Obama and the Allergy to Antithesis March 8, 2010
The so-called “progressives” are going to be more and more disillusioned with President Obama in the immediate near future, I predict. And not because he is a “moderate.” He is manifestly not. At least in his ultimate aspirations, he is as radical as they.
Rather, he shares an attitude – I wouldn’t call it a world view, because it doesn’t have much content to it – that is common in our culture, and not generally just on the left by any means. I call it Allergy to Antithesis. (How alliterative!) Allergy to Antithesis is an attitude, or frame of mind, or really of the heart that there are not really good guys and bad guys, that we can all just get along if we sit down and talk together, that in the end there is no reason to fight. And in such little experience as I have, the elements of society most likely to assume this attitude are the business community; probably in big corporate business more than small business, because to rise in an organization you have to “get along” with everyone. And there is also the factor that if there are enemies, there’s a whole segment of people you can’t sell to or do deals with. Business culture is only comfortable with “antithesis” if it can sell weapons to one of the sides – and I’ll bet that if Lockheed and all those aerospace companies during the Cold War could have sold their stuff to the Soviet Union and not gotten in trouble for it, they would have done so! Non-aerospace businesses were always jumping at the chance to trade with Russia, China, or Vietnam.
Postmodern philosophical attitudes contribute to the “allergy,” as well. In the modernistic era, we held the rather quaint and hegemonic notion that if something was true, the opposite of it was false. Therefore if Christianity was true, doctrines that differed from it were false – and on the other hand, when the Bible or Christianity was criticized, it was on the ground that it was “wrong.” But today the critique of Christianity – and of all the Western (“Judeo-Christian” – Islamic) traditions is not that the are “wrong” but that they claim to be antithetically true – in the sense that their opposites are false – and are therefore “bigoted.”
Many people build a two-story universe in order to accommodate both “modern” and “postmodern” world views. The Darwinists, for example, generally assume that if Darwinism is true, the opposite of Darwinism must be false! But they deal with religion in two ways; some, the New Atheists, assume that God has been disproved; others, like the late Steven Jay Gould, separate religious matters into a subjunctive “metaphysical” sphere that has nothing to say about verifiable facts. (This distinction is often blamed on Immanuel Kant, but I don’t personally know enough about philosophy to know that for sure.) So for these people modernism is true in one sphere and postmodernism in another.
Many younger people, also, claim to be tired of the continuing adversity (read: antitheticality) of politics. (When they do come up against something they don’t like or doesn’t fit in to their world view, they are quite capable of posting a searing and stinging dismissal!) Why are the screaming talk show hosts like Glenn Beck so popular? I wonder whether they are the new pornography, the new way of being transgressive. Pornography, in our secular culture, is not considered particularly transgressive except in its violent forms and in child porn. But in a society where we are supposed to be “nice” above all things, Glenn Beck is the new forbidden fruit.
The so-called “netroots,” however, are not like that. They are the left wing counterparts of the Glenn Becks of the world, and they are quite happy to see the conservatives, Republicans, etc. as “bad guys” and are prepared to make continual war on them, and they delight in seeing their enemies suffer the agony of defeat. They recognize antithesis in the world. Obama is more interested in trying to find a consensus or “synthesis” than he is in fighting any long-term battles for what he believes in; I hope that means that we get a better health care reform than what he and his people originally proposed. So the “netroots,” I predict, will turn on him. You will soon see something like a left wing echo of the Tea Party movement. And tell them you saw it first on BlueKennel!