Old dogs, new tricks
One of the supreme ironies of my lifetime — at least, from my perspective — has been the dogged adherence even the most erudite of cosmopolitan Jews have shown toward the Democratic Party, even as the Party itself has grown increasingly hostile to Israel, increasingly removed from at least basic support for free market principles, and more and more obviously the vehicle of the New Left, who back before they took over the Party deplored it as a bastion of bourgeois ineffectuality.
Not to bore you, but in academic circles, this is a disease, one that is transferred through the cultural bloodstream. Being a “liberal” is the de facto state of being, and then a sneering embrace of the cartoonish version of “conservatism” is endlessly parroted and nurtured and reinforced by the hive mind.
The cure, as I found — and this won’t surprise you — lies in language, and with who gets to claim control over the meaning of the individual: that is, who gets to have final say of the will of the individual. Liberals believe themselves champions of individual freedom, but they are the farthest thing from it, demanding consensus control over narratives, insisting on group identity and the purity tests (often tied to political or policy beliefs that go along with them) to decide who can lay claim to an authenticity they themselves define, and in the most broad terms, always pressing the will of the collective onto and individual in a way that demeans, degrades, marginalizes, and discredits individualism and individual autonomy as something selfish and socially immoral — all while extolling the “communal” aspects of the “greater good.”
My discussions on how this operates simply by institutionalizing an incoherent idea of language and signification is well documented here. Which is why it is always interesting and — though late in the game, encouraging — when men of the genius of Philip Roth, whom I have long believed to be one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century, begin to voice their own consternation at what they know to be the diabolical and dangerous use of “democratizing” interpretation.
There were, for those of you who read it, strong undertones of this in Human Stain. But here he is, essentially speaking of intentionalism without ever having to put on or take off a clown nose, and doing so in a rather straightforward manner:
It is my comic fate to be the writer these traducers have decided I am not. They practice a rather commonplace form of social control: You are not what you think you are. You are what we think you are. You are what we choose for you to be. Well, welcome to the subjective human race. The imposition of a cause’s idea of reality on the writer’s idea of reality can only mistakenly be called “reading.”
Of course, this is only Philip Roth — and his Otherness was only en vogue in the late 60s or thereabouts, making him a marginal figure — so perhaps someone from some annex somewhere in the icy parking lot of an upstate New York community college will find the time, between fruity libations, to dismantle this clownish nonsense for the delectation of his readers.
At the very least, we may need to point to Roth’s pseudo intellectualism. Because that’s just how we roll.