Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Reading List
Many, many thanks to Tom Herbst for keeping the fire lit over the holiday weekend whilst I was off at the lake with the family. I did without e-mail for five days (actually almost six, since I didn't check it until this morning, even though we got back last night) and without news of any sort between Friday night and Monday morning. And enjoyed it.

Appearing in my e-mail this morning is a forward from a friend of a list, compiled by the conservative magazine Human Events, of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries. It's most interesting, and headed up by The Communist Manifesto--because if there's one thing the old-line conservatives at Human Events hate, it's the damn evil Commies. A few of them are still pissed at Harry Truman for losing China--which explains the inclusion of Quotations from Chairman Mao on the list. It's kind of funny to see them dissing Mao, though, given how American conservatism got from where it was after the Goldwater debacle of 1964 to where it is today by never losing sight of the prize and taking advantage of its opportunities in a doggedly persistent way not unlike that in which Mao took power in China. And their Commie-phobia causes them to utterly miss the point of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique.

The intellectual blinders that conservatives have to wear to keep their heads from exploding out of cognitive dissonance lead them to some bizarre observations about the books they find harmful. They blame John Dewey's Democracy and Education for "nurturing the Clinton generation" as if none of them ever attended an American school following World War II. (They're right about its "pompous and opaque prose," though.) They take out after the Kinsey Report as if to blame it for exploding their cherished belief that they were brought by the stork or found under a toadstool, and not because Mom and Dad did the nasty. (And also for making it possible to talk about homosexuality, because if we ignored it, it certainly would go away.) But their pull-quote from Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil is the blindest of all. They criticize his view that "Life itself is essentially appropriation, injury, overpowering of the strange and weaker, suppression, severity, imposition of one’s own forms, incorporation and, at the least and mildest, exploitation," when that's the very thing corporate conservatism seeks to do.

John Stuart Mill's On Liberty got only an honorable mention from Human Events, but to me, it might be the most egregious inclusion on the list. That's the essay in which Mill explored the idea of the tyranny of the majority and of the right to individual freedom in the face of state control, which makes it as relevant now as it was when he wrote it some 160 years ago. As is another famous Mill quote, not from On Liberty: "Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservative."

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?