I hope I’m not doing a disservice by writing these brief remarks as late as I am; however, the passing of Professor Joseph Cropsey warranted some small mention of appreciation from one of the many people Dr. Cropsey influenced. ?Dr. Cropsey was introduced to me when my college professor thrust History of Political Philosophy into my hands and said, “If you truly appreciate political philosophy, get this. ?It is the ‘bible.'” ?My copy (third edition; still looking to grab one of the earlier ones as well) sits beside my laptop as I type. ?It is a thick tome. ?The thoughts and writings inside, edited by Drs. Strauss and Cropsey, even thicker; requiring concentration and thought as you read, and re-read, and underline, and read once more.
News of Dr. Cropsey’s passing immediately spurred thoughts of Goethe’s passing in my mind. ?Goethe was on his deathbed with his daughter-in-law sitting by his side. ?Wanting another shutter in his room opened by one of the servants, Goethe is said to have called, ?more light! before his ties to this world were severed by Father Time’s scythe.
Allan Bloom said, “Education is the movement from darkness into light.” ?Joseph Cropsey spent his life helping pilgrims on their way from darkness into light. ?He started out much more economically-minded by writing at lengths about Adam Smith and Karl Marx. ?His writings on Plato, however, are considerable food for thought. ?Very, very rich food. ?Some people can stomach it, others might prefer something lighter. ?Nevertheless, one of the subjects Cropsey looks at is the human condition, as Peter Lawler stated in his comments on Postmodern Conservative, “our wondering and our wondering” in Plato’s World: Man’s Place in the Cosmos.??Here’s to hoping that his departure gave him what all philosophers long for: ?More Light!
Dr. Harvey Mansfield writes in his succinct yet immensely important A Student?s Guide to Political Philosophy that ?the Political Philosopher? takes a stand with Alexis de Tocqueville who said that while he himself was not a partisan, he undertook to see, not differently, but further than the parties?(emphasis in the original).? Irving Kristol was, to many people on the right and the left, a political philosopher.? I was working at my desk when I got the message of his passing; politics would not be the same because of him, nor would it be the same after his departure.?
I started my own political travels on the right side of the ideological spectrum from birth.? Many people who inhabit the broad Conservative tent did not, and it was Irving Kristol who popularized the notion that some Conservatives were ?liberals mugged by reality.?? For myself, I was a Conservative who was injected with ?soul.?? Having grown up on military posts, my right-leaning stances went fairly unnoticed in large.? When I eventually found myself attending high school in the most liberal county in the state of Maryland, I couldn?t help but take notice of my membership in the political minority.? I had to fend for myself on a very primal level, which meant that everything was automatically politicized into camps or ?teams,? and you ?won? by defending your side with numbers and facts that could be verified and supported.? I continued with this mentality into college; as a young knee-jerk libertarian Conservative.?
My Conservatism, per se, was beginning to feel hollow and unfulfilling.? I spent my time reading and regurgitating facts, figures and talking points.? There was no ?soul? in it.? It was under the tutelage of Dr. Hartlaub that I was given the ability to undergo a semester-long independent study on outlining and defining Conservative thought and theory.? I shelved the Sean Hannity and Bill O?Reilly books, and replaced them with writings from Burke, Elliot, Santayana, Kristol and Strauss among many others.?
Some people gravitate more towards the writings of Hayek, von Mises and Rand.? Others, such as myself, find something more in Kristol, Tocqville and Strauss.? The very first Irving Kristol piece I consumed was his ?Capitalism, Socialism and Nihilism? which introduced me to a new term which is hardly in the vocabulary of modern academia: nihilism.? This essay eventually pointed me to Kristol?s Two Cheers for Capitalism, which taught me that one could defend capitalism from her incessant attackers on the left, without being a sycophant for capitalism as an ultimate ends.? She is a tempting siren that can lead to nihilism if we accept her unguardedly.? The next essay I read was ?The Case for Censorship.?? This one struck me at first, because I refused to wholly accept his argument.? ?It?s our goddamn right to free speech Hartlaub, and up to our other institutions to instill an inner-censorship: like church or family, et cetera? is what I said in more or less words.? However, not long after reading Kristol, our school hosted two former members of Congress for a presentation and a sort of mini-town hall.? It was during the question and answer segment that one young man decided that he was going to take his stand in full view of his peers, two former-elected officials, and the community.? His beef: the restrictions on file sharing and pornography?
Irving Kristol has been eulogized in print and on television by now, and I imagine that the number one thing he will be readily remembered as is the ?godfather of Neoconservatism.?? Bill Buckley, in writing on Kristol and his Neoconservative persuasion announced in the pages of Weekly Standard that we should drop the prefix and accept all Conservatives as-is.? Unfortunately, the term Neoconservative has been bastardized and used as slander against people on the Right.? Neocon is synonymous with ?war-hawk? or ?big-government conservative? or means that you are part of some surreptitious ?Jewish cabal? in our government.? Ironically, Neoconservatism came about because of liberalism’s failures to defend the country that kept them safe from the ravages of Communism, and their failure to adequately address the problems facing the poor and the inner-cities.? Irving Kristol did not write extensively on the middle east, and the need to overturn the regime in Iraq with his son and Mr. Kagan.? He wrote, for which he was best known, about the afflictions of modernity on our republic and her people.? He demonstrated that Conservatism was not an ideal, but the anti-ideal along with many Traditionalists.?
In the end, Irving Kristol passed on Friday.? There are myriad obituaries and tributes you can read to get a quick synopsis of his life, but it is important for us to understand how he changed the lives of others.? Mr. Kristol never knew who I was.? Nevertheless, one cannot take away his impact on my own political upbringing and my life.? He will be sorely missed.?
Well, I am unaware just how knowledgeable people are of myself and my beliefs, but I will begin by stating my political tendencies are geared toward the right, put mildly of course. Surprisingly enough, I enjoy a good episode of Morning Joe every day; a habit that cannot be beneficial to my heart health. Nonetheless, I listened Time Magazine?s Joe Klien explaining how the American people polled by CBS (because a flash poll conducted at 10:30pm on a weeknight of people who watched a liberal president?s liberal manifesto presentation wouldn?t have skewed results) showing 80% of Americans liked what they heard last night. Mr. Klien exclaims that the people are scared, they need a leader, and they are looking for a daddy in government. I would ask those educated individuals (whether or not you committed the treasonous act of dropping out of high school) to search the repository of their history books, and tell me what happened to a people?s freedoms when such sentiments were supposedly shared by the volkgeist.
I want to point out the danger behind such lines of thought. The public as of late has been ebbing and flowing with emotion. A dangerous situation as founder James Madison points out in the Federalist Papers where the ?tyranny of the majority? was pointed to as a real possibility in democracies. The United States has become increasingly apathetic, and today we are beginning to understand a true beginning of nihilism here on our soil. People did not vote based on their principles, they voted in the heat of the moment, to be a part of history, for an articulate leader instead of his ideas. When we stop being guided by our core beliefs, and begin to question everything our country has and continues to stand for, and then develop a mutual understanding that anyone can be right so in arguing your point you demonstrate old prejudices; we then become bewildered beasts in our own society. All it takes is for a situation to scare the people into looking into a man, or a god. Heidegger points out how a people will look for a ?superman? or god to lead them when they feel vulnerable. He would know after all. I do not mean to make any unfair comparisons, or be accused of reducto ad Hitlerum; however, if similarities exist, we would be derelict if we didn?t point this out.
Now we have President Obama. He is not Hitler, or a tyrant. Please do not misconstrue what I say as a mere ad hominem attack shallow in understanding. Can we please point out the fact that he is a mixture of the worst parts of our most liberal presidents? His ideas of an intellectual elite guiding us out opf the recession, and heading these bureaucracies reeks of Woodrow Wilson; his lack of understanding regarding the military, and promulgation of an argument to raise the number of troops and their pay and their benefits, but cutting the budget drastically; and the most lauded comparison with F.D.R. and his misguided belief that radical spending will drive the US out of an economic recession. Adding short term ?infrastructure? projects to rebuild roads and schools and anything else? where does someone who was a part of the 52,000 Citi employees fit in to that? After having worked as an IT recruiter for years, I cannot understand how an IT recruiter today finds a way to place his .Net Developer on a new project that involved re-paving I-495.
There are myriad particulars in President Obama?s speech last night that we can argue against. That would take more time than I have currently, and I have bored you enough as it is. I would point out the one thing people said the President needed to do in order to have a successful speech; instill confidence. Well the Dow is down 150 points. I will let the events pass final judgment on the level of success. And I would hope that MSNBC has tissues in their preparation rooms for their guest, to wipe the brown residue off their noses. No wonder they can?t smell how bad this stinks.
that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation-states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.
????????????????????????????????????????????????????????-Samuel P. Huntington, Clash of Civilizations?, 1993.