Marvin J. Folkertsma
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Liberalism's Descent into Madness
Marvin J. Folkertsma
One of the most fruitful observations about politics is that it flows downhill from culture, which launches a variety of speculations about how examining specific cultural products enables us better to understand current political developments. During a year dominated by flamboyant poseurs bombarding our fair land with catchphrases and sanity-challenged promises, it seems that the concept of “madness” has few competitors to guide us through this most unusual political jungle. After all, just what is one supposed to make of an unindicted felon, an infantile socialist, and a “high energy” master of non sequitur phrases and provocative policies, all competing for the highest office in the land? Isn’t this just a bit mad?
Actually, it isn’t, at least not compared to other political events that reek of madness informed by totalitarian proclivities. Without doing a Clintonesque probing into the connotation of simple expressions, we still are compelled to ask about the meaning of the word “madness.” Here’s where culture comes into play, in this case with an essay by Charlotte Perkins Gilman titled “The Yellow Wallpaper”, which was based on an incident in her life and was published in 1892.
Written in the first person, the protagonist chronicles her experiences while she is forcibly confined to a room with walls covered by hideous yellow wallpaper that not only “smells” yellow, but is embossed with convoluted patterns: “It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide -- plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.” The yellow wallpaper gradually seizes control of her mind -- “It dwells in my mind so!” -- causing her to believe that it “looks to me as if it KNEW what a vicious influence it had!”
Indeed, the reader is witnessing a mind descending into madness, and the essay ends with this caged soul clawing at women who are creeping around behind the paper, and she is one of them. When her husband, a condescending fool and a weakling, breaks into the room and observes her behavior, he faints. Undeterred from her madness, she continues to slink around the room, wondering, “Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!”
While feminists have seized upon this essay as a superb statement about how women under stress were treated at that time, as well they should, the theme in “The Yellow Wallpaper” speaks to a much larger audience, especially to sane observers of America’s liberal ruling class, in government, academia, and the media. For instance, consider President Obama’s commencement speech at Howard University, where he intoned, “We can't walk by a homeless man without asking why a society as wealthy as ours allows that state of affairs to occur.” Really? He’s condemning our whole society for allowing this state of affairs to occur? Doesn’t anyone think that this miserable schmuck might bear at least some responsibility for his condition, especially considering the colossal number of government agencies available to help those in need?
Apparently not, because Obama went on to his “pet peeve” about “People who have been successful and don't realize they've been lucky. That God may have blessed them; it wasn't nothing you did.” These words convey the message that working hard and taking responsibility for your actions do not earn you the success you’ve achieved; rather, it was all a matter of luck, because, as he pointed out on an earlier occasion: “You didn’t build that!” In fact, President Obama’s address is not only despicable and un-American; it’s unbridled madness, and those who have benefited from their own individual accomplishments know that.
Next we turn to the cadaverous countenance of Secretary Kerry, whose commencement address at Northwestern University included a “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” warning about climate change, drawing respectful applause by the duly indoctrinated graduates, many of whom likely will end up as edict-spewing, save-the-earth apparatchiks in some government agency. And, taking a shot at the Man-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned-on-a-college-campus! (Trump), Kerry warned that “There are no walls big enough to stop people from anywhere, tens of thousand miles away, who are determined to take their own lives while they target others.” Of course, since American college students are “about to graduate into a complex and borderless world,” protecting the lives of our citizens and national security probably shouldn’t matter that much. After all, Kerry and his ilk, mimicking the captive of The Yellow Wallpaper, “see what others cannot see” -- a borderless world lurching toward annihilation from climate change. All of which is sheer madness.
Which suggests an interesting question: Do those who are mad realize they are mad? Though I’m hardly an expert on this subject, the answer in literature I’ve reviewed seems to vary; some don’t, as in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Nikolai Gogol’s “Memoirs of a Madman”, while some at least suspect they have gone insane, as in Edgar Allan Poe’s creepy “The Tell-Tale Heart”. But it’s fair to surmise that liberals who have embraced such madness as trigger warnings, safe spaces, microaggressions, choose-your-gender fluidity, and multiculturalism suspect not at all that they have descended into madness.
Take multiculturalism, for instance, a doctrine based on the assumption about the world’s stupendously varied cultures somehow being equally valuable and worthy of respect. Problem is, anyone with a firm grasp of empirical reality knows that isn’t the case, but must still pretend that it is lest you be labeled something awful from liberalism’s vast repertoire of vilifications. In fact, the only way to survive in America today is to learn how to dissemble much of the time, or to keep your mouth shut to avoid the consequences of acknowledging truth and reality. Hannah Arendt’s observation in her magnificent account,Totalitarianism, is depressingly instructive: “The tremendous shock of disillusion which the Red Army suffered on its conquering trip to Europe could be cured only by concentration camps and forced exile for a large part of the occupation troops; but the police formations which accompanied the Army were prepared for the shock, not by different and more correct information… but simply by a general training in supreme contempt for all facts and all reality.”
The awful question remains about how sane citizens can function in a country increasingly dominated by liberal madness, or even attempt to change it from the “transformations” perpetrated over the past eight years. A sea-change in the culture is unlikely in the short term, but a political change in our governing institutions is more possible, especially if such resulted in a vast diminution of executive power accompanied by an elimination of federal dictates on how Americans tend to their cultural affairs. In the meantime, don’t expect the liberal oligarchy to change, except perhaps for just a few here and there. In fact, if we hear liberals shout the words of Poe’s character in “The Tell-Tale Heart”: "Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! -- tear up the planks! here, here! -- It is the beating of his hideous heart!" -- then we’ll know that the country is finally heading in the right direction.