The Toilet Taliban And Other ‘Paines’ In The Posterior

Ilana Mercer, April 27, 2007

There is absolutely no philosophical link between early America and latter-day Iraq ~ilana

Singer Sheryl Crow has been applying her cerebral sinew to solving global warming, that manufactured monomania. Crow’s planet-saving plans are asinine, and worse: they give a glimpse of a remarkably indelicate, ill-bred creature. She delights on several levels. Here’s the first of her brainstorms, reported by BBC News. Be warned: it is merely compost for Crow’s later flowering:

I have designed a clothing line that has what’s called a ‘dining sleeve’…The sleeve is detachable and can be replaced with another ‘dining sleeve,’ after usage. The design will offer the ‘diner’ the convenience of wiping his mouth on his sleeve rather than throwing out yet another barely used paper product. I think this idea could also translate quite well to those suffering with an annoying head cold.

“Diner” is not quite the right word for Crow’s slobbering, sniffing target market; “dog” comes to mind. But if you think table manners (to say nothing of musical aptitude) are not Crow’s strong suit, wait for this:

Now, I don’t want to rob any law-abiding American of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where 2 to 3 could be required.

I am not sure what is more offensive, Crow’s ideas as to what constitute natural rights and human industry, or her unfeminine, personal-hygiene habits. Either way, the damage has been done. Having unleashed “E-Crowli” into the ether, Sheryl should zip those lips over that overbite. The only thing that might lift the malodorous aura that has clung to Crow since she came out of the toilet with these schemes is the knowledge that her well-appointed bathroom sports a bidet. Or, conversely, that she practices “Islamic toilet etiquette.” The latter, at least, involves water!  But don’t hold your breath. (Or maybe you should!)

Speaking of a pain in the posterior, or is it a “Paine,” Trotskyite-turned-neoconservative Christopher Hitchens has a new book out: Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man.” Hitchens has dedicated it, “by permission,” to Jalal Talabani, the President of Iraq, whom he clearly considers the Paine of Mesopotamia.

Trotskyites and neoconservatives share an ahistoric approach, to say nothing of philosophical Alzheimer’s. These tendencies explain why the ideologues within and around the administration see nothing wrong in comparing America’s constitutional cramps with the carnage they’ve helped create in Iraq. As I’ve pointed out before, there is absolutely no philosophical link between early America and latter-day Iraq.

While Paine wrote some fine tracts in defense of a “government that governed least,” he was too much of a follower of the French Revolution for my tastes, at one stage snuggling up to the Jacobins. They almost guillotined him for his troubles. The Rights of Man, in particular, is intended as a refutation of Edmund Burke’s brilliant critique of that blood-drenched revolution. “Everything human and divine sacrificed to the idol of public credit,” is how the English statesman, supporter of the American colonists, described the French’s illiberal, irreligious, intolerant uprising.

Contra Hitchens, there is no philosophical affinity between the feuding Mohammedans and the American founders, acolytes of John Locke. Equally, no such bonds bind the French to the American Revolution, despite Condoleezza Rice’s assertions to the contrary during a visit to France. One can understand, however, why Rice mistakenly drew parallels between—horrors!—French and American founding ideas.

The Jacobins and their terrifying leader Robespierre believed in ramming Rousseauist virtues down every European gullet, by guillotine, if necessary. Rousseau, their muse, thought it necessary at times to force people to be “free.” Rice’s neoconservative administration and its terrifying leader have said repeatedly that American power must be used to mount a “global democratic revolution,” in the words of The Leader. What’s more, this administration has acted on its beliefs. The idea that neoconservatives are no more than warmed-over Jacobins is not that far-fetched after all.

Citizen Paine’s emphasis on the universality of political rights is also in the tradition of the French, not the American, Revolution. The idea of America, as I see it, is that all men are imbued with natural—but not necessarily political—rights. The contemporary American Welfare State, where someone who consumes more taxes than he contributes—all government workers—can also vote to raise them, would have appalled the American Founders. Hitchens wants to convince his readers that Paine’s proto-socialism—he advocated welfare financed by taxes—is quintessentially American. I disagree, but understand where this ex-Trotskyite transplant is coming from.

Still, leery as I am of Thomas Paine’s philosophical provenance, it seems egregious, even comical, for Hitchens to have paired Paine with Talabani.

©2007 By Ilana Mercer
   April 27

CATEGORIES: Anti-War, Environmentalism, Etiquette, Founding Fathers, Iraq, Neoconservatism, Political Philosophy, War