Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Black Knight.




Roissy today put up an interesting post with regard to the matter of Donald Trump. What's been interesting to see, at least from this side of the bigger pond, is just how much opprobrium Trump is getting from other "rightists" and from the Cathedral.  The supposedly Mordoch *"right wing" Fox News Network has been pretty hostile to him and  its actions confirm my view that it is a false flag operation of the Left, designed to provide prolefeed to the cognitive misers of the Right.

I'm not a big fan of Mr Trump for a variety of reasons which are not necessary for the purposes of this post, however, I admire him for his charisma, personality and his "alphatude", something the other runners are completely absent of.

Pious Christian types seem critical of his moral behaviour but what these types fail to recognise is that moral goodness and the skill of governance are independent variables.  The clearest example of the fallacy of this conflation came with Jimmy Carter, who was by the standards of politicians a morally upright man though a hopeless president. The problem for Christian critics of Trump is that there is no alternative to him who is both morally good and politically competent. Sometimes you have to chose the best from a bad bunch.

The heat that Trump gets from his other GOP hopefuls is another matter all together. As far as I can see, their main line of attack is to label him as not a nice man with regard to minorities. The operative word here being "nice".  Niceness, apparently, being a principle virtue desired amongst presidents whereas competence seems to be a secondary issue. As I've said on this blog before, it's important not to conflate the good with the nice.

This virtue of "niceness" is something that seems particular to Anglo-Saxon cultures. As someone who has straddled several European cultures it's been my observation that niceness is a higher virtue than goodness in countries with a predominantly Protestant Anglo-Saxon culture. Likewise, disagreeableness or offensiveness is seen as one of the greater vices in this sphere as well.  It's no surprise then that political correctness holds such power in this domain, for  the effectiveness of political correctness lays in its ability to co-opt preexisting social norms to further political ends.

For political correctness to work there must be two elements;

1) Firstly, a political body which claims personal injury through offence every time some point is put forward which they disagree with.
2) Secondly, a culture which values non-offensiveness above all else.

I want to dwell on this second point. In the Anglosphere particularly, modes and norms of behaviour were copied from the English, who until the mid 20th Century were the pre-eminent economic, military and cultural power on this Earth. The ideals of the English Aristocracy were aped by all who strived to achieve a higher social standing. So the morals and manners of England became the standard by which all others were judged and it was ideal which was highly emulated in other non-Anglo cultures as well.

Cardinal Newman*, a High Church Anglican intellectual of Oxford,  who eventually converted to Catholicism, gave perhaps the best description of what it meant to be a gentleman.
It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain. [ED] This description is both refined and, as far as it goes, accurate. He is mainly occupied in merely removing the obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him; and he concurs with their movements rather than takes the initiative himself. His benefits may be considered as parallel to what are called comforts or conveniences in arrangements of a personal nature: like an easy chair or a good fire, which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature provides both means of rest and animal heat without them. The true gentleman in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast; — all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his great concern being to make every one at their ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets every thing for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out. From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles; he submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny. [ED]If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blunder.
This gentlemanly ideal has a lot to recommend to it but in essence it boils down to one of cultivated passivity and service to others. Fair enough, but how compatible is this idea with Christianity, especially a Christianity that has to preach the Gospel amongst umbelievers, some of whom would be mightily offended? Is he a Gentleman first or a Christian second? What is a gentleman's duty to the Truth when it offends? Because by definition the Gentleman never offends, he withdraws.

Because as I see it, many Christians, especially those of the right wing variety are gentlemen first and Christians second. To them, offending a minority or a woman is more  of a sin than keeping silent about the truth lest ones behaviour be called uncouth.

The Mangina defence of MegYn Kelly is a case in point. Trump's put down of the the fair maiden was more vile than the fair maiden's abuse of her position as a journalist amongst many, particularly of the religious right.  Kelly, disabused her position as a journalist by trying to trap Trump in a "gotcha" moment, yet this is percieved amongst our religious wowsers as exusuable whereas a wude word is not? Christ's disciples, eh?

The primary duty of a Christian is to live the Gospel and proclaim the truth, no matter how offensive it is.  Sure, tact should be used when prudence calls for it but keeping silent simply by the principle that one should never offend effectively stops it expression. Hence, we arrive at the current situation where there are huge cultural problems which we cannot deal with out of fear of causing offense.  Furthermore, the Right self polices through unthinking adherence to the gentlemanly ideal being co-opted, allowing the Left to solely determine what is offensive or not.

As Christians, I think in many ways we need to revise the ideal of the knight. Of the man who could put on the hurt when he needs to but otherwise strive to be a man of peace. I'm no big fan of Trump, but from this perspective, he is more of a knight than a gentleman.

I don't know if Trump will become president or not but his greatest legacy may well be to reinvigorate the Right and ushering in a new age of assertiveness, finally ridding us of the "gentlemen" who would never offend anybody.


* Yes, I know it's Murdoch but Mordoch seems more appropriate.
* Newman may have his faults but he was also a superb intellect when it came to matters with regard to conscience.



12 comments:

Mark Citadel said...

Men are supposed to be just, not necessarily polite. In fact in many cases it is necessary to be IMPOLITE in order to be just. Kelly spoke completely out of turn, and Trump slapped her down. He is exhibiting some manhood, some backbone. This is why people are flocking to him like moths to a light bulb. The people have not seen muscle in politics in generations. The reason Putin runs rings around his liberal opposition is the same reason Trump is captivating audiences.

David Foster said...

I'm not sure Kelly's question was really an attempt to put the hurts to Trump. The "War on Women" meme will certainly be used to attack the Republican candidate, whoever that candidate may turn out to be, and it is not unreasonable during a Primary debate to investigate how the candidates will react to such attacks.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Mark

I don't think that it's just the muscularity, Trump is putting onto the public forum a topic "polite" society just refuses to bring up. The immigration issue has been a problem for a while and what surprises me the most is how few of the Republican right have taken it the issue. It's such low hanging fruit.

The interesting question for me is why is the topic verboten?

I think among the "cultivated Right" Trumps crassness and boorishness is a huge turn off and they would rather a polite but politically correct candidate than a boorish man. It's an interesting reflection on the hierarchy of their values. It's just occurred to me that Chersterton has an interesting essay on the subject I'll try and hunt it up for my next post.

@David

Disagree, I felt that it was an unfair and fundamentally irrelevant question to the whole issue of the Republican nomination and it is an opinion shared by a whole lot of other people as well. I'm no outlier on this one. Kelly aimed to disqualify Trump not on the basis of policy but by character assassination. Focusing on locker room type talk to illustrate what a really bad person he is. President's should never engage in that type of thing!

I do hope they pursue the "war on women thing" because I think it is going to backfire. He is already the preferred candidate amongst female republican voters. Amongst women, Alphaness crosses all political boundaries.

Btw, women can distinguish between good and bad variants of "misogyny". Bad misogyny, the type that stops women from reaching certain goals or achievements in life is definitely a turn off whilst a misogyny that playfully treats women as sexual objects is pretty much forgiven and in the presence of the right type of man, arousing.

Anonymous said...

What Trump is saying (on immigration, H1B visas and other topics) is what the mainstream GOP candidates won't. Why won't they? Because they all want the cheap labor and other short-term benefits their special interest patrons get at the expense of the American citizenry. They are part of the government leviathan/crony capitalist intersection that serves itself first while letting the people keep the crumbs.

People who considered themselves lifelong Republicans are waking up to the fact that the GOP is out for itself and its coterie of inside beneficiaries, and not for Main Street conservatives. Do I wish a candidate with a little less baggage was saying (and believed) what Trump is saying, sure. Where are they? Point them out to me.

The Social Pathologist said...

Do I wish a candidate with a little less baggage was saying (and believed) what Trump is saying, sure. Where are they? Point them out to me.

That's the point, there are no realistic alternatives to Trump out there at the moment. The big question is why? Where is the Christian alternative to him?

That's the big problem. There isn't. Something is profoundly wrong with the Christian community as evidenced by its inability to put forward leaders capable of leading and pushing back against the left wing assault and the more I look into this the more I'm convinced that masculinity in the Christian context has been seriously weakened.

TDOM said...

"This virtue of "niceness" is something that seems particular to Anglo-Saxon cultures. As someone who has straddled several European cultures it's been my observation that niceness is a higher virtue than goodness in countries with a predominantly Protestant Anglo-Saxon culture. Likewise, disagreeableness or offensiveness is seen as one of the greater vices in this sphere as well. It's no surprise then that political correctness holds such power in this domain, for the effectiveness of political correctness lays in its ability to co-opt preexisting social norms to further political ends."

I believe this is a by-product of the first half of the 20th century, namely WWI & WWII, which was then followed by the cold war which was an era of fear of world destruction. IMHO the idea that we should appease our enemies rather than provoke them was the result. This was compounded by the nastiness of McCarthy era in American politics which left a bad taste in the mouths of baby boomers who were coming of age as that era came to an end. This caused the left to embrace the "do unto others..." mantra of the Christain right. the era of "niceness" was born and manifested itself as "flower power" in the peace movement. It has continued to flourish.

As a person who has voted Republican only twice in the last 8 elections, I am watching the Trump candidacy unfold with both interest and amusement. amusement because he is likely to go the way of Ross Perot. Interest, because if he doesn't it is likely that he will get my vote. Despite my leftward leanings, I don't think America, let alne the rest of the world, can tolerate anothe Democrat in the White House right now.

Robert What? said...

I think it is quite ironic when pundits and politicians on the Left (and not a few on the supposed Right) criticize Trump for being racist and misogynist. Trump has created jobs and opportunities for many thousands of people including women and minorities. Yet he is being criticized by people who never created a job or an opportunity for anyone but themselves. Somehow talking "nice" is more righteous than providing tangible benefits to people. @SP, is that the kind of thing you mean?

The Social Pathologist said...

@TDOM

No, I don't think it is a post war phenomenon, it's rooted in the particularly in the Anglo-British psyche. Being agreeable is more important than being right. I can find the quote right now, but I remember Malcolm Muggeridge being amazed that a disreputable character such as the Aga Khan could be accepted in British society on the fact that he liked racing horses.

@Robert

Somehow talking "nice" is more righteous than providing tangible benefits to people. @SP, is that the kind of thing you mean?

Yep. Trump's failing in polite society is that he is brash, direct and assertive. Furthermore, he also explicitly measures himself by his wealth, which is not the done thing in polite society.

Anonymous said...

So on Cardinal Newman's definition, a gentleman would not punish crime or fight for his country? Both necessitate the infliction of pain. I haven't read Newman, but I suspect he was having an off day when he penned this. Here's Leo Strauss with what I see as the realistic view: "I illustrate decent and noble conduct by the remark that it is equally remote from inability to inflict physical or other pain as from deriving pleasure from inflicting pain."

The Social Pathologist said...

I haven't read Newman, but I suspect he was having an off day when he penned this

Newman's a good guy. Very good on the subject of conscience. In many ways he represents to the future of Western Christianity in that he represents a fusion of Protestant and Catholic thought into a coherent whole. But I agree, he was having an "off day."

I think Strauss hits the nail on the head though.

Cui Pertinebit said...

I'm quite sure that Newman understood a man's role is, sometimes, to inflict pain. What he means is that a gentleman exemplifies that Beatitudes of Christ, "Blessed are the gracious, for they shall inherit the Earth" ("meek" is a bad translation choice with its modern connotations) and "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be the sons of God." The gentleman is the man who, so far as it is moral and he is able to contrive it, strives to fulfill his professional, social and private duties with as much gentleness, conciliation and peaceable comportment, without rancor or brashness or bluster, towards others. If he has to fire a man, he tries to do it without humiliating the man in front of others; if he has to disappoint a woman, he tries to lower the boom gently. In other words, when the unpleasant things in life arise, he seeks for the kindest way of doing them and seeks to spare others pain. This assumes a context of civility.

But Cardinal Newman certainly would never have said that when bare-chested lesbians are defecating in your office and demanding reparations for the oppression of trannies, a gentleman should mildly remonstrate with them in hopes that they may reconsider. I'm sure Newman knew that, sometimes, the only quiet a man should know is the brief halcyon while reloading.

Ludovico said...

In my reckoning you're all viewing politics with too much naivity. It's theatre. Trump isn't a real person, his personality will have no impact on governance.

If you want to be a reactionary you have to give up these lousy preoccupations. A reactionary polity can be managed by a lout with high management skill just as well as it can by a gentleman with high management skill.