Saturday, August 27, 2011

Helen Keller and the Visionary Blindness of Progressivism

Helen Keller w/ Anne Sullivan (1898)
Helen Keller, a civil rights pioneer and role-model for self-improvement, is known primarily for overcoming the scarlet fever which robbed her of her sight and hearing.

Raised in an atavistic fashion by her parents, who spoiled her out of pity for her condition, they sought help from Anne Sullivan, a teacher for the blind whose own sight had been restored following surgery.

After repeated efforts, Sullivan was able to teacher young Helen that objects had a meaning, a word which she would sign into the young lady's hand.

Following the ingenious discovery, Keller became a knowledgeable woman, excelling as a reader and activist.

The source of her activism, unfortunately, would be the source of another attach of blindness, one which would not only cloud the judgment of this remarkable woman, but which frustrate the development of third-world countries, stifling innovation in developed nations, and instigate the greatest political mass-murder wave in history.

Yet Progressives of the early twentieth century were blind, not physically but morally and philosophically, championing the Thomas Paine's nonsensical notion that "We have it in our power to change the world." No, we do not, nor should we.

Helen Keller became a socialist, a political philosophy which broadens state control to create more equitable societies.

Keller explains her initiation into the philosophy:

"First — How did I become a Socialist? By reading. The first book I read was Wells' New World for Old. I read it on Mrs. Macy's [Anne Sullivan's married name]recommendation. She was attracted by its imaginative quality, and hoped that its electric style might stimulate and interest me. When she gave me the book, she was not a Socialist and she is not a Socialist now. Perhaps she will be one before Mr. Macy and I are done arguing with her." (From Helen Keller Reference Archive -- "How I Became a Socialist")

H. G. Wells, like many socialists of his time, believed that modern man had the power to reform the world, in such a way to eliminate the grinding poverty and inequality that plagued so many people.

Yet socialism suffers from an enduring and inescapable fallacy, the fatal conceit, as coined by renowned Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek. Implied in "the fatal conceit" is the inescapable fact that No matter how many enlightened minds gather together to design a society and implement its leadership, they cannot foresee the needs, wants, and resources which complex economies require. Socialism sounds great in theory, yet never works out in practice, failing to account for the inherent myopia in theoretical minds.

Rationalism, the theory of mind which posits all reality within a person's capacity to think, relies exclusively on abstraction, too far divorced from reality and the indeterminate number of variations and changes which may affect the planning and allocation of resources.

Helen Keller (c. 1904-1905)

The myopia of the mind is inevitable. The human capacity for reflection relies extensively on the information which it receives. Any abstractions which follow will be forever limited, no matter how painstaking one's erudition and intellect. We human beings may plan the way we go, but to the Lord belong the steps (after the Proverbs).

Sadly, the blind hubris of intellectuals has led them, nonetheless, to believe that they can fix the core elements of society, that they can manipulate markets, foresee demands, or at least control the means and outcome of production through central planning. This noxious arrogance, endemic to the Progressive-Socialist, of which Helen Keller was one, would lead the United States to experiment with eugenics early in the twentieth century, as well as give rise to two World Wars, the second of which instigate by a German National-Socialist state. The Communist regimes that followed, which dominated from Eastern Europe to South East Asia, would impose violent means to create a "worker's paradise" of equality, engendering chaoe, corruption, and death in its wake.

How bitterly one must reflect when reading of Helen Keller's naive enthusiasm for the rise of Socialist Republics:

"I am no worshiper of cloth of any color, but I love the red flag and what it symbolizes to me and other Socialists. I have a red flag hanging in my study, and if I could I should gladly march with it past the office of the [New York] Times and let all the reporters and photographers make the most of the spectacle." Helen Keller proudly bore the banner of Socialism in her early life.

Yet It was the red flag draped from Trieste in the Adriatic to the Baltic, under which the blood of many innocents was shed. It was the red flag that still flies over Tienanmen Square in Beijing, where Communist forces crushed a popular democratic uprising.

The visionary blindness of socialism would inadvertently steal the sight of the very woman who was celebrated throughout the world for overcoming nearly congenital defects of birth.

What a tragic irony, that Helen Keller would learn about politics and economics from such blind and hapless thinkers, which in turn blinded an intrepid learner--who had fared so well in community and with private assistance.

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