Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What Bourgeois Liberalism Should Be, Part II

As a follow up to the quote from the previous post I wanted to make some points clarifying my position on Emersonian liberalism. The first is that despite the contrast I was trying to show between classical, Emersonian liberalism and contemporary neoliberalism, there are points of similarity and in certain cases a direct line of connection concerning certain attitudes. Primarily, the Transcendentalists' predating a key characteristic of Boomerism, that of: "condemning the social practices and behavior of a class with whom they were closely connected by birth and education and of speaking for an underprivileged group with whom they had little in common."(*) Despite this, here is what I find to be the heart of Emerson's ideals:

a. An understanding that materialism, the idea that this is it, so to speak, leads to moral decay, stagnation of will and babbittry. To counter this, Emerson offers not the stupidity of the Abrahamic religions which dictates that the crap of this world is tolerable and should be even put up with because the next one is just dandy, but rather a Neoplatonic belief in the One and the World Spirit. Those individuals who recognize that there are ascending layers of reality beyond the material world can commune with the One/"Over-Soul" not by prayer (i.e. begging to an invisible man), but by becoming more active within this world, thinking critically about both pratical and philosophical matters and creating positive contributions that will continue to exist after one expires, i.e. works of music, art, and literature or institutions and businesses which contribute to one's community.

b. When Emerson talks about men achieving greatness, sharing a common ground based upon participation in the World Spirit and becoming men of Reason, given the time it was written, we can rightfully assume that by default he means men of European extraction. Since Emerson's writings predate our era where one cannot write an essay or utter a sentence without making all sorts of preconditions to include and not offend the world's diverse ethnic groups and cultures, we can be assured that he was writing solely for us white folks. This is not to say that those not of European extraction are incapable of the Reason which Emerson implores us to achieve, merely that their Reason would be different from ours as it comes from a different ethno-cultural source.

c. While Emerson and his fellow Transcendentalists, thankfully, didn't dwell too much on strict political matters, from the short summary Aaron gives us we can see that their spiritual beliefs would be compatible and best suited to a populace living within a decentralized, minarchist republic where free markets, free association and free trade are the norm. Also, given the note about Jeffersonian and Jacksonian overtones, we can probably assume that central banking was looked down upon and a agrarian economic backbone, which brings with it the principles of self-sufficiency and self-ownership, was supported. Also despite the obvious individualism inherent in Emerson's beliefs, there was no contradiction with the more collective demands that community life entails. In fact, Emerson's insistence on men of Reason contributing to vocations such as the arts and philosophy to serve [European-derived] humanity shows that a healthy, national culture was strongly promoted.

(*) It has long been my belief that people are heavily formed from the backgrounds which gave them birth. Trying to transcend one's class (in the form of the principles it fosters in you) or ethnicity (bear witness to the idiocy of wiggerdom or dreaded Trustafarians) is never a good idea. It is even more insidious when people try and tell groups of people different from their own how they should run their lives. While these displays are usually seen with liberal do-gooder groups ("Save Darfur!"), their roots lie with Christian missionaries and the need to proselytize (liberal groups also believe in a Manichean dualism albeit in secular garb). As we all know, the outcomes of these "transcenders" has never been good. In short, be honest where you come from and people will respect you.

No comments: