The yairs chronicles
Gentle reader will forgive a little lapse, a little traipse, in the nature of a hit-&-run, into mundane politics. There is no point to this post whatever; which perhaps qualifies it, nevertheless, as a legitimately idle effusion. I will be perhaps the 489th pundit to say what I am about to say: that it is really quite wonderful how the Obamanoids have (unintentionally, of course) picked their scandals.
My guess is that the IRS scandal is tops. Nothing could make the “average taxpayer,” in the very season of income tax returns, & with the nightmare of them freshly in memory, identify so viscerally with the IRS targets — with the tea-baggers & “patriots” & others of that ilk whom the Tax Department selected for persecution — nor infuriate him against Big Guvmint so comprehensively.
He then learns about Benghazi — a story which the gliberal media, determined to protect America from the horror of a “President Romney” — had been keeping out of his sight; storing it up for him until now. He learns that Americans were being slaughtered by Al Qaeda in Libya, as Obama’s officers of state stood by, doing nothing to help them, indeed preventing anything from being done that might enlarge the drama. That instead, they were preparing their “talking points,” to prevent the slaughter from impinging upon the President’s re-election campaign; that they went about telling bald knowing lies on all the TV talk shows, to substitute a fictional narrative for the real one.
And then, the Justice Department hit on AP. Not on Drudge, not on Fox, but on the Associated Press, that pillar of American gliberal journalistic mediocrity. Pure genius. Let every harmless progressive hack in the USA think Eric Holder is monitoring his telephone & email. Let them think Big Brubber is really after them. And, at the very moment they are reviewing storylines that could portray Barack Hussein Obama as morally indistinguishable from, if not actually inferior to, Richard Watergate Nixon.
Who knows: maybe God still loves America. And that’s why He let Obama win.
Wake me up when they impeach him.
The above will serve as well as any political event, or “constellation” of events, to illustrate propositions from Nicolás Gómez Dávila that were being discussed, or at least referred to, in a Comments thread a couple of posts ago. Now, Gómez Dávila should not be held accountable for the remarks that follow. They represent only my own (genuinely) humble attempt to grasp the reality he discerns. I am convinced he understood it much more profoundly.
The enthusiasts of democracy, & socialist partisans especially, work from the assumption that someone has power — some Person, or Party. Let us set aside for the moment how he, how they, obtained their power — by popular election, aristocratic election, inheritance, revolution, military coup, whatever. Let us merely imagine that some person or persons are “in power.”
Embedded in this belief is the notion that, while they are in power, they enjoy some influence. They make things happen; become choreographers of events. Until they die, or are displaced, we assume they are the ones directing history. That, indeed, is why the democracy enthusiast thinks it so important for the government to be freely elected according to some specified constitutional procedure — so that it will reflect “the will of the people.”
That the people are idiots, is a point quite easy to prove, & thus like most such points, not very significant. Let me not invidiously insinuate that the people of this democracy are more idiotic than the people of that one. There is always enough idiocy to go around, & I have yet to visit a country that is experiencing a shortage. Nor am I aware of a time in history when this was different; nor is such a time conceivable. Ask any large sampling of people to compose triple roundels, or paint portraits, or construct machinery to levitate themselves, & you will get about the same proportion as should be allowed to vote in elections. Had all been trained from youth in these arts, they might make a better showing. It isn’t really their fault.
People might think a man like Barack Obama would know something about politics, since he has been bathing in them most of his life. He does in fact know something about them, but not much. This is because his acquirements were all in a specialized area of politics — that of getting oneself elected. (Read the old Commentariolum, or handbook on electioneering, attributed to Marcus Cicero’s little brother, Quintus. Nothing much changes in two thousand years.) Once outside that specialization, poor Obama is at sea. He was never exposed to the craft of governing, only to the craft of getting power. His ideas of how things work, of what can & can’t be done by government agency, are absurd & laughable. To be fair he is, in this respect, a typical politician. They all studied the same specialty; not one in a hundred studied anything else.
But leave all this aside. We still assume that, since he has the power that goes with the office, Obama must have influence over what falls out. On democratic theory, he could be held accountable. He could be replaced by someone who knows what he is doing, or is more likely to do what the people want. His replacement would then be judged by the same criteria.
Bear with me. I must say something shocking.
I don’t think Barack Obama has any power at all. Nor do I think any alternative president, or king, or generalissimo, or fuehrer, competent or incompetent, would have any power — beyond that of any other human being. That the President of the United States can lift a mug, & decide whether to fill it with tea or coffee, I will freely allow. That he may make decisions affecting other people, & that his decisions may be treated as law, I will also allow. Such laws may be obeyed or disobeyed. But all that happens beyond his power, & is only in the power of other people.
To my knowledge, Mr Obama cannot even launch a nuclear missile on his own. The gizmo on his desk only asks someone else to launch it, & the target selected is merely a suggestion. The technocrat receiving this suggestion, should he deign to listen, might if he wished select a different target, that would please him more. Granted, he might be hanged for doing that, but so it goes. Each person must weigh the likely consequences of his actions, & decide in the balance what works for him.
Does that mean the technocrat has power? Of course not. He has no more power than anyone else who happens to have his finger on the means to obliterate, say, a medium-sized city. He can kill a lot more people than a man with a rubber slingshot, or even a hunting rifle. He can, as it were, create an event that will be consequential. But he has no power to guide the consequences, nor predict them beyond the first day or two.
The nasty little boy who steps gratuitously onto an anthill may slay or inconvenience a great many ants. But the ant world continues, according to its own patterns of behaviour, regardless of that boy. The survivors soon develop work-arounds for the problems he has created for them. Our human world continues at a level of sophistication & unpredictability unknown to & unimagined by the ants, so in that sense our technocrat has even less power than the nasty little boy.
My interest in the Middle Ages has been useful in bringing this point home to me. Consider, for instance, the Black Death. Unquestionably it made an impression at the time. The scale of the catastrophe was vastly beyond anything of which mediaeval men had experience. (It wasn’t as if they lived in the 20th century, when the deaths of millions was a matter of course.) Large districts were depopulated across Europe, cities reduced to a fraction of their former size, horrors endured of an apocalyptic piquancy. Nor was the experience ever quite forgotten; we still remember it, today. Yet within much less than a generation, the Black Death had ceased to be an important issue. Life had resumed, & the work-arounds were in place.
Without doubt, the world is different for such events. To this day, things are not as they would have been, had the Black Death not occurred. But the plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis, had no power to determine any of the outcomes. Some other bacterium might have been worse, perhaps; but still it would have had no orchestrating power.
Someone mentioned Hitler the other day. (I think it was me.) How was he different from Yersinia pestis? Consider what trivial events would have changed the course of European history, to say nothing of the demography. A few bullets whizzed past him at Ypres. With minute adjustments in timing & the breeze, any one of them could have finished him off. He collected two iron crosses, when bullets did not miss. His siblings had all died young, of such diseases as diptheria. Neither of his parents lived to old age. And car accidents happen every day. Forget the plot to assassinate Hitler. Slightly adjust a dial, & any one of us is no longer here.
At age twenty, broke & alone, Hitler nearly perished in a Vienna doss house. “Poor vagrant who never hurt anybody. Dreamt of becoming an artist.”
He had no power. Everything he achieved was through others.
History happens, ideas have consequences, one thing follows another in a chain. But no human being ever controlled even his own destiny.
It seems to me, & it seems to me that it seemed to Gómez Dávila, that God has so arranged our world that history doesn’t matter. Or more precisely, the kind of history that we think matters, doesn’t matter much, if at all, to us. The significant events happen out of public view; & they are constantly happening. The real drama is within each human soul. Each responds to events that come his way, but the events in themselves are just props in the drama. Let us express this in a painful cliché. Politics are a way to rearrange the deck chairs. They do not change the fact we’re all going down. They only add pointless melodrama & farce to a plot already sufficiently gripping.
Of course, I would prefer monarchy to democracy. It is so much less distracting, & the taxes would be much lower. Occasions of sin would be drastically reduced. The king has a job, for which he was trained, whether well or poorly; let him get on with it. The nobles have their own lives, too. Let the world be governed by customary law, & normative tradition: how better to keep these big shots out of our affairs?
But since getting rid of democracy & replacing it with monarchy would itself be distracting, I will not press the point.
Besides, nature will take care of it soon enough.