Monday, December 12, 2011

American Politics: A Politics of Greatness

 This is an email response I sent to a former colleague of mine who had difficulty understanding the argument for a different kind of politics then we currently pursue.

I am not sure what you asking or whether you are just trying to make a joke out of my anti-federalism. So, I will respond as follows: Anti-Federalism need not be about all the particular policies you list here. It is, for me, a mindset, having little to do with policies. And the mindset revolves around this issue: What is the more appropriate goal of politics, greatness or goodness? [this is just one way of framing the issues. But I think Socrates saw it this way. Athenian politics = the pursuit of greatness and this was a disaster for the soul.] If the appropriate end of politics is greatness, that is, national greatness, as the progressives argued and as both liberals and conservatives today accept, then my argument will make no sense to you or anyone else. And I will not argue with you or anyone else because it is a waste of time. However, if the choice between national greatness and goodness is an open issue, that is, one worth considering, I will discuss it.

You know, Paul, JFK and his brother, RFK, pursued greatness [bullshit like: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Led to many, many deaths in Vietnam so they could make sneakers for us now!] and a part of that pursuit involved trying to cashier Castro and the Communists in Cuba. [This is my current interest. If it isn't yours, so be it. It is mine.] And in the pursuit of Castro they undertook to try to assassinate Castro and, guess what? Castro got JFK first! It is reported that RFK, after the assassination, when alone was heard to cry out, "Why? Why, God, why?" Well, Bobby, it is real simple. Hey, you try to kill someone and they kill you first, this is called justifiable homicide! One need not plumb the depths of some divine plan to know why your brother was killed: He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. Just a little old fashioned justice coming down. And we shouldn't forget that JFK had Diem assassinated only weeks before he himself was assassinated. Hey, what goes around, comes around. Or as Malcolm X said at the time of JFK's assassination: "The chickens have come home to roost." Oh yeah! And Americans think that 9/11 was a bolt from the blue! Hey, if you declare war on terrorists, as Reagan did, then the terrorists have the right to kill you! That is why it is called war!

We, in the U.S., have been pursuing a politics of greatness ever since TR and Wilson and FDR and we have paid the price. "But it ain't really hard to understand; if you're gonna dance you gotta pay the band." We can go on, as we are doing, pursuing a politics of greatness, but we will then go on paying the price, both domestically and abroad. The pursuit of great wealth, which both the liberals and the conservatives promise, only using different means, results in the creation of great inequality and, therewith, justifications for that inequality - you know, like people who attended Harvard are smarter than the rest of us and deserve to have the power! Or that people like the Kennedy's are better than the rest of us and deserve to have the power. Gee, JFK fucked up gloriously, both in Cuba and Vietnam and now we have another Harvard grad in the White House and he is fucking up! Surprise, surprise!

To end this: There is a great essay by George Orwell you ought to read, "James Burnham and Managerial Revolution." You can google it and find it. Orwell saw through the bullshit of elitism, the belief that managers are capable, more capable than ordinary people. Orwell's defense of public opinion is mind boggling and persuasive. It is only when public opinion is ignored that the managers forget the "elementary rules" that all sensible people respect. Like what teacher in a classroom would ever think seriously about education as a "race to the top?" Or like "no child left behind?" Hell, as one of my students at BSU pointed out to me in class last week, the purpose of education as we practice it is to leave children behind! Some go to Yale and some to to Assumption! What sensible person would ever declare war on a "tactic," that is, terrorism? What sensible person would ever think that we can modernize a place like Afghanistan? Only a Harvard grad could think up something like that! Or an Assumption grad who aspires to be like the Harvard grad!

Enough. Good night and good luck.

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