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CSotD: The Age of No Reason

Well, yes, Prickly City (AMS), Carmen is correct that this is no longer the Age of Reason, defined as

any period in history, especially the 18th century in France, England, etc., characterized by a critical approach to religious, social, and philosophical matters that seeks to repudiate beliefs or systems not based on or justifiable by reason.

“The opposite of that,” however, is not simply being ruled by our hearts rather than our minds, which is normal and to be expected, but refusing to think through those first impressions, even in terms of internal logic.

Yes, if we were writing the Constitution today, I hope we’d do it with 21st Century sensitivities rather than those of the 18th Century.

But it would be nice, as well, if we spent a little time thinking things through and examining sources, rather than simply condemning the Founders for not being us.

Or, as I put it the other day,

(I)t’s hard to have a debate on the topic with people who think Hobbes was a stuffed tiger and that Locke and Rousseau’s first names were Sandra and Renee.

No, not everyone in colonial America was reading those brilliant background documents, but the people they trusted with their future had.

Even so, however, I think Jefferson placed too much faith in people, a mistake that would be repeated 200 years later by Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama: The belief that, if people had the information they needed, they’d make good decisions and the nation would move forward.

It’s a lovely thought, but, as Robert Wilensky observed

We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.

Yesterday’s hearings should have convinced people that the Jan 6 uprising was not spontaneous, that it was an attempt to overthrow the government and that it was planned and directed from within the White House.

But, as Tom Tomorrow puts it, the people who want to believe otherwise are not going to be swayed by facts, to which I would add that, if you think it’s just the dimwit Archie Bunker numbskulls down at the local bar, you’re missing the point.

I saw a back-and-forth on social media this morning between two well-known political cartoonists, one of whom had made a point about the hearings and the other who refused to watch them because he already knew it was all lies.

It was more than a case of “don’t confuse me with the facts.” Rudy Giuliani said: “We’ve got lots of theories. We just don’t have the evidence,” but this guy was sure that theories are all the evidence you need.

And, to cite another school of philosophy, that contradiction was a perfectly valid argument, so that, when told it was not, he simply replied “Is so!”

 

Ann Telnaes sums up yesterday’s hearings: All footprints lead to Trump.

Unfortunately, the response to this is “So what?” because there is a substantial part of the population that not only doesn’t care but doesn’t want to know and is therefore refusing to find out.

And, as Telnaes had already noted, Trump is hedging his bets by intimidating witnesses.

One of my first reactions to this cartoon is to wonder where anyone would get magazines from which to clip letters these days, given the sad state of that industry.

But she was not only right about the thuggish messages being sent to Jan 6 witnesses last week, she anticipated yesterday’s hearing, at the conclusion of which Liz Cheney revealed yet another attempt to suppress testimony, and this time the committee referred the matter to the Justice Department.

Which simply adds to a growing pile of “So what?”

 

Pat Bagley offers a charming scenario, but so what? The likelihood of either of these punks being brought to justice seems slim at the moment.

Will Merrick Garland act to indict Trump for witness tampering or for inciting the riots themselves?

There are prominent people saying it would set the bad precedent that nobody is above the law. (That’s not quite how they phrase it.)

And, again, so what? This is not the Age of Reason. If there are people who believe that John F. Kennedy Jr. is alive, if there are people who believe the Moon landing was faked, how much disillusionment can we expect if Trump were to be convicted for his crimes?

And how much denial? How much would it reinforce their belief in a conspiracy?

And who burned down the Reichstag?

 

A second anonymous threat appears in this Clay Jones cartoon about Brittney Griner, the American basketball star being tried in Russia for possession of hash oil.

It’s a more high profile case than that of other Americans being held in foreign prisons, which, as Jones suggests, allows Putin to exploit the case and back Biden into a corner.

It’s also fodder for a lot of hate from people who insist she should pay for her crimes, though they seem to be the same people who insist that we shouldn’t be backing Ukraine.

The interesting question is what you would offer Putin? Trevor Reed was freed in a prisoner swap, but that was just at the start of our sanctions, before they were strengthened and began to bite.

Easing up on sanctions now would give us one American basketball player in exchange for how many slaughtered Ukrainians?

Reason seems to offer little at the moment.

 

Finally — though lack of finality is the point — Cathy Wilcox explains the place of faith, and of women, in the Roman Catholic Church.

As it happens, the latest copy of my estranged alma mater’s alumni magazine arrived yesterday. I only read it to find out which classmates have died, but I did peruse the issue enough to discover a lengthy, thoughtful piece about the role of women in the church.

Which could have been condensed to the caption in Wilcox’s cartoon, or captured in “credo quia absurdum,” or “I believe because it is absurd,” which means to accept on faith things that cannot be explained by reason.

Which Tertullian never said and wouldn’t have meant, making it perfect for these days.

 

Community Comments

#1 Paul Berge
July/13/2022
@ 7:14 am

Thomas Jefferson may have had too much faith in the people, as you say; on the other hand, the Founding Fathers also gave us the Electoral College, there to overrule the hoi polloi in case vox populi contradicted the wisdom of the elites.

Among whom a certain orange-skinned grifter with a ridiculous hairdo believes himself to belong.

#2 Tara Gallagher
July/13/2022
@ 1:19 pm

And the popular vote did not decide electors’ votes until 1820
Not to mention state legislatures choosing senators until the early 20th century.
Incrementalism is a founding principle of our country.

#3 Mike Peterson
July/13/2022
@ 2:33 pm

Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker and used to national figures popping up in our Senate seats — RFK and Hillary, for instance — but I’m not so sure an elected Senate serves the purpose of a sea anchor to keep proposed legislation on the beam. Aside from the fact that the Founders didn’t foresee so many states with such differences in population, the notion of a sort of House of Lords fell apart when Senators became popularly elected.

Rather than reform it, I’d be inclined to get rid of it, perhaps upping Reps to 4 year terms so they didn’t spend their entire time in office running for reelection.

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