Monday, December 21, 2009

And... an Asshole!

I’m grappling with an interesting intellectual. Robert P. George. He is a leading thinker for the conservative religious right in our country. He is also a professor of law at Princeton. I’ve been reading some of what he has produced. Certain arguments are excellent, well presented and convincing. Others read like the rants of a medieval fanatic. Actually, that’s not quite right, he does rant, just not like a medieval fanatic. What disturbs me about this guy is how conveniently his philosophy lines up with the platform of the right. And I’m afraid he’s compromised himself. Indeed, about every other article of his I read, I catch myself thinking “did this guy, the same guy who wrote that last article, really write this?”

In “The New Paganism and the Culture of Death” he writes: “I submit to you that there is a foolproof test: False gods always demand the blood of innocents. A pagan culture is always, in the end, a culture of death. Where the innocent and just are slain, there the god being worshipped is not the God of Israel, the Lord of Life, but rather Moloch in one or another of his protean disguises.” This particular rant (and I don’t mean that in a wholly negative sense) deals with abortion and euthanasia. The argument: we participate in a pagan culture as long as we admit abortion and euthanasia into our sphere of morally acceptable actions. Now despite one’s position on paganism, abortion and euthanasia, it is a rhetorically powerful rant. He even accuses Christians of worshipping false gods who have used violence against their enemies and burned heretics at the stake.

He concludes with this: “Let us not forget that the God of Israel, the Lord of Life, is the enemy of the culture of death. Let us not shrink from the task of defending the lives of the innocent. Let us work tirelessly to build the culture of life. Let us not be intimidated by the prestige or influence of those who pervert the honorable concepts of liberty and equality to enlist them in the cause of killing.”

Taken out of context I think everyone, or at least anyone with a modicum of moral concern, can agree with this conclusion. Building a culture of life is a worthy goal. We will all have our diverse and incompatible definitions of what that is supposed to mean, but it sounds pretty good.

So what’s the problem? P. George is a religious intellectual who argues with conviction, and desires that we create a culture of life within our country. Although we might disagree with the specifics, his efforts ought to be applauded, right? Yes, except that three years after the above rant was delivered, he defends the war in Iraq as “just.” Just! The war in Iraq! It’s really a mess that he decides to take this position. Let’s check it out.

In his article “Just War in Iraq,” P. George argues that just war theory does not necessarily exclude the possibility of a just, unilateral, pre-emptive war intended to remove (instead of just disarm) an aggressive tyrant from power. And you know what? He’s probably right. Does that make the war in Iraq just? Absolutely not. Why? Because everyone knows that the war in Iraq is not only a unilateral, pre-emptive war intended to remove an aggressive tyrant from power, but also a war for perpetuation of US global hegemony. I doubt that any serious student of history or politics or really anything not purely mathematical could fail to see that. But P. George does. He fails to see it so absolutely, and yet is so perceptive on other issues, that I find myself wondering, “how in fuck’s sake did P. George miss that?!”

In my unconsidered opinion, the goal of creating a culture of life is inimical to the mere idea of war, whether “just” or not. I understand that humans are flawed, and sometimes--so conventional wisdom declares--war is necessary (or, in P. George’s words “morally required”). But if the God of Israel is the God of life, and if the USA was founded on the principles this same God holds dear, then doesn’t it seem just a little bit inconsistent to defend a policy whereby the USA maintains its global dominance through the use of military force and the murder of innocent people around the world? Keep in mind that innocents are murdered in “just” and unjust wars alike. Given the actual history of this country (of which I hope P. George is aware), is it not more likely that we have been in the cult of Moloch all along?

But what is especially telling is that "let us not be intimidated by the prestige or influence of those who pervert the honorable concepts of liberty and equality to enlist them in the cause of killing" part. Because isn't that exactly what he does, who argues that the war in Iraq is just? Further, having been intimidated into so arguing, does P. George not then also become one of the perverts? The concepts of liberty and equality have been used ad nauseum to justify "Operation Iraqi Freedom," even though the war is foremost about geopolitical strat-te-gery and not really about liberty or equality or freedom at all....

So what to think about our P. George?

His is another attempt to further polarize our already obscenely divided and discorded society. Our P. George is an awful proponent of the rational, the logical, and the phallus; let's face it, he is enthusiastically sucking the enormous dick of western philosophy. And why? Because without the culture wars, nobody would give a shit. His mantra could read something like this: We must defend that in which we have the political will to believe publicly, and disregard all else; we must build great logical edifices, and suffocate the human soul; spread hate, and corrupt anything that could possibly hold us together; because unity is division if it's not MY narrowly defined unity so fruitful for MY political advancement; and because YOUR salvation is possible only insofar as mass-damnation makes righteous THIS wolf in sheep's clothing! It is, after all, what Jesus would do.

Conclusion: Robert P. George is an asshole.

PS: He’s also gay and way in the closet, as evidenced by his absolute disgust for homosexuality; only someone who hates themselves a great deal could possibly project that much anger onto a group of people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One politically useful result of categorizing policy opponents as members of "The Culture of Death" is that it makes dialog unnecessary. You can lecture your opponents, lie about them, marginalize them, disenfranchise them where possible, but you never need to listen to them or take their arguments seriously. They are "New Pagans", worshiping "false gods". Their views -- their very souls -- are ugly and frightening.

Professor George and his ilk are not talking to liberals and need not respond to them. 99+% of his readers/listeners do not consider his views controversial and will never seek out a reasoned opinion that criticizes them.

As to "just war", an Allied invasion of Germany in 1936 to stop its rearmament in violation of the terms of the 1919 armistice, would have saved about 50 million lives. No relation to Iraq of course.