of him in The Great Dictator. Yeah, Charlie, that stopped him cold.
Bavaria was in 1923 still in the throes of civil insurrection following Germany's defeat. An emergency "commissioner" had been appointed to impose order, and he was speaking in the hall, which was filled with government leaders and politically minded citizens. Hitler thought he could ride a wave of popular rage straight to Berlin.
He did, in 1933. In 1934, he won an election (and he would have without Nazi shenanigans). Not only did he win it, but the overwhelming majority of Germans voted for Revolutionary Socialism, of either the German Workers or the International Workers variety. There were not many truly democratic candidates in that election, and fewer were elected.
And when the Germans got to Norway, many Norwegian joined the storied Norwegian resistance, while the Swedes just sat idly by. What is forgotten is that many Norwegians joined the Nazis and fought for them in other countries.
Will the Norwegian madman become the legend on which new horrors are based? European elites will have to address that issue.
Or are we reaching a new level in a much larger historical shift?
Because of Hegel's baleful influence, the great philosopher of science (and critic of phony political science) Karl Popper said that nearly all German theoretical writing of the last 200 years was useless.
The exception was Nietzsche, who did indeed write clearly, all too clearly. Because European governing elites had become completely unmoored from any morals, he said, we would see "strange brotherhoods of men" arise to fight with each other. So far, so prescient: competing versions of revolutionary socialism. Educated people remember that, though America's own elites seem to forget it.
But, Nietzsche continued, exactly because of technological advances, the 21st Century would be so much more--so much grander, so much more violent. Perhaps, he said, it would become the fate of the average person to just be something to be fought over.
One thinks of American drones, developed to defend democracy, in the hands of Anders Breivik's admirers, and one shudders.
Not a fun day, but a hat tip to longtime, tolerant friend James on the "clearly, all too clearly."
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 2:16 PM