February 11, 2007

The Vision That Dare Not Speak Its Name

The World as a Group of Fantasy Islands. A project off the coast of Dubai

Daniel Henninger in a recent "Wonderland" column in The Wall Street Journal, Talking Ourselves Into Defeat , examines the pall of self-loathing that has settled over the American mind in the past year. For the most part, his estimate of the roots of this malaise is accurate, but one insight strikes me as wide of the mark:

"One reason the negative mood in politics is so disconcerting is that the opposition's alternative vision is nonexistent. On joining the opposition recently, GOP Sen. Norm Coleman announced, "I can't tell you what the path to success is.'"

It seems more than self-evident to me what the "path to success" is in the minds of those who have embraced and live "the opposition's alternative vision." It is not a "nonexistent" vision but one that is very much alive and kicking. It is, however, as a vision one that is very much a secret.

It is "the vision that dare not speak its name."

It is no secret that classic liberalism in the mold of FDR, JFK,and LBJ that reached its apotheosis in Hubert Humphrey, has long been consigned to the bone-yard. What has taken its place hates to be tarred with the brush of liberalism because, frankly, it isn't. What now stands in that place is a kind of perverted one-world idealism in which "the world as it is" is constantly measured against "the world as it should be." Old liberalism at least had the argument that it was being done for the greater good. The new perverted variant is one in which policy and plans are made because it makes the initiators "feel good" about themselves. Those that make and support these measures hold themselves as, in the French phrase popular when many of them were young, "cityoen du monde" -- citizens of the world.

Typically these are people who have "gone beyond" nation states in their own minds and, if they can afford it (and many can), in their personal lives as well. People with access to enough money to afford private jets, or even with enough money to pay the premium prices of hybrid cars, do not exactly dwell in the same nation as their fellow, less-fortunate citizens. Instead they can afford to spend their time spreading a gospel whose high costs and marginal benefits are always carefully hidden from the middle middle class and those below. But this is never seen by those spreading the gospel as a kind of noblesse oblige, only as something that is "good for them."

Writ large we see this in grandiose projects like the Gates Foundation's plan to "Save Africa." This is a noble goal and few can gainsay the deeply humanitarian impulse behind it, only the likely outcome of many more Africans made millionaires that can leave that continent behind. On the smaller scale, we see hundreds of efforts to spread "right thinking and right behavior and correct belief" in the endless bullying of small organizations by larger "clear headed" organizations such as the ACLU. It is all, their way or the lawsuit highway, which the little people can seldom afford; a kind of fiscal extortion racket. The donations come in the front door and the Creches go out the back. All done with a nudge and a wink to "the protection of liberty and diversity" at the same time diversity of the "bad" kind is reduced. Like latter day Leona Helmsleys these visionaries are always at pains to "thank the little people" for letting them have it their way.

These American citizens do not think of themselves as actual Americans (although they play them easily and glibly on TV), but as a new and better breed that only retain their "American" status for the present benefits. Instead they prefer to think of themselves as inhabiting a rarer, more personally fragrant realm of ideals that the rest of us do not see and cannot aspire to.

This new and more wonderful world is the Holy Realm of The Church of the Planet whose crusade goes forward under the sign of The Gleaming Escutcheon United Nations; not as grotesque assemblage of thugs and thieves that it is, but as it should -- in the perfect world to come -- be. Indeed,nothing in this realm is ever seen as it is, but only as it should be. There are no armies in this realm, only legions of NGOs without borders. There are no Popes or Saints, only Al Gore and those who can jet into the annual green cardinals convocation at Davos. The sweet. The elite. The non-elected, self-appointed and peer-selected Government of the Happy World who swap honors and awards as freely between themselves as participants in a Sexual Freedom League Fornication Festival.

In their own strangely perverse way the inhabitants of this realm, like those on the extreme lower end of the scale in imploding 3rd world countries, are still dependent on nation states, particularly the United States, for charity and scarce resources. This need accounts for much of the funding of the United Nations, an organization whose thirst for the perfect world in the very near future (We promise) is exceeded only by its thirst for American money in the here and now. Dreams do not require food and protection, only the dreamers dreaming from their unshakable sleep.

A shorthand term for these global creatures among us is "cosmopolitanism," and it is a concept that fits them like a bespoke suit. After all, what is not to admire about a person who is "cosmopolitan?" Such a person is, after all, "So sophisticated as to be at home in all parts of the world or conversant with many spheres of interest." Who among us would not aspire to such a sobriquet attached to our view of ourselves? The very concept simply reeks of a special status denied to those who are, well, the little people.

Cosmopolitan Americans tend to clump into readily identifiable groups: our media, our intellectuals, our academics, our stars of stage, screen, television, books, and magazines, our newly and fabulously rich captains of hi-tech industries, and most of all our politicians of all stripes. True not everyone in these groups conducts themselves in a "citizen of the world before a citizen of the nation manner." Many still do not, but the preponderance of the members of these groups do. The political affiliations of these groups skew heavily leftwards but not exclusively so. With the recent realignment of power toward the Democrats, and the conquest of the Democrats by their more "cosmopolitan" elements, the tendency of this group to draw more into its orbit increases, since cosmopolitans are, at bottom, always about the main chance before the hard choice.

The hard choice now is whether or not American hegemony will prevail into the century, or whether that power will be ceded to those rising regimes and forces whose roots and plans for the future are, if anything, not at all as benign of America; whose systems of government are more militant than they are democratic.

The whiff of American weakness always emboldens the unspeakable visionaries. And a war that is in its essence benign rather than draconian always sends off the whiff of weakness. In the Washington Post this morning, we see a bit of "the vision that dare not speak its name" in an aging general's rant "Victory Is Not An Option." The essay is worthy of rebuttal on a number of points but for now suffice it to say that it could as well have been entitled "Democracy Is Not An Option," a sentiment that may well be true not only for the Middle East but for the world to come should American hegemony be removed as a factor in the future of the coming century.

One of the things that "the vision that dare not speak its name" will neither speak nor confront is the present existence and inexorable rise of systems of government that do not exactly wish to deliver the higher realms of personal, sexual, and wantless liberty the One Worlders envision. Free societies are not the default state of how humanity organizes itself. Free societies are rare and always in danger of being overwhelmed by the more evil angels of our nature. That is the historic and present reality of our world. Reality, however, seldom intrudes on our dreams of a perfect word. When it does we call them nightmares. And what we learn from history is that these nightmares are recurrent.

But for those of "the vision that dare not speak its name" it is precisely the American hegemony, and no other, that must be removed to make way for the glorious one-world where it is "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." And that world, in their shared visionary imagination, will be made of a green, caring, carefully stewarded world where the we all get to "do our thing" in perfect freedom and without any interference from dictators, power blocs, theocratic states, weapons of mass destruction, crime, guns, and oppression of any living thing on the planet, including animals.

Like the world after the Rapture, the vision of the One-Worlder is Gaia triumphant for the many and a shining realm of gracious living for the elite few. It is a green Hobbit realm with iPods for all and no Saurons to be found anywhere. A technotronic Middle Earth.

I recognize this unspeakable vision well. It has many of the slapdash Marcusian components of the dreams of my youth during the days of the Free Speech Movement, Earth Shoes and Earth Day, the Vietnam Day committee, Woodstock, the Human Be-in, and the Acid Tests at Ken Kesey's place in La Honda and that old hotel in San Francisco.

Now that my "not-so-great" generation has its hands on the wheels of commerce and power in the United States, it is time that this vision that dare not speak its name, compiled from those rotted roots, seeks to act out the dreams of its youth as the policies of a generation entering its dotage. For a generation that so fervently believes in evolution, it is surprising that its youthful political goals have, in the intervening decades, evolved so little.

The first order of business now, as it was then, is to "Smash the State" by expanding the State's control over those that are not among the One Worlders. Of course, the real goal was never to "Smash THE State" as a ruling concept, but only to Smash the American State and replace it with something more soothingly socialist in which "all animals were equal but some more equal than others;" a state in which one party, controlling the culture and the media and the tax system, would rule out of benevolent concern for all over the one, Earth First uber alles. With free health care thrown just to make sure you could live longer in a perfect world.

Leading the charge to "Smash the State by Making a Bigger State" at present will be the Way-New Democratic Party and its outriders, the cosmopolitans. Or perhaps "outriders" doesn't quite capture it since, among the leadership in media, politics, business, and government, the overlap is almost total.

For these people, "the path to success" currently passes through Iraq and winds directly into "failure." They are in love with the idea of "American failure" because, in many ways, it validates their entire lives and empowers their politics. At the core of "the vision that dare not speak its name" is a perverted desire to see their country lose, to see it humbled on the world stage, and to give over the present benign American hegemony to other coarser and more draconian states. And why wouldn't they since their primary life allegiance is One World and not one country.

Should their abiding vision for failure in Iraq become a reality and Iraq descends into a genocidal nightmare, as it will, that's fine with them. That blood will wash more quickly off their hands than the blood of the thousands of Americans killed on 9/11 through the ineptitude of a foreign policy that, over decades, enabled the attacks. Attacks that, as we see now, did not raise any real alarms among the cosmopolitans that their One World dreams might face real world dangers, but merely troubled their sleep for a brief moment.

Should the ascent of Iran threaten the survival of Israel, the economy of the United States and the developed world, well, we and they deserve it. After all, we need to "get off" oil and why shouldn't we have a global depression teach us a lesson?

If an American city becomes a firestorm, well, that certainly isn't the opposition's fault. That was never a part of their vision. It will be, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever will be, the fault of Bush. They will never have to deny a vision that they did not articulate; that they did not name.

Their vision cannot be named, but it can be worked for on a daily basis. And it is. One could call the whole sheaf of proposed legislation and promises oozing out of the Democratic Presidential frontrunners a kind of "Clintonian Recidivism," but somehow that just doesn't have the kind of branding snap and polish we look for these days. I think it would be better for the "opposition" is they called it "The Quest for the Happy World."

When discussing the character of Rolling Stone founder, Jann Wenner, someone once remarked to me, "For some people it will always be 1968." That's pretty much the case with the cosmopolitans of "The Not So Great Generation." Because they no longer live in America but in the Happy World, they deeply and fundamentally believe that their unnameable vision will prevail and with the defeat of the nation on which their freedom and prosperity depends, all return to the Happy World of the Clinton years where the world will leave us alone to pursue our various socialist experiments if only we leave it alone.

The "opposition vision" does not merely seek the defeat of America, but something much more essential to sustaining the rising tide of freedom across the globe. It seeks the defeat of the American ideal. And it seeks it while perversely claiming that it is here to "rescue" it by facilitating its defeat; an Orwellian apotheosis of stunning assertion, and one that will do more than anything else to advance the level of Global Warming to thermonuclear levels in one brief, shining afternoon than any other philosophy you can recall or imagine.

It is of little matter to those whose vision dare not speak its name. They believe, they deeply believe, that with enough talk and enough retreat, and enough appeasement, and enough money, and enough bribes that it will never come to that. Of course, it always does come to that, but this time, they assert, "will be different. We promise."

At bottom, believing that a butcher's bill will never come due, the destruction of the American ideal is really just fine with these "cityoen du monde." They yearn, from their perches in their perverse cosmopolitan realms, to see their nation defeated and humbled and lowered, because they long ago left that nation and ascended into those ethereal realms of their own private Fantasy Island. After all once the United States is reduced in power and prestige to Switzerland, what could possibly happen in the world that could keep their Fantasy Island from becoming the Green Utopian Earth?

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Posted by Vanderleun at February 11, 2007 1:13 PM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I believe you've wiped the mask off the cosmopolitans to reveal what Ayn Rand, in Atlas Shrugged, called the aristocracy of pull. Them, in their limos, and us, cleaning the windshield.

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever. --George Orwell

Posted by: Mike Anderson at February 11, 2007 4:35 PM

Gerard are we still in the naming of the enemy stage? For those of us who yearn to move past this stage what do you envision the next step will be? Can we still prevail against the Cosmopolitans peacefully or will it take a war?

My wife would be amused with your blaming my generation for much of the ills of society. She agrees...

14 years my junior she is fond of saying that my drug addled generation's self centeredness will be the death of us all.

Posted by: Pierre at February 11, 2007 6:44 PM

You mean...They that dare not speak it's name...

Is likened to a discredited Fundamentalist Religion?

Posted by: Dr. Laszlo at February 11, 2007 8:18 PM

Human nature, achingly weak, always has been, always will be.

Posted by: jeffersonranch at February 12, 2007 7:45 AM


As usual you allow us to taste political commentary served up nowhere else on the planet. I count you're website and your insight as one of the great blessings of my own (thankfully) American experience.

In their idealistic fantasy the "one worlders" envision a "great leader" like Gore taking them all to the promised land. I wonder what they'll be thinking when they wind up with a Joey Stalin, Master Mao, Pol Potty, or KGB Putin putting a 9 mm bullet through the back of their heads.

It appears to me that there are only a few of us left concerned about any this. My own brother, who had served as an officer in the US Army, did not answer me when I once asked him "would you rather be red than dead?". Of course he is a loyal "liberal Democrat" who lives in a gated community, nice, safe, and snug-away from "the people". These liberals love the benefits of liberty, but they really could give a rat's ass if anyone else has it.

Notice as we contemplate this, the media drowns us, and our children, in 'Anna Nicole'. The only news they give us about promoting liberty is: our body count, "our helicopters are getting blown out of the sky", and "Bush wants war with Iran but Chris Dodd will save us from him". These snakes don't see a problem with Iranian nuts having "one or two" nukes and they certainly don't want democracy to expand.

And don't forget:

This is the worst economy since the Great Depression...
How dare we question their patriotism...
If she knew then what she knows now...
Osama is like the George Washington of the Middle East...
Bush brought the towers down with the CIA's help...
the earth is melting

We have a long fight ahead. I feel like we're living in the 1930s. The only politician left who has the balls to tell these folks they're full of shit is Newt, but at this point the electorate wouldn't understand what we're talking about.

I guess we should look at the bright side, someday we'll find out who the father of Anna Nicole's baby is.

Posted by: Jim at February 12, 2007 8:02 AM

And to think the Czar of Cosmopolitan--with Nobel and Academy Awards in hand soon--lives right around the corner from me. That is, when he's not jetting around the world most of the time.

Do you think it could make the value of my condominium go up just a little more as he ascends the global throne?

Posted by: Webutante at February 13, 2007 7:16 AM

I've linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2007/02/re-vision-that-dare-not-speak-its-name.html

Posted by: Consul-At-Arms at February 14, 2007 4:58 PM

Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at February 14, 2007 10:48 PM

"The only politician left who has the balls to tell these folks they're full of shit is Newt, but at this point the electorate wouldn't understand what we're talking about."

Outstanding comments to yet another of Mr. G's outstanding posts.

Posted by: Obi's Sister at February 15, 2007 7:59 AM
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