Today's Score in the Game of Evolution: Conservatives 25, Leftists 0
In Chapter three of my book I survey history and culture, looking for evidence of what I call “mind parasites” that are ultimately rooted in different different styles of child rearing and which are responsible for so much cultural pathology, including the pathology of Islamism. Although my ideas may appear somewhat speculative, I believe that they cannot not be true once you understand the underlying principles involved.
I just finished a new book that confirms many of the things I wrote in that section, The Central Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save It from Itself, by Lawrence Harrison. Although Harrison calls himself a liberal, the book absolutely demolishes many ideas that are central to contemporary liberalism -- most particularly, multiculturalism, cultural relativism, and any kind of liberal victimology, for the book demonstrates with hard data how cultural beliefs, attitudes and values are the key to understanding the evolution of society. The book is actually somewhat shockingly -- but thoroughly refreshingly -- politically incorrect, and says some things that even Petey would probably hesitate to blurt out in public.
In the preface of the book, Harrison -- a long time USAID director -- notes that all of the underdeveloped or underprivileged countries or cultures he worked in were plagued by the same pathologies -- disrespect for law, lack of cooperation with one another, acquiescence to (and extertion of) unbridled authority, passivity when encountering problems, lack of civic consciousness, lack of trust, and pursuit of narrow personal interest. It is much easier for scholars such as Jared Diamond to blame geography, insufficient resources, or “guns, germs, and steel” for the failure of so many cultures, but this entirely begs the question of why certain groups -- most notably, the Jews or East Asians -- thrive wherever they are allowed to take root. In each case, they have a "portable culture" of extremely healthy and adaptive values that stand them in good stead.
Harrsion approvingly quotes the great scholar of Islam, Bernard Lewis, who wrote that “When people realize that things are going wrong, there are two questions they can ask: One is, ‘What did we do wrong?’ and the other is ‘Who did this to us?’” The latter question leads to paranoia, conspiracy theories and liberal victimology, which is why the Islamists and international left share a common cause -- they have the same underlying assumptions about reality and about who is at fault for it.
The book shows how deeply rooted are some of the pathologies of the left. I did not know this, but even in 1948, the American Anthropological Association opposed the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the grounds that each culture must decide for itself “what is true, good, beautiful, and efficient,” and no cultures were any better or worse, just “different.” Thus, “liberals” found themselves at odds with a document calling for such things as the right to life, liberty, and security of person, equality before the law, and freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. The more things change....
It never ceases to amaze me that liberals think they are doing these people a favor by supporting their cultural pathologies. As is always the case with leftist thought, it is a monstrous arrogance and condescension masquerading as compassion. Harrsion quotes a brilliant African scholar named Daniel Etounga Mangelle, someone I relied upon in my book. At a conference, he responded with sarcasm to such leftist nonsense:
"I am going to tell the truth. We Africans really enjoy living in shantytowns where there isn't enough food, health care, or education for our children. Furthermore, our corrupt chieftaincy political systems are really marvelous.... It would be boring if free, democratic elections were organized all over Africa. Were that to happen, we would no longer be real Africans, and by losing our identity -- and our authoritarianism, our bloody civil wars, our illiteracy, our forty-five year life expectancy -- we should be letting down not only ourselves but those Western anthropologists who study us so sympathetically and understand that we can't be expected to behave like human beings who seek dignity.... So let us fight with the full support of those Western scholars who have the wisdom and courage to acknowledge that Africans belong to different world.”
It is so glaringly obvious to me that the vast majority of really destructive racism comes form the left, not the right. Undoubtedly individual racists exist, but they are nothing compared to the institutional and ideological racism of the left. Professor John McWhorter, who happens to be black, describes in the book the devastating impact of liberal racism on African Americans. He writes that since the 1960s, the core of black identity has been “rebellion and disaffection.... Misbehavior and criminality are not the only ways this is expressed. Even the most educated blacks with the most assimilated demeanors get their 'black authenticity' stripes to the extent that they subscribe to the notion that being black remains a battle forty years after the Civil Rights Act.”
McWhorter writes that young blacks are indeed “victims” -- not of what they call “racism” but of liberal ideology. This pathological and self-defeating world view would have utterly perplexed “the black Americans who worked so hard before the 1960s to pave the way for blacks to make the best of themselves in an imperfect world. Realizing that culture is the main problem now rather than racism or societal inequity, our task is to pull black America out of [its] detour, freeing us from self-fulfilling prophecies of recreational racial indignation and returning us to a clear-eyed, proactive race leadership that will allow us to truly 'get past race' for good."
As I said, I can't believe this book was written by a so-called liberal. It actually gives me hope for the future.
On pp. 36-37 of Harrison’s book, he lays out a helpful summary of those traits that are characteristic of the evolutionary “progress-prone” culture vs. the static or degenerative “progress-resistant” one. They fall under four main headings: “Worldview,” “Values and Virtues,” “Economic Behavior,” and “Social Behavior,” with a total of 25 subcategories, or "factors."
Beginning with Worldview, it seems to me that the characteristics of progress-resistant cultures are almost an exact description of modern liberal victimology. Regarding the subcategory of “destiny,” the liberal victim is beset by “fatalism and resignation.” With respect to “time orientation,” their obsessive focus on past or even present grievances discourages working hard for the future. Under the heading of “wealth,” liberals generally regard it as a “zero-sum” enterprise, which lies at the heart of their income-redistributing policies. Likewise, knowledge is “abstract, theoretical, cosmological [hey! I heard that], not verifiable.” Exactly. As we have had occasion to discuss many times, liberal academia (specifically, the humanities) is filled with deranged, kooky, abstract, unverifiable and utopian cranks. The rest are just crazy.
The one last subcategory for Worldview is religion. Here you might think that the left has the upper hand, and in most contexts you might be correct. But Harrison makes no distinction between pre- or irrational religiosity vs. the type of sophisticated religiosity we discuss on this blog. Thus, there is no question that the secular left is more rational than primitive African animists or practitioners of Haitian voodoo (even if they themselves would deny that fact because of their PC belief in cultural relativism). But I don’t believe for a moment that modern secularism is more rational than my metarational and transdogmatic religious philosophy. In fact, by comparison, merely secular philosophy is a sophisticated child's game. Furthermore, it remains to be seen if the secularized, hyper-rational societies of Western Europe will even be able to survive their irreligiosity. By and large American religion hardly dismisses the world -- rather, it promotes achievement and material pursuits. It is probably too material for my tastes.
So for the category of “worldview,” conservatives trounce the left four to one or possibly even five-zip.
The next heading is Values and Virtues, which has three subcategories, “ethical code,” “the lesser virtues,” and “education.” Here again, I don’t see how any intellectually honest person can give the nod to the left. Progress-resistant cultures have “elastic” values, while progress-prone ones are “rigorous within realistic norms.” Progress-prone cultures emphasize small virtues that actually end up making a huge difference, such as tidiness, courtesy, “a job well done”.... to which I might add, politeness, not cursing in public, and being free of off-putting tattoos, tongue piercings, and pagan "body art." To the progress-resistant culture, these small virtues are unimportant. (The thing that most strikes me about dailykos or huffingandpissed, aside from the shrill adolescent anger, is the constant, unnecessary profanity. I'm all for the necessary kind.)
The last subcategory is Education, and here again you might think that progressives are at least in the game. But just look what the progressive educational establishment has done to our educational system. They have been in complete control of lower and higher education in this country for at least 50 years, and it is a disgrace. Furthermore, they are specifically opposed to truly progressive policies that could turn things around, such as fostering competition by introducing vouchers into the system. And let’s not even talk about what progressives have done to the university in my lifetime. For one thing, I don’t have enough time. I have to be out of the house in 30 minutes.
The next main factor is Economic behavior, which has seven subcategories. This one is so self-evidently in favor of conservatives that it’s hardly worth debating. Progress-prone cultures believe that competition leads to excellence, that advancement should be based on merit, and that work is one of the primary purposes of life (the “protestant work ethic”). They try to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship, risk-taking, innovation and investment.
Conversely, the progress-resistant are suspicious of prosperity--it is a threat to equality because some will get rich, thus provoking envy. They are uncomfortable with competition, as it is a sign of aggression and a threat to both equality and privilege (such as the privileges enjoyed by the teachers union or by tenured wackademics or New York Times editors). And, of course, they are constitutionally opposed to the idea of merit, and instead believe that the government should get involved in giving special privileges to different racial, cultural and gender categories.
So for economic behavior, it’s conservatives 7, progressives bupkis.
The last main factor is Social Behavior, which has the most subcategories, ten. Some of these are frankly rather bland and neutral, and, being charitable, it is fair to say that most Americans of whatever political stripe share them: belief in the rule of law, a belief in checks and balances and dispersed authority, and the responsibility of elites to society. Others are a bit misleading, for conservatives clearly believe in gender equality, they just don’t believe in gender equivalence.
Other categories that are less innocuous fall clearly in favor of conservatives. For example, the progress-resistant leftist ulture has a much stronger identification with the narrow community -- i.e., multiculturalism. Progressives believe in dividing the country along racial and gender lines, so that one’s primary identification is not, say, “American” but “African American.” Likewise, the progress-resistant culture emphasizes the collectivity rather than the individual (except when it comes to the right to show your breast on TV or ride a bicycle naked in public to protest the war).
The last category is Church-State relations. According to Harrison, the progress-prone culture is “secularized” and believes in a “wall between church and state,” whereas the for the progress-resistant culture, “religion plays a major role in the civic sphere.” How true. The adverse impact of mixing church and state is never more clear than when the religion in question is “Leftist Progressivism.”