One of the greatest series of books that I have ever found has been the “Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series.” Philosophy is the study of human nature and whenever anyone creates any kind of art, the creator’s human nature shows through it, whether it be a book, a painting, a song, a movie, or even a popular tv series. It’s absolutely mind-bending how much one can pull out of a piece of art as examples of what philosophers are showing us through their writing. It’s better than using current events or real people as examples because we have no real emotional attachment to the art pieces. We understand that the piece is there to entertain us and make us think and it makes it easier to put the mirror of philosophy up to them, instead of ourselves, without getting our feelings hurt.
The latest one I’m reading is on the tv show “Lost.” When I watched the show years ago, I was struck by the character names and the idea of a random group of people surviving on an island. I felt the vague sense of the writers trying to tell us something. I loved the characters and how they reacted to situations. And, yes, I was totally in love with Sawyer and not just for his sexy abs. I loved the character because he didn’t act vulnerable, he didn’t react emotionally (most of the time). He was tough and a bit mean at times, but if you really looked at his actions (and deep behind those dreamy eyes), you got the sense of who he really was, that his feelings ran deep. <sigh> Anyway…
I’m on chapter 10, “Friends and Enemies in the State of Nature – The Absence of Hobbes and the Presence of Schmitt.” I’ve read Locke and some of Hobbes. I had heard of Rousseau and his theories, but I’d never heard of Schmitt until today, so his theories totally shocked me with how closely they run with our own political climate since the 1930’s. It really has me wondering why we don’t study the history of the last 100 years more closely, why we let ourselves forget and believe the new watered down versions instead.
I was so struck by these lines that I ran out to the garage to talk it all out to my husband while he was trying so hard to get our new Christmas decoration finished! My quotes here are from the book, not the philosophers themselves. Here it goes.
Locke was one of the most influential writers that spurred our own American Revolution and our independence from Great Britain. His theories are based on logic and reason. “Lockean government, like a farmer, nurtures and cultivates the soil of human nature and natural rights in a way that is consistent with the laws of nature so that human beings will flourish peaceably and rationally.” Sounds nice. I like it!
Rousseau was one of the most influential writers that spurred the French Revolution. His theories are somewhat based on emotion and human feelings of power. “For Rousseau, the invention of society is more like the invention of human flight. Like an aircraft, according to Rousseau, society must honor nature and nature’s rights, but the delicate invention of society nevertheless allows us to transcend nature, to take a higher, enlarged view of our world and ourselves.” Not bad either. It reminds me of the story of the “talents” from the bible, putting work into what God has given us and doing wonderful things with it.
And then there is our friend Hobbes. I’ve never liked Hobbes’ theories. I listened to an audiobook of “Leviathan.” It depressed me. His theories have a huge hole in my opinion. He says humans are just so nasty, they need to be controlled. “Like a caged animal in a zoo, the beast can remain well fed, peaceful, and long-lived only by being contained.” But my question always remains, “Who is qualified to be the zoo-keeper?” I mean if all humans are mean and nasty, then what is it that would give certain ones the authority to rise above and keep the others in line? Whenever anyone starts with this line of thinking, and it comes up fairly often, the people I talk with all seem to think they are the rulers and “everyone else” are the slaves. I’ve yet to hear anyone say they aren’t capable of taking care of themselves and that they leave those things to their betters for their own good.
But Schmitt, his ideas ring a little too clearly in our current government and it frightens me, not because he wrote about it and our government seems to be following his advice, but because the people I talk to or hear talking seem not to think about it at all. Most of us have never even heard of him. See if this sounds familiar to you, “Schmitt’s central thesis is that an “enemy” is necessary to the formation and development of society. If liberal political theory is defined by its goal of eliminating conflict and securing a rational peace, Shmittian-Nazi theory is defined by its embracing conflict and war as not only desirable, but essential.” This is the man that defined and supported the Nazi party ideas. They didn’t want to expand their empire and kill off the Jews because it would be great for the government. They believed they were doing something wonderful for their country and its people, and for a while they made the people very happy. They chose the Jews as the enemy because they believed most of the world would not react badly to it. Anti-semitism was widely accepted in our country at the time, as well as racism and eugenics.
Is this the idea that both the Democrats and Republicans are operating under? “If you follow us, we’ll protect you from the others!” The cry of “Terrorists!” gets everyone behind them. We really have only one party. Every time the power shifts from one side to the other, all we hear about is how the ruling party is going to take us in a terrible direction. We battle between ourselves for the next eight years, with the same arguments they used against the party that was just replaced. “Bush did that!” “Obama did that!” And now “Trump did that!” But we’re always going in the same direction, more war against the others. The only thing people fight over is the promises of wealth the candidate made before he was elected. What if we just stopped fighting wars overseas and became more defensive instead of offensive? What if we stopped giving more and more power to the government and then complaining when the government uses it against us “for our own good”? What if the survivors on Lost just set up a defense of their own area and stopped going out in the jungle looking to stop the others before they started anything?