Does Israel need a culture war? Part 4 (delayed)

Back in the prattle again.

And a blessing on Clalit.

“Does Israel Need a Culture War?” Parts one – three ran last month. We pick it up with four. Five and six to follow next week. So . . .

To ask it again: Why babble on about American Culture Wars I and II?

To answer it again: Because, while Israel was peripheral to Culture War I, Israel’s future may well be profoundly determined by Culture War II.

To be specific: A conservative victory would be devastating to America and therefore to Israel, regardless of how devotedly (obsessively?) the forces of the American Right proclaim they love us.

Part 4 (Delayed)

So here it is in a nutshell. Let’s open up the nutshell and see who’s inside.

Culture War I displayed psychologized ethics – “What I feel matters more than what is” – on the Left. Culture War II displays psychologized ethics on the Right.

But there is a tragic, deadly difference between the conservative emotivism of Culture War I, then very much a blend of old-fashioned resentment, bewilderment and “stranger in my own land” despair, and the new emotivism.

The fundamental difference:

The old conservative emotivism was both spontaneous and in many ways understandable. The new emotivism, though still understandable, is the carefully orchestrated, big-bucks seduction and degradation of the conservative movement and believers by corporate oligarchies and One Percenters who have written off the American people . . .

And who don’t want that people to realize it just yet.

Culture War I occurred in a prosperous land with a socio-economic middle that encompassed much of the country. Many of those excluded could still imagine and/or desire some fair chance of earning their share. Emotivism, perhaps aka political narcissism, was, in many ways, a luxury the country could afford. At least for a while.

Culture War II occurs in a land whose middle tier grows ever more shrunken and impoverished. The fastest-growing socio-economic segment is the “near poor,” those with something left to lose. These and others find it ever harder to resist the manipulations of those who impoverish them – manipulations designed to convince the dying middle that their values are shared by their tormentors, and that their anger should be directed towards those beneath them, who allegedly do not share those values . . . and against something known generically as “liberalism” and generically dismissed as “Politically Correct.”

And Israel has cast its lot with the oligarchies and One Percenters who are consciously destroying America, and with their political accomplices, enablers, courtiers and whores.

The next two posts will get into the relationship between America’s Culture War II and Israel, then wrap it up with a couple ideas on how Israel and America can wage serious Culture War together. For now, it’s necessary to understand a bit about how American conservatism metastasized into what it is.

I understand a bit. I was there.

Having spent several decades in the movement, I did what vanishingly little I could to stop its degradation. After many years of arguing with conservatives, pointlessly, that issues such as women’s rights, gay rights and the environment should be taken seriously, my final exit came in mid-2002.

I was with a small conservative think tank, where I held the exalted title of “Senior Fellow in National Security Affairs and Director of Defense and Aerospace Studies.” Not bad for a one-man show. The Bush/neoncon delusion – “Iraqi WMD, Democracy Dominos and The Rest” – was moving relentlessly toward war. I finally could no longer resist the conclusion that this would be, to borrow from General Omar Bradley, “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time against the wrong enemy.” It would also trash a military recovering from Clinton-era neglect and overuse, and abort some promising experiments.

I spoke out clearly and publicly. In private, so did my boss. Or, more to the point, so did the institute’s major funders.

In the think tank world, money trumps dissent. Every time.

So how did American conservatism come to this point?

Strictly speaking, there was no American conservative movement before the 1950s. One might have arisen a half century before, as the nation grappled with the problem of bigness: of giant corporations destroying smaller enterprises and the new millionaires shaming the accomplishments of the older gentries and elites. The Progressive Era offered a reasonable, surprisingly bipartisan response. The rising new middle classes would keep the corporations and their benefits, but regulate in accordance with the principle that large and public businesses require greater oversight than small and private.

Bigness per se might not be criminal. But bigness was capable of doing such damage to the Republic, willfully or through incompetence or neglect, that it had to be carefully controlled – before the damage was done.

But never – to my knowledge, not once – did anyone suggest that the 19th and early 20th century titans of industry and the robber barons of finance were not serious Americans, devoted to the advancement of their country. Not even those up to their gender-neutral pupiks in foreign debt. Those men did much domestic harm, but it was not the harm of “offshoring,” of “outsourcing,” or of finding their interests now dependent upon governments and oligarchies other than their own, and then acting accordingly.

Conservatism, during this era, contented itself with matters of culture and style. Nor did it really coalesce into a serious movement in opposition to the New Deal. For this embryonic movement chose not to worship at the altar of Big, and understood that while what was good for General Motors might often be good for America, GM was not Adam Smith’s ideal. This essentially traditional conservatism viewed society not as a machine but as an organism, and rapacity as a necessary evil to be controlled, and sometimes by Hands that were far from Invisible.

And implicit in it all was the conviction of America’s Founders that while inequality and hierarchy were ineradicable facts of life, this country could provide everyone with enough.

Not unreasonable, back when people didn’t need some organization’s permission to work, i.e., corporate jobs. They could work for and by themselves, or in small groups and companies, trading locally and regionally. And in truth, enough, plus something to spare and sock away, was all most people wanted. And still want.

So modern conservatism as an identifiable political movement began in the 1950s, as America struggled once again with Big, this time with hitherto unimaginable new affluence and global commitment.  And hubris. This new conservatism was never cohesive or uniform. Rabid anti-communists co-existed, more or less, with Taft Republicans. Big Business and those they funded rubbed elbows and noses with those still bewailing the loss of Small Town America. And a number of serious scholars and intellectuals (Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley, Jr., et al) struggled to provide conservatism with a back-dated philosophical pedigree: Burke, de Maistre, Machiavelli, Aquinas, Plato.

It almost worked.

Then came three disasters.

The election.

The Christians.

And the Jews.

About the Author
Philip Gold made Aliyah from USA in 2010 after several decades as a Beltway "public intellectual" of sorts.
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