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I’m curious to know what Michael Kinsley might make of this column, in light of his article last month in the Washington Post wherein he expressed some surprise that anyone to the right of, well, himself, is capable of reading. Of course, considering that it seems like half the homeschoolers I’ve met are studying either Greek or Latin, I’m fully expecting some e-mails criticizing my translations.
Most people who’ve given the issue any thought understand that the primary conflict between the right and left revolves around the rights of the individual vs. the rights of the community. What is less often understood is that this is an age-old intellectual war which began long before FDR instituted his New Deal, before the Sons of Liberty were tearing up Boston, and even before the establishment of the Roman Empire. This war actually goes all the way back to the writings of two massively influential Hellenic philosophers, Plato and Aristotle.
Consider this passage from “Plato’s Republic”:
The guardians and auxiliaries, and all others equally with them, must be compelled or induced to do their own work in the best way. And thus the whole state will grow up in a noble order, and the several classes will receive the proportion of happiness which nature assigns to them.
This is a stellar example of pure leftist thought, which from its focus on mass identification to its wildly optimistic view of government compulsion could be easily mistaken for something said by Karl Marx, Benito Mussolini or Hilary Clinton. Indeed, many points of Plato’s statist program live on today in policies championed by the American Democrats and their sycophants in the mainstream media.
- Redefining the family: “… no parent is to know his own child, nor any child his parent.”
- Public education: “… men and women are to have a common way of life such as we have described – common education …”
- Women in the military: “Then let the wives of our guardians strip, for their virtue will be their robe, and let them share in the toils of war and the defense of their country …”
- Contempt for the masses: “Now these goings on must be a secret which the rulers only know or there will be a further danger of our herd … breaking out into rebellion.”
- The perfectibility of man: “And to men like him, I said, when perfected by years and education, and to these only you will entrust the state.”
Conversely, Aristotle, the champion of the individual, would have been most contemptuous of the American left. Indeed, he seemingly anticipated Dan Rather by approximately 2,350 years when he wrote in his “Metaphysics”:
It is absurd to seek to give an account of our views to one who cannot give an account of anything, in so far as he cannot do so. For such a man, as such, is from the start no better than a vegetable.
As Mr. Kinsley himself has noted and lamented, the intellectual state of the left is in tatters. Not only do their books fail to crack the bestseller lists, not only have their policies changed very little in the last 2,000 years, but the list of fundamental contradictions in their thinking is fast approaching encyclopedic status. Paging Mr. Diderot. Abortion supporters decry sex-based abortions in India. Affordable-housing advocates call for rent control. Women’s organizations concerned about male violence want to ban handguns. Zimbabwe.
OK, I don’t know if there’s actually anything happening in Zimbabwe which I can reasonably blame on the left’s obstinate folly, but considering the general state of African politics, I figure the odds are on my side. And it starts with Z, so there you go.
What is most ironic is that those who have assembled this massive compendium of irrationality consider themselves to be the intellectual descendants of the Age of Reason.
But despite its claims to truth and moral superiority, the left has always been profoundly dishonest and anti-intellectual. Its icons are not devotees of Truth – as they pretend – but pseudo-intellects who manage to parlay meaningless verbal gymnastics into reputations for deep thought and mental acuity. When Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who had long preached against the evils of the novel, was confronted with the contradiction involved in his authorship of La Nouvelle H?lo?se, he denied that his novel was, in fact, a novel.
I suppose it just depended upon what Monsieur Rousseau’s definition of “was,” was.