Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Changing Story

Two articles in RCP yesterday should give pause to those who bash the conservative side for wrong-headedness.

One has to do with the Global Warming Alarmists.   The other, with the hated "Bush Doctrine" that Charles Gibson coined and sprang on Palin in that famous interview.  They both have a lot to do with "that was then, this is now".  And everything's the same, and these differences only prove it.

I've been pondering an aspect of Academiitis Intellectualus lately, and I think I've come to a new insight -- for me anyway.  And that is the role of abstract thought in the life of the infected.

In a normal, healthy human being, one balances the capacity for abstract thought with experiencial moorings in reality.  In other words, while our enormous capacity for abstract thought is what sets us apart from other animals, it really is another world and it is only related to what Godwin calls the horizontal plane of reality.  Language is a basic layer of abstract thought that helps us communicate ideas to each other.   There are other layers as well, but we tend to combine language with them.  We think in words more often than not once we learn language.

We build these often useful models of reality - abstractions of experience ... and ... abstractions of abstractions.  And thus we can build layer upon layer of abstraction.  The ability to do this is useful, it's interesting, and like I said demonstrates an agile and flexible intellect.

Some people get too proud of this ability.   One should understand that the more layers of abstraction one constructs over reality, the farther from reality it becomes.  But many people do not understand this.  They are  proud of their ability to abstract -- not that the ability itself isn't desirable or indeed something to be proud of -- but when it becomes the dominant mode of thought and source of pride, it can quickly build a house of cards.   As such people engage in this activity they begin to confuse rationalization with reason.

And they become Progressives.  ;-)

Thus they can tell us with certainty that "the science is settled" and we're seeing our last snow storms and the earth's temperatures are going to rise dramatically unless we all use flourescent light bulbs and eat tofu.  Or that Man's CO2 emissions have caused the snowline on Kilamanjaro to recede.  And when it gets colder and snows more, they rationalize as to how the warming could be causing the cooling and the snow which are the opposite of what they predicticted and deforestation is actually the cause of the receding Kilamanjaro snowline ... never mind that, the important thing is that whatever the data may be, the theory is right regardless.  Which is the antithesis of both "science" and of "settled".

The only thing that is settled is the conclusion that they feel must be drawn from any set of facts, and so they fit the facts into their conclusion no matter what they are.  This is easy to do when one spends all one's time constructing layer upon layer of abstraction and pretending that the result is real.

In the other article we learn that the same "world opinion" that condemned us for going in and ousting Saddam Hussein is calling for America to go into Libya and oust Ghadafi --
Voices around the world, from Europe to America to Libya, are calling for U.S. intervention to help bring down Moammar Gaddafi. Yet for bringing down Saddam Hussein, the United States has been denounced variously for aggression, deception, arrogance and imperialism.

A strange moral inversion, considering that Hussein's evil was an order of magnitude beyond Gaddafi's. Gaddafi is a capricious killer; Hussein was systematic. Gaddafi was too unstable and crazy to begin to match the Baathist apparatus: a comprehensive national system of terror, torture and mass murder, gassing entire villages to create what author Kanan Makiya called a "Republic of Fear."

Moreover, that systemized brutality made Hussein immovable in a way that Gaddafi is not. Barely armed Libyans have already seized half the country on their own. Yet in Iraq, there was no chance of putting an end to the regime without the terrible swift sword (it took all of three weeks) of the United States.
That EVIL "Bush Doctrine" where he subscribed to the theory that a democracy in the middle east would cause people in other middle eastern countries to agitate for their own was scoffed at and scorned and derided.  "Everybody" knew that it was really all about Bush helping his oil buddies (I mean, did you see what gas prices did "under Bush"?  Case closed, man!)  and Cheney's Halliburton buddies (I swear "liberals" had this tourrette's syndrome-type tic.  "Blood for Oil" alternating with "Halliburton!!!!!!!!!!".   It actually got hilarious in a really annoying way.)  Hey, Libya's got oil.

Where are the cries of Obama "helping out his oil buddies" today?  Gas shot up to $3.29 the other day (and we usually have about the cheapest gas in the country where I live).   Isn't he pals with Chavez or something?

And of course the Democrats who make their living promising to spend Other Peoples' Money want to have their cake and eat it, too as usual.   They didn't pass a 2010 budget because they didn't want their spending discussed on the airwaves for last November's election (for fear their a** kicking would be worse).   At least not anything "official" their opponents could point to.  And now to give the appearance of compromising on budget cuts, they point to $40 billion in a budget that was never passed -- money that was never in "the" budget and say they'll "cut" that and see?  We're fiscally responsible!   We just cut $40 billion!

Hey, I thought about buying a Jeep last year, but my wife and I never decided on it officially.  I'd've had to borrow the money.  Now she wants to save money for a trip.  Well look, how about I don't buy that Jeep?   I just cut $22,000 from our budget.  We can use that!


Whitehawk said...

Very few people gave Bush any credit for having thought out the Buch Doctrine. In one of his State of the Union addresses he mentioned Natan Scharansky's book The Case for Democracy. Bush said he got a lot of inspiration for his policy from this book. I read it and could see how Bush would incorporate it into his policies.

The jist of the book is that once people under totalitarianism get just a taste of freedom they will not go back without great bloodshed. Scharansky lived in the USSR when it came apart. Once the soviet people got a taste of freedom, he said it was all over. Bush had the audacity to believe the same would happen in the Middle East. God Bless 'im.

philmon said...

Yup. And the theory may very well be right.

Meanwhile, in this country we've been so many generations without totalitarianism that we appear to be lulled into thinking it can never come back. So rather than us "going back" to it, it may very well come to us. Slowly, in a drip, drip, drip fashion, until it's too late for us to do anything about it.

I know. I'm just "scare mongering". But of course, when the left warns us of "climate catastrophe" if we don't let them regulate every aspect of our lives ... that's not scare mongering.

It's "settled" "science".

philmon said...

Catching up on Godwin's blog tonight, I ran across this. It's teh awesome.

The confidence man -- from the tenured on up -- recoils at clarity, and always tries to muddy the water. As Upton explains, these are people who "absolutize the relative," which begins and ends in the destruction of wisdom. And once wisdom is out of the picture, everything is at once conceivable and permissible.