Reflections on Lives that Matter

These days, hordes of uncivilized, desperate-to-be-cool white people are accosting other white people in restaurants and cafés demanding that the latter raise their fists to verify their support for one of the most prominent communist slogans du jour, “Black Lives Matter.” Ask these hate-filled, inhuman thugs to define “black,” “life,” or “matter,” as those terms are employed in that slogan, and you will perhaps be rewarded with a punch in the face, or more likely thirty minutes of hysterical screaming from the useful idiots. 

In this age of universal, willful self-enslavement, you would have a very hard time persuading me that there is much life left out there to matter, let alone that any of the millions of submissive shadows I see wandering aimlessly through the death of civilization could possibly gain any worth, and suddenly “matter,” merely due to something as superficial as skin pigmentation.

Prove to me that there is any significant amount of black, beige, white, yellow, or rainbow-colored life out there today that really matters — let alone that believes it matters. That is not sarcasm. I mean please try to persuade me. I want to be persuaded. I would love to see a sign. But I don’t.

Modern political philosophy, by which I mean the politics of the Enlightenment, operates under the assumption that there is, or can be, a natural chain of causation from reality to reason to social practice. False. Reality compels reason. Reason compels nothing. Hence the ancient philosophical wisdom that “enlightenment” is an impossible aim. Understanding, for the few souls rational enough to feel the compulsion of reality, is all that is possible. The causal chain ends there. The practical manifestation of political philosophy, as the ancients defined and lived it, is primarily a teaching of resignation, i.e., the painful acceptance of the essential discontinuity between reality and human practice. Philosophical reasoning is the means a few men have discovered of recognizing that discontinuity, and learning to live with it.

Many years ago, I gave a lecture on language at a prestigious undergraduate university in Canada. The content of my talk was not political, but rather focused, as I recall, on the way figurative language is used to expand meaning beyond conventional limits, thereby creating a kind of running conversation among thinkers and artists across the ages and social boundaries. During the question period after my lecture, a philosophy senior, clearly the department’s designated feminist muckraker, patiently waited at the back of the room for her turn to speak, and then, as feminists are wont to do, tried to reduce everything to systemic oppression. In effect, she outlined the view that women have historically been excluded from the great conversation, barred from the secret meeting as it were. 

Since she was polite in her attack, and articulate in its expression, I answered with more sincerity and engagement than I would likely be able to muster for any of her equivalents in today’s decayed academic environment. In short I answered that it was true, very few women had been granted entry to the timeless meeting beyond history. It was also important, however, to acknowledge that very few men had been allowed in either. While it was true that many more men than women could be found in the philosophical pantheon, the fact is that, seen as a proportion of the total male and female population of the Earth, the difference between men and women in the pantheon would appear relatively insignificant. What would be very striking in that graph, however, is how overwhelming would be the numbers of those, male or female, who were not included. The very harsh, sobering, painful truth of the matter is that in a sense we are all excluded from the meeting by default, and spend our lives — those of us who care — trying to gain entry at the gate, mostly without success. If we keep trying, in spite of repeated rejections, we may finally be rewarded with a passkey — and if not, then at least we will know our aim was true, and we were seeking the best.

Lamenting our exclusion, therefore, is perhaps a waste of time, and certainly must never be allowed to devolve into spitefully denying the value of the meeting outright. For then we are blaming nature and reality and human greatness for our inadequacies, our failure to earn our way in. But failure to enter is nothing less than the human condition. Are we strong enough to accept the challenge of being human, which is to say the challenge of failing, repeatedly, and yet still coming back to try again?

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