Liberal atheist Camille Paglia has some interesting things to say:
…I’m speaking here as an atheist. I don’t believe there is a God, but I respect every religion deeply. All the great world religions contain a complex system of beliefs regarding the nature of the universe and human life that is far more profound than anything that liberalism has produced. We have a whole generation of young people who are clinging to politics and to politicized visions of sexuality for their belief system. They see nothing but politics, but politics is tiny. Politics applies only to society. There is a huge metaphysical realm out there that involves the eternal principles of life and death. The great tragic texts, including the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, no longer have the central status they once had in education, because we have steadily moved away from the heritage of western civilization.
The real problem is a lack of knowledge of religion as well as a lack of respect for religion. I find it completely hypocritical for people in academe or the media to demand understanding of Muslim beliefs and yet be so derisive and dismissive of the devout Christian beliefs of Southern conservatives…
Ah, but they don’t demand an understanding of Muslim beliefs. Liberals aren’t asking us to look at the theological basis of Islam. They don’t want us to get an in-depth view of Islamic civilization. They don’t want to discuss the morals and manners of Islam. Islam, to liberals, is just yet another handy club with which to beat the Judeo-Christian West. Muslims have been assigned victim status and thus provide a prop in the liberal morality play. Who Muslims are, what they believe and what the various types of Muslims may want are irrelevant – indeed, it would be dangerous to know, because knowing might wreck the assigned victim status and thus wreck a perfectly good prop. Kudos to Paglia for understanding that her fellow liberals are sitting in the dark condemning the light – but she still fails to fully understand how obscuritanist the left really is. C.S. Lewis, who started out as an atheist, once stated that an atheist cannot be too careful in what he reads – if he’s not careful, he’ll eventually run across something which questions the premise of atheism, and then he’s cooked.
I have been impressed by things Paglia has written over the years – clearly, she is a well educated and intelligent person. But I do wonder what she’s really exposed herself to. Maybe she has been exceptionally broad in her reading and I’m being unfair – but I suspect that a great number of intelligent liberal atheists have never read things like Miracles and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis; The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton, The Great Heresies by Hilaire Belloc…let alone ever cracking open something like Summa Contra Gentiles by St. Thomas Aquinas (which is hard reading – partially on style as it was written so long ago, but mostly on just the skull-cracking intellect of the writing). Paglia clearly has read quite a lot of things – and even supposing there are a large number of people like her (ie, liberal but with intellectual curiosity), is there any evidence that liberals, on the whole, want to really know anything?
In general, I see liberals as operating like this:
1. Who is the guilty party they get to condemn?
2. What cost-free (to themselves) action is required to make themselves believe they have done a good deed?
The best example of this is the liberal mobs mobilized on social media these days – they get to vent hatred with abandon and by merely, say, Tweeting a hash tag they get to feel they have actually done something to make the world a better place. You might have heard about Cecil the lion – recently killed in a big game hunt in Africa…this is liberal heaven. The hunter is American and is a white male! Just be as mean and as cruel as you want on social media and tweet #CeciltheLion and, presto!, you’re morally on par with Blessed Mother Theresa! The hunter has had his personal and business addresses posted on line. He is probably more hated – especially on the left – than ISIS goons. And the MSM is just churning the outrage…even finding out that the hunter once donated to Romney! Pity they can’t spare a bit of that cracker-jack reporting ability to look into Hillary’s e mails, huh? 100,000 people have signed a White House petition to have the hunter extradited to Zimbabwe – even though he probably didn’t break any Zimbabwean laws (it appears that if you do go big game hunting, your guide is responsible for making sure you only hunt legal targets).
It is all perfectly meaningless – but just tailor made for our liberals. They get someone to hate and they don’t have to do anything in order to feel like they’ve done something (if they really cared about the Cecil the lions of the world, they’d actually go to Africa and engage in the very hard, physically demanding work of conservation…there to discover that part of conservation some times involves hunting the animals in order to keep populations in line with resources; Cecil was off limits for hunting – but ask anyone who actually knows and you’ll find out that population control is vital in sustaining wild animals). Maybe the hunter is just the worst rat the world has ever seen – best parodied in Monty Python’s Mosquito Hunting skit – but, who knows? I’ve known some hunters and from what I’ve seen, it is hunters who provide the wherewithal for real conservation efforts. A liberal, sitting there in a comfortable, western world might see a lion hunt as a barbarity…but for the Africans who live around the animals, it appears that a bit of hunting is a way to obtain resources to preserve the animals as well as being a way to make a living…and just maybe if liberals had a bit of thought (and humility, too) they’d understand that their condemnation of all hunting is actually a bit of liberal social-imperialism directed against Third World peoples?
But, there is no thought here – and no more thought in liberal views on things like Christians, Southerners, the United States of America or any other issue you can think of. Paglia is right that our left lives in an entirely political world – but it is not just political, but the most crude, unthinking, lowest-common-denominator gutter politics. Paglia is justly upset that someone like Sophocles isn’t studied on the left – but the reason isn’t because Sophocles doesn’t have anything to offer, but because if you actually take the time to learn about Sophocles, you simply will not be able to engage in a social media flame war over the outrage-du-jour. You won’t be a person demanding that anything disliked be banned, nor demanding that anything you like be subsidized. People who obtain real knowledge become humble – the biggest thing they know is that they don’t know much, and so are wary of sweeping generalizations. Hounding and harassing people even for real errors are beneath the dignity of a person who has any real knowledge.
This is not, by the way, to say that we on the right are all intellectual titans. We have our anti-intellectual Puritans who can only live in a world where they are 100% right and anyone who is even a little different is just WRONG!!!1! We see this in conservatives who furiously proclaim that anyone who isn’t 100% behind Ted Cruz is just a RINO commie!!!1! Such people, though, don’t control the right. For the broader right, both Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz are conservative and either of them are vastly superior to any liberal. There is room on the right for honest differences of opinion. The only thing asked is mutual respect and at least some bit of intellectual rigor – if you are going to take a position which is opposed to the general run of the right, then provide some solid reasoning for it. There is no room on the left for such things. The liberal mind is closed – because it has to be. It can’t admit difference because that would confuse matters. If there are grey areas and room for debate, then where is the easily identified target for hatred? Where, too, the ability to make a gesture which, while perfectly meaningless, will allow the liberal preen himself on his moral excellence? The liberal mind is closed and it will remain closed – because it is easier than any other mode of living. It allows free play for emotion and makes no demands for personal sacrifice (some have made it out that liberalism is like a religion – and to a certain extent, this is true…but in the most crucial aspect, it isn’t. Religion actually makes demands on a person…liberalism makes no demands, at all, upon the liberal personally…the cost will always be borne by The Other – the hated Other who is responsible for the crime).
Where people like Paglia really fit in is hard to say – certainly, she holds a lot of views I find to be just plain wrong. But even outside of my Biblical injunction to not hate anyone, I could never hate Paglia, or anyone like her. She’s honest. She’s thinking. What more can I ask of anyone? If they are honest and thinking but come to views 180 degrees out of kilter from my own then all I can say is that either my views are mistaken, or I haven’t presented them properly. If I’m any sort of a fair person, when someone like Paglia makes an effective challenge to my views, my job is to consider the challenge and see whether I can answer it reasonably. There are some other liberals I’ve come across out there like her – but they are few and far between. I wonder if it is just a lack of religious faith which keeps them from switching over to the right? Or is it just a stubborn unwillingness to reject all of the precepts of youth? Paglia came of age in the 60’s, after all. I don’t know – but I’m grateful for people like Paglia.
But if Paglia is waiting for a time when liberalism, as a whole, will be less derisive of dissent, then she’ll be waiting a long time. I know full well that back in olden days, liberalism was Liberalism…a concept of human liberty pressed to the maximum. So much for the olden days – it is long gone. It fell to the totalitarian left – and the totalitarian left has bolted close the door.
Excellent analysis. I wasn’t always intellectually inquisitive, but I came to a time in my life when I began examining what I knew and what I believed. I suspect it was the Internet that triggered that curiosity and allowed me to jump around and read different viewpoints on various issues in a very short period of time. I began to find myself saying, “I never looked at it that way before.” And, conversely, one of the almost universal truths I’ve discovered is that Liberals almost NEVER make that statement. The Liberal response is almost always to attack the position of the conservative with ridicule and condescension. As you note, it’s the rare Liberal who can defend his or her position with any degree of intellectual honesty. It’s the reason why, over the last year or two, I’ve quit having discussions with Liberals. Not only do they never offer anything new, they often insist that the ONLY reason progressive ideas haven’t worked in the past is because the right people weren’t in charge.
Saw this on Facebook. Hilarious.
Turns out, Cecil the Lion was no choirboy. Photos have surfaced of Cecil in the act of killing and eating Gary the Gazelle. Gary was a favorite of both locals and visitors at Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, where he delighted onlookers with his trademark leap, while clicking his heels. Gary was 12 years old and leaves his beloved wife, Greta Gazelle, and their 8 (unnamed) offspring. Gary’s long-time friend and confidante, Zeke the Zebra said, “A lot of people are crying over Cecil lately, but, let me tell you, I’ve lost a lot of friends and family to him. He was an animal. I won’t be crying no tears.”
On one level I can understand the outrage at the killing of the lion. There are times when a community does become fond of, and protective of, a wild animal, and because of this the animal becomes less fearful of humans and therefore more vulnerable.
Friends of mine in Colorado had a remote mountain ranch, off the grid, and an old one-eyed Rocky Mountain Sheep ram moved in with their horses. He was old and thin, but he had nearly a full curl horn, and he was very impressive. He figured out his path to survival was to be sheltered and fed, and it was a wonderful experience to go horseback riding with them accompanied by two dogs and a wild ram. Their caretaker hated the ram and one time they came home from vacation to find the ram missing. They always suspected that the caretaker took money from someone to “hunt” this wonderful creature, who had come to see people as his friends.
Estes Park, Colorado, was home to a massive bull elk they called Sampson, and he was a fixture in the town. While not exactly tame, he was comfortable around humans,and millions of visitors were thrilled to get photos of a really majestic animal like this. He was the town mascot, and a favorite video of mine was one of a baby near an awning window very near to the ground, slightly open, with the elk trying to get his nose under the opening to sniff the baby, who was trying to reach through to the elk. A local cop and his buddy killed this calm and trusting animal late one night, shooting it with arrows after they were able to basically walk right up to it.
Thinking of a predator as a community member is a little harder to grasp, but I can believe these people really did have a strong attachment to the lion. What bothers me is the attitude of people I can’t think of as hunters, but merely as killers, taking advantage of the lack of fear in animals like this. This is not hunting. This is enjoyment of killing for the sake of killing.
Having said that, I am thinking of buying a buffalo from a friend in Wyoming who needs to thin his herd. No buffalo is really tame, but his are not afraid of humans and are quite comfortable around them, and if I do buy an animal my employee will drive up to it and shoot it. This is not hunting, and we know that. This is harvesting of an animal for meat. It would in no way be for pleasure. The ram, the elk and the lion were not harvested for meat, but just because someone who was not capable of actually stalking and hunting animals but who enjoyed killing for the sake of killing, with no skill involved, thought it would be fun to take advantage of their trust.
But none of this is relevant to the real story, which is that the Left will turn itself inside out about the killing of an animal but which is totally indifferent to the murder of white policemen, white victims of crime, and the millions of totally innocent unborn children as well as those born and viable but still butchered for their parts. I have always speculated that the same screeching maniacs who throw paint on fur coats, and/or have hissy fits when brutal convicted torturers and killers are sentenced to death after extensive due process of law, probably wholeheartedly support abortion.
Personally, I could never shoot an animal. I am not a hunter and never have been. Last week in Idaho we had a beautiful deer come walking through our property and I could never imagine myself wanting to shoot it. Hunters who hunt to fill their freezers I understand. Hunters who hunt for trophies should be shot themselves.
I’m assuming seeing a deer is a wonderful rarity, as most people who live near a lot of deer, as I do, consider them hooved rats. Pretty, yes, but their Lyme Disease can ruin your life, they run out onto the road to ruin your car and God help you if you garden or want trees.
My advice, move to the woods and become a cold-blooded hunter in two weeks flat.
I grew up in Montana Bob. I am no stranger to hunting. Personally, I don’t want to be the one to end their life unless I need to eat them but fortunately the grocery store down the street has more than I need.
I’ve never killed an animal, at least not on purpose—-I’ve had three pickup/deer encounters in which the pickup always won. I have great respect for ethical hunters, and I think I am a little hypocritical in being squeamish about killing animals but enthusiastic about eating them. My cousin, who works for me, is a hunter, and we have had many talks about the difference between hunting and just plain killing, and about respecting the animals harvested.
I finally got to the point of not being able to be there when horses are put down. I’ve done it, held a horse while it was injected or shot, but after my husband died I found my emotions too close to the surface to be able to do it with calmness and serenity, and I didn’t want to telegraph fear or other negative emotions to the animals.
I’ve never hunted, either – and so I tend to go with wise people I know who are hunters. I’m sure there are bad actors out there who just kill for whatever reason…but most hunters I know have deep respect for animals and the natural world.
Saw a Tweet today – it was in response to someone Tweeting a story about the socialist disaster which is Venezuela…the Progressive response was that if it weren’t for American wrecking, socialism would be working fine in Venezuela! You just can’t reach these people.
Great post Mark. You’ve hit the nail on the head. Today’s militant political left is comprised of selfish, childish, over emotional and under informed people who are completely intolerant of anyone who espouses different world views. It’s completely anti American. This country was, and should be, a bastion for diversity of all kinds, not just skin color and sexual preference.
Re: Cecil the Lion, it’s always sad when a majestic being such as Cecil passes, but the hunters guilt is far from certain. As you said, he did have a license and was with guides, but this doesn’t stop America’s left from full condemnation. And considering the outrage, you would think that many on the left have spent a lot of time and treasure towards the efforts to preserve and protect the African animal population, but of course that would not be the case either. Obama didn’t even make time for his own family:
Yet while Cecil the Lion creates a great narrative for the left, the real tragedy of progressive policies goes unnoticed:
The man accused of killing two Good Samaritans who tried to help him on a Montana roadside was encountered by immigration authorities earlier this year after a burglary arrest, but was unable to be deported because he had already gotten legal status, federal authorities said this week.
I found Thomas Sowell’s Conflidt of Visions a fascinating explanation of how different attitudes lead to different political allegiances—to reduce a complex book to the smallest possible summary, some people naturally believe that there are some people who are so inherently superior they rise above the rules and expectations of the rest of us and should, therefore, be given great power and be allowed to govern the rest of us, and some believe that all human beings are susceptible to the same flaws and weaknesses and therefore government power must be spread among different arenas to reduce the possibility of assumption of too much power, and process is essential to prevent capricious changes in the law.
Given my interest in the underlying differences among people that show themselves in politics, I was interested in this: Heritage Foundation’s 2015 Index of Culture and Opportunity
It includes an essay, parts of which I am quoting here. All emphasis here is mine.
Conservatives understand society as an organic outgrowth—a kind of sum and substance—of a set of social arrangements that begin in loving family attachments, spread outward into personal commitments and relationships in civil society and local communities, reach further outward toward broader state and regional affinities, and conclude in a national identity that among its foremost attributes is dedicated to the principle of the equality of the entire human race.
Society is thus like a set of concentric rings, beginning with the most concrete and personal of human connections and concluding with the most abstract and philosophical of human commitments. Each ring, starting from the innermost sanctum of the family and the individuals who compose it, anchors and enables the next and is in turn protected by it and given the room to thrive. The outermost ring of society is guarded and sustained by the national government, which is charged with protecting the space in which the entire society can thrive—the space between the individual and the nation as a whole, the space occupied by society. This means that it must neither invade that space nor allow it to collapse.
Liberals proceed from a rather different general understanding of the nature of society. The left’s social vision tends to consist of individuals and the state so that, essentially, all common action is ultimately government action. On this view, the government’s purpose is to liberate individuals from material want and moral sway. As former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., put it at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, “There are things that a civilized society needs that we can only do if we do them together, and [when] we do them together that’s called government.”
This basic difference of social visions helps to explain why conservatives and liberals sometimes understand our society’s deepest problems so differently.
The mediating institutions that fill the space between the individual and the government are often viewed by the left with suspicion. They are seen as instruments of division, prejudice, and selfishness or as power centers lacking in democratic legitimacy.
Liberals have frequently sought to empower the government to undercut the influence of these institutions and put in their place public programs and policies motivated by a single, cohesive understanding of the public interest. Their hope is to level the complex social topography of the space between the individual and the government, breaking up tightly knit clusters of citizens into individuals but then uniting all of those individuals under the national banner—allowing them to be free of family or community norms while building solidarity through the common experience of living as equal citizens of a great nation.
This basic difference of social visions helps to explain why conservatives and liberals sometimes understand our society’s deepest problems so differently. To many liberals, who view society as a compact among individuals for their mutual material betterment, the persistence of entrenched poverty, family breakdown, social dysfunction, and poor mobility in many communities in America looks like a function of a failure to allocate resources properly.
Liberals often blame these phenomena on selfish interests that they believe actively stand in the way of social progress. Their solution is to double down on the basic liberal approach to social policy: to promote public programs that address economic imbalances through redistribution.
To conservatives, who view society as an intergenerational compact for the preservation of the prerequisites for human flourishing to be advanced through the complex, layered architecture of our mediating institutions, the persistence of such daunting social problems suggests a breakdown of these core institutions, especially those that are deepest and closest to the core: the family and civil society.
Conservatives blame neither any malice of the wealthy and powerful nor any failure of will among the poor, but instead the intrinsic inclination of all human beings to fall into self-serving apathy or self-defeating vice in the absence of sound social institutions and norms.
I see this as underlying and even definitional explanation of the political liberal mindset. Having said this, I still think that the vast majority of Liberals who are vocal and strident and abusive and mentally and emotionally unbalanced are that way because, well, that is the way they are. Without the stalking horse of Liberal pseudo-politics to hide behind, they would be accurately diagnosed as people with personality disorders of inappropriate rage and hostility, paranoia and the narcissism that carries with it the delusion of moral and intellectual superiority. The analytical Left has callously decided to recruit these people, playing to their weaknesses by proclaiming them to be strengths. Without a societal boundary on behavior, people whose internal boundaries are weak if not nonexistent will feel free to act out their rage, their frustrations, their resentments, their insecurities, and their arrogance. The Left tells them that these characteristics should not only not be restrained but should be exhibited and expanded upon, and praises them. The Left gives these people, who in other societies would be marginalized if not isolated for their pathologies, acceptance and approval and encouragement. No wonder we can’t penetrate those pathologies. Our objections to them make us the enemy, and our efforts to point out the errors in the political cloaking of these pathologies are seen as attacks.
My old high school is going through the same ordeal as Washington’s football team — changing the mascot name from the “Redskins” to something “less offensive”. As usual, it’s broken down largely to a Conservative vs. Liberal battle. A classmate who shared the same specialty (cryptography and signals intelligence) in the navy, and who sat across the table from me at our 50th reunion a couple years ago, wrote this on the forum at our class website. The first sentence was in response to another post from someone who had lived in Mexico for a while and commented that Mexicans don’t see our history the same way we do.
I actually got kicked off a Catholic blog once upon a time because I pointed out that when you really look at it, the primary cause of the French Revolution wasn’t a desire for liberty, equality and fraternity on the part of the French people, but a desperate desire on the part of French bankers not to go bankrupt. The royal government by 1789 was functionally bankrupt and simply could not pay all the debts owed to the bankers…there was only one institution in France which had the money to pay off the banks: the Catholic Church (over 1,000 years an organization which doesn’t sell its property and keeps obtaining more of it grows very wealthy). But how to tax the Church when the King was in charge and was Catholic?
To be sure, there were other forces at work – but without the financial sinews provide by the bankers to rent the mobs which stormed the Bastille and Versailles, it is likely that the royal government would have been able to maintain itself (it was finally doomed when Louis XVI refused to order his troops to fire on the mob). It should be noted that one of the first bits of business of the revolutionary government was to confiscate the wealth of the Catholic Church – later on the downright insane got in charge and, among other things, tried to change the calendar and definitely butchered people in great, big bloody batches…oddly enough, however, the bankers were still around in 1799 to finance Napoleon’s coup.
History is whatever the historian decides is important. For someone who wants to really know, the best course of action is to look at multiple sources, and then think the information over…see if it all really fits.
History is whatever the historian decides is important.
I think that used to be the case. Much of the history that’s been written in our lifetime is about 80% opinion and 20% fact — or worse. If you really want to know what an historical figure said or did, you almost have to look at his/her original writings or, in more recent times, recordings and videos. Youtube has become one of the modern arbiters of truth in our time, and often people (think Obama) still maintain that they never said what they got caught on video saying. I think a lot of people believe what they want to believe, and the truth is irrelevant if it interferes with their preconceived world view.
A number of years ago I stumbled on an early 80’s interview of an elderly diplomat who, IIRC, died shortly after the interview. He recounted how he was recruited by elitists in several progressive foundations back in the late 20’s and 30’s to help with a covert project of re-writing history to further the progressive agenda. I lost the bookmark a while back when I changed computers/operating systems, and I’ve done numerous searches for it with no success. I posted it at Blogs for Bush, and if you have the ability to do a Lexis Nexis search of your archives, you might be able to find it. If I had to guess, I’d say it was around 2005 or 2006. It’s worth watching.
That does go on – I recall, again, that history of McCarthy where the author discovered that a lot of crucial documents regarding McCarthy have gone missing, including from the national archives. All of them would have either confirmed McCarthy as a liar or a truth-teller. Given who benefits most from the concept of McCarthy being a liar, I suspect that it was forces of the left who cleansed the record. History was adjusted to ensure that McCarthy was in the wrong. But I guess they never suspected the existence of the Venoma documents…which is no surprise as they didn’t even get mentioned as existing until the 1980’s.
I have a rather large fund of historical knowledge – and I’m always adding to it (if you want to find some good history books cheap, go to thrift stores – people die, their families donate the books and you can find things which are quite good for next to nothing…the most recent find was a biography of Richard III…the bad, evil, rotten usurping king who was defeated and killed by the good, wise, wonderful Henry VII – father of the VIII and grandfather of Elizabeth I – except that the bad, evil, rotten usurping king tried to help the poor and powerless…a very odd thing and we’re missing the pieces to clear up the puzzle as we’ll never know what happened to the Princes of the Tower…basic word is that Richard III had them killed, but no one really knows…but we do know that the Tudor’s were a complete disaster for the poor and powerless of England). The basic ability I have is to quickly reference any new fact to all the other facts I’ve built up over many decades of study. Generally, I can’t be taken in by someone selling a story about the past. But most people don’t have this – and if something comes out which sounds like it has Authority, it is instantly believed. It is a great power for those who are willing to lie.