Monday, July 21, 2008

Obama and the Ethos of Persuasion

As Carl Schmitt, a leading authority on authoritarian government puts it: “No political system can last even as long as one generation on technical grounds or by the assertion of power alone. Central to politics is the idea, for there can be no politics without authority, and no authority without an ethos of persuasion." This concept was related to the decline of various kingdoms within Egypt as it related to the political ideas then in circulation that had failed or no longer served the current reality.

I found this utterly fascinating because when you think about the major movements of the century, Communism, Nazism, etc., it was the central idea or ethos that the rulers used to promote their system. Bush has used the idea of freedom in a similar manner to justify the war in Iraq. And one might say, cheekily, that the abortion rights movement has used the idea of freedom to promote a concept of freedom that is not related to how most women feel about pregnancy—yet the word “choice” continues its headless canter towards the cliffs of spiritual and moral oblivion as the harpies of reproductive freedom chant their liturgy of freedom. It is, simply, an ethos of persuasion unrelated to morality as a whole.

One senses that part of Babrack Obama’s charm is that there is the sense that he is attempting to articulate some sort of new ethos and people are tired of the old ethos that is promoted by strict party constructionists and those who cater to the syllogisms and remorseless logic of canned ideas. It should be quite clear that not everyone wants to be free in the sense that Americans are free (or think they are free) and yet the idea persists without adversion to the religious and spiritual genesis that created the idea of freedom to begin with.

What might this new idea be? Diplomatic engagement at all levels ala Nixon overcoming the yellow peril by meeting communist leaders??? When one looks closely at American foreign policy one finds no new ideas, only repetition of old stratagems by people who no longer believe in anything but their paychecks and lip synching with group consciousness.

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