Recently by Christopher Manion: 1976 Redux?
Gary North's insightful piece last week invites serious reflection. He refers briefly to Barack Obama's twenty year discipleship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose theological roots lie in the shallows of the faux religion called "Liberation Theology." That term signifies the variant of Marxism that presents Jesus not as Savior, but as a materialist warlord and political liberator. In other words, Liberation Theology hides Marx's impersonal and inexorable process of the Class Struggle behind a Christian, human face to make it more palatable to the masses and more intimidating to its clueless opponents – all without changing its methods or its goals.
This is what ideology is all about – the deceptive assertion of falsehood as the ground of truth and reality. It represents a perversion of metaphysics and philosophical anthropology – that is, it denies what's true about reality and about us. But the Devil knows Latin, as the saying goes, and the ideologues feel free to pick and choose from among treasured, traditional language and symbols that once meant something real, but have long been emptied of their content and stuffed with tyrannical hemlock. Thus "patriotism" now means love of government. "Freedom" means bombing ornery foreigners into submission. And the "Two-Party System" means the one-power charade.
And "Change" means the same old same-old.
Consider the neocons. We've long known that they are the proud intellectual disciples of Trotsky. Well, they dread pitchforks as well as pickaxes. They rise and fall on the dialectic — they never "lie," you see it's just that the "correlation of forces" keeps on shifting. For a neocon, there's nothing that's true for long except the timeless fact that they're always superior (after all, Marx called the party "The Vanguard of the Proletariat"), that they are always right (especially when they're wrong), and that we must all love Big Brother.
But here is the theoretical breakthrough: as Dr. North suggests, a glance at Obama's own campaign reveals that he too is relying on the dialectic, and in a most original and innovative way:
Obama is still running against George W. Bush, as we knew he would. But Obama is also running as George Bush.
"The Obama Administration is the operational successor of the Bush Administration. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Guantanamo, [and] on Wall Street," North writes. All this, and so much more. But should we be surprised? Consider: long ago the neocon altar boy at the pagan power-shrine welcomed Obama into the ranks of the Inner Party as a "born-again neocon."
We might not ever find Obama's birth certificate, but here's Bill Kristol issuing his baptismal certificate.
"But Obama is such a liar," we are plaintively told. True enough. Now, please examine George W. Bush's 2000 campaign promises. Were any of them true? Smaller government? A humble foreign policy? Less federal spending? Blah Blah blah? Which is to say: Of course Obama lies. Was Bush any different?
The elephant in the room has morphed into a donkey. No one will acknowledge it, although everybody sees it. That, too, is a required ingredient of the dialectic.
Admittedly, the GOP has an internal dialectic of its own. It claims it wants to win, yet it has repeatedly acted as though it is possessed by a death wish. Just last week several of my neighbors here in the Shenandoah Valley witnessed firsthand the slow-motion suicide of the GOP when they were held in involuntary servitude in Tampa. Victims of an endearing prank engineered by the party Hot-Tubbers, they were trapped for hours aboard a "lost" bus supposedly sent to bring them to the convention hall. This cute little ploy occasioned their convenient absence from the convention floor, allowing the party elites to vote holy war on the grass roots, whom they nonetheless expect to vote for them by the millions in November because of course everybody knows that "Obama must be defeated." occasioned
In ancient Rome, near today's Forum of Nerva, there stood the Temple of Janus, the two-faced god of beginnings, of war and peace, and (perhaps a stretch) of outright duplicity. Our own imperial age should trot out this good fellow, who symbolizes so much of the spirit of our own time. The two parties are actually two faces of one power-cult. Our politicians are not actually lying, they are only ignoring Confucius ("restore the proper meaning of words"), preferring instead the scornful reprise of Humpty Dumpty: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
We live in an age of DoubleThink – where "minds [are] trained to hold contradictory positions simultaneously and unquestioningly." On examination, the campaign promises of both parties thrill to the dialectic: Freedom is Slavery. War Is Peace. And, especially in even-numbered years, Ignorance is Strength. We've heard before of politicians who say that "I was for it before I was against it." Now Obama has magically raised the dialectic to a new high (Hegel called it die Aufhebung): he is governing as George Bush while he is running against George Bush. It is indeed a stunning specter to behold.