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A Good Fight: The Political Journey of David Horowitz

David Horowitz is a political thinker and cultural critic who enjoys challenging leftist shibboleths. His main contribution to contemporary political discourse is a passionate commitment to an outspoken, unabashed, myth-breaking version of conservatism. If communism was the triumph of mendaciousness, he argues in this poignant collection of writings, conservatism cannot accept the proliferation of self-serving legends and half-truths.

This makes his public interventions refreshingly unpredictable, iconoclastic, and engaging. He is a former insider, and his views have the veracity of the firsthand witness. Horowitz knows better than anybody else the hypocrisies of the left, the unacknowledged skeletons in its closet, and its fear to come to terms with past ignominies. He is an apostate who sees no reason to mince his words to please the religion of political and historical correctness. His masters are other critics of totalitarian delusions, from George Orwell to Leszek Kolakowski; in fact, Horowitz’s awakening from his leftist dreams was decisively catalyzed by the illuminating effect of Kolakowski’s devastating critique of socialist ideas. Unlike his former comrades, however, Horowitz believes in the healing value of second thoughts.

Vilified by enemies as a right-wing crusader, Horowitz is, in fact, a lucid thinker for whom ideas matter and words have consequences. His break with the left in the late 1970s was a response to what he perceived to be its rampant sense of self-righteousness, combined with its readiness to endorse obsolete and pernicious utopian ideals. Born to a Communist family in Queens, Horowitz flirted with the Leninist creed as a teenager but found out early that the Communist sect was insufferably obtuse and irretrievably sclerotic. He attended Columbia, where he discovered Western Marxism and other non-Bolshevik revolutionary doctrines. From the very beginning, he had an appetite for heresy.

He joined the emerging New Left and went to England, where he became a disciple and close associate of the socialist historian Isaac Deutscher, author of once-celebrated biographies of Stalin and Trotsky. Thanks to Deutscher, Horowitz met other British leftists, including the sociologist Ralph Miliband (father of the current leader of the Labour party). Consumed by revolutionary pathos, he wrote books, pamphlets, and manifestoes, denounced Western imperialism, and condemned the Vietnam war.

Once back in the United States, he became the editor, with Peter Collier, of Ramparts, the New Left’s most influential publication. In later books, Horowitz engages in soul-searching analyses of his attraction to the extreme radicalism of the Black Panthers and other far-left groups. Under tragic circumstances—a friend of his was murdered by the Panthers—he discovered that these celebrated antiestablishment fighters were fundamentally sociopaths. What followed was an itinerary of self-scrutiny, self-understanding, and moral epiphany. He reinvented himself as an anti-Marxist, antitotalitarian, anti-utopian thinker.

Obviously, David Horowitz is not the first to have deplored the spellbinding effects of what Raymond Aron called the opium of the intellectuals. Before him, social and cultural critics (Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Nathan Glazer, to name only the most famous ones) took the same path; Bertolt Brecht’s Marxist mentor, Karl Korsch, broke with his revolutionary past in the 1950s. Even Max Horkheimer, one of the Frankfurt School’s luminaries, ended as a conservative thinker. As Ignazio Silone, himself a former Leninist, put it: The ultimate struggle would be between Communists and ex-Communists.

In Horowitz’s case, however, it is a struggle waged by an ex-leftist ideologue against political mythologies that have made whole generations run amok. Like Kolakowski and Václav Havel, Horowitz identifies ideological blindness as the source of radical zealotry. He knows that ideologies are coercive structures with immense enthralling effects—indeed, what Kenneth Minogue called “alien powers.” Putting together his fervid writings is, for him, a duty of conscience. He does not claim to be nonpartisan and proudly recognizes his attachment to a conservative vision of politics. But he is a pluralist: He refuses the idea of infallible ideological revelation, admits that human beings can err, and invites his readers to exercise their critical faculties. He does not pontificate.

Judith Shklar once wrote about a liberalism of fear, a philosophy rooted in the awareness that the onslaught against liberal values in totalitarian experiments inevitably results in catastrophe. Horowitz’s conservatism is inspired by the conviction that utopian hubris is always conducive to moral, social, and political disaster. It is not an optimistic conservatism, but a tragic one. Horowitz confesses that he is an agnostic, yet he realizes that liberty, as a nonnegotiable human value, has a transcendent legitimation in religion. In the absence of a moral ground, individuals are suspended in a moral no-man’s land: Rebels become revolutionaries and exert their logical fallacies to eliminate deviation from a sacralized ideology.

For Horowitz, the main battle is now related to cultural hegemony. He understands that political rivalries are directly linked to clashes of values. Refusing to be pigeonholed into a formula, he combines themes belonging to classical liberalism, Burkean conservatism, and neoconservatism. His social criticism is a response to what he perceives to be the collapse of the center in American politics and the takeover of the liberal mainstream by proponents of refurbished leftist fallacies. He regards anticapitalism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Zionism as ideological mantras meant to camouflage a deep contempt for human rights.

The Black Book of the American Left is an illuminating contribution to our understanding of what Hannah Arendt once called the ideological storms of the 20th century. It shows how American radicals partook of the same romantic passions and redemptive fantasies as their European peers. The philosophical languages were different, of course, but the electrifying desire to negate the existing order, no matter the human costs, was the same.

Vladimir Tismaneanu is IAI’s Distinguished Senior Fellow in Western Civilization and the History of Ideas.

This article was originally published on TheWeeklyStandard.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

What is a Dollar?

Dr. Edwin Vieira, IAI’s Distinguished Senior Fellow in Jurisprudence and Constitutional and Monetary Law, lectures on the nature of currency.

35,000 Venezuelans Cross the Border With Colombia Escaping Economic Crisis

Last Sunday, July 10, 2016, Nicolás Maduro opened the borders and the result was a mass exodus to Colombia. Venezuelans crossed the border to buy food and supplies in order to escape Venezuela’s Socialist Paradise crisis.  See reports by Al-Jazeera and PanamPost.

 

 

The Crisis Part II: Good and Bad Leaders

The wise leaders that Carlyle believed necessary are the only possible palliative. But such men, in truth, are reticent and timid – not eager for the limelight. After all, being a leader of fools is dangerous business.

Alas, our noble men of genius, Heaven’s real messengers to us, they also rendered nearly futile by the wasteful time; – preappointed they everywhere, and assiduously trained by their pedagogues and monitors, to ‘rise in Parliament,’ to compose orations, write books, or in short speak words, for the approval of reviewers; instead of doing real kingly work to be approved of by the gods! Our ‘Government,’ a highly ‘responsible’ one; responsible to no God that I can hear of, but to the twenty-seven million gods of the shilling gallery.

-Thomas Carlyle, Latter-Day Pamphlets, 1850

 

Part I of this series touched on the politicization of education through a dumbing-down of students and through the denial of human nature in the social sciences. Considering today’s educational system from a strategist’s standpoint, it appears to be an attempt to subvert the larger society, perhaps even to destroy it. Such a system could only have been created by an enemy. This enemy’s trick has been to disable human instinct, denying the very existence of instinctual things. We no longer accept that there are two sexes. We are taught to deny what is noble.

Our internal enemy has attempted to paralyze all those moving parts within the human psyche that make reason possible. And he has made a school that is, in fact, a concentration camp for the child. He has encircled our children with a fence and he calls roll every hour to make sure that none have escaped. It is important, at the outset, that the students find themselves institutionalized. To expose the child to something brilliant, to something interesting, to something inspired, is forbidden. One must accustom the child to the most mediocre thinking, to the most uninspired ideas – to profound boredom from which only an entertainment culture can offer escape.

The new teaching refrains from laying a foundation; for the new educator, as revolutionary, is a destroyer who seeks to annihilate everything. He seeks to eradicate the past, to eradicate man and woman, to eradicate the parent, to eradicate both the nation and the patriot – and finally, to eradicate God. This is the work of today’s education. It is a work of disorganization, disintegration, and hatred. The revolutionary seeks a blank canvass upon which to paint in whatever color he chooses. The chosen color, of course, will be red.  Those countries already submerged by the nihilist dictators are arming themselves. They are getting ready to unleash a wider destruction. Like all psychopaths they are motivated to find victims wherever they can. The consumption of victims is their mode of self-affirmation.

The Revolution, called down upon us by the Left, has been with us a long while. It marches from victory to victory. The long retreat of civilization has been happening before our very eyes, by a slow and almost imperceptible process. Our educational system proves to be a revolutionary success, for the experiment has not been turned back. It has been turned up like the burner of a stove on which we are all being cooked. The majority is indoctrinated, their evaluations contaminated by revolutionary lies, so that they do not even know they have been brainwashed. And yes, on every news channel you hear but different variations on the same political message. The message always includes a dash of feminism, multiculturalism, socialism, and the celebration of polymorphous perversity. Our enemy has attempted to indoctrinate our children with these themes. They socialize the young to accept their revolution. They educate and organize. They shape the public’s mentality. They give out the ideas that will carry them forward – and it isn’t long before the process takes on a life of its own. After a few generations, when the old teaching has been forgotten, the leaders of the new generation will have only one lexicon, only one vision, and freedom will be dead. In its place will come a new tyranny, sold as a new and higher form of morality in which the chief sins are (1) sexism, (2) classicism, and (3) racism.

See how adept the revolutionary teachers are at carrying forward their new teaching – as morality. Thomas Carlyle once observed that “man never yields himself wholly to brute Force, but always to moral Greatness.” But men, being stupid, sometimes yield to a counterfeit moral Greatness. That is what we have today. As a prime example, consider the moral outrage expressed by our political and media elites in response to Donald Trump’s desire to curtail Muslim immigration. By the most ancient and time-tested standards of morality, this suggestion was not immoral. He did not break the Ten Commandments in uttering it. Yet it is taken as proof of Trump’s moral depravity. Those within the Republican Party who did not denounce the racism of Trump’s remark nonetheless judged him guilty of a “ridiculous position” (Chris Christie), or of being unserious (Jeb Bush), or of “being downright dangerous with his bombastic rhetoric.” (Lindsey Graham.) Carly Fiorina said that Trump’s “overreaction is as dangerous as Obama’s under reaction.” John Kasich called Trump’s proposal “outrageous.” Former New York Governor George Pataki said Trump’s remarks “are idiotic, next thing we will be banning loudmouth, racist billionaires.” Marco Rubio said that Trump’s “habit of making offensive and outlandish statements will not bring Americans together.” Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore said that “Trump’s fascist talk drives all minorities from [the] GOP.” And, of course, Hillary Clinton vilified Trump by saying, “This is reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive.”

Here is a great example of the revolutionary ideology at work. A simple, common sense statement, uttered by someone seeking a leadership position, is likened to Hitlerism. The new teaching has taken hold. It predetermines the mentality of the ruling class, which now consists of the persons whose thinking has been pre-programmed by our national enemies. In saying what he said, Donald Trump did not deprive anyone of their rights under the Constitution. He did not vilify anyone. He is not a hater, or an advocate of racist theories, or an advocate of genocide. How has it come about that he is slandered as such? Of course, we know perfectly well that he has transgressed. Should we publicly agree with Trump, we might also suffer ostracism; and feeling alone in our agreement with him, we are afraid.

The instinct that remains undestroyed in us knows that Trump is right. His concerns are patriotic, perhaps even “patriarchal.” We shudder at the political incorrectness of it. But deep down, we feel something contrary, something counter-subversive. We have been indoctrinated to believe that everyone is equal when everyone is different. We have been told that a Muslim is interchangeable with a Christian, that the populations of the Middle East are interchangeable with the populations of Europe – as if humanity were a bottle of milk that must be homogenized. When Trump says that his own Muslim friends agree with him, the journalists disbelieve him. He must be demented or insane, they say to themselves. He is not to be taken seriously. It is some kind of “stunt.” Trump tries to explain that he is motivated by considerations of safety and prudence. The elite sneer. But the public, still possessing a shadow of its old instinct, twitch with buried feelings that are breaking through to the surface.

Trump did not say Muslims are bad people. He did not say “all Muslims are enemies.” But everyone instinctually knows there is a risk associated with admitting thousands or millions of Muslims into a non-Muslim country. Common sense therefore begs the question: “Why take an unnecessary risk?” For why is it necessary that thousands of Muslims immigrate to the United States? If there is a risk associated with this immigration, why should it continue? What is to be gained?

This great example of Trump’s statement on Muslim immigration reveals the kind of leadership we have today – in the media and in government. We do not have leaders, in fact, but – as Thomas Carlyle noted – “assiduously trained by their pedagogues and monitors, to ‘rise in Parliament,’ to compose orations, write books, or in short speak words, for the approval of reviewers; instead of doing real kingly work….” Consider the kind of men and women we have in positions of leadership today. For such a large percentage to denounce Trump, when he has only made a common sense recommendation, suggests that these men and women are frauds; that they are the creatures of Leftist groupthink, lacking the moral courage required for independent thought. It could not be more clear what this example shows; namely, that our own leaders – excepting Mr. Trump – deny that we have the right to defend our sovereignty and our culture. They imagine that such a defense is racist.

One might ask what else they imagine?!

The Left dreams of a world without America on the assumption that America is the fountainhead of sexism, racism and war. The United States, under the control of Leftist politicians like President Obama, slowly commits suicide. Instead of an instinct for survival, our leadership of today shows us that theirs is an instinct for self-destruction. Merely listen to Mr. Trump, then listen to the nonsense of the elitsts who denounce him. These have no vision for distant things, no power of thought – mere dummies to some unseen ventriloquist. The reader should ask: Would George Washington have opened the United States to Muslim immigration in 1795? If this was such a good and glorious thing to do, why didn’t he think to do it? The idea of allowing masses of Muslim immigrants into the United States in 1795 would have been judged crazy by all educated Americans of the time. (And were they not better educated than we are now?)

Why do the “educated” of today think Muslim immigration so necessary? It cannot be that today’s leaders are so much wiser, or possess better character, than George Washington.

I believe that President Washington, if he could speak to our generation, would pour such abuse upon our present leaders, that it would ring in their ears ever after. And for them, in response, to reproach Washington as a sexist or racist, would illicit such fiery contempt from the great man, that they would be forced to own their shame. For are they not all feminists? Are they not all multiculturalists? – that is to say, advocates of national suicide? These mock leaders who raise the banners of so many mock faiths are yet the destroyers of their country. Yet there they stand, condemning Mr. Trump.

The real leader and the mock leader are here side-by-side. The one is concerned for the safety of his country while the other feigns concern for Islam. Where is the concern which is owed to Americans? Cannot we glimpse, behind it all, that common theme of hatred for what is good and normal, and a sick preference for what is harmful and abnormal? Is this not the malice of the inferior man – the malice of the demagogue, usurping high office with a sack of clever lies?  Our modern age, with its mass media and mass politics, has aroused the envy of the inferior to a fever pitch. This envy has organized itself through political self-hatred, turning malevolence into a science. The irony appears at once, as the man who loves America is denounced as a hater by those who are the real haters; that is, haters of America. Of course, some of those denouncing Trump are the puppets of political correctness – sad shills who have no business leading anyone. But hatred is at the bottom of it.

Notice how the inferior man, as leader, must always pretend to be a champion of humanity. Even in this, he is a faker. He has no dignity, but gives himself airs. His own mind is numbed by the facile nonsense that passes his own lips. Reality does not register with him. Only when a great tragedy has occurred, does the shock of the moment lay bare the feeble human being that is struggling to emerge from beneath the ideological garbage dump of a clouded mind. The terrorist attacks on France offer a rare example of clarity breaking forth from one such “leader.” On the day following the attacks, President Francois Hollande made a speech in which he said: “Fellow citizens, what happened yesterday in Paris and Saint Denis near the Stade de France was an act of war.” But the President of the United States, in his press conference, affirmed the altruistic duty of every Christian country to take in Muslim refugees. He denied that Christianity and Islam have stood opposed to one another for over a thousand years, that the principles of Islam are as obnoxious to Christianity as the principles of Christianity are to Islam. Obama effectively denied that admitting millions of Muslims into Europe is a recipe for civil strife. Even more, he suggested that the integration of Muslim and Christian (under the auspices of safeguarding Muslim refugees) is a solemn moral obligation.

The international demagogue who styles himself a champion of humanity turns out to be the enemy of his own country. How can he be a champion of humanity when his own people are so disregarded? Take Hillary Clinton as a further example. This regrettable deviant has been heralded as the most brilliant women in America. But she doesn’t have an original bone in her body; neither is she distinguished for her scholarship, or her contributions to science. She is an intellectual nullity. Her thinking is taken from leftist ideological tracts. Her moral courage consists in parroting the latest politically correct ideas. She does not regard private property as sacrosanct. She does not accept that marriage is between a man and a woman. She does not believe in the nation state. Her politics is that of Robin Hood, a famous bandit whose motto was to “rob from the rich and give to the poor.” On the subject of same-sex marriage and gay rights, Secretary of State Clinton made the following extraordinary statement:

I will never forget the young Tunisian who asked me, after the revolution in his country, how America could teach his new democracy to protect the rights of its LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered] citizens. He saw America as an example for the world, and as a beacon of hope. That’s what was in my mind as I engaged in some pretty tough conversations with foreign leaders who did not accept that human rights applied to everyone, gay and straight. When I directed our diplomats around the world to combat repressive laws and reach out to the brave activists fighting on the front lines … I changed State Department policy to ensure that our LGBT families are treated more fairly.

Here we see Clinton openly advocating U.S. interference in the internal affairs of Muslim countries. Here is an American homosexual imperialism that not only flies in the face of American diplomatic tradition, but flies in the face of traditional American folkways. The greatest U.S. Secretary of State is generally said to have been John Quincy Adams. In 1821 Adams asked what America has “done for the benefit of mankind?” As our greatest and wisest Secretary of State, Adams said that America “has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth” to the nations on the virtues of liberty and justice and equal rights. Adams stated:

She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of … the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

How different we find the policy of Secretary of State Clinton, who initiated a global campaign supportive of sodomy. Is this now our banner – our sacred cause among the nations? In the annals of imperial ambition God and man has never seen the like. According to Secretary Clinton herself, it was (in effect) the policy of her State Department to combat all those local laws and government edicts which forbade homosexual activity. Clinton not only engaged in “some pretty tough conversations with foreign leaders,” she directed “our diplomats around the world” to engage in a new form of warfare. Under her guidance, U.S. representatives in 70 countries (where sodomy is yet illegal) were to act as “change agents.”

In other words, American resources and personnel were deployed in support of sodomy. Whatever the reader may think of sodomy, let us objectively consider the policy repercussions. Was this in the best interests of the United States? Most curious of all: Is there not a declaration of war against Islam in Mrs. Clinton’s policy? Yet this declaration of war is not seen or acknowledged as such, though it is certainly there. The unreality of Clinton’s worldview allows her to advocate diametrically incompatible policies. On the one hand she provokes Islam. On the other hand, she wants millions of Muslims to immigrate here. From the strategist’s point of view, this policy is entirely obvious. Yet our pundits and political observers see nothing. They have no idea there is a game, and could never guess that someone stands to gain from it.

While homosexuality is allegedly widespread in the Muslim world, it is nonetheless forbidden by traditional Islamic teachings. In a collection of Mohammad’s sayings, set down by Abu ‘Isa Muhammad ibn ‘Isa at-Tirmidhis around A.D. 884, we learn that Muhammad cursed sodomites and recommended the death penalty for men involved in homosexual acts.

If the central principle of Islam is that “there is one God and Mohammed is his Prophet,” the words of the Prophet on this matter are highly significant. To show that traditional Islam is far from homogenized into the Unitarianism that has supplanted Christianity in the West, a Muslim cleric in Hungary recently stated [JihadWatch.org], “These homosexuals are the filthiest of Allah’s creatures. A Muslim must never accept this disease, this terrible depraved thing.” To show that this was hardly an isolated instance, a Muslim cleric in Uganda has threatened to organize death squads against homosexuals. In Great Britain Christians have been unsuccessful in opposing pro-homosexual education in schools; but two primary schools in Bristol have shelved anti-homophobia storybooks in the face of local Muslim “fury.”

In 2007 an Iranian MP, Mohsen Yahyavi, told British officials that, “According to Islamic law, homosexuality is a grave crime.” Yahyavi explained that homosexuality is only tolerated if done behind closed doors. If this behavior becomes public, the offender “should be put to death.” It is, indeed, against traditional Islam that Hillary Clinton’s homosexual imperialism wages a peculiar kind of war. Yet Hillary says that Trump is divisive for suggesting a temporary suspension of Muslim immigration into the United States! At the same time she would deny that any seed of enmity has been planted against Islam by her campaign of promoting homosexual activism in Islamic countries. Inexplicably, during last month’s Democratic presidential debate, when asked whether we are at war with radical Islam, Mrs. Clinton said the following:

I don’t think with we’re at war with Islam…. I think we’re at war with jihadists. I think we’ve got to reach out to Muslim countries and have them be part of our coalition. If they hear people running for president who basically shortcut it to say that we are somehow against Islam – that was one of the real contributions, despite all the other problems, that George W. Bush made after 9/11 when he basically said, after going to a Mosque in Washington, we are not at war with Islam or Muslims. We are at war with violent extremism. We are at war with people who use their religion for purposes of power and repression; and yes, we are at war with those people. But I don’t want us to be painting with too broad a brush.

Is Hillary Clinton such a fool that she doesn’t know what Islam teaches? If the leaders of various Muslim countries hear a tough-talking U.S. Secretary of State actively subverting traditional Islamic law, they are unlikely to see her as a genuine ally. Here, Clinton is not merely playing the usual political game of having her cake and eating it. In this context one needs to appreciate the ingredients of this cake; for every cake is made from a recipe, and every recipe has been carefully devised to produce specific culinary effects. One has to ask if this pro-homosexual policy was purposely designed to alienate traditional Muslims and incite further jihadist activities against the United States. Was that her real purpose in advancing the homosexual agenda in the Muslim world?

To understand the game of putting two scorpions in a bottle, one has to look beyond the madness of the stated agenda. Why would cynical people, concerned mostly with their own power, make use of the LGBT issue in the first place? For that matter, why is the forcible integration of Muslims into Europe and America so important? The answer is simple. Hillary Clinton and others of her ilk, who believe themselves figures of destiny, are advancing a hidden agenda. Does Hillary Clinton know whose agenda it is? We may doubt that she fully understands. Failing to look within, she never finds herself out. Lacking personal integrity, honor, and compassion, there is no real organ of discernment left to guide her. She is mere appetite, representing a desire for power and self-aggrandizement. There is nothing genuine or good in her. There is nothing of lasting value in what she does. She and her ilk are, as Carlyle said, “windy Counterfeits” who seek to take the place of better men. In our egalitarian stupor we are confused about the differences between the fraudulent and the authentic, between true and false, between hollow and full. To get ourselves out of this mess, noted Carlyle, it will require that

the few Wise will have, by one method or another, to take command of the innumerable Foolish; that they must be got to take it; – and that, in fact, since Wisdom, which means also Valor and heroic Nobleness, is alone strong in this world, and one wise man is stronger than all men unwise…. That they must take it; and having taken, must keep it, and do their God’s Message in it, and defend the same, at their life’s peril, against all men and devils. This I do clearly believe to be the backbone of all Future Society, as it has been of all Past; and that without it, there is no Society possible in the world.

Carlyle was born of humble origins in 1795. He was against, as he explained, “INSINCERITY in Politics and in Life, DEMOCRACY without Reverence, and PHILANTHROPY without Sense.” In this we find a more nuanced position, more precise in the warning it offers us. He saw the growth of insincerity, irreverence and muddleheaded altruism – and he sounded an alarm. Today his message goes to the heart of the present leadership crisis.

It may be observed that we choose leaders who espouse shallow optimism, not realizing how dangerously insincere they are. Notice how our political debates are peppered with irreverence and cynicism. To top it off, we soothe ourselves with a promiscuous philanthropy tending toward national bankruptcy. Is this so hard to see? The wise leaders that Carlyle believed necessary are the only possible palliative. But such men, in truth, are reticent and timid – not eager for the limelight. After all, being a leader of fools is dangerous business. The wise man sacrifices his peace of mind when taking up political office, while the mediocrity sacrifices nothing (having neither peace nor mind worth saving). As the fool is nothing, the attainment of office means everything to him. He overruns the state in his eagerness for power. He shouts down the wise. It is what he calls “democracy.”

Jeffrey Nyquist is the President of the Strategic Crisis Center and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Political Science at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought.

This article was originally published at jrnyquist.com . The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

Cardinal Kasper’s Challenge Distracts from the Real Problem

As the Synod of Bishops on the Family convenes this week, the Catholic Church has a heaven-sent opportunity to atone for one of the biggest failures in modern ecclesiastical history and in so doing to take a major step in resuscitating the Christian faith in the daily lives of millions of people.

The provocative challenge of Cardinal Walter Kasper highlights one of the Church’s (and the churches’) most spectacular lapses in judgment: the refusal to contest the “abolition of marriage” (in Maggie Gallagher’s phrase) that was effected by “no-fault” divorce.

Yet as currently framed, the debate over Cardinal Kasper’s proposals stunningly misses the point. By casting the debate in terms of admitting divorced and remarried persons to communion, the Church appears determined once again to avoid confronting the central evil of the Divorce Revolution, the evil that still taints the Church, along with the family and civic life, and one no stable civilization can tolerate. This is involuntary divorce and the injustice committed against the forcibly divorced or innocent spouse, along with his or her children.

The Cardinal makes no distinction between a spouse who abandons the marriage, commits adultery, divorces unilaterally without recognized grounds (“no-fault”), or otherwise violates the marriage covenant in legally recognized ways, and a spouse who is the victim of such deeds. To treat the sinner and the sinned against as if they are the same is to deny the very concept of justice and to place the Church and other institutions on the side of injustice.

This willful neglect of justice in adjudicating divorce—not the dissolution of households per se—was the vitiating outrage of “no-fault” divorce. By not challenging the state’s claim that it may dissolve marriages without any consideration for the consequences or injustices inflicted on the forcibly divorced, the Church followed the state into the realm of amorality, a realm suited to the aggrandizement of institutional power but fundamentally antithetical to both the Gospel and a free society.

Since this fateful decision, the oxymoron of “no-fault” justice has been gradually poisoning both our culture and the fundamental institutions of our civilization, starting with the family, passing through the Church, and extending to the state machinery, such as the judiciary. Divorce-without-consequences is exacting a devastating toll on our children, our social order, our economic solvency, and our constitutional rights. It has led directly to explosions in cohabitation, illegitimacy, welfare, and crime and to demands for same-sex marriage.

No public debate preceded this ethical bombshell in the 1970s, and none has taken place since. Legislators “were not responding to widespread public pressure but rather acceding to the well-orchestrated lobbying of a few activists,” writes Bryce Christensen. Critically, these are the same sexual ideologues who have since expanded their campaign into a much broader agenda of sexual radicalism: same-sex marriage, abortion-on-demand, sex education, women in combat, homosexuals in the military, Obamacare, and more. Feminists were drafting no-fault divorce laws in the 1940s, which the National Association of Women Lawyers now describes as “the greatest project NAWL has ever undertaken.”

The result effectively abolished marriage as a legal contract. Today it is not possible to form a binding agreement to create a family.

The new laws did not stop at removing the requirement of citing grounds for a divorce, to allow divorce by mutual consent, as deceptively advertised at the time. Instead they created unilateral and involuntary divorce, so that one spouse may dissolve a marriage without any agreement or fault by the other. Moreover, the spouse who abrogates the marriage contract incurs no liability for the costs or consequences, creating a unique and unprecedented legal anomaly. “In all other areas of contract law those who break a contract are expected to compensate their partner,” writes Robert Whelan of London’s Institute of Economic Affairs, “but under a system of ‘no fault’ divorce, this essential element of contract law is abrogated.”

The result was to unleash precisely the moral and social chaos that it is the role of the family to control, and powerful interests were not slow to capitalize. Legal practitioners immediately began encouraging business by taking the side of the violator. Attorney Steven Varnis points out that “the law generally supports the spouse seeking the divorce, even if that spouse was the wrongdoer.” “No-fault” did not remove fault, therefore; it simply allowed government officials to redefine it however they pleased and to treat legally unimpeachable citizens as malefactors. “According to therapeutic precepts, the fault for marital breakup must be shared, even when one spouse unilaterally seeks a divorce,” observes Barbara Whitehead in The Divorce Culture. “Many husbands and wives who did not seek or want divorce were stunned to learn … that they were equally ‘at fault’ in the dissolution of their marriages.”

The judiciary was expanded from its traditional role of punishing crime or tort to refereeing private family life and punishing personal imperfections. One could now be summoned to court without having committed any legal infraction; the verdict was pre-determined; and one could be punished for things that were not illegal. Lawmakers created an “automatic outcome,” writes Judy Parejko, author of Stolen Vows. “A defendant is automatically found ‘guilty’ of irreconcilable differences and is not allowed a defense.”

Though marriage is a civil matter, the logic quickly extended into the criminal, including a presumption of guilt against the involuntarily divorced spouse (“defendant”). Yet formal due process protections of criminal proceedings did not apply, so forcibly divorced spouses became quasi-criminals not for recognized criminal acts but for failing or refusing to cooperate with the divorce by continuing to claim the protections and prerogatives of family life: living in the common home, possessing the common property, or—most vexing of all—parenting the common children.

Following from this are the horrendous civil liberties violations and flagrant invasions of family and individual privacy that are now routine in family courts. A personalized criminal code is legislated by the judge around the forcibly divorced spouse, controlling their association with their children, movements, and finances. Unauthorized contact with their children can be punished with arrest. Involuntarily divorced parents are arrested for running into their children in public, making unauthorized telephone calls, and sending unauthorized birthday cards.

Cardinal Kasper’s agenda ignores all this and will certainly make it worse. Indeed, what he is demanding is a kind of no-fault church discipline, which will debase the Eucharist and church membership, just as no-fault divorce has already debased marriage and the secular justice system, by allowing clergy to redefine sin and cheapen repentance: “If a divorced and remarried person is truly sorry that he or she failed in the first marriage … can we refuse him or her the sacrament of penance and communion?” But sincere repentance requires an effort to rectify the harm caused by one’s sin. Does the Cardinal’s definition of “truly sorry” entail undertaking to compensate one’s former spouse for being summarily evicted from his or her home, or deprived of his children, or serving jail time for unauthorized parenting or trumped-up accusations of “child abuse” or “domestic violence” that are now routine in divorce proceedings? Does it include compensating one’s children for depriving them of a father throughout their childhood? These are the realities of modern divorce, not the sanitized understanding being presented by the Cardinal.

But perhaps the most explosive question: Why is the Church not willing to sort out the difference, both in its doctrine and in each individual case? Is it because the distinction between justice and injustice—central to the Gospel itself—would force the Church to confront the injustices perpetrated by a state that has dangerously overstepped its authority and the Church’s own failure to act as the society’s conscience on a matter involving its own ministry?

For the Church is simply following the politicians. In contrast with same-sex marriage, abortion, and pornography, politicians and even self-described “pro-family” groups studiously avoid challenging divorce laws. “Opposing gay marriage or gays in the military is for Republicans an easy, juicy, risk-free issue,” Gallagher writes. “The message [is] that at all costs we should keep divorce off the political agenda.” The exception proves the rule. When Pope John Paul II spoke out in January 2002—calling divorce a “festering wound” with “devastating consequences that spread in society like the plague”—he was attacked not only from the left but also by conservatives like Tunku Varadarajan in the Wall Street Journal.

Likewise, this power grab by ideologues and state functionaries at the expense of the family and private sphere of life was met by the churches with silence. Here is a sacrament consecrated by the Church, vowed before God and witnessed by the congregation. The state comes along and simply tears it up, and the Church mounts no serious response.

In the showdown that never took place over sexual morality and the supervision of private family life, this was the moment the two jurisdictions were forced into a direct confrontation and the state simply and decisively told the Church who is boss. From the moment that the Church failed to inform the state that it could not simply countermand God’s covenant governing the family, the Church has been little more than an ornament in marriage and therefore in the lives of most people.

Marriage is today the most critical interface of church and state. Whoso controls marriage governs society, not least because it becomes “the hand that rocks the cradle.”

This rivalry is not apparent in the terms by which marriage is contracted and consecrated. Here church and state cooperate quite effortlessly: a ceremony, a signature.

Where the power struggle ensues is in the terms by which a marriage can be dissolved, and it was the Divorce Revolution that precipitated the battle that the Church refused to fight. The Church, along with its Protestant counterparts, ceded to the state the authority to dissolve marriages at its own pleasure and on its own terms and to erect a regime of governmental micromanagement over the private lives of the contracted parties, innocent as well as guilty—all without scrutiny or objection by these churches who consecrated the supposedly sacred union.

Far from upholding a sacred covenant, the churches, both Catholic and Protestant, are thus parties to a fraudulent contract. They have allowed their marriage ministry to become a bait-and-switch, luring unsuspecting parties into a supposedly binding and lifelong union, where they are then sitting ducks for state functionaries to come along and simply tear up the covenant and seize control over their lives and children. And the state tears up not only the secular contract, but the covenant between the spouses, the congregation, and God. The state’s edict countermands the churches’ covenant and with it the churches’ entire authority. With the churches’ acquiescence, the state’s officials put God in His place.

However impeccable the churches’ doctrine, and whatever verbal lamentations they have expressed over divorce “culture,” what the churches have not done is resist the state’s claim to monopoly control over the terms of divorce and to supervise the private lives of the forcibly divorced: the churches have never raised their voices against the state’s usurpation of power; they have never defended innocent victims of the unilateral divorce injustice or interposed themselves between the state and innocent spouses; they have never challenged state functionaries taking the homes and children of innocent people; they have never gone to court to see that justice is done to the involuntarily divorced; they have never campaigned to change the laws governing divorce or prevent the enactment of more; and they have never even discussed the possibility of threatening to not consecrate marriage covenants until the state stops unilaterally tearing them up.

This is demanding a lot from the churches and all of us. But less existential confrontations with the state faced churchmen like Ambrose and Becket and Fisher, and nothing less is required if the churches expect to withstand the crisis posed not only by figures like Cardinal Kasper but also the larger radical sexual regime: same-sex marriage, abortion-on-demand, sex education, Obamacare, plus the creeping criminalization of parents and others who dissent, including ordinary Christians.

Divorce is where Christians can and must draw a line and launch a vigorous counterattack that will enlist stakeholders from secular society: ordinary citizens who can at last be brought to realize why the Church and God must have a central place in both our public and private lives if we are to have any private lives at all.

Stephen BaskervilleStephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

This article was originally published on Crisis Magazine.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

The Crisis, Part I The Politicization of Education

 
“We must organize the Intellectuals.”
– Willi Münzenberg

“I sing in praise of college,
“Of M.A.’s and Ph.D.’s,
“But in pursuit of knowledge
“We are starving by degrees.”
– Popular ditty from the 1920s

In Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, Albert Jay Nock explained that a monkey can be trained, but only a small percentage of human beings can be educated. He added that his students at the Ivy League schools were, in large part, monkeys. But is that fair given the bureaucratic nature of universities then and now? A bureaucracy cannot teach children or adults how to think. Bureaucracies can give standardized tests, and offer standardized curriculum. They can offer one-size-fits-all programs, and even “elite” programs; but everything is based on the law of averages, and groupthink, and a type of intellectual conformism. If Marshall McLuhan was right to say the “medium is the message” then if the medium is a bureaucratized school, the message signifies the bureaucratization of the human mind. The fact that billions of dollars have been poured into this kind of education, and that it produces increasingly dismal results year after year, testifies to a kind of mass stupidity – a readiness for intellectual shackles.

Consider what our schools now teach: The typical high school textbook features Senator Joseph McCarthy as the main villain of American history, and Martin Luther King, Jr. as the main hero. Very little is taught about George Washington or the Founding Fathers. The ever-present and subversive subtext redirects us to racism, sexism, and U.S. imperialism. Yes, this is the kind of history that is taught in U.S. schools. The Founding Fathers were slave owners, right? George Washington was rich, right? Even Lincoln was a racist. And if a high school junior knows nothing else about the country’s history, she knows this.  A moralistic judgment about the past is presented, showing that our forefathers were racists and homophobes. In this way the past is discounted. In this manner a war is waged against certain traditions and sentiments, all presented in a one-sided way by educational bureaucrats. Of course, everything presented is factual – or mostly factual. It is presented, however, to students that have not been properly taught how to read. These students arenever given the task of organizing their own ideas, since their ideas have already been organized for them. The facts used in school textbooks are carefully selected in advance, through a process of careful editing.

Edmund Burke once observed of the French Revolutionaries, “It is undoubtedly true, though it may seem paradoxical; but in general, those who are habitually employed in fault finding and displaying faults, are unqualified for the work of reformation: because their minds are not only unfurnished with patterns of the fair and good, but by habit they come to take no delight in the contemplation of those things.” The teaching of history has become a kind of tearing down of the past, a slandering of our forefathers. This does not help young people at all; rather, it hurts them. It disarms them before their enemies. It fills them with a vague sense of guilt. And as Burke says, it leaves them without positive inspiration.

Many decades ago, Jose Ortega y Gasset noted that the modern university “has abandoned almost entirely the teaching or transmission of culture.” And there is no doubt he was right. A gigantic disconnect has occurred. We have failed to transmit our history, and we have also failed to transmit our culture. The other side of this coin is the collectivists’ war against the individual. Shorn of our patriotism and our sense of national self-preservation, the individual is shorn of autonomy by a process of “dumbing down.” Those who are ignorant and incompetent must be ineffectual as individual human beings. Such people are easily manipulated by deceptive demagogues.

Robin S. Eubanks has written a book titled Credentialed to Destroy: How and Why Education Became a Weapon. She argues that latter-day public education has been purposely designed to hinder the intellectual development of children. Near the end of her book, on page 358, she writes, “Education in the 21st century is no longer an end. It is a means of domination and enrichment and exploitation by a self-select few. That’s why when you cut through the layers of [today’s educational] theory … it is always human consciousness being manipulated and modified via education. Education remains the ultimate and timeless cultural weapon against the individual….”

I was recently invited to hear Ms. Eubanks give a talk in which she said, “This is about political power. There is no mass prosperity when political power and economic power are combined.” And this is what the schools are facilitating in the mind of the students; that is, the takeover of the economy by the state. In her book she points to educators who are quoting from Karl Marx (in an elliptical fashion) about the collectivization of the mind “by converting the aims of the individual into general aims.” According to Eubanks, “That’s easier to do if the individual is only marginally literate with little factual knowledge.”

This is a terrible thing to do to the young, and it is not the only terrible thing being done. The attack on history, the cultural disconnect, and the dumbing down of the students, is accompanied by an outright denial of human nature itself. This is the part of the educational assault that gives the game away. For thousands of years philosophers have argued about human nature, but few denied there was such a thing. Such a denial is, in fact, contrary to reason if we consider the definition of the word nature (as given by Google): “the basic or inherent features of something, especially when seen as characteristic of it.”

It would be laughable to argue that human beings have no basic or inherent characteristics. Yet this is what modern social scientists and educators are taught to believe. If this sounds strange, read the blog entry of Rationally Speaking for 17 November 2008. It is titled “Is there such a thing as human nature?” – written by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a “philosopher” at the City University of New York. Pigliucci relates an incident when he was co-teaching a course at Stony Brook University with another professor. “At some point the issue of ‘human nature’ came up, and my colleague looked at me with a mix of surprise and pity; human nature, she maintained, is a quaint concept that has been long abandoned by serious scholars….”

In Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, we read how the academic battle against the very concept of human nature has involved “political smears” and “personal attacks” against researchers who uphold the idea that humanity has “basic or inherent features.” According to Pinker, “The taboo on human nature has not just put blinkers on researchers but turned any discussion of it into a heresy that must be stamped out. Many writers are so desperate to discredit any suggestion of an innate human constitution that they have thrown logic and civility out the window.” Of course, this is to be expected insofar as we are talking about a war that is being waged all around us. For this denial of human nature is not some silly academic game. It is indeed a war waged in earnest, according to a strategic concept which requires that certain ideas prevail. These ideas, it turns out, set the stage for a general assault on the pillars which uphold civil society; for as Pinker explains in his book, “The denial of human nature has spread beyond the academy and has led to a disconnect between intellectual life and common sense.”

In a psychological war, waged to overthrow existing society, the elimination of common sense may be understood as the negation of our basic instincts; first, a negation of the instinct for self-preservation; second, a negation of the instincts of husbandry; third, the negation of the instincts of wifery All these negations are observable in the foreign and domestic policies of the United States. We see it in our trade policy, in government finance, in the family courts, and – yes – in education.

The educational program of America today is a negation of man’s nature, man’s common sense, and man’s instincts. To escape the violence of chaos and civil war a country must have various institutions where legitimate authority exists and is exercised. This authority relies on common sense and instinct (i.e., human nature). To function properly a family requires the authority of the father, which is “patriarchal” authority. In terms of the national government, we may refer to the patriarchy of the Founding Fathers.

It is not for me to prove that authority has a sexual component. Ask any mother of a teenage boy. No further proof is needed. If masculine authority is denied, what happens to masculinity and what happens to authority? Do they collapse? Is the one castrated and the other neutered? To accomplish this, one has recourse to homosexual advocacy. For the masculine, by nature, rejects the homosexual and has – throughout history – been opposed to homosexuality which it considers “effeminate.” By normalizing homosexuality the natural authority of the masculine is negated. Once again, the tactic adopted fits the strategic end. The way is paved to revolution. Tradition cannot be maintained in church or state. It breaks down and all forms of authority break down with it. For all of them are rooted in patriarchy, and patriarchy cannot coexist with its nemesis. A profound anarchy and changeability takes hold of society as fashion supplants principle, permissiveness supplants discipline, and emotionalism rides roughshod over rational insight.

It is not a coincidence that today’s education produces effects detrimental to political and religious authority, to principle, discipline and reason. What is intriguing is the way that all these developments serve the strategic interest of a particular power and a particular cause – almost as if we were looking at a clandestine method for disrupting society. Would it surprise you if such a method was developed long ago by Willi Münzenberg (1889-1940) of the Communist International? “We must organize the intellectuals,” he told the Comintern. “We must avoid being a purely communist organization.” For in this circumstance many seeds must be planted in the minds of impressionable children and young adults. InThe ABC of Communism N.I. Bukharin and E. Preobrazhensky wrote: “the Communist Party is not merely faced by constructive tasks, for in the opening phases of its activity it is likewise faced by destructive tasks. In the educational system … it must hasten to destroy everything which has made the school an instrument of capitalist class rule.”

Would this not entail the destruction of common sense, the denial of human nature and instinct, the negation of legitimate authority and civil order? Münzenberg believed that all aspects of society make up a new political battlefield. And the high ground of this battlefield is found in education; and this high ground must be seized at the earliest opportunity.  The victims in this battle cannot see they are under attack. They do not know what a cultural weapon is, or how psychological warfare paves the way to their eventual destruction. Our leaders and our people believe that instinct is a myth used by reactionaries to preserve male privilege and its lamentable homophobia. Away with masculinity! It is reactionary! It is a threat!

“No shepherd, and one herd!” wrote Nietzsche. “Everyone wants the same; everyone is equal: he who has other sentiments goes voluntarily into the madhouse.”

The Supreme Court has declared that marriage is between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, and unions of this kind are no different than the union of man and woman. This shows that the poison has reached the vital organs. And we have no antidote. In fact, we manufacture the poison ourselves and do not need the originators of the poison to continue making it.

“A little poison now and then; that makes pleasant dreams,” wrote Nietzsche. “And much poison at last for a pleasant death.”

Jeffrey Nyquist is the President of the Strategic Crisis Center and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Political Science at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought.

This article was originally published at jrnyquist.com on July 25, 2015. The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

Jeffrey Nyquist, Olavo de Carvalho, and Diana West Talk About Communist Subversion in Latin America

Diana West, author of American Betrayal Jeffrey Nyquist, author of Origins of the Fourth World War, and Olavo de Carvalho, Brazilian philosopher who authored a dozen books in Brazil and debated Russian geopolitical strategist Aleksandr Dugin, join Allan dos Santos, host of Update Brazil, to talk about the Communist Subversion in Latin America.

Dilmish 101: Crash Course on the Brazilian President’s Dilma Rousseff’s Speech Style

Note: The quotes from President Dilma’s speeches were carefully translated from the Portuguese. What you are going to read is, unfortunately, an accurate rendition of her words and meaning (or lack thereof).

In a speech delivered last April, former Brazilian President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), manifesting his support for his successor, President Dilma Rousseff (2011-present), promised she would make the Brazilian people smile again. Most Brazilians would probably agree with that, but not for the same reasons he might have had in mind when he said it.

The truth is that President Rousseff has demonstrated her ability to produce mirth among the audience on the many occasions when she decided to speak her mind publicly without preparation. In almost every impromptu speech she has delivered, it is possible to find moments in which a rare combination of words, ideas, and images makes her audience think in astonishment: “No, she did not say that.” Thanks to her repeatedly disastrous and unintentionally comic speeches, she has become known as the queen of nonsense, and her peculiar oratorical style has been dubbed “Dilmês,” which can be roughly translated into English as “Dilmish.”

Her memorable lines in Dilmish have given rise to a new comedy genre on the Brazilian web, which essentially consists in simply compiling and exhibiting her gems of thought in articles, videos, memes, and songs. In her almost five years as president, she has said so many things, so badly put, and so often, that there is a true treasury of Dilmish wisdom available on the internet.

For example, last week, in a speech delivered at the ceremony that launched the First World Games of Indigenous Peoples to be held in Brazil in October this year, President Dilma Rousseff made her audience smile over and over again by offering them a remarkable series of sentences so badly crafted that they immediately became brilliant jewels of unintentional humor and major internet hits.

After ten minutes of standard welcome and praise to national and international guests, Rousseff finally decided to improvise and make some laudatory remarks about the indigenous peoples of Brazil, but with the Dilmish mode already fully on, what ended up coming out of her mouth was this:

“I believe that we need to be proud about the historical formation of this country, and going beyond the fact that each indigenous people represents a specific culture, we need to be immensely proud of being a mixture of many ethnicities in the make-up of the Brazilian nation. And here today, we hail one of them: we salute the indigenous ethnicity, which gave us, as the vice-governor of this state, here representing the governor, mentioned before, the flavor of the names that are present in all of our cities. True, but I also would like to hail something else, since no civilization was born without some form of staple food. And we have one here, as the American Indians and indigenous peoples have theirs, we have yuca. And here we are sharing yucca with corn. And certainly, we will have a whole series of other products that were essential for the development of all human civilization throughout the centuries. So, here, today, I salute yuca. I think it is one of the greatest conquests of Brazil.

 

It is hard to find a real rational explanation for why she suddenly decided to go from praising Brazilian Indians to talking about yuca (AKA cassava) and why she uttered those last three sentences of her yuca- cheering speech. The whole thing becomes even more comical when you are informed that the word yuca is a vulgar synonym for the male sexual organ in Brazilian Portuguese (because of the suggestive shape of the yuca root).

But that was not all for the day.

During her speech President Rousseff kept under one of her arms a hand-made leaf ball that, according to her, was a gift from participant from New Zealand, and just after her yuca salutation, she proceeded to attempt a quite risky mental maneuver for a thinker of her class: to use the leaf ball as a symbol for the practice of sports as a characteristically human activity. Speaking her mind like there was no tomorrow, Rousseff, in a theoretical flight of fancy, managed to concoct the following narrative:

“I am sure about this, and here I would like to show our long-established relation with sports. Here is a ball that I have been testing all the time. It is ball that was given to me by Terena and that I will take with me—and it will last as long as it takes. This ball comes from far away, from New Zealand. And it is a ball that I think it is an example, it is extremely light. I have already tried it, and it bounces. I tried it myself, I did one kick-up, no, I lie, half a kick-up. Well, but I think that the importance of a ball is precisely this: it is a symbol of the capacity that makes us different as . . . we belong to the human genus, to the sapiens species. We are those that have the capacity to play games. For this is what playing is about: the important thing is not to win, but to celebrate. That is the human, ludic, capacity of taking part in an activity whose end is itself, the activity itself.

So, sports have this characteristic, this blessing. Sports are an end to themselves, and that’s why they are not about winning, but about celebrating, about participating in the World Games of Indigenous Peoples. It is to participate celebrating the meaning of this activity that first characterizes children. The ludic activity of playing, the ludic activity of being able of playing.

So, to me, this ball is a symbol of our evolution. When we created a ball like this, we became homo sapiens or women sapiens.”

 It did not take long, of course, for the yuca and “women sapiens” sections of her speech to take over the web in Brazil in the form of a variety of jokes. Perhaps one of the most delightfully creative comic pieces created was this songified version of President Rousseff’s statements (see an English translation for the lyrics below):

 

 

“I salute yuca.

I salute yuca.

We are sharing yuca with corn.

We are sharing yuca with corn.

And certainly, we will have a whole series of other products that were essential for the development of all human civilization.

I salute yuca.

I salute yuca.

I think it is one of the greatest conquests of Brazil.

I salute yuca.

I salute yuca.

When we created a ball like this, we became homo sapiens or women sapiens.

So, to me, this ball is a symbol of our evolution.

Yuca.

We are sharing yuca with corn.

We are sharing yuca with corn.

I salute yuca.

I salute yuca.”

 

Once again I must remind my readers that those quotations from President Rousseff are actually representative samples of her speech style. They are not simply a non-habitual poor choice of words that was made in a really bad day the President had, nor are they a selection of sentences carefully put together to misrepresent her meaning. There are literally dozens of other speeches that could be quoted here to bear out the existence of the Dilmish language, and some of them are as good (or bad) as the ones above. In short, make no mistake: the woman really talks like that.

As another example, consider an excerpt from the speech she delivered on Children’s Day (celebrated on October 12 in Brazil) in 2013. She was in an important capital city, Porto Alegre, of an important southern State, Rio Grande do Sul, and the bulk of her speech was really about the Federal Administration’s new public transportation program and the opening of that city’s first subway. However, since it was also Children’s Day, a date devoted to celebrate the rights of children, President Rousseff thought it would be nice to say some words about it. So, again, after the standard introduction of greetings and praises, she activated the Dilmish mode and fired away:

“And, in particular, since I am here in this city that is so dear to me, Porto Alegre, I would like to greet Mayor Fortunati and his wife, First-Lady Regina Becker. If today is Children’s Day, yesterday I sad that a child . . . (pause) Children’s Day is Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Teachers’ Day as well, but it is also Animals’ Day. Whenever you look at a child, there is always a hidden figure, which is a dog behind the child, which is something really important. So, Regina also praise you for your dedication to that cause.”

 That was literally it. She did not further elaborate upon it, nor did it become somewhat clear later on in her speech why she chose those words. That was all of it. And this is a perfect example of another important kind of Dilmish: the one in which she suddenly veers off-topic, and you have a slight hope she will eventually come back, put all pieces together, and make her point; but she never does. She just goes off-topic for no reason.

Another fantastic species of Dilmish is that in which she actually tries to make a point by stretching the resources of language to the outer limits of human logic, and the result is usually the verbal correspondent of a surrealist painting. A good example of that is the answer she gave in a TV interview in September 2010 when asked to give her opinion about the competition between opposing parties on a referendum to decide about the legalization of abortion in Brazil. According to her:

“I don’t think that whoever wins or loses, neither whoever wins, nor whoever loses, will win or will lose. Everybody will lose.”

That is also a good example of one of the beauties of Dilmish: you can make your own interpretation of the President’s words. Since you cannot really take what she says literally, you are free to exercise your hermeneutical skills and come up with the meaning you think she had in mind. It is not a game deprived of fun, if you have the time to spare, and there are many Brazilian websites and YouTube videos in which collection of sentences like that are grouped under the head “What the heck was President Dilma trying to say?” Here are some of my all-time favorites:

“All of us know that each of us choose—and life makes us choose—some of the days in which we will never forget that day.”

“The environment is, no doubt, a threat to sustainable development. And that means that it is a threat to the future of our planet.”

“It is interesting that in Brazil you are oftentimes, as Brazilians usually say, criticized for having a dog and sometimes for not having a dog. That is an interesting criticism that takes place in Brazil.”

“And we have created a program that I would like to speak with you about, which is the Science Without Borders program. Why would I like to speak about Science Without Borders to you? It is because in all others . . . because we are going to launch Science Without Borders 2. The number 1 is 100,000, but it will have to continue to do Science without Borders in Brazil.”

“By the way, once I was told by a friend that this issue of men and women was no problem at all because women are the majority, but the other part. . . the other part of the majority is made up of men, all of them being born of a woman, and that’s why everything was all right: women together with women. Because men can have boys and girls and wives, but they necessarily have—and that’s not just a possibility, it is a necessity—a mother.”

“Paes [Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor] is the happiest mayor in the world, who runs the most important city in the world and in the whole galaxy. Why the whole galaxy? Because our galaxy is Rio de Janeiro. The Milky Way is nothing compared to the galaxy of which our dear Paes has the honor of being the mayor.”

As I think my readers can see it clearly now, something is rotten in the state of Brazil, and the stench is coming from the top.

 

This post was written by Alessandro Cota, philosophy and political science researcher at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought.