Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Moral Inversion

Yesterday Michael Medved made a somewhat passing comment as to how one of the biggest hurdles for the left is that so many people are repelled by their habitual "moral equivalency." For example, I well remember back in the '70's and '80's, when leftists argued that the United States and Soviet Union were morally equivalent--that they were just two giant empires that ran things slightly differently (which is why they were outraged--morally outraged, I might emphasize--when President Reagan had the audacity to refer to the Soviet Union as an "evil empire").

And the left had a ready response to any objection. What about exploitation of the population? "We do the same thing, except that we hide our exploitation in third world countries--El Salvador, Nicaragua, The Philippines, etc." What about economic freedom? "Meaningless. In Cuba and the USSR they have free health care and no illiteracy." What about political prisoners? "Don't be naive-fifty percent of our prison population is black. Most of these are political prisoners, like Tookie and Mumia." What about their aggressive, expansionist military policies? "Hey, we're the only country that's ever used the nuclear bomb. We're the biggest terrorist on earth."

In my opinion, this kind of thinking goes beyond moral equivalence--it is moral inversion, or literally turning the moral order of the world upside down. "Moral equivalence" sounds too bland and passive, whereas these moral inverts may well be more passionate about their morality than you or I, just as a child molester may be more passionate about his sex life than you or I. All emotionally mature people understand that sexuality can be a dangerous and destructive force when unhinged from any moral framework. But few people seem to understand that a much worse type of destruction can occur when the moral impulse becomes unhinged.

People typically think that the right represents the party of sanctimonious and judgmental morality, but this is hardly the case. In fact, this is an exact reversal of the situation. Morality in and of itself is neither moral nor immoral. Sometimes--perhaps more often than not--a moral system can actually be a source of great evil. One of the things that sets human beings apart from animals is that we cannot avoid making moral distinctions. There seems to be a built in need to distinguish between right and wrong. This impulse is just as strong and ubiquitous as the sex drive, and, just like the sex drive, can become distorted and perverted. With the left, we are generally not dealing with immoral people, but with quite serious moral perversion. And I say this in all seriousness and with all due respect.

For example, yesterday on LGF, Charles linked to a photo gallery of the anti-death penalty demonstrators outside San Quentin Prison Monday night. Here are examples of some of the signs that were carried by protesters: "Tookie Has Done More For Kids Than Arnold." "Arnold is a Nazi. Terminate Him Now." "America is Still Murdering Blacks. Slavery: 1492-Present." "Tookie = Greater Integrity. Worth 100 Times as Much to Our World as All of the Neocons, Hypochristians & Fascist Pigs of Profit."

So clearly, there is an extraordinary amount of moral passion behind these sentiments. And yet, it is an insane and deranged moral passion. The philosopher Michael Polanyi pointed out that what distinguishes leftism in all its forms is the dangerous combination of a ruthless contempt for traditional moral values with an unbounded moral passion for utopian perfection. The first step in this process is a complete skepticism that rejects traditional ideals of moral authority and transcendent moral obligation--a complete materialistic skepticism combined with a boundless, utopian moral fervor to transform mankind. However, being that the moral impulse remains in place, there is no longer any boundary or channel for it.

We can see the deadly combination of these two--“skepticism and moral passion,” or “burning moral fervor with hatred of existing society”--in every radical secular revolution since the French Revolution--from the Bolsheviks to nazi Germany to campus unrest in the 1960s. If society has no divine sanction but is made by man, men can and must perfect society now, while all opposition must be joyfully crushed--with moral sanction, of course. We saw this Monday night, with the peaceful anti-death penalty protestors joyfully intimidating and attacking those few proponents of capital punishment in the crowd, and with cadres of Nation of Islam goons intimidating anyone in the crowd who looked or behaved normally.

I was trying to think of all the ways the contemporary left are morally inverted. I'm sure you will be able to think of many I have missed. I'm a little pressed for time at the moment, but I'll add some during the day, as they come to me.

For example, John Murtha insists that there is a sharp distinction between terrorists and the "insurgents" we are fighting in Iraq--even (or especially) when these "insurgents" have no other purpose but to murder innocent civilians. But this has long been a policy of the left--for example, insisting that Palestinian terrorists somehow belong to a different category than other terrorists.

Of course, seeing any similarity between President Bush and Hitler, or Ariel Sharon and Hitler, is quite morally insane. One hardly knows how to respond to such individuals. And yet, there are millions of leftists in America and Europe who believe it.

In promoting his new movie Munich, Steven Spielberg has made a number of comments indicating his belief that there is no real distinction between terror and Israel's response to it. In general, leftists are genuinely unable to see the vast moral gulf that exists between Israel and her Arab enemies.

Or how about our elite universities, who are fighting to prevent military recruitment on campus, but welcome anti-Semites and terrorist sympathizers of all stripes, many of whom are on their faculties?

A "lie" has now been redefined to mean a statement one believes to be true at the time, but is later unsubstantiated. I believe any morally intact child would be able to understand the immorality of this kind of perverse morality, but the left are again genuinely unable to draw the distinction.

Or Ted Kennedy says that nothing has changed in Abu Ghraib prison--that it is simply "under new management." Dick Durbin says our military is no different than Pol Pot or Stalin.

Of course, leftists routinely compare Islamofascists to Christians whom they believe wish to impose a theocracy on the United States.

We are in danger of failing as a society if we cannot equip half of our citizens to reason coherently in the most rudimentary moral categories.


LiquidLifeHacker said...

as in Isaiah we are told...

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a lawyer I once worked with as near pure evil as I have ever seen. He specialized in doing combat via filing Ethics Accusations against his adversaries.

Moral passion can be imposed on and derived from any philosophy or motive. The problem is, it fires a lot of juicy synapses whether it points to Good or Evil, and therefore feels Good.

I've concluded the most coherent religious approaches discourage this kind of zeal even for the Good, and look to humility and reason -- not any old unmoored reason, reason in the context of its teaching -- but reason over emotion. What St. Paul calls "our reasonable service."

There is no bully like a sentimentalist.

Anonymous said...

I saw the photo essay over at Zombietime. Two of the pictures that you mentioned were very disturbing to me. Both shots were of women (possibly the same woman)holding signs: one about 'Amerikkka killing blacks', and the one about 'Tookie has done more than Arnold...'
In both cases the fervor of the sign holder is evident, but there was something wrong about it (more than the goofy sign) that I could not put my finger on. It was like looking at a photo of a crowded city street only the traffic lights were all reversed so that green was at the top. You would know something wasn't right, yet it would take a while to discern what exactly was wrong.

Moral inversion- the stop light is on backwards. These people were deliberately bearing a lie about Arnold, and a lie about America. They were protesting against justice. They were out in support an evil man. The eerie thing is that these women displayed so much genuine delight in what they were doing- why the hell else would they go out on a cold December night when they could be home? They believe they are fighting evil when in fact they are evil's advocates.


Anonymous said...

This is not a trick question or a criticism, but: By your definition, what % of the human population would you consider insane? Given all the ways the mind can go wrong I'm beginning to wonder if some substantial degree of insanity isn't a part of the normal human condition.

goesh said...

It's just a darn shame some of us on the far Right won't fullfill their beliefs about us and give 'em a good knuckle sandwich. That's what facists and nazis and war mongers do, isn't it? Oh the misery of having to beat them in the elections and the arena of rational, Public opinion!

goesh said...

It's just a darn shame some of us on the far Right won't fullfill their beliefs about us and give 'em a good knuckle sandwich. That's what facists and nazis and war mongers do, isn't it? Oh the misery of having to beat them in the elections and the arena of rational, Public opinion!

goesh said...

I've got RCS (Repeating Commentor Syndrome), sorry - I'm seeking treatment

Anonymous said...

I think the first and most reprehensible was the French Revolution; the depths to which the mob sunk were ghastly.

This is a great site and a daily read for me- I'm glad I found you.

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