The Mendaciousness of Tony Blair

If there is anyone I hold in lower regard than George W. Bush (and possibly even lower than Canada’s current Prime Minister Stephen Harper), it is former “New Labour” Party leader and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.  On occasion, I allow myself some latitude to indulge in repugnance and disdain for the “celebrated” (and it’s not as if my posts are entirely free of that mood of disdain).

So it is with a feeling somewhat akin to nausea that I read in today’s Guardian the completely indigestible views of Mr. “Born-Again” Tony Blair on the links between violence and religion (“Extremist religion is at root of 21st-century wars, says Tony Blair“).

I don’t pick on Tony Blair from any personal animus towards him. Like Hitler, in his personal life he’s probably kind to small animals and children and willingly helps the infirm to cross the street. What I object to in Blair is a trait that has become all-too general and typifying. It’s almost a specification for the reproduction and social selection (and election) of a certain decadent type of human being — the “Late Modern” type of human being.

That trait is the craftiness of a definition, the completely shameless and quite dishonest capacity to define anti-social things like violence, conflict, terrorism, greed, theft, cupidity, narcissism — the vicious more generally — in such a way that it becomes cunningly self-exonerating. Of course, that issue of self-exoneration links into the issue of “the Righteous Mind” that I referred to earlier and which, in my opinion, is something that requires urgent psychiatric attention and perhaps a schedule of medication.

Mr. Blair’s perversion of politics and the meaning of “truth” he is now about to extend to “faith” via his “Faith Foundation”. All the very worst things about such “religiosity” and “faith” Mr. Blair now embraces as meaning and essence, whereas it was Blair’s very nihilism that drove him to seek self-redemption in the sanctuary of “religious faith” in the first place. Of that, I’m quite certain.

But, as William Blake put it, “bray a fool in a morter with wheat, yet shall not his folly be beaten out of him”. The exact same dishonesty, the exact same narcissism, the exact same lack of sense for the truthful affects his views on faith and religion as earlier they did his politics and ideology. “Social engineering” for Blair and his type is simply a matter of  re-defining what is most base and vulgar in human conduct in such a way that it becomes self-exonerating — self-redeeming — so that one comes to seem purely angelic by comparison, and in such a false and mendacious way that one’s own character and conduct is not impugned and tainted also by the definition.

“Violence” and terror are defined in such a way as to leave one free of the taint of complicity in that violence and terror. “Extremism” defined in such a way as to divert attention from one’s own unbalanced (and that means demented) hyper-partisanship and lop-sidedness. “Theft” (as the Snowden case reveals) is re-defined in such a way as to deflect attention from the real theft of private life by the mass surveillance State and digital kleptocrats.

As in public figures, so too amongst certain members of that amorphous being called “the public”. One feels morally justified, righteous even, if one compares oneself to a Hitler or a Stalin and comes out smelling like a rose in one’s own nostrils. Aiming for a lowest common denominator of a “moral life” — a bare minimum of sociability, civilisation and conviviality — is considered high aspiration and the measure of human excellence.

The appeal of the “lowest common denominator” become confused with excellence — Blair, Bush, Harper, etc all seem to epitomise that for me.  What do they have in common? They have one thing in common, to be sure; something that makes Blair’s views on violence and religion somewhat ironic given his own role in the Iraq War  — a sudden attraction themselves for something they call “religion”.

It is just cowardice not to face up to the more uncomfortable truths about oneself. And it’s just the cunning of cowardice that is the motive for these kinds of self-exonerating views, definitions, and ideologies.  It is also the worst form of mental slavishness.

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18 responses to “The Mendaciousness of Tony Blair”

  1. luchte says :

    The fact that Bush and Blair and others can walk around free from war crimes prosecution is clear evidence that the West is decadent, and is forever coming closer to outright fascism.

    • Scott Preston says :

      All too likely, as it will appear the logical course needed in a vain attempt to suppress the self-negating contradictions of Late Modernity in the name of civilisational “continuity” or some such redemptive fiction — ie, “to make the trains run on time” or “law & order”, and so on and so forth.

  2. luchte says :

    Resistance therefore is an immanent necessity.

    • Scott Preston says :

      In his Liquid Modernity Bauman describes the current task of thinking (philosophy) as a salvage operation… “the hope of saving the children from the outpouring of polluted bathwaters”, while he views Late Modernity as “a dyotopia [sic] made to the measure of liquid modernity – one fit to replace the fears recorded in Orwellian and Huxleyan-style nightmares.”

      I haven’t read far enough into his book to see if he senses any transformative potential within the flux (as Gebser does), rather than just erecting tidal walls or firewalls around “the children”.

      My own approach might be considered Nietzschean, although I find the martial art of Aikido more suggestive — ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aikido ) or even alchemy, and that is to ask “how can we use this”? How can we turn this deficit into a credit? How can we turn this present nihilism to account?

      I’m quite intrigued by Aikido (or its Western counterpart, alchemy) as models for philosophy and a new way of thinking. If our situation is “liquid” in Bauman’s metaphor, we can also ask whether it’s possible to use this for irrigation? for other purposes? Nihilism as controlled demolition, even.

      This is the dawning of the age of Heraclitus, and there’s something in Aikido that reminds me of Heraclitus.

      • Scott Preston says :

        I might add that homeostasis is a model I find particularly suggestive and attractive as a model of thinking as well — and of particular pertinence given Bauman’s “liquifaction” of contemporary institutions. Respiration, circulation, metabolism, the nervous system — all are flowing, too, yet within a highly organised and coherent condition of homeostasis — an ecology of mind, body, soul, spirit, as it were (or at least, as these things have been hitherto taken or mis-taken).

        Fluid dynamics as a metaphor for the liquifaction of social institutions and relations has all sorts of possible interpretations besides erosion. I’m thinking here also of Ilya Prigogine’s great book Order Out of Chaos and his suggestion that fluid dynamics provides a unexplored model for thinking generally (and which might even be where Bauman derives his metaphor of “liquid” modernity).

        Comparing all these things — fluid dynamics, homeostasis, Aikido, alchemy, ecology, Blake, Gebser, Rosenstock-Huessy, Nicholas of Cusa — I sense an implicit or potential way of thinking that has never been made quite fully explicit — the very thing that Gebser wants to call “integral consciousness structure”.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Grammar, homeostasis, fluid dynamics — these also share a great deal in common. Rosenstock-Huessy’s “grammatical method” is a homeostatic logic of society — a metanoia, a new coherence, even a new language.

  3. alex jay says :

    “O tempora o mores!”

    “We now live in a nation [world] where doctors destroy health.
    Lawyers destroy justice.
    Universities destroy knowledge.
    Government destroys freedom.
    The press [media] destroys information.
    Religion destroys morals.
    And our banks destroy the economy.” — Chris Hedges

    What Bush, Blair, Harper et alia have in common in addition to “cunning”, “cowardice” and a faux-religious attraction is they are all – first and foremost – corporate pimps.

    I stopped reading and listening to anything Tony Blair has to say years ago, since my revulsion of the man exceeds even yours. However, as you deemed it worthy of blog space to mention his article, I gave it a shot. Needless to say, ignoring the obvious delusional hypocracy, the gist of his appeal centres around plugging his Foundation. It’s always been about me-me-me for this snakeoil salesman.

    • Scott Preston says :

      That’s quite the quote from Chris Hedges — pretty definitive summary of the tide of nihilism — even despite ourselves. What is the source for it?

      • alex jay says :

        The source? I read an article several months/a year or so ago (it’s the age and blunted neural synapses – though thankfully, I’m still not catatonic?) and found the quote relevant enough to scribble it down on paper – old school … you know : )

        Funny, just googled it and can’t find the source, though several references – mind you, my perseverance in these matters lasts about 90 seconds. I’m sure I could find it with some diligence and time. Instead, the link below gives you a good feel about the man and perhaps a clue to finding the source — I’m not in a Sherlock Holmes frame of mind at the moment.

        http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20070128_christianists_on_the_march

        • Scott Preston says :

          Apparently, the sources for this quote are quite diverse, and Hedges may not have been the first to say it,

          http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/we_now_live_in_a_nation_where_doctors_destroy_health

          Still, the fact that it is such a “meme” in itself says something about the state of affairs. Apparently, the Hedges version has even been made into a poster, presumably for wide circulation, signifying that it has resonated with many.

          So, now comes the big question that Gebser put. Is this destruction also a restructuration? Or, is it a definitive conclusion — an end of the road for about 2,000 years of history?

          I might suggest that, really, it’s the end of the whole “Parmenidean” era, corresponding with the incipience and onset of a “Heraclitean” era. That’s the somewhat more hopeful assessment, if one wants to cast these in philosophical terms. Thus Marx’s “all that is solid melts into air” (which is Bauman’s “liquid modernity”, too) could be just the failure to recognise Heraclitus in all this, as against the solidity of “Being” of Parmenides.

          If, as Rosenstock says, Heraclitus is so simple a child could understand him, this might say something about the present nihilism and “liquidity” as a transitional phase and a restructuring of consciousness.

          Or, it might be the onset of a Dark Age.

          • alex jay says :

            Or as Uri Avnery points out in his Counterpunch article:

            http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/24/the-re-judaizing-of-israel/

            “As the French say: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

            “Or, as Ecclesiastes puts it in the Bible (1:9): “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun.”

            Again, I think it boils down to the faith (anticipation/optimistic) vs. belief (expectation/pessimistic) conundrum that you illustrated so clearly in previous post.

            • Scott Preston says :

              I’m surprised that Uri is still going, as he must be well advanced in years now.

              “You can’t keep a good man down”, I guess. But how does this square with Yeats’ Second Coming — “the worst are full of passionate intensity, while the best lack all conviction”?

              In fact, I just heard of a book about right-wing populism and Canada’s PM Stephen Harper written by a fellow as his PhD thesis in political science. He called it Of Passionate Intensity (thereby indicating his view of Harper).

              It isn’t a pretty picture,

              http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2013/12/16/Harper-Mandela/

  4. abdulmonem says :

    Waiting for the God.

  5. alex jay says :

    Yeah, the old boy (turned 90 back in Sept.) is still knocking his head into a wall trying to bring some sanity to his benighted countrymen. I enjoy reading his informative weekly contributions in Counterpunch.

    Must be the chicken soup … : )

    • alex jay says :

      Oh yeah … I think Harper is positioning himself to take over from Tony Blair as the Israeli-Palestinian mediator. “Birds of a feather etc.”

  6. LittleBigMan says :

    “if he [Bauman] senses any transformative potential within the flux (as Gebser does)”

    I believe in this “transformative potential within the flux.”

    But this potential is quite impersonal and mysterious. I think Blair et al. are a distraction; they are beneath where the real battles are fought – within our chest. The universe taps us on the shoulder everyday, inviting us to activate this potential within the flux through a path that lacks anger, desire, and ill-will.

  7. Scott Preston says :

    Peculiar recent portrait of Tony Blair that is to hang in the National Gallery in the UK. I say “peculiar” because he appears to be depicted with the “evil eye”.

    http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/dec/20/tony-blair-portrait-national-portrait-gallery-alastair-adams

    There is something asymmetrical about the eyes — his left eye is somewhat larger than his right and slightly outside the focal plane. This apparent asymmetry isn’t evident in the photographs I compared it to. It also doesn’t portray anything warm about the man. The description given in the article states that it depicts “The direct gaze of the sitter is uncompromising but also reflects his considerable skill as a negotiator on the world stage.”

    This “uncompromising” glare of the “negotiator”, with teeth bared, looks more like the aggressiveness of a warlock about to hurl a curse down upon you.

    • LittleBigMan says :

      I second that impression. In fact, his actual picture posted with the original article on Guardian you have linked to above gave me the creeps, too. He does not look approachable in the least in either the actual photo or the sketch. The sketch, though, reminded of this guy:

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