Sunday, May 22, 2005

Radical Son: on "progressives" and conservatives

Many people have suggested I really need to read David Horowitz's book Radical Son, so many that I decided to take them up on it. I just got the book out of the library and have only read a bit so far--and done this in my usual fashion, which involves skipping around rather wildly, reading the parts that interest me most first.

It is a long book, and a rambling one. But some of his words really leapt out at me with great power. My impression, based on just the little bit I've read so far, is that Horowitz's story is a sad one. Disillusionment with beliefs, and the resultant ostracism by one's former "comrades," is always sad. My story differs a great deal from Horowitz's, especially in two particular points: Horowitz was a well-known public figure and activist both before and after his "conversion," and he began from a far more radical position than I--hence the title.

But the book is still of great interest to me; those who suggested it were right. I only hope I can find the time to read the whole thing. One of the points that Horowitz drives home is how unforgivable his apostasy was to people who had formerly been his friends, many of whom ruthlessly cut him out of their lives with great bitterness solely because of his new political opinions.

The following struck me as so on-target that I wanted to quote it here. It explains the power of the Communist leftist dream to generations of poor immigrants during the early decades of the twentieth century. Horowitz is describing his own father, who was a committed Marxist--and I believe he is also describing an immigrant grandfather of mine whom I never knew, since he died in the 1920s:

Political utopians like my father had a master plan. They were going to transform the world from the chaos we knew into a comfortable and friendly place. In the happy future they dreamed about, there would be an end to grief from life out of control, life grinding you down and smashing your gut when you expected it least. Human cruelty would go out of style and become a memory in the museum of historical antiquities. In my father's paradise there would be no strangers. No one would feel like an outsider, alienated from others and at odds with themselves.

For thirty-five years I followed my father's footsteps and believed in his earthly redemption, until a day came when I realized that there are tragedies from which one cannot recover, and alienation that no revolution can cure. That we are the mystery, and this is the only truth that matters.


This is a fine description of the tragedy of the Utopian, who believes in the perfectibility of human nature and thus often commits (or at least condones) great evil in the name of an only-imagined good. To these people, faith in Communism replaced faith in religion, and was going to make up for all the disappointments of their lives. Some of them managed to abandon the dream when the excesses of Stalin were finally revealed in mid-century; others could not give it up, but instead gave up their hold on reality. I knew some of these people.

Horowitz also has a fine passage on the difference between those who like to call themselves "progressives" (read: leftists) and conservatives:

In December 1992, I was invited to give a lecture at the Heritage Foundation, the right's most important policy think tank. The subject was, "Are We Conservatives?" The very posing of the question was interesting. It was difficult to imagine, for example, a parallel forum asking, "Are We Progressives?" I explained this anomaly to my audience by pointing out that conservatism was an attitude about lessons from an actual past. By contrast, the attention of progressives was directed towards an imagined future. Conservatism was an attitude of caution based on a sense of human limits and what politics could accomplish. To ask whether conservatives were conservative was to ask a practical question about whether particular institutions were worth conserving...

The reason why progressives were unable to ask a similar question went to the root of their intolerant attitudes. Because the outlook of progressives was based on the idea of a liberated future, there was no way to disagree with them without appearing to oppose what was decent and humane. To criticize the radical project places one in opposition to a world in which social justice and harmony would prevail.


No wonder "progressives" ended up hating this guy. In this particular passage, Horowitz gets to the heart of a matter I've often thought about, and he explains it with a fine economy of expression. In summary, he is saying: how can you argue with a dream? Although dreams ordinarily don't hurt people, this one has caused profound harm to untold millions of people during the course of the twentieth century, and is still causing misery in certain places.

"Progressives"--boy, do I hate that word, although now I finally understand it better, because it expresses very well their focus on a dream of the future in which things, including nasty old human nature, will have progressed and been perfected. "Progressives" feel that conservatives, and even moderates and neocons, are the ones Frank Sinatra was talking about in the song "That's Life" when he sang: some people get their kicks from stomping on a dream.

No, we "non-progressives" [sic] don't get our kicks that way. But we, like Hobbes (as opposed to your Rousseau), see human nature as an imperfect given, something that needs to be taken into account when advocating a plan for society, or attempting a remedy for social ills.

37 Comments:

At 3:23 PM, May 22, 2005, Blogger John Moreschi said...

Denial is such a powerful psychological force in our lives. Progressives are literally in denial about human nature, probably most particularly their own human natures. I think that many progressives think of themselves in remarkably unrealistic terms, denying darknesses that are there, pretending to be the politically correct "superhumans" that they demand everyone else to be. I believe it may be a shame based ideology that ignores by denying things about themselves that they disapprove of. Without a sense of the Divine and the power of personal transformation, there is really no where for these people to go to to deal with their denied shadow selves. Thus, they preach PC nonsense and pretend to live it.

 
At 4:43 PM, May 22, 2005, Blogger sygamel said...

Great post Mrs./Miss neo-neocon. I'll be sure to pick up Radical Son soon. I too am a recent traveler on the path from moderate liberal to moderate conservative.

 
At 7:41 PM, May 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

My wife has been working on a masters degree and brought home a copy of "Radical Son" a few months ago for a paper she was writing.

I promptly took it away from her and read it straight through.

I am new to your blog. This has probably been recommended before, but "Witness" (Whittaker Chambers) is another must read. The preface is important to this discussion.

 
At 9:09 PM, May 22, 2005, Blogger Rick Ballard said...

NNC,

Another excellent post. As you are thumbing through Radical Son I hope you find the section dealing with the utter cynicism of the apparatchiks who manipulated the anti-war movement. I would suggest that reading Reflections on the Revolution in France by Burke to get a better oppositional feel at the time of the birth of the "progressive" movement. It's interesting (to me, anyway) that so few liberals have any idea that "progressive" is simply a renaming of the Hegelian historicism that underpinned Marxism. "Progressives" don't discuss the future because of the theory of historical inevitability explicit in Marxism. They don't talk much about how to get to utpoia either because its not necessary to know the path to reach something that will inevitably occur. "Propressivism" relies on the shabbiest solipsistic sophism that was ever concocted.

 
At 9:23 PM, May 22, 2005, Blogger chuck said...

Another question: why is it that so many of the most radical progressives seem to be unhappy with their own lives? Does this account for their generally nasty personalities? I am thinking of Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Lenin, the young Trotsky, Fromm,... I am sure that there are others, perhaps Hegel, Engles, etc., but I don't know enough of their biographies to say. But it is certainly a striking correlation.

 
At 10:29 PM, May 22, 2005, Blogger Loyal Achates said...

Pardon me, but how is the neocon dream of spreading American-style democracy and capitalism around the world with no regard for the culture, beliefs, and wishes of the local people any less naive than the Communist ideal of central planning and 'the dicttaorship of the proletariat'? They both seem like Utopian fantasies to me.

 
At 10:40 PM, May 22, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Loyal. The wishes of the locals don't seem to have been consulted by their current rulers.
Of course, when an enemy of the US hammers his own people, that's just culture.
When an enemy of the US runs a coup, that's grassroots activity.
Tired. Real tired.
I suggest you ask the Afghan or Iraqis who risked a good deal for their opinion on your question.

There is a report that many Afghan women wore their best clothes to the polling places. It is a tradition to be buried in your best clothes.

Yeah. That's it. Ask them.

 
At 10:42 PM, May 22, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Neo, I am probably going to spoil the big dramatic moment.
Horowitz saw it all clear when the Black Panthers killed a friend of his.
Nice to know there's a way to get through to practically everybody, but Horowitz does seem to have been a bit thick, doesn't he?

 
At 11:03 PM, May 22, 2005, Anonymous neo-neocon said...

Richard Aubrey--as I said, I've only read small portions of the book, and in random order. But I have caught the drift that Horowitz's "conversion" (or, rather, his loss of faith) began with the murder of which you speak.

My take on it, at least preliminarily, is that you are correct; Horowitz was a bit thick. I personally think that all fanatics are a bit thick. It takes a certain personality to be a fanatic and true believer. Most of us are somewhat less certain about things, more open to doubt. Whether a liberal or a neocon, I've always been somewhat to the middle of the party line, rather than on the extreme edge. I think the personality of a fanatic is inherently different from the personality of a moderate, and Horowitz was fairly fanatical from the start.

I haven't really thought this one through yet--what makes a person a fanatic, on either side? Maybe some day I'll have something intelligent or insightful to say about it--not yet, though.

 
At 11:11 PM, May 22, 2005, Blogger Rick Ballard said...

NNC,

In Horowitz's case, wearing red diapers may have been enough.

 
At 11:56 PM, May 22, 2005, Blogger PatCA said...

Horowitz' statement is spot on. It explains why people like me become more conservative as we grow older. We look at history and we see what is, not what should be. Jimmy Carter gave us more terror, so did Clinton. Reagan helped end communism and Bush is breaking up the pustule of the ME that caused 9/11.

I tell people who go into fits of rage over Bush to read history, read history.

Human nature never changes. Nice guys finish last.

 
At 12:10 AM, May 23, 2005, Anonymous Joseph said...

neo-neocon,

Another great post, as usual your introspection is greatly admired and appreciated.

Concerning the topic, as a Jew with Marxist Atheist grandparents on both sides of my family I will tell you that what Horowitz (a huge hero of mine) said is very true. Social justice is what they were about, the idealism was very sincere and directed towards such ends. What is also true is it was based upon dreams of using unproven means, and to argue with them was a very risky personalized experience... it would earn me a round of hearty criticism all in Yiddish as my maternal grandparents would always speak Yiddish when they got emotional about things, my friends found it rather amusing.

Indeed what has happened to the political left is a testimonial to the fact that when power is sought as more important then principle, it serves to simply corrupt the very principles that they originally stood for. My rhetorical question is the following... Was the social justice mine and David Horowitz's grandparents sought after most important, or worshiping the system or means of achieving such things? I would like to believe that the end's of social justice as what was most important yet that is not the case with the left today. Even in the days of Clinton, while Republicans held personal disdain for Clinton, they rarely undermined their own political goals in that process as 7 of the 10 contract With America initiatives where signed into law. Do liberals really want to see failure in Iraq to be justified politically? Is Social Security in good shape... please!

In another thread I responded to a derogatory distortion of what a neo-con is and a neo-con is something I definitely feel I can qualify myself as for I fit the very stereotypical definition of one. In response I said a neo-con was "simply a liberal willing to achieve liberal goals through conservative means", which implies that today the left is made up of "liberals unwilling to see their goals achieved through heretics, people they hate or means they consider conservative."

Irving Kristol brilliantly pointed out something that gave me pause when I first read it but I now realize to be true. He stated that Social Conservatives are much more natural allies to Neo-cons then Libertarians due to the moralist streak they share. Neo-cons can rightly appeal to the social justice instincts of Social Conservatives. This is very much akin to the alliance the liberal-left had in the days of Martin Luther King and Civil Rights. What happened to such alliances? These alliances are dead because liberalism on the left is becoming destroyed and corrupted. Now the alliance on the left is with anarchists, environmentalists, anti-globalization people, and liberals suspended in a state of continued denial.

Going even further, why would Janice Rogers Brown (the filibustered Court Nominee) and Condi Rice decide to become conservatives? Janice is the daughter of Sharecroppers from Greenville Alabama and Codi Rice's church was bombed and friends killed during Civil Rights for heaven's sake! Again Why? I would submit that they also answer similar questions the same way every other neo-con does. Once one decides to cast aside prejudice of the messenger and honestly measure how their best hopes and dreams for a just society might be realized the answers come up similarly. Many liberals resent these people, after all we have done why would they abandon the left after all they had done for them! Well because people like them want to continue in progress, this was not a marriage of "for better or worse" it was a quest for progress yet the baton of progress is not eternally given to one Party, it is earned and obtained through worthy behavior.

The answers to the above questions inspires me to repeat my biggest political regret... that I never supported Ronald Reagan. The truth is that the vision and means of achieving true justice in this world past from the left to the right the day he was elected and I missed it, but better late then never. Even those people who didn't support Reagan like myself, if we can't see now in a post Cold War world with the added prism and smelling salts of 911, if we don't get it now, we probably never will.

 
At 12:13 AM, May 23, 2005, Blogger THIRDWAVEDAVE said...

Neo...you mentioned earlier that someone suggested that you should have shorter posts. Short posts are nice and they're quick. And this one was long, but, I have to tell you, it was so good I was hoping it would be longer.

 
At 3:17 AM, May 23, 2005, Anonymous David Thomson said...

“I think the personality of a fanatic is inherently different from the personality of a moderate, and Horowitz was fairly fanatical from the start.”

David Horowitz has not become a fanatic of the Right. One needs to regularly visit his website to find out that he really is very cautious with his rhetoric. Horowitz is very well aware that he will be severely taken to task for even minor mistakes.

I have also ordered his new book on death from Amazon.com---and it may be in my possession by tomorrow afternoon. It should be worth reading.

 
At 3:25 AM, May 23, 2005, Blogger TmjUtah said...

"Pardon me, but how is the neocon dream of spreading American-style democracy and capitalism around the world with no regard for the culture, beliefs, and wishes of the local people any less naive than the Communist ideal of central planning and 'the dicttaorship of the proletariat'? They both seem like Utopian fantasies to me."

Democracy isn't Utopic. It WORKS better than any other form of government tried so far.

Hopefully, it will work well enough to supplant the despair, barbarism, and fanaticism that are the natural children of despotism.

I have no need to "respect" cultures, beliefs, or wishes that pivot on achieving the extinction of western civilization. None.

I choose freedom. The opposition seeks the end of democracy... plus human rights, swimsuit competitions, and South Park.

If the Islamists were fat white guys in hoods tooling around the backroads of a Georgia county night carrying shotguns, a cross, and a can of gasoline, maybe the Left might rise to the challenge.

Probably not, though. The fortunes of the progressive movement have sunk so low they would probably subsidize Klanners if it meant a few votes for them.

We are in a fight that will define the future of half a planet, and may in the end determine which half survives. I don't expect resolution to be quick, nor easy - I don't even expect to see the issue fully resolved in my lifetime, to be honest.

I believe that the GWOT may well take a backseat to the coming failure of the European Union, China's choices, and Russia's possible collapse into despotism.

We bled on seven seas and five continents last century, all to "make the world safe for democracy". We babysat Europe long enough for them to legislate themselves into nanny states - and they hate us for being richer, more powerful, and more succesful than they have ever been.

The enemy we actually nuked got a dictated, democratic constitution. And they stand with us when france, Russia, and germany do not. They also have an economy that actually works, too. That evil capitalism.

We citizens do make the calls on how our national policy manifests. The process is nothing like perfect, and seldom works in a timely or elegant manner, but it does work and what does poop out the end of the animal is in fact a majority decision.

It will continue to be so, if we can just get the courts back...but that's for another argument.

What majority franchised control of government means is that once a certain number of citizens are determined that something must happen, it will, dependent on constitutional limits. Powerful stuff, that will of the people. Tremendously powerful when it actually drives the conduct of great nations. The tremendous power of our thousands of nukes, dozens of carriers, and hundreds of bombers has NEVER been held in as much personal dread as much as the sound of a midnight knock on the door in Iraq, Soviet Russia, or any number of thugocracies... because it's a given that use of our force is tempered by free citizens and the rule of law.

In the seventies, conventional wisdom held that there would always be a Soviet Union and that Democrats would run congress forever. Enough citizens voted their interests otherwise and the world changed.

We can end the threat of Islamofascist terror by making more free people. Or we can end it by making a big pile of dead people. I believe that option A reflects the very highest moral ambition and illustrates a powerful belief in the universal potential of free people to choose to live in peace among others of different beliefs or cultures.

Option B has been the historical precedent.

I think that "progressive" would not be a bad label for the campaign we are presently engaged in, as long as the first option remains an option.

We can talk our way out of actually winning, of course. We can choose leaders who sell us on understanding and negotiation with people like Bin Ladin and Zarqawi. We can. And our civilized freedom and rule of law will still stand as the unacceptable threat to the swamp of barbarism that is radical Islam, and the killing will go on just as soon as the mullahs and terrorists can copy, buy, or steal even more horrendous weapons with which to attempt to kill us all.

Watching this war unfold on this planet is like reading the passage in "To Kill A Mockingbird" where a mad dog walks into town. The only difference is that the townspeople not only don't want the dog shot, they are determined to crucify anyone who tries.

There is no more space to live and let live. We free them and they get it, or in the end we rack up numbers of dead (both sides) that will make the last century look like Golden Years.

Let matters degenerate until fifty one percent of America decides that the fight must end NOW... and I don't think anyone wants to go there.

 
At 3:40 AM, May 23, 2005, Anonymous Joseph said...

loyal,

The prejudicial and quite frankly blatant distortion in the following just reeks of the typical bitterness I am accustomed to dealing with from my family and leftist friends full of political resentment. The lack of true principle and the contradictions is typical and disappointing.

Pardon me, but how is the neocon dream of spreading American-style democracy and capitalism around the world with no regard for the culture, beliefs, and wishes of the local people any less naive than the Communist ideal of central planning and 'the dictatorship of the proletariat'? They both seem like Utopian fantasies to me.

First, "with no regard to culture, beliefs and wishes of local people"? I'm sure those thoughtful leftists and their allies like the Europeans who shout "no blood for oil" as they soak themselves in the blood money wrought by the oil for food scandals might agree with you but my bet is the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and others are grateful people like you aren't running the show because you truly not only "talk the talk" but also "walk the walk" in the art of showing little or no regard concerning their culture beliefs or wishes. One thing is sure, they would still be under the thumb of the Taliban and Saddam if left up to people with your line of logic and reasoning, the thoughtful souls you are. What is your solution? What is you philosophy? Offering nothing but naysaying drivel renders you somewhat irrelevant in the discussion and the irony of your words is laughable, yet this is what the left has come to.

You talk about Utopian fantasies? The moral equivocation in your argument is astounding. Communism is certainly a utopian fantasy but Democracy and Capitalism? Are you joking? Like it or not the imposition of Democracy and Capitalism is not new and has been done before, in fact much more clumsily by comparison then has been done by our current President many seem to think foolish or an outright idiot. The truth is it is you with the great burden to explain why it won't work now. I would submit that the argument isn't whether it can be done but how to successfully achieve the ends Yet you chose the side of arguing that even considering such Utopian things as silly? It has happened and utopian is a misnomer just ask Germany, Japan or Italy. You may sincerely think neo-cons are naive, but believe me you are only shaming yourself with your logic.

The truth is Democracy has been most easily imposed upon people we have defeated. People like you could watch Iraq and Afghanistan join the ranks of Germany and Japan and still not comprehend that history is being repeated with you playing the role of the faithless naysayer, but hey, someone has to do it. Is it really that difficult to understand? How can you project the future if you can't even rationally factor in history? You are exactly who Horowitz was talking about and your statement offers nothing but a risk to your own credibility, somehow I think the ironies of history is lost on you else why consign yourself to the wrong side of history... again? You risk little but yet have much to lose. Bush has risked everything on lofty goals you may think are silly but I you have offered nothing but hopelessness, your logic is why I left the left, thanks for reminding me.

 
At 4:11 AM, May 23, 2005, Blogger Judith said...

Great book. The emotionally vulnerable tone was a surprise to me. It's very moving.

I jump around in books too. (ADD?)
:-)

To loyal:
My proof that these peoples genuinely embrace democracy is this: Democracy is hard. It requires conscious, continuous, well-coordinated effort and sophisticated thought by many people at the same time. It is easy to slide back into a dictatorship that plays on people's fears. Democracy is counter-intuitive in some ways.

There are twice as many democracies, all over the world, than there were 50 years ago. Many in poor nations, where food, clothing, shelter, and health are still pressing problems which can be manipulated by demogogues.

You cannot impose democracy from without. You can remove totalitarian oppressors (which we have done on occasion), teach the practical structures of representative government, but the actual work of not only starting but maintaining a democracy can only be done by the people themselves.

All over the world, people are doing just that. Ergo, they wanted it.

 
At 7:20 AM, May 23, 2005, Blogger camojack said...

Damn, you folks are good, by and large...except for "Loyal Achates", but he's just an idealistic college kid; an all-too-familiar syndrome, I'm afraid.

And of course, our hostess is "Da Bomb"!

 
At 7:46 AM, May 23, 2005, Blogger Loyal Achates said...

Did it ever occur to anyone here that other people and nations might want to decide their own fate, whether it's better or worse than what they might have if we came charging in and decided everything?

And I shouldn't have fallen into the trap of calling it 'democracy'; what the neocons are spreading isn't 'democracy' in any meaningful sense of the word. Not once has an American occuppying force ever brought democracy out of nothing. It HAS on several occasions restored democracy where it had been suppressed for a time.

But I know you won't listen; this isn't a blog, it's therapy. Other than me, I can't remember the last time anyone ever disagreed with neo-neocon on anything important.

And they call me the ideological one.

 
At 9:23 AM, May 23, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Via Lucianne.com, another journey from the reactionary side:

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/05/22/INGUNCQHKJ1.DTL


Good piece of writing by Keith Thompson.

-N. O'Brain

 
At 9:26 AM, May 23, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Not once has an American occuppying force ever brought democracy out of nothing."

The total ignorance of history is one of the most astonishing characteristics of the reactionary left.

My jaw dropped when I read that.

-N. O'Brain

 
At 10:09 AM, May 23, 2005, Blogger chuck said...

Joseph,

He stated that Social Conservatives are much more natural allies to Neo-cons then Libertarians due to the moralist streak they share.

It is also worth noting that most of the social reforms that took place in England in the early 19'th century were carried out by the Tories, not the Whigs. I think a deep personal morality trumps utopian dreams every time.

 
At 10:12 AM, May 23, 2005, Blogger sygamel said...

Did it ever occur to anyone here that other people and nations might want to decide their own fate.

Yes, when democracy is in place that allows them (ie the people, not "their" dictator) to do so.

 
At 10:18 AM, May 23, 2005, Anonymous Melanie,Australia said...

Doesn't seem my post was posted so I'll try again and apologies if it was already posted.


Hi neo-neocon,
I just happened upon your site and think it's refreshing.
I'm a person that still hasn't outed myselves to friends, relatives that I've switch teams. I did it a couple years ago when I went out with work buddies and they all supported Palestinian suicide bombers. However I am vocal on the internet so I don't feel I'm to much of a coward.
Just in the last 2 days I have read of 2 journalist switching teams or at least making a statement about it.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,1480192,00.html

http://frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=18155

 
At 10:34 AM, May 23, 2005, Anonymous Melanie,Australia said...

BTW, I didn't mean switching teams as in going from one mindest to the other. The team I used to be on was all or nothing - there was no room for discussion. The team I am on now -people with a mind of their own - is what I meant.

 
At 11:04 AM, May 23, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Not once has an American occuppying force ever brought democracy out of nothing. It HAS on several occasions restored democracy where it had been suppressed for a time."

Nonsense. Japan after WWII is a perfect example. Try reading some history instead of blathering.

 
At 11:26 AM, May 23, 2005, Anonymous neo-neocon said...

Ah but you must remember, history is a nightmare from which some people are trying to awake--quite successfully, apparently! But history has a way of happening anyway, despite the wishes of some to ignore it.

History is also an arbitrary construction which some people are trying to deconstruct into their own version of "truth,"--which is, of course, utterly and completely relative.

/sarcasm off

Actually, we all know that ultimate, total truth can never be known--not on this earth, anyway. But that does not mean that all truths are equal, and equally worthy of respect. They are not. Truths that conform to the evidence of those pesky details called the facts are truths that are more equal than others.

 
At 11:29 AM, May 23, 2005, Anonymous Joseph said...

loyal

Did it ever occur to anyone here that other people and nations might want to decide their own fate, whether it's better or worse than what they might have if we came charging in and decided everything?

You know, a general statement like above addresses nothing, absolutely nothing. Are we working against the will of the majority of Iraqi's? Are we working against the will of the majority in Afghanistan?

--

And I shouldn't have fallen into the trap of calling it 'democracy'; what the neocons are spreading isn't 'democracy' in any meaningful sense of the word.

Again, if you are going to claim we are not spreading democracy at least define what we are spreading. Loyal, you offer nothing, no ideology, no ideas, you are just a reactionary.

--

Not once has an American occuppying force ever brought democracy out of nothing. It HAS on several occasions restored democracy where it had been suppressed for a time.

Not once? If you consider Japan pre-WWII a former democracy being restored then certainly Iraq and Afghanistan were.

--

But I know you won't listen; this isn't a blog, it's therapy. Other than me, I can't remember the last time anyone ever disagreed with neo-neocon on anything important... And they call me the ideological one.

Not listening? The proper term is not agreeing. I'm not surprised at the general pot shot insult of the blog, but as with most reactionaries you have reacted to much, yet offered nothing. As far as being called the ideological one, you have not declared one bit of ideology, just reactionary naysaying that shows opposition without putting forth your own solutions.. If your answers are akin to "I wouldn't have done what Bush has done" and other like statements concerning things that can't be undone then you can join my brother in having nothing to offer, but are left to just stand aside and watch history unfold while you complain and show little vision concerning the winds of change as they occur. Will you listen or change when all your predictions of doom continue to be proved wrong? I doubt it.

 
At 11:31 AM, May 23, 2005, Anonymous Joseph said...

loyal

Did it ever occur to anyone here that other people and nations might want to decide their own fate, whether it's better or worse than what they might have if we came charging in and decided everything?

You know, a general statement like above addresses nothing, absolutely nothing. Are we working against the will of the majority of Iraqi's? Are we working against the will of the majority in Afghanistan?

--

And I shouldn't have fallen into the trap of calling it 'democracy'; what the neocons are spreading isn't 'democracy' in any meaningful sense of the word.

Again, if you are going to claim we are not spreading democracy at least define what we are spreading. Loyal, you offer nothing, no ideology, no ideas, you are just a reactionary.

--

Not once has an American occuppying force ever brought democracy out of nothing. It HAS on several occasions restored democracy where it had been suppressed for a time.

Not once? If you consider Japan pre-WWII a former democracy being restored then certainly Iraq and Afghanistan were.

--

But I know you won't listen; this isn't a blog, it's therapy. Other than me, I can't remember the last time anyone ever disagreed with neo-neocon on anything important... And they call me the ideological one.

Not listening? The proper term is not agreeing. I'm not surprised at the general pot shot insult of the blog, but as with most reactionaries you have reacted to much, yet offered nothing. As far as being called the ideological one, you have not declared one bit of ideology, just reactionary naysaying that shows opposition without putting forth your own solutions.. If your answers are akin to "I wouldn't have done what Bush has done" and other like statements concerning things that can't be undone then you can join my brother in having nothing to offer, but are left to just stand aside and watch history unfold while you complain and show little vision concerning the winds of change as they occur. Will you listen or change when all your predictions of doom continue to be proved wrong? I doubt it.

 
At 11:36 AM, May 23, 2005, Blogger Alex said...

loyal achates,

"Did it ever occur to anyone here that other people and nations might want to decide their own fate...?"

I think this has indeed occurred to most people on this blog. Under Saddam Hussein the Iraqi people could not decide their own fate. Just because a dictator is home-grown doesn't mean that he is in any sense an expression of the self-determination of a people.

Now obviously, many argue that the American occupation is no better. I, and most on this blog, disagree. By attempting to set up democratic institutions then withdrawing (as is the plan one of these days) one sacrifices a little self-determination now for the promise of pure self-determination in the future.

Saddam was too powerful to be destroyed from the inside. We destroyed him from the outside, and are now attempting to set the scene for democracy before we go. What better option was there to let the Iraqis "decide their own fate"?

 
At 1:51 PM, May 23, 2005, Blogger KeithM, Indy said...

neo-neocon - glad you're reading "Radical Son" It's the first conversion story I read, and have seen many more like it in the past 5 or 6 years. And except for David Brocks screed "Liar" they all seem to be moving right. Even if some of these committed leftist/liberal/progressive/Democrats only become moderates, that's a huge improvement in my book.

The inability to deal with the reality of their policies is what makes their current use of "reality based politics" all the more laughable. You have to wonder how many of them would have been snake oil salesmen and carpetbaggers in the Wild West.

I'd respond to "Friend to Aeneas," but everyone else has done so well, and I'd only be repeating what they've said.

 
At 6:04 PM, May 23, 2005, Anonymous Richmond said...

Once again Neo, great post! Another book you may enjoy is Silent America -- Essays from a Democracy at War by Bill Whittle. As a hawkish centrist mother I found it to be a great read. Thanks for all of your insight!

 
At 10:44 AM, May 24, 2005, Blogger ElliotSS said...

Dear Neo-Neo,

I have been very much enjoying your blog these past months. My story is similar to yours and others in your comments section. I live in Cambridge, MA; need I say more? It is difficult with friends and family, to say the least.

Last night I was reading V.S. Pritchett's (one of the literary giants of the 20th century, in my opinion) second volume of memoirs, Midnight Oil, and came across this passage:

"In the thirties those who came from the upper-middle class and who had been to public schools and the old universities were easily drawn toward Communism because of the discipline, the training for leadership, the team spirit and elitism at these places. To some, Marxism was for a time scripture, and not having met anyone in the working class up till then, they tried guiltily, masochistically and idealistically to get in touch with them, often making absurd declarations of feeling inferior. My parents and relations, my grandfather the bricklayer, my eccentric great-uncle, the cabinetmaker, my mother the shopgirl and my father the errand boy and shop assistant in Kentish Town, had belonged originally to this class. Marxism as a dogma could have no appeal to me, but as a way of analyzing society and of presenting the interplay of class and history, it stimulated. The fundamentalism and the totalitarian consequences of Marxism were naturally repugnant to one like myself who had been through the mill in a religious form. It would be impossible for me to become a Communist or a Roman Catholic after that; and, in any case, I was constitutionally a non-believer. Rarely have the active politicals had a deep regard for imaginative literature. Writers are notoriously given to ambivalence, and live by giving themselves to the free mingling of fact and imagination."

It seems to me many of the ideas you discuss on your excellent blog are touched upon in that paragraph. I am especially interested in his acknowledgment that active politicals rarely care for imaginative literature, (and by implication imaginative art of most kinds), and I think that Neo-Neo's blog is very much about writerly ambivalence.

Thanks for being a voice for so many of us. There are some here in Cambridge, even at Harvard. We meet in darkened rooms wearing hooded gowns to whisper blasphemy and apostasy while smoking cigarettes and reading aloud from Neo-Neo-Con's blog.

 
At 5:18 PM, May 24, 2005, Blogger Beerme said...

Horowitz's quote is illuminating for those of us who want to know why so many drink the koolaid:

"Because the outlook of progressives was based on the idea of a liberated future, there was no way to disagree with them without appearing to oppose what was decent and humane."

It is indeed this idea, that liberals are for all that is good in the world and for all people, that drives the popularity of the ideology. To criticize a child by correcting his paper in red ink; to suggest that there is such a thing as a moral absolute; to come right out and say that some minorities suffer from the effects of their cultural baggage or that they underperform other minorities on standardized tests; to suggest that Affirmative Action is a form of discrimination; is to make a value judgement. This is un-liberal.

I like to think the success of this party is due to the fact that they generally want to give the public's largesse to everyone. That said, they can't run the risk of criticizing or offending anyone or they would lose their vote. In this way, liberals are like bland and predictable public entertainment fare. The product cannot be said to be good or stimulating, but rather, at best can only be inoffensive and not bad.

 
At 5:59 PM, May 24, 2005, Blogger sygamel said...

elliottSS - A reformed liberal from the People's Republic. Say it isn't so. I'm another Bostonian who's drifted rightward in the last couple of years. There's at least a dozen of us around the metro area.

 
At 10:42 PM, May 24, 2005, Blogger The Scrutinator said...

Another former leftist walks away, FYI. (HT: TMO.)

 
At 5:15 PM, May 25, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to Leftwing idealism - "A social system that depends on the "goodness" of the individual member, is not worth the paper it is written on."

 

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