Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Self-Directed Life

After engaging in a process of sincere self-reflection, Dinesh D'Souza has come to the conclusion that America is...well, pretty goddamn great, all things considered.

Rich people live well everywhere, but what distinguishes America is that it provides a remarkably high standard of living for the “common man.” A country is not judged by how it treats its most affluent citizens but by how it treats the average citizen.
Note that casual, but utterly calculated and utterly subversive use of "average." Compare it to this statement from the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops:
According to Catholic Social Teaching, the measure of a good society is based on how it treats the poor and most vulnerable.
This, of course, is an echo of the gospel of Matthew:
Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me.
There have been many, many different phrasings of this sentiment, attributed to everyone from Gandhi to Churchill to Confucius. But D'Souza, bless his heart, has managed to improve on them all: A tax cut denied the average citizen is a tax cut denied Jesus.

It's not just foundational concepts of human morality that D'Souza's eager to bastardize and cheapen. Here's his thoughtful take on that delightful romp known as the civil rights movement:
I am struck by the ease with which Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement won its victories, and by the magnitude of white goodwill in this country.
If having bombs lobbed at one's wife and child, and then being assassinated, is D'Souza's idea of "ease," it's no wonder he sees the condition of America's poor as utopian.

As for the moral ambiguity of American foreign policy, D'Souza's rhetorical switchblade makes very short work of that Gordian knot:
To...critics, America talks about democracy and human rights while supporting ruthless dictatorships around the world. In the 1980s, for example, the U.S. supported Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, the Shah of Iran, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. Today, America is allied with unelected regimes in the Muslim world such as Pervez Musharaff in Pakistan, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and the royal family in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the critics charge that America’s actions abroad, such as in the Gulf War and Iraq, were not motivated by noble humanitarian ideals but by the crass desire to guarantee American access to oil.

These charges contain an element of truth....It is indeed true that American foreign policy seeks to protect America’s self-interest, but what is wrong with this? All it means is that the American people have empowered their government to act on their behalf against their adversaries.
I hadn't been aware until now that the Chileans whom Pinochet murdered were my "adversaries," nor that the women stoned to death in Saudi Arabia had been threatening, like Blake's invisible worm, my bed of crimson joy.

Though he's demonstrated a remarkable degree of mad-dog jingoism and moral blindness thusfar, D'Souza can't quite bring himself to dismiss the Islamofascist accusation that American culture is morally decadent. If ridding ourselves of our sexually irregular untermenschen were enough to end our quarrel with Islamic theocracy, he says, he'd be all for it. Unfortunately, it's just not that simple:
Islamic radicals are not just objecting to the excesses of American culture. They are objecting to the core principle of America: the idea of the self-directed life.
A revealing choice of terminology. It's this "self-directed life," of course, that empowers us to "protect America's self-interest" through policy decisions that D'Souza himself claims have been characterized by "blunders and mistakes"...the kind that nations make when they have "little aptitude for the nuances of international politics" and an "astonishing ignorance of the rest of the world."

Granted, these little foibles often involve blowing innocent people's children into bloody, blackened fragments...but honestly, who but an unregenerate sourpuss would wage jihad on so flimsy a pretext?

This interminable, masturbatory piece reveals D'Souza as a pornographer who wallows in what Steven Marcus called "unremitting repetition and minute mechanical variation." He titillates his readers with the details of an infantile dreamworld where they can endlessly enjoy the personal comforts of the American system, without ever being called to personal account for the violence it inflicts on others. D'Souza's "self-directed life" is what normal, morally functioning people call solipsism.

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