October 22, 2012
In Obama's World, There Is No YouBy Daren Jonescu
President Obama inadvertently reveals his true post-Marxist colors at every turn, but perhaps nowhere more starkly than in his irresistible impulse to look Americans in the eye and say, "This isn't about you." What is sometimes (correctly) described as his coldness is, more precisely, the lifelong leftist's pathological habit of converting concrete human lives into an abstract, "composite" humanity which, to his corrupted intellect, seems more real than life itself.
Examples of this reality-defying collectivist mechanism abound in Obama's public statements. Consider the first question of the second presidential debate. A twenty-year-old college student, Jeremy Epstein, asks, "What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?"
Both candidates, naturally, use the opportunity to discuss their broader ideas for encouraging job growth and an affordable college education. Mitt Romney, however, personalizes his answer to demonstrate his appreciation of the real-life predicament of his questioner, with remarks like, "I want you to be able to get a job," "I know what it takes to make sure that you have the kind of opportunity you deserve," and "I'm going to make sure that when you graduate... when you come out in 2014... you get a job." (Emphasis added.)
Faced with the same real live human being, Obama's collectivizing instinct kicks in, producing the following remarks (emphasis added):
The fact that you're making an investment in higher education is critical -- not just to you, but to the entire nation.
The fact that you're going to college is great, but I want everybody to get a great education.
We've worked hard to make sure that student loans are available for folks like you -- but I also want to make sure that community colleges are offering slots for workers to get retrained....
If we do those things, not only is your future going to be bright, but America's future is going to be bright as well.
Four "personalized" remarks from Obama in the space of two minutes -- all four of them deliberately belittling a young man asking the candidates to reassure him and his parents about his future. Each of Obama's remarks is a variation on a single theme: This isn't about you, Jeremy.
Consider, in particular, the second comment, "The fact that you're going to college is great, but I want everyone to get a great education." Why "but"? Could a president dismiss the individual hopes, fears, hard work, and dreams of a young citizen any more thoroughly than by looking him in the eye and saying, in effect, "That's all well and good for you, but what about everyone else?"
Young Mr. Epstein was not the only individual to have his personal interests trivialized during that debate. Let us not forget this pitch-perfect Obama corker delivered in answer to a question about the administration's denial of "extra security" to the U.S. embassy in Libya prior to al-Qaeda's "movie protest" in Benghazi (emphasis added):
As soon as we found out the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team, and I gave them three instructions: Number one, beef up our security and procedures, not just in Libya, but in every embassy and consulate in the region.
We all know that the president is chronically grammatically challenged, but his use of the past continuous tense in that sentence -- "the Benghazi consulate was being overrun" -- indicates that he is talking about his initial reaction to the attack as it happened, rather than after the fact. So he is saying that even while his diplomatic staff in Libya was under attack, even while his ambassador was being sodomized and assassinated, his first priority was "security and procedures," but "not just in Libya." In other words, to Ambassador Stevens, the belated message is, in effect, "I understand you're being killed right now, but this isn't about you, Chris."
He just cannot resist any opportunity to downplay the importance of any actual human being's experience, in favor of projecting abstract, collective goals. And this, of course, is nothing new for Obama.
Consider his most famous remark from the 2008 campaign, the "spread the wealth" line. Aside from revealing his socialist inclinations, this encounter also exemplified his deep-seated reflex against individuals as such. Here is the other famous sound bite from his response to Joe Wurzelbacher's question about the tax implications of the plumber's new small business venture:
It's not that I want to punish your success, I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you -- that they've got a chance at success, too.
In other words, "Your success is nice and all that, but this isn't about you, Joe."
And this year, having smoothed out his "spread the wealth around" faux pas into the new, improved Marxist euphemism "shared prosperity," Obama apparently no longer feels it is necessary to pretend he does not want to punish success. The big applause lines from his famous "you didn't build that" rant against wealthy people came during the bitter mockery of his prefatory remarks:
If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own.... I'm always struck by people who think, "Well, it must be because I was just so smart" -- there are a lot of smart people out there. "It must be because I worked harder than everybody else" -- let me tell you something, there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
In other words, if you are successful, don't you dare credit it to your good ideas or hard work. There is nothing to distinguish you from anyone else, except the unfair amount of help you received from society. That is why, according to this view, it is reasonable to demand that you give an ever-increasing share of the fruits of your success back to society, i.e., to those who are just as smart and hardworking as you are, but who were "denied" the help that you got.
In this case, Obama's penchant for abstract, composite humanity does double duty. In addition to giving him a convenient alternative reality with which to overwhelm the petty existence of every real person he encounters, it provides him a convenient stockpile of caricatured targets of class hatred who, as they do not exist, are impervious to your counterargument that they are mere caricatures.
Note Obama's words, "I'm always struck by people who think, 'Well, it must be because I was just so smart.'" Who are these people? How many of them has Obama encountered? He says he is "always struck" by them, implying that he has met a lot of them. He claims to know what they think about their success, and that what they think is reducible to "I'm so great." Does this describe any successful person you know?
Admittedly, given that Obama's successful acquaintances include a lot of Hollywood and music industry bimbos, and that he himself may be the most "successful" unaccomplished man in history, it is possible that his experience over-represents self-congratulatory megalomaniacs. But that is no reason for him to imply that every wealthy person who does not want a tax hike is a delusional robber baron.
Repeatedly, as these instances of Obama's "misspeaking" pile up, we ask ourselves, "How could he be so ignorant of how this remark would sound to voters?" The fact is that what you regard as evidence of his stunning tone-deafness is, to him, the sweetest music. To Obama, a textbook leftist, the lifeless monotone of abstract humanity -- the tune of "not just you," of the disembodied "everyone else" -- is the song of Truth itself.
It is a hallmark of collectivism to deny the primacy of the individual human being -- that is, to deny the inheritance of ancient metaphysical genius and timeless common sense that made modern political liberty possible. In a sense that is more literal than any reasonable person can easily understand, individual human beings are not real for men like Obama. Hence Obama's instinct for deflecting all individual human concerns into considerations of "everybody," by which he typically means not every person, but rather an abstract collective entity -- the "middle class," the "people behind you," the "people at the bottom," "a whole bunch of hardworking people," and so on.
In this light, his more absurd abstractions, including even those regarding his own experience, become comprehensible.
Who deliberately converts his own romantic past into a "composite" girlfriend, for autobiographical purposes? A man for whom individuals are merely symbols of "higher," more general realities.
Who identifies as the representative beneficiary of his policy agenda a fictional cartoon character, Julia? A man for whom no actual human being can satisfactorily represent the human condition, which, in his mind, transcends the individual.
Who, presumably having been born in Hawaii, allows his literary agent to represent him for seventeen years as having been born in Kenya? A man for whom no mere concrete personal facts can be allowed to stand in the way of the deeper, symbolic realities that he wishes to represent.
Who instinctively reframes every question from or about a real, flesh-and-blood person as a challenge to the dignity of the abstract "everyone" -- an abstraction which he holds up as a rebuke to the petty concerns of the flesh and blood human being before him? A man whose collectivist sensibility and Marxist ideology are so deeply ingrained that his mind has completed the leftist intellectual inversion: the concrete is abstract, the abstract concrete. In other words, the individual is abstract, the collective concrete.
A rational man thinks that "collective" well-being is good, but not at the price of punishing, diminishing, or oppressing the individual. A leftist ideologue thinks the opposite -- no price exacted upon individuals is too high to pay for the goal of collective well-being.
The difference, of course, is that individualism is consistent with reality, while collectivism is not. Thus, in the individualist's perspective, there is no inconsistency between the good of individuals and the genuine well-being of the collective entity -- the state, the populace, etc. -- because the collective is correctly understood as a secondary reality, dependent on the primary reality, namely individual human lives.
Collectivism, by contrast, in reversing the natural cause-effect relationship between the concrete and the abstract -- i.e., by detaching its conception of "the people" from the verities of any particular human life -- invariably creates inconsistencies between the good of the collective and that of the individual, inconsistencies which it instinctively seeks to resolve to the advantage of the collective. Actual human lives become an inconvenience, an obstacle to the goal of a collective good understood independently of individual outcomes.
If you believe that the product of your voluntary interaction with your surroundings and with society is your rightful property, as a logical extension of your right to life, then you are an obstacle. If you are frustrated that so much of your life's effort is confiscated by the government to pay for programs and regulations that thwart your ability to pursue happiness, you are an obstacle. If you believe your natural right to self-preservation precludes any government panel or regulatory bureaucracy determining which available medical treatments you or your loved ones ought to be allowed to pursue, you are an obstacle.
The leftist's default assumption is that your assertions of individual dignity are annoying mirages cast along the path of "progress" to prevent the full realization of his abstract dreams of collective perfection. Where you cannot merely be swept aside, you must be persuaded of your unimportance -- indeed, of your ultimate unreality. Thus, "You didn't build that"; thus, "The fact that you're getting a college education is great, but..."; thus, "I think when you spread the wealth around [whose wealth?], it's good for everybody."
Obama's supporters, and particularly those who have been sold the liberal bill of goods to the effect that the president and the Democrats "care about you" more than Mitt Romney and the Republicans, must finally come to terms with the fact that in Barack Obama's mind, and in the world he envisions, there is no you.
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