Some ideas keep cropping up over and over and (not surprisingly) when implemented produce the same results. In a recent post about Plato’s Neo-Con Republic, I thought I had traced the historic source of Neo-conservatism philosophy to 400 BC but I now confess I was wrong. It is much, much older than that.
First, what is Neo-con philosophy as articulated by their idea man, Leo Strauss? Basically this: The masses are asses and require an elite vanguard to save them from themselves. They share this worldview with the elitist Plato as well as many thinkers traditionally labeled as leftist. In fact, Neo-con founding father Irving Kristol, father of Billy Kristol started out as a “Trotskyist.” The left-right paradigm breaks down when your vision clears. The real divide is more accurately authoritarian vs. egalitarian.
Strauss thought that the stupid masses were so demoralized after the defeat in Vietnam that society was descending into chaos. Hippies, free love, the Civil rights movement. Women’s lib=chaos! The Neo-cons decided that-for their own good-the masses needed a new manly hero quest to restore order and to give their life meaning. The Neo-cons would provide that hero quest, which they did not keep secret, but outlined plainly in the Project for a New American Century. The project was basically to take over the world for democracy, freedom and all that. As an added bonus, some people would make a whole lot of money.
After at least a million deaths and trillions of dollars, the masses have been repulsed by the Neo-con’s hero quest. Now what? They are busy manufacturing new hero quests-Iran’s phony nuclear bomb threat, China’s cyber warfare, and better keep an eye on Chechnya (Boston Marathon bombing). Chechnya? Well, really any place certain elites would like new oil and gas pipelines. Because a prime neo-con idea is that we must have an enemy or we will degenerate into a nation of hedonistic sissies.
How old is this idea? Plato wanted a society divided into three rigid classes, which he saw as genetically pre-determined: the philosopher-kings, the warriors to protect the philosopher-kings and everybody else. There would be no class warfare-the warriors would take care of that. Does that sound eerily familiar to our world?
How about this? Does this ring a bell? “The stability of (the hierarchy,) the repetition of gestures and exploits…are the logical consequence of a theology that considered the cosmic order to be supremely the divine work and saw in all change the danger of a regression to chaos and hence the triumph of demonic forces.”
What society is that quote describing? The UK under Thatcher? Mitt Romney’s dream society of Exalted Job Creators? Well, those, too, but the quote is describing Egypt after the 5th Dynasty (2300 BC), an Egypt stuck, unchanging, fearful of the “chaos” of any reforms. Don’t even think about trying anything new, that is Satan’s plan! The quote is from Mercia Eliade’s A History of Religious Ideas.
Religious ideas? What has that got to do with politics? Everything-as we may be starting to see. Strauss, a Jew, believed that a nation requires a common religion to pull the people together. Not because the neo-cons are believers; because the stupid masses are believers and religion is useful to produce order. Republican operative Morton Blackwell in the late 1970s said “Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians represented the largest stand of uncut virgin timber on the American political landscape.” Virgin timber-and they’ve been doing some heavy logging ever since.
Here is the kernel, the heart of extreme conservatism: The hierarchy is divinely ordained and operates to produce the proper, divinely sanctioned order. Any change is demonic in origin and unless defeated, will result in apocalyptic chaos. Order must be maintained and force is justified; after all, the alternative is the end of the world as we know it.
When Egypt put this philosophy into operation it lost its creative spark and sank into stagnation. Because the truth is, things change around us and those who adapt little by little survive. THINGS CHANGE! and with minds cast in cement and eyes cast backward in longing to some mythical Golden Age, extreme conservatism destroys the very society it claims to conserve.