One interesting phenomenon of our times is that the old-fashioned view that one may act on the basis of sincere belief has been hammered out of existence. We don’t even say, “I think” or “I believe” anymore. It’s “I feel.”
When a Muslim Pakistani tries to blow up Times Square, the establishment immediately search for an explanation in something demented about his individual psychology: his economic circumstances, personality, and social relations. The news media say, literally, “Motive a Mystery.” Really? But what of his beliefs? His religion? His ideas? These real motives escape notice. This can’t be the actual reason. Such events can happen a million more times, but, for the liberal observer, the cause still must be found in individual psychology and possibly by something our evil society did. It’s Rousseau on depressants. Mayor Bloomberg and Contessa Brewer were both sad to find out the perpetrator was a Muslim. Not because they are Muslims, but because the sincere, believing conservatives and Christians in their midst, those whose apparent motivation is sincere belief, find encouragement for their non-materialist worldview when men like Faisal Shazad rear their heads. Genuine, religious conservatives understand and can explain their mirror-image opponents, the Muslims, with greater fidelity than the liberal who thinks all human action derives from the individual and his psychological impulses.
And why this assumption by the liberal? I suspect it’s because their stated ideas–concern for the poor, a belief in social justice–are not what motivate those who talk this way; their beliefs are a thin veneer that do not explain their real drivers, an inner psychology made up of a will to pleasure and power coupled with half-thoughts such as guilty feelings about privilege, unease with inequality (including their own), fear of death (and therefore terror at suffering), and discomfort with the world in general. Ideas and their explanatory power are denied entry into his mental universe by a thorough-going materialist nihilism. “That’s just, like, your opinion man!”
For him, man is just a sophisticated ape, a mere bundle of atoms, impulses, and instincts. Ideas don’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense in this world, because this world is defined by an all encompassing meta-idea that says every alleged idea is the mere epiphenomenon of some material cause: thanatos, id, primitive group identity, or the residue of an abusive childhood. Real ideas don’t exist as ideas to such people, and thus they can’t imagine they really exist for others. So the ideas that actually explain things–that men are not really equal, that there is real evil in the world, that all people can’t live together peaceably so long as their ideas are in conflict, that the material explanation is incomplete–are immediately rejected, disappearing like idealist antimatter coliding with the materialist pseudoreality of existence.
There are many glaring gaps of illogic for the materialist; under this worldview, real human connection becomes impossible. It becomes impossible because the highest connection, the search for truth, cannot occur under such circumstances. Real truth is not considered to be intelligible, and this single simulacrum of a philosophical idea alone is allowed to exist. The humane bridge between men of reason and thought and discussion can’t be allowed. Sex and pleasure and distraction assume disproportionate significance, as these intense and also human experiences allow in a limited way the connection erased by the anti-philosophical materialism. Villains who dare to expose these inconsistencies must be punished and psychopathologized. And thus the Muslim is just treated like an alien force–a “human-caused catastrophe,” inexplicable through the perpetrator’s beliefs and ideas. The more well known and hated idealism of native conservatives and Christians must be rejected with the greatest possible vigor. Such men, unlike the foriegn Muslim, might actually persuade your fellows and retake control of the world wrought by the liberal revolution.
For the liberal anti-culture, the stated beliefs of the conservative are more familiar and more seductive. There is almost no chance your daughter would go off to Harvard and become a Muslim fundamentalist. On the other hand, she may become gripped by a conservative or Christian impulse, dissatisfied at some point in your life–perhaps when barren–by the false promises of feminism and materialism and nihilism. And thus those who might lead her this way, are hated, rejected, and minimized by psychological reductionism.
For the man of ideas, the terrorist’s motives are obvious: he thinks what he is doing is right, he believes God wants him to do it, he thinks those against whom he is striking are evil, and he is read and deduced this from the Koran which he takes to be divine revelation. And this forthright and clear explanation, an explanation with predictive power, actually disempowers the terrorist more than the patronizing willful ignorance of liberals, whose entire worldview is threatened more by the acknowledgment of ideas (any ideas) than the conservative is by the violent expression of false ideas by the Muslim. The false idea can be argued against or suppressed by force barring that. For the liberal materialist, to acknowledge that anyone is sincerely motivated by ideas would expose the poverty of his own worldview.