15
   

Anti-intellectualism in Middle America.

 
 
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 11:30 am
@georgeob1,
Quote:
Lewis himself was from the midwest, but he identified himself with the "Progressive" political movement in American politics - something that began very early in the century (or before). Such things become conflated and entangled in the real world.


Your second sentence says a mouthful. Despite the current contention (mostly among academics), the "progressive" movement began among Republicans in the late 19th century, and not as is the contemporary claim, among Democrats and socialists in the early 20th century. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. and Henry Cabot Lodge were both Republican progressives in the 1870s and 1880s. When Roosevelt ran independently against Taft and Wilson in 1912, he named his party the Progressive Party. He is said to have written: ""To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day."--as a part of the Progressive Party platform, and he makes that claim himself in his autobiography.

Roosevelt entered the state assembly in New York in 1881, dropping out of Columbia Law School to do so (he had graduated Harvard in the previous year). He wrote and submitted more legislation than any other Republican assemblyman during his tenure, and almost all of his bills were focused on attempting to end what he thought of as the alliance between corrupt businessmen and corrupt politicians. His first fight was over elevated railway fares in New York, and he didn't start small, he took on Tammany Hall and Jay Gould.

Both Roosevelt and Lodge could not in good conscience support James G. Blaine in 1884. In those days, candidates for the office of President did not personally campaign, and both Lodge and Roosevelt were already well know as tireless campaigners, and appreciated for it despite the annoyance they caused with their "progressive" ideas. They were considered radicals by the establishment Republicans, the party bosses. Their refusal to campaign for Blaine (he was probably no more corrupt than most senators of the day, when most of them were still appointed rather than elected at large, but he was considerably more ham-handed and indiscrete; truth be told, if Lodge and Roosevelt knew about it, just about everybody did--they were not privy to the secrets of the inner circles of power in the Republican Party) was considered an unforgivable betrayal. Roosevelt's unpopularity with the Republican bosses continued right up to 1900, when the party boss in New York, who absolutely writhed with frustration at seeing Roosevelt in the Governor's mansion, engineered a tour de force end run on Mark Hanna (McKinley's political handler and biggest contributor), and got Roosevelt put on the ticket as McKinley's Vice Presidential candidate. Talk about kicking yourself.

William Howard Taft was considered by Lodge and Roosevelt to be a progressive, too. Lodge was the "elder statesman" of the powerful duo, being older than Roosevelt, and having been appointed to the Senate in 1893. Ironically, Lodge had no such problems with the Party establishment, because he was a staunch supporter of conservative planks in the Party's platforms--but he and Roosevelt saw eye to eye on the necessity of ending political corruption and the influence of capital in the Party, and they both were ideologically opposed to "trusts" and devoted to the notion that the party of Lincoln must support the common man. Roosevelt, however, felt that Taft had betrayed their progressive principles once he got in the White House, and felt especially betrayed since he felt that Taft could not have been elected without his support--a claim subject to reasonable debate. That was why Roosevelt founded the Progressive Party and ran against Taft in 1912. If Roosevelt had not been the target of an assassination attempt, he might have defeated both opponents--or so some historical observers believe, although i'm not certain that i agree with that. In the event, the effect was to draw off enough Republican voters, but not so many Democrats (staunch Democrats never forgave him for his attacks on William Jennings Bryan as a party campaigner in 1896). Roosevelt's bid for the White House effectively handed it to Wilson.

It is perhaps attributable to that coterie of "intellectuals" of whom you have written that the idea that "progressive" means liberal. The original "progressives" on the American political scene were young "radical" Republicans like Roosevelt (and Lodge, although always saw himself as a conservative), who saw it as their mission to rescue the working class from both capitalist greed, and therefore from the Democrats and dangerous socialists like Bryan. Exactly the same thing, in a more cynical vein, can be seen in Canadian politics. In 1944, Tommy Douglas lead the CCF (the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation) to electoral victory in Saskatchewan, and scared the bejesus out of the Tories--it was the first true socialist government in North America. The Tories eventually succeeded in killing the CCF by branding them as commies, and successfully associating them in the public mind of Canada as fellow travellers with the Bolsheviks. But Douglas didn't just win one for the CCF, he lead his party to five successive victories, and ran Saskatchewan until 1960, and that in teeth of the howls of indignation when he brought in the first medicare program, and doctors in Saskatchewan went on strike (and caved in).

Alarmed, the Tories and Liberals ran to catch up, and even more than the Liberals, the Tories coopted populist sentiment by passing social legislation--in many provinces they even held their noses and voted for medicare (which in Canada means socialized medicine). The smear campaign against the CCF eventually succeeded, but out of the wreckage of the CCF, Tommy Douglas helped others to rebuild true left wing politics in Canada, and the New Democrats were created. The NDP has formed many provincial governments, including in Ontario on one occassion.

The Tories had been sufficiently spooked that they made "progressive" their watch word, and even the official name of their party. Until the national party imploded and accepted an alliance with Stephen Harper, they were known as the Progressive Conservative Party--the PCs (ironic initials, no?). The national party has a new name, but the Tories in Ontario still call themselves the Progressive Conservatives.

I would venture to say that the question of who gets to be a progressive depends upon whose ox you are attempting to protect from being gored.
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 11:42 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

I would venture to say that the question of who gets to be a progressive depends upon whose ox you are attempting to protect from being gored.


I fully agree. Indeed the best proof of the contention is the widely divergent views on currently contentious issues that have been taken by political figures who labeled themselves as progressives.

In many respects this matter is reminiscent of okie's futile attempt to "analyze" political reality by forcing it into a one-dimensional linear scale of left & right. In a multi-dimensional space the the attempt creates only confusion (or worse) because of the orthogonal (or largely independent) variables that are ignored.

Perhaps the one unifying thing about "progressives' of every stripe was/is their desire and effort to impose their concept of what at the time they considered truly "progressive" on everyone else. This may arise from the belief that they have at last discovered some immutable truth about the organization of human affairs -- in a world that admits of but few (if any) immutable truths.

Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 11:46 am
Quote:
. . . discovered some immutable truth about the organization of human affairs . . .


But wait, O'George . . . that is exactly what i've done! I just haven't had the time to write it all up yet . . .
0 Replies
 
Amigo
 
  2  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 12:04 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are two Feral kids in Mark Twains books by the same name. As a result of never going to school the two are un-institutionalized and thus free, freethinking and freeminded.

Throughout the book the two demonstrate in very laymen terms the absurdity in the established order of things by the "learned" and "civilized" people. Mark Twain is one of Americas greatest intellectuals. He is a middle American who also has a contempt for intellectuals.

BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 12:07 pm
@Amigo,
Mark Twains was an intellectual.
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 12:16 pm
@Amigo,
Quote:
Mark Twain is one of Americas greatest intellectuals. He is a middle American who also has a contempt for intellectuals.
The logic is totally incoherent.
Lightwizard
 
  2  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 12:52 pm
Excerpt from Wendy Kaminer in The New Republic 1996:

Indeed, what's striking about American intellectuals today, liberal and conservative alike, is not their Voltairean skepticism but their deference to belief and their utter failure to criticize, much less satirize, America's romance with God. They've abandoned the tradition of caustic secularism that once provided refuge for the faithless: people "are all insane," Mark Twain remarked in Letters from the Earth. "Man is a marvelous curiosity ... he thinks he is the Creator's pet ... he even believes the Creator loves him; has a passion for him; sits up nights to admire him; yes and watch over him and keep him out of trouble. He prays to him and thinks He listens. Isn't it a quaint idea." No prominent liberal thinker writes like that anymore.

http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/kaminer.htm
0 Replies
 
Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 01:00 pm
BOOK REVIEW from the Los Angeles Times

'Who Is Mark Twain?'

Previous uncollected stories and essays drawn mostly from his papers and correspondence show why he is so beloved.

By Tim Rutten
April 22, 2009

When he died 99 years ago this week, Mark Twain was this country's most beloved writer, yet his status as both an author and protean example of the now-familiar pop cultural celebrity seems to grow with each passing decade.

"Who Is Mark Twain?" -- a collection of 24 previously uncollected stories and essays drawn mostly from the vast archive of the author's papers and correspondence at UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library -- is an entertaining reminder of why that's so.

Twain's death of heart disease at the age of 74 came as such a blow to the country that it evoked an expression of official White House regret from President William Howard Taft: "Mark Twain gave pleasure -- real intellectual enjoyment -- to millions, and his works will continue to give such pleasure to millions yet to come. . . . His humor was American, but he was nearly as much appreciated by Englishmen and people of other countries as by his own countrymen. He has made an enduring part of American literature."

Ernest Hemingway famously argued that "all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called 'Huckleberry Finn,' " though even he conceded that the great novel's disastrous final section is "just cheating." (To this critic's mind, a canonical case also can be made for Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener" and "The Confidence-Man." Still, what other 19th century American novel so controversial in its own time -- though for different reasons -- remains so today?)

William Faulkner, to whom praise of other novelists did not come easily, called Twain the "first truly American writer" and said he "wrote the first American sentences."

The poet Kenneth Rexroth, whose shrewd critical appraisals are too often overlooked (see "The Classics Revisited"), wrote that, "If Baudelaire was the greatest poet of the capitalist epoch . . . Mark Twain wrote its saga, its prose Iliad and Odyssey" in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Rexroth goes on to add that Twain wrote that saga "because he knew how to survive to write it."

For Twain's fans, these 24 short -- six, in fact, incomplete -- pieces are a wonderful example of that survival mechanism in operation and how it's one of the things that gives the author's relationship with both his audience and posterity the contours of what we recognize as celebrity. (They also bring into high relief the fact that Twain's progeny these days can be watched nightly on Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert shows.) Although Twain was unafraid of exposing -- to those who came after him, at least -- his process of "becoming" an artist, he also had a keen sense of just what his readers would and would not accept.

As Robert Hirst -- general editor of Berkeley's Mark Twain Project and the selector of these pieces -- points out in his excellent and accessible introduction, Samuel Clemens liked to try things out before publishing under his pen name. One of the stories in this volume is "The Undertaker's Tale," whose conceit was, in Hirst's words, "to throw a typical Horatio Alger hero into a family of undertakers" and let things take their course.

As was his habit, Twain read the completed tale to his wife and children on the evening he finished it. As one biographer describes the result: "No one spoke during the reading, nobody laughed. The air was thick with disapproval. His voice lagged and faltered toward the end. When he finished, there was heavy silence. Mrs. Clemens was the only one who could speak, 'Youth, let's walk a little.' " Shortly afterward, Twain tried the story on his friend, the utopian socialist William Dean Howells . . . then put it away forever.

Twain, as Hirst points out, was willing to put aside -- but not destroy -- works he deemed unsuitable for publication, and he did that not merely for aesthetic reasons but also because he believed his readers would not accept his sharper opinions, particularly when they touched on organized religion or theism. Twain, though an unbeliever, was one of the first American cultural observers to intuit that the country's great problem was not religion per se but a surfeit of religiosity. He also was aware that few of his readers were prepared to accept his advanced political views, which were all the more remarkable in that he'd been born in the divided border state of Missouri, served a couple of desultory weeks as a Confederate irregular, then became one of the few Americans to sit out the Civil War as a neutral in Nevada.

Once he moved to Connecticut and married, his wife, Olivia, introduced him to a dazzling set of radical American thinkers, including Howells and Frederick Douglass. Twain became a passionate defender of racial equality, an early champion of women's suffrage, a fervent anti-imperialist -- even during the Spanish-American War -- and, as is less known, an advocate for organized labor, who once told a gathering of the radical Knights of Labor:

"Who are the oppressors? The few: the King, the capitalist, and a handful of other overseers and superintendents. Who are the oppressed? The many: the nations of the earth; the valuable personages; the workers; they that make the bread that the soft-handed and idle eat."

As the continuing flow of unpublished material from the voluminous papers he left shows, Twain had a good sense that his relationship with the audience on whose regard his monetary well-being depended might not survive to frank airing of such views. He had a keen sense, in other words, for the line between the good-humored provocation and the in-your-face affront, something that presages (unheeded) our own notions of celebrity conduct.

Most of all, though, "Who Is Mark Twain?" is worth reading for the sheer pleasure of rediscovering why this writer was so popular in his day. Even when wrong-headed, Twain is engaging. He loathed Jane Austen, for example, as he did George Eliot and Robert Louis Stevenson. "Whenever I take up 'Pride and Prejudice' or 'Sense and Sensibility,' " he writes, "I feel like a barkeeper entering the Kingdom of Heaven. I mean I feel as he would probably feel, would almost certainly feel. I am quite sure I know what his sensations would be -- and his private comments. He would curl his lip, as those ultra-good Presbyterians went filing self-complacently along. Because he considered himself better than they? Not at all. They would not be to his taste -- that is all." Austen, Twain muses, seems to spend the first half of every book getting you to "detest" her characters and the second half convincing you to like them.

There speaks the timeless iconoclast.

End of review

I ordered the book on Amazon
Amigo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 01:10 pm
@BillRM,
Yes, guised insarcasm, wit and synicism.
0 Replies
 
Amigo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 01:11 pm
@dyslexia,
incoherent but sound.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 01:15 pm
@Lightwizard,
I greatly enjoyed that book review, Bubba . . . thanks . . .
0 Replies
 
Amigo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 01:21 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
Here in this painting is a very good example of Anti-intellectualism.

http://www.utdallas.edu/~cjwilson/images/orozco.jpg

(cut and paste excerpts)

The "gods of the modern world" are pictured in the academic costume of various universities, European and American. A lurid background suggests a world aflame, whose salvation lies not in the exegeses of old thought. In the powerful negation of this mural, Orozco calls for a new positiveness in the creative use of knowledge. He conjures away the sterile ritual of dead things giving birth to dead things. Here he protests against intellectual bondage,

Jose Clemente Orozco painting "Gods of The Modern World" portrays the elites of Higher Education in all their costume and Garb, of both American and European dress as being dead or nearly dead men. Page Smith uses Orozco's painting (which adorns a wall in the library of Dartmouth College) on the cover of his book Killing The Spirit, a most powerful and complimentary Union. The imagery based on the theme of the book would draw one to conclude that these skeletal elites in Education have "killed" things "spiritual" which leaves death. The painting illustrates a vain attempt to bring forth life from that which is dead. What symbolism lay behind the fetus like figures upon whose skulls we find the adorning of a graduation cap?
H2O MAN
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 03:03 pm
@georgeob1,



Progressives are probably the most dangerous individuals in the US.
The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 04:41 pm
@H2O MAN,
Quote:


Progressives are probably the most dangerous individuals in the US.


How?
Amigo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 04:52 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
"You seem pretty sharp... I'm sure that you figure it out eventually. "

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1RO93OS0Sk

Start the video at 2:04 count
panzade
 
  2  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 05:11 pm
@Amigo,
I liked the comment made about the video:

"Bullshit is interesting because a bullshitter can say one thing one day and bullshit with a completely different view the next and not bat an eyelid. The contradiction does not mean a thing to him. In fact, it furthers his cause, and that is to confuse the listener.

The extremist is a consumate bullshitter, he says one thing but acts in a contrary way. It is very difficult to argue rationally with a bullshitter but once you get their game you can only walk away and hope they don't follow."
The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 05:39 pm
@Amigo,
Oh sorry. I just wikipedia'd progressivism.
I get it.
0 Replies
 
H2O MAN
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 05:50 pm
@Amigo,


Bullshitter = Amigo

OK, got it.
0 Replies
 
Amigo
 
  2  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 06:36 pm
@panzade,
Yes, thats a good one isn't it.
0 Replies
 
H2O MAN
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 08:10 pm
@panzade,
panzade wrote:

I liked the comment made about the video:

"Bullshit is interesting because a bullshitter can say one thing one day and bullshit with a completely different view the next and not bat an eyelid. The contradiction does not mean a thing to him. In fact, it furthers his cause, and that is to confuse the listener.

The extremist is a consummate bullshitter, he says one thing but acts in a contrary way. It is very difficult to argue rationally with a bullshitter but once you get their game you can only walk away and hope they don't follow."


I bet Obama was a case study for this video.
 

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