A new out-of character essay by yours truly, published today in Big Hollywood - Andrew Breitbart's recently launched project for Hollywood conservatives and anyone interested in the interaction between culture and politics.
* * * * * * * * * * *Four hundred years ago, Miguel Cervantes described an archetypal delirious fruitcake who wanted to change the world by turning the clock back to the idealized Utopian times that never really existed. Imagine what Cervantes would write today about the futility of his satirical effort, if he were to learn that four centuries later, a whole movement would arise that emulated his loony character and elected one of their kind as the leader of the free world.
Some conservative commentators are demonstratively wishing President Obama well. My heart admires their good intentions, but as I watched Obama's inauguration on TV, my mind couldn't help but ponder the possible consequences thereof.
As someone coming from another country (ex-USSR) I don't participate in racial debates nor do I want to. Being post-racial is fine by me. So let's accept Obama's post-racial premise, leave the issue of melanin content aside, and judge the man solely by the content of his agenda. And the more I look at Obama's agenda the more I realize that wishing him well is like wishing luck to Don Quixote in wrecking the windmill that feeds me and my family.
It's not a matter of taste. The spectacle of a bombastic crackpot in medieval armor poking his lance at random objects is disquieting if you own and operate an industrial facility. It sends thrills up your legs if you share the noble hidalgo's conviction that the perfectly functional, cereal-grinding, income-generating windmills are the embodiment of evil, spreading death and destruction. As far as popular entertainment goes, I've seen worse. But when Don Quixote organizes a community to fight windmills and receives massive support, anyone with a job should be worried. When he becomes president with a popular mandate to wreck windmills at taxpayers' expense, using the government apparatus, hope becomes all but absent.
Being light on details, Obama's inaugural speech briefly remunerated his views - which we already knew from his previous comments, associations, voting record, and cabinet appointments. Here is a partial list of the windmills he pledges to fight:
Windmill #1: Greed is bad for the economy.
Windmill #2: Lack of government control is bad for the economy.
Windmill #3: Partisan discord must give way to "unity of purpose."
Windmill #4: Wealth creation must give way to wealth redistribution.
Windmill #5: Discipline the government bureaucracy.
Windmill #6: Finance government construction projects by taxing private industries.
Windmill #7: Ward off the specter of Global Warming.
In this light, Obama's promise to "restore science to its rightful place" is merely a code phrase for the politicization of science. In the USSR, where scientific consensus was created by government mandate, politicization of science resulted in a colossal waste of national resources on absurd agricultural hoaxes, while state-appointed "scientists" denounced the emerging cybernetics as a "bourgeois hoax." Every single one of these people acted out of good intentions.
Windmill #8: Global poverty exists because the US taxpayers aren't throwing enough money at it.
As long as everything is owned and governed by the state, the head of such a state automatically becomes an absolute monarch, owning and governing the entire land and its people. Such governing typically consists of stealing foreign aid, pilfering the country, looting the neighbors, and fighting off coup after coup, led by an endless swarm of similarly inclined wannabe despots, who want their share of foreign aid, gold, diamonds, or whatever else the educated Western geologists happen to find in that God-forsaken, state-owned land. No such despot will ever step down voluntarily, because that would make him like everybody else in his country - dirt-poor and vulnerable to abuse from the new despot.
Perhaps, in order to eliminate bloody civil wars in Africa and elsewhere, Obama could throw a few billion of our dollars at a posh retirement facility for tinpot dictators that would help them soften the blow and deal with psychological stresses, thus facilitating a peaceful transition of power from one crook to another. A better solution, of course, would be to introduce those countries to capitalism with its freedoms, incentives, property rights, and the rule of law - but apparently this is too ignoble a prospect for a soaring quixotic mind to consider.
* * *
These are the facts that Americans, of all people, should be able to recognize as obvious. How did it happen that the usually realistically-minded Americans not only elected a man who is withdrawn from reality, but overwhelmingly wish him to succeed in carrying out his fallacies?
The answer is probably in the changing nature of our age and its heroes. How it is changing and why is being increasingly determined by those who set the tone in the American popular culture.
Obama's popularity indicates that a new archetypal American hero has emerged - a sentimental, selfless idealist, preoccupied with perceived crises and injustices - real or imaginary - and is determined to fight the cynics for the people's right to have good intentions - consequences be damned.
In his speeches, Obama often derides cynics, positioning himself as the ultimate anti-cynic, which is also how Don Quixote is viewed in today's popular culture - the same popular culture that for several decades has been a plaything in the hands of liberal trendsetters in Hollywood, TV, and mass media.
Apparently even celebrities, who spend their days pushing the limits of egotism and degeneracy, have moments of clarity and feel an occasional need to redeem their meaningless existence. But to pause and rethink their lives, grasp the reality, and get out of the rut may be too much to ask from people whose idea of happiness is to snort cocaine off oneanother's buttocks. Instead, they engage in what they perceive as the opposite of cynical depravity. So they start pushing the limits of selfless idealism. That's when they donate to radical groups and politicians, make movies about Che Guevara, and act as spokespeople for ultra-liberal causes.
Never mind that what they see as the opposite of degeneracy is just a mirror reflection of the same old rut. Reality has never been their strong suit. Nevertheless, their quixotic efforts have already shaped a culture of scatterbrained idealism that trumps reality. Last November, millions of consumers of this culture gasped and decided that it would be very cool to elect, not the real man, but a cultivated archetypal image of a well-meaning, starry-eyed dreamer, who they hope will somehow help them avoid taking responsibility for their own lives.
Compare a modern liberal to Don Quixote, and he will take it as a compliment. In my years of living in America, I have met a number of people who proudly claimed they were fighting windmills - a generic code phrase meaning "actively working to undermine American cultural, social, military, and economic institutions." Destroying property and sabotaging business operations made them feel good, as each imagined himself a noble hidalgo, fighting the powerful and defending the oppressed masses.
One might conclude that in their feverish Marxist brains, the story of Don Quixote was about a glorious rebellion against imperialist powers by a romantic freedom fighter with no life (his female comrade thought he was a Trotskyite), and so he took on the revolutionary road to utopia, struggling for social and economic justice, liberating the oppressed, and destroying means of production privately owned by capitalist exploiters.
They didn't believe me when I said that Cervantes named his protagonist after the horse's ass, using Catalán slang for it, that "mancha" in his full name also meant "stain" (as on one's honor), his horse's name Rocinante meant a "reversal," and the novel itself was actually a satirical farce about a mentally disturbed retrograde, whose fight was against societal progress and the human nature itself.
It's only fitting that people who are withdrawn from the reality end up misjudging the history of thought and societies. Another seminal book that the quixotic left has completely misconstrued is 1984, but that is a whole different story.
Let me put it in terms that a Marxist can understand: the original Don Quixote makes fun of a fossilized remnant of the feudal era, who is confused by rapid social changes and the emancipation of the working man. He is sickened by the idea that a lowly commoner who works for a living has suddenly grown more important than he - a blueblood who has neglected his estate, squandered his fortune, and spends his days in bed reading chivalric novels. So he escapes into a fantasy world of romanticized chivalry, courting a woman who thinks he is a crackpot, and destroying property of a hard-working miller because it makes him feel good to imagine that he is defending humanity from evil.
In this sense, Don Quixote is an ultimate liberal elitist who despises the bourgeois class that feeds him, feels nostalgic about the idealized past when benevolent kings bestowed favors upon the destitute subjects, and treats other people as mere objects of his exaggerated emotions, in complete disregard of their true nature.
To continue in Marxist terms, the story is an allegory of the painful reaction the discarded nobility had to the breakup of feudalism, and the rising overall prosperity brought in by the new class of capitalist entrepreneurs who were happy, well-fed, and held their head high, despite their obvious lack of grooming and heredity. These insolent former peasants ridiculed the idea of having a benevolent lord protector to care about their needs - which was what our anachronistic "knight-errant" was offering.
As if disrespecting the bluebloods was not enough, the new bourgeois class defaced the landscape with clusters of ugly, prosaic windmills that squeaked and creaked, increasing the number of well-fed, freewheeling plebeians, and decreasing their collective dependency on the charity of the powerful - or, for that matter, on anything else larger than themselves.
In today's industrialized, world old windmills may be seen as sentimental relics of a bygone, bucolic era. But in the early 1600s they were as much part of an industrial landscape as power plants and oil rigs are today. Think of Big Oil as today's equivalent of Big Windmills.
Thus, Don Quixote's attack on a windmill was an emblematic act of resentment by a feudal diehard against the symbol of the newly-emerged capitalist system - a much more progressive, efficient, and successful socio-economic order that ushered in prosperity, equality, and individual liberty.
In a parallel development, observe Sen. Edward Kennedy's fight against power-generating windmills that threatened to ruin a bucolic view from his patrician Camelot mansion. You get the idea.
* * *
All things considered, wasn't the entire socialist movement, from the very start, a fearful, allergic reaction to capitalism and industrialization? Wasn't the longing for a powerful welfare state born from nostalgia for the idealized safety net of feudalism, with its certainty of social roles and obligations? Didn't the notion of a benevolent government official, caring about the helpless masses, originate from the romanticized myth of a noble lord caring about his loyal peasants - without the anxieties associated with freedom to make individual life choices? And wasn't it darkly ironic that apologists of such a backward, regressive idea chose to call themselves "progressives"?
What motivated and united the quixotic "progressive" elites was their impulsive, irrational loathing of the perceived materialism of the markets and the coarse, ill-mannered bourgeoisie, which had become the designated windmills of the new era. Free markets broke up the rigid social structure and fostered upward mobility, discarding the certainty that aristocrats would keep their wealth without having to work for it - and that they would not be out-shined by the dreaded "nouveau riche," which was the aristocratic slur for the "previously poor." Anyone's chances to succeed in life now depended on their abilities, rather than pedigree.
As life was becoming increasingly "unromantic," more commoners were enjoying higher living standards, hygiene, education, and improved life expectancy. Industrial innovation steadily reduced the share of stupefying hard manual labor and increased the share of clean, professional, high-paying jobs, further shrinking the dependency of the commoners on the elites. Mass production brought down the prices, allowing every yokel to own things and travel places that used to be an exclusive privilege of nobility. And what did these oafs do to deserve it - except making, delivering, and marketing food, clothes, houses, tools, medicine, and the ugly prosaic machinery?
It was probably somewhere in the midst of such mental entanglements that a longing for a romantic anti-industrial hero first produced the "revised and improved" interpretation of Don Quixote - no longer a horse's ass, but a selfless idealist fighting the windmills of greed and materialism, impervious to the mocking and jeering of the unrefined cynics.
The key word here is "cynics." To understand the whole quixotic phenomenon, one must realize that the cynics in this case are the people who build, own, and operate windmills - and who don't want to see them leveled by some well-meaning loon. It is these people - not the elites - who make life possible. And if you talk to them outside of the contrived quixotic dichotomy, they don't sound like cynics at all.
"Cynics" is also the key word in Obama's code language, which stems from the same quixotic paradigm. Once you decipher the key word, other code elements begin to fall into place. Let's see...
"Change" signifies a backward movement to the idealized Utopian times that never really existed. More specifically, it can mean anything Obama's team does - from staffing the government with old Clinton drones to exhuming and reviving the corpse of the "Fairness Doctrine" - a mothball-smelling liberal zombie programmed to kill radio stations that broadcast dissenting voices
"Hope" means a conscious effort to fire up a quixotic vision of a government-appointed knight in shining armor, galloping to your rescue - and to spread this illusion to the scale of a massive hallucination.
"Crisis" denotes a fortunate turn of events when the frightened masses are more likely to elect a quixotic leader. Nothing bolsters collectivism like a stampede.
"Unity" means that everybody must play this game without exception. Which reminds me of the old Soviet make-believe game of building the communist society long after people had stopped believing in it, but continued to pretend out of habit, convenience, fear, or career prospects.
And so on.
If we pretend to play Obama's game for a moment, we may start seeing America as a downright mean country - without hope, in bad need of change, and overtaken by crisis that we can overcome if we only have unity.
In contrast, if we listen to the "cynics," we may learn that America is a land of optimistic can-do people, who disposed of the abusive nobility, created a government of, by, and for the people, and achieved unparalleled historic successes by taking a rational, freedom-loving, and self-reliant worldview to the farthest frontiers - in the process benefiting not only themselves, but also the rest of the world.
But such low-brow American "cynicism" couldn't completely vanquish the noble spirit of "social awareness" and "economic justice" - also known as collectivist feudal co-dependency, disapproval of individual judgment, fear of risk-taking, reliance on the charity of the powerful, and the romanticized utopian view of the collectivist past. This spirit had lived latent for many decades, fueled by socialist movements overseas, and fortified by the influx of immigrants infected by collectivist ideologies that, in the Old World, later metastasized into Fascism and Bolshevism.
But no matter what we call things, and what code words we use to disguise them, no matter how we try to change, alter, condition, accommodate, convert, modify, modulate, redo, restyle, reshape, transfigure, transmute, warp, invert, reverse, swap, transpose, or bend the public perception of reality, in the end we will still be living in the same old reality, governed by the same, unchanging, objective laws. And according to these unchanging laws, any quixotic intentions to curb the industries and rein in the materialistic capitalist class will, with absolute certainty, result in degradation and reversal of the real progress that the human race has achieved in the last few hundred years.
When the romantic concepts of "renewed spirituality" and "communal living" come in direct contact with the unchanging laws of human nature, they inevitably result in punishing the achievers, removing incentives, reducing productivity, shrinking industries, shortening life expectancy, decreasing skilled high-paying jobs, and increasing the share of stupefying hard manual labor. You wanted Obama to succeed? Here's your shovel-ready project.
The code word for this in Obama's Pig Latin is "progress." In case you were looking for the definition of cynicism, this is it.
When Obama talks about taking America into the 21st century, he insults everyone in this country who has worked hard to take it there, before they first heard his name. However, now that we've partially cracked the code, we can make an educated guess that the time where Obama intends to take us, is actually not ahead but behind us - the early 20th century, the era of first socialist revolutions and the Great Depression. But it might as well be 1605 when Don Quixote was first published.
Occasionally, Obama lifts his visor and speaks to the masses in plain language. The New York Times slavishly reports: "In his commencement speech last month at Wesleyan University, Barack Obama ... sounded an impassioned call to public service, and warned that the pursuit of narrow self-interest - 'the big house and the nice suits and the other things that our money culture says you should buy ... betrays a poverty of ambition.'" He continued, "Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential."
This is purely quixotic claptrap. Come to think of it, in today's world, Don Quixote might as well take up "progressive" activism and become a "community organizer." Or he could be an unfunny comedian with his own talk show on Air America Radio, campaigning for one of Minnesota's seats in the US Senate.
While the ascension of Don Quixote as a new American idol is a grotesque comedy of errors by itself, the political effort to take advantage of this cultural trend was hardly a coincidence.
Every utopian revolution ends up in corruption. The more altruistic the heroes are, the faster the plutocrats move in. If Obama really is the dreamy idealist from his own campaign poster - allergic to dirty politics, with his head fixed permanently above the clouds - then, naturally, the real power will be quickly divided among his crafty puppeteers. But let's give the newly sworn-in President credit - it takes an extremely shrewd politician to sense the cultural current, catch the wave, and ride it all the way to the White House the way he did.
Whether Obama is a starry-eyed dreamer, or a manipulative pragmatist preying on public fears, will be revealed soon enough. Whatever the case may be, his inauguration marks the beginning of a new age in America and the world. Some may call it the belated dawning of the Age of Aquarius. I call it the Age of Don Quixote.
Terry_JimI support the President.
Quote:Another Obama code word is "major"
Laika the Space Dog
Quote:Another Obama code word is "major"
Representative PelosinskiHow dare he uncover the progressive code, and worse publish it to our enemies Comrade Fitzgerald shall dispense Red Square to the gulag, post haste!
Terry_JimAnother Obama code word is "major"
Quote:I second the major topless swim, only if the mammary assets are also major.
Terry_JimAnother Obama code word is "major"
Quote:In this light, Obama's promise to "restore science to its rightful place" is merely a code phrase for the politicization of science.
Quote:My understanding is that he meant federal spending on global warming programs, tightening liberal grip on public education,
Comrade KikoCan the Liberal grip get much tighter on public education, Red Square?
Comrade_TovarichIf you've got a master's, there are opportunities that pay reasonably well. However, to be honest, German departments are suffering attrition. When a (usually Japanese tenured)German prof retires or dies, the position is either eliminated or given to another language. Chinese gets a lot of hype thus funding and staff.At some universities, however, German is still required for students in certain areas of the sciences as their second foreign language at university (typically English is #1 if not obligatory).
DDR Kameradit is a very useful language to know, especially in the tourist industry. Germans are very well traveled.
Red SquareThat's a great observation, Comrade Kiko!
DDR KameradStill, it is a very useful language to know, especially in the tourist industry. Germans are very well traveled.
DDR KameradHey Tovarich, if anyone over there is looking for a good German instructor, let me know. I'll show them "progressive."
Commissarka PinkieOV: That's not what I would do.
Ivan BetinovI DENOUNCE THE GRAND REBBE OF MOSKOVA! For the thought crime of agreeing with the reactionary and retrograde article that was posted here solely as an object of vilification! (Welcome to the collective, Rebbe; this is just our way of saying "hello" and "grab a shovel.")
Innostranyi OtdelBeing as how I am currently enjoying socialized healthcare (VA Hospitals), I can assure the AmeriKKKan public that there exists no finer example of technology and wisdom (excepting outside the building)!
Dambisa Moyo(MARCH 21, 2009)
Red SquareSo I found other things to do with my time.
Comrade WhoopieComrades, how often have we heard the left compare themselves to Robin Hood "Because he stole from the rich and gave to the poor."
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Obama meets with Jewish leaders, proposes deeper circumcisions for the rich
Cancer once again fails to cure Venezuela of its "President for Life"
Tragic spelling error causes Muslim protesters to burn local boob-tube factory
White House: "Let them eat statistics"
Special Ops: if Benedict Arnold had a son, he would look like Barack Obama
It's Big Fur Hat
The Fine Report
Sad Hill News
Looking at the Left
Red Planet Cartoons
Death By 1000 Papercuts