I Am Wiser Than Ever Before
This is an email I sent to my friend, Matthew, today, on my 76th birthday. Happy birthday!
I know I sent this to you already, but it just dawned on me that Hedges’ argument doesn’t illuminate monarchy as a political phenomenon, that is, as a fundamental political alternative or as a fundamental, not just a historical human phenomenon. What does its appeal teach us about politics, about we humans? Question: which illuminates or reveals the world, viewing it politically or viewing it historically?
E.g.:Is slavery a permanent or fundamental feature of the human condition or was/is it a historical feature? If it's the former, doesn’t that have consequences for how we need to live? Plato: Only the dead have seen the end of war. Meaning: there will never be a war to end all wars and those who think there will or can be are delusional.
Meaning: Isn't progressivism a kind of delusion? Or as Fowler put it in The Quiet American, isn’t “innocence” a kind of madness and shouldn’t the “innocent” be forced to wear bells like lepers? Or maybe they should be encouraged to read Machiavelli, e.g., as an ironist who was illuminating real reality, thereby offsetting the “reality” created by the Catholics, who, e.g., were innocent/delusional enough to believe there are “saints,” ala’ Joan of Arc!
Aren’t those we call “liberals” and “conservatives” all progressives? Wasn’t even Edmund Burke a progressive, an innocent? [Just remembered: Twain wrote a book Innocents Abroad, which I haven’t read. He also wrote Life on the Mississippi, which is another critique of progressivism, innocence.] Even our “realists” are progressives, are innocents or delusional, possessing a kind of madness that comes to light in such acts as the bombing of Dresden or Vietnam or Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Truman could authorize the latter only because he was a progressive. Otherwise, he was just a mass murderer of immense proportions, of inhuman proportions. And he thought I am sure, like the rest of us, that the indigenous were “the savages.” Wow! Talk about being delusional.
Thinking politically illuminates the madness of the world or, if you will, “the divine comedy,” ala’ Dante’. And yet doesn’t this possibility, viz., that we can see if we wish to the madness, point to something in the human condition that is, while not socially redeeming, beautiful? As WEB DuBois, put it: dwelling above the color line is beautiful and it’s a beauty that is redemptive. Or as Machiavelli put it: He could retire in the evening to his study and converse with the ancients - and he had been tortured.
Hedonism, when defined as the pursuit of the beautiful, is the quest. Politics is an arena where “the best” are nothing more than “stentorian baboons” seeking to turn us into citizens - or disguised savages. Note: Lincoln’s greatness led to the savagery of the Civil War.
And I am wiser at 76 than ever before.