Monday, August 13, 2007

Falling at the Speed of Politics

James Lewis pretty much nails it today at American Thinker: "A radical's beliefs are only on the surface. It is the personal psychology that is always the same, and it always hankers to break down whatever humanity has built to date."

And the personal psychology begins and ends with the battle cry that "Everyhing must be different!", starting with human nature itself. The deep structure of their psychology explains "why the same people can turn into anarchists or Nazis, Communists, or today, Post-Modernists, Deconstructionists, Radical Feminists, Socialists, Hillary followers, Islamo-fascists, you name it. It is why the ACLU chooses the worst criminals to defend; they secretly adore criminals, who are the ultimate rebels against society." While it can be a normal feature of adolescence to be frustrated with the world and to imagine that reality could be radically different than it is, most of us -- half of us, anyway -- well, in the United States, at least -- I mean, for the time being -- outgrow this wishful thinking.

Although the West "won" the Cold war, "What most conservatives don't understand is that the Left has reincarnated itself since the Soviet Union died. Conservatives think that obviously false beliefs should change; but that's not the way it works. Oppositional psychology is still at the core of the Left, and.... just mutates and breaks out in other ways, like some insidious virus."

A while back, I wrote that "One’s political philosophy, whether one acknowledges it or not, is going to depend upon one’s conception of human nature. And if your conception of human nature is wrong, then your philosophy is going to be warped and your system of governance is going to be dysfunctional. I believe leftism is rooted in a naive and faulty conception of human nature, which is why it does not work."

I think I'll just repost the essay in its entirety:

Dennis Prager recently spoke to this issue in reference to European socialism. The socialist countries of Westerm Europe are dying precisely because, within a couple of generations, they have produced a new kind of man: indolent, dependent upon the government, self-centered, spiritually empty, essentially nihilistic. Eventually a tipping point will be reached in which there will not be enough productive people to support the unproductive ones, and that will be the end of Europe as we know it. Islam will take care of the rest.

Thus, not only does your political ideology flow from your conception of human nature, but once in place, your ideology will produce radically different kinds of human beings. We don’t have to look very far to see how this has played out in the United States, for example, with respect to all of the Oh, Great! Society programs that had the cumulative effect of taking a wrecking ball to the black family, leaving it much worse off than before government butted in. One of the last great liberals, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, saw this coming in the 1960s, writing about the “tangle of pathology” that afflicted urban culture. If I am not mistaken, Moynihan was the very first victim to be unjustly victimized by the liberal meme of “blaming the victim.”

One of the central divides in the so-called culture war is the question of whether or not mankind is fallen. Actually that’s not quite right, because for at least half the country, the whole idea of mankind being “fallen” is precisely nonsense. To the extent that they give a moment’s thought to the question, it is only to mock and dismiss it. Modern secularists are way too sophisticated to ever believe in such crude mythology.

As I have mentioned a number of times, revelation contains timeless wisdom and objective metaphysics that must be “unpacked.” This can only be done through a combination of preparation and grace. No amount of study or of intelligence alone will help you finally “get” religion in the absence of grace. In fact, “getting it” is a fine example of the operation of grace. In this sense, the uncreated intellect -- that part of our being that may know divine truth -- is itself a supernaturally natural revelation of God (as Schuon has expressed it).

There are so many different ways to consider the question of our fallenness. Before he became the Russian Orthodox Father Seraphim Rose (1934-1981), Eugene Rose began work on a book that he never finished, entitled The Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of God. He completed only one chapter, on what he called “stages of the nihilist dialectic,” tracing modern man’s fall into the abyss of leftist nihilism. Because in the end, that is what the culture war is really about: objective truth vs. nihilism.

Rose saw our descent as happening in four stages that he called 1) liberalism, 2) realism, 3) vitalism, and 4) destruction. The first of these, liberalism, is already a sort of “passive nihilism,” because it opens the door to everything that follows -- it is a “breeding ground of the more advanced stages of nihilism.” Why is that? Partly because, under the guise of “tolerance,” liberalism slowly begins to distance itself from, and no longer take seriously, the very ideas and traditions that made liberalism possible.

You see this for example, in the vast rhetorical gulf that exists between the great classical liberal thinkers who founded America and the petty, small-minded leftist liberals who rule today.

“We hold these truth to be self-evident.” That phrase alone would be evidence enough to deny tenure to an aspiring political scientist or philosopher. It gets worse. In the Declaration of Independence, God is explicitly named four times: he is the One who has endowed human beings with unalienable rights that no government may trespass; he is the author of the laws of nature (meaning that our founders took “intelligent design” for granted); he is the “Supreme Judge of the World” and therefore the source of our objective morality (i.e., the founders were not modern liberal moral relativists); and he is “Divine Providence," the source and end of all our worldly activities.

This kind of intemperate language would never be tolerated by today’s leftist liberals. God? Judgment? Absolute truth? Intelligent design? Objective morality? Reliance upon God? Those white European males who founded America were theofascists, just like President Bush!

In recent weeks a couple of readers have suggested that I believe I am always right, and that I never acknowledge any errors. First of all, I acknowledge errors all the time, except that I simply call it “growth.” I don’t necessarily stop to chronicle how my thinking differs today from last week, last year, or five years go. But from my end, it feels as if I continue to get a deeper grasp of things as I go along, so that previously held “partial truths” may well be discarded.

One issue that I was very wrong about was that of “liberty.” This is such a transcendent spiritual value for me, that I mistakenly believed that it was implanted into the bosom of man, and that it was only for us to remove the obstacles -- say, in Iraq, or San Francisco -- and watch liberty blossom.

But I was wrong about that. Most human beings do not actually crave liberty. As a matter of fact, history demonstrates the opposite -- that human beings by and large find liberty to be repellant, and much prefer security. This is the difference between classical liberals and contemporary "liberals," and it is also the difference between Europe and America. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says that the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. True enough. But what about all those places where the Spirit isn’t? There you will neither find liberty nor the desire for it. I now better understand that liberty is a spiritual value that half the country and most of the world does not necessarily share -- certainly not the Islamic world. After all, the Islamists would rather kill every last Iraqi man, woman and child than allow them to live in freedom.

The modern liberal, in his descent into nihilism, values security over liberty, equality over freedom, “truths” over Truth. FDR, that patron saint of modern liberalism, unveiled a host of new “self-evident truths” that had somehow eluded our founders in a famous speech. Sunstein writes that “Now that the war was in the process of being won, the main objective for the future could be ‘captured in one word: Security.’”

Roosevelt argued that this actually meant something new and entirely unprecedented, that is, "economic security, social security, moral security." Classical liberalism, which had always been associated with negative liberties -- i.e., the right to be left alone by the government -- was to be replaced by a new vision of positive liberty that now forms the essence of modern liberalism. The government's job was now to even keep us free of fear, and “Freedom from fear is eternally linked with freedom from want." But since “want” is literally infinite, this sets up the need for a government that is infinite in its powers. For as the adage goes, any time the government does something for you, it does something to you. Since it now proposes to do everything for you... well, you figure it out.

In effectuating this new promise of security to all American citizens, Roosevelt argued for a new tax policy "which will tax all unreasonable profits, both individual and corporate." Unreasonable profits. Obviously we are still having that debate today, aren't we? What is an unreasonable profit, and why is it unreasonable? Here you see how the anti-libertarian, pseudo-religious language of Marxism insinuated itself into our political discourse, further accelerating the Fall of liberal man: we "cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people -- whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth -- is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.”

Sunstein continues: “At that point, the speech became spectacularly ambitious. Roosevelt looked back, not entirely approvingly, to the framing of the Constitution. At its inception, the nation had protected ‘certain inalienable political rights -- among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures,’ he noted. But over time, those rights had proved inadequate, as ‘we have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.’”

Comes now fully fallen Leftist Man with a new revelation and a new Bill of Rights:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation.

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

The right of every family to a decent home.

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.

The right to a good education.


Sounds good doesn’t it? No, better than good. It sounds positively utopian! Because now, with my new Bill of Rights in hand, my absence of responsibility and my victimhood are complete. The Government owes me a meaningful, well-paying job, fairness, a house, free medical care, an absence of fear, and full protection from my own bad decisions throughout life!

Obviously, many people want that new deal. But it is the quintessence of a Faustian bargain, in which you have traded God for government. You are now Horizontal Man. You have fallen all the way down.

Wait, that’s not quite right. We still have three more stages to go before man’s degeneracy is complete. To be continued.

25 Comments:

Anonymous Aquila said...

Gagster,

As always, an insightful post.

A great recent example of the leftist perpetual-opposition mentality at its most mindlessly vicious (or viciously mindless) is this Blogosphere-activated scandal. I took particular interest in it since I've known the perpetrator for over fifteen years, and the actions fit his personality and habits perfectly.

Snide fortysomething-adolescent that he is, he's no dummy, so I'm wondering why he made the fatal mistake of attaching his home address and other easily traceable personal information to the scam. Is there possibly an unconscious desire to be caught and/or punished happening here? What say you, Dr. Godwin?

8/13/2007 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

Today's other piece on AT was also excellent- of course I thought of G-Bob while reading both.

8/13/2007 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Hmm, as I recall, the writer of Spengler's Future said of the West that it's good nature was that of Arthur, and its ill that of Faust. Arthur is laissez faire, just, kind, strong, ambitious, but not particularly worldly. Faust is mad with power, authoritarian, inhuman, and destroys himself slowly to become a god.

More or less.

His prediction was that the 'Faustian Bargain' was precisely what would undo the West. It occurs to me that a similar option has been available quite perennially for westerners; that is, to trust in the Knowledge of Man over the Knowledge of God. Which is to say, to try to supplant God with Man. Past civilizations had not as much success in cultivating and using worldly knowledge, and it is precisely this reason why the West becomes convinced that it knows everything by that means.

As for Liberty/Security, it is the essence of man to be free, but it is the fallen nature to desire security. Security in this sense being a warping of God's image; man wants 'security' for externalities so he may be 'free' in the way he desires, and ONLY in that way. Liberty is scary.

It is interesting that language works the same way; it is both liberty (freedom to think and create) but also a prison (think of language barriers, or forceful indoctrination.)

Security or liberty? Liberty always, but what kind is in question.

Since liberty has a goal, I would say two things: One- to achieve my earthly purpose, and two, to climb the Ladder of Divine Graces.

Without which, as you have said, liberty is mere license. And perhaps that is the core of our modern security crisis: men no longer know the purpose for liberty outside of a very narrow conception: Retirement, travel, entertainment, recreation, sex, wealth, power.

Without the restoration of the purpose of liberty it would be pointless to lead the horse to water. It is like leading the man who hates God to the throne: God is love, but the man's hatred sets his face against his creator. It would be better to be a blade of grass than a man on that day...

8/13/2007 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

The low fertility in Europe is a complex problem. (Of course, not all consider it a problem: Some see it as a shining example to the world. This would make a lot more sense if it was not motivated by selfishness in the first place.)

One would expect the largely post-Christian Nordic countries to be almost devoid of children, whereas the Catholic south should follow the fecund papal doctrine. But in practice, Latin Europe is headed for a rapid extinction, compared to a slow one up here.

I can't help but think it must be disheartening for the Pope to look at the charts and realize that his flock habitually act on the assumption that he is just an old man with a funny hat.

8/13/2007 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

. . .most of us -- half of us, anyway -- well, in the United States, at least -- I mean, for the time being -- outgrow this wishful thinking.

The secular culture that has drifted beyond the pale grows day by day. If we elect a Dem prez in 2008, the victory of relativism will be at hand and that is precisely why Pope Benedict has made defending the Christian Truth his central mission and one that we must too.

8/13/2007 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger shoprat said...

If the government cannot guarantee that I will be alive in five minutes time how can it guarantee anything else? If it cannot guarantee a harvest, how can it guarantee food? All the government can do is make it possible for us to do ourselves. Positive liberties only destroy our freedom.

8/13/2007 01:14:00 PM  
Anonymous cosanostradamus said...

"Rose saw our descent as happening in four stages that he called 1) liberalism, 2) realism, 3) vitalism, and 4) destruction."

Or, per one man who plans to make it personal,

1) Hey! I have a great idea!
2) Damn, it's cold up here!
3) My name's in the record books!
4) Splat!

8/13/2007 02:50:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

Slightly OT, but relevant:

Hugh Hewitt has posted a transcript of a discussion between David Allen White, and Christopher Hitchens on the effect of the Church on civilization. Very good stuff. The link is with the "Hitchens on Al qaida" story.

www.hughhewitt.com

JWM

8/13/2007 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

I am simply dumbstruck!

Not to mention apoplectic and vibrating uncontrollably!!

See for yourselves:

Scandalous!!

8/13/2007 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Odorous sardine and marshmallow bait!

Discerning coonsters wearing six shooters will not be enticed.

Cool alert Smoov.

8/13/2007 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger vogz said...

Bob,

I'd be curious what most non-religious classical liberals really think about the mentions of the Creator in the Declaration of Independence. Given the increasing stridency of atheism along with the specter of Islam, is agnosticism really an option any more?

8/13/2007 08:14:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

"How are you today, my little smart aleck?," muttered Raynbald Ferland to a trembling raccoon"

Oooooh: another reason to hate the French.
Pow pow pow: gun the Frog bastard down.

Want to swipe that cool drawing. Like it as much as the head-in-peanutbutter-jar one on Ricky's site.

8/13/2007 08:21:00 PM  
Anonymous the pope's nose said...

Well, I for one don't buy in to Bob's gloomin' and doomin'. 'Tis a marvelous time we live in, and lefties do not spoil the soup, thank you very much.

Many of us are quite religious, prefering some form of Buddhism in most cases.

Hitchens aside (and we don't buy into Hitchens as much as you think we do) God is alive and well on the left.

Probably not something you want to hear, but there it is.

8/13/2007 09:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

Ximeze said-
"Oooooh: another reason to hate the French.
Pow pow pow: gun the Frog bastard down."

Aye, Lass!
I couldn't say it any better myself!

8/13/2007 10:52:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Cosanostradamus-
If he's lucky, some Canadian snowgeese will break his fall.
At least they might have enough to bury, then.

8/13/2007 11:02:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"One issue that I was very wrong about was that of “liberty.” This is such a transcendent spiritual value for me, that I mistakenly believed that it was implanted into the bosom of man, and that it was only for us to remove the obstacles -- say, in Iraq, or San Francisco -- and watch liberty blossom."

Actually, there's probably a better chance of liberty blossoming in Iraq than in
San Francisco.
At least the Kurds seemed to have adjusted well to liberty, or are at least moving in that direction.

8/13/2007 11:45:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Roosevelt argued that this actually meant something new and entirely unprecedented, that is, "economic security, social security, moral security.""

IMO, "moral security" is the most inane of the insane "securities" that FDR promised.

"Moral security", which is impossible for government to enforce, only results in a perverted "immoral insecurity" that's relative to whoever happens to be in power.

It's definitely the most insane idea that FDR had, but it makes all the other insane ideas he had possible, as we have seen.

Anyone who strives to attain to the highest moral standards of God, who has even an inkling of Truth, Goodness and Beauty, would be disgusted by any of FDR's insidious "I-deals".

Our Founding Fathers would've tarred and feathered FDR and banished him from America, along with all the other "loyalists".

I would venture to say that FDR is one of the worst Presidents we have ever had, because his Faustian Deal wrapped in "feel good" rhetoric, has done untold damage to the US and the world.

And the last four decades or so is only a taste of the death and decay that socialism will bring.

All the more reason for Classic Liberals, Conservatives, Federalists and Jacksonians, to step up and fight this evil virus masquerading as a vaccine.

8/14/2007 12:18:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

the dope's nose said...
"Well, I for one don't buy in to Bob's gloomin' and doomin'. 'Tis a marvelous time we live in, and lefties do not spoil the soup, thank you very much."

No, lefties only ensure that the soup is unaffordable, after they tax you into poverty.

Have you ever had "free" lefty soup, supplied by Big Sister?
It sucks.

Oh sure, you can "live" on it, if you want to call that living, but you'll never be free, and you'll never be happy, and the "soup" will still taste like crap.

8/14/2007 12:28:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Come to think of it, I never knew Roosevelt was a commie. In the history books he is the great hero who singlehandedly saved the world from the Great Depression.

Live and learn, I guess.

8/14/2007 03:28:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

This re-post is loaded with great distinctions, about liberty, and its true nature, and source. Doesn't sound like gloom-and-doom to me. In Apollo 13, when Tom Hanks said, "Houston, we have a problem," should Ground Control have replied, "Major Tom, you're just SO negative"??

No, clear formulations of situations provide a basis for understanding, without which, further actions are sure to be skewed. When Governmental Grand Designs are the actions, we are sure to be screwed.

I wonder if Father Rose died still believing his 4 steps to be accurate, and in-process? Did he posit a solution to the problem?

8/14/2007 03:33:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

JWM-
Thanks! That was interesting.
Hitchens is very slippery during the conversation, and deftly avoids the most pointed questions of David Allen White.

Although, to be fair, Mr. White couldn't seem to follow through on some points, and even seems to give Hitchens more credit than he earned.

IOW, White got some base hits, but he couldn't score.
As Walt would say, you gotta kick 'em when they're down.
Not so much because Hitchens would concede anything, but for the benefit of the listeners.

The main problem I have seen in these debates, is that the theologians always try to play Hitchens' game, if you know what I mean. For the most part anyway.

Now Bob, I'm sure, would knock Hitchens for a loop, and Hitchens wouldn't know what hit him.
It wouldn't change Hitchens mind, but it sure would leave him shaken and wondering what the hell happened as Bob pitched a no hitter. :^)

Be interesting to hear Bob's take on the debate.

8/14/2007 03:37:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

"As Walt would say, you gotta kick 'em when they're down."

I'm glad I've made an impression on you, Ben.

8/14/2007 03:49:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks Walt!
That one's easy to remember. :^)

8/14/2007 03:50:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Walt said-
"In Apollo 13, when Tom Hanks said, "Houston, we have a problem," should Ground Control have replied, "Major Tom, you're just SO negative"??
No, clear formulations of situations provide a basis for understanding, without which, further actions are sure to be skewed. When Governmental Grand Designs are the actions, we are sure to be screwed."

Case in point. Whack! He kicks...he scores!

8/14/2007 03:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Van said...

"Most human beings do not actually crave liberty. As a matter of fact, history demonstrates the opposite -- that human beings by and large find liberty to be repellant, and much prefer security. This is the difference between classical liberals and contemporary "liberals," "

Wasn't it depressing when you first realized that? It sure was for me.

8/14/2007 05:13:00 PM  

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