Sunday, January 27, 2013

Our Reactionary Progressives

One of the few nice things about the Left and its current tribune President Barack Obama is the dependable sameness of their worldview and the arguments they use to defend it.  Mr. Obama’s recent Inaugural Address, while bringing absolutely nothing new to either his ideology or his rhetoric, at least had the virtue of being forthright, unabashed, and honest.

All of the progressive misunderstanding of America’s founding principles and of market economies were repeated again.  All of the conflation of the radical power of individual rights and responsibilities with social democratic communitarian longing was reliably restated.  All of the fear of unregulated creativity and trade by people pursuing their happiness was disguised by a prescription for coercing the commons.  All of the unwillingness to face, much less address, unpleasant truths was again airbrushed with lofty, vapid appeals to brotherhood and egalitarianism—all a veritable Idem Ordo Sinister Seclorum.  While we aren’t quite courageous enough to lip-sync The Internationale, we can certainly hum it softly.

Several thousand miles to the west and three days later, a wilier and craftier exponent of the same progressive creed, California Governor Jerry Brown, delivered another apologia in his State of the State address.  In line with the President’s in-your-face leftist triumphalism, Mr. Brown crowed that his policies of defending the blue social model have “once again confounded our critics” so that now “California is back, its budget is balanced, and we are on the move.”  But Mr. Brown, unlike Mr. Obama, has no Republican opposition to deal with; on the other hand Mr. Brown, unlike Mr. Obama, has an awareness of the danger of hubris.

Given the dynamics and direction of the world political economy, the Left and the MSM—which constitute the Church of the All Powerful State (CAPS)—have ironically become the home of reactionary political power.  The Democratic Party leadership under Mr. Obama, with no visible dissent anywhere in its ranks, stands athwart history and defiantly yells “No!” to reforming, much less replacing, the blue social model.  And their enablers in the MSM do the relentless flack work necessary to rally the troops and demoralize the opposition.

As the Recovering Bureaucrat, along with countless others, has stubbornly chronicled, this bizarre state of affairs is the culmination of 140 years of organized “progressive” politics.  This arose out of long-standing Jacksonian suspicion of big institutions as a reaction to the rapid industrialization of the United States after the Civil War, but only gained permanence in American governance after the election of Franklin Roosevelt led to the New Deal.  For almost four decades, like a series of hurricanes FDR and his Democrats so thoroughly transformed the country’s political landscape that neither the founders nor Andrew Jackson would recognize their own work. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Election Aftermath, Part Two

[This is the second of a brief series of posts analyzing where we are in the run-up to and aftermath of America’s recent elections.  Humanity is in the midst of such a profound transformation that very few epochs in our evolution can serve as markers.  American politics are a useful but very incomplete reflection of the dynamics driving this change.  The fiscal cliffs, debt ceilings, budget food fights, and gun control fantasies are simply flimsy camouflage for deep and profound currents at loose across the planet.]

In his last post, the Recovering Bureaucrat looked at the divergence between our human evolutionary trajectory toward greater connectivity and accountability at the collective level, and the severe strain of narcissism preventing this development at the leading edge in the Advanced Sector.

The founding of the United States represented a quantum leap in the human condition by establishing a home for exploration of true self government.  The people of England’s American colonies were the first to act upon several centuries of the maturing revolutionary thought that the individual has supreme authority and autonomy, not tribes or their aristocracies.  They were committed to establish and perfect what Lincoln later called “a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

The Founding Fathers understood that the success of this experiment would ultimately require that an ongoing majority of Americans master personal self government, for only a citizenry capable of measuring happiness in the context of both personal and social wellbeing could govern itself wisely.  They called this capacity virtue.  "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion,” John Adams famously announced in 1798. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

The leaders of the founding generation had few illusions about human nature, the commitment to individual liberty notwithstanding.  The failure of the Articles of Confederation and the vigorous debate about the Constitution were rooted in the quandary of how to establish a government with sufficient safeguards against what these men understood to be a natural human tendency toward tyranny.  “All men having power,” James Madison argued in 1787, “ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.”

The challenge was—and is—that a nation of equal citizens is a nation of men having power of themselves, and the understanding and application of that power is definitely not the same from person to person.  Some people have superbly mastered themselves and behave with great enlightenment in their civic duties, while others have barely left the narcissism of childhood.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Election Aftermath

[This is the first of a brief series of posts analyzing where we are in the run-up to and aftermath of America’s recent elections.  Humanity is in the midst of such a profound transformation that very few epochs in our evolution can serve as markers.  American politics are a useful but very incomplete reflection of the dynamics driving this change.  The fiscal cliffs, debt ceilings, budget food fights, and trillion dollar coin fantasies are simply flimsy camouflage for deep and profound currents at loose across the planet.]

This meta-narrative is about the superiority of America’s founding principles as a way to organize human society, and the on-going rejection of these principles by an increasing number of Americans.

As we saw in commenting several months ago on Robert Bidinotto’s superb essay “Election 2012 and the Clash of Narratives,” humanity is engaged in a long-term struggle to evolve to ever-higher stages of consciousness, connection, and creativity.  Bidinotto shows how our evolution from hunter-gatherer clans to agricultural tribes to empowered individuals in industrial nation-states has included expansions of consciousness to accommodate the emerging circumstances.  This expansion has also generated exponential increases in the material circumstances of life, including not just standards of living but magnitudes of health and life expectancy.

Students of Ken Wilber will find this well-trodden ground, for Wilber has done ground-breaking work documenting this journey from a global perspective.  His most important contribution is the development of what he calls the Integral Model, which makes room for not only our interior and exterior realities, but for the evolutionary trajectory along which we have been moving since the Big Bang.

The insights offered in the Integral Model are essential to not only leaders but to the American (and, more difficult, the Advanced Sector at large) citizenry.  Huge global upheavals in our spiritual, psychological, economic, and political conditions are driving unprecedented changes in how we make, exchange, and apply wealth—both material and spiritual.  Without a comprehensive view of how all these dynamics arise and interact, our understanding of today’s world is woefully partial and inadequate.  This limitation of awareness also constrains the effectiveness of our response.

If one focused only on the recent sorry American presidential campaign, one would have no idea of the titanic nature of what is happening worldwide, much less where the opportunities to create a better future might lie.  (To be fair, one would glean nothing of this from political campaigns in any other country either.)

The Recovering Bureaucrat insists that this shallowness is more the result of our collective American consciousness than of any particular qualities Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney.  The truth we regularly avoid is that our political leadership and dynamics are a highly accurate representation of our collective desires and attitudes.  This is a logical consequence of our mature democratic republic.  All blather about “the 99%” aside, everything happening in our polity is the direct result of our collective, albeit unconscious, agreement.  In a true democracy, the citizenry at large bears the sole and direct responsibility for the condition of society.  There is no king, no aristocracy, no dictator, no politburo, no oligarchy—no extra-terrestrials—to blame for the world we have created.