Posts Tagged ‘Liberalism’

Ten years ago today, our country and my family received a terrible blow.  We were attacked.  Our countrymen were murdered.  We were shaken. 9/11 is an important historical event that has defined much of the last ten years, but it was also a family tragedy for me, as my Uncle Donnie Regan gave his life that day in the line of duty with the New York City Fire Department.

I distinctly remember the day, as I’m sure most Americans my age do.  I was living in Texas at the time–taking time off and about to start my first law firm job in a few weeks–and received a call from a close friend.  They were evacuating the Dallas Federal Building.  I turned on the TV.  The first tower was already down.  I was stunned.  The second tower came down soon thereafter.  My alarm at this took a little time; at first, I thought this was a replay of the first tower falling.  Then I realized that this situation was even worse than I thought.  Rumors of the “mall in DC” being on fire were on the news.  No one knew the extent of it.   I spoke briefly to my parents, when I heard that Donnie–my uncle and the father of my cousins to whom I am closest–may have been at the towers.


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Lawrence Auster explains clearly the confustion that results from left-liberal multiculturalism and its combination of insane moralism intramurally among other westerners, while abandoning basic moral standards in dealing with “other” people:

[T]he liberal order articulates the world through a “script” in which there are three characters: the white liberal, who embodies the non-discriminatory virtue of the liberal regime; the white non-liberal, who discriminates against nonwhites and who must be crushed by the white liberal; and the nonwhite/non-Westerner, who either is discriminated against by the white non-liberal or is non-discriminatorily included by the white liberal. In the script, furthermore, only the white liberal and the white non-liberal are moral actors, with the first representing good and the second representing evil. The nonwhite/non-Westerner is not a moral actor, but is simply the passive recipient of the white liberal’s goodness or of the white non-liberal’s bigotry. The reason that the nonwhite/non-Westerner cannot be a moral actor is that his very function in the script is to be the recipient of either good non-discrimination or evil discrimination. If he were a moral actor, then his own actions would have to be judged; specifically, his bad actions would have to be judged. But to judge his bad actions would be to discriminate against him. And since the central purpose of liberalism is to eliminate all discriminatory treatment of nonwhites/non-Westerners, moral judgement of nonwhites/non-Westerners must also be eliminated. Therefore nonwhites/non-Westerners cannot be seen as responsible moral actors.

The liberal script explains why [Pastor Terry] Jones, who burned a piece of paper with ink on it, has “blood on his hands,” but the Muslim Afghan mob that invaded a UN compound and murdered 12 UN employees do not have blood on their hands. The Muslims are not moral actors. The Muslims are simply the victims of Terry Jones’s discriminatory act against them. Jones, the white non-liberal, is a moral agent who is responsible for his evil actions. The Muslims are not moral agents and are not responsible for their actions.

Terry Jones is just the millionth example of this.  There are the excuses for other familiar forms of foreign savagery, such as sutee, or polygamy, or canabilism, or low levels of cleanliness and education.  As these excuses role off the tongue, the most anodyne western liberties and customs, whether holding a door for a lady or not wanting one’s nation’s demographics reengineered, are treatd as the most backwards expressions of primitivism.  The thread uniting this apparent dissonance is the nondiscrimination principle.

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Vanishing American had a good point about how we are collectively led away from clear thinking on what the problems of the age are:

I’m reminded once again of C.S. Lewis’ observation about how each age warns against the very things which are no threat to the prevailing culture: in a libertine culture, people warn against ‘puritanism’; in an age which is irreligious, we hear constant cries about how ”right-wing Christians” are trying to establish a theocracy in our midst. As our borders are obliterated and our country overrun with aliens, legal and illegal, we hear how much ”xenophobia” and ”nativism” there is. In an age in which the Minority is king, we hear about ”racism”. In an age where all manner of perversions are out in the open, we hear about how ”intolerance” is killing us. We have banished the idea of sin, and make excuses for all kinds of bad behavior, but yet we are warned against being ”too judgmental.”I’m reminded once again of C.S. Lewis’ observation about how each age warns against the very things which are no threat to the prevailing culture: in a libertine culture, people warn against ‘puritanism’; in an age which is irreligious, we hear constant cries about how ”right-wing Christians” are trying to establish a theocracy in our midst. As our borders are obliterated and our country overrun with aliens, legal and illegal, we hear how much ”xenophobia” and ”nativism” there is. In an age in which the Minority is king, we hear about ”racism”. In an age where all manner of perversions are out in the open, we hear about how ”intolerance” is killing us. We have banished the idea of sin, and make excuses for all kinds of bad behavior, but yet we are warned against being ”too judgmental.”

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PC: The New Religion

Jim Kalb is probably one of the greatest observers of all that is wrong about liberalism.  His latest piece on PC notes how it ultimately destroys culture and human life by taking away our ability to live in a truly human way, specifically by destroying our scale of values which involves ranking choices, “styles” of life, and all the rest. The entire article is worth reading, but I rather like this passage:

Basic issues matter. People have to believe that the world at bottom makes sense, and that it’s ordered in a way that doesn’t thwart human life. In other words, they have to have something that amounts to a religion.

That’s almost a logical requirement. To understand their own actions people have to understand how they fit together to advance something worth advancing. Otherwise action seems pointless, at least in the long run. We can’t look at our own lives that way. To get literary, we can’t–and don’t–live in the world described by Samuel Beckett. We have to believe that what we do is part of a comprehensible structure of how things are.

That makes radical secularism a problem. If you try to get rid of religion, you aren’t going to get rid of religion. Instead, you’ll get some scheme of attitude and belief that functions like a religion but pretends to be something else and will probably go off in strange directions because nobody’s allowed to think about what it really is. In short, you’ll get something rather like the Antichrist.

Officially, at least, the modern West has given up on the idea of an intrinsic moral structure of things. That’s part of what’s understood as the scientific outlook. The world is just atoms and the void, and it has no purpose other than whatever purpose we give it.

That view may be useful for some kinds of analysis, but it creates problems when applied directly to human life. One is that purposes differ, so saying the purpose of the world is the purpose we give it tells us nothing. Another is that it seems odd for a purpose we invent to be a rationally compelling reason for doing something. Rightness is the guide and justification of decision. How can it be created by decision? How can something become the right thing to do just because somebody decides to do it?

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Our Fragile PC Universe

The sometimes mocked, but often underestimated, milieu of political correctness in our world is just applied liberalism.  And liberalism is a myth about how the world works.  The individual reigns supreme.  Generalizations are bad.  The West is suspect, particularly because it suggests equality may not be a fact about the universe.  So any facts, opinions, or statistics that threaten this comprehensive world view are dealt with rather savagely.  We proudly scoff at the treatment of Gallileo by the Catholic Church–a more complicated situation than I have time to discuss here–but we are often collectively blind to the rampant censorship, career-destroying hate sessions, self-satisfied authoritarianism, and denial of reality that pervades our world, particularly in academic, corporate, and government circles.

Juan Williams, a moderate liberal by any measure, was canned by NPR this week for having the temerity to say what almost certainly a majority of Americans think:  unassimilated Muslims on an airplane, with their head-dresses, burqas, and all the rest, make us nervous.  And they make us nervous because such people have a bad habit historically of blowing up planes and killing people.  While everyone knows all of them are not guilty of such–otherwise, we’d swiftly get off any such plane–we all know they do so at a much greater rate than any other group of human beings on the planet.

But we can’t say this.  And why?  It suggests open-borders, political indifference to religion, and our beliefs in globalism may not be such swell ideas. And they may not be so swell, because religion matters, it defines behavior and norms, and this religion in particular is often understood by its believers to support a war with the western world and political violence of various kinds, including suicide bombings and hijackings.

What a joke of a world liberals live in that someone like Juan Williams, a respected journalist for many years, is canned over saying what is undoubtedly a widely held view among all but the most dyed-in-the-wool liberals.

As Solzhenitsyn put it–in similar circumstances–the first rule of life, in times like this, is as follows: Live not by lies.

When violence intrudes into peaceful life, its face glows with self-confidence, as if it were carrying a banner and shouting: I am violence. “Run away, make way for me–I will crush you.” But violence quickly grows old. And it has lost confidence in itself, and in order to maintain a respectable face it summons falsehood as its ally–since violence lays its ponderous paw not every day and not on every shoulder. It demands from us only obedience to lies and daily participation in lies–all loyalty lies in that.

And the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, but not with any help from me.

This opens a breach in the imaginary encirclement caused by our inaction. It is the easiest thing to do for us, but the most devastating for the lies. Because when people renounce lies it simply cuts short their existence. Like an infection, they can exist only in a living organism.

We do not exhort ourselves. We have not sufficiently matured to march into the squares and shout the truth our loud or to express aloud what we think. It’s not necessary.

It’s dangerous. But let us refuse to say that which we do not think.

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A Free Country?

One thing we sometimes forget is that the most important means of social control in communist regimes was the power over your job; if you offended the communist leadership, you could be fired.  It turns out the NJ Transit Authority employee who burned a Koran near the WTC site was fired.  The stated reason, “violating his trust as a state employee.”  This is an outrage.  The combination of anti-harassment laws, the habit of tip-toeing around Islamic sensitivities, and the increasing political correctness of both private and public sector employees means that winners and losers will be rewarded accordingly; dissent will be crushed by threat of economic penury.  And this will all happen in a country that used to take pride not in its sensitivity, but in its rugged individualism, including the individualism to have peculiar beliefs and say offensive things. 

We all know communsits, flag-burning hippies, and guys who say things like Rev. Wright never get fired on account of their extremism, but conservatives of any kind must be aware of this.  I would not say the solution is necessarily to “play the game.”  Such would be a type of victory too, as we’re often reminded by those who say the best antidote to terrorism is to be quietly defiant.  It’s certainly true that half or more of the country that is uneasy with Islam cannot be fired from their jobs.  But one thing you can be sure of, the Obama that cares about the Jena Six and racist Dept. of Agriculture employees and not jump to conclusions regarding a murderous Muslim Army Major, won’t be stepping in to remind everyone of the dangers of censorship anytime soon.

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A Real Education Lesson

A rather forthright young lady at Harvard Law mistakenly thought the school was serious about its motto: Veritas.  She calmly and dispassionately explained her views on racial differences, genetics, and various related social problems.  She used no epithets or coarse language.  A member of the Black Law Students Association, and similar associations at other elite law schools, responded by literally trying to ruin her life, in part, by trying to get her federal judicial clerkship yanked.

This is utterly monstrous behavior by weak, thin-skinned, anti-intellectual, and evil people, whose feelings and belief structure is so incredibly fragile because it’s built on the very falsehoods which this young lady dared to challenge.  But oh how the school and its professors and its students congratulate themselves on their intellectual daring and cutting-edge beliefs.  Cutting edge 50 years ago perhaps.  Liberalism is now the official religion of elite America, it takes no courage to embrace, and anyone that dares to deviate from its premises on equality, race, nature versus nurture, and much else is responded to not with sound argument and evidence but Soviet-style attempts to ruin one’s life and livelihood.

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Today in the New York Times:

When I was a freshman in college, I was assigned “Reflections on the Revolution in France” by Edmund Burke. I loathed the book.

I, by contrast, read Burke my freshman year, fell in love, and wrote my bachelor’s thesis on his philosophy.  One peculiar thing about the neoconservatives is that they’re the court jesters of liberalism and are mostly ex-liberals seeking to make conservatism respectable in the eyes of liberalism by removing most of the issues that appeal to natural conservatives, i.e., those who when they first read Burke found much to agree with, as well as those who are less educated who find a great deal to be uneasy with in the dominant liberalism of our times.  Neoconservatives like Brooks may occasionally say something interesting, but they’re really just moderate liberals in the mold of Harry Truman and Jack Kennedy.  With their passion for American Empire and contempt for much of America’s history, they are in many ways less conservative even than the Democrats of old.

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One of Bush’s more asinine theories of foreign policy, a theory at the heart of much of neoconservatism, is the idea that everyone everywhere wants American-style freedoms and American-style democracy.  As he said in his 2007 speech on the surge:

The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy, by advancing liberty across a troubled region. It is in the interests of the United States to stand with the brave men and women who are risking their lives to claim their freedom, and to help them as they work to raise up just and hopeful societies across the Middle East.

But is this really what a great many Iraqis want?  They surely want order, commerce, fair treatment, and the good of their individual tribes.  But freedom? And if they celebrated the fall of Saddam, hasn’t it been clear that for some this was a signal that they now could oppress their erstwhile oppressors?

The sorry history of liberal movements in 19th Century Europe and South America should give some pause to those who believe that people everywhere desire freedom.  That desire has often been fleeting or coexstensive with darker desires of envy, revenge, and license.  We’ve seen this in our own times, particularly in Eastern Europe, where misguided notions of freedom left a great many Russians, Poles, and others with unfortunate disrespect for free markets, borne by the rapidity of the social change and the inclusion of accidental aspects of free societies that could have been disregarded in deference to national cultures and other goods.

I recently read Tocqueville’s excellent work The Ancien Regime and the French Revolution and was struck by the relevance of the following passage:

I see quite clearly that, whenever nations are poorly governed, they are very ready to entertain the desire for governing thesmelves.  But this kind of love for independence, which has its roots only in certain particular and passing evils brought on by despostism, never lasts long; it disppearas along with the accidental circumstnaces which caused it.  They seemed to love freedom; it turns out they simply hated the master.  When nations are ready for freedom, what they hate is the evil of dependency itself.

At home and abroad, a desire for security by the lower classes above all is the main competitor of freedom.  Instead of looking to export this difficult to maintain good overseas by military force, America would be better served to cultivate its own national independence at home.  But instead of the Republican evils of imperial adventures abroad and the false freedom of unproductive financial gimmicks at home, Obama promises humanitarian interventions overseas and crippling debts at home in the name of economic stimulus.  Having replaced the old stawart American people with a newer breed through mass immigration, and having accelerated that old breed’s decadence at home with the welfare state begun in the 1930s, the various effects of liberalism have rendered the old American type that “hate[d] the evil of dependency itself” in short supply to say the least.

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David Bernstein asks this question at the Volokh website.  He raises a number of good points, including probably insoluble ones about whether we can generalize about the ethnic character of any ideology held only by certain members of a group.  After all, most American Jews are not neoconservatives, either explicitly or otherwise. 

But his and others’ virulent opposition to such a characterization has an air of insecurity.  After all, most neoconservatives are Jewish, and they famously support Israel in all of its endeavors (other than displays of weakness or compromise).  Some explicitly defended the Iraq adventure on the grounds that it was good for Israel.

In the contentious discussion, no one acknowledged or defended the problematic application of dual standards by neoconservatives themselves.  Neoconservatives routinely criticize Muslims and Arabs as evil, speaking with forked tongues, and as disloyal to the Western World and its values. They similarly criticize Christians, most viciously in their attacks on Mel Gibson’s Passion.  Why is generalization about the ethnic and religious character of these groups appropriate, while none whatsoever is appropriate about neoconservatives themselvess, especially when such a characterization finds numerous facts in support.  After all, the neoconservatives’ flagship magazine is a publication of the “American Jewish Committee,”  and it is pretty easy to connect the dots between interests and policy in this case, particularly on the issues of immigration and Israel.

More important, if neoconservatives and neoconservatism aren’t Jewish in character, then why is it anti-Semitic to say that neocons are wrongheaded, stupid, unusually entranced by the interests of a nation with whom we have no defense treaty, and totally indifferent to America’s historic ethnic composition? I mean, can’t we just say these things on the merits without constantly being called anti-Semitic?  Since a great deal of ink is spent by neoconservatives on the Jewish Character of Jewish Thinkers, it seems fair that the Jewish character of neoconservatives and other thinkers can be looked at in less hagiographic ways.  It’s simply a debater’s trick for ethnicity and religion to be a one-way ratchet, whereby ethnicity is invoked to bestow praise and dignitas, but also used as a canard when that same identity is brought up in negative ways.

On this matter, I’ve always enjoyed this excellent and very honest contribution by Leon Wieseltier in The New Republic:

It is not true that the moral life is lived only individually, even if acts of good or evil are the work of individuals acting together or alone. Individuals belong to groups, and it is a cost or a benefit of their belonging that they are morally implicated by their groups, which are moral agents, too. One can oppose the misdeeds of one’s group, but one cannot secede from it, I mean not neatly after the fact.

For this reason, I am not hurt when I am interrogated about the misdeeds of Jews or the misdeeds of Americans, because I have chosen to be known as a Jew and as an American. I understand why they are coming to me with their questions, even with their slanders. I accept that I have some explaining (or refuting or apologizing) to do. To be sure, I am not just a member of my groups, I am also an individual whom they cannot entirely reach or entirely rule; but I cannot hide behind the fact of my individuation, behind the doctrine of individual responsibility, when the going gets rough.

So, what’s my point? It is a fairly mundane one.  Neoconservatives themselves tell us that their ideology is partly a Jewish movement that asks the old question of any policy:  “Is It Good For the Jews?” Neoconservatism is also a type of “liberalism with guts” that contains strong and influential views on foreign policy. But this variant of liberalism has especially great appeal among a group whose interests and historical way of life matched liberalism’s handmaiden, modernism itself—individualistic, mobile, unrooted to time or place. This viewpoint demands a universalist foreign policy for the nascent universalist nation, which will be made more “pure” in time with mass immigration. 

In this new “nation” that is not creedal accidentally, but is by design united in nothing else, no minority will stand out, and no minority group at home or abroad will have to go undefended. This principle of a universal obligation to protect the universal values of democratic capitalism applies most especially to the Jewish nation surrounded as it is by illiberal Arab wolves in the Middle East.  The historic American nation and people will be obliterated.  But their sins—racism, the delayed entry into WWII, the 1924 Immigration Act—will be atoned for once and for all by this new universalist entity fighting for democratic capitalist values the world over.  We’ll even have a non-American military to boot if Max Boot has his way. 

Neoconservatism is an imposter with little relationship to authentic conservatism, which is rooted in the actual and the historical.  Neoconservatism’s differences start with its fundamental liberalism.  Like any liberalism, neoconservatism  is hostile to the historical American nation and attractive to many Jews, because the historical American nation–the nation of WASP Presidents, the English language, Ivy league quotas, discriminatory private clubs, nepotism, and blue laws–is one in which Jews would always be, at least in part, outsiders and a minority. 

One can defend this ideology on its own terms.  Certainly some of its contributions are quite valuable.  But the sinusoidal embrace and rejection of the Jewish character of neoconservatism is insulting to the intelligence of ordinary people.

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