Variations | A dazzling illusion

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SPECTATOR USA columnist Daniel McCarthy says Covid-19 has “uncovered…a longing for something very different from freedom among the very people who make a habit out of claiming that freedom is a universal human aspiration.” What they really want is “moral reassurance through the obliteration of dissent.” For them “freedom” only means “doing exactly what people like me want you to do.”

There is only one “correct” diagnosis of what ails society and how to “cure” it — theirs. So how dare we call it an “opinion” when it is aired by someone pure-hearted, incorruptible, objective, scientific, educated. To disagree with them is a moral failing, if not an evil deed.

Listen to them closely. They’re not politicking. They’re moralizing. They don’t opine. They preach.

The debate has ended. It has been settled already. They alone are right. All we need to do now is to agree with them or get out of the way.


We love “the people” (or “the masses” as the comrades in the P.I. would put it). “The people” are reasonable. They’re noble. They bend with “the arc of the moral universe.” They are willing to be led by their self-anointed intellectual betters.

By contrast, individuals are a mess. After voting for Saint Barack  in 2008 and 2012, many of them supported Trump in 2016. And they drive SUV’s. They shower every day. They eat junk food. They won’t listen.

Worst of all, to quote a character from a Philip Roth novel, even if you come at them “without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance…[even if you] take them on with an open mind, as equals…you never fail to get them wrong…. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion. ... The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong.”

Correction. They’re wrong; not us. They belong in a basket of deplorables. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Hope!  Change!



I recently re-read the final collection of essays/editorials written by one of the giants of the Philippine intelligentsia, Professor Renato Constantino (1919-1999). His writings after World War II and the Philippine history books he published in the dark days of Marcos’ martial law regime are the foundations of the leftism that continues to dominate the P.I.’s intellectual milieu — and politics.

“The constant deterioration of our society has been accompanied by the popular adoption of the ideology of self-interest. The obsession with the pursuit of private gain has become an institutional imperative of a society whose traditional institutions are in the process of collapse. No serious countervailing force offers a brake against this trend. Every field of endeavor has suffered the erosive action of corruption. In the practice of politics and government, corruption and crime have been perfected with a scientific precision that has made the practitioners more cynical and the electorate more apathetic. In business, the pursuit of private gain at the expense of the public has become the rationale for expansion and growth…. Public service has become an opportunity for private gain. The criminal, instead of being hunted, is now ensconced in the comfortable seats of power. We have degenerated into a frontier town where the law is cupidity, might and treachery.”

Professor RC (as he was known in the P.I.) wrote that in early 1968. Today, a lot of leftists in a lot of other countries, even in the First World, will consider the professor’s observation 52 years ago as applicable to their society.

The professor’s main ideas — leftist through and through — will never go out of style. Leftism, as a former leftie, David Horowitz, would put it, is a belief in transformation, in an earthly redemption. It is, in other words, “grounded in human desire…too powerful for reason to kill.”

In Oct. 1992, as scientific-socialist/Marxist regimes were imploding and the Philippine Marxist left was splintering into several sects that were excommunicating each other, usually with bullets, Professor RC wrote:

“[W]hat we are looking for is a collective bottomline by which the enlightened people can confidently make their way out of an otherwise demoralizing and debilitating socio-economic crisis.”

But who says what the “collective bottomline” is? Who says who are enlightened? Enlightened with what? Who picks the “way out”? And out of what?

“[O]ur purpose,” the professor wrote, “is to bring our people together in one mighty movement for change.”

The premise is classic leftism. “The people” can be herded by a good (but militant) shepherd to usher  “change.” But change what? Change how? Change why? The shepherd will tell us.

“Leadership…means discovering the wishes of the people, working with the people to help them concretize goals that correspond to their long-term interests.”

Again, a collective people with shared wishes, and long-term interests identified for them by their enlightened leaders.

And yet, at around the same time, Professor RC also wrote: “Not one person or group has all the answers…. What is clear…is that change can never be forced, that individual rights can never be sacrificed….”

Now that is a creed worth fighting for. But it is usually the first thing many leftists abandon when they are finally in charge.

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November 2020 pssnewsletter

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