Monday, July 03, 2006

Rousseau Could Get Us All Killed

The Asia Time's writer, Spengler is, with Mark Steyn, the finest commentator on modern life of whom I am aware. I would love to know who he is and have asked around the blogosphere to no avail. This piece on a new book on the murderousness of primitive tribes is just excellent. I have read Jared Diamond's book and loved it. He explicitly asked for rebuttals and "Before the Dawn" reviewed here seems like just such a rebuttal. I will read it with interest.

I think in this piece Spengler misses two big points. Before the advent of agriculture there was no reason for slave taking and even polygamy was difficult to sustain. The supposed "billions killed" theory overlooks the fact that primitives were mainly hunter gatherers and with no need or place for surplus labor and difficulty in feeding extra sexual conquests and their offspring sheer slaughter often resulted. If you have no use for your enemy, likely don't even see him as human, and simply want his resources, death is the result.

In addition, I think he misses a main and glaring reason for the cult of the primitive in the West, and that is Jean Jaques Rousseau. Rousseau's disagreement with Hobbes and Locke over the state of nature has infected Western thought since the 18th century. Hobbes and Locke were right and Rousseau wrong. The "noble savage" is beloved of those who would toss away tradition and civilization (never mind nobody is a tradition minded as a hunter/gatherer) and blame the very things that allow us mastery over nature and base instincts for their own dissatisfaction. Marx called it alienation and also exalted the original primitive stage of man. It is no accident, as the Marxists say, that the regimes that most loved Rousseau, Revolutionary France and the Marxist states, went about killing with primitive glee. Moreover, the Nietzchean bent of German thought also exalts the primitive. It is very hard for me to determine which are worse German or French philosophers. Worst of all is when they feed off each other. The plodding, implacable, impenetrable, gloom-filled maunderings of the Germans, clothed in intellectual haute couture and made accessible by elegant writing and the seductive Gallic arrogance of Left Bank poseurs, takes on a destructive capacity neither could achieve alone.

I disagree with Spengler over whether the Italians can return to prehistory and the Germans to the dwarves and elves of their primitive past more easily than Americans can. The impulse is there among the nihilist Left and Right at all times. Ward Churchill's spurious claims to be an American Indian can only be understood as a search for the self-same "authenticity" Spengler notes here and the cult of the American Indian is a big part of this impulse in America, and incidentally in Germany and France. The nature worship we see in advance societies whether Green or Gaia also harnesses this impulse.

There is no returning to pre-Christianity. Nor should we want to. The deeper question, which Spengler has tackled, is whether post-Christian man can last more than a generation or two. Chesterton once said the "rational" man will not marry and the "rational" soldier will not fight. He meant the post-Christian uplifters of his time. This is what we see in Europe that has no children and will not confront those who would destroy it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nietzsche is by far the worst philosopher in the entire canon of Western philosophy. He, alone, has degenerated philosophy on the European continent to nonsense literature.