"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Dumb And Dumber - Alexander Hamilton And The Ignorance Of The People

  It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformityThe voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true in fact. The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right (Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Papers)

Alexander Hamilton was unequivocal in his judgement of the American people, versed as he was in Shakespeare's tales of the 'fickle mob.  Swayed by a silver tongue, without moral conviction, ruled only by febrile perception and personal self-interest, 'the people' could be counted on for nothing but inconstancy. 


Hamilton argued with Jefferson the idealist who said that the majority was always right - or at least could be persuaded to come to the right conclusions - and said 'show me'.  America was a nation of swindlers, snake oil salesmen, and itinerant shell game operators and a credulous populace with their wallets open.  The people could not be trusted to analyze, think, and conclude by themselves.  Their ignorance was legion; and while perhaps with some nobility as tillers of the soil, they were in the main dupes.  As such, a buffer of those who could think - the well-born, educated in the ways of philosophy, history, and religion - was absolutely necessary to filter the intemperate will of the majority. 

Hamilton's vision was uncannily true - the American electorate is as given to folly, blandishments, fairy tales, false promises, and fantastical idealism now as it was in his day.  What Hamilton did not see was the invasive, infectiousness of democracy.  Those who were to be temperate, sagacious, intelligent filter of the mob's vanities, are just as morally and intellectually corrupt  Not only are the unwashed dumb, but their elected representatives even dumber. 


The intellectual and moral corruption in the country knows no party affiliation, no class, no race, gender, or ethnicity.  It is pervasive, perennial, and permanent.  America's intellectuals - academics - are surprisingly the cheerleaders for such emotionalism.  They who are supposed to parse every text for veracity, grounding, and historical evidence ('on-the-one-hand-on-the-other') do nothing of the kind, put the cart before the horse, start with a conclusion and then work to justify it, and end up shills for the very fake news bought and sold by the media. 

Presumption, a priori judgment, truth by belief is the rule of thumb everywhere.  Revisionism and limited vision are the soupe du jour. The moral legitimacy of historical figures must be determined by today's standards; and because of the narrowness of its definition of morality - everything must be judged through the lens of race, gender, and ethnicity -  the trash heap of history is immeasurable.  Jefferson and Washington must go because of their slaveholding and miscegenation.  Kant must be removed from the shelves because of his anti-Semitism. The South - an ignorant, backwoods, bass boat and gun rack racist region -  should never have been readmitted to the Union and must be shunned and marginalized for its horrific legacy and persistent hanging on to its old ways. 

In the election of Donald Trump, America finally came to grips with its anti-intellectual, mob mentality. It bade farewell to the Eastern Establishment, the Prince of Camelot in the White House dancing to the the tune of Pablo Casals, lyrics by Robert Frost; goodbye to Beacon Hill, Rittenhouse Square, and Park Avenue; ta-ta to literary criticism, Biblical exegesis, and solving for 'X'.  

A new lowbrow administration was in - a White House of glitz, glamour, yachts, mansions, and arm candy.  Las Vegas and Hollywood replaced Harvard and MIT.  Image, fake news, circus acts, and sides shows were in.  'The people' would finally accept Hamilton's picture and embrace it.  Everything is fake news, the majority said, so why not have fun watching academia go apoplectic about 'the truth'?

They - the majority - are ironically exactly right.  The fulfillment of Hamilton's vision could not be more true with the onset of virtual reality and artificial intelligence.  The truth has always been fungible, debatable, and a matter of who's looking, so now the liberal treasure hunt to find it has become even more impossible.  The majority - the mob - has always been ignorant, given to fanciful offers and pie-in-the-sky dreams, and now its ethos has become America's.  The whole country has jettisoned reason, and 'truth, justice, and the American way' are now parts of gaming, comic books, and Tinseltown. 

Donald Trump's election represented not only a return to conservative values and policies, but a vindication of the unwashed.  Life was one bad vaudevillian act after another.  There was no place for sanctimony on the stage.  All the real, true, definable elements of America - Mardi Gras, the runways of Vegas, the imagery of Hollywood, and the melodrama of the soaps - came together in one fell swoop. 

Don't call it ignorance anymore. That's somebody else's term, an outmoded, totally unfashionable, and wrong one.  The new American revels in the world of virtuality where anything goes, where your fantasy is as real as any other.  Fantasy itself is a valid signifier of the new ethos.  Ignorance (that old, bad word) is now indeed bliss, for it has been elevated to new heights, the foundation for live in a virtual (fake) world. 

Oh, sure, Joe Biden tries to rein in the enthusiasm for Donald Trump and his world of virtual, fantastical America; but the harder the tries, the harder and faster it runs.  Biden's way - the old chestnut, boring, faded, and totally outdated vision of America - is a thing of the past, detritus, a broken down stove left on the curb for hauling to the dump. 

Hamilton was absolutely right - the unwashed are indeed intellectually ignorant, credulous, and unstable - but absolutely wrong in his hope that this ignorance could be contained; and that with tutelage and guidance, the mob would become reasonable.  Not only could this dumbness never be corralled, it has become the ethos of the day.  America has always been this way since the first huckster, con artist, and card sharp.  The man who sold the Brooklyn Bridge to a fool should be given a plaque. 

The ethos of virtuality, fantasy, and fake news is here to stay. The 'ignorant' have become the elite. 

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