February 20, 2008
POLITICS: The New Obamist Man
Thou Shalt Remain Engaged In Politics. Thou Shalt Cast Down Thy Cynicism. Thou Shalt Have Only One Barack Obama.
Walter Ulbricht proclaimed the "Ten Commandments of Socialist Morality" at the SED's 6th Party Congress in July 1958. They were supposed to embody the principles of Socialist ethics and morality and guide the behavior of every GDR citizen. They were later incorporated into the SED party platform.
Ulbricht was the First Secretary of the SED, East Germany's version of the Communist Party and soon to become the formal head of state, and an "archetypical Stalinist," who designed much of the central-planning system that ran East Germany's economy into the ground. The picture at right shows a copy of those "Ten Commandments," in German, hanging in an East German school. Rendered in English, these governmental edicts commanded the "New Socialist Man" to perform the following obesiance to his political leadership:
1. Thou shalt always defend the international solidarity of the working class as well as the permanent bonds that unite all socialist countries.
2. Thou shalt love thy Fatherland and always be ready to defend worker and peasant power with all thy strength and capacity.
3. Thou shalt help to eliminate the exploitation of humans by one another.
4. Thou shalt perform good deeds for socialism, since socialism produces a better life for all working people.
5. Thou shalt act in the spirit of mutual support and comradely cooperation during the construction of socialism, respect the collective, and take its criticisms to heart.
6. Thou shalt protect and increase the property of the people.
7. Thou shalt always pursue ways to improve thy performance, be thrifty, and strengthen socialist work discipline.
8. Thou shalt rear thy children in the spirit of peace and socialism to become citizens who are well-educated, strong in character, and physically healthy.
9. Thou shalt live a clean and decent life and respect thy family.
10. Thou shalt exhibit solidarity with all those people who are fighting for national liberation and defending their independence.
Now, taken individually, at least some of these commandments (e.g., #9) are fine, wholesome sentiments. Taken collectively as an official statement of the government's ruling class, they are an abomination, a symbol of the subservient relationship of the individual to the constantly hectoring collective state.
I was put in mind of this sort of thing by the latest from Senator Obama's wife:
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eights years from now, you will have to be engaged.
Jim Geraghty says this is "creepy":
I know presidents don't like cynicism. I know they often urge us not to be cynical. But I don't know if I like talk of a president "demanding" citizens "shed their cynicism." Liberty isn't just about the good stuff; we ought to be free to be cynical. Our leaders demand enough as is in income taxes.
And while presidential candidates are always going on about building bridges to coming centuries and building a better tomorrow, etc., I think pledging to end "life as usual" ought to be sending up red flags. Barring us from going back to our "lives as usual" is not in the job description, and shouldn't be.
Ace has a more pungently appropriate reaction to this sort of rhetoric. Now, it's a good thing to have a president who can call on the conscience of the people to do better, and many of our leaders (Lincoln, TR, JFK, FDR) have done that in memorable fashion. Indeed, the GOP is running behind a man who stresses, as one of his core themes, the call of public service and the fight against undue cynicism.
But I agree with Geraghty that it's all too reminiscent of the obscene dictates placed on the New Socialist Man to be promoting a candidate based on the demands he will place on his people. In a free society, citizens have not just the right but the duty to have a healthy skepticism about government and politicians and what they propose to do with our liberty and our property. The Right has always known that, as far back as Madison's view that "if men were angels, no government would be necessary" - as I wrote a few years ago, we conservatives recognize that "Men may change governments, but governments can not be trusted to change men." The Left is supposed to preach this lesson as well - "question authority," "dissent is patriotic," and all that - yet somehow, we see this weak-in-the-knees attitude when a sufficiently 'inspirational' figure comes along, promising to do away with the messy partisanship of ordinary democracy.
You can take your New Socialist Man. Me, I'll stick with the people who think the whole point of electing politicians to take care of the jobs that we assign them to do is so we can live our lives as usual.
"and all that - yet somehow, we see this weak-in-the-knees attitude when a sufficiently 'inspirational' figure comes along, promising to do away with the messy partisanship of ordinary democracy."
*cough* Reagan *cough*
Swoon baby. Swoon.
Geraghty also has this gem(similar to Ace's note):
"I'm sorry, nowhere in the Constitution does it authorize the President of the United States to demand anyone shed their cynicism. And I'm all for people pushing themselves to be better, but I don't think the President demanding it is the way to go about it."
There's nothing like taking political rhetoric and making into visions of groupthink and dictates. After all, why bother calling out the calculated statement to many college students (with more volunteer potential) when you can make it seem so worse.
Weird. I thought it was just yesterday that Mrs. Obama was being called out by the right for not being sufficiently proud of America, as if there is a list of things that she has to be.
I guess that would be her being a bit of a cynic, and perhaps skeptical about things.
McCain sure seems to be "living [his] life as usual". He cheated on his first wife with his current wife, whose notable achievements include being born into corporate beer money (that was used to fund McCain's political career before he became a whimpering shill for "socialist" public financing) and stealing prescription medications from her nonprofit organization. And the philandering didnt stop there; see today's Wash Post and Ny Times stories about his 200 involvement with a 43 y.o. lobbyist and the shameful Keatingesque letter writing campaign he waged on behalf of her clients vis a vis federal regulators. And of course he's a "ho" in other ways too, having abandoned the Republican party in all but name, and very nearly literally a la Joe Lieberman, during 2000-2004, and of course flirting with a vp bid on Kerry's Democratic ticket. Yeah he's livin up the temper filled, philandering, flipflopping, quasi liberal life that makes your "socialist boy" Obama look like a Puritan by comparison.
Help me out here, because I'm so busy with work I seemed to have missed some major news:
When did Michelle Obama announce she was running for President?
Mike Mike Mike. Have you forgotten so soon, the Republican litany? It's OK to have a Republican spouse be involved as an intelligent person (uh, does that include Nancy's astrologer?), but if a Democrat actually has a smart spouse, that's bad.
Nah, it just means she's accountable for what she says. In the arena = in the arena.
Yeah, and this place is nothing if not a hotbed of GOP accountability.
And Superbowl predictions.
See, abe, here's the difference: I am willing to acknowledge that the Giants played great, the Pats played like, well, like they hadn't all year which essentially was crap. They were beat in most every phase of the game. The Pats deserved to lose, the Giants deserved to win and I got to be wrong. See, that's called accountability. An almost unknown force in this little universe.