On the Dangers of Liberal Society, part III

On the Dangers of Liberal Society, part III June 20, 2009

Previous posts:

On the Dangers of Liberal Society, part II

On the Dangers of Liberal Society, part I

In my previous post I asked the question: What does it mean to long for an end of liberalism and its desensitizing sense of freedom that traps our ability to live and, perhaps, to love at the height of our powers? In this post I would like to clarify what I mean in that question. At some point, I suppose, I will get around to answering it. But I’m in no rush.

Let me be as clear as I can about my project and this question: It is a cowardly and rather self-indulgent thing, to be sure. I mean, I have no real intentions or courage to actually “desire” for an end of liberalism. Instead, I am, in one sense, just testing the limits of possibility for myself thinking this way about things.

At the same time, I think there is something else going on here. (Pretending that it is the only thing going on will fuel my own self-righteousness on the matter.) You see, the actual point of the matter is simply a question of meaning. In other words, I am not theorizing, hypothesizing, or, much less, making empirical claims about the world. All this question should do is to ask what it means to imagine that things are not as they seem.

Now, that is all a bit trite and makes this sound very esoteric, but, at least for me, it is not. All this question should do is the very same thing we tend to do when we encounter genuine novelty. There is nothing so novel to me as a new idea. When I come across one (usually in a book) I can’t ask much else other than, “What does that mean?” or “What could that possibly be like?”

But, ideas are never really that new, they are merely new-to-me or new-to-us. So, we can glean intelligibility out of the meaning of a novel thing and toy around with whatever meaning we have, or think we have, and that’s what its all about. One big game of hokey poky.

So, we need to know what is really grinding the axe of this question and this general notion of defending fascism and cautioning against liberalism. Here it is, as I see it. It is a myth that when given the opportunity people will live with less instead of more. “Plenty” seems to be a rather normative human desire elevated to the level of virtue. We desire to be full, not hungry. Yet, hunger (metaphorically speaking) keeps us, well… hungry. Restless. In love.

What I mean to say is that the political question at hand is more fundamentally a question of how to deal with what seems to be a reoccurring thing in human experience: cycles of oppression, revolution, and oppression. The second oppressor is usually dressed in the garments of a liberator, a populist, democracy, ourselves or people like us, and so on. And, for that very reason, she is very hard to distinguish from the Gandhi’s of the world. The first oppressor, however, is clearly who she really is and, while we may have good reason to fear her, at least we know when she is around.

Here is the virtue of fascism: honesty. That is not to say that fascists do not lie, indeed they do. But their lies are lies. In a liberal society it is hard work–and counterintutive work–to spot lies because they come on silver spoon covered with honey.

But, as I said in my first post: You get more bees… To continue my reliance on “as the saying goes” to make my argument, I am asking what it means to say: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Even if it means that we are required to take up Zarathustra’s advice to love our enemies and hate our friends.

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