Monday, June 26, 2017
Working out your own salvation with fear and trembling
“If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair?”
"Stabbing Anthony Kennedy in the back is certainly not beneath Mitch McConnell because nothing is beneath Mitch McConnell."
Kierkegaard had much to say about the terrors of nothing, and he said it most eloquently in Fear and Trembling; but he examined it most thoroughly in The Concept of Irony. He pointed out there that Socrates' use of irony was not meant to lead to enlightenment, but to doubt of the kind Descartes later realized he had to avoid, to make any sense of his skepticism at all. But the unfathomable, insatiable emptiness that lies hidden beneath everything? Socrates was happy to shove our face in that, because that's where his ironic questioning led: there, and nowhere else.
And now? Charlie Pierce's statement rests on two metaphors: stabbing Justice Kennedy in the back is a reference to rumors about his imminent retirement, rumors Mr. Pierce imagines started with the likes of Sen. McConnell, not with well-placed sources (the better to obtain control of the Supreme Court before 2018 possibly makes that impossible). But take the second metaphor more literally, and you have a better appreciation of the game being played by Sen. McConnell and others.
There is a desire in Texas, among the more radical Republicans, to impose vouchers on our citizens so money can flow to private schools. This won't open a floodgate of new private schools that will improve the public schools with "competition." In practice, it will probably lead to the same fraud Texas suffered when it allowed "charter schools" to be private institutions taking state money. Many gave their students classrooms with no chairs, a vending machine for a cafeteria, and didn't even bother with textbooks, the better to take the money and run. This scheme will allow parents who can afford private school to get some tax money back, and won't make new openings for parents who need the voucher to make even a down-payment on private tuition. And then there's the idea that students in public schools need to be shamed further about their gender preferences, so let's make 'em use a bathroom only for them (because the schools will know and enforce it. We aren't putting bathroom police in public spaces and making people pass inspection before they enter.)
The desire, it is rumored, sensibly, masks a deeper desire: to dismantle the public school system in Texas altogether, because it's government and government is bad. How else do you get government small enough to drown in a bathtub if you don't get rid of major portions of it? Will this wreck government with bidness, the only people government actually serves in Texas? Yup, but so what? You think bidness wants that "bathroom privacy" bill? It's an obtuse madness, that you control on one hand and destroy on the other, but both are measures of control, so there's a sanity to it, however insane it is.
And beneath the madness is nothing. Not the limit they will still go under, like Mr. Pierce means about Sen. McConnell and company; but literally nothing. The howling primordial chaos. The nothing that is something, and that is a worse vision than the most amoral defiance of limits of decency one can imagine. Beneath this is not even a deeper depth that can be plumbed: we've reached that limit. Beneath this is nothing. Literally.
And still they keep digging.
Posted by Rmj at 4:40 PM