July 1st, 2014


Calling things by their right names

Once upon a time, I thought that if I were only smart enough, knowledgeable enough, skilled enough, I could establish a way of communicating across all the divides that separate people. My primary interest was in establishing a way to talk about God, but secondarily I had a deep interest in finding a common way of understanding political differences, too.

That was knocked out of me in my doctoral studies. I had explained to me, by those who know what they're talking about, that under the ascendant intellectual paradigm known as Critical Theory (and its associated labels in many disciplines) that all groups in society are in constant conflict over all the resources of society. Those resources include not only power, status, wealth, access to information, and so on, but also the definitions of important words. To those who follow Critical Theory, there is no "truth," there is only your truth and my truth; and if I can make you use my words and phrase everything in terms of my truth, I'm halfway to winning regardless of what you do, so good for me.

Critical Theory is also sometimes called Neo-Marxism. It talks about false consciousness and all that. It's a sociology rooted in leftist ideology. And the people who believe it, practice it. When the professor who explained all this to me saw me reading a book written by someone on the "other side," he immediately dropped all personal contact with me, for there is to be no fraternization with the enemy. I was gobsmacked.

All of which is to say that I learned that no matter how smart, how sensitive, how careful you are, some people just will not understand you, because to understand you would betray their "side." They mean it. And they're not going to change.

My education continued as I went on to read and re-revaluate what I knew of movements in the present and past. I realized -- especially with Jonah Goldberg's help -- that leftist ideology comes in many forms. Those forms don't always get along with each other, but all of them follow the same path to their goals, they share the same critique of society, and they have no energy to spare trying to understand other points of view. Leftist ideology became Communism in Russia; it became Socialism in many other European countries; it became Nazism in Germany; it became Fascism in Italy; and -- here's the kicker -- it became Progressivism in the United States.

Progressivism, which has now taken over the Democratic Party*, is a leftist ideology. It looks to create a condition of "social justice," which is a kind of secular millennium. Only the state can do this, it believes, so the state must be transformed and all other institutions brought into line with state policy. Progressives see themselves as a revolutionary vanguard who will give direction to that society. The fact that every society so organized has wrecked itself is of no consequence; they believe in despite of the evidence that this time it surely must work. When they are tasked with the ruin they habitually sponsor, they insist that they be judged only on their intentions, which were pure, and not their achievements, which were unjust in all their effects. They are a public menace. And dear God, there are far more of them than ever before.

This explains the blind fury that has exploded over the internet in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision. Those of you who complain of reeling under the onslaught of vitriol need to understand that those of your friends who believe in this ideology have no interest in understanding where you're coming from; to do so would be a betrayal of the right side of history, which they believe themselves to be on. They have quite literally formed their minds into a shape that will not hold the thoughts you share; their ears can only hear you gibbering hate-speech.

A few, a very few who love you, may tolerate your thoughts. For a while. But you cannot make them understand; their cure is not in your power. So stand up for what you believe and open your minds to those whose minds are still open. Be courteous, but be firm. Maintaining civil society and sane government and freedom from oppression is up to you and those others who haven't drunk the kool-aid yet.

*There are, of course, Democrats who are not progressives, but they are increasingly alienated from their party. Those who remain try to adjust themselves to the reality and earn the respect of the radicals who are running the show. Poor guys; they don't realize that in leftist ideology, fellow-travelers are looked down on as dupes, not welcomed as comrades.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the street

The takeover of the Democratic Party and all points left of center by Progressivism has shoved everything in the center over to the right. Used to be, "liberal" and "conservative" described two opposing political traditions, known in both England and America by their party labels "Whig" and "Tory."

"Whig" comes from whiggamore, a dialect word referring to a Scots bumpkin. It was what Cavaliers called Roundheads. "Tory" comes from Irish toraidh, meaning an outlaw or renegade. It was what the Williamites called the Pretender's sympathizers.

By the time of our own Revolution, Tory came to describe the backers of George III, and then the aristocratic party generally. Those who backed the "Rights of Englishmen" proudly called themselves Whigs -- which was the original label used by Thomas Jefferson and others, before "Patriot" came into use. Later on, the opponents of Andrew Jackson resurrected the Whig label.

Whiggery is also called "classical liberalism." It's the viewpoint the Founders enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. But against the grasping ideology of Progressivism, it has had to take up residence in Tory territory. Mostly the Whig tradition in America is now what we call "conservative" in order to avoid confusion. "Liberal" really doesn't describe much any more, since Progressives claim the label, even though they are a pretty illiberal bunch. I don't know anybody who's an old-fashioned aristo-snoot any more, so if there are still Tories about, I couldn't point you to one.

Instead, Whiggery has separated into various forms of conservatism/classical liberalism. There are the Libertarians, the defense hawks (Neo-Cons), social-values voters, and constitutionalists. Several of these identify as Tea Partiers, since the issue of the day is restraining the advance of government and most conservatives think that a desirable thing. The essence of Whiggery was always freedom.

The Republican Party started out as a coalition of Abolitionists and Free-Soilers. One group wanted to eliminate slavery and one wanted to restrain its expansion. While never losing its focus on civil rights (Republicans voted overwhelmingly for the Civil Rights Acts in the '60s, without whom they could not have passed the Congress), the GOP also became in the latter 19th Century the patron of Small Business (not Big Business, which backs any party that can achieve and keep power). As a party dedicated to traditional rights and responsibilities, the GOP is the home of Whiggery today, mixed with other points of view on the right side of the aisle.

So, we have a Center-Right party (the GOP) and a Radical Left party (the Democrats) in America today. Various small parties raise particular issues which are in time claimed by the two major parties. With our winner-take-all electoral system, we really can't sustain more than two major parties at any given time. Lots of people gripe that the Republicans aren't very pure in their conservatism. What they forget is that conservatism is a broad spectrum these days, which includes the center. Only the far left is pure in their ideology, and they polarize everything around their agenda, which one cannot be indifferent to.