About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

In Praise of Idleness-IV

Russell, talking about the ascent of fascism in Europe before WWII:

"The decay of reason in politics is a product of two factors: on the one hand, there are classes and types of individuals to whom the world as it is offers no scope, but who see no hope in Socialism because they are not wage-earners; on the other hand, there are able and powerful men whose interests are opposed to those of the community at large, and who, therefore, can best retain their influence by promoting various kinds of hysteria."

Well, if we substitute the current American middle-class, with its disaffection from labor (see the recent troubles within the labor movement) for Russell's classes with "no scope" and "no hope," and the dominating political and economic class in the US for those whose interest is to promote "various kinds of hysteria," the picture isn't that different.

Now, I don't want to jump to what I think is the rather extreme claim that the Bush administration has inaugurated fascism in the US. Fascism is a hell of a lot worse than what Bush-II and his cronies have managed to do. But it is equally difficult to argue that we have seen a dramatic shift not only toward conservatism, but toward an increased role of Government in areas of private life where it doesn't belong (e.g., a lot -- though not all -- of the "security measures" implemented after 9/11). And this with a Republican administration! Remember? The Reps are supposed to be in favor of less government control, but apparently that only applies to financial matters and big corporations, not to the sex life of individual citizens (see the idiocy surrounding the idea of gay marriages, for example).

Interestingly, Russell makes the link between nationalistic fever and the cult of unreason in a nation. The US ' national politial discourse has in fact been quite unreasonable and nationalistic of late (though one could argue that such tendency has always been either just below the surface or clearly above it throughout American history).

According to Russell, "the two things the world needs most are Socialism and peace, but both are contrary to the interests of the most powerful men of our time." Indeed.

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