Monday, June 11, 2018

A Conventional Absence of Wisdom

What we call conventional wisdom consists in a number of near-dogmatic beliefs. Almost everyone buys these beliefs, because it takes too much work to figure out whether they are right or wrong. And if you buy them you can at least pass for intelligent.

This very morning the commentariat is wailing and whining over the damage that President Trump has done to the sacrosanct Atlantic Alliance. In particular, our great geopolitical strategists are disconcerted to see that Trump has not shown sufficient obeisance to the weak sisters of Western Europe and the weak leader of Canada.

As I have been pointing out, Trump is working to shift America’s alliances. The conventional minds who have glommed on to the conventional wisdom are all aflutter… it’s not about the effect this will have on foreign affairs but the profound disruptions it will cause to their closed minds and belief systems.

Thus, we are grateful to Victor Davis Hanson for collecting some of the supposedly self-evident conventional truths and  for showing where they mislead us. (via Maggie's Farm) I will summarize parts of his important essay. Do read the whole thing.

First, he discusses an article of neo-Hegelian faith, dear to those that misread Hegel and imagined that the endpoint of the World Spirit’s march through history would be liberal democracy coupled with free market capitalism.

Hanson explains that it was wrong to think:
The prosperity of consumer capitalism does not necessarily lead to constitutional government.… In the long term, more economic growth may enhance greater personal freedom, but there likely must be preexisting conditions or ongoing political reforms to benefit from economic liberalization.

Another: the European Union is in crisis. The effort to transform that continent into a force that could compete with the United States and other aspiring hegemons seems to be failing:

The European Union has realized that its efforts to transform a successful common market and effective free trade and travel zone into a continental pan-European national state are in crisis. Brexit, north-south financial tensions, east-west schisms over illegal immigration, and fears of a resurgently aggressive Germany are tearing the EU apart. The EU super-state may well prove no more successful than Napoleon’s effort at a continental system. 

As for the immigration crisis, it is caused by the fact that non-Western immigrants do not assimilate into Western cultures but attempt to impose their native cultures on their new havens. This makes them invaders, not refugees.

Hanson writes:

The more non-Westerners abandon their homelands and flee to the West—especially en masse and illegally—the more these immigrants ironically seek to replicate in their new country the very cultural conditions they forsook. All immigrants from time immemorial are naturally schizophrenic about their homelands—they romanticize their country of origin in the abstract, while experiencing relief that their new home is not like the old one they abandoned. But Europe is especially inept at assimilation, integration, and intermarriage, while Middle Eastern immigrants are particularly reluctant to embrace the Western secularism and personal freedom to which they flock. The result can become a toxic brew.

And then there is the lost Palestinian cause. As I have often mentioned, the war is over and the Palestinians lost. They are currently playing out their defeat in dramatic fashion, but defeat is still defeat. Wasted opportunities will not come back. The Palestinians have sucked the well of Western compassion dry:

The real crisis is not the tension between Israel and the Arab nations, but rather it is Israel and its Arab neighbors’ fears of an ascendant Persian Shiite Islam…. The Palestinians have seemingly overplayed their victim, terrorist, and intifada hands. Slowly, the West is coalescing to the view that it is past time for the Palestinians to build a prosperous nation-state on the West Bank.

What are the dangers to Western Civilization? Is it global warming and gender specific restrooms or is it something else? Hanson takes a contrarian view, one that deviates from the conventional wisdom, but that is surely correct:

The great immediate dangers to Western Civilization are not hunger, global warming, inequality, or religious fundamentalism, but obesity, consumer culture, utopian pacifism, multiculturalism, declining demography, the secular religion of political correctness that threatens the right to free speech, an inability to protect national borders and to create a common culture rooted in the values of the West, and an absence of belief in spiritual transcendence and reverence for past customs and traditions.

Wherein lies the threat to constitutional government? If you follow the media commentators you would imagine that the threat lies from neo-Nazis and other assorted fascists. The intelligentsia will happily take up arms to fight a defeated enemy. 

The true enemy lies elsewhere. Hanson writes:

The great dangers to modern constitutional government and a free press come not from silly and easily identifiable right-wing racists and bumbling fascists, but rather, as George Orwell saw, from glib social utopians. Similarly dangerous are their compliant media enhancers who insidiously tolerate the abuses of the administrative state, in the exalted quest for equality, justice, and fairness. Those responsible for eroding our freedoms will not likely be jowled generals in shades and epaulettes, but the lean and cool in hip suits who speak mellifluously of a predetermined arc of history bending toward their utopian mandate. Nothing is more dangerous to democratic government than a media that believes it is an agent for social justice, voluntarily surrenders its autonomy, and sees the loss of its independence as a small price to pay for the adulation it receives from the state.

Hanson continues, defending political crudeness as an occasional necessity:

Crudity in popular politics, as now witnessed in Europe and the United States, is never to be welcomed. But if transient coarseness is sometimes the price of dissolving calcified and destructive norms, and is constitutional, then it is an acceptable antidote to suave institutionalized mediocrity.

Q. E. D. 


art.the.nerd said...

Excellent post. Important points, succinctly presented.

Anonymous said...

In Europe, many are very happy with Donald Trump. Never mind the media. The idea that "Europe is especially inept at assimilation, integration, and intermarriage" is American fiction. Just wait till the same invaders reach your shores. They are different from anything your continent has seen.

Ares Olympus said...

My understanding is that all wisdom only exists with a context, so "conventional wisdom" itself presumes things don't change, and when things have changed, someone like Trump can stir things up and question why things are they way they are, and demand other participants with more knowledge of the old context than him defend the existing order if they can. So even if Trump is wrong in his details, he can be right in the need for seeing things afresh, like a child. So his ignorance forces others to break out of their sleep and figure out if their own visions still work in the world as it is.

I recall Hanson had another recent article giving Trump credit for being the unwanted agitator.

whitney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam L. said...

There is a conventional absence of wisdom, and a very high degree of blind eyes in use.

Anonymous said...

What also leads to a lack of wisdom is a media that is so biased and suffering from TDS that it has stopped even trying to tell a modicum of truth. An example:
I suspect that anyone of us could add to this list without breaking a sweat.