Imagine There’s No Countries . . .

Considering the Possibility and Practice of Global Citizenship

A Well Intentioned Rant on Mrs. Nussbaum

Posted by rfrankl on March 1, 2009

                I now know why the  intellectuals of today are sometimes called the chattering class. They say a whole lot without saying anything at all. They use big words because they want to mask their poor ideas. They obfuscate because if they didn’t, they would be found out. The mask would be taken off and the world would not see a noble knight of knowledge but rather a ninny nitwit. Martha Nussbaum uses such shady logic and slogan-like language and inappropriate allusions and flawed knowledge of America’s past, that if she must be catalogued as one of those all too prolific species of our time: the egg head, a chatterer, and a know-it-all, then she must.

            When making a proper argument about values, beliefs, and principles, if one is to be honest with one’s self and with his audience, he must not compare the best part of a proposed value, belief, and principle with the worst part of some one else’s or vice-versa. You compare the best and most idealized part of what your are arguing for, against the best and most idealized part of someone else’s. If I had a disagreement with a friend over which one of our Presidents was the best and my friend thought that Abraham Lincoln was and I thought Thomas Jefferson was, I would not present my argument as Jefferson let the Alien and Seditions Acts expire, did not raise taxes, opened up the west, and kept the country out of war but Lincoln took away Habeas Corpus. A man who does this is a man who should not be looked up to because he’s putting somebody’s highest accomplishments against another man’s mistakes or another man’s less important acts. Martha Nussbaum engages in this tomfoolery but of course, being a part of that haughty class she would never admit to such a thing, because, that reminds me of the second characteristic of that class, she is a poltroon, a coward, and a mollycoddle, as far as intellectual endeavor is concerned.

            This problem of inappropriate comparison is not even the whole problem. How can we freely and safely say that the banning of Habeas Corpus was bad until we know something, until we have looked deeply at the whole spectrum of the problem, not just the brightest of reds at one end and the darkest of violets on the other but the blue, green, yellow, and orange in between. When it comes to important, essential, and enduring things this is what we must do. When it comes to things that cannot be proven with a series of mathematical formulas such as our beliefs, values, and principles, this is what we must do. We cannot be guided by the fanatically followed theory that has so epitomized our age: reductionism. And Martha Nussbaum, has indeed done this. She has taken complex, nuanced, and subtle things and stripped them down until all that is left is a propagandist dictum leading to a seemingly scenic road but a road that actually leads one off a cliff without ever knowing it because one has not looked to the side and noticed the warning signs.

Unbelievably she uses Aristotle and Plato as a cheap move to strengthen her argument. It is shameful and inappropriate name dropping. Even for somebody who has a smattering of knowledge of what they were writing about you know that there is something incredibly disingenuous about using their sacred names to support cosmopolitism. She is not intellectually dishonest. She never makes the ludicrous claim that they supported cosmopolitanism, but the very fact that she uses their names an article that allows for no time to do them justice makes one want to puke, especially since Aristotle believed that man is nothing without the state, that the state is the higher thing, and that man in a political community is like what the arm is to the body: subordinate and meant to be controlled. Plato’s idealized city, in the Republic, is one where certain citizens are zealously interested in the affairs of their own place. In fact he even warns about busy bodies going out and interfering with the matter s of a different polis.

She says that disasters around the world have never aroused our attention but she is wrong. This is true and I take it as an unfortunate essential of being human that I am no god. I am not all powerful. I am not omniscient. But most saddening I am not always aware of the suffering of my fellow man, or most disconcerting I might know and choose to do nothing and let the suffering go on. But I will remind Martha Nussbaum that Americans, when they are aroused to do things, when they are reminded of their basic ideals by their leaders and by their neighbors then we act with an honorable indefatigable purpose. We do this because we are not like other nations. Every other nation on this planet has risen out of the mists of the past. Only a Chinese man can be Chinese. Only a French man can be French. Only a German can be German. Only a Persian can be Iranian. Only a Mesopotamian can be an Iraqi. But all of these people can be Americans, as long as they accept and take on as a burden our ideals, our principles, and our beliefs. And this surprises me that such an intellectually well endowed lady as Martha Nussbaum has forgotten those basic kindergarten American History lessons? We learned that the main tenets of our political faith are these; all humans need certain things like equality, freedom, and justice. When, in our history we were called forth to do great and noble things, the impetus was not cosmopolitanism but rather patriotism. Lincoln looked back to our founding ideals to urge the nation forward. The same goes for every other President when facing an inward crisis, but it also goes for events abroad. Let us not forget what happened in 1801, that is eerily similar to what happened two centuries after. On the coast of North Africa, Islamic fundamentalists made a living off of piracy. They would loot European ships and carry off the treasure as loot and the men as slaves. This had been going on for centuries and European nations got around it by simply paying bribes, which was cheaper than biting the bullet and extirpating the pirates and America could have done the same but alas we did not have a man at the helm who only thought about nickels and dimes but we had a man who had values and principles. Those noble principles that we espouse mean nothing, if they are not actualized and this is what Jefferson set out to do with the North African perpetuators of death. He sent the marines to deal with the Barberry pirates because we need to be always acting as the world’s adventurous guide who is always willing to go down into the cave and help our fellow man up, even if it is not in our self-interest. This sentiment was behind our action in Cuba at the turn of the century, WWI, WWII, Korea, Afghanistan (in sending weapons), the Gulf, and the most recent war. Now this sentiment might have been distorted like all beliefs can be like Mexico in the 19th century, Guam, Philippines, Hawaii, Cuba, Vietnam, and some would say to an extent our most recent expedition. This feeling of looking outwards to make sure that no one is violating the most basic but highest human laws has made us not only invade but to give. Our nation privately gives more than any other nation in the world and this has been the case since we have become prosperous. But the fact that Americans romantically dare even to this day to spread liberty and democracy is an amazing thing. We have treaded like men must do, and sometimes we have treaded off our path, but does that mean we stop treading at all? I believe we must always tread carefully but we must tread.

But we do not always have our eye set out on the outside. No I prefer to get my house in order before I go out like a gad fly, cleaning, organizing, and decorating somebody else’s. Nussbaum makes being a human out to be simply making sure everyone has got enough food. Well there is more than that. And for those higher things and more potentially dangerous decisions like who gets what and how much, a political community decides. This is a part of our belief system as well, the belief that all have a right to make decisions with the people they live with. Because the Iranians share the characteristics that allow one to form a peaceful political community such as a common spiritual belief, the same world outlook, and certain customs, then they should govern their own affairs. The same goes for every other nation. When one nation does degenerate and descend into barbarisms that violate the few things all humans agree upon then the world awakes and acts and is assuredly awaken by no other than the America. But unless we are to have Empire, where one group of people, who believe they know it all, tells the rest what to do on issues ranging from the most basic but highest to the most frivolous and lowest then Martha Nussbaum should not be paid attention. She will claim that this is not what she is arguing for but it is what her argument leads to. If we are to be concerned with all others’ affairs, then we will, if we are human, to act on what we believe in, and if we are to do this then we have an Empire on our hands.  If we choose our own creed of republicanism and a zealous pursuit of freedom, equality, and justice abroad and a cautious but steady pursuit of the most accepted parts of those principles abroad then we will have something that not even the most romantic, idealistic, and Quixotic of men could have imagined, while still being ironically practical and obvious.


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