Saturday, December 11, 2004


The logic of real politik is: it's a dirty world, so we've got to do dirty jobs. Naysaying peaceniks are in denial of reality. Such realism is a conservative canard that passes for masculine maturity.

Mary Douglas, among other anthropologists, have shown us that risk is a cultural construction. As Leviticus makes cloven hooves unclean, cultural discourses present certain threats as significantly real, regardless of their actual likelihood or scale. (Airplane versus car travel, terrorist threat versus murder, heart disease, or drunken driver.)

And conservatives have revealed that their relationship to truth is instrumental. The scientific consensus on global warming is discarded (even as the military assumes its consequences in future scenarios). Abstinence programs don't work. George W. enforces secrecy for customarily public records. They lie about the cost of war, the cost of privatizing social security, the growth of jobs, the safety or danger of risks. The Newspeak names of their policies are a bald soundbitten falsehood. They lie, baldly if not badly.

Their cynical rejection of the truth shows that their real politik is not based on a commitment to facts, however unpleasant, but instead part of their instrumental relation to reality.

Which indicates that conservatives want the dirty world, they desire the dirty jobs, they choose this violence, which violence. (As many have said, in so many words.) And moreover, that they create this dirtiness, not only rhetorically. Facts do not drive the US military to torture to death: desire does.

The general left understanding of the 2004 elections is that while the right-wing regime has an instrumental relationship to truth, the populace has an emotional one.


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