Monday, November 19, 2012

retro politics (part 34)

The schadenfreude glow has yet to fade completely...   the joy (the relief) of seeing
"the reality-evading bubble" burst, the flood of "real knowable facts out there" break through the ideological levee that protects the "reality-distortion field" that is Republicanism "epistemic closure"
All the justifiably gleeful scorn on our side ("enconsced in an alternate reality",   "triumph of ideology over the real world",  "superglued to the past" ,“retro in-the-bubble ideas”) sent me back to that infamous quote

You know the quote, the one where the term "reality-based community" was first uttered in public earshot: Ron Suskind's 2004 New York Times Magazine article on George W. Bush... the passage where he's talking to an aide, a very high up one (some believe it was Rove)...

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Chilling stuff

And yet...

Be honest now-- shove to one side the fact that it's (probably) Rove who said that...  forget if you can the context of  the Iraq War... 

Isn’t there a tiny bit of you that thrills to the idea in that quote? The idea of being History's actors...  not subject to reality, but bending it to your will...  Isn't it actually reminiscent of that saying about how "the point is not to understand the world, but to change it"?

Regardless of the ends that this particular historical manifestation of will to power/will to truth  directed itself towards... the underlying idea there is a larger conception of politics than the one (modest improvements in things-as-they-are) envisioned (visionlessly) by the side I'm so very very glad won the last election (the sensible side, the sane side) 

One of the things that perplexes people on the Left about heartland middle-or-low income Republican voters is why they vote against their own economic interests, why they side with plutocracy and corporations...  as in. What's The Matter With Kansas?...  but (once again disregarding the reactionary nature of those ideals and value from our point of view) surely voting for something bigger than or just other than your narrow economic interests, that's what politics should be, right?

Demographics-derived calculus of  the Silver sort is a factsist regime that can't really account for things like tidal surges of fervour or interest-transcending idealism... 

"The refusal to let facts get in the way" --  it sounds really bad, so pernicious. But then wasn't that what civil rights was? What abolitionism was?

Or what a counterculture is: the refusal of the limits of reality as currently understood and accepted.

The difference is: the counterculture defeated in the last election was refusing reality in the name of a past that never really was....    But (c.f. Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism) it is possible for countercultures to refuse reality, to fly in the face of "facts",  in the name of a future that could be.

1 comment:

  1. It's the contemporary equivalent of "nothing is true, everything is permitted", or "take your desires for reality", which are equally thrilling statements.

    The difference is it didn't come from a legendary medieval warlord, or some theory-fuelled students, but as a serious statement of intent from the leadership of the most powerful country on earth.

    It's a reminder that these kinds of extreme ideas can be entertaining diversions, but need to be kept a long way away from the real world.

    I am not sure your parallels of Abolitionism and Civil Rights really work. Those campaigns were reality-based in important respects: the inability of African-Americans to exercise their legal rights, for example.

    Plus some moral imperatives rooted in Christian ideas about the equality of all people as children of God. Which is also a transcendent approach, I admit, but is a long way from "we create our own reality".