Over the weekend Dr. Pat Santy and my blog-friend MaxedOutMama wrote compelling pieces on the nature of reality. (Please read both!) I can hear the collective sigh, but snap to, people! This is important. The real divide worldwide is philosophical. The war we wage is a war of ideas. There are reasons why Bush went to war and there are feelings why Democrats and progressives fight it.
Let's make this argument practical. Today in England, these topics are being debated not in abstract but concretely. Who deserves to die without choice is the question. Answer: 1) euthanasia for newborns who are sick or disabled and 2) Saddam Hussein's life should be spared. The first argument involves arguments about having a "useful life". The second argument involves a morally-superior sounding "humanitarianism". But whose life is worth less? A raping, murdering despot or an innocent, disabled child?
So the overall topic is important: what is real? The two sides of the divide are: what I experience is the only real thing or there is universal experience that is real. Dr. Santy says:
Well, let me tell you that this particular philosophical problem is not abstract at all, but one which pops up all the time in current discussions--even on this blog. How you deal with the concept of universals turns out to be extremely important, particularly in rational discourse, where objective reality and truth are necessary.In this word of subjectivity, my experience with gravity is as valid is say, Albert Einstein's. I say gravity is my friend and I don't fall down, I simply float. Albert sees me walking on the ground and says, Melissa, dear, you're planted to the earth. I reply, "That's what you think. You just don't get my reality." Does this conversation sound insane? Well, it is unless you don't believe in any universalities. When everyone's experience is "real", what is reality?
Consider this: if there is no way to account for generalizations or universals through empirical experience, then all such attributions may be considered subjective and hence, invalid.
MaxedOutMama points out the logical ends of this thinking:
It follows also that no argument can be settled by recourse to reason or law, which leaves all arguments to be settled only by force. Seriously. Think about it. All law depends upon the ability to create abstract definitional categories, and then to assign individual behaviors or actions as being within the category or outside of it. A law as simple as the laws mandating that establishments that sell food require shirts and shoes on their customers cannot be enforced if the definition of "shirt" or "shoe" is considered infinitely malleable.She states further:
I believe this is the reason for the extreme left's love affair with dictators; unconsciously they know that in their epistemological view of the world, only a dictator can bring peace, because only a dictator can enforce law. [my emphasis, -ed.]
This, of course, is the reason why so many of these leftists have fallen in love with Islamacist terrorism, even while they excoriate the evils of Judeo-Christian religion. To a person who does believe in universals, it is puzzling beyond belief that the same person can excoriate one religion and exalt a sect of another. But leftists recognize their counterparts quite accurately; it is the universality of the concepts and laws in the Judeo-Christian tradition that they resent (because they perceive them as a direct impairment on their individual lives), whereas the credo of the Islamicist terrorists is very simple. Quite literally, those who are taught in this tradition are told that anyone who does not believe what they (the terrorist) believes is an enemy of God and should be killed. Children raised in this belief system make admirable footsoldiers, and are the world's quintessential "useful idiots".Mama is on a roll and continues:
To restate this, if your entire world is defined by yourself, disagreement is an attack upon your entire world. Disagreement is experienced as a literal attack, equivalent in psychic shock to someone busting down your door in the middle of the night and beating you within your own home.Jeff Goldstein, back in the day, has taken on postmodernism and skewered it over and over. He says here in a post titled "Life and Death: Western guilt blinds us to the nature of Islamic extremism":
The deep insecurity engendered by questioning the worldview of those who don't believe in universality and objectivity generates a strong defensive response beginning as fear, which is expressed as anger and then restated to the self as contempt. But the contempt does not adequately reddress the fear, and inevitably mutates into a fixed rage against the opponent. Human beings filled with rage inevitably hate.
This is an interesting phenomenon, and one I’ve noted before. Specifically, a medievalist, pre-modern mindset like the ine animating the Islamofascist movement is, ironically, quite adept at using postmodern observations about the nature of truth to sustain a rhetorical advantage over the West. And it does so by playing to the West’s arrogance—its idea that, because it has embraced the tenet of multiculturalism, it is somehow showing itself to be tolerant and nuanced in its dealings with the Other.
But recent history has shown us that all this Western “understanding” is a ruse. Instead, it is a mindset that pretends to an understanding by deferring to the Other, a maneuver that serves only to undermine Enlightenment principles and ideas of universal rights while simultaneously giving control of the identity narrative to groups it purports to “understand”, who are then able to use that control to affect victim status, define and shame their enemies, and bracket out unfriendly criticisms.
But this only works because the premises have been accepted by many in the western intelligensia, and have, from there, made their way into public and social policy. I have noted time and again how this process proceeds from (or is reinforced by) the acceptance of certain linguistic assumptions—precisely those favored by political and social movements that are collectivist in nature.
And so we have Islamic fascists exploiting the postmodern rhetorical assumptions of a western socialist / progressivist left in order to bring about the spread of totalitarianism.
I made this huge, because this is the crux of the matter. The John Kerry's and Teddy Kennedy's of the world aid and abet this march to submission either overtly (sending love letters via the KGB) or covertly (cooing reassuringly that "America must be willing to redeploy and step out of the way."). The end result is the same: by embracing a multicultural, every reality is as valid as every other reality philosophy, they've embraced a totalitarianism that wishes to enslave them. It is suicide and to them, it is defined as liberty.
Jeff is right: the language is being butchered at the altar of self which ironically, embraces collectivism. The war we fight is against this thinking. Once that war is won, Iraq and obliterating Islamofascism will be simply one of applying the undivided will to win.