Sunday, May 27, 2007

A anti-homily on Classicalism

The title of this blog is written under the spirit that I am an American in the Federalist Tradition of the USA, and 'left' because I am a feverent opponent of laissez-faire globalization and seek a return to the New Deal social-market consciousness. This may be redundant to state this. But the program is both conservative and liberal. However I've addressed little on social and cultural issues for a reason: the United States of America was born 'modern'. Its birth signified a split with the organic European consensus, though the umblical cord remained attached.

European critics of globalism of whatever ideological stripe dwell on the culture thing in contrast to the economic, especially those of the so-called Nouvelle Droite. Not that I oppose the culture thing in itself, don't think that it doesn't need to be discussed and what have you. Some dialogue is needed and culture does matter. But it has more significance across the Pond than it does on this side of it. Organic Europe has thousands of years of culture and economics did not play a huge role with its intelligentsia until very recently in its long,long history. Americans were born homo economicus and political economy was the big controversy at the genesis of the United States. The Founding Fathers of the Republic were not uncouth dummies, however. Many were steeped in the Classics of Europa, and had the classical education which was the rote of 18th Century men. But they faced the prospect of building a new nation and knew that they couldn't rely on Hellenism to do it, that culture is not what an economic infrastructure makes, or what has been called the physical economy.

Much of the American conservative intelligentsia today preach for a return of classical education as if it alone will solve our problems. This puts them out of the Federalist Tradition that stressed political economy. A historical reminder is that it was the agrarian Physiocrats like Jefferson, who hated Federalism, who were all gaga on finding a natural aristocracy via study of the Classics. The Federalists were elitists as well, but believed in a more practical meritocracy of economic diversity, where those who are on the bottom could use what inherited and acquired talents that they had to hopefully rise. That was the American Dream that never materialized in its projected form, yet it was much better than the reactionary agrarian idea of the Jeffersonians who based their meme on that of old Republican Rome( that was a slavocracy) like classical scholars always do to this very day. Most Federalists were early proponents of Manumission not just for humane or economic reasons. Alexander Hamilton, for one, correctly viewed slavery as a tremendous waste of talent and believed that gifts and potential transcended all races of humanity - something that was considered a radical idea to hold in the 18th Century. Most manumission advocates of that era were 'Free Soilers' and thought the freed slaves should be "re-colonialized" somewhere else on the Earth (including Harriet Beecher Stowe and initially Abe Lincoln). Hamilton wanted them to have the same rights and citizenship of Americans of whatever color or race.

Today's classical education fanatics react against the post-modernism, the secularism of what they deem a virus from the radical left, or 68ers. It is very true that some of academia have utter contempt for Western Culture and see it as the root of all evil, a notion that is indeed harmful and ridiculous. For every "evil White Man" there are three brown and black devils standing beside him. Yet conservative classical boosters think that everything post-modern is malignant as well and see the world in strict Manichean terms. I believe that reading of the Western Canon is important for anyone in intellectual endeavors, but I fail to see how Homer, Pythagorous , Thomas Aquainas will turn the American people away from their pancem et circenes and most notably, what the Wise Ones of ancient history can give us advise on how to prevent the global hegemony of the economic-predators? The Men of the Classics had no idea that they were to be revered hundreds and even thousands of years after their expiration from the dark Earth, anyway. Though they had an interest in the future, they wrote and composed for their contemporaries, and none ever claimed, to my knowledge, of being fortune-tellers.

The 'good' about post-modernist thought, or de-construction, is that it taxes the brain muscles just as much as studying classical Greek would. De-constructionism, in a nutshell, innocently lifts up to the surface that whatever notion, idea, world-view that an individual possesses could be possibly in error? It is not nihilism(true nihilism is impossible, in my judgment) but just as much dialectical in format as Aristotleian logic is, but is more free-flowing and not as rigid as the former. Instead of telling a person how to think, de-constructionism mounts the podium, begs the question -

"I already know 'how', I want to know - 'why'?

-George Orwell

Classicalists can better present their case by adopting the cream of nominal post-modernist thinking, perhaps. This doesn't mean adding Dada or Foucault to the Western Canon, but not appearing so ancient which few people ever has embraced. Let's face it: every attempt to promote The Great Books down to the ranks of the hoi poli has been a failure. Those antiquarian texts are usually just 'show-books' that line the shelves in a suburban living-room seldom opened and read. A relative of mine once got into the Great Books discount- buying and when queried who the names were on the titles she couldn't really give a good answer. I remember that she said that Adam Smith was "some physicist from England". My cynical snicker at this led to her admitting that the Great Books in her possession were mere decor for her new Study in her house where she didn't have the time to study anything. Her copies of Stephen King and Jacquline Sussan looked well-thumbed, however.....

Again, Homer and Bach will not tackle the essential dillemas of Americans in America. We can still learn from Plato and Aristotle and appreciate Voltaire, Erasmus, etc. Though I am a critic of the eggheads of Classicalism, I never want to see the Western Canon abolished as the extreme cultural Left wish it to be. Yet, even if a Halliburton executive, for instance, can recite The Inferno canto by canto, he or she remains an economic-predator. A construction worker who's well-versed in Shakespeare will not improve his income and general existence; the tele-marketer who can hum note to note from begginning to end Handel's Messiah is still stuck in a thankless and abusive low-paying job. A Fast Food worker will not impress his/her employers because he/she knows Plato's Dialogues....

One needs to consider who these folks in the UsofA that are promoting classical education are, where politically they are coming from. Both NeoCons and paleo-conservatives are hung up on the Classics to the nth degree. We all know about the Straussians already, but the paleoconservatives, the types that read the neo-Confederate mag, Chronicles, are in the Agrarian/Physicocrat/Jeffersonian memes &often merged with various degrees of religious fundamentalism. Their theological beliefs usually have little to do with the benign Renaissance Christian Humanism, but post-Reformation dogmaticism and intolerance whilst they be Catholic or Protestant. Today's paleo-classicists reject the syncreticism of Pico, Cusanus, Erasmus and others of the Renaissance and offer us a medieval either-or Return quite like the medievalism of Luther, Calvin and the Vatican's counter-reformation. This is what killed off the Renaissance in the first place. Classicists want bright minds only if they are inside the box.

Personally, I have never met a Classical scholar who seemed to be very liberal on much of anything, with the exception of one, who claimed to be a Buddhist and a socialist as well as a devotee of the Western Canon. That was very unique. Most classicalists seem to pine for that Golden Age in antiquity that never existed in actuality. In music, Beethoven was considered 'too loud 'by the musical reactionaries of his day who stressed adulation for JS Bach. I'm certain that Bach was criticized by Old Foggies of the Lutheran Hymnal too in his composition days, and so on. Every generation coming up has been accussed of perverting and losing the 'wisdom' of the former and some predict the destruction of society, Zeus thunderbolts of doom unto the Earth -

" Hey, but look at me Joey - I'm still standin'!"

-Robert DeNiro, Raging Bull

The Classics need to be syncretic, brought into the general memes of social thought. The Western Canon can be added on to. American homo economicus, circa 2007, cannot live hardly on Homer & Hayden and fellow travelers alone. The paleo-classicalists today are hung up on the very word -classical. That Predator Economics is dubbed as 'Classical Economics' automatically finds those scholars of Thomas Aquainas endorcing it, it seems. That's interesting since Aquinas himself was a strong enemy of usury and held the mercantile class as suspect of impiety, and he never endorced the rugged individualism that predator/classical economics holds as sancrosanct.

'Tis interesting that a good percentage of American classicists today(the political ones) who claim to be "proud to be also American", find a nice home for themselves in one of the most anti-American think-tank called the Ludwig von Mises Institute, headquartered in Alabama. Ludwig von Mises is the avatar of the Vienna School of Economics and he had utmost contempt for anything from 'the Herd' in proper aristocratic Habsburg fashion. The Vienna School's founder was Carl Menger, though not a hereditary aristocrat himself, he like Cicero and Cato of Rome was an ass-kisser to them. Menger's prime motivation was to attack the German/American Historical School of Economics that dominated the Wilhelmian Era of the 19th Century. The titled nobility felt their previous hegemony slipping badly and needed something else for a restoration of their elite. So why not individualist based "free-market" economics that denied the role and even existence of society ? In such a anarcho-capitalist utopia, the 'Vons' would be restored to lords of the Manor, once again. The Vienna School had utter contempt for the United States, but found some Americans to be their useful idiots to broadcast their message. It is remarkable that the free-market economics of von Mises never caught on in Austria or Germany, but flowered in the USA in post- World War 2 amoung the Old Right opponents of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal which was the fruition of the *American System*. The American System was brought to Central Europe via Friedrich List and later had the 'Historical School' label. The Historical School metamorphed into the "Social-Market", the plan that re-built West Germany into an economic titan following the Second World War. This, the Vienna School of aristocratic predators from Menger, von Mises,von Hayek, and the Catholic bigot&monarchist, Erich von Kuehnhelt-Leddihn, sought to destroy as well as the soverignty of nation-states. It is humorous that Hayek readers were accusing everyone else of being 'socialists', when the Vieena School had much more in common with the Trotskyite globalist Left than they cared to admit, or acknowledged.

That the Vienna School hated the Federalist Tradition of the United States is a no brainer, obvious. But they found a fellow-traveler in America with the Jeffersonian/States Rights/laissez-faire contingent. It is no surprise that Americans who slobber over the Vienna School are also tied into the traitorous neo-Confederate movement. People need to remember that the aristocratic old European Right of the 19th Century hated the very existence of the United States of America and clapped their hands with glee when it looked like the American Republic was going under during the Civil War, 1861-65. The European reactionaries were as a whole pro-South in that conflict for this very reason(also for the prospect of duty-free exports in Southern ports). The Southern slavocracy was aristocratic, classicalist, fundamentalist Calvinist, Anglophiliac free-traders during this era. Plantation owners imitated the ways of British Imperial country gentry and some even advocated of rejoining the Empire if need be. Only Russia and Prussia were pro-North/Union during the American Civil War out of all the European powers, but could provide little assistance. If it wasn't for the restraint of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's hubby, Great Britain would had jumped into the conflict on the side of the traitorous Confederacy with both feet during the Trent Affair. This is what Jeffersonian neo-Confederates sigh over to this very day.

Southern partisans need to remember that the person more tied with the 'Yankee' Federalist Tradition is the Virginian, George Washington. There was no other place on Earth than his Mount Vernon that George wanted to be at. But during his service as Commander-in-Chief of the revolutionary Continental Army, George Washington became a nationalist and endorced the Federalist program of Hamilton, both politically and economically. Washington also released Mt. Vernon's slaves from bondage at his death. None of the other plantation- owning classical 'democrats' - Jefferson, Madison, Monroe - followed Washington's example. In fact, Jefferson increased his slave-ownership over his long years and only granted manumission to a mere five of the hundreds of slaves that this hypocritcal bastard owned. Let's not forget that Jefferson was always going-off about classical Roman virtues.

Ergo, 'classical 'doesn't mean that everything 'good' was ever intwined with it. One can see just as much that was and is bad. And a note to leftists is that not everything dubbed 'traditional' is and will be a hindrance to socio-economic progress, either.

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