Wednesday, December 03, 2008

'Who's To Say?' Part 2. Maybe John Dewey Should Have Had a Beer with John Kass at Nick's Beergarden.

"nature itself is wistful and pathetic, turbulent and passionate" - John Dewey 1859-1952.

What in the hell does that mean? But then again that is the point. John Dewey is the father of American Public Education, the leading thinker of the American Progressive Movement, one of the leaders of American Psychology, founder of the University of Chicago Laboratory School and the one of the leaders in Nuance.

Dewey was a New Englander and a smart guy who studied the German thinker Hegel. Hegel developed modern thought based upon the notion that Germans were smarter than Italians, Spaniards, Frenchmen and Arabs. Hegel and his buddy Schopenauer developed Dialectical Materialism, which gave Karl Marx something to write about in the dusty stacks of the British Museum developed the notion of class warfare as the new parousia(παρουσία) , or Second Coming.

John Dewey took a job at Rockefeller's swell new school south of Canaryville's Stockyards - The University of Chicago - and established himself as the leader in the Pragmatist Movement begun by William James. Pragmatism is rooted in the empiricists of the 18th Century and candied up with the Romantics and the Dialectical Materialists of the 19th Century. Two Dollar words for 'if you can't really see it, give it a pass.'

This is a nice way of killing off any metaphysics - the stuff you can't see: Faith, Belief, Trust, Compassion, Piety, Fidelity all that nonsense. E.G. 'Were any of us, really, in the cell with John McCain? Can we be actually certain that he was, in fact, a prisoner? Honor?' or how about 'What is an Unrepentant Terrorist? Bill Ayers we all know IS a "Distinguished Professor of Education" so why is this an issue?'

John Dewey, who it seems, died a few months before I was born, it appears, influenced the use and application of 'Who's to say?'

'Who's to say?' is the means by which a shared belief can be kicked to death. It is also the advent message for all bad, worthless, tasteless, obscene, and dangerous idiots to have their time in the spotlight. How else might one explain the development of Reality TV and Bill Maher?

Aristotle influenced Christian ( Aquinas), Jewish (Maimonides), and Muslim ( Averroes/Avicenna)thinkers who have helped people make sense of our lives through an understanding of an Ordered and Unified Universe. Faith, Belief in Universal Truths and all that stuff that Dewey and the smart guys killed off - or tried to - is reflected in an Absolute ( God/Higher Power/Big Banger/Truth).

No less an Aristotelian than Chicago Tribune's John Kass gave us an exercise in a long over-due return to sense over Dewey with a brilliant essay called to my attention by Saloon Keeper/Coach/Jazz Historian and Snappy Dresser Nick Novich*.

'Kass wrote the most stirring caveat to Americans with his essay on capturing Wild Pigs. Read it, Hickey!' I had in fact missed that one. Here is Kass, discussing one of those metaphysical terms 'Liberty" - Kass as metaphysician answering the 'Who's to Say?-ers' and John Dewey-

Fear happens. The 9/11 terrorist attacks happened, and the federal government—always eager to extend its reach—built its massive security bureaucracy, down to those spy cameras installed on the streetlights of so many cities and towns, thrilling America's mayors and the police chiefs. We're told the cameras keep us safe. We've become used to the eyes.

And when the economic crisis happened—when the credit bubble burst and the excesses of Wall Street caught up with us, and so many people lost their jobs and their retirement savings got whacked, and they started losing their homes—naturally people became fearful.

When you're worried about your family, you're not interested in the history of blame. You're interested in keeping a roof over their heads. You're interested in solutions. The solution so many want these days is more government.

Some of that is a proper demand for reasonable regulations on the markets and on lending that were eased during the Clinton years and continued. But today's crisis has also led to the massive federal bailout of the financial industry, with Washington picking who wins and who loses. We're told that this arrangement is only temporary. But partnerships involving almost a trillion dollars that grant even greater leverage to Washington have a way of becoming quite terribly permanent.

So the leviathan grows, and the bureaucrats and the corporate types attached to this bailout deal see the world in strikingly similar terms. They share the same type of mind and they share the common purpose of maintaining the status quo. Why wouldn't they? They're on the inside.

The casualty will be the entrepreneurs, those on the outside, the ones who create the spark and offer up the products or the ideas that fire the economy. The entrepreneurial mind isn't willing to settle and wants to make more than $250,000 in salary or whatever the federal government deems proper. They don't want proper. What they want is to take risks and reach the American Dream.

Such men and women will be on the outside for decades now. When they get close to victory they'll get whacked with tax increases and the rug will be pulled out from under them. The rich will have their wealth. But new entrepreneurs will be hamstrung and without that creative spark, no government-administered economic system can survive. History has taught us this over and over again.

The bailout happened so quickly we haven't fully considered the effects. Will we recognize America 40 years from now? How long before we understand how fundamentally America has changed? What kind of generational conflicts will this new government market policy instigate? Will our children speak of liberty, as we once did before we forgot?

These days, liberty isn't in vogue. It's so, so olde. We forget to consider liberty as America's founders conceived it—as one of the rights given us by God. Liberty was something an entrepreneur could understand. But even before this economic crisis Americans were given a new word from the corporatist/bureaucrat dictionary: empowerment.

"Empowerment" kinda, sorta evokes liberty but not really, since "empowerment" is something a government confers upon its people (or its serfs) when government decides the serfs (people) are ready.

While writing this I received one of those chain e-mails, but this one wasn't about a politician or the widow of the Nigerian oil minister. It was about how to catch wild pigs. I don't know if you could actually catch wild pigs this way, but it really doesn't matter. In this method, you throw bucketfuls of corn on the forest floor. The pigs eat the corn. A month later you put up one side of a fence and more corn. Eventually, the pigs return, get used to the fence and keep eating. And another side of fence and more corn and so on, until you close the gate and you've caught the pigs. They've lost their freedom. They can't figure out what's happened.

We're not pigs, we're Americans, rightfully worried about the economic future. But the times are changing, and the Boomers should consider the costs and consequences of what they're being offered by our politicians before the last side of the fence goes up. ( emphasis my own)

Boomers ( broadly, to be sure) are 'Who's to Say?' Dewey Devotees. Kass and other close-knit ethnic types who share the traditions of Faith and Culture deconstructed by the Progressive Deweyites give us a great opportunity to examine the agendas behind the people who demand a a rhetorical answer to 'Who's to say?'

Well done, Brother Kass.


Nick Novich is proprietor of many great neighborhood watering holes in this wonderful city.


Bert said...

Interesting take Mr. Kass. The article might have a little more kick to it if Roosevelt and the New Deal had never existed.

Regulatory walls go up and regulatory walls go down. Just like taxes. For every Jimmy Carter there's a Ronald Regan.

Anonymous said...

You have always been critical of Kass--shows humility in the compliment.

pathickey said...

The guy's the best Chicago writer since Finley Peter Dunne - Royko couldn't carry his jock strap, but he can be bit off on the rare occassion.

However, no one takes a back seat to Patrick Francis, here, for being wrong.