Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wisdom and Antiwisdom

The essay by Angelo Codevilla has captured the imagination of a great many. It occurred to me that slightly updating and republishing this old essay may prove useful. It highlighted key areas where our wannabe Ruling Class fostered actions that undermined our good cultural influences and promoted bad ones. The latent excesses in human nature had been greatly suppressed by institutions that our ancestors had built for that purpose. Local community checks on excesses were a Puritanical legacy. That key foundation I think was targeted first. Then anything that could be linked to it became fair game. It took about three generations to near thoroughly inflitrate and rot out most of those institutions.

We are the people the globalists have been waiting for: us foolish caretakers of America, descendant guardians of the liberties she was created to safeguard.

Have we so fumbled that we've fatally lost the baton?

I want to thank fellow Belmont Club member Cowboy for commenting on PrezZero's shunning of the Boy Scouts of America's Centenial Year Jamboree.

[The BSA is] the one institution [the Progressives] founded that’s worth a damn. It’s actually the crown jewel of their legacy had they eyes to see it, and boy do they hate it so!

That strongly reminded me of a similar passage in another of my essays that itself was influenced by the following. The Ruling Class' hatred of all our earlier liberty-guarding institutions begs us to reform them all.

April 17, 2005

Wisdom and Anti-Wisdom

By Pascal Fervor

Let me share a 1970s memory of a published interview with the dean of the Harvard Business School. The dean lamented his own participation in the new business ethic.
“We have ruined American business for the foreseeable future. We taught the next generation of executives a new credo:  'One cannot afford to plan for the future of the company; one must get what one can today. Engaging in long-range planning would only carpet the luxurious offices of the executives who will replace you because of your poor performance this year.'”

I asserted one week earlier that morality is only applicable for oneself by oneself. Now I will present the case why it is wise to choose to do so. Self-interest. Long term. Optimism.

In the case of the corporate CEO, a moral corporate outlook, indeed the outlook of any morally restrained leader, requires a level of nobility of purpose that our mea culpable dean and his generation of educators had chosen to cashier. Much of moral outlook frequently takes the form whereby one chooses that self-interest extends beyond the self. Heroes in war and in fiction abound in this. Restraining ones immediate appetites for the purpose of advancing some loftier goal is a choice that is always available. Yet the inclination to same has so fallen out of favor with the self-anoited intellectual crowd, who have given it such pejorative appelations that they can vex a saint, that you sense that the intellectuals have long-lost any sense of nobility themselves. How could this be? 

But what about what you do, Dear Reader? Over what of your many choices of behavior have you thought long and hard about? Who have you approached for advice? Have you even consulted your own experience?

It takes no leap of faith to accept the notion that while a man who quickly learns from his own mistakes is smart, it is the much wiser who learns from the mistakes of others. So how is it that our surrounding culture and our peers appear so eager to convince to ignore our own better counsel?

Well, there is wisdom to be gained by recognizing how much misanthropy flows through our lives and has influenced our culture for the worse.

The word misanthropy goes back to Ancient Greece. (from Greek misos hatred + anthropos man.) Yet we may be sure that its conception is older than that.

Just as the Harvard philosopher, George Santayana, noted that
those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” 
so too have those who would wish to see people doom themselves. What more proof would one need than the discovery that George Wilhelm Hegel, the chief philosophical proponent of how to gain from the misleading of men and the muddling of their efforts, had a cynically extremist assessment of the value of history?  
“What experience and history teach is this -- that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles.” 
His use of never here tells us of his extremism. Get it? He arrogates what he alone has learned from history. We may infer that he aimed to inflict ignorance upon his victims from out of the context that follows from his infamous dialectic.  Upon those he would control he wishes ignorance and lack of solid principles on which to stand. He sees Santayana’s bid for efficient governance and raises it. He recommends to those who wish to rule that they press ignorance to their advantage. 

How much wisdom have you been conditioned to avoid seeking or heeding? How many people who have learned from their own mistakes have you been disuaded from learning from? How many of these humbled souls have you heard called “hypocrite” as they attempted to warn you of specific things that snared them? Is it not likely that those who are most quick to tarnish the reputations and diminish the intentions of those who wish to warn others, are those who want you to procede to their own agenda? Those who are most quick to inaccurately label the reformed errant as hypocrites are the same as they who wish to use the same successful snares over again -- on you? When through appeals to vanity (or fear of ridicule or peer pressure or whatever) you have been convinced to choose to remain uninformed is it not easier for you to become their next victim? How often have you yourself called snidely, maybe with a smirk, such a potential mentor “hypocrite” as you were schooled to do? 

How often have you seen MSM put up an extremist opponent against an ironclad proponent for what you know works, and given the two equal time as if they were equally valid? Is this not outright fostering of unwise actions for those who have yet to learn? Are you not threatened by the promotion of anti-wisdom in those around you? Even if you do not feel a moral obligation to warn the foolhardy, don’t you feel a selfish interest to do so?

How much wisdom have you been avoiding either from seeking for yourself or passing on to a friend, Dear Reader? 

How often have you heard stories of kids in the ghetto being attacked for doing well in school? One of the surest ways of improving ones life is through study. Yet for awhile we would hear daily of the tragic stories of the act of studying being racialized; kids being maimed and killed for "acting white." A more responsible MSM would squelch such stories. Why have they stopped public service anouncements such as "A mind is a terrible thing to waste?" A more wisdom oriented education system would see that such mockery-of-justice behavior were severly punished. 

Let’s assume you don’t believe in God. You have declared yourself to be either an atheist or an agnostic. Have you been convinced that such a label is proof that you have an open mind? 

Okay. Then why, for your own sake, have you not read the Bible for its literary content? Or how about reading it for its non-Deistic historical value? That is at least arguable (you possess an open mind, remember?). What about failing human nature are you not interested? In that it is loaded. Or do you think you’re immune from human foibles? Or maybe you just fear being accused of "acting Christian" like the poor ghetto victims fear being accused of "acting white." Could it be that those from whom you fear such criticism might wish you remain in another form of ghetto? Do you reside on another form of Liberal plantation, one that has (until you read this sentence) never been so recognized? 

If you can find no other reason to read them, the stories of the bible, even stripped of the divine passages (cf. Thomas Jefferson) that some of the stories contain, will warn us of the failed and failing human leaders and the causes for their failures and thus why it's never safe to rely on men alone. And this is thousands of years old! One thing is clear: the Bible informs even a non-believer that human nature does not change. Can you see any reason in that why those who would mislead us -- have misled us -- want so many of us not to know of those informative passages? 

If you haven’t, out of habit, closed your mind yet to these arguments, then please think about what you’ve been missing. Why have you chosen to stay uninformed?

We live in the freest nation in the world. The history of nations, though, is mostly of history of tyrannies bringing ruin and death to their own peoples. More people have died at the hands of governments gone badly than any band of criminals ever dreamed of inflicting without the powers of statecraft behind them. There are many sources of wisdom that would help us defend our nation from failing into the ash-heap of history. There are many other agents who would happily lead us down all the avenues of anti-wisdom instead.

I will close with another lesson from history. Aristotle first penned that "virtue is its own reward." He meant that the society which pursued virtue in all aspects would achieve what the rest of the world could only envy. Only a few centuries and a hegemony removed later did Cicero also state "that virtue is its own reward" and see it greeted with the mocking, derisive manner of only those who think they have achieved all there is to achieve could ever dare presume. "Principle must make way for the pragmatic." The mark of decay had arisen.

Wisdom is a virtue most seek for its reward to them. True wisdom tends to have longterm visibility. Unlike our CEO above, the individual doesn't have to answer to a board of directors. You may have to answer to a bunch of demanding "friends," but the wisdom you seek will help you either reform the friends and their demands or lead you to seeking new friends.

The wisdom in seeking to keep the nation a moral one was not misunderstood by its founders. They hoped to encourage the largest number of morally straight and wisdom seeking individuals. Those who would subvert our nation with the intents to satisfy the raw power they seek need us to become both unwise and amoral. The free peoples who helped raise this nation to its greatness did it because their marked moral behavior for the most part helped keep them free even when they themselves weren't that wise, requiring less crackdown for the few miscreants who popped up. There was wiseness in seeking to retain a moral credo for society. There is anti-wiseness in collapsing that view. With each incremental collapse into deviancy, more restrictions, not less, came to the fore. You fear the miscreants, the power seekers will promise to protect you. There is a clear connection between power seekers and miscreants, and they serve each others' purpose. If you think that the system is failing you are not looking at it from the point of view of those who you have vested with power to make the system work. It works very, very well for them.

Seeking to retain a moral attitude is not unlike seeking wisdom. It is a virtue you can seek both for its own reward and for its reward for you -- in the long term. Anti-wise factions will continue to try to subvert both. Disappoint them. Let them entertain the notion that their sophistication trumps your innocence. Morality like wisdom frequently rebounds to your satisfaction in the long term especially when you must make sacrifices along the way. Sacrifices such as finding the courage to fight the bastards.

Ah yes. Courage? Seek wisdom and courage will emerge. An assertion that one learns to be true, too often the hard way. With God's help, it is never too late.

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