“The Reactionary Mind – Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump“ by Corey Robin.

“The men and women killed on September 11 were not citizens of a democracy; they were earners, and rewards would be distributed accordingly. Virtually no one-not even the commentators and politicians who denounced the Feinberg calculus for other reasons-criticised this aspect of his decision.” (p.218)

Thankfully I did not receive any new books for Christmas this year (2018) which is great, considering that I still haven’t read the ones I received last year. 

After all of my political outbursts and writings there could hardly be a better title to end my “Things To Read“ section with in 2018 than Corey Robin’s “The Reactionary Mind- Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump.“

I have a deep admiration for good writers displaying broad vocabulary usage, especially those who engage in extensive harvesting of information.

This is its own virtuosity for sure and I find it very impressive.

Characters like Robin would probably not be particularly gobsmacked by my own writings but see it as a source of opinions in a bundle of many.

That being said; Corey’s work is an analogue data-base of other people’s opinions presented to those of us who are not academics or to those who are hoping to climb that mountain.

He presents his collection of conservative thinkers brilliantly and convincingly argues his point.

It is particularly illuminating for someone like myself to read it; in fact I would go so far as to call it mandatory reading for anyone on the right spectrum of politics.

What really stood out to me and what I ended up highlighting in the book were sections regarding economics.

I was stunned to read quotes from Hobbes who would have greeted a 1984 super-state with open arms. His definition of free-will is something that I’ve come to consistently ridicule pointing out to my relatives when reading, talking or hearing about abusive behaviour: “well according to Hobbes this is free-will in action if you choose to be a victim!”

I was equally mortified by Edmund Burke’s view on labour but certainly saw in his writings the justification for wage-slavery in today’s modern world.

It is simply impossible for an individual to condemn chained-slavery in one sentence only to proclaim that one endorses freedom and liberty while endorsing Burke. There is no such thing.

Edmund Burke had no respect for the individual or humanity as quoted in Robin’s book. A terrifying individual whose theories should be held up as a horror-example of what one should fight against.

Likewise, I was angered when reading quotes from Ayn Rand who came across as a delusional fraud, the antichrist incarnate, without any concern for her fellow humans at all. Robin demonstrated this by comparing quotes from her with quotes from Hitler. They aligned perfectly.   

Thank God for Adam Smith who came across as the only sensible thinker in regards to labour.

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#adamsmith for the win! What #edmundburke is quoted as saying & defending in "The Reactionary Mind" is literally #slavery 😑 Not good. Here is a good quote from #Smith ❤️ "He describes that minimum as either a subsistence wage to procure the worker's survival or a family wage enabling not only to maintain and reproduce itself but also to advance itself. Not only must wages provide "the necessities and conveniences of life"; what constitutes those necessities and conveniences will depend upon the overall wealth of a society." 👍🏻 #economics #reading #ideas #politics #society #thereactionarymind #coreyrobin #trade #money #finance #labor #workers #wages #nations #peace

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Obviously it all made me think about my own efforts in regards to my art and inspired me to initiate a new art-concept for this year (2019) named: “The Value of Labour.“ 

I will not go into great detail in describing this particular art-project until the end of the year.

“When labor becomes the norm, in both senses of the term, culture does not stand a chance.” (p.163)

I highlighted several quotes in the book that were of great interest, but I will not quote them all here since it dawned upon me during Christmas that I have a tendency to write rather large book-reviews and quote what I read to such an extent that it all becomes a bit too much.

Ultimately I want people to read the books that I mention but I also want to share information since we live in a time where people don’t seem to take reading seriously!

I have to say that it feels strange to read a book written in proper American. Rather than writing labour, the text goes for labor instead. The same can be said for the usage of the letter z or c vs. s. After having gotten used to the more French way of writing English words, it feels like I’m reading simplified English.

What I find troubling about “The Reactionary Mind“ is that Corey Robin is portraying Democrats and liberals as inherently peaceful and “lame” which couldn’t be further from the truth, he also fails in addressing current political movements such as: transgenderism, LGBTQ, 3rd wave feminism, racism, censorship and iconoclasm, and declarations of total war written by members of the political left, etc;

His criticism and portrayal of Trump also falls into the category of “Orange man bad,“ with the by now familiar name-calling. He adds to this by quoting “The Art Of The Deal,“ a book ghost written by Tony Schwartz.

It is difficult to find anything illuminating in regards to Trump’s character, barring the support of his children and friends of the family. After all of the negative articles that I’ve read (and openly ridiculed here on my blog) I’ve only come across three sources in regards to Trump’s personality that can be seen as plausible or informative. One is the video of Tony Schwartz in Oxford, another is the video interview with one of the women alleging that they had an affair, the other is a long article in The New Yorker written about his tv-show “The Apprentice.” What these three have in common is that they align and paint the sort of picture that would be credible considering Trump’s vast wealth and business accomplishments; all other critics are namely repeating the same words over and over without ever giving any reasons for why they are doing so…

That being said it is unlikely that anyone will care much for what Schwartz have to say for himself since Trump’s larger than life personality and star eclipses that of a journalist hired to write about another man’s accomplishments…

Trump’s magnitude is so immense that it is impossible to come across a media outlet not mentioning him (the publishing houses clearly see it as their mission to use any outlet to influence potential voters), impossible to come across anyone in the music industry who does not have an official opinion broadcasted on their social media (regardless of their size and influence), his very presence has driven his political adversaries to nothing but visible madness; it is not even possible to go to a random coffee-house in Cheltenham without overhearing the neighbouring table talk about Trump’s latest Tweets.

Such is his fame and such is his influence.  

He has made everyone reveal themselves and their true colours on an international scale.

Those who want: border security, a crack-down on gang-warfare, private guns, religion, jobs and a future for their families love the man and are his fans; those who hate him want: no borders, no jobs, no police, no private guns, no religion, and no children.

Yet those who oppose him do not really see this since all they chant is: “Orange man bad,“ they are fighting an unjust system presided over by a bigot – in their opinion.

His most devout fans burnt their Nike gear to show their contempt for “flag-disrespecter“ Colin Kaepernick. Meanwhile the political activism on the left increasingly resembles persecution with doxing and physical assaults a staple; it brings to mind “give us the man and we’ll find the crime.“

A most celebrated and respected investigative journalist referred to the spectacle by saying: “this is political war.“

It is also worth noting that liberals were terrified of a potential “military junta“ in the White House when Trump appointed retired Generals to certain positions. Once these characters were fired one by one, the very same people voiced their complaints, since they apparently wanted a military take-over if this take-over would stand opposed (even if just a little bit) to President Trump.

“… or, as the Kagans would later put it, “to intervene decisively in every critical region” of the world, “whether or not a visible threat exists there.” (p.213)

“… to ensure that no other power ever arose to challenge the United States and that no regional powers ever attained preeminence in their local theatres.” (p.214)

To conclude; 

There is a real danger of “state-worship“ both on the right and left side of politics. This is never in the interest of the people when contemplating the exploitative nature of the modern “state.“ There is also a danger of denial when people are clueless of past tensions between those who yearn for change and those who oppose this.

Right-wing people do have a tendency to greatly admire enforcement professions only to despise big-government and bureaucracy in the next sentence. I guess it is an admiration for being badass and for being patriotic. I certainly consider myself a fan of the military and others who keep us safe and know how to kick ass!

Ironically enough these enforcement professionals are in our times acting as agents of the very state that conservatives either loathe and/or doubt.

Those on the left side of politics meanwhile bemoans war-mongering from the right, while frequently calling for military interventions in the name of “saving humanity“ or “standing in solidarity“ with whomever. They greatly expand the state “for the greater good“ while simultaneously lamenting “power-abuse,“ “the patriarchy,“ and “hierarchies.“

It is immensely ironic that left-wing characters erect the very abuse time and time again that they criticise or see (whether legitimate or not) in already existing political structures. They do have a tendency of being very right in their analysis of what doesn’t work while failing spectacularly when enacting their remedy. Usually resulting in monumental losses in the millions. 

The use of language and grammar is an abuse of power in the mind of a true deconstructionist, yet the ideological children of these radical thinkers are the very ones who are forcing everyone in public academic settings to announce their pronouns and talk like fools.

On the other hand; conservatives regularly re-write and update their own history so that they will not be seen in an unflattering light by whatever modern standards. If you believed in maintaining the established order of your time and you lived in the American South, you would obviously have been pro-slavery, if you believed in maintaining the existing orders in Europe, you would obviously have been pro-Monarchy. If you believed in the captains of industry and this newly established elite you would have supported the suppression of workers, and so and so on.

Establishments and elites change.

I disagree with Corey Robin’s argument that violence is one of the pillars of the conservative mindset and would rather counter-argue that violence is at the heart of humanity as a whole.

Geneticists would obviously know more about the topic.

I take it as self-evident that most lust for power and that few would ever be able to resist the temptation of greatly expanding their spheres of influence if given the chance.

Inevitably this results in the infringement upon other people’s borders and rights to self-rule.

A right is only a right as long as humans decide to respect it, just like a law or a system is only operational as long as people decide to play along with it. The moment that people do not, it will simply cease to exist.

Political orders are living organisms which makes it ironic to be a conservative, unless ones definition of conservative aligns with mine; namely that conservatism means conserving any traces and tools of ones cultural heritage such as: texts, buildings, artefacts, music, practises, languages, etc; in addition to the protection of ones own population group from existential enemies both internal and external.

It would also make sense to include borders but this would not take into consideration our ancestors nomadic tendencies, which led them to move wherever they could find resources. Which grounds to be defended would be defined by the actual value to the tribe. This obviously includes farmland in these “modern“ times of ours.

Expansion due to necessity would also have to be included if concerned with the survival of ones population group, since mass evacuations are sometimes a necessity. You have to be flexible and willing to re-locate if your current territory becomes inhabitable.

Borders follow the tribe.

Traditionalism on the other hand does in my opinion mean that you consciously re-enact past patterns of behaviour, which is something that a great deal of conservatives would not be interested in doing.

In this day and age conservatism is largely seen as a financial model which means that nothing is ever really seen as worth “conserving“ if it gets in the way of the sanctity of “the free market,“ socially there may be a little sprinkle of religion, but this is largely absent from the Nations of Europe.

Lately I’ve been thinking that globalism must appeal to those who see all humans as replaceable cogs in the industrial like state system. If 10 Swedes die tomorrow it makes no difference since 10 Nigerians can be imported to take their place. It is however interesting to note that the argument is never really reversed because then it becomes imperialistic and racist. Overpopulation in Africa can be solved by Europeans not having any kids, in the eyes of a globalist it makes no difference at all if China all of a sudden is swapped demographically with India. We are all just cogs in the machine. This is the only way I can think of to explain their thinking.

It is worth noting however that if celestial beings create humans to worship them you cannot simply exchange them for other creatures while expecting a continuation of praise. This will probably come as a rude awakening to many in the years to come.

When reading this book it is informative to see that conservative critics do have a tendency historically to lament the inertia of the establishment while both fearing and admiring the vitality of revolutionaries.

Like biblical prophets they warn of a looming danger, but a danger nonetheless that seems inevitable.

“What is important is not what freedom I personally would like to exercise but what freedom some person may need in order to do things beneficial to society; this freedom we can assure to the unknown person only by giving it to all.” Hayek (p.159)

 

A Crash Course In Politics. (What It Is And What It Is Not).

Translated by me from the Norwegian article: ” The Paradox of the lifeboat – a crash course in politics” by Kent Andersen. Originally published on the 4th of April 2017 right here.

I love discussing politics – especially with people who I completely disagree with. As there is something deliciously civilised in fundamentally disagreeing about a topic, while still being respectful towards the other party. But after ten years in politics a problem surfaces: Way too many people don’t understand what politics clearly is, and what it is not.  And that’s not just the voters. I often read journalists and politicians who reveal a very bad understanding of what politics really is. I will therefore offer a quick and useful course to all.

When important democratic actors lack political understanding, it becomes a sign of illness for the democracy, as there is an absence of a firm foundation upon which right decisions can be made to steer society in the right direction. Everything from voters to kings have to see the difference between politics and its absolute opposite, emotionalism – if not the entire society can wither without anyone noticing or understanding the warning signs. Politics is not exactly cosy. It can even be quite brutal stuff in brutal times, so let me say something about that.

What is politics? 

Politics is synonymous with distributing assets and burdens in a society through the use of power. It is the business within a social system and field of ruling towards firmly established goals, where priorities have to be sorted, values/assets allocated and means chosen and used.

Keywords are therefore: Benefits and burdens – management and goals. Priorities, distribution of value and means within a social system and field. It is politics. The understanding of this determines whether or not our children will inherit a society at least as rich, harmonious, peaceful, safe and successful like the one we’ve enjoyed, something that is the entire point of the political management of a country: The goal is to leave behind something better to those who succeed us. How best to accomplish this, is disputed. That is why there exists different political parties, directions and ideologies.

What is the opposite of politics?

The definition of politics facilitates the identification of politic’s antithesis: Emotionalism.  Emotionalism has enormous appeal to voters and politicians alike, because it is so easy to unite around, and appears to be so “nice” in the moment. But emotionalism does not encompass leaving an improved society to our successors. Emotionalism is about the creation of the best society in the moment. Regardless of what the cost may be, or how the future will pan out. It is a competition of virtue-signaling – without any consideration for coming generations. Politics is responsible. Emotionalism is irresponsible.

“We cannot pit weak groups against each other.”

This is a favoured phrase for the emotionalists or for people who know zero about politics. Any budget is precisely about “pitting weak groups against each other.” Politics is exclusively about comparing groups: to prioritize who will get, and who will lose. To put A up against B is the exact meaning of politics. So if anyone utters this ridiculous sentence, then point at them and yell “emotionalist!” As they are about to ruin everything for your children.

With emotionalism the resources are always infinite. 

The budget can always be blown up by loans so that nothing has to be prioritized. “Everything is possible,” and nothing is impossible, and there are no negative consequences. Everything occurs in the vacuum of the moment, no burdens have to be distributed, and all future problems are marginalised, silenced or refuted. Emotionalism also lacks any standpoints besides good intentions: Everyone will receive, and nobody has to pay. Everything can grow into the heavens, nobody should feel left out, and nobody should lose. It is a reckless “free lunch,” that is tempting to fall for, as the dangers are not obvious: Emotionalism functions just as well as politics – in the short run. Emotionalism can actually erect a collection of magnificent public buildings in Bjørvika to billions of Norwegian kroners, in a capital that is broke, where tax levels are sinking, and loans decrease. Everything works out quite well….until the bill arrives.

Emotionalism works – short-term. 

Emotionalism is incredibly tempting to politicians who are elected for short stints. It works, and creates more friends than enemies. Emotionalism purchases votes in exchange for cash. But the price is high, as emotionalism is a credit card: Success always happens at the expense of the future.

Ruling through emotionalism means that nobody knows where they are heading, or where they will end up.

Ruling through politics means that everybody knows where they are heading, and where  they will end up.

Politics means keeping a clear, steady course, and communicating it: “We are going there, and not there.” It means a common understanding of where the end station is. (Without everyone necessarily agreeing on it – politics has nothing to do with consensus, if that was the case it would be lethally boring). Greats like Gamal Atatürk, Margaret Thatcher and our own Einar Gerhardsen, are in a class of their own, since they engaged in society building with a long-term vision, with clearly defined goals, plans and means. (Many hated them, but so what?) It was easy for the voters to understand what their society was to become. Emotionalism on the other hand, has no end goal, no plans for how to succeed, and no empirical success data to show to. The emotionalists promise everything to everybody, and promise that everything will improve as long as they can keep going a little bit longer. But they are lying. Coming generations will pay the price, and they will hate it.

It is not politics if:

  • You don’t lead after clear plans towards a defined alternative, but rather satisfy everybody in the moment.
  • You lack clear, quantifiable goals for the future which tells you what the end result should be.
  • You lack clear priorities. If one political sector is to be the focus, then others will lose focus and support.
  • Assets/valuables are allocated, and it is obvious who will benefit, but unclear who will carry the burden.
  • The means are hidden or diffuse.
  • There is more consideration for activist groups than the silent majority and coming generations.
  • The politics take place outside the voter’s social system, territory or sphere of interest.

There are therefore many criteria that have to be fulfilled in order for something to qualify as politics. If we look at the Norwegian leadership today, we can see that within several of our sectors the criteria are being met – whether it is the fishing industry, the public school system, or common transport. The only matter that stands out like a sore thumb, is Norway’s immigration policy — it is not only Norway, but also Sweden and the whole of Europe. In this area the checklist display big and systematic deficiencies:

The emotionalism that steers immigration:

  • Immigration is “impossible to control due to international laws and conventions, ” and is therefore not really managed. There are no systems or policies that ensures knowledge of what next year will bring.
  • Immigration politics have no clear goal and no clearly defined outcome that can be evaluated.
  • There are no clear priorities, besides the fact that the funds are infinite regardless of the cost – in contrast to for example, social help for the elderly, where there is always a lack of funds.
  • Assets are distributed without ever revealing who carries the burden: Welfare for the elderly, welfare in general, roads, school, police and the military are typical sectors who see their funds decreased, but the context is often hidden and badly communicated.
  • Activists wield enormous power, while the majority is marginalised.
  • Immigration is accomplished outside the nation’s social system, territories and spheres of interests. It does not benefit Norway or its inhabitants, but benefits other  countries and other nations’ citizens.

Politics is cynical in relation to what is needed.

Sadly politics come across as pretty “mean” in comparison to emotionalism. Politics is about conserving the voter’s own interests both today and in the future, and it is therefore “egotistical” over other countries and people. (But they have their own politicians, so why do they want ours?) Real politics can undoubtedly be perceived as cynical and brutal, because it encompasses a bone-hard knowledge of reality:

Resources are seen as limited and the budget absolute: If someone receives, there will always be someone who loses. When you walk in direction A, you remove yourself from direction B. The emotionalists always attempt to conceal such consequences, therefore there exists a good basic rule: Real politicians will always gather more opponents and critics that the emotionalists. Politicians become controversial, but look way better in posterity and historically when the easy emotionalism has been forgotten.

An illustration of how politics work: The story of lifeboat 4.

When (the for the occasion) fictional passenger ship “Politikos” tipped over and sunk in the North-Atlantic they failed to deploy all their lifeboats, and nearly 500 people jumped into the ocean. The few lifeboats that were actually deployed were not fully loaded, and it was therefore instantly initiated to rescue people from the ice-cold water.

Aboard lifeboat 4 the sailor….let us call him Winston Roosevelt, was given command of the freezing horrified passengers. He took control, and commanded immediately with an authoritarian voice:

– This lifeboat takes 50 people. Now we have to do everything to save people!

After a while there were 40 people aboard and the lifeboat was heavy loaded. Nobody knew how many days it would take for the rescue team to appear. The rations were limited, the future uncertain, but despite this Winston was crystal clear:

– There are more survivors! Row over there! We have to do everything to save people!

A cluster of 8 people were picked up. There was barely space for them. There were still too many people struggling in the ocean but Winston was uncompromising:

– There are 4 more! We have to do everything to save people!

They rowed over, and carefully hauled the four aboard, so that the boat was dangerously overloaded. But it did not help much. Eight people were laying ten meters away from them and were screaming for help in their utter desperation. Then Winston commanded:

– Row away!

Everyone aboard protested with tears and anger. They yelled:

– You said we had to do everything to save people! Winston gazed over the cramped lifeboat, and said sorrowfully but steadfast:

– That’s what we’ve done. Now we sadly have to get political.

Lifeboat 4 was the only one still afloat when the rescue team arrived.

Emotionalism can clearly be seen in a political environment where the photo of a drowned kid washed up on a beach dictates consensus rather than the collection of empirical data. This mentality could also be observed when Norway’s former leadership constantly declared that “Norway was not at war” despite deploying our soldiers to contribute to NATO’s military operations.