NOTE: This will be a rather long post. Just warning you!
Yesterday there was a memorial service in Detroit for Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer whose courageous actions sparked an entire movement that was long overdue in a country dedicated to freedom and human dignity.
Watching the service and listening to several people who spoke to honor this incredible woman to whom all Americans owe a great debt, got me thinking back to those days when I was a young, idealistic student and an avid supporter of the civil rights movement and the women’s movement.
The Left of today is considerably different from the liberal Left that I became acquainted with during my college years in the late 60’ and early 70’s. At that time, although I disagreed with many of my fellow students about their methods, I could still completely relate to the underlying idealism and desire to improve the world. Back then, the Left was attuned to the values of classical liberalism—freedom; equal opportunity; the rights of the individual. The Left, at that moment in history was compelled to go beyond mere rhetoric and act to promote the liberal ideals and values they espoused. That is when the Civil Rights movement went mainstream in American society. And, even thought there were undercurrents of the ideological rigidity that was to come later, the Left could be proud of the results of that movement.
Those glory days when the Left believed in freedom and individuality; and that the content of one’s character was more important than the color of one’s skin-- are long gone. Nowadays it seems that the Left only pretends to believe in those values and feels it necessary to mouth the words.
But my observation is that today’s Left pretty much stands for nothing—not freedom, not equal opportunity; not individual rights; not even peace. Trying to right the wrongs and injustices of the world is truly ethical and noble goal, but something happened on the road to that beautiful utopia. The Left made a wrong turn and got lost--somewhere in the vicinity of Vietnam, I think.
But I’m not going to rehash Vietnam again. Instead, I’m going to focus on the behavior of today’s Left and antiwar movement.
At this very moment, every issue supported by the Left, and almost all of the behavior exhibited by the Left is completely antithetical to classical liberal philosophies. There is no longer a commitment to personal liberty or to freedom. The Left is far too busy to promote freedom for the common man or woman, because their time is taken up advocating freedom for tyrants who oppress the common man; terrorists who kill the common man; and religious fanatics who subjugate the common woman.
The intellectuals who once promoted the IDEA of freedom, now are ensnared in an IDEOLOGY that depends for its very existence on the silencing of speech; the suppression of ideas; and the persecution of those who dare to refute its tenets.
Patriotism and love of one’s country is mocked by those who once fought to bring the American Dream to all American citizens; and who once championed those who were prevented from sharing in that Dream. Slowly and inexorably those idealists who once shouted, “we shall overcome,” morphed into a toxic culture promoting a never-ending victimhood that cannot possibly be overcome. Love of American ideals and values was transformed into the most perverse and vile anti-Americanism –where all things originating or “tainted” as American are uniquely bad; and where America became the source of all evil in the world.
The classical liberal tradition is now almost exclusively upheld by what are called “conservatives”. Once “liberal” was synonymous with the “left”. No longer.
What we have witnessed over the 30- 45 years since the Left ascended to dominate political thought in the mid 20th century, is its rapid and unprecedented decline into wholesale intellectual and moral bankruptcy. The noble values and ideals they once stood for have been abandoned; and almost as if a surreal cosmic joke was being played on them, they have—without even noticing!-- embraced the exact opposite of what they once stood for.
Where once they stood for freedom; they now enable dictatorships and apologize for tyrants. Where once they sought to bring justice to the world; they now defend horrific acts of mass murder and enslavement. Where once they rightly demanded equal opportunity, they have embraced all kinds of racial quotas and discriminatory practices and demand equality of outcome. Where once they sought to empower the weak; they are now instrumental in maintaining and expanding their victimhood.
After all, how can you be a “champion of the oppressed” unless you maintain and nurture an oppressed class that will always require your services to help them?
This rather obvious fact, of course, goes a long way to explaining the rather peculiar attitude that the Left has toward any members of its various victim groups who actually escape victimhood and become successful, achieving and independently thinking adults! The previously altruistic and idealistic worldview is now merely a narcissistic one—and a malignantly narcissistic one at that—wholly preoccupied with the possession and retention of power for an elite few.
What was once a concern that equal opportunity be afforded to all members of our society has run amok and is now a shrill, insistent demand that all outcomes be exactly equal... or else.
Let me give an example of the transition from IDEA to IDEOLOGY; and this example will serve as my prototype argument of the modern Leftist model is applicable to all their identified “victim” or “oppressed” groups.
Once upon a time, the women’s Movement –and the civil rights movement stood up proudly to support and encourage their respective constituencies to stop being victims and to stand up for their rights under the law. They demanded equal opportunity under the law, because that was the promise of America.
For too long, that promise had been withheld from these groups. The idea was that women and blacks – and any minority—should enjoy the same basic freedoms and equal opportunity in a country that prided itself on the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every individual. This was a very big idea-- a extremely important idea—because underneath it was the key proposition that all human beings regardless of their gender or color or religion or ethnic background should enjoy the blessings of our liberty and be free to pursue their happiness.
That idea, after all, represented the promise of America. It was one of the greatest tragedies of history that, in trying to find a way to compromise with the slaveholding states to form the Union, our Founding Fathers (with the exception of Ben Franklin) permitted slavery and allowed discrimination against women in a document that promoted "universal" human freedom and dignity. (It is interesting to observe similar problems in the negotiations going on with the emerging Iraq constitution).
In all fairness to those Founders—who were light-years ahead of their time—they at least left a way to amend those wrongs and the beginning of that process was the horrible Civil War that nearly destroyed the Union. The mid-20th century became the final intellectual battleground for righting both defects in the US application of its Constitution.
Since my own experience over the years has been primarily with the women’s movement , I will share my observations of that movement over the last 30+ years.
"I am woman, hear me roar--in numbers too big to ignore...." That was the motto then, and I was once proud to be a card-carrying feminist. That was when feminist intellectuals argued that women need NOT be victims; and feminist activists told all women to stand up and live up to the best within themselves; and insisted they be judged not on their gender, but on their merit and capabilities.
NOTE TO MODERN FEMINISTS: There is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the very same women’s movement that I supported back then was instrumental in mobilizing and encouraging women to reach for the stars. One small measure of the success of that movement is that most medical school classes today are 50% or greater composed of women! There is no systematic discrimination any more that keeps women out of medicine. Women are in every medical specialty. They have become presidents of universities and professional societies; deans of medical schools and chairwomen of departments. This is really wonderful. And these gains have been made in almost every profession and area of human endeavor.
The bad news is that the Feminist Movement never realized that the mission had been mostly accomplished. The women who want to become professionals--or do anything for that matter--can do it--including becoming wives and mothers if they choose. The war is won, but the Feminist Movement continues to battle on, oblivious to that fact.
The main justification for the existence of the women’s movement these days is to support and expand the cult of victimhood that they have created among women. Modern feminists have become the mother, once happy to nurture her child and help her leave the nest and go joyfully off to lead her own life; but now extremely bitter and resentful about the fact that her daughter doesn't need her anymore. Feminists have now dedicated their lives to convincing women that they really don't have any power; aren't capable of living and working equally among men; and encouraging them in demanding the "rights" that will ensure women who embrace their party line will be regarded by any person of reason and responsibility as complete losers and whiners.
Because today "feminists" (and today, I use the term with contempt) have a strict party line. Apparently, if you are not a Democrat, or more generally, a person on the left side of the political spectrum, then you are not a woman who counts. If Rosa Parks made a statement for freedom today, and (God help her) she was a...Republican, well, you know what would happen. The same thing that happened to Condi Rice and is happening to Michael Steele.
If you are the Secretary of State in a Republican Administration and happen to be a woman--and not only that, a black woman, you don't count (as either a woman or a black). If you are a Republican nominee for the Judiciary and a woman—you don’t count.
In fact, it turns out that if you happen to disagree with them on any issue you don’t count and are instantly labeled a traitor to your gender; and their most vile and derogatory remarks are reserved especially for you.
Indeed, the Feminist Movement of today is a bizarre parody of the women's movement that once supported and encouraged women like me back in the 70's. Like the mother I mentioned above, this group has now become outraged that I and others like me have excelled and dared to have my own ideas about how things should be in the world. Dared to disagree with them. Dared to grow up and live my own life.
Feminists today are not happy campers. In fact, as women advanced and made real progress and became less discriminated against; broke those glass ceilings etc., the feminists that once cheered them on became more and more shrill and irritable. Women’s success and achievement of equality of opportunity meant that the feminist movement itself was becoming irrelevant! That is when the rhetoric began to change. That is when the IDEA of freedom transformed into the IDEOLOGY of victimhood.
Where once they wanted to erase the real barriers that prevented women from being all they could be; now, the feminists demanded that reality itself must bow to their demands. They insist that real biological or physiological differences between women and men don’t exist and that to address these differences is blatant sexism. They have basically identified reality itself as one of the key “oppressors” of women.
To demonstrate their growing estrangement from reality, the American public was subjected to the ridiculous image of a feminist academic actually swooning at the mere mention of the possibility that such biological differences might play a role in women’s lives. You can't make such self-parody up.
Now I ask you. Haven't these women become totally irrelevant? And not only are they irrelevant, but they stand in the way of any real research, understanding, and progress that in the long-run might advance the cause of all women.
This is what happens when a movement transitions from IDEA to IDEOLOGY. And I submit that this basic progression can be seen in the Civil Rights movement; the Gay movement etc. etc.
Today’s Left and its antiwar clone army are reduced to reliance on mere Marxist rhetoric and tired, worn-out slogans that are trotted out in every circumstance and situation. They dare not face the real and pressing injustices of the world. No one can reason with them or even agree to disagree. They and they alone know the truth, and if you argue with them you are immediately labeled as a “racist”, or a “sexist”; or identified as “hurting poor people”, “hating blacks”, or “against women”. Every argument is defined in these terms. If they are the champions of “X”, then anyone who disagrees with them must hate/discriminate against “X.”
You hear this bullshit constantly. It is impossible to suggest that there are different ways to approach various social problems or societal “injustices”. Or that there are possibly more effective and less damaging approaches that the same old Marxist formulations.
It is useless to point out, for example, that trillions of dollars have already been spent on helping the poor and the disadvantaged in this country. What has resulted in the long run from that effort? We have given people fish to eat, but we haven’t taught them how to go fishing. And, as proof of that, we have the spectacle and pathos of New Orleans during Katrina; with the predictable reflexive response from the Left that, “George Bush hates black people.”
Perhaps--just perhaps-- it is the Left's own policies that “hate” and discriminate against black people? Perhaps it is their victimization of blacks that “keeps them in their places” and not the horrible "racial prejudices" of those awful Republicans. Maybe it is the Marxist ideology that has stripped them of all capacity for thoughtful analysis and that forces them to think only in terms of “oppressed” versus “oppressor”, Whatever, their brains are so limited, they cannot conceive of any other way to view the situation.
Well, I have news for them. There are those of us who view the situation differently and who think that we should try some new approaches to these old, enduring problems. And, SUPRISE! We are not "evil oppressors." Indeed, we rightfully think of ourselves as liberators; our goals are empowerment of the individual and a decrease in the power of the maternalistic/paternalistic state.
And we are the real freedom-fighters of this world.
Someday, it will occur to someone that the Left has not had a single new idea for over half a century and that none of the “great” programs they have created have actually worked. Yet they guard those programs jealously, afraid of any new ideas or approaches that might make them have doubts in their precious ideology.
Instead of reducing poverty, they have created a class of people dependent on the government for their survival and thus they ensure continuing poverty—even through the generations. Motivation is destroyed. Self-respect is trashed. Victimhood and passivity become a way of life whose worse aspects are glorified in the music and culture of the newly created welfare class.
This is social justice?
No. This is the inevitable outcome of Marxist theory in the real world. In spite of the catastrophic failures of applied Marxism in the 20th century to achieve the “ideal” society it espoused, the Left clings desperately to the ideology with which they bluffed their way into the American consciousness.
The twin children of Marxism—communism and socialism—have spawned the bloodiest and most sociopathic despots in world history, causing more death and human misery than at any other time in history. You would think that this abject failure on the part of their ideology when applied in the real world would have made them think twice. Au contraire.
Like Scarlet O’Hara, they won’t think about that today; they’ll think about it tomorrow when that great and glorious utopian vision will be imposed upon the world—and [of course] they will be in charge.
When confronted with the real evil that exists in the world, e.g..the reality of gays being tortured and murdered systematically in Islamic countries; or the reality of the oppression and humiliation of women; they recite facile multicultural and politically correct mantras that conveniently prevent them from making judgments about such behavior, or from having to take action to stop it.
Let’s face it. If feminists can adore Bill Clinton, even after Paula and Monica and all the sordid details; then it is only one small psychological step further down this path for them to embrace the institutionalized misogyny of Islam.
The sickness and bankruptcy of the Marxist ideology is such that, even an attack that kills 3000 of their fellow citizens is insufficient to awaken them to the enemy that wants to destroy us.
The enemy chose their targets well. You could almost say that they chose them to appeal to the Left. What better symbols of capitalism than the WTC towers? What better symbol of the supposed “imperialism” of the US than the Pentagon. It wasn’t long before the symbolism struck a responsive chord in the Left who joyfully and with great enthusiasm pointed out that the US “deserved” the attacks and that those who died were merely “little eichmanns”.
The Left’s fundamental intellectual and moral position is that they strongly feel that there is no basis for universal value judgments in any area of intellectual pursuit. Such judgments, they maintain, hurt other people’s feelings and aren't "inclusive." Diversity thus becomes their primary intellectual objective, not the pursuit truth. And morality becomes meaningless.
It is not at all paradoxical to these great minds of the Left that their intellectual position is itself a not-so-cleverly disguised value judgment. And, it goes without saying by the gurus of “diversity” that “being inclusive” doesn’t mean including anyone on their shit list (e.g., whites, males, capitalists, conservatives, neocons, Republicans, etc.)
It can be argued that the Right was the origin of most conspiracy theories a generation ago. This is fairly well-documented, and it occurred when the classical liberal tradition upon which this country was founded was primarily the focus of those on the Left. Times have changed.
It is now the Left that originates the conspiracy theories and requires a paranoid worldview to defend against recognizing the inadequacies and failures of their own ideology. The bizarrely paranoid theories about 9/11 are a case in point. Another is the delusional theory is that the levees in New Orleans were deliberately blown up. Or that the Iraq war is being fought to benefit the oil companies.
These theories all have one thing in common. They all perfectly fit into a discredited Marxist framework that thinks only in terms of the dialectical of "oppressed vs. oppressors". This framework allows them to continually fan the fires of class warfare and thus become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is a remarkably convenient intellectual and moral tool for any group that doesn’t actually possess any solutions to real world problems.
In fact, this strategy is precisely at the heart of the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Left today.
The use of paranoia (and its milder cousin, projection) and delusion can also be seen in the faux concerns about the “erosion of democracy and free speech”. This is plainly hilarious--particularly when it is their own ideological constructs of "multiculturalism" and "political correctness "that actively limits speech and makes a mockery of intellectual freedom.
Well, I must apologize for the length of this rant. But frankly, I have just about had it with the lies, distortions, denial, paranoia, delusion and vitriol that emanate from the Left these days. When events in the 20th century flung their ideology into the dustbin of history, the Left became just another toxic and imminent threat to humanity.
I honestly fear for my country if some of the more pathological of the Left species should obtain power while the base is still in the throes of a millennial psychosis.
My hope is that there are people on the Left, of goodwill and honesty, who are capable of genuine insight (Christopher Hitchens comes to mind) and who have not completely abandoned all rational thought and who are not willing to sacrifice millions in the quest for a new utopian age.
Neither the rational Right nor the rational Left have exclusive rights to Truth or Justice. But there was a time when both “conservative” and “liberal” shared the same classical values and ideas that together coalesced to form the promise of America—i.e., the promise of liberty for all.
We can again unite on this fundamental level--even if our approaches are different. We can return to those values; and together, we can keep America the beacon of freedom and the hope of a weary world.
UPDATE: This is exactly the kind of intellectual and moral bankruptcy I am talking about. The people who propagate this kind of attack are a disgrace. Just imagine, if you will, the incoherent rage that would ensue if the Republican party approved a reference to a Democratic candidate as "simple Sambo". Boggles the mind, doesn't it?
UPDATE II: [ 11/6/05] I have begun a series of posts on "PROFILES IN INTELLECTUAL AND MORAL BANKRUPTCY", and will add to the chronicles from time to time, when the spirit moves me.
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