Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Straussians Are Coming! The Straussians Are Coming!


Donald Gutstein wrote an intriguing article for “The Tyee” a B.C. alternative daily newspaper. In it he draws some interesting analogies between Stephen Harper & George Bush: “What do close advisors to Stephen Harper and George W. Bush have in common? They reflect the disturbing teachings of Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish émigré who spawned the neoconservative movement. …In Washington, Straussians exert powerful influence from within the inner circle of the White House. In Canada, they roost, for now, in the so-called Calgary School, guiding Harper in framing his election strategies. What preoccupies Straussians in both places is the question of "regime change."

Who was Leo Strauss? Leo Strauss (September 20, 1899October 18, 1973), was an American conservative political philosopher of German-Jewish extraction, who specialized in the revitalization of classical philosophy and founded an intellectual school, Straussianism, during his decades at the University of Chicago.

Strauss called his field Political Philosophy. But for him political philosophy and philosophy were necessarily intertwined at their roots. Like many philosophers since the second world war, he did not believe in trying to distinguish facts and values in philosophy and he was against positivism.

Strauss taught that Liberalism, strictly speaking, contained within it an intrinsic tendency towards relativism, which in turn led to a sort of nihilism--a kind of decadence, value-free aimlessness, and hedonism which he believed he saw permeating through the very fabric of contemporary American society. In the belief that 20th century relativism, scientism, historicism, and nihilism were all implicated in the deterioration of modern society and philosophy,… (source Wikipedia)


Strauss believed in the inherent inequality of humanity. Most people, he famously taught, are too stupid to make informed decisions about their political affairs. Strauss believed that allowing citizens to govern themselves will lead, inevitably, to terror and tyranny, as the Weimar Republic succumbed to the Nazis in the 1930s. Elite philosophers must decide on affairs of state for us. (George this does not mean you!) They must resort to deception -- Strauss's "noble lie" -- to protect citizens from themselves. The elite must hide the truth from the public by writing in code. "Using metaphors and cryptic language," philosophers communicated one message for the elite, and another message for "the unsophisticated general population,". … "For Strauss, the art of concealment and secrecy was among the greatest legacies of antiquity."

Apparently, according to Gutstein, there is an elite inner circle of Staussians in the White House and another in place in the so-called Calgary School, waiting to exert their influence in guiding Harper when he is firmly ensconced in Ottawa. These Canadian Straussians claim that “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the end result of a conspiracy foisted on the Canadian people by "special interests." These nasty people are feminists, gays and lesbians, the poor, prisoners and refugee-rights groups who are advancing their own interests through the courts at the expense of the general public." This is a common Straussian technique: “deception by omission” where the weak are targeted while the real culprits disappear.

As noted, what also preoccupies Straussians in both places is the question of "regime change”. "Strauss defined a regime as a set of governing ideas, institutions and traditions. …Usually regime change is imposed on a country from outside through violent means, such as invasion (i.e. Iraq etc…). On occasion, it occurs within a country through civil war. …Is regime change possible through the electoral process? It's happening in the U.S., where the neocons are succeeding in transforming the American state from a liberal democracy into a corporatist, theocratic regime. " As Canada readies for a new federal government, the question is: Are we next?


How much of this reportage is Gutstein’s own private brand of political paranoia and how much is based in fact is pretty hard to ascertain given that the “Straussians” seem to function best in a covert manner - a la “Freemasons”. The fact that both leaders may in effect have advisors that ascribe to this school of thought does not in and of itself mean that there is a secret agenda or that they all belong to some “Masonic Lodge”.

Harper’s views and the political platform that he delineated during his recent campaign, lie well within the boundaries that circumscribe the “Conservative Party’s” view of society. What is worrisome is what was contained in the speech that he gave in 2003, to a group called Civitas. This organization, is a network of Canadian neoconservative and libertarian academics, politicians, journalists and think tank propagandists.

Harper stated in this address that : “The state should take a more activist role in policing social norms and values. To achieve this goal, social and economic conservatives must reunite as they have in the U.S., where evangelical Christians and business rule in an unholy alliance. Red Tories must be jettisoned from the party and alliances forged with ethnic and immigrant communities who currently vote Liberal but espouse traditional family values. …Movement towards the goal must be "incremental," he said, so the public won't be spooked.”

Regime change, one step at a time???

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