Saturday, January 11, 2020

"Courageous Leftist" and Other Oxymorons

There can be no such thing as a courageous leftist qua leftism. In other words, a leftist may demonstrate personal courage in, for example, rescuing a drowning child, but he doesn't rescue the child because of his leftism, but because he sees what is needed and does it despite the possibility of incurring harm to himself.

In one sense courage is apolitical, but in another sense the essence of politics, because effective politics presupposes knowledge of reality, and courage is required in order to defend that knowledge when the going gets rough -- when the world hates you for its (truth's) sake.

Some Christians reject President Trump on the grounds that he is insufficiently virtuous, "not a proper Christian." Well, if being a Christian involves an absence of knowledge of reality, who needs it? Conversely, contact with reality is the very essence of Christianity, or again, who needs it? To paraphrase Schuon, nothing can be more privileged than truth (and the love of truth), so if Christianity isn't true, then it certainly should be abandoned, not defended.

Brief aside -- I'm reading a book called Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion, and the author points out that the Romans didn't so much mind Christians per se. They were a pretty cynical and tolerant bunch who didn't really care about your superstitions so long as you didn't actually believe them.

What alarmed them about the Christians is that they actually insisted their claims were true, and that insistence is a direct threat to the state, then as much as now:

faithful Christians would not bow to the state, and so that state could not tolerate Christians.... There could be nothing more upsetting to the pagan Rome imperium than the absolute Christian rejection of all other gods, including the gods of the empire, even in the face of death.

Thus, "Wonder as they might at the martyrs' courage, pagans couldn't understand the Christian insistence on the exclusive truth of their faith" (emphasis mine).

Now, as Uncle Screwtape says in another book that we will eventually get around to properly unscrewing, "courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality." "Pilate," for example, "was merciful till it became risky." When tested, he fled truth and reality.

Conversely, President Trump, when tested by the fake news, runs toward the enemy with righteous flames of insultainment. For while Satan may not exist, he hates being mocked!

The bottom line of today's brief offering is that it is cosmically impossible -- a contradiction -- to courageously defend a lie. Doing so doesn't necessarily make the person a coward, because he may well actually believe the lie. But if courage is equally subordinate to lies or truth -- or to reality and unreality -- then it is not a virtue at all, just a power.

Even -- for example -- a person who gives his life for "gay marriage" cannot be courageous in so doing, because he is defending an impossibility. Nor can he be prudent, being that "realization of the good presupposes knowledge of reality." Is any Islamist "martyr" (terrorist) courageous? No, of course not. It is an impossibility. Are Christian martyrs courageous? Yes, quintessentially so.

Christians believed that the truth had been revealed to them, and it was their responsibility to take that truth and make it boldly known to all the nations. They didn't suffer the most horrible martyrdoms so that Isis, Bacchus, or Jupiter could be safely adored by their respective cults.... it was precisely this claim to have the truth that irked the Romans, and made them suspicious of Christians.

No truth, no courage. Simple as. (Although it isn't always a strictly binary opposition, for as Schuon points out, truth isn't just discernment between the Real and the unreal, but between the more or less Real. The world is an ambiguous place, to put it mildly, which is why prudence is needed in order to make this discernment between degrees of reality. This also goes to why we surely need two parties, but two parties more or less in touch with reality; the last thing we need is a party devoted to unreality, but here we are.)

As Thomas Aquinas tells us, "praise of bravery depends on justice." Which is why "social justice warrior" is such an ironically apt designation, for it is strictly impossible to be a courageous SJW.

We mean this literally, because as Hayek explains with airtight logic, social justice is a mirage. It does not exist because it cannot exist. To paraphrase the Aphorist, social justice is nothing but a noble sounding name for claiming something to which we have no right. It takes no courage to be envious. Rather, to overcome it. It's one thing to brake for hallucinations, another thing to coerce others to inhabit them.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Studies have shown that neither party is much in touch with reality. I’d recommend that national politicians be fully invested in their powerful decisions, somehow. But that would mean that politics require actual courage, instead of just being show business for ugly, rich people.

julie said...

...it was precisely this claim to have the truth that irked the Romans, and made them suspicious of Christians.

This very same claim irks a great many Christian-haters today, too. They can't bear the idea that there are people who not only believe in God, but as a consequence believe that there is such a thing as objective right and wrong, and not simply an array of different "truths."

julie said...

Even -- for example -- a person who gives his life for "gay marriage" cannot be courageous in so doing, because he is defending an impossibility. Nor can he be prudent, being that "realization of the good presupposes knowledge of reality."

The latest act of virtue signaling "courage" I've seen is white people writing about how white people are the real threat. Like Michael Moore, they are quick to advise that it isn't the white person speaking who is a problem, just those other, deplorable, Christian and Trump-voting white people. Courageously, they shriek ever more hysterically that it's not ok to be white.

Anonymous said...

This very same claim irks a great many Christian-haters today, too. They can't bear the idea that there are people who not only believe in God, but as a consequence believe that there is such a thing as objective right and wrong...

Julie, on what evidence do you base this claim? Do you speak for all of these haters? Have you ever actually gone out and tried to objectively “feel” them? A religious skeptic can just as easily claim that Christians have been cult conditioned into believing their own version of right and wrong, which has actually been fed to them by the only media sources they’ve been conditioned to accept, fueled by the belief that their God gives them special superpowers and would never steer them wrong.

And then you all go round and round with no resolution. I don't think it used to be that way.

Anonymous said...

Hello Friends, Countrymen:

Enjoyed the discussion of courage. "Reckless" is the term applicable to actions taken in the service of mischief. We don't think of criminals as courageous in the commission of their misdeeds, but many felonies take considerable balls to undertake and entail personal risk.

Agree on the premise of the post, that courage is contingent on the moral tone of the undertaking.

In spiritual practice, courage is a major asset and actually quite indispensable. To relinquish control of your life to God takes faith but also ovaries the size of Texas.

-Erotic Sneeze