Above the Fray

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Letterman is going to get emails

In the 'Tempest in a Teapot category: David letterman sure risks a fire storm from the PPPundits [yes, this is a mixed metaphor! Tough it out..]:

Condoleezza Rice has warned Iran to stop its nuclear program. They say stop the nuclear program or face the next step. ...

And the next step being fabrication of evidence and then we march right in. --David Letterman

And while we are at and on the subject of 'Tea Pot outrage', Sam Smith has posted an old article of his that doesn't need updating.. just as fresh and pungent now as it was in 1989. I only have one small criticism; he is waay tooo soft on the prigs [be very careful how you spell and say this word], and some comment should be made that in the past prigs were merely irritating, now we are approaching a time when it might be a crime to ignore or make fun of them.

You could get outsourced for further interogation as a traitor, or brought up before a committee, or tried by TV PPPundits, or I don't know what all...none of it pleasant though. Another take on the subject: Richard Hofstadter "they have the ruthlessness of the pure in heart"

The morally righteous are now making and enforcing our laws see Justice Dept. Argues for secret evidence But I digress.. here are some excerpts:
A SURFEIT OF PRIGS by Sam Smith 1989

In pre-revolutionary Connecticut, being a common scold was a felony. Despite the currently overcrowded conditions of our prisons there is much to be said for reviving this offense, for few characteristics of our time have been more burdensome than the noisy priggishness that has come over the land... [PPPundits = Bill Bennett, Sean Hannity, O Really..et al ***]

...The problem for adult America is that we increasingly seem to be taking such people seriously. We have elected a remarkable number to office, with the inevitable result that prigs are now taking over appointive positions as well - most disastrously on the Supreme Court which now has its first prig majority in many decades. [geez..good thing Sam could not look into the future..]

A prig, according to Webster's is, among other things, one who offends or irritates by obvious or rigid observance of the proprieties: one self-sufficient in virtue, culture or propriety often in a pointed manner or to an obnoxious degree.

Being priggish is marked by overvaluing oneself or one's ideas, habits, notions, by precise or inhibited adherence to them.

And priggism is self-conscious propriety of conduct; stilted correctness of behavior; prim adherence to conventionality.

Woodrow Wilson, one of the few politicians who actually dealt with the prig problem, told a crowd in Pittsburgh in October 1914: If you will think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself. Character is a byproduct, and any man who devotes himself to its cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig.

The emphasis on salvation in isolation that is so central to current evangelicalism (not to mention certain strains of psychotherapy and contemporary self-help literature) is an ideal breeding ground for the prig...

But whatever the cause, the relative priggishness of a religion becomes a matter of critical importance when theology spills over, as it has with a vengeance, into national politics. For when politicians and Supreme Court Justices talk and think about God they are not talking of the God of the deist, the llth Commandment ecologist, the Unitarian, the Quaker, the liberal Catholic, the low Episcopalian, the Seventh Day Agnostic or even the ancient god of the Jew. It is patently clear from their language that they are describing The Great Prig In the Sky -- lord, master and protector of the unctuous, the self-righteous and the ostentatiously saved.

The prig, having no sense of perspective nor sense of humor], is constantly in danger of encouraging results quite contrary to the intent declared by appearances...

I tend to stay away from political prigs even when I am in sympathy with their cause. I can smell piety a mile away and prefer the company of sinners just trying to do better to those who leave the strong impression that you're not really good enough to join them. Besides they might catch me eating a Big Mac.

Fortunately, there is plenty of activism that doesn't ask too many questions or demand that we save ourselves before, together, we try to mitigate the damage that clearly faces all of us. Besides, the prigs never attain the perfection they pretend. They not only irritate others and deceive themselves, they miss that of the mystery of life which lies in its contradictions and inconsistencies. The sinners know, in their hearts, that they have more fun.

Furthermore, as the poet William Stafford pointed out, "If you purify the pond, the lilies die." [Yeppers, twice over]

Read the whole article here

For a less charitable rundown on PriGs:

Excerpts from: The People of The Lie by M. Scott Peck MD

Page 69: The central defect of 'the evil' is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it. More often than not these people will be looked at as solid citizens. How can that be?..

Page 72 The poor in spirit do not commit evil. Evil is not committed by people who feel uncertain about their righteousness, who question their own motives, who worry about betraying themselves. The evil of this world is committed by the spiritual fat cats, by the Pharisee's of our own day, the self-righteous who think they are without sin because they are unwilling to suffer the discomfort of significant self-examination. It is out of their failure to put themselves on trial that their evil arises. They are, in my experience remarkably greedy people....

Page 74 Since they must deny their own badness, they must perceive others as bad. They project their own evil onto the world. The evil attack others instead of facing their own failures. Spiritual growth requires the acknowledgment of one's own need to grow. If we cannot make that acknowledgment, we have no option except to attempt to eradicate the evidence of our imperfection...

The stages of Spiritual Growth By M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Most all young children and perhaps one in five adults fall into Stage I. It is essentially a stage of undeveloped spirituality. I call it antisocial because those adults who are in it (and those I have dared to call "People of the Lie" are at its bottom) seem generally incapable of loving others.

Although they may pretend to be loving (and think of themselves that way), their relationships with their fellow human beings are all essentially manipulative and self-serving. They really don't give a hoot about anyone else.

I call the stage chaotic because these people are basically unprincipled. Being unprincipled, there is nothing that governs them except their own will. And since the will from moment to moment can go this way or that, there is a lack of integrity to their being.

They often end up, therefore in jails or find themselves in another form of social difficulty. Some, however, may be quite disciplined in the services of expediency and their own ambition and so may rise in positions of considerable prestige and power, even to become presidents or influential preachers...

A slice of the apple from a different angle. This is another article that survives well over time. Just substitute todays players for the ones in 1964

The Paranoid Style in American Politics Richard Hofstadter
Harper’s Magazine, November 1964

...The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms. He traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millenialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date fort the apocalypse...

...The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way...

...Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction...

...It is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry...

...On the other hand, the sexual freedom often attributed to the enemy, his lack of moral inhibition, his possession of especially effective techniques for fulfilling his desires, give exponents of the paranoid style an opportunity to project and express unacknowledgeable aspects of their own psychological concerns...

...A special significance attaches to the figure of the renegade from the enemy cause. The anti-Masonic movement seemed at times to be the creation of ex-Masons..But I think there is a deeper eschatological significance that attaches to the person of the renegade: in the spiritual wrestling match between good and evil which is the paranoid’s archetypal model of the world, the renegade is living proof that all the conversions are not made by the wrong side. He brings with him the promise of redemption and victory...

...A final characteristic of the paranoid style is related to the quality of its pedantry. One of the impressive things about paranoid literature is the contrast between its fantasied conclusions and the almost touching concern with factuality it invariably shows...

...The difference between this “evidence” and that commonly employed by others is that it seems less a means of entering into normal political controversy than a means of warding off the profane intrusion of the secular political world. The paranoid seems to have little expectation of actually convincing a hostile world, but he can accumulate evidence in order to protect his cherished convictions from it...

Note: Use of the symbol [ * ] governed by the rules set forth in The Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut.