Monday, December 06, 2004

Monday Night Ramblings

Please excuse me while I tend to how I feel - Metallica, "Hero of the Day"

This little bit of sentimental drivel came from a band that gave us "Blackened," "Fight Fire With Fire," and "Battery." It is perhaps the most absurd lyric in their arsenal, and yet it is crucially important in the realm of political theory.

How can a heavy metal lyric have ramifications for poltical theory? Because I said so, and that's the bottom line.

All right, all right I should back it up with some facts. Sorry, I've been on left-wing blogs all day, and I forgot you had to back up your arguments with substantive fact. My bad.

Anyways, this lyric has bothered me since the first time it plagued my ears. There's something oh so, I don't know, corny and vomit-inducing about it that it really hasn't gained a warm place in my heart. But the other day, while jogging in the cold and muck on the Mall, it struck me that James Hetfield has actually gotten to the heart of Rousseau-liberal ideology.

And now you all roll your eyes as I go off on another rant about some frog who died 230 years ago. But you cannot discuss modern "liberalism" without bringing up the madman from Geneva, nor his unknowing counterpart from Monticello, Slick Tommy Jefferson. They based an entire political philosophy upon a base of wimpy sentimentalism, and the result is a muscle-bound heavy metal vocalist singing about tending to his freaking feelings. Well why don't we all hold hand while we're at it?

In between dropping children off at the orphanage, Rousseau dug deep into the human condition and wrote about our need to return mankind to original state, to channel amour-de-soif into amour propre. That's frog talk for get your head away from the mirror for five seconds and acknowledge the rest of the world. A couple of decades later we had Thomas Jefferson writing a long-ass letter to his not-quite lover that centered on a dialogue between his head and his heart. The heart lost the battle, but won the war. It seems nothing good ever comes from relying on that cold, rational cranium lying on top of our shoulders. Humanity's moral sense will always guide it to doing the right thing.

The result of such reliance on the heart was an ideology that absolutely loved bloodshed. "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots." Jefferson wrote, no doubt enamored with the lusty idea of glorious revolution liberating millions of citizens from the clutches of tyrants. Easy enough to say when you are sitting a couple of thousand miles away in Paris as your countrymen are being ravaged by drunken rioters in New England.

What we are seeing here is the seeds of liberal emotionalism being laid. Reality need not matter; all that matters is some romantic view of the world hardly connected with reality, a view which glorifies the awesome power of the individual over that of the pull of history, tradition, and fact. Jefferson was able to envision a glorious uprising without taking the time to consider the practical consequences. Moreover Jefferson, the romantasict, was able to fantasize about something he would never be able to participate in. Hamilton may have been in the front lines of the revolutionary way, but Jefferson, well, he had political matters to attend to.

Setting that aside, the dominant theme of "progressives" has been feel as I feel but not do as I do. An example of this is the Spirit of America Blogger challenge. It is an effort to raise money for the people of Iraq. Conservative bloggers have met the challenge and have raised mucho denaro to help the people of this country. Meanwhile, those loveable lefties who love to tell us how much they care about their fellow man, well, they haven't done as well. In fact they have done bupkiss. And when called on for their lack of actual, practical humnanitarianism, they offer these thoughtful rebuttals when their humanitarianism is challenged. Brings a tear to the eye, don't it?

But catering to our feelings has allowed us to, well, feel good about ourselves even when our real-world actions fall short. Because feeling good about oneself is all that matters, even while you do nothing to practically alleviate the real-world starvation of people. Hey, why do anything to liberate people when you can talk about how the thought of freedom turns you on.

Update I believe that in my haste I mixed up amour-de-soi and amour-propre. Sorry. Reverse the position of those two.


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