Thursday, May 6, 2010

Individualism, Academia, and anti-Americanism

            What is meant by the term "individualism"?  Does everyone using that term mean the same thing?  Is "individualism," however you mean it, a good or a bad thing?  A passage in note might help us a bit here:   ". . . Tocqueville accurately predicted that at the level of sociopolitical phenomena [individualism] constituted a dangerous, but not irresistible, tendency in modernity. The best definition no doubt follows from Benjamin Constant's deceptively simple formula of the 'freedom of the moderns.' Constant placed less stress on the valorization of autonomy than on independence: among the ancients, he explained in a famous speech delivered at the Athenee royal in Paris in 1819, freedom was defined in terms of participation in public affairs and the direct exercise of sovereignty, by this 'collective freedom' was held to be 'compatible with . . . the complete subjection of the individual to the authority of the community,' to the point that '[n]o importance was given to the individual independence, neither in relation to opinions, nor to labor, nor, above all, to religion''; in contrast, among the moderns, for whom the sovereignty of the individual was profoundly restricted, being publicly exercised only 'at fixed and rare intervals,' the individual nonetheless thinks of himself as free because he is 'independent in his private independence,' Constant added; and in an age where, '[l]ost in the multitude, the individual can almost never perceive the influence he exercises, . . . we must be far more attached than the ancients to our individual independence.'"
            Does Constant mean that because there are more of us, and since we cannot easily measure our role in national sovereignty, that we should seek "individual independence" in some other way?  And if so, what way?  One way that is extremely popular is to ignore our role in the sovereignty of our Liberal-Democracy and rebel against it.  That way was popularized in France as was discussed.  But is that a good way?  What does it accomplish?  We saw that in the case of France it contributed to German victory against them in World War II.  Surely that isn't a "good way."
            Consider the essay entitled "Liberalism and Higher Education" posted by yesterday at by Christopher O. TollefsenTollefsen quotes a passage from an Amy Gutmann essay on education:  "Higher education is a gateway to the professions in modern democracies and it is also an institution that serves as a bulwark against ideological repression by the state and other powerful political forces who are all too often motivated to repress ideas that are unpopular or offensive (or both)." 
            Tollefsen then writes, "Having just covered nearly the entire range of disputed ideas over which there could conceivably be an effort at 'ideological repression,' I was somewhat amused.  Gutmann's claims, particularly the second, struck me as rather self-congratulatory: look what a brave group we academics are, protecting out students from the powerful political forces seeking to illicitly mold their minds."
            Tollefsen argues that it isn't the government that is "motivated to repress ideas that are unpopular or offensive," but academia.  A moment's reflection ought to be enough to remind the reader that Academia is not, by and large, an open field of exploration.  It, with some exceptions, has an agenda that can be described as politically Liberal and anti-Nationalistic.  Amy Gutmann was very much in keeping with that agenda.  The individual's role in the sovereignty of the American Liberal Democracy can be ignored because he is too numerous for his particular role to be seen.  Therefore, the State is the enemy and needs to be resisted.  It is a good thing that Academia, that brave group of academics, is close at hand to steer students away from cooperating with that State.
            "Individualism" in America, as it was in France prior to World War II, is largely anti-Government -- opposed to the Government numerous individuals elected.  And if we were educated by Academia we were taught that we need to oppose our nation on every important issue, and not trust it on any.  By doing this we demonstrate our "Individualism."  In my opinion, we deceive ourselves when we follow that line of thought.  We are far from demonstrating "individualism" when we, sheep-like, follow a politically Liberal academic agenda.
            I would like to say that I believe in "individualism" if it can be defined as being free from Liberal Academic influence, but "individualism" as a term, has been corrupted in the same way that the term "Liberal" has been.  "Liberals" at the time of the formation of our nation were the ones who constructed our Constitution with its Bill of Rights.  "Liberals" today are opposed to that government that our "Liberal" founding fathers created.  If, today, you like what those Liberal founding fathers did, you've got to be a "Conservative to show it.
            By the same token, if you want to be "an individual" then you've got to conform to the agenda presented by our Politically Liberal academics.
            I wrote in a note the other day how various forces were turning us from "the subject," that is, free agents in control of our own wills, into "objects," that is, worked upon by various forces including: our unconscious, historical necessity, prisons and mental institutions, and our understanding of the world outside of our own existence.   We see that latter force, if we look for it, in Derrida as he "Deconstructed" almost everything.  I recall reading an article (unfortunately I can't bring its author to mind) who commented that Derrida had to un-Deconstruct, or exempt from deconstruction, some important element in order to express his political view.  I mention that only to show that even our language isn't available to us as "subjects."  We are "objects" even there and such politically Liberal wise-men as Derrida will have to be consulted so that we shall know how to use individual words and concepts -- if they can be used at all.

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