It is a testament to the importance of Sigmund Freud that his findings in the field of human psychology find a legitimate place in a book about politics. Freud’s findings have had their ups and downs, but for the most part, he remains the pre-eminent figure in his field. His theories help explain the motivations of some of the most important figures in history.
In “Civilization and Its Discontents”, Freud expresses a pessimistic view of man. This contrasts with what some see as the “optimism” of Rousseau and Marx. I for one do not view Rousseau and Marx (particularly Marx) as optimistic. He does “envision” a utopian society of happy workers. If it had existed, it more resembles Heaven than anything a reasonable man could ever foresee on Earth. But I am not as ready to let Marx off the hook as others. I think he should be held responsible, because surely he could have seen, if not the murderous acts of Soviet Communism, surely a perverted, twisting of his ideas.
But I have had my time with Mr. Marx, and I move on to another German-speaking Jew of enormous intellect. Whereas Rousseau believed that human nature was inherently compassionate, and Marx thought that nature could be channeled into a harmonious society, Freud goes in the opposite direction. He saw people wrought by three irremediable personalities, all battling with each other. These are the id, the ego and the superego. These human traits might be considered metaphors for all of humanity, although this is not necessarily Freud’s view. But the battle within every person is like the battle between nations, in that there is a constant struggle for domination.
The id is the most powerful. This is the part of our personality that lusts for aggression over others. The id might be the part of our personality that comes out when we try to get ahead of another car on the road and cut them off. Freud thought man suffered from psychic alienation and victimization from others. All efforts to avoid this predicament lead to more suffering.
Their Judaism influenced neither Freud nor Marx. Marx probably felt it was too stifling. Freud probably disdained it because it did not meet the needs of his high-ego intellectualism. Judaism and politics fascinate me. I have always figured that Jews were natural conservatives, but in the U.S. they vote Democrat. However, in Israel, they vote conservatively, for the Likud Party, which consistently holds power. As a general rule, very religious Jews are conservative, while less-religious Jews are liberal. Jews explain that they vote Democrat because they were excluded from Republican country clubs and fraternities. They associated themselves with minority causes, which in the 1960s became the dominant constituency of the Democrats. But they are very smart, well educated, intelligent, thoughtful, highly successful people. These traits that typical Republicans and separate Jews from the ragamuffins that make up so much of the Democrat constituency. The liberal Jews reading this are probably saying, “This guy doesn’t get it,” but I get it, fine. Jews should be Republicans.
Not only do Freud and Marx reject Judaism, they reject all religion. Marx seemed to feel that there is some kind of heaven on Earth. Freud thought concepts of a fatherly God or a martyred Son are just plain silly, the work of lesser minds than his! Marx predicted a happy ending, while Freud’s view seems particularly prescient in light of Communism and Nazism. Marx’s “happy ending” classless society has never really happened and never will, but it might be said that the closest anybody has ever come to it is in the good old U.S. of A. Marx would roll over in his grave over such a thought. To make the allegory of the baseball fan out of these two people, Freud would be the Red Sox fan, Marx an old Brooklyn Dodger guy (“wait ‘til next year”).
Freud’s id is the center of our sexual and aggressive instincts. It unconsciously dominates all the other parts, but creates frustration by making demands that are not fulfilled. The ego is rational and cautious, and concerns itself with reality. It is our negotiator to the external world, but is ultimately dominated by the id. Pressured by the id and the superego, the ego generates anxiety. The heart of Freudian therapy is the strengthening of the id against the other two. The superego is our conscience, and this is where our mostly unattainable moral standards come from. It is irrational and the adversary of the id.
These values of our psyche have been described in many ways. Our good side and our bad side. The devil on one shoulder, the angel on the other. The superego is more powerful than the ego, less so than the id. Its main weapon is guilt, instilled by parents. Pain and suffering is found trying to fulfill the superego.
Freud’s anti-religious side is an important consideration in addressing these theories. According to him, we do not have “morals” in the sense of “goodness.” Goodness is something that comes from God, but there is no God to Freud. Instead of God, Freud sees only guilt, imposed by our parents.
In the song “The Seeker” by The Who, the lyrics are, “I got values, but I don’t know how or why.” What are values? Why do people have good values in the first place? Freud would postulate all kinds of answers, without ever addressing the possibility that they come from a benevolent God. He disdained the values and substituted only guilt, and said this is where our unhappiness comes from.
I have done just about everything, within reason (and with the parameters of heterosexuality) in my life. I have partied. I have lived out most of my wildest fantasies. Without getting too graphic, I have “been there and done that.” I have felt the exhilaration of athletic success at the professional level, and enjoyed some fame. This being said, I can say unequivocally that nothing has ever made me happier and more utterly satisfied than spending time with my daughter and my family together, especially on holidays. Nothing. This is a totally natural feeling. It has absolutely nothing to do with guilt. With all due respect, I think Freud misses this. Whatever it is that is in me, was not, in my view, in him. I have always feel, when I am with my daughter and my family together, that I am closest to God. I always pray and thanked Him. Freud said there is no God. He feels only guilt. Maybe he is just too smart for me to understand. Maybe he is too smart for his own good. Maybe if he ever felt the way I feel on those simple holiday occasions, he would not attach guilt and his parents to the central tenets of his psychological philosophies.
Freud says the superego imposes “unreachable” standards. But he is basing his analysis on people in therapy. I know Coach Wooden does not think his standards of morality are unreachable. Neither does Mother Theresa.
Suffering comes from our own bodies, the external world, or personal relationships. All are inevitable. The personal relationships provide the most painful suffering. Freud said we are doomed to suffer, and we desperately want to hurt others. We do not admit this to ourselves because the superego will not allow us to. We cope through intoxication, isolation or sublimation. Isolation is impractical to most, and sublimation is the aggressive impulse we live out through work or sports.
Religion is the mass superego, a collective ethical organization devised to suppress lust and aggression. The id will triumph over civilization. Men are “wolves,” inclined to wage war and persecute minorities. Marx’s benign view of human nature is hogwash, according to Freud. He sees private property as all the neat little homes that are hiding places for our natural hatreds, and also things that we use to register aggression against others. Freud’s view makes the Holocaust seem inevitable.
Differences between Marx and Freud, however, outweigh the similarities. Freud felt that the id not only dominated the self, but did so unconsciously. He said humans are unaware of it. Freud’s “ego” is not the same as the way we usually evaluate the term. We think a person with a “big ego” has an inflated view of himself. But in Freud’s original definition, the ego is not proud, but rather cautious and rational. The id and the superego master it. The superego is also irrational, but stern and strict. This is the area that Freud calls guilt, and I might call morality, or our Godself. Freud says it is developed out of socialization. I feel that it is manifest within us, that it is the “good” that opposes “evil.” The ego, in my view, is the choice that lies at the heart of the constant battle between good and evil. Freud felt that religion was created simply to serve the superego.
Alienation was the common phrase of Marx and Freud, but what are we alienated from? Marx said from our essence, Freud said from our personality. Their remedies differ. Marx felt that we could overcome alienation by becoming one with our communities. Freud said that analysis could give individuals power over their individual id/ego/superego struggles, but his predictions are bleak. Analysis is only available to a select few. The masses, he said, would destroy us all eventually.
While historians have pointed to Communism and Hitler as obvious results of Freud’s predictions, he had more mundane thoughts on his mind. Predicting genocide and world destruction is tricky. One finds scant evidence that Freud’s theories are meant to do that. Yes, his conceptions of the battle between conflicting human emotions are instructive in the study of individual leaders like Hitler. They do not take into account the precise “moments of history” that must occur in order for a Hitler, a Mao, a Pol Pot – or for that matter a Lincoln or an Eisenhower – to rise to full power and exact change on the world.
Freud studied individuals. It is in individuals that we can best study his predictions. In this regard, the id seems to have made its presence known. It has done so throughout history, and continues to do so. Reformation and the Age of Enlightenment might be the id part of our personalities asserting itself. The superego may have dominated early man because it operated as a survival mechanism. But as life became easier, the id made its presence known. The paintings depicting Christ, angels and beautiful women were frowned upon by the Church as being heretical. We chose to pursue pleasures of the flesh that manifested itself in art and changes in the social structure.
Since Freud’s time, the id has been the dominant force behind drug abuse, the sexual revolution, pornography, music, movies, gay rights, women’s rights, and many other forms of evolution. In this regard, Freud provides us some hope. Analysis and therapy can help people whose id has turned them into addicts of drugs, sex and even violence. Addiction seems to be the id run wild. Moderation, the ego self, is best in all things.
Henry David Thoreau: Anarchist?
Henry David Thoreau was a civil disobedient. He influenced Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The study of civil disobedience is an important point, and is especially worth looking at as it relates to the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Civil War, World War II, and the civil rights struggle.
G.W.E. Hegel said that people are social beings who seek fulfillment through the state. Hegel upheld Machiavelli's rejection of the classical Greek view. The Hindu’s rejected the connection between ethics and government, which the Greeks did advocate. Thoreau is in line with the Hindu’s. Thoreau said the state had no moral authority, and felt that their corruptions were dangerous to the public.
Thoreau is the exact opposite of Creon’s “Antigone”. If a law is immoral, it is to be disobeyed. After many debates, even the Uniform Code of Military Justice agrees with Throreau. The U.C.M.J. actually gives leeway to a soldier who disobeys an order if it is not moral. This is quite a leap of faith for an organization that is based on the strict ladder of authority and the following of orders. But the Nuremberg Trials and the Japanese War Crimes Tribunals were not just the exposition of German and Japanese evil. They made us think about human nature and the role of soldiers. The My Lai massacre forced us to examine ourselves. Disobeying a direct order is risky business, but it has its roots in the civil disobedience of thinkers like Thoreau.
Two recent military films point out examples of the disobeyance of immoral orders. The first is “A Few Good Men”. Two Marines are on trial for murdering a fellow Marine. They contend that they did not intend to murder the man, merely to give him a “code red,” which is to say they intended to “rough him up” because he had become a burden to his unit, and needed to be taught a lesson. The man had an unknown medical condition, and had an unforeseen reaction to a rag they stuffed in his mouth to keep him quiet. The rag caused him to go into seizure and die. The premise of Rob Reiner’s film is a little shaky, though.
Told in flashback and through backstory, we learn that code reds are a common practice with the Marines, but because they can lead to problems, they have been discouraged. The commander at Guantanamo Bay is Jack Nicholson, and he thinks code reds are invaluable to close infantry training. However, he denies having issued the code red. If nobody issued the code red, the Marines on trial acted on their own. Therefore they are responsible for what they caused, even if it was unintended. How the filmmakers contend this is murder instead of a lesser charge, I am still not sure, but the film operates with this premise.
When it is learned that Nicholson did order the code red, the murder charge is lifted from the two Marines. However, and this is the point that is made, they are still dishonorably discharged from the Corps because they followed an immoral order. They were supposed to tell their superior officer to go blow when he told them to teach “Santiago” a lesson. Reiner and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin dishonorably discharge them despite their "Madam Butterfly"-like choice. This reeks of a liberal “perfect world” view of the military, but the lesson is still a worthy one.
As for Nicholson, he is arrested, although for what is not explained. It is either for ordering the code red against a directive, the simple issuance of an immoral order, or possibly for lying under oath.
The other film that demonstrates the quandary is James Jones’ “The Thin Red Line”, which over time has developed into a real classic. During the battle of Guadalcanal, the commander, Nick Nolte, has sent a reconnaissance force in strength up a hill to spearhead a charge against Japanese strongholds. The Japanese drop heavy ordnance on them and the men are being cut up. Nolte orders a direct charge, but the captain in charge of the force, Starles, knows that if he orders his men into this line of fire they will be destroyed. The direct charge could possibly work if enough men are sacrificed, but Starles simply will not obey Nolte’s order. Nolte is literally spitting mad, but in the end he does not pursue charges against Starles. The episode is white washed, possibly because Nolte knows that his order could, in a court of law, be exposed as immoral.
At the heart of the concept is the idea that individual liberty trumps the claim of state authority. In Thoreau’s day, his contemporaries were not quite ready to accept it. Thoreau arrived at his conclusions after much self-examination, as described in his book, “Walden”. His journey is reminiscent of Socrates and Buddha, or of the vanaprastha stage of the Hindu vision of life. Thoreau was dissatisfied with the United States, but instead of leaving the country, he chose to liberate himself through a “state of universality.” As an outsider, he objected to the state’s abuse of power, and accorded little legitimacy to the political and economic institutions of the country. This manifested itself in his refusal to pay a poll tax, his protest of slavery, and his opposition to the war with Mexico. While his outspoken views regarding war and slavery made him a mere dissident, his refusal to pay taxes makes him an outlaw. Since he did this on purpose with no attempt to evade the consequences, he becomes a civil disobedient.
John Locke and John Stuart Mill were British liberal theorists who railed against the abuse of power, but did not make themselves criminals by breaking laws they disagreed with. Locke said that government’s duty was to defend private property. Thoreau denounced private property. A number of leading writers lived in the Walden Pond area of Massachusetts, among them Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Thoreau challenged these great minds to follow his lead and disobey unjust laws, but there were no takers. Emerson was aghast at his colleagues’ stance.
Former baseball player Bill “Spaceman” Lee, a friend of mine, is another man who made his mark in liberal Massachusetts. He once made a comic run for the Presidency on the “Rhino” ticket, and during this time I invited him to speak to the Orange County Young Republicans, of which I was a member. Spaceman was viewed as an oddity by the business suit crowd that made up the Y.R.’s, but he was extraordinarily funny and soon had us rolling in the aisles when he said, “I’m so conservative I eat road kill. I’m so conservative I stand back-to-back with Chairman Mao.” I am not sure exactly what Spaceman meant. I suppose it was Daoist or Buddhist or something, but I am reminded of him when I think that Thoreau believed that “the government that is best governs not at all.”
This is an anachronism of sorts. Thoreau was definitely liberal, but like Spaceman standing back-to-back with Mao, his liberalism takes him so far around that he ends up right next to the philosophy of conservatives. That is, of limited government. Thoreau was not the predecessor of Barry Goldwater, however. It is unclear whether he advocated “limited government” or no government.
Because this distinction is not made clear, his anarchism is called into question. Professor Dalton says he is not an anarchist, because he did not advocate for the elimination of government. He criticized majority rule and representative Democracy, while denying that law can make humans just individuals. He attacked capitalism because it exalts money and is the engine behind slavery, and went beyond Marx in that he indicted it as immoral. Marx just saw it as the end product of an evolutionary process that needed to be changed.
Thoreau lives on as a significant thinker because his theories of civil disobedience are just and were used by great men. But aside from his call for the end of slavery, one struggles to know what he wanted. Born in 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts, he lived until 1862, making him a contemporary of Marx. He considered Concord to be the center of the “American Renaissance.” He graduated from Harvard in 1837, influenced by Emerson’s philosophy of Transcendentalism. Emerson’s views were similar to Hegel’s idealism, that a “divine essence inheres in all being; a transcendent spirituality exists and permeates nature,” as Professor Dalton’s outline reads. Hegel sanctified the state, though. Thoreau denounced it. Hegel saw divinity in it, but Thoreau called it “half-witted,” strong in appearance but rotten at its core. Thoreau did see God as nature’s individual conscience. He said the state attempts to quell individual spirituality.
“I simply wish to refuse allegiance to the state, to withdraw and stand afoot from it effectually,” he said.
Thoreau is a revered literary figure and a very influential American, but an enigmatic figure. Here is a man living in what was the freest country on Earth at a time when free countries were pretty few and far between. He would have been swept away in two seconds, sent to a gulag in Russia, a re-education camp in China, a concentration camp in Germany. If he finds so much disillusionment in America, where in God’s name does he propose to find his kind of freedom? That said, Thoreau is part of a long tradition of obstructionists, confrontationalists and contrarians. Thoreau precedes modern writers like Christopher Hitchens, comedians like Bill Maher, and renegade politicos like Ramsey Clark. He lives in the protesters and the shouters. The problem with people like Thoreau comes when confronted with the question, “What, then, do you propose as a solution?”
Prior to the Iraq War, I saw a man-in-the-street journalist interviewing anti-war protesters in New York City. He asked each one what they would propose doing about Saddam Hussein other than going to war. The question was straightforward and carried with it no biased edge. One after the other, the interviewees were unable to give any concrete answers. Out of some 30 people, only one made any sense when she said the war with Iraq was devised to divert American attention from the wavering economy. This ridiculous “wag the dog” scenario may have been part of Clinton’s strategy in creating a Bosnia-not-Monica strategy, but was not true in the case of Bush. Nevertheless, it was the closest thing that any of these protesters could come up with when asked to propose a solution. At the very core of my political philosophy is the premise that, unless one offers solutions, no matter how outrageous, one is not "eligible" to enter political debate. They sure as heck are not going to get my attention or respect.
Thoreau somehow saw in government a systematic undermining of moral development. If Thoreau was an investigative reporter like Hunter S. Thompson, Sy Hersch, or Woodward and Bernstein, delving every day into the sordid goings-on of CIA manipulation, military corruption, and partisan political intrigue, then maybe I could understand where he was coming from. Up there at Walden’s Pond, living a quietly reclusive life, with no governmental hindrance, he reached these conclusions. Maybe if he had seen Watergate, My Lai or the House Committee on Un-American Activities, he might have been startled into some weird reverse philosophy. Who knows?
What he did see, from afar, was institutionalized slavery and a war with Mexico. His opposition to slavery makes him a great man, if for no other reason. In the Northern part of the U.S. that Thoreau lived in, abolitionist views were the norm. It was not as if he stood alone, trying to hold up the Seven Pillars by his lonesome.
He also opposed the Mexican War of 1846-48. There always have been and always will be anti-war activists. Plenty of people were abolitionists, too, but they chose to protest the government’s policies within the system, not to all-but-disavow the legitimacy of the institution. Thoreau simply viewed slavery as evil and the government as evil for allowing it. How he would have reacted to the freeing of the slaves is an interesting point of conjecture.
His response to the government was to refuse to pay the poll tax, levied on every male in his state between the ages of 20 and 70. On July 23, 1846, he was arrested at Walden Pond and imprisoned for one year in the Concord jail. He welcomed the experience, using it to write “The Relation of the Individual to the State,” which he delivered as a lecture on January 26, 1848. In it, Thoreau embodies a fairly new kind of political animal, the radical. The outsider. He rejects his and his nation’s traditions. He was a protester.
He denounced nationalism in the opening paragraph of his essay, but as mentioned before, declared he is not an anarchist. He made the somewhat contrary statement that the best government is the least government, but people are not ready for no government. He declared “war” on the state while “using it” for his purposes. Later anarchists like Emma Goldman would adopt Thoreau. It seems that, at the heart of Thoreau’s complaint, is the notion that spiritual forces drive the American government.
Now we are getting somewhere. As anybody who has ever read the Federalist Papers or studied the writings of our documents, particularly during the hot Philadelphia Summer of 1787, knows, American laws are rife with religious references. The Founders repeatedly refer to God and His divine inspirations. That offended Thoreau, who said government is not imbued with such authority, especially not a government that allows for slavery. The nation, quite simply, is suspect.
As for voting, Thoreau said, “All voting is sort of gaming…Even voting for the right thing is doing nothing for it…There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men…It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.” Therefore, when the state becomes intolerable, “then, I say, break the law.”
Some had tried to say that Thoreau was simply carrying on the tradition of the colonists who resisted British rule in 1776. This argument does not hold up because the colonists were not represented and that was what they sought. They advanced laws within the British government, and once those demands were not met, an alternative to the government. Thoreau dissented from a government that gave him every opportunity to give his views and seek redress, to stand on a soapbox or even run for and hold office. No, said Thoreau, the government is illegitimate. In many ways, I see in Thoreau concepts more in line with later French existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus.
At Walden Pond, Thoreau lived a simple life absent from the trappings of wealth. He chided Emerson, who lived in a big house in Concord.
“Things are in the saddle and ride Mankind,” said Emerson.
“…a man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can do without,” replied Thoreau.
He would have agreed with Marx when he wrote of capitalism, “Its principal thesis is the renunciation of life and human needs” by teaching that life depends on “the more you have” and “my own power is as great as the power of money.”
Thoreau differs with Marx, calling luxuries and comforts of life “positive hindrances to the elevation of Mankind,” subscribing to voluntary poverty. Marx did not find these luxuries to be evil, but the system that led to their importance blocks man from his true destiny. Marx would agree with Thoreau in exposing business as working hand in hand with slavery. Again, Marx would find the businessmen misguided and Thoreau immoral.
“The rich man is always sold to the institution which makes him rich,” wrote Thoreau.
“Absolutely speaking, the more money, the less virtue,” Marx wrote.
“His moral ground is taken from under his feet,” as he strives for profit, Thoreau wrote of the man of commerce.
Marx might have thought Thoreau a utopian thinker, although, despite Thoreau’s less-government concepts, it would seem that Marx’s vision is more unrealistic. Thoreau might have advocated breaking up government, but Marx advocated constructing something that relies on an imperfect premise. As the saying goes, it is easier to tear something down than to build it up.
Marx was an inevitablist. Thoreau was a conscientious objector. Marx did not consider individual voluntary poverty, which is interesting. The leaders of Communism and socialism never did, either. Marx hated the capitalist accumulation of wealth, but what would he have said about the accumulation of wealth and the private dachas of high-ranking Communist Party members? Marx simply saw no merit to being poor. Despite being born into money, he was so poor in his London that the result was personal tragedy, the death of his daughter. Wealth was okay by Marx, as long as it did not come due to exploitation. Under his theory, an actor who becomes wealthy playing idealistic roles is fine. An actor who becomes wealthy "exploiting" sex and violence is not.
Furthermore, Marx would have you join the Communist Party, with all the baggage that entails. Thoreau wanted no political affiliation. In the end, of course, if Walden lived in Russia, Walden Pond would have been turned into a collectivist farm. Walden would have died of starvation whether he joined the party or not. Still, despite Thoreau’s recalcitrance, one can certainly give him credit for being true to himself.
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth,” he said.
He also saw a future for his ideas; there is a historical inevitability to his future. In a way, he was right. We see it all the time, only the study of Thoreau allows us to pinpoint what it is. Thoreau is the patron saint of complainers and whiners. Nothing will ever be good enough for these people. They will always be with us.
Thoreau criticized people who say there is truth in God. He did not say he has the truth, but is in pursuit of it. Well, aren’t we all. Thoreau leaves everything open-ended. Perhaps that is the way it should be, but he gives no credence to other people’s beliefs. He knows what he knows, he feels what he feels, he questions what he questions. So, like so many elitists, the idea that somebody else has faith is preposterous!
Where I admire Thoreau is not in his views on government, patriotism or truth, but in his concept of civil disobedience. This does not change the fact that he would have been just another face at Auschwitz if he had chosen the wrong country to be civilly disobedient in. The Israelis have not chosen the Thoreau/Gandhi path, and thank God for it. But in the right society, Thoreau is the right kind of protester.
“If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the state to commit violence and shed innocent blood,” he said. “This is, in fact the definition of a peaceable revolution…”
It would not be appropriate to write a book about who shaped world politics, and in that book to include a chapter on influential contrarians, without including somebody from Russia. After all, Russia has been at the center of the political and revolutionary universe, albeit on the wrong side. Unfortunately (and this is meant ever so slightly as a joke, with apologies to Alexander Solzhenitzyn), I have to go back well over 100 years to find a Russian who is a great thinker. Maybe that explains some of their troubles. Okay, I am kidding, a little bit. When you win the Cold War, you can be a tad arrogant.
Professor Dalton, whose outline I am following, chose to study Fyodor Dostoevsky, and in particular his chapter on the Grand Inquisitor from “The Brothers Karamazov”. The Grand Inquisitor’s power is Freudian, based on individual and mass psychology, not on economic or political forces. His nature clashes directly with Thoreau.
The Grand Inquisitor is in the tradition of Thucydides, Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes, in that people want not freedom, but security. Thoreau thought men are freed by their conscience. The Inquisitor thinks them burdened by it. In this regard he resembles Freud. They are just sheep who want to be told what to think.
I must break in here with some commentary. Every time I come across these historical figures who spout various nostrums about people wanting others to do their thinking for them; and religion being the opiate of the masses; and people wanting security, not freedom, I am tempted to get on my knees to pray and thank the Almighty for creating a country called the United States of America. In this country, levelheaded moral people systematically, completely, and utterly obliterate such bullshit. You may resume your regular programming.
Dostoevsky was a novelist, not a political consultant. But he was a notable social thinker. He was born into a middle class Moscow family, flirted with socialism, got into trouble with the authorities, and was sent to Siberia. This might be the first sign that Thoreau’s theories would not have gotten him very far in Czarist or Communist Russia. The result of Dostoevsky's experience was enmity toward Roman Catholicism, as shown in the Grand Inquisitor.
The chapter starts with Christ returning to Earth during the Spanish Inquisition of the 16th Century. Heretics are being burned at the stake. All the Indians were heretics, of course, since they had never heard of the Lord before the Spaniards showed up. Christ gracefully meanders throughout the city, and his radiance and compassion are made obvious. When the people are drawn to him, the Grand Inquisitor has him seized. The Inquisitor delivers a public relations campaign that sways people away from Christ, who is led to prison. The inquisitor then has a private meeting with Christ in his cell.
He tells Christ that the people want security, and in worship they only want someone to whom they can hand their freedom over to. Freedom is terrifying to them in a hostile world. The Inquisitor sounds much like Hitler later did.
The conversation then centers on Satan’s three temptations of Christ. The first is economic. People want money more than freedom. Christ can bring them all to him through bribes. Christ says no.
The next temptation is psychological. The people, who demand signs of Christ's power, require visually satisfying miracles. But Christ disdains such displays because he wants people to choose him voluntarily.
The Inquisitor then offers Christ political power, couching his offer in language that describes a “universal” or “world government,” which sounds like the “one-world government” that Communism later aspired to. Christ rejects this offer, and then kisses the Grand Inquisitor. Dostoevsky describes the Inquisitor has having hatred in his eyes that embodies the very highest form of evil. The encounter is telling in its contrasts of good and evil. It is a very pro-Christian message, while being anti-Catholic at the same time, which is very significant. Studies of Dostoevsky by 20th Century scholars have been used to highlight the difference between Gandhi’s and Hitler’s power. It also symbolizes the widespread abuse of nationalism in pursuit of power.
Born in 1821, Dostoevsky was a contemporary of Marx. His father was an army doctor, and had influence over his son. Dostoevsky wanted to be a writer but his father directed him to engineering. He spent five years in the Army Engineering College in St. Petersburg, but his father was murdered in a peasant uprising. In 1844 Dostoevsky resigned his commission to commit himself to writing. It was at this time that the French utopian socialists (Saint-Simon and Proudhon) influenced Marx. Dostoevsky read their works and became “mildly socialist,” according to Professor Dalton. He was a critic of Czar Nicholas I (1825-1855).
In a five-year span from 1844-1849, Dostoevsky published 10 novels and short stories. “Poor People” (1845) was an instant success. Dostoevsky is seen as a literary figure of great influence because he helped create the “social genre” that was later found in the works of Charles Dickens in Britain and John Steinbeck in the U.S.
His truthful description of the plight of the poor in Czarist Russia earned him an eight-month imprisonment in 1849. The charges stated that he was plotting criminal attacks against the government, but also cited the “insolence” of his works. He was sentenced to die and wrote that he "escaped," but the sentence was actually commuted to four years in Siberia. This resulted in a major change of heart. He became an adherent of Nicholas I and Alexander II (1855-1881), committed to his country, to the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church, and his nation’s culture. He completely disavowed his early socialist ideas. Towards the end of his life, when the early stirrings of the socialist movement was beginning to take place in Russia, he intensely opposed it.
From 1864 to 1860, he wrote “Notes from the Underground”, “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov”. His chapter on the Grand Inquisitor in “Brothers” is set in 16th Century Spain, during the “worst period of the Spanish Inquisition”. Started by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1481 to expose Muslims and Jews, Isabella’s confessor Tomas de Torquemada (1420-1498) was the first Grand Inquisitor. He had 2,000 people burned at the stake in public autos da fe, or “acts of faith.” It is Torquemada who Dostoevsky models the old Cardinal of his book.
At the beginning of the story, Christ enters and is recognized by the people. This immediately threatens the Inquisitor’s power. Dostoevsky obviously thinks history would repeat itself, and is pessimistic about man’s ability to learn its lessons. Or, as Santayana said, “those who not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The Inquisitor echoes Pontius Pilate and has Christ seized by his soldiers. The rest of the story is Dostoevsky’s philosophy of good vs. evil, showing the people as accepting Christ’s imprisonment because they choose to be cowed into submission and obedience (Dostoevsky did not learn much from the American Revolution). The Inquisitor goes on a diatribe intended to justify his blasphemy, and in it he announces that he has accepted Satan over Christ because Satan understands human nature.
The overriding theme of the story is freedom. Christ sees freedom as being spiritual and says the “truth shall make you free.”
“Man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone to whom he can hand it over quickly that gift of freedom with which that unhappy creature is born…” countered the Inquisitor. “Did you forget that man prefers peace and even death to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil? Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but at the same time nothing is a greater torture.”
Dostoevsky’s concepts of freedom are incredibly instructive of our knowledge of European history. In his moody pessimisms about the rejection of freedom, Dostoevsky echoed the sad tide of political history. We see his words resonating out of the French Revolution, when freedom gave way to retribution and left the bewildered, morally corrupt French masses begging for somebody – anybody – to be their master. What a tragedy! Thus rose little Napoleon.
Dostoevsky’s influence in Russia is tremendous and tragic. The future leaders of Communism used his words, and the people believed them. Europeans were not prepared for an alternative to despotism. Dostoevsky indicated that it is natural. The only exception was Great Britain, which slowly rose above and beyond themselves to become a Democracy.
Dostoevsky must have known the American success story. Perhaps the geographical and metaphysical distance that separates the U.S. from Europe and in particular, Russia, must have made the stories of our revolution something exotic and impossible to truly comprehend. Dostoevsky’s vision is one of great gloom. He could not comprehend people of freedom and rugged individuality. However, the great influx of immigrants from Russia, Germany, Italy, Ireland and other European countries had begin during his life. He did not live to see the height of Ellis Island, but what did he think these people were looking for? What motivation did Dostoevsky attribute to all these people? They were obviously looking for precisely the opposite of what he says the people want!
Instead, through the Inquisitor, Dostoevsky wrote that people need to be freed from themselves, because they are afraid and therefore look to authority “and huddle close to us in fear, as chicks to the hen. They will marvel at us and will be awe stricken before us, and will be proud at our being so powerful and clever.”
Now, it is important to note that Dostoevsky was quoting a character that he is not sympathetic to. Attributing the future of Russia and Europe to him, by calling it his dark vision, is not entirely appropriate. After all, Dostoevsky was sympathetic to Christ and does attribute to Christ a spiritual love of the truth, which might be viewed as “freedom.” This gives man some kind of desire to avoid the authority of the Inquisitor. But he seems to indicate that the Inquisitor has found the pulse of what makes man tick.
In “Escape from Freedom” by Erich Fromm, the Grand Inquisitor’s view of freedom vs. authority is related to politics, especially Hitler’s Germany. Fromm felt that there are different kinds of freedom. John Stuart Mill described a kind of freedom that is more Western in nature, and helps to promote the vision of individualism that makes up the American psyche. Fromm said that in contemporary society, people are afraid of this kind of full freedom.
They are afraid because, as Dostoevsky said, they are “alone with his self and confronting an alienated, hostile world.” “The frightened individual seeks for somebody or something to tie his self to; he cannot bear to be his own individual self any longer, and he tries frantically to get rid of it and to feel security again,” wrote Fromm, in his explanation of why men “voluntarily” eliminate free choice. Fromm pointed to Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”, and his understanding of how to mobilize the masses.
Security, security, security. This is the world that lies at the heart of the Hitlerian view of what people want. It is the word that drives explanations for the two massive, evil, totalitarian movements of the 20th Century. But why? I think that while this is one of the most imponderable questions ever asked, there are some explanations. First of all, there is the sheer weight of history in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and in the Orient. Centuries of monarchs, despots, wars, torturers, tyrants, plagues, disasters, genocides, racial hatreds, religious hatreds, tribal hatreds, divisions, broken promises, abandonments, and a million other horrible sides of the human condition. All of these conditions met up with the Industrial Revolution, when people went to work in factories. Huge numbers moved from rural farms where they owned the land, to dirty cities where they found themselves to be numbers. New technology and machinery created weapons of killing that were impersonal and efficient.
Fortunately, luckily, by the grace of God – choose your phrase – these conditions are not as much a part of the landscape of America as the rest of world. America is a young country, and it has been forged out of success. They learned valuable lessons about how not to govern, what the dark side of the human condition is, and how to improve upon it. We gained a big boost of confidence when we won our revolution. We saw the French try to copy us. We saw ourselves become an influential country in the world. Our enemies, the English, came around to becoming more like us, led by Lincoln’s contemporary, Disraeli. We fought a terrible Civil War, but out of that we confronted our worst problems and began the long process of fixing them.
Perhaps most important, we were never occupied. The South was occupied during Reconstruction, but this was a much different set of circumstances than the French being occupied by the English, the Sicilians by the Moors, the Germans by the Romans, the Greeks by the Persians, and all the other results of all the wars. This cannot be overstated too much.
Let us imagine this scenario. The Civil War started, and around 1862 or so, the French traveled to our shores and joined forces with the Union. Then French forces took the fight to the South, and eventually splits with the Union occurred, especially regarding the lands of Louisiana, in and around New Orleans. The French decided to “re-claim” their lands. The French push the Confederates to defeat, then occupy the South and force the Confederates to free their slaves. Then the English, the long-time enemies of the French, come to the aid of the Confederacy and a major new front is created in which the French and the English fight each other on our soil.
Eventually, the war ends, and various political compromises, treaties and land grabs dot the American landscape. Our states are divvied up between various confederated groups of Franco-Union and Confederate-English military occupations. For years after, we live as an occupied nation. The slave trade ended at the hands of foreign invaders, not of our own will. Our laws and freedoms are dictated in part by these alien people. Various fights and rebellions occur, with different splinter groups trying to fight guerilla wars in an attempt to create little fiefdoms. Had this been our history, then the kind of citizenry that Dostoevsky said the Inquisitor was satisfying might have developed. The kind that Fromm describes in Germany, and which makes up the landscape of humanity in China, the Middle East, Latin America and throughout the Old World. Then America might have been open to the kind of dictators and dividers who came to power in the rest of world.
Why did this not happen? Many reasons, of course. Our geographical location created a kind of psychological separation. We followed the vision of Alexander Hamilton and Federalized a strong military, with a great navy, to protect ourselves. Plus, and this I believe whether you like to hear it or not, we were graced by God!
Americans are not more intelligent, they are just smarter. Smarts come from experience. We are lucky to have had so much history occur before we became a country, and to learn from past mistakes. All of is true, but men of morality shaped the destiny of the United States. How easily our values could have been rent asunder, discarded like old campaign slogans (see France in the 1790s). But they were not. They were immortalized.
Man, according to the Grand Inquisitor, is “weak, sinful, worthless, and rebellious.” Let me take one word out of this sentence and examine it. Worthless. Man is worthless! Take everything out of the equation, and if men in power think man is worthless, all other explanations for history come into focus.
“You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs,” Stalin said.
The worthlessness of man gives men of “vision” the excuse they need to send them into wars, to kill entire races, to wipe out religions, to abort children by the millions, and to torture the imprisoned. At its core is a rejection of religion, because if man is worthless, then God is irrelevant. The battle is between the concept of man being created in the image of God, nurtured by His love, and protected by his guiding hand, vs. the image of teething masses of human animals.
Humans are “vile and weak,” says the Inquisitor. “Man is weaker and baser by nature than You believed him to be.” Human nature yearns for “miracle, mystery, and authority” to soothe his anxieties.
Dostoevsky poses “three questions,” the temptations of Christ found in the New Testament, Mathew 4:1-11. Professor Dalton’s outlines captures them as Plenty, Pride and Power. They are based on the temptations that Satan offered Christ while he wandered in the wilderness.
“Man cannot live by bread alone,” Christ said when the devil offered him a deal whereby he would be a hero by feeding the masses bread.
“In the end, they will lay their freedom at our feet, and say to us, `Make us your slaves, but feed us,’” the Inquisitor screams at the Christ of “The Brothers Karamazov”. One feels compelled to make the guy watch some John Wayne movies! Imagine Rooster Cogburn laying his freedom at anybody’s feet in return for some food?
The question is whether people want Earthly or Heavenly bread. The pessimists say that to pursue God is a contradiction of human nature. This fails to address a trend throughout much of the world whereby poor people are more religious than rich. If one were to buy the Inquisitor’s argument, then the wealthy, who have their “bread” needs taken care of, would turn to God more readily than the poor. The poor would be too busy trying to feed themselves to pray. The dirt-poor peasants of Latin America worship Christ with a love and fervor almost beyond imagination. The notions of man described by these dark artists just do not jive with this reality.
The next temptation that the Inquisitor puts before Christ is an offer to demonstrate himself in a vain display of power. The Inquisitor is infuriated by Christ’s calm refusal to do so, saying he wishes man to follow him freely, not because of demonstrations of immortality. Dostoevsky’s interpretation is a bit obscure in light of the fact that Christ did display His powers in His life, by walking on water among other miracles. What Dostoevsky does, however, is aimed at showing the Inquisitor, and therefore the Catholic Church, as being guilty of intellectual arrogance, of “playing God,” and of being demonic. In its avowal of infallibility, as Professor Dalton called it, studies of Dostoevsky’s work indicate that he is also showing science to be guilty of the sin of pride. While science is supposed to be open-minded, it is elitist and impersonal.
This seeming side reference to science, which is not the main point of the chapter, nevertheless brings up some very important points about the nature of man in society. It has been pointed out that some dark thinkers believe man to be worthless. This is the heart of the anti-religious concept. Christians believe that God loves Man, and therefore each man is of great value.
But science is a tricky question, and one that gets mixed up with questions of evil as it applies to mammon. Science is prideful, and it displays itself in vulgar demonstrations of its “greatness.” Christ chose not to do. The Internet is an example of science, technology and information potentially running amok. It is the natural tool of the hated “one-world government.” It has already been shown to be a valuable tool of terrorists and pedophiles, and it is only about 10 years old. The important constraint of science must be in the idea that it serves man, not the other way around.
Science also tends to assert itself as infallible, or true. Dostoevsky saw this as the way of the Catholic Church. Both science and the Catholics view the masses with contempt, and it is for this reason that Dostoevsky views pride as the harbinger of Western downfall.
Professor Dalton makes some important points, which speak to my own views regarding Manifest Destiny. Dostoevsky viewed the “West” as being the outside world, and Russian was not part of it. He said the West had convinced itself that it is endowed by God’s grace, and uses this to justify its exploitations of native people’s and lands. Marx saw this and thought it the fatal flaw of capitalism. I have addressed these issues and provided my own strong, some might say arrogant opinion of the issues of Western colonialism, “spiritual oversight” and disputations of Marx and his ilk.
Pride is a word that has been stretched around. As it applies to the Inquisitor and Biblical sins, it is a detrimental human trait. But just as Freud’s “ego” is different from the ego we use in everyday usage, pride has come to be seen as something of value. Humility and humbleness are valuable human traits, but pride in one’s work, family, country, religion, accomplishments – pride in Western culture, in America’s place in the world – these are things we deserve to be proud of. What must be kept in mind are not the simple concepts of sinful pride, but rather the temperance of pride as being something that each man must measure against something larger than himself.
An example would be this very book I am writing. In it I espouse and throw out facts, opinions and knowledge, like I am some kind of sage or prophet whose words simply cannot be kept to myself, as if it is just too important that I provide my wisdom to the gasping world. Please recognize that in saying in this I am making fun of myself. Jesus Christ were to appear I would bow to him and say nothing because next to Him I am nothing.
But He loves me anyway.
Power is the third temptation of Christ, in the wilderness and in the jail of Dostoevsky’s novel. In the Bible, Satan offers Christ all the land of the world. In it is the implicit parallel of one-world government. This was the goal of international Communism. The United States, with the help of our Allies, prevented this from happening. The Soviet Union happily would have made this deal with the devil. The U.S. currently possesses enough military, economic and political power to make the world one Pax Americana; a single world governed by us, a giant colony, an empire to diminish and make small any empire ever created in history. The U.S. has rejected the devil’s offer, and casts itself with the spirit of Christ.
There is a long, long list. It is a list that would fill all the pages of this book. The list contains the names of leaders; military, political and dictatorial, throughout the annals of human history. Every person on this list has one thing in common. If they had access to the power that every President of the United States, elected every four years, has access to, they would accept the devil’s offer to Christ. They would use all the power the U.S. has at its disposal, to take control of one-world domination of the Earth.
All these leaders never would have understood that real power is in ceding this power. It is in not utilizing our full military might. It is in allowing freedom to reign. In this way the U.S. possesses more power, and controls a mightier empire, than any in history. We have greater control and more influence simply by letting man be free than by any other method. The dark visions of Marx, Dostoevsky and Freud are exposed as frauds, miscalculations, lies, and falsehoods by the very example of the United States. We recognize that the freedom of man is not ours to "allow." It is the unalienable, natural right of all men. We cannot "grant" freedom, but we can help those who are not free gain access to it.
For example, we do not like the drug trade, which emanates from Latin America. With a flick of the switch, we could wipe Latin America from the face of the Earth, and with it the drug trade. We do not like Fidel Castro’s Cuba. If we wanted to, we could eliminate that island from the maps of the world. North Korea? We could turn them into a hole in the ground. We could eliminate our enemies and intimidate our “friends.” We could take dissenters and turn them into dust. Stalin would have done it. Hitler would have done. Saddam would have done it. Kim Jong-Il would, too.
We do not. We follow the moral way. We let the wicked live, the messy reign, and the corrupt thrive. We do this because to get rid of them by overwhelming force and our own fiat would make us no better than they are. We do this because we believe some have the capability of redemption. We do not believe all the innocent should die so evil may be eliminated. If we did this evil would just take a different form. We choose excellence. The Israelis do the same thing. They have the capability of simply making the Palestinians extinct, and to turn into all its neighbors into fire. They do not do this. They live with the threats. They put up with the violence.
We choose goodness and freedom. The Grand Inquisitor can put that in his pipe and smoke it!
The parable of the 20th Century comes at the end of the exchange between Christ and the Inquisitor. The Inquisitor seems to have hit the nail on the head, his descriptions to Christ describing the worst excesses of our age. But in the end, Christ closes the encounter with a kiss. This “gesture of inclusiveness,” as Professor Dalton writes in his outline, is one of incredible symbolism. It represents the Hitler/Gandhi spectrum, and the East/West divide. It is a parable for the way we welcomed Germany and Japan back into the family of nations, and later allowed Russia to save face and call themselves our friend.
Anarchism and liberalism
Dostoevsky, Marx, Stalin, Hitler, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill all represent political philosophies that have had millions of followers. In their own ways, each has been admired and vilified. But there is another kind of philosophy that is worth looking at. It represents a strain of thought that really never does go away. This is the idea of anarchism. Rousseau and Thoreau had anarchistic ideas. "Red Emma" Goldman gave it voice and propelled a movement. In it she expressed views that have some limited admirable, albeit not very workable, qualities. Anarchism does not offer answers, but it represents part of human nature that many people relate to. It allows people to complain without taking responsibility. We see this every day. It is very, very seductive. Of course, I am more than happy to expose it, and those who do it, for what it is.
Anarchism has a benign view of humanity. It stresses compassion, a community of people, but not of state authority. As Professor Dalton points out, the view of anarchists like Sacco and Vanzetti is one of “violence-prone sociopaths.” But a theorist with the appropriate name of William Godwin said that anarchism is the result of a natural order within society, based on voluntary cooperation among equal humans, as opposed to coercive state power. In this concept we see a world that Jesus Himself might have approved of. Christ did acknowledge the validity of the state, saying that we “render unto Caesar that with which is Caesar’s,” when asked about paying taxes to Rome. Christ advocates a Kingdom of Heaven. He might consider America to have been a nice “keeper of the flame” until He can establish that once and for all. Despite our patriotic fervor for America, we have to acknowledge that the anarchists do resemble a Christian vision of humanity.
That being said, the anarchists do not offer real answers in the real world. Their conundrum is their ideals vs. the way things are. This is a metaphor for God. God reigns over a Kingdom in which our questions are answered. These questions are not meant to be answered in this world. In the mean time, we have to protect ourselves.
Anarchism and Marxism have many similarities. Marx and Goldman have much more in common than Marx and Lenin. They were both revolutionary in nature, but anarchism is not as proletarian as Marx’s vision. It is similar to Thoreau's and Gandhi’s non-violent con-cooperation with supposed “evil.” The problem with both of these examples is that neither overcame “evil.” Gandhi overcame the English. History has not given the Brits the credit they deserve. They allowed Gandhi and his movement to grow, to gain momentum, and to thrive. Thoreau was frustrated by his lack of martyrdom. He lived in a country that let him say whatever he wanted to say.
The anarchists felt that if the state was not involved, people would cooperate with each other, and in this they have an interesting point. Volunteerism is a very strong thing in society. We see the cooperation, help and compassion of the human family in the wake of terrible disasters like earthquakes, floods, and droughts. The anarchists felt that this pervasive and benign part of human nature could be channeled into something bigger than all of us.
Anarchism has been espoused by a wide variety of practitioners. The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy was a Christian anarchist who advocated non-violent change. Michael Bakunin was a violent anarchist. Anarchism has been considered evil by some. Creon and Thucydides were threatened by it because it challenged their authority. Zeno, the founder of Stoicism in the third century B.C. (for a portrayal of stoicism applied in the modern world, read Tom Wolfe’s “A Man In Full”), called for a stateless society where people worked in harmony with each other.
Anarchism was kept under wraps for centuries. The alienation of 19th Century industrialism revived it, as it did many of the revolutionary movements of the era. “An Inquiry Concerning Political Justice” (1793) by Godwin, gave voice to the theory that people have the ability to live in harmony. George Woodcock’s “Anarchism” predicted that eventually government would become obsolete. There is an anarchic concept found in the modern Libertarian and even Republican parties, and certainly so in the separatist and militia movements. The Libertarians and highly individualistic Republicans see a world in which there is less government, although not a complete lack of government. They give voice to that rugged individualism embodied by the cowboys of the Old West, and the ranchers, farmers and self-sufficients of the modern rural world. The militia wings range from romanticized mountain men to those who espouse violent and too-often racist views.
Emma Goldman was born in Russia in 1869, and moved to America in 1886. She wrote a book called “Living My Life”, and in it describes a very authoritarian father. New York City in the post-Boss Tweed era was her staging ground. She was often jailed for advocating free love (hey, as the Russian ambassador in “Dr. Strangelove” may have said, she might just have something there), atheism (ugh), conscientious objection and birth control.
The first principle of anarchism is that human nature is benign. Machiavelli and Freud argued that people are the opposite: Aggressive and untrustworthy, to be controlled by the state. These principles are actually played out in the Middle East. The U.S. is often advocating to our allies in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and even to Israel as it relates to control of Palestine, that Democratic principles of freedom be allowed to occur. This ostensibly gives voice to the "anarchic" concept that people will do the right thing. The allies respond with the Machiavellian concept that if they are given freedom, they will destroy the stable governments and replace them not with harmony, but with chaos. So far, nobody really trusts the anarchic vision of cooperation in the Middle East. Former Richard Nixon aide Charles Colson once said, “If you got ‘em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” This is the approach we are taking in the Middle East. Let them "cooperate" when there is little alternative.
The early Communists used the malleable and benign nature of people and twisted it into a violent revolution. Fascists viewed people as more gullible than benignly malleable. Anarchists just want government to get out of the way.
The second principle of the anarchists is to stress cooperation over competition. This is an interesting concept, but it has flaws. As a former professional athlete, I have a great deal of experience with competition. This is not just the competition with my opponents on other teams, but with my teammates. Any coach can tell you that strong competition for positions on the team makes for a better ball club. Only when the positions are to some extent settled (although competition always exists from second-stringers and up-and-comers), does the team jell into a cooperative unit that can defeat other units.
The other example is one found in business. Local Rotary Clubs found in any American city, large or small, are organizations that put the lie to the anarchist's concept. These kinds of organizations are made up of competing businesses who cooperate with each other as well as with the government.
In “Mutual Aid”, Peter Kropotkin said that our actions would be guided by a sense of “oneness.” The animal world indicates that there is evidence for and against the anarchist view. In the animal world, there is cooperation, but there is also competition. The reality of man is somewhat similar. There is a kind of environmental culture that exists in which competition and cooperation work together. In the end, we have a blend of both.
Emma Goldman firmly believed that there is a tyranny of the majority, and that this majority works as a destructive force of coercion and evil. The Communists split from the anarchists in that they say the proletariat needs must be consolidated with the state, in order to defeat the bourgeoisie.
The anarchists advocate liberty in all its forms, especially social and economic. They reject the Marxist principle that any means are justified to attain the end. Goldman said the means had to be the same as the ends, but anarchists who followed her went too far and became quite violent.
The anarchists actually held some worthy views. They felt that while human nature was benign, individual behavior was shaped by choice. This is a slight variation on the Christian view, which is based also on choice. In Christianity there is a value for evil, as well. Somewhere between the Christian/anarchist value of “personal choice” is the concept of “resident evil,” which might be found in Freud’s analysis.
Anarchism seems to be an idea made for the big cities, where people live together and are, therefore, tied by social circumstance to each other. This leads to a natural cooperation between people. But as I pointed out earlier, this does not always work itself out in this way. If anarchistic cooperation was the way in the cities, then how does one explain why violent, stupid, nonsensical gangs divide many major urban centers, while in the countryside people who live many miles from each other pull together in times of crisis?
The anarchists would argue that the gangs in the cities are divided because the evil, divisive levers of government have operated to separate them by class envy. But class envy is not at the heart of gang warfare. Drugs and, for lack of a better explanation, the forces of evil, i.e, drugs and violence as a proof of “respect,” are much more likely to blame. The weird offshoot of this is that the drug trade in the cities can be traced back to a cooperative effort from an organization that might be the perfect form of anarchy: La Casa Nostra.
The Mafia embodies many of the traits of anarchism, with the notable exception of benevolence. They are a series of families, or groups, who cooperate with each other to form one organization. They operate in a world of their own, created because they did not want or trust government intervention in their lives. It was the mob that made the decision to expand the drug trade into the inner cities, because they had no respect for blacks. “They're animals anyway; let them lose their souls,” one capo says in “The Godfather”.
It is no mere coincidence that many anarchists were Italian, and the Mafia grew out of Italy and Sicily. Whether anarchism gave birth to the Mafia or vice versa is debatable. The anarchists wanted to foster diversity, but do not think that government can do it. History disputes this. Call it political correctness, or whatever you want to call it, but the U.S. government may have done more to “foster diversity” than any organization in history. How did the anarchists think that such disparate groups as native New Yorkers and first generation Irish would ever consolidate? Or blacks and Southern whites? How else, other than laws and government, would these people have been brought in and joined as one?
Goldman and Enrico Malatesta would argue that anarchism did not breed the Mafia because they do not emphasize hierarchical, authoritarian organizations. But somehow they do not account for the natural rise of leaders. Charismatic individuals evolve into positions of leadership. It is the tendency of people to accord respect to elders with experience. There are organizations that were formed within the anarchistic vision. Among these are the Red Cross, the Peace Corps, and Doctors Without Borders.
The anarchists told people not to vote, because it only encourages the state. The Republican party might not advocate this, but in a way they have benefited from non-voting. The reason for this is because Republicans succeed when voter turnout is low. Republicans are generally good, solid citizens who keep quiet, are aware of the issues, and vote. The Democrat constituency is too often the offshoot of the anarchy movement; ruffians, protesters, rabble, quasi-criminals, various and sundry individuals of low rent. These folks are less likely to know the issues, or vote, thus helping Republicans. Republicans really do not mind these people staying away from the polls, preferring to have government decided by those who educate themselves on the issues.
The election of Hillary Clinton to the Senate from New York in 2000 exemplifies this. A study was made of the precincts that voted for Hillary as opposed to those who voted for Republican Rick Lazio. It was determined that Hillary won by virtue of getting the votes from New York City precincts with extremely high crime rates. Lazio carried the suburbs where law-abiding citizens live. Hillary benefited from higher-than-usual turnout in high crime areas.
A study of the Clinton vs. Lazio voters contracts somewhat from the anarchist concept, however. The criminal element that votes for the Clintons would advocate big government when it comes to providing them benefits. They would not want the government to interfere with their "need" to deal drugs or other unlawful activities. The Republicans in favor of Lazio want less government. They would want fewer taxes and controls on small business, but would want government to crack down on crimes committed by Clinton's constituents.
Res ipsa loquiter.
The problem with anarchism is that the anarchists favored the example of the French Revolution over the American Revolution. They were unable to square the three tenets of liberte, equalite and fraternite. The violence of the French peasants created an anarchist model. For others, it was abhorrent. Gandhi may not have been an anarchist, but he used methods of the non-violent anarchists to attain his goals. His success was mixed. He gained freedom, but died a violent end. Furthermore, once his country became free, they were unable to govern themselves without splitting into a war that. For all intents and purposes, that war is still going on. It is not at all inconceivable that India would be better off, certainly more prosperous, if the British had never left. Independence comes with grave responsibility. Not everybody is able to handle it.
The story of anarchism is the story of rebellion. Rebellion must have some kind of end game to be successful. Emma Goldman’s rebellion started with her desire to break the bonds of her authoritarian father. She broke free from him, leaving Russia and settling in at 210 East 13th Street in New York’s East Village. There, she joined Johann Most and Alexander Berkman to promote better working conditions for women working as seamstresses. She was a gifted orator, and soon gained the reputation of being a dangerous radical. She found herself imprisoned in 1893 for inciting the unemployed to riot. Inciting a riot seems to go against the grain of the so-called anarchistic concept of benign behavior, non-violence and rejection of the Marxist statement that the end justifies the means. Riots become violent and are not benign. Apparently the ends do justify the means if the people who get hurt are police officers and the businessmen whose shops lie in the path of the rioters!
She plotted to assassinate President William McKinley in 1901, and opposed the U.S. entry into World War I in 1917. The good things she advocated were the opposite of what she actually did do. Apparently the killing of a Republican was okay. Opposing Kaiser Wilhelm and his attempt to inculcate German culture into the rest of Europe by force was not. She is the mother of the anti-war movement, the goddess of the rabble, the spirit of the foul-mouthed dirty hairs who litter our streets to protest all things. Her ghost urged the Chicago Seven to throw bags of feces at the police, or Reverend Jesse Jackson to shake down some company with the blackmail threat of racist complaint - just for the sake of protest. She is at the heart of a group of people allowed to live in America because it is a free country. They hold no jobs but take money from the disenfranchised and confused. These are professional dissenters who litter us with their presence. Niiiiice.
When Emma was not figuring out how to blow a President’s brains out or opposing red-blooded Yanks fighting to uphold Democracy, she was preaching that people should just screw each other whenever they wanted to. She wanted to rid America of our Puritan values. She did not even see the joy in sex. She viewed it only as a way of tearing things down. She wanted to see heresy and atheism destroy churches. She wanted soldiers to become pacifists.
“The more opposition I encountered, the more I was in my element,” she told Alix Shulman in “Red Emma Speaks”. She was deported to the Soviet Union in 1919. When she saw a country that had adopted many of her policies, she was - surprise! – appalled and felt betrayed. This she states in “My Disillusionment in Russia”, written in 1924.
Goldman was a hypocrite, the leader of a movement that decried violence, but who orchestrated violence. Her elitist concepts made it okay for her to be Machiavellian and Marxist, but not for others. In 1923 she was effectively a woman without a country. Having seen the failure of Communism in Russia first hand, she wanted to return to the "land of milk and honey." Only then did she acknowledge that the violence she spawned was wrong. This is similar to the Symbionese Liberation Army revolutionaries who expressed sorrow for the dead in their wake, once they grew up and saw how wrong they had been.
“The one thing I am convinced of as I have never been in my life is that the gun decides nothing at all,” she wrote. Maybe this was because she saw that McKinley’s death did not result in a Democrat in the White House, but instead another Republican, Theodore Roosevelt who liked guns and called them “big sticks.” Or maybe it was because lots of people became free to think for themselves as a result of the use of American guns in dislodging Germany from France in 1918.
“Even if it accomplishes what it sets out to do – which it rarely does – it brings so many evils in its wake as to defeat its original aim,” she continued. Maybe she said this because guns were used to promote American-style freedom throughout the world. This was an unworthy prospect in her mind. Emma’s confusion continued throughout the Roaring ‘20s. In 1928 she was back to her old self.
“We must become Bolsheviks, accept terror and all it implies, or become Tolstoyans,” she said. “There is no other way.” Maybe because the Chinese Communists were using a lot of violence at this time, she said, “Revolution is indeed a violent process.”
“Though Goldman grew skeptical about the value of individual acts of violence,” wrote Shulman, “in her remaining years, she never doubted that necessity of collective revolutionary violence against capitalism and state.” She supported the violent Spanish anarchists of 1936. Considering the non-violent plank of the anarchist manifesto, one would think she would have liked Gandhi. She seems to have found much more in common with Francisco Franco.
“The first ethical precept <of anarchistic revolution> is the identity of means used and aims sought,” she said. “The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life…” She felt human life was sacrosanct, unless it was the life of a Republican, a soldier, a successful guy, or an unborn child.
She offers nothing.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism