The Minus Religion (-R) of the Left: Passion, Cynicism, and Moral Inversion
Exactly how and why did we get to the pathological situation described by Dr. Sanity? Her diagnosis is accurate, but what is the exact mechanism of this spiritual disease of illiberal leftism?
The "present-tense culture" described by Dr. Sanity (and by Mark Steyn in the essay she cites) is surely one of the most prominent symptoms of the disease, for it represents the very opposite of the deep and perennial truths disclosed in the course of man's 40,000 year old sojourn from pre-human to nearly so. In reality, present-tense culture is already outmoded the instant it appears. Since it is "of the moment," the moment has already passed by the time this offal stuff reaches the consew(m)er -- that "muddy stream where only monsters can swim," as Alan Bloom wrote (quoted in the Steyn piece).
Not so when a genuine artist or intellectual is able to transmit a bit of the noetic light of the Real through sound or object. Exactly why is the wisdom of the Bible so much deeper than any silly atheist rant against it? Because, as Schuon explains, those who articulate the perennial philosophy, "even if they wrote two thousand years ago or lived at the utmost ends of the earth, always have the freshness and perfect 'timeliness' that comes from truth expressed with intelligence; real wisdom does not fade with age any more than does real art." But spiritually crimped and time-bound postmodern relativists abolish truth "in order to set in its place a blind and heavy" pseudo-reality that collapses and crushes the hierarchy of being under the dead weight of its existential blandfill.
Or as Steyn describes it, "A classical education considers society as a kind of iceberg, and teaches you the seven-eighths below the surface. Today, we live on the top eighth bobbing around in the flotsam and jetsam of the here and now. And, without the seven-eighths under the water, what’s left on the surface gets thinner and thinner."
So what is most "up to date" is already old and faded, while what is old and venerable, or Ancient of Days, is quite literally ever-new and, more importantly, ever-renewing, Rocky Mountan fresh from the spring. It is of coors "prior to thought, by the headwaters of the eternal, the fountain of innocence, the mind shoreless vast and still, absolved & absorbed in what is always the case, face to face in a sacred space," in Petey's psychobobbling glossolalia.
Back to our discussion of Polanyi, whom I believe nailed the causes of the problem. As we were discussing a couple of posts back, the materialist metaphysics of logical positivism -- even though such a philosophy is riddled with self-contradiction -- undermined any claim to an objective moral order. But the destruction of traditional moral ideals in no way abolishes the moral impulse, any more than the destruction of sexual mores eliminates the sexual impulse. Rather, it leaves the impulse there, but with no wisdom to guide or channel it. Thus, the radical secular modman is a dangerous combination of fanatical passion and hard-headed, biting cynicism, ahistorically focused like a laser on the now, which can never, ever, live up to his unhinged moral passion.
Steyn describes it perfectly: "By using the now-common relativistic formula, all individuals and thinkers in the past are ridiculed, demeaned, and scorned because they fail to live up to postmodern and politically correct standards of conduct. Thus, their ideas are considered meaningless and described as 'hypocritical' -- the absolutely worse possible sin from the leftist perspective."
That the Founding Fathers "could not entirely break out of the culture of their time, but still could push the envelope of civilization forward is irrelevant to the postmodern left. From the left's perch of moral superiority they blithely dismiss these 'white males' as hypocrites with no moral standing. Thus are the foundations and the generationally built constructs of civilization invalidated and destroyed....
"By disgarding reason and reality; by abandoning the past and embracing moral and cultural relativism, the left has brought us to this place where we are morally and physically paralyzed.... This is their quest. To establish themselves as the arbiters of moral behavior by behaving immorally; of being 'reality-based' without the necessity of having to acknowledge reality; of speaking 'truth' to power, without being capable of recognizing truth (isn't all truth relative, after all?)." (Please read the whole thing -- it is filled with similar gems.)
We have seen this pattern again and again since the French Revolution, and it never changes. Today we recognize it as the leftist assault on liberalism, but the deep structure is always the same, for it is also the now attacking the past, a false rationalism assaulting tradition, narrowly construed "facts" undermining wisdom, and ultimately the oedipal triumph of children abolishing parents. One of the lessons of history is that, in order for culture to function, children cannot succeed in their perennial effort to overturn the world of the parents. That the baby boomer generation was the first to accomplish this mission only explains everything about their politics, for it is nothing less than the impossible Triumph of Infantile Fantasy.
Again, the problem with the left is not its "immorality," but precisely its unhinged, out of control morality. There is no sanctimonious moral scold like leftist moral scold -- for example, you are the moral equivalent of Hitler if you don't believe in Al Gore's weather hysteria. Today at American Thinker there is an excellent article on how the left has used the bogus issue of torture as a platform for their insane moralizing. And because of their insanity, they have defined torture down -- tortured its definition, as it were -- so that they could use it as a bludgeon to sadistically attack the country they despise so much.
By redefining torture, the left is able to disable its own collective superego, which would normally prevent the naked expression of their death wishes. But if you brand something evil -- even if it is not -- you can essentially express your most base impulses with moral impunity. And of course, part of the unconscious game is to project this into conservatives, as if they are the violent ones. The left does the same thing by defining down rape, racism, "homophobia," anti-Semitism, etc. Do you see how it works? A couple of weeks ago Ann Coulter was a victim of the leftist hate machine for simply echoing Christian doctrine. They falsely labeled her an "anti-Semite," which then sanctioned -- literally -- the same moral outrage that would normally be reserved for an Adolf Hitler. Of course, they did the same thing to the Dartmouth lacrosse team and to Rush Limbaugh with the phony "phony soldier" controversy. Truly, it happens every day.
And "sadism" is the precisely correct word, for it represents the opposite of sublimation, which is the transformation of a lower impulse into something socially beneficial. In Polanyi's analysis, the left systematically engages in the opposite, or what he called moral inversion, "a condition in which the passions for high moral purposes operate only as the hidden force of an openly declared inhumanity."
In other words, the "passion for high moral purposes" is necessarily hidden by the leftist from himself, who would otherwise regard himself as a hypocrite for holding such sentimental and unprovable ideals -- no better then the religious person he despises! So the leftist is barred from ever examining the source of his own moral passions, allowing them to perpetually operate in the dark. This explains so much -- including why left wing talk radio is so boring, not to mention unsuccessful (since they cannot give reasons for their irrational convictions, and thus appeal to the mind), why they do not learn (since they are always in the now and under influences unknown to them), and why they never need apologize (since they are by definition operating out of their intrinsically superior morality that is guided by unexamined good intentions, which are by definition good).
This means that leftists can never be bad, no matter how much untold damage they cause. They always mean well. And they can never recognize the actual Good, since it can never live up to their unhinged and unexamined moral fantasies of the way things ought to be.
So, what is the specific source of the left's moral passion? Polany felt that it originated with Christianity, which introduced an entirely new kind of morality into the world at large. I don't have time to do justice to the subtlety of his argument here, but if you take the deep moral passion generated by Christianity -- for example, for justice, equality, fraternity, liberty, etc. -- and remove the Christianity, you're going to have problems. Essentially it is the problem that Voegelin called immamentizing the eshchaton, which is a fancy way of saying tyranically imposing the vertical on the horizontal, thereby destroying both. This happened all over Europe in the 20th century, causing millions upon millions of deaths.
As Polanyi described it, "Since no society can live up to Christian percepts, any society professing Christian percepts must be afflicted by an internal contradiction, and when the tension is released by rebellion its agents must tend to establish a nihilistic Messianic rule.... It can then only hold on by proclaiming itself to be the absolute good: a Second Coming greater than the first and placed therefore beyond good and evil. We see arising the 'amoral superman'" (or woman, as the case may be; click to enlarge).
It would undoubtedly surprise the proudly infrahuman, anti-Christian rabble of dailykos that they are actually messianic Christians, but there you go. They fall into the category of (-R), of fanatical Christianity with the Christianity removed. It is the subject of another debate whether our Islamist enemies are Muslims with the Islam removed or reinserted.
To be continued....
MEMO -- We're now mischieviously sneaking toward second place. Victory is achievable, but it will require a two-day surge with more paws on the ground, so get out and vote. The comedic possibilities of a Raccoon winning this contest are truly Infinite.