Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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An Essay Worth Reading …

Those who have visited WWTFT over the course of the last year or so, will recognize the name of Richard Weaver.  This reviewer has read three of his books and is going through each of them again chapter by chapter in an effort to more fully grasp and assimilate the ideas Weaver wrote about. On perusing some online archived issues of a journal called Modern Age, I noticed this essay entitled Life Without Prejudice.  It was written in 1957. It explains why the term has been subverted and why prejudice is actually a good thing.

WHEN ONE SETS OUT to discover how “prejudice” became a fighting word, some interesting political history comes to light. Everybody is aware that this term is no longer used in its innocent sense of “pre- judgment.” It is used, instead, as a flail to beat enemies. Today the air resounds with charges of “prejudice,” and the shrill note given it by the “liberals,” and radicals suggests a considerable reservoir of feeling and purpose behind its invocation.

Before going on to what prejudice really is, its utility and rationality, Weaver explains why the term has been relegated to hot-button status. Weaver indicts the communists and world-wide revolutionary movement, for intentionally working to bring down western civilization by attacking its culture.  Remember, Weaver was writing at the beginning of the cold war and the government was rife with communists, people like Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs, who were actively working against the United States.  Regardless, of the perpetrator, the tactics described by Weaver should sound eerily familiar.  In order to implement “fundamental transformation” of American society, one first has to clear the ground.  The way to do that is to chip away at the pillars supporting the edifice, like Stephen King’s beam breakers in his Dark Tower series and Hearts in Atlantis.  Weaver describes the “cunning plan” of the world-wide revolutionary movement:

To this end, what it knows that it must overcome is the binding element, or the cohesive force that holds a society together. For as long as this integrative power remains strong, the radical attack stands refuted and hopeless. This will explain the peculiar virulence with which communists attack those transcendental unifiers like religion, patriotism, familial relationship,  and the like. It will also explain, if one penetrates the matter shrewdly, why they are so insistent upon their own programs of conformity, leveling, and de-individualization.

In the new ethos of perfection, distinctions between roles and functions in society must be eliminated.  One has to look no farther than the issue de jour: that one’s gender is now not to be considered a physical phenomenon. Everyone must be the same.  No differentiation can be permitted.

The point is that their hostility to distinctions of all kinds as we know them in our society conceals a desire to dissolve that society altogether.  And we see that practically all traditional distinctions, whether economic, moral, social, or aesthetic, are today under assault as founded on a prejudice. This shows itself in everything from the more absurd theorems of “democratic action” to the ideal of non-competitive education,” by which teachers who ought to be on the dunce’s stool themselves have been led half the distance to Moscow.

Moscow is no longer the destination, per se.  The ruin of America is, however, still the result.

Having established the why and exposing the tactics being employed, Weaver goes on to cite an essay entitled “A Defense of Prejudice”  written at the beginning of the 20th century by John Grier Hibben, a professor of logic at Princeton and later president of that university (Woodrow Wilson’s successor). Weaver uses Hibben’s work to explain three ways in which exercising prejudice in the sense of “pre-judgement” is a not only not a bad thing, but essential for daily life.

First, there are those judgments whose verification has simply dropped out of memory. At one time they were reached in the same way as our “logical” conclusions, but the details of the process have simply been forgotten. It is necessary to the “economy of thought” that we retire from consciousness many of the facts that were once used to support our judgments. The judgments themselves remain as a kind of deposit of thought. They are not without foundation, though the foundation is no longer present to the mind with any particularity; and the very fact that we employ these judgments successfully from day to day is fair evidence that proof would be available if needed. The judgments are part of the learning we have assimilated in the process of developing a mind.

The second type of unreasoned judgments hold are the opinions we adopt from others-our betters in some field of learning or experience. There is no need to labor the truth that we all appropriate such opinions on a considerable scale, and if we could not do so, books and institutions of learning would lose their utility. No man in a civilized society proves more than a small percentage of the judgments he operates on,  and the more advanced or complex civilization grows, the smaller this proportion must become. If every man found it necessary to verify each judgment he proceeds on, we would all be virtual paupers in knowledge. It is well for everyone to know something concerning the methods of verification, but this indeed differs from having to verify all over again the hard-won and accumulated wisdom of our society. Happily there is such a thing as authority.

The third class of judgments in Professor Hibben’s list comprises those which have subconscious origin. The material that furnishes their support does not reach the focal point of consciousness, but psychology insists upon its existence. The intuitions, innuendoes, and shadowy suggestions which combine to form our opinion about say, a character, could never be made public and formal in any convincing way. Yet only the most absurd doctrinaire would hold that they are therefore founded upon error. In some situations the mind uses a sort of oracular touchstone for testing what cannot be tested in any other way. My judgment that Mr. Blank, though a well-spoken and plausible gentleman, will one day betray his office is a conclusion I cannot afford to put aside, even though at the present moment I have no publicly verifiable facts from the space-time continuum which would prove it to another. It may be true that only those minds which are habituated to think logically can safely trust their intuitive conclusions, on the theory that the subconscious level will do its kind of work as faithfully as the conscious does its kind. This still leaves room for what may be termed paralogical inference

Read the essay, you’ll be glad you did.


1 Ann Herzer { 06.23.14 at 9:25 am }

I’m so relieved to know that being prejudiced is normal!


2 Jacobite { 07.03.14 at 5:47 pm }

Having normal prejudices is normal. Believing in multi-culturalism, for an example, is abnormal and insane.


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