January 07, 2014

Interesting Clips from Charles Krauthammer Book:

From his collection of columns:
To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil. 

Liberals believe that human nature is fundamentally good. The fact that this is contradicted by, oh, 4,000 years of human history simply tells them how urgent is the need for their next seven-point program for the social reform of everything. Liberals suffer incurably from naïveté, the stupidity of the good heart. Who else but that oracle of American liberalism, the New York Times, could run the puzzled headline: “Crime Keeps On Falling, but Prisons Keep On Filling.” But? How about this wild theory: If you lock up the criminals, crime declines. 

Accordingly, the conservative attitude toward liberals is one of compassionate condescension. 

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[Woody] Allen had admitted that he (1) could not name a single one of his children’s friends, (2) had never taken the children to the barber or given them a bath, (3) did not know who their dentist was, (4) had never attended a parent-teacher conference for son Satchel. In fact, the three children whose custody he seeks had never spent a night at his apartment. Lack of parenting skills? One might as well say that Jeffrey Dahmer lacked interpersonal skills...The problem here is not some absence of technique. It is an absence of something far more basic: an instinct, a feeling, the normal bond that ties the average parent to his child...Allen’s problem is self-absorption taken, as with most everything in his life, to the point of parody. Here is the artiste so jealous of his autonomy, so disdainful of attachment, that his children may not spend the night at his apartment, though this should not prevent the court from awarding him custody. 

The fact that the grotesque absence of these qualities in Allen could be interpreted as a lack of “parenting skills” shows how far we’ve gone in the belief in the mechanization of ordinary human feeling.

Woody Allen, the movie character, once said: I’ve had 17 years of psychotherapy—one more and I’m going to Lourdes. Time’s up, Woody. You’ve tried technique. Now get on that plane.

*

Allan Bloom once described a man who had just gotten out of prison, where he had undergone “therapy.” “He said he had found his identity and learned to like himself,” writes Bloom. “A generation earlier, he would have found God and learned to despise himself as a sinner.” 

Bloom notes that in the mind of this ex-con, “the problem lay with his sense of self, not with any original sin or devils in him. We have here the peculiarly American way of digesting Continental despair. It is nihilism with a happy ending.” 

*

The role of the artist has changed radically in the last century and a half. It was once the function of the artist to represent beauty and transcendence and possibly introduce it into the life of the beholder. With the advent of photography and film, the perfect media for both representation and narration, art has fought its dread of obsolescence by seeking some other role. Today the function of the artist is to be an emissary to the aberrant: to live at the cultural and social extremes, to go over into the decadent and even criminal, to scout forbidden emotional and psychic territory—and bring back artifacts of that “edgy” experience to a bourgeoisie too cozy and cowardly to make the trip itself. 

*

The whole natural childbirth phenomenon is an astonishing triumph of ideology over experience. Pain is normally—indeed, “naturally”—something humans try to avoid. And the pain of childbirth is among life’s most searing. It is also, today, entirely unnecessary. 

*

The second conceit is that somehow, thanks to Freud and modern psychobabble, we have real access to the inner man. As a former psychiatrist, I know how difficult it is to try to understand the soul of even someone you have spent hundreds of hours alone with in therapy. To think that one can decipher the inner life of some distant public figure is folly. Even the experts haven’t a clue. Remember that group of psychiatrists, 1,189 strong, who in 1964 signed a statement asserting their professional judgment that Barry Goldwater was psychologically unfit to be president? The very attempt to make such a diagnosis at a distance is malpractice. 

Even Nixon, his private thoughts spilled out on tape forever, is no open book. Sure, the seething cauldron of inchoate hatreds and fears helps explain Watergate. But how do you match that with the man who cut through the paranoia and fear and opened the door to China, fashioned détente and ushered in the era of arms control—something less psychically roiled presidents had not been able to do? “Know thyself” is a highly overrated piece of wisdom. As for knowing the self of others, forget it. Know what they do and judge them by their works.

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