Friday, May 04, 2007

Minds of Wax

"Neither individuals nor nations become corrupt all at once, nor are they enlightened in a moment."

So observed William Wordsworth in 1815. He was commenting on the resistance to the revolution in poetry and in literature that was beginning to sweep through Europe as an overture to the Romantic movement.

It would not be taxing credulity to observe, 192 years later, that neither the West nor the United States was corrupted all at once, or to wonder if the advocates of reason are fighting a rearguard action against the assaults on a retreating Western civilization, or are in the vanguard of reason, knowing too well in either instance that neither men nor nations can be enlightened in a moment. Chief elements of the corruption encouraging the assault are Kant's philosophy and the altruist/collectivist axis. When men abandon reason, whether gradually or immediately, a vacuum is created, and barbarism and irrationality rush in. This is what we are witnessing today, in virtually every realm of human life and action.

Reason seems to be impotent in the face of this multi-front onslaught. It certainly is not in the ascendant in current trends.

Dr. John Lewis of Ashland University, Ohio, was invited to George Mason University in Virginia, to give a talk, "No Substitute for Victory: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism," and faced a form of this onslaught of anti-reason on the evening of April 24th. Although campus and local police were present, the barbarians established the anarchical tone of the event, continually interrupting Dr. Lewis with heckling and disruptive behavior.

At one point, an article reported, he replied to an uninvited comment, "The enemy is not Muslims. If you people [the "protestors"] refuse to hear this sentence, I can't help what's in your ears." ("No Substitute for Conflict," George Mason University Broadside, April 30)

Presumably, he meant wax, or rather the wax clogging their minds. Earwax, of course, can block hearing partially or completely, if not removed. And, it collects dirt, and can cause infection that can lead to a loss of hearing. "Wax" in the mind is immeasurably more harmful, and too many people today resist giving their minds a thorough scouring of the many forms of irrationality that comprise that wax.

Like people who hundreds of years ago believed that blood-letting was a cure-all for many kinds of illness, and resisted advances in medicine because they were "unnatural" or unsanctioned by God, many people today believe that closing one's mind to reason is a cure-all for most moral and philosophical conflicts. That is caused by the wax that accumulates in their minds by either faith or nihilism or Kantian "idealism" or emotion-driven subjectivism. Just as earwax mutes or blocks sound, these patently irrational methods of dealing with reality and other men mute the role of reason or block it entirely.

And what did Dr. Lewis say? Simply that totalitarian Iran is the U.S.'s biggest threat, that it seeks to impose its religious tyranny on as much of the world as it can, and that, like Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, it must be defeated, militarily if necessary, if the West is to have any chance of survival.

This, the "protestors" did not wish to hear, nor wish anyone else to hear. Their minds were infected, of their own choice, at the behest of their religion or their professors. (Ayn Rand might have referred to it as "venomous muck.")

(I disagree with Dr. Lewis on only two points: Muslims are as much an "enemy" as devout Christians, environmentalists, left-wing student protestors, and power-seeking politicians; their minds are also closed to reason by choice or by mental lethargy. More on these phenomena below.

Elsewhere in the Broadside article, he is cited as believing that Islam is a "religion of peace," and that the problem with it is its application as a political ideology that denies a separation of church and state. But Islam is not a pacific creed; it is a supremacist creed whose fundamental tenets mandate its hegemony by force, guile or dissimulation in its means and ends.

I see no difference between Islam, Nazism, Shintoism and any other vile ideology that requires uncritical, unquestioning faith and the ready submission of its followers. It requires of men an internal comfort level with totalitarian ambience, and the granting by them to authoritarians or totalitarians an omniscience that relieves the believers of the task or responsibility of questioning party lines, dogmas and consensus-founded "truisms.")

Why is it so difficult to enlighten men? Reason is not so radical a means of resolving conflicts or answering questions. It has been an operative in Western culture since the Renaissance; if it had not been, no "West" would have come into existence. However, it has not been consistently applied to all human affairs; in some instances, not at all.

But, when reason is applied to a specific critical issue, what can account for the resistance to what it prescribes as proper actions to take? Why is reason rejected so hastily, or so volubly, so finally? In the GMU protestors' case, it is a matter of active resistance to it, prompted by malice or hostility to it as a resolution to problems or to the values reason seeks to advance or preserve; in many others, it is a matter of lethargic, passive resistance, or a disinclination to think, or a preference to rely on undisputed, supposedly infallible authority, augmented by whatever irrational, fallacious ideas an individual has absorbed in the culture and never bothered to scrutinize.

At the risk of carrying the wax metaphor beyond bounds, a few instances might help to illustrate the malady.

At a recent booksigning for my Sparrowhawk novels outside the bookstore at Colonial Williamsburg where I appear every weekend, a prospective buyer asked me if I had written a book about the founding of Jamestown. Since I was having an informal conversation with the man and his party, I turned and pointed inside the store to a display of books on Jamestown by over a dozen authors, and exclaimed in a friendly manner, "Jesus Christ! I don't think they need another book about Jamestown! Everyone and his mother is writing about Jamestown!" Then the man's wife gave me an odd look and said to me, "You swore."

I learned later that the woman made a point of informing a store clerk that she had persuaded her husband not to buy a whole set of the series, as he had wanted to, because I "swore." There was a mind of wax in action. (Which is just as well, since they would have discovered that religious clerics do not fare well in the series; it was secular ideas of liberty that moved the American patriots, not religious ones.)

Moving to a broader issue, the Daily Telegraph (London) reported on April 30, under the headline, "Britain damaged by dropping arms deal inquiry," that Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was dropping an investigation of corruption connected with a multi-billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

"The decision followed a Saudi threat to cancel a £10 billion order for new Typhoon fighters, a move which threatened thousands of jobs in the defence industry.

"Despite widespread criticism, Tony Blair defended the decision by arguing earlier this year that the SFO inquiry would have a 'devastating' impact on Britain's relations with Saudi Arabia if it was carried on."

Here is evidence of a great mound of wax. What possible benefit could Britain reap by maintaining "relations" with Saudi Arabia, except an arms deal that would prop up its subsidized arms industry? Why would it want to sell advanced fighter jets to a feudal monarchy that is using much of its oil revenues to stir up British Muslims and advance the Muslimization of Britain? If kickbacks, briberies, and other forms of corruption indeed characterize the arms deal, shouldn't the Saudi threat to cancel the deal imply their reality and indicate the Saudis' fear that corruption would be exposed?

Why are "good relations" with one's de facto enemies regarded as indispensable, but not the truth? But, these questions will not occur to Tony Blair or anyone else in his government, because the imperatives of unreason trump reason. The wax of pragmatic diplomacy is proof against reason. It will not penetrate.

Meanwhile, speaking of pragmatic diplomacy, on May 3rd, at a Middle East conference in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice exhibited her own mind wax by stooping to meet with Walid Moallem, foreign minister of Syria, a state sponsor of terrorism and training ground for foreign "insurgents" it sends into neighboring Iraq to kill Americans and continue the unacknowledged civil war there. So much for President Bush sticking to his principle of never dealing even indirectly with Syria or Iran. The mind waxes of faith in God and faith in his goal of "democratizing" Iraq at the cost of American blood and treasure have for the last five years plugged up his receptivity to reason.

Does it matter to the Bush administration, or even to its Democratic opponents in Congress, that the U.S. military has evidence that Iran declared war on the U.S. by supplying Iraqi "insurgents" with ordnance with which to kill American soldiers? According to the World Tribune of May 1, this ordnance is not only of Iranian manufacture, but much of it is of Chinese origin, as well. Also, agents of Iran's Revolutionary Guard have been directing the "insurgency." No, none of this matters. Evidence is a product of reason, which is barred from playing a role in the formulation of foreign policy.

The "Goebbels" of global warming, Al Gore, has apparently instituted a "climate change" project which has trained over a thousand climate "messengers" to indoctrinate Americans in schools and businesses with the propaganda that man is responsible for melting icebergs, rising sea levels, and foul weather. Arguably the most culpable in helping Gore spread this propaganda is the news media, whose "reporters" and alleged journalists treat the fallacy as rock solid truth and who evince not the least inclination to question Gore's assertions.

Arguments offered by scientists who question Gore's assertions are either sidelined or not reported at all. The truth about global warming apparently is "inconvenient" enough to discourage the news media and most politicans from dislodging the wax of "consensus" from their minds. It is safer to repeat banalities.

What this culture needs is a firestorm of reason that will melt the wax that has been incrementally smothering this nation and the West for the last century.

Got a light?

3 comments:

Galileo Blogs said...

Regarding Bush's faith in the cause of the Iraq war, I can only call it religious faith. He believes, without regard for the evidence. He sticks to his belief, despite all evidence to the contrary. He believes that the act of believing, in itself, can make it so. Faith makes it so. Mind can deny reality, facts and evidence, especially if that mind is animated by faith in God.

This is the man who is our President. He is the commander in chief of our armed forces. He is responsible for protecting our nation against terrorist acts. He is responsible for denying nuclear bombs and other weapons of mass destruction to the North Koreans and Iranians.

This is the man who caves on every one of his worldly principles. He can do this, because his faith tells him that if he holds the Saudi's hand, if he gets a group of people to talk to the North Koreans, or if he magnanimously talks to the Syrians and Iranians, he will prevail. The noble example of his moral goodness will prevail. It will prevail on the heathens. The noble example of his self-sacrifice (and sacrifice of all other Americans) will persuade the peaceful Muslims of the goodness of his intentions. With his pure heart, he will make Islam into the religion of peace and the Muslim countries into our friends.

Oh, God! [spoken by an atheist]

Dan said...

I've just about given up the fights against the many anti-man gangs: global warmers, fascists, communists, self-haters, anti-big[oil, tobacco...], you name it. It's not where it's at; it's the anti-reason wax, as Ed says, that is the requirement to combat any of this. I intend to, in any of these debates, immediately draw it down to essentials – reason. If no common ground is to be found, there's no point in continuing on.

Burgess Laughlin said...

1. As I understand it, Dr. Lewis's presentation was not designed to debate members of the audience. His purpose instead was to *present* his views. However, in an extended sense of "debate," he was in fact participating in debate -- simply by stating his position. His debating opponents might respond two months later and a thousand miles away, but in a wider sense there is debate.

2. I agree with Dan that anyone involved in debate or discussion -- formal or informal, public or private -- needs at some point to identify his own position on the issue of the proper source of knowledge. Is it reason -- or something else?

Even if one's opponents -- such as those Environmentalists who cite scientists in various fields as sources -- say they support reason, one must then determine what they mean by "reason."

Conventional meanings of "reason" differ radically from the Objectivist idea of reason. So, even a vocal commitment to "reason" won't assure rational debate or discussion.

3. That does not mean that debate with such people is useless. The particular purposes of a particular debate depend on the individual debaters, but one purpose can always be present: To get ideas out into the world. Whether one influences the other debater (highly unlikely) or the majority of the individuals in the audience isn't important. What is important is to disseminate the ideas, even if only to the few who have active minds and are yearning for just the information you are offering.

That is what INFLUENCE means: giving information to individuals who want that information in order to help them achieve goals they have set for themselves.