Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Failed God

Why do liberals love government, but hate the government, so much, and at the same time?

It's because government is the god of liberalism. It may be a failed god, but it's all they have.

The worship of government is nothing new. In the ancient world, worshiping the emperor, or the pharoah, or the king, as an actual god was commonplace. During the middle ages, however, Christianity had reduced such worship to something called "divine right of kings" -- the king was revered because he was God's chosen leader, but he was no longer worshiped. This was progress.

However, the dictatorships of the 20th century pulled state worship out of history's dustbin and turned it into a fierce pageantry on a world-wide scope. Catch some of the films of parades in the old Soviet Union, with the belligerent likenesses of Lenin and Stalin hanging from every building; see the body of Lenin, preserved still, in a glass case. (He still looks good enough to share a stage with Joseph Biden.) Also: the Mao parades in China, the interminable Castro speeches in Cuba, and so on. There is something about government that titillates the fever swamps, particularly but not exclusively on the left, to a degree that is inexplicable as anything other than a manifestation of religious fervor. Such is its pull that it even turns rich liberal Americans into drooling sycophants. Examples abound. E.g., lefty journalists like John Reed (paid homage by Warren Beatty's in his movie, "Reds"), and Lincoln Steffens (who proclaimed, "I have seen the future and it works!"). E.g., Walter Duranty, the Pulizter Prize-winning New York Times reporter who helped the Soviets cover up Stalin's program of Ukrainian genocide. E.g., every Castro interview ever conducted by an American journalist. E.g., Ho Chi Minh posters in the 1970s. E.g., Che! T-shirts. Every left-wing dictator is some liberal's icon. They should make trading cards.

Why? Part of this is the problem of rejecting religion in the first place, or claiming it has no place in the public sphere. Nonsense. It will always be in the public sphere, the only choice we have is which form it takes. Human beings don't quit worshiping because they quit worshiping God. They will worship something -- if not brutal dictators, then their own wisdom, and politics is just the stage upon which vanity and egomania are played out on a large scale. Thomas Sowell often refers to these highly motivated busybodies as "the Anointed", a self-selecting class of folks who see it as their divine commission in life to bless the lives of the rest of us, a.k.a. "the Benighted", with their wisdom.

Just because the Anointed may not believe in Heaven doesn't mean they don't yearn for it. Such yearning takes the form of trying to create Heaven here on Earth -- to "immanentize the eschaton", in Eric Voegelin's eloquent phrase. The problem with making Heaven is that it requires superhuman wisdom and power. We must settle for Republicans and Democrats. Heaven help us.

But that doesn't stop the Anointed from trying. Problem is, there are too many institutions in the U.S. that stand in their way. The democracies in Europe have fewer checks and balances than our Constitution provides, and so the socialist agenda has been easier to implement over there. Our institutions are never so flawed as when they allow conservatives to be elected, or even to speak their minds. Hence, the hatred.


Glen said...

Here's an interesting article from the American Thinker that takes this idea even farther...

Chasseguet-Smirgel's insight revealed that, besides perverse behavior there are perverse modes of thinking, with the same aim of erasing distinctions and eliminating systematic thought itself. Thus, for example, Post-Modernism represents perverse thinking in its denial of the difference between truth and falsehood, good and evil, superior and inferior cultures. When it argues that ‘male' and ‘female' are ‘constructed' identities, it argues against the immutable differences imposed by biological reality.

Socialism is similarly perverse in its radical egalitarianism, denying differences of talent, intelligence, motivation, skill. Liberalism's affirmative action is perverse in its effort to impose an egalitarianism that is unattainable. It seeks to correct the "socially constructed" discriminatory differences. (Under its strictures shouldn't there be affirmative action for white basketball players?) This is perverse thinking. Modern politically correct liberalism is shot through with perversion. Renouncing her early socialist utopianism, Chasseguet-Smirgel became a conservative.


Civilization has been built painstakingly on difference: male and female, yes and no, right and wrong, truth and falsehood. There are rules, laws, customs, hard-won scientific knowledge. Civilization is a fragile guardian of reality, which must be defended from the onslaught of barbarians wishing to abolish rules and differences.

In each of our psyches the perverse temptation must be fought, if civilization is to survive. The more advanced the civilization, the more intense the appeal to throw off constraints. Often individual rebels are rewarded with the title of ‘artist', but Sade was an artist whose ideas were realized in Nazism.

When the discharge of polymorphous perversion is united with murderous aggression we get Jihadism. Such perverse ideologies could be more easily fought if not for the politically correct liberal urge to submit to them in their crudest totalitarian form.

Lee said...

Good article, thanks for the link. Why would an ideology like liberalism, dependent on Western civilization for its origins and ideals, side with its enemies and become highly critical of it to the point of wishing for, or at least acquiescing, in its destruction? Perversion is one way to put it. There may be a religious element to it, however. Liberalism is the ideology which judges Western civilization by its own values and, like Belshazzar, are found wanting. What's missing from the liberal world view is forgiveness. They see our nation's sins and are sympathetic with those who want to kill it.