Spinoza Encule Hegel (A Sec)

Busy is a pale euphemism to describe the current chaotic state of my life right now.

If I tell you I am currently a full-time music producer and arranger, full-time VoIP server architect and full-time applied mathematics student, you might get an idea of what I mean. And there is no mistake in the previous sentence: the word full-time is purposely used three times because I am very much supposed to be doing each of these occupation full-time. Which is kind of a problem given that Earth rotation period seems to be stalling around 24 hours these days. Factor in my current involvement with WordPress development as well as my attempts to keep an appearance of social life by making regular expeditions with friends to nasty local watering holes where we proceed to get absolutely plastered on cheap sake… and you have a mathematical impossibility the likes of which even Gödel would give up on.

Since there are only so many hours of sleep you can remove from your daily schedule before permanent psychosis sets in (I mean, real psychosis, not the milder form of borderline psychopathic behaviour I usually retreat to on a good day), and since I also decided that food could not safely be removed from my daily essential needs, I had to cut down on other activities. As a result, my news readings has long fallen from many hours of intense paper scrutinizing, down to a 30 second scan of my RSS feed list and a few occasional glances at online news articles, every other week… As for TV: I have barely ever watched it in my life and the only TV set of the house is currently stored in my roommate’s room where neither of us ever turn it on, so it isn’t much of an issue.

So we can safely say that I know close to nothing about the big (and small) events of the world these days, except for the rough outline (Bush has not yet declared martial law in the US, Ishihara still hates foreigners and Tokyo maintains a precise average daily temperature of: “very hot”)…

Hell, for all I know, the War of the Worlds has already begun and I am talking (writing, really, but anyway) for a bunch of unmanned computers sitting atop the ashes of what used to be the proud western civilization, while Godzilla is busy fighting evil alien spaceships off the coast of Japan.

当節は仕事や勉強だからすごく忙しい。One minor piece of news, though, recently made the cut; and only because it kept surfacing in many of the feeds and sites I try to read regularly.
It appears that Mr. Francis “the End of History?” Fukuyama has written a new book.

And since it’s been a long time since I launched some semi-qualified attack against a popular figure, I thought I might use the occasion to share a few of my thoughts on the man. Granted, nobody really cares to hear them: my cat is my only faithful reader and the closest he has ever cared to come in contact with the work of Mr. Fukuyama was on the floor of his litter box, where said work found an unexpectedly useful second life as odor absorbent material. I can’t even use boredom as an excuse for this longwinded rant, but I guess I really need the distraction, so here goes.

This article in Straits Times is what apparently started it all… it contains a fairly decent assessment of the man and his work. So you should probably go there if you are looking for a somewhat less biased piece on the topic. Of course, you will still have to start by ignoring the laughingly unfounded claim in the title that he is “America’s Most Famous Thinker” (even assuming such a title had any meaning, it can easily be argued that Noam Chomsky has long been the winner by number of this game).

What made me take a serious dislike to Mr. Fukuyama a while back was not his ultra-controversial History etc. op-ed piece and the book that ensued. The vacuity of its historical argumentation was so obvious that I do not even fathom how any political historian or modern philosopher, save for a handful of rabid Hegelians (thankfully near extinct these days), might have paid any attention to it. At least, previous attempts by philosophers and ideologists to prove “the directionality of History” were based on more than a stack of uninspired Reagan-era party lines. Hegel might not have quite gotten it, but his justifications doesn’t read like a dated edition of the Wall Street Journal, circa 1982.
And let’s not go over the bitter irony of a theory that summons Marx, of all people, to rescue its claim that the world politics are all headed toward enlightened “Liberal Democracy” (read: some kind of benevolent capitalist empire headed by a handful of western democracies) and will magically all stop budging thereafter.

But that is precisely what Fukuyama is after: controversy and publicity. The list of his books, as the article points out, reads more like a sum-up of the past decades trendy topics: each title could have been lifted off your average alarmist Time Magazine cover. He tends to go after anything that has a chance to grab the attention of the mass media. In that optic, of course, telling people what they just want to hear (that everything will be ok and capitalism will prevail in the end) at a time where it is half-plausible, all the while making folkloric claims loosely supported by outworn philosophical theories, is the surest way to get what that attention you crave for.

I can live with that: it is par for the course in this era, and he is hardly the first one to use such promotional tactics (in fact, most “thinkers” who ever left some form of legacy probably did it at one point or another).

I have a much harder time digesting his Straussian neo-con stance. That ever popular: “let’s take the good decisions for the unshaved masses at home through lie and deception and impose them abroad through economical and military wars”.

It must be mentioned that he did side against Bush and the proponents of the war in Iraq, whatever his reasons may be. However, that laudable manifestation of intellectual integrity and political independence should not let us overlook the fact the man is still, for all purposes, a fierce advocate of the “strike first, bring capitalism later” tactic. That same school of thought that brought us Paul Wolfovitz (an old chum of his, as the article reminds us), Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld (though not the best student, according to his little classmates) and countless other hacks who currently make the politics of the United States and the World at large while regularly checking on Dubya to ensure he doesn’t choke on bretzels.

All these people, and Fukuyama prominently among them, have in common, how shall I put it, a “certain vision of the World”. And we can safely say that this vision involves a great deal of American meddling in the affairs of non-enlightened countries who have not yet fully opened their heart to a very specific interpretation of democratic concepts. Nothing more than a Monroe doctrine for the 21st Century, after all. But a doctrine that gives itself the moral high ground through the appropriation of philosophical theories. Leo Strauss is the name most often cited, but while his own views could certainly be debated too, it is quite unlikely he would have ever endorsed these self-proclaimed bearers of his legacy.

But Strauss, Machiavelli, the Enlightened State’s entitlement to Lie and Deception as a way to achieve Greater Good, and their very personal interpretations by some recent leaders, shall be left for another post, when I will feel in a particularly pedant mood or when I will be done with my current reading.

As for Fukuyama and his ilk, I will simply point out that more than a few countries’ right to democracy and freedom have been completely crushed as a direct application of their theories. Even though they are mere ideologists, inspiring or being used by leaders to justify their actions, they certainly still did not do much for the improvement of this planet so far.

I might feel somewhat less concerned and be able to stay off the dramatic overtones, had I not witnessed first-hand some of the consequences of these despicable policies on more occasions than I care to remember. Knowing a fair share of people who have lost their relatives and their home to such wars make it impossible for me to remain cool and distant on the topic. But that doesn’t change a thing to the fundamental wrong that is contained in these highly marketable ideologies.

Words might not kill, but ideas most definitely do.

P.S.: Regarding the title of this post: I’ll post an explanation tomorrow… need to sleep right now.

4 comments

  1. Chris,
    Oui… je les ai lus il y a très longtemps (après les avoir acheté un peu par hasard, de passage à Paris: probablement le titre qui avait attiré mon attention).
    J’avais beaucoup aimé le style et l’humour un peu potache, même si j’ai l’impression que beaucoup de gens ont suivi dans sa foulée du polar trash-neo-intello-politico-philosophique depuis… avec moins de réussite.
    En fait, j’ai acheté un autre bouquin de lui l’été dernier quand je suis passé en Europe, mais je n’ai toujours pas eu le temps de le lire.

    En tout cas, le titre était définitivement un des meilleurs titres (toutes langues confondues) que j’ai jamais vu sur un livre publié. C’est pour ça que je l’ai utilisé pour ce post, malgré la connection assez lointaine.

  2. Le titre est probablement la raison pourquoi je l’ai acheté, avec deux autres romans policiers mors d’un de mes raids de librairie. Mais je l’aime moins que d’autres. Marketing génial 🙂 .

    J’avais un collègue qui est aussi auteur de polars intello-politico-philosophiques comme tu les appelles; un peu moins intéllo quand même. François Muratet. Pas mal du tout. (L’auteur est prof d’histoire-géo dans la vie.)

  3. En fait, JPB est vraiment une des rares exceptions à mes habitudes de lecture. Je lis vraiment de tout, mais assez peu de bouquins français récents.

    Mon problème majeur, avec la plupart des romans français contemporains, c’est que leurs auteurs ont tous des idées bien arrêtées et entièrement prévisibles, et qu’elles sont présentées avec la finesse d’un éléphant sous LSD…
    La plupart de ces romanciers tendent à vouloir à tout prix faire partager leurs thèses de comptoir du café au travers de scènettes et personnages tellement bourrés de clichés qu’ils en perdent toute crédibilité…
    JBP échappait de justesse à ce travers grace à une certaine originalité de style… mais je ne suis même pas sûr que je pourrais le supporter sur plus de quelques centaines de pages.

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