In his encyclopaedic Leftism Revisited, the late, great Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, an Austrian who lived through World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and nearly every other war in the 20th Century, described madness as "very often a combination of cold reason and fantasy severed from all reality." Uh, yup.
Kuehnelt-Leddihn, a historian, political scientist and novelist, was speaking of leftists and their plans to remake entire societies according to the warped "Hey, look at me! I'm God and you're not!" fantasies infesting their heads. I was reminded of his definition--and his examples of that definition--after reading Joseph Stromberg's article, "A Post-Modern Nimrod," about Thomas P. M. Barnett and his plans to remake the entire world, through mass murder, according to the fantasies rattling around inside his head.
Kuehnelt-Leddihn, I am sure, would have considered Barnett to be a leftist. In Leftism Revisited he listed 41 traits that he considered to be the defining characteristics of leftism. Among the first, and most important ones (ones that Barnett supports, even if he doesn't know it), are:
Kuehnelt-Leddihn wrote of some of the little-known founders of leftism, such as Francois Charles Marie Fourier, who was born in the long-ago year of 1772. He wrote that "Fourier's writings betray a truly sick mind, far...removed from sanity..." Fourier's writings, excluding the bit about how he believed in the past there had been a second moon called Phobos that fell to Earth and created 150 new species of snakes and 43 new species of bedbugs, does remind me an awful lot of Barnett's writings: hundreds of pages of detailed plans to remake the world, virtually none of it based on reality, and most especially lacking an understanding of human nature. That complete misunderstanding of human nature is inherent in leftism, which these days is called "neoconservatism."
Fourier was one of those fellows who wanted Heaven on Earth. Unfortunately, the attempts at it always create a Hell. Theologically, the belief there can be a perfect world on Earth has always been considered blasphemy. I understand that now, since both Communism and Nazism were attempts to create a New Man and a New Earth, after sweeping away the old, just as modern-day deluded left-wing idealists think they can sweep away the old in the Middle East and replace it with their version of the New Man and the New Earth. This involves imposing "democracy" ("two wolves and a sheep deciding what they'll have for dinner") on them, even though "democracy" is a leftist concept, one utterly despised by the Founding Fathers.
There is a saying, "The Best is the enemy of the Good." For a long time I didn't know what it meant. I certainly do now. I now also understand Kuehnelt-Leddihn's comment that usually at the genesis of political systems you will find religion, no matter how warped.
Kuehnelt-Leddihn commented that Fourier's utopianism "worked both ways: 'constructively' in planning for the future, retrospectively in explaining and propounding a totally unreal past."
That happens today, too. Most citizens don't know the true history of their governments. The government schools in the US gloss over the real past of the US, instead spoon-feeding students Soma about the United States having never made a mistake. This view ignores such things as the 200,000 Filipinos and Filipinas murdered when the US invaded and conquered the Philippines in the late 1800s, or the A-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when Japan had been trying to surrender for months. I've heard this selective editing of the past--indeed the creation of a false but glorious past--described as "fine feeling and bad history."
In Fourier's confantabulated past, he divided it this way:
Don't ask me what all this means, because I don't know. I don't think Fourier actually understood it, either. But it is an illustration of Mark Twain's comment that an intellectual is someone who will believe an idea no matter how stupid it is. It might be more accurate to define these types of intellectuals as the ones enamored of Plans for Humanity, which, somehow, always involve them being Brain and everyone else in the world being Pinky.
As for that "'constructively' planning for the future," when the State does it, it's called "social engineering" and involves shoveling people around like heaps of gravel. It's leftism, too, which could be described as, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
Fourier definitely had plans for the future, including some most interesting ones, like breeding animals such as the "antilion," a quadruped which would transport its rider from one town to another in a jiffy, an easy trick since the thing was supposed to be three times the size of a lion and could cover eight yards in one step. And to think I'm stuck with a Chevy Cavalier, one with a dent in it.
Fourier's final goal was "harmony"--the earth divided into a number of completely peaceful empires. Peaceful empires? That's an oxymoron if I ever heard one. It's like the phrase, "the peaceful Borg" ("Why do you resist us?" asked the puzzled Borg Queen. "We only wish to improve the quality of your lives.").
Fourier had incredibly detailed plans on how to govern people's lives. Good thing he doesn't live today, or he'd be in charge of the Department of Homeland Security, or worse, running "security" at the airports, coming up with plans to turn babies upside down and shake bombs out of them, or to strip-search grandmas in wheelchairs.
Fourier decided people should sleep from 10 pm to 3 am, work two hours a day, and spend the rest of the time gossiping about who slept with who, listening to music and dancing, and watching plants grow and fish swim, and live to be 150 years old. These bizarre, detailed fantasies go on for hundreds of pages.
Lest you think Fourier was just a loon who got stuck in the Wacky Machine and couldn't find his way out, and whom no one ever took seriously, he actually was a substantial influence in the United States and Russia, where he influenced the New England Transcendentalists and the Russian Left, the precursors of Bolshevism. Doestoevski wrote about the influence of Fourierism in his novel, The Possessed.
I think there is something that Kuehnelt-Leddihn should have included in his definition of insanity: an intense ability to concentrate that verges on obsession. When one is living in a fantasy world "severed from all reality," it's a given that the day-dreamer can concentrate to the point the real world is excluded. How else could they write hundreds of pages of nonsense?
It didn't surprise me at all when I found that serial killers live almost completely in a fantasy world. For several years they live in their murderous fantasies and hone them until they are satisfied with them. Then they try them out in reality. If they wrote them down, I'd bet they come to hundreds of pages, such as the killer wrote in the movie, Seven.
We laugh at Fourier today, because we know he was cracked. Even in his day he was laughed at. But enough people took him seriously that he became one of the founders of leftism.
Here is a quote from Barnett's book, The Pentagon's New Map, that Stromberg quoted: "Whether we realize it or not, America serves as the ideological wellspring for globalization. These united states still stand as its first concrete expression. We are the only country in the world purposely built around the ideals that animate globalization's advance: freedom of choice, freedom of movement, freedom of expression. We are connectivity personified. Globalization is this county's gift to history…. More important, to abandon globalization's future to those violent forces hell-bent on keeping the world divided between the connected and the disconnected is to admit that we no longer hold these truths to be self-evident: that all are created equal, and that all desire life, liberty, and a chance to pursue happiness. In short, we the people needs to become we the planet."
Apparently all nuts, past and present, are the same, though the superficial details may be different. What's that popular definition of insanity? "Trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result"?
Throughout history the State has always been a vanishingly small group of people who use political power to exploit everyone else. Often, that tiny group has some very odd ideas, which they like to try out on the masses. Bizarrely, the masses often go along with it. It really is like Pinky and the Brain: an insane Brain who wants to conquer the world, and a retarded Pinky who goes along with it because he thinks Brain is smarter than he is.
I like fantasy myself, and read a lot of it. But I know Harry Potter doesn't really play Quidditch while flying on a broom. I also know that babblings like, "ideological wellspring for globalization...connectivity personified...divided between the connected and disconnected...we the people...we the planet" wells from the same Nut Spring that animated Fourier.
Will Barnett some day be seen as a loon, like Fourier? Probably. But I doubt it will happen anytime soon. Instead, the US administration will probably hone his fantasies for several years, then try them out in reality. Then, after the fantasy projected into reality collapses, a future Kuehnelt-Leddihn will have a new chapter, about a new nut (with old ideas) for another book about leftist looniness.
Bob Wallace has a degree in Journalism. Formerly a reporter and editor, now an author, Bob penned I Write What I See. Visit his Shameless Book Promotion Page and his Page Full o' Fun. He also blogs. Bob has previously written articles and essays which have been published by LewRockwell.com, The Libertarian Enterprise, Sierra Times, Strike-the-Root, and The Price of Liberty, in addition to Endervidualism.