Dé Luain, Aibreán 04, 2011

Radicalism: The Belief that Everyone Else is.

Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey has recently sent out a letter repping for current Senator and Def Jam recording mate Ben Nelson warning of the boost that the 'Radical Right' would gain from a Nelson defeat. Conservatives here have naturally taken offense to the notion that they're 'radical' or otherwise menacing in any way. They point out that their beliefs are well within the American mainstream, at least out here in Real America among the only people who should be allowed to vote, and state further that Kerrey is guilty of great crimes up to and including living in New York.

And in truth they do have something of a point. Where after all is the objective line where support for lower income taxes transforms from strongly conservative to radical? A demand for a 10% cut? 30%?, a flat tax? Of course there's no line at all. Radicalism is relative, up to a point. A belief cannot be radical based on what policy it specifically calls for, no matter how unusual or unpopular this proposal may be. It is the attitude behind beliefs that make them radical; wherever you see the insistence that one's principals and underlying assumptions are so obviously true that no sane or decent person can possibly dispute them, that disagreement is in itself proof of secret malevolence, there you find radicalism.

In this sense the recent Right-Wing rebranding of Nelson, the insistence that his behavior in the health care Kabuki act, using his position as a swing vote to gain special favors for his home state, was some new and dark turn, instead of the same obfuscating aw-shucks vacillation that he openly campaigned on, is indeed based on the attitude of radicalism. The 'Cornhusker Kickback' is just one of many stupid canards about the obviously evil motives of the health care bills' supporters and hidden evils in the bill itself.

And we have also seen this attitude of radicalism increasingly entrench itself within the American Right more and more generally through the years; the insistence that disagreement with their self-confirming interpretation of the Constitution can only be based on ignorance or hatred of the Constitution, that anyone who opposes some ill-defined (Because it does not and cannot exist) 'Pure Capitalism' can only be a socialist, that everyone who supports Roe V. Wade know themselves to be complicit in the slaughter of millions of literal equivalents of Michelle Tanner, etc. The fact that conservatives are prone to imagining themselves as the eternal standard of American normality does not preclude them from being 'radical'. It does just the opposite.

They're both old stories you've probably heard. Research has discovered that prayer has some mysterious role in helping sick people recover, and that science has also discovered that people who believe in God live longer. There's a an electric bulletin board at Westfield Pharmacy, across from my mom's liquor store in North Platte, that dutifully reports these medical facts to its customers. Medical facts that are not in fact, strictly true in the scientific, medical, or factual sense. But isn't it lovely to think so?

The promises of Christianity, especially the flamboyant Evangelical sort, are simply somewhat more overt versions of what most religions promise. Eternal Life, 'The Truth shall set you free', 'Praise God for victory say the Pentecostals.' There is clearly something deep within us that equates the ability to ascertain moral truth with physical health, strength, vitality. So that being morally or philosophically wrong is equated with disease, frailty, corruption and the grave.

It's a distinctly human train of thought. Reason, intuition and fallacy blended together into a perfect whole. 'It's good to be alive. It's good to be wise. It's good to be good. So naturally some generic, ultimate goodness connecting them all must be the reason why I get a similar endorphin buzz with every positive experience.' God is love.

It's also distinctly human that this benign-in-itself delusion would lead people to believe absurdities and commit atrocities for the sake of maintaining it. Because it is clearly the association of being right with power and life. (the refusal to accept that the truth will not necessarily set you free, will not be of the slightest help in gaining happiness or material well-being) that leads the rise of a fanatical element within every belief system; political, religious, or esoteric, impossible to avoid. If being right makes you strong, then attaining physical supremacy over non-believers should be the ultimate proof of being right, and there will always be those who are overwhelmed with lust for this proof. It's because they manfully know themselves to be right, you see, that entitles them to take whatever desperate measures are necessary to prove to achieve victory and prove to themselves that they are right.

The central conceit of any brand of fundamentalism, that there is really no such thing as human moral reasoning, but only an eternal, unified, indisputable block of truth that can only be embraced or rebelled against in whole, is at base a denial or mortality. Embrace the perfect indisputable truth and you will never be sick.

P.S. Today, is, among other things, my 30th birthday. Fuck you too buddy.

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