C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères, La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère. Il y a des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves, Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Engage in a bit of self-harm.

This is old news, but still worth a cheap laugh or two.

A magazine called, rather touchingly, Human Events, (described by Wiki as a 'weekly conservative magazine'), regularly puts out a series of 'Top Ten' lists, written with the US far-right agenda firmly in mind.

Several of them are chuckle-worthy, but one that I found quite revealing of a particular mindset was entitled 'Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries'. Let's see if we can catch a glimpse of America's finest 'conservative' reasoning at work - the list of modern literature's most diabolical creations is as follows:

1. The Communist Manifesto (Marx & Engels)
This one is no surprise. After all, everybody knows that it's only right-wing evangelical Christians who are the revolutionary class these days. They describe Engels as 'the original limousine leftist'. I guess these days, we Australian would simply call him a 'latte leftist', or 'chardonnay socialist'. Topping the list by a long way, this little book:

(E)nvisions history as a class struggle between oppressed workers and
oppressive owners, calling for a workers’ revolution so property, family and
nation-states can be abolished and a proletarian Utopia established. The Evil
Empire of the Soviet Union put the Manifesto into practice.

Actually, the 'Evil Empire' didn't, but that's history for you.

2. Mein Kampf (Hitler)
I haven't actually read this one, in fairness, and I doubt it has anything of value in it. I doubt history would have altered one iota had Hitler not published, given that I've heard it described as 'turgid' and 'vacuous'. Still, budding Nazis used to hand copies of this out as wedding gifts (what happened to coffee makers?), and I'd be surprised if it wasn't filled with all kinds of racist, anti-democratic, anti-leftist ranting. One for the Alan Jones set, I suppose.

3. Quotations from Chairman Mao
As the fundies put it:

Aided by compulsory distribution in China, billions were printed. Western
leftists were enamored with its Marxist anti-Americanism. “It is the task of the
people of the whole world to put an end to the aggression and oppression
perpetrated by imperialism, and chiefly by U.S. imperialism,” wrote Mao.

Billions? China's a populous place, but I hope you're not exaggerating there, guys. And so what if Mao spoke out against 'US imperialism'? It obviously didn't work.

4. The Kinsey Report
From a psychoanalytic perspective, I can't think of anything worse than sitting down to read some 'sexologists' bloated musings on sexual behaviour, backed up by half-arsed statisticising. Still, calling it harmful is a bit of a stretch. The Righteous explain the source of their concern:

“Kinsey’s initial report, released in 1948 . . . stunned the nation by
saying that American men were so sexually wild that 95% of them could be accused
of some kind of sexual offense under 1940s laws,” the Washington Times reported
last year when a movie on Kinsey was released.

Apart from the fact that the newspaper report about the book, rather than the book itself, is examined by the rightards, I think the above quote tells us that there's more wrong with America's 1940s laws than with Kinsey's report.

5. Democracy and Education (Dewey)
Think of evil, and I'm guessing that for most people, philosopher and education reformer John Dewey isn't the first name that comes to mind. Then again, Human Events tells us that 'He signed the Humanist Manifesto and rejected traditional religion and moral absolutes'. Yep, those damned Humanists, with their cross-burnings, and wars and...I mean, with their manifestos, and books, and with the signings, and such.

His views had great influence on the direction of American
education--particularly in public schools--and helped nurture the Clinton

Gasp! Not Clinton! The semi-competent president who was marginally less conservative than Reagan and the Bushes! If only he had offered Lewinsky a cigar instead of a harmful book...

6. Das Kapital (Marx)
Very impressive Karl - you've got two gongs already. If that's not a glowing reference, I don't know what is. But isn't Das Kapital a bit too wordy and philosophical to be truly harmful? Not according to Human Events, because this book is about:

portraying capitalism as an ugly phase in the development of human society
in which capitalists inevitably and amorally exploit labor by paying the
cheapest possible wages to earn the greatest possible profits.

This is obviously false, when capitalism is really about fairness and bunny rabbits, and capitalists are generous, and Kris Kringle-like. Just ask free-market Colombia, or capitalist paradise Djibouti.

Marx theorized that the inevitable eventual outcome would be global proletarian

Er, not in any of the four volumes of Das Kapital, he didn't.

He could not have predicted 21st Century America: a free, affluent society
based on capitalism and representative government that people the world over
envy and seek to emulate.

Ha ha ha! Great satire, guys!

7. The Feminine Mystique (Friedan)
Here, feminism rears its ugly, equality-demanding head. Our brilliant authors at Human Events manage, in a showcase of brevity and wit, to sum up Friedan's life work:

Her original vocation, tellingly, was not stay-at-home motherhood but
left-wing journalism.

Enough said.

8. The Course of Positive Philosophy (Comte)
We've had feminists, communists, and humanists, so, for the sake of completeness, we needed at least on French philosopher on the list. Unfortunately, these guys seemed to have picked the one French philosopher unlikely to be read by anybody outside of a Sorbonne philosophy course, with a major in obscurantism.

Comte's shtick ('Love as a principle and order as the basis; Progress as the goal') was to abandon organised religion in favour of science. This was only mildly racy in 19th Century France, but is apparently harmful to 21st Century America, because whilst Comte espoused universal principles of reason:

He did so while theorizing that the human mind had developed beyond
“theology” (a belief that there is a God who governs the universe), through
“metaphysics” (in this case defined as the French revolutionaries’ reliance on
abstract assertions of “rights” without a God), to “positivism,” in which man
alone, through scientific observation, could determine the way things ought to

Ah, those pesky metaphysicians, wasting their time on 'abstract assertions' of human rights 'without a God'. No wonder the UN doesn't work!

For the record, I think that positivism is crap. Still, it looks pretty smart when compared to 'Intelligent Design'.

9. Beyond Good and Evil (Nietzsche)
One of my favourites, the authors offer little in the way of reasons to consider Nietzsche 'harmful', except for this quote from the text:

“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,” he wrote.

Nietzsche is possibly quite wrong here, and could have been corrected if 'life' was replaced with 'consumer capitalism'...The authors point out, correctly, that the Nazis were fans of Nietzsche. They failed to point out that the Nazis could only produce a sympathetic reading of Nietzsche by cherry-picking through his quotes in a grotesquely self-serving manner, and omitting vast amounts of his work. A bit like the way a conservative 'reads' the Bible: Christ apparently was, after all, a homophobe, who, um, drank little wine, and who may not really have saved the alleged adulteress from death by stoning.

10. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (Keynes)
One of the more ghastly of the evil tomes, this one advocates, (wait for it!), government intervention in the economy! Obviously, only the most reckless of parents would allow their innocent children to read something like this.

A number of other books got 'honourable mentions' from the conservatives. Here is a round up of the highlights:

What Is To Be Done by V.I. Lenin: What! They don't like Lenin...

Authoritarian Personality by Theodor Adorno: He wasn't that big on capitalism. Or authoritarians.

On Liberty by John Stuart Mill: The title is reason enough to avoid this subversive trash.

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin: Down with biology.

Madness and Civilization by Michel Foucault: How is this harmful? He's French; case closed.

Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader: He's a consumer advocate, and not a Republican. Pure villainy and scum, in other words.

Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir: More feminist claptrap. Every fundie knows that women are not the second sex, but the third. After mules.

Prison Notebooks by Antonio Gramsci: God only knows what a communist would get up to in prison.

Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon: You stand up for the third world, you deserve to be called harmful.

Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud: Whoops, with all the Marx, Nietzsche, and now Freud, I've been triple-harmed. But let's face it, the Three Essays on Sexuality are much saucier.

The Greening of America by Charles Reich: A dirty hippie. Decadent society. If books of this sort continue, we will inevitably see a social revolution, like women smoking unaccompanied at the opera. Or Woodstock.

Descent of Man by Charles Darwin: That's two for Darwin. Sure, the guy was a big Anglican. But we all know, the only 'descent' in Darwin's work was his descent into immorality and science.

That's the list done - I bet their top ten 'most helpful' books would make for an enlightening read...But that's enough for conservatives on literature - time for a shower.