A Note on Intellectual Bankruptcy
The amazing thing about the right wing intelligentsia that has, as the new nomenklatura, pretty much replaced us dying liberals, burned our huts and taken our women, is how cheerfully intellectually bankrupt they are, in a way unseen since the last days of the Roman empire, the era of Apuleius and “golden showers” described quite frankly, for the time, in St. Augustine’s City of God. Today’s “conservative” intellectuals are really nihilists and proud of it. We’re seeing how nihilistic both the intellectuals and their masters the pols are this week in Tampa, at the Republican convention.
One example of literary and philosophical bankruptcy, truly post-crash, truly a degringolade, would be John Debryshire, recently fired by the more staid conservative journal The National Review for writing in a “bad boy” conservative Web site that he advises his kids to avoid blacks. Here’s his post. My considerable number of vigorous replies, including quite good pastiches of Kipling basically naming the many ways in which Derbyshire makes me puke, may have been removed by Taki’s editors; Taki’s daughter (I believe) sent me a nasty email and I was ethnically cleansed from the site, prevented from posting, last April, and in consequence my postings may be gone. I don’t care.
Comes now Antonin Scalia of the SCOTUS. Heah come de judge. Scalia has a rep as an “intellectual” yet right here, another conservative judge and jurisprudent philosopher who’s published a bit more on philosophy of law, appeals court judge Richard A. Posner, exposes Scalia’s thought as blatant fraud…without fear of reprisal, sans peur et sans reproche!
A dull democracy and really stupid phrases such as “the marketplace of ideas” makes us too tolerant. But Scalia cannot, I believe, be taken seriously.
He believes that words have simple and unitary meanings. They don’t: they just don’t. Infamously as far as I am concerned, in Scalia’s dissent, last June, in re the Affordable Care Act, while I was kicking it here at a Hong Kong hospital, in pain, without any prospect of getting medical care were I to have returned to my family in America, Scalia used the 1828 Webster dictionary to define what “regulate” means in re the Constitution to show that ACA (“Obamacare”) exceeded the remit of Congress.
Were I as Solicitor General, and not some obscure person in the Far East, to have pointed out that the American Revolution and the end of the Federalist party had changed by 1828 the meaning of “regulate”, taking from it the meaning supplied by its Latin root which meant not to “normalize” but to “rule” in the sense of serious, liberal, New Deal regulation, Scalia would have snorted and in the hip phrase, “made mincemeat” of me. For nihilists, being an intellectual has nothing to do with thinking: it’s just another way of occupying the alpha male squat. Basically, fewer and fewer people graduate, even from expensive schools, with the ability to think (I was told by a prof at HK Poly not to even mention that I’d taught “logic” in my academic job search, as doomed a venture as the defense of Hong Kong in 1941, that’s a bad word as opposed to “critical thinking”.)
I saw this shit break out in 1981 about the time when AIDs appeared. It suddenly became fashionable, in corporate forms of intellectual, and pseudo-intellectual debate, to declare victory as we’d done in Vietnam six years prior.
Basically, the CEO could get away by saying that a presentation or memo was “too verbose” if he couldn’t understand it, being stupid, or the cream of America, rich and thick and an Ivy League type owing to our legacy admits. For let us not speak falsely now.
Said the Joker to the Thief.
Likewise, the SCOTUS’ unique use of oral argument is an excellent way to basically keep its decisions on balance conservative. It’s a rather brutal boy’s game in which the “liberal” argument depends on writing more than speech, whereas the “conservative” can appeal to preliterate monkey brain bias not seen as bias, rather as healthy, masculine “common sense” and balls.
Examples abound. For instance, the intention of the Radical Republicans of the 1860s was proto 1960s. As witnesses not only to our Civil War but also to the great European revolution of 1848, and, at the end of the 1860s, to the Paris Commune, they were strikingly liberal for such a date. The Radical Republicans actually believed in the equality of man including the black man. Horrors. You also had the Woodhull sisters knocking about the shop, and these gals were calling for votes for women…which took a further fifty years to come. Amazing but true!
But the SCOTUS managed to erase this era. Its most important accomplishment was the Fourteenth Amendment (“equal protection of the laws”). The intentions of the Radical Republicans and Abolitionists who got the Fourteenth Amendment passed was to guarantee human rights against the Ku Klux Klan’s predecessors, white thugs who terrorized blacks. The SCOTUS castrated the Fourteenth by saying that all that was needed was for John Law, the state and local authorities, to follow the same procedure when delivering a legal result…the actual result need not be examined for its decency and could be, as it often still is today, the execution of an innocent black man for looking at a white woman (where the concept of “stalking” can be used, although it is also a real crime in other cases), for driving a Porsche while black, or simply being a mentally retarded man child.
Later on the SCOTUS went more famously to restrict the Fourteenth to the rights of those poor corporations, with one decision oddly being delivered for an ordinary person, a Chinaman named Yick Wo who wanted to operate a laundry. Yick Wo was in the spirit of the original amendment but was isolated, and not used as precedent.
But Scalia can with a snort from the bench, like a sort of Tony Soprano, create his own truth. Well, this has been the way of the CEO class since 1981. The result is that for me and millions of others, there’s no such thing as a full time job. I’m hustling, with Stage IV cancer, to get acting and teaching jobs. I’m having fun because I am a Warrior, but it’s probably not what you’d call sustainable. But as far as Scalia and the billionaires are concerned everything’s great.
I think Che Guevera had it right. Including the fact that I acknowledge that the CEO class consists of human beings and my brothers (my sisters, rarely if ever). That is in Fanon and Guevera the tragedy: that the injustice will have to be rectified, in all probability, by expropriation at best or violence at worst, even in my country.
Pundits on the left are saying that by way of simple demographics, this election will be the last one in my country driven by white males. Apres nous le deluge, because among other things I’m a white guy. That thing of darkness I acknowledge mine. But the central reality is economic difference.
Even though, and I need to wrap it up before I lose the thread, my community of Hong Kong, infamous as it is for a sky high Gini Coefficient, as high as my PSA last June, there is a solid middle here. It’s not Latin America with a large underclass and largish overclass, nor is, I read, modern Latin America. Trickle down, I am sorry to say to doctrinaire leftists, is something of a reality. The problem is that it trickles down in the form of short-term booms and debt.
Conservatism is intellectually bankrupt. It is nothing more than the second battle of Lutzen in the Thirty Years War, in the 1640s, in which the cannonade churned up the bones of Gustavus Adolphus and the Swedes and Spaniards who’d fallen at the first battle in the 1630s. Only the rich want to go back because they go back to the Petite Trianon whereas the rest of us go back to Walter Benjamin’s boneyard, witnessed by his Angel of History.
Even when I was a kid, life lacked a civility it has now thanks to nothing other than liberalism, and no thanks to Scalia’s conservatism. A friend points out that forty used to be the cut off point after which if you weren’t a manager you drank yourself to death, but both he and I sailed right through forty in fine fettle indeed; on my fortieth birthday I was in fact on a date with a New York fashion model having tiramisu for the first time, and I was gainfully if not lavishly employed at Princeton.
Life is better because today we’re all wimpy and sensitive and women run a bit more than they used to; because in the 1950s the liberals won, and prepared the ground for feminism. Conservatives say that oh, this is somehow so empty, so “without meaning”. Hmm, who needs meaning? Like Falstaff’s honor, will it set a wound? Feed a kid? No. Will it cure cancer. Uh, no.
So Scalia can go to hell along with every other jaded and weary conservative including friend John Derbyshire. Their conservatism, starting, I am sorry to say with William F Buckley, is less a considered political philosophy and more a weary, decadent, hipper than thou gesture suitable only for the stinking rich. For the rest of us who carry on working for a living, conservatism is like cigar smoking: useless and pernicious and stupid unless you live in a country that produces cigars.