January 21, 2007
The Psychology of the Self-Hating LiberalBy Graham Cunningham
The good news is that, after a whole century of heading in the wrong direction, a moral and intellectual challenge to the bleeding-heart version of liberalism is finally welling up in the West. This is in no small part thanks to the liberating force of the Internet that has made freedom of expression possible again after decades of suffocating mass media orthodoxy.
There is however a tendency to focus only on the effects of the West's philosophical malaise. The rampant spread of our parasitic victim-culture and our impotence in the face of Islamic terrorism - these are both symptoms. The root cause lies in the psychology of sublimated self-hate that has come to be the prevalent psychic condition middle class liberals and especially those in media and academic circles. The truth is that virtually the entire ‘social justice' project of the last century - driven by middle class liberals on behalf of ‘the oppressed' - was motivated not by something noble but by something weak and creepy.
Its roots are a self-hating neurosis that, in different forms has afflicted the European intelligentsia since the time of Rousseau. I first became aware of the strange mind games of the self-hating middle class liberal at university in the 1970's. It is a mindset that did then (and still does) dominate academic life. Students and their tutors alike - mostly the beneficiaries of upward striving family backgrounds - were consumed with a phony and entirely self- absorbed infatuation with something they called ‘the working class struggle'.
Through its disproportionate hold on academic and media culture this mindset has now become mainstream. As it has spread through our culture it has been diluted and sublimated, Paradoxically this has made it even more poisonous by making it more difficult to apprehend. It has become a gossamer web of vaguely held attitudes. Here are some of them:
Being middle class is something to be slightly ashamed of. Being working class on the other hand - or better still affecting to be working class - makes you seem more heroic......As long as you are ‘left wing' you are not only a nicer person but you are also ‘radical' and therefore not boring. If on the other hand you are ‘right wing', well that means you are ‘reactionary' and mean......Business enterprise is essentially disreputable whereas getting a living off the public purse or in the arts and media is highly civilised. Being an engineer or a scientist is OK too, up to a point - for boring people anyway.....And of course all the problems of people in the rest of the world are the fault, not of those people themselves but of the prosperous West. More specifically, the blame lies with ‘the capitalist system'; not you personally of course. You show how much you care by going to Live Aid concerts and that makes you feel much better about yourself.
In the obsessive struggle to subvert the perceived social hierarchy, a new politically correct hierarchy is rammed down your throat. At its apex would be someone like a Red Indian lesbian; at the bottom of the heap would be a middle class, Southern English male. In the latter half of the last century this mentality spread through all professions and institutions and so has become self-perpetuating. By the time the influence filters down to the population at large it is so diluted as to be just a vague lack of confidence in Western civilisation and a linguistic fog of moral relativism which disorientates people and makes them doubt their own common sense instincts about right and wrong.
Of all institutions the most powerful in this respect is the mass media, on account of its insidious ability to drip-drip its influence on every aspect of the way you perceive the world beyond your own direct experience. Everything you know - or think you know - about, Iraq or ‘global warming' or ‘the latest social research' on this or that subject, you probably got via the media. The great media conjuring trick is the illusion that it is merely a transparent window whereas in reality it is a window, richly decorated with mythology. It breathes into your ear things like this:-
All people in the Third World are shouldering with dignity a burden imposed upon them by the West in general and America in particular....All businesses are probably trying to screw you....You as a consumer have plenty to whinge about....Politicians should do something about each and every one of the problems you encounter in life....And if you are making a mess of your life its because someone else should have given you more information or more help.
The trouble with all this apparent social conscience is that what really drives it is not some profound humanism but the desire of a highly privileged elite to feel better about themselves and stave off the unconscious and sublimated self-loathing which was drip fed to them at university.
Virtually everyone in the Western world today will have had his or her perception distorted to some extent by this fake but highly seductive fashion-accessory kind of social conscience. By subverting a perfectly valid hierarchy of values in judging human behavior, this fake social conscience has had a hugely corrosive effect on what was best in our civilization. Take, for example, the near universal acceptance now of the notion that to discriminate is wrong.
Wrong. It is bigotry that is wrong. The capacity to discriminate - far from being wrong - is actually vital to civilized society; the more of it the better.
The psychology of middle class self-hate of is complex and multi-layered. It is, in part a mindset of frozen adolescence whereby people never entirely move beyond the inchoate parent-anger of their youth. Even sophisticated professionals can still carry their adolescent baggage, now displaced into a vague resentment against their own middle class roots or against America as the parent figure of the Western world. In part it is Rousseau and D. H. Lawrence: the cerebral intellectual's Romantic infatuation with the primitive. And in part it is perhaps a stray fragment of the shattered star of Christianity - the first shall be last etc. This fragment, detached now from its overall religious context, floats meaninglessly in the post-Christian philosophical ether.
The consequences of this confused and self-indulgent philosophy are full of paradox.
First: when do you ever hear any credit given to the wicked American enterprise culture for the microchip, the personal computer, the Internet, Google, and all the rest of the apparatus that every lefty-liberal anti-globalisation warrior or anti-Western terrorist now blithely uses in pursuit of her agenda? In a staggering act of biting the hand that feeds, the liberal intelligentsia sneers at the kind of souls without whom there would have been no Western civilisation in the first place. Meanwhile South East Asia is turning out science graduates in the millions.
Second: the spread of attention-seeking, wilful victimhood in our culture - the whingeing, blaming and litigating -has tragically been assisted by the very scruples of self reliant, non-drama-queen type people preferring to just keep their own counsel and say nothing.
Third: Whilst we may not exactly have 1984, we do have plenty of Orwellian Doublethink. Being a ‘radical' means thinking just like everyone else in your peer group. Caring about the catastrophic failure of mankind in large parts of the planet means going to rock concerts.
In challenging this malaise, it is not enough to attack the crazy social policies and the political correctness it has spawned. It is also necessary to challenge the century long myth that a left-wing type of ‘social conscience' is good-hearted even if it is naïve. This is one huge fallacy. The truth is that it is more usually self-centred, self-deceiving and ultimately self-serving.