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Saturday, April 26, 2008

The First Hippies

Who would you get if you were to combine the unadulterated power lust of Boss Hogg, the smarminess of a cheap salesman and the hedonistic vacuity of a hippie? Of course, you'd get Bill Clinton, the First Hippie of the United States.

This post started as an epitaph on the Clinton's political careers, however, given their Rasputin-like powers of eluding political mortality, it would be premature to write them off just yet. Many pundits have wondered aloud why so many not only disagree with the Clinton's' politics but also appear to have a profound hostility towards them. I think the reason is a sense of profound injustice; the same kind of injustice sane people felt when OJ was acquitted. It is the momentary yet overwhelming sense of living in a world with no justice, no outrage, no shame, no sense of decency, no rationality - the sense that something is wrong in the world and there is no one to save it.

Imagine a man that is such a fraud, so prolific as a scoundrel and con artist, and that the evidence of his depravity is so overwhelming that most, unable to conceive the possibility of such extreme wickedness, simply refused to believe it? Would if the alleged litany of nefarious transgressions were so inconceivable, a mere discussion of them could simply be brushed aside as the fantasies and prevarications of a "vast.. [right wing]..conspiracy." The Big Lie is the concept that people are more likely to believe an outrageous lie than a small one. The Clinton's version is that the more outrageous and voluminous your misdeeds, the more likely the public is to dismiss their possibility. Over the course of his administration, as each scandal bled into the next, it simply became more difficult to focus on any one allegation. The public which became desensitized to the scandals, seemed to become more convinced that someone must be out to get them. Clinton, in fact, seemed to get more popular.

What is the root of this injustice? The answer I believe fundamentally is the twisted combination of moral relativism and altruism. Liberals are seen as defenders of the poor and weak and therefore cast as "idealists" who although naive and perhaps flawed are nonetheless well-intentioned. This is the root of popular sympathy for the character of Robin Hood as well as the contradictory idea that socialism is "good" in theory but just difficult to implement in practice as discussed in my post We Would Not Have Killed 1.7 Million People in Our Agrarian Utopia. Moral relativism, embraced by the left, teaches that there is no such thing as right and wrong. Therefore, to a liberal, those who cast judgment are more evil than the perpetrator of evil, and those upholding moral absolutes are cast as self-righteous moralizers.

Because altruism or self-sacrifice is taken by default to be virtuous especially in a Christian context, to the extent that religious conservatives are associated with supporting capitalism, which necessitates selfishness and profit-making, they are rightly seen as hypocrites. This is why rogues like Clinton or Marion Berry can literally get away with murder, rape, and drug use while any Republican is burned at the political stake for the most minor transgression. This is also the root of the popular caricature of Republicans as conspiratorial schemers plotting in dark smoky rooms as against the caricature of leftists as cool hedonists. For example, recall the witch hunt over Clarence Thomas' alleged sexual harassment of Anita Hill compared with the left's dismissal of rape and sexual harassment charges against Clinton who is now mocked openly but as a suave ladies' man not as a card carrying member of the demonic Old Boys network.

Consider also the reaction to the Abu Ghraib debacle. While this was a travesty, the reaction to it in the liberal media was hysterically out of proportion considering the wholesale barbarism practiced by our enemies on a daily basis in the Middle East. The slightest whiff of hypocrisy implicit in any of America's foreign policy actions brings about the kind of outrage one would expect from witnessing the actions of our enemies. So, what was the liberal reaction when the Muslims beheaded Daniel Pearl, or put the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, or rioted and killed in response to the Danish caricatures of Muhammad? What was the liberal reaction when the Muslims danced in the streets after 9/11, or when they glamorize and reward suicide bombers, or when they sentenced a woman to prison for being the victim of a gang rape? The reaction from the Left, as always, was silence.

Of course, this moral relativism does not stop them from judging the United States or capitalism. This is simply evil.

There is another aspect to the Clinton's which I believe explains them at a more fundamental level. Much has been written about the Clinton's, especially the volatile and diabolical combination of Bill's pathological need for approval from others and his inner rage deriving from his alcoholic father. Rather than psychologizing about them, it's more instructive to analyze the philosophy of the hippie. In Ayn Rand's essay "Apollo and Dionysus"(see The Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution) she compares the underlying philosophy of the lunar landing with that of the Woodstock music festival which both occurred in the summer of 1969. The following excerpt captures the philosophic disposition of the hippy generation and thus of the young Clinton's in their formative years. I will not even attempt to add anything to this. She writes:

The hippies are wrong, however, when they fancy themselves to be rebels. They are the distilled essence of the Establishment's culture, they are the embodiment of its soul, they are the personified ideal of generations of crypto-Dionysians now leaping into the open.

Among the various types of today's younger generation, the hippies are the most docile conformists. Unable to generate a thought of their own, they have accepted the philosophical beliefs of their elders as unchallengeable dogma-as, in earlier generations, the weakest among the young conformed to the fundamentalist view of the Bible.

The hippies were taught by their parents, their neighbors, their tabloids and their college professors that faith, instinct and emotion are superior to reason - and they obeyed. They were taught that material concerns are evil, the the State or the Lord will provide, that the Lilies of the Field do not toil-and they obeyed. They were taught that love, indiscriminate love, for one's fellow-men is the highest virtue-and they obeyed. They were taught that the merging of one's self with a herd, a tribe or a community is the noblest way for men to live- and they obeyed.

There isn't a single principle of the Establishment which they do not share-there isn't a belief which they have not accepted.

When they discovered that this philosophy did not work-because, in fact, it cannot work-the hippies had neither the wit nor the courage to challenge it; they found instead an outlet for their impotent frustration by accusing their elders of hypocrisy-as if hypocrisy were the only obstacle to the realization of their ideals. And-left blindly, helplessly lobotomized in the face of an inexplicable reality that is not amenable to their feelings -they have no recourse but to the shouting of obscenities at anything that frustrates their whims, at men or at a rainy sky, indiscriminately, with no concept of the difference.

It is typical of today's culture that these exponents of seething, raging hostility are taken as advocates of love.

Avowed anti-materialists whose only manifestation of rebellion and of individualism takes the material form of the clothes they choose to wear, are a pretty ridiculous spectacle. Of any type of nonconformity, this is the easiest to practice, and the safest.

But even in this issue, there is a special psychological component: observe the hippies choice of clothing. It is not intended to make them look attractive, but to make them look grotesque. It is not intended to evoke admiration but to evoke mockery and pity. One does not make oneself look like a caricature unless one intends one's appearance to plead: Please don't take me seriously.

And there is a kind of malicious wink, a contemptuous sneer, in the public voices acclaiming the hippies as heroes.

This what I would call the "court-jester premise." The jester at the court of an absolute monarch was permitted to say anything and to insult anyone, even his master, because the jester had assumed the role of a fool, had abdicated any claim to personal dignity and was using self-abasement as his protection.

The hippies are a desperate herd looking for a master, to be taken over by anyone; anyone who would tell them how to live, without demanding the effort of thinking. Theirs is the mentality ready for a Fuhrer.

The hippies are the living demonstration of what it means to give up reason and to rely on one's primeval "instincts", "urges", "intuitions"-and whims. With such tools, they are unable to grasp even what is needed to satisfy their wishes-for example, the wish to have a festival. Where would they be without the charity of the local 'squares' who fed them? Where would they be without the fifty doctors, rushed from New York to save their lives-without the automobiles that brought them to the festival-without the soda pop and beer they substituted for water-without the helicopter that brought the entertainers-without all the achievements of the technological civilization they denounce? Left to their own devices, they literally didn't know enough to come in out of the rain."

Their hysterical incantations of worship of the "now" were sincere: the immediate moment is all that exists for the perceptual-level, concrete-bound, animal-like mentality; to grasp "tomorrow" is an enormous abstraction, an intellectual feat open only to the conceptual (i.e., the rational) level of consciousness.

And how can one desire or feel? The obvious truth is that these Dionysian desire-worshippers do not really desire anything. ...All of them are looking desperately for somebody who will provide them with something they will be able to enjoy or desire. Desires too are a product of the conceptual faculty.

But there is one emotion which the hippies do experience intensely: chronic fear. If you have seen any of them on television, you have seen it leaping at you from the screen. Fear is their brand, their hallmark; fear is the special vibration by which they claim to recognize one another.

I have mentioned the nature of the bond uniting the admirers of Apollo 11: the brotherhood of values. The hippies, too, have a brotherhood, but of a different kind: it is the brotherhood of fear.

It is fear that drives them to seek the warmth, the protection, the "safety" of a herd. When they speak of merging their selves into a "greater whole," it is their fear that they hope to drown in the undemanding waves of unfastidious human bodies. And what they hope to fish out of that pool is the momentary illusion of an unearned personal significance.

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