August 15, 2010
Recently, liberalism's been characterized as a mental disorder. While that assessment makes entertaining rhetoric, it misses the mark.
Liberals are fully capable of functioning in their daily lives. They are often highly successful. They can be very pleasant and engaging people. Obviously, the alleged insanity isn't incapacitating. Nonetheless, elite liberals in particular are prone to behavior that appears insane. A great example is the moral certitude saturating the JournoList files. The blind and often vicious self-righteousness in the JournoList exchanges is light-years beyond the wildest liberal caricature of fundamentalist "bible-thumpers."
Morals are the domain of religion and philosophy and influence politics as a consequence. Our laws reflect our collective judgment of right and wrong. Without a moral base, political action is pointless at best; more often, it's dangerous. Since 1789, liberals have overthrown traditional morals, replacing them with a succession of intellectual fads. The results have been predictably disastrous.
Years ago, a friend gave me a little book written in the 1880s by a Spanish priest named Don Felix Sarda y Salvany. The book, Liberalism is a Sin, caused quite a commotion in its day, and much of the book is still vivid and compelling more than a century later. More importantly, Salvany's diagnosis of liberalism is far more accurate than casually writing it off as insanity.
Liberalism is a profound error. At its core, it is the rejection of all authority, leaving the individual to decide what is right and wrong without reference to any external influence. Ultimately it is a rejection of truth, blinding people to the evil in themselves and in their world. The disorder is one of the passions, not the faculties. Today, we have the witness of JournoList. In 1886, Don Felix said this about their journalistic forebears:
Amongst Liberals we must not forget to include those who manage to evade any direct exposition or expression of the Liberal theory, but who nevertheless obliquely sustain it in their daily practice by writing and orating after the Liberal method, by recommending Liberal books and men, measuring and appreciating everything according to the Liberal criterion, and manifesting, on every occasion that offers, an intense hatred for anything that tends to discredit or weaken their beloved Liberalism. Such is the conduct of those prudent journalists whom it is difficult to apprehend in the flagrant advocacy of any proposition concretely Liberal, but who nevertheless, in what they say and in what they do not say, never cease to labor for the propagation of this cunning heresy. Of all Liberal reptiles, these are the most venomous.
Centuries ago, when people believed in such a thing, sin and its specific effects were well-understood. Sin darkens the intellect, weakens the will, disorders the passions, and increases concupiscence. If Don Felix is correct, this is all the explanation we need.
At first, the darkening of the intellect is limited. Despite what Mama said, the blindness isn't immediate; it's just that judgment regarding the particular sin becomes clouded. Excuses and rationalizations multiply, obscuring sin's evil. As the process moves on, the sinner's grip on truth weakens, and his will to resist other evils weakens as well.
For example, as a society, we didn't jump up to embrace euthanasia. It began by disposing of those inconvenient, unviable tissue masses that would be better off not born. Relentless propaganda and sloganeering proclaimed, in effect, that "it's a choice, not a child." Over time, the individual wills of millions of people were weakened enough to produce a majority unwilling to face the ugly truth that millions of children are destroyed each year.
Then it was time for the next step. "Assisted suicide" was served up as compassion, putting the terminally ill out of their misery comfortably. Obviously, old age is terminal, but until recently, that was left unsaid. How long before we hear that death panels are an unfortunate necessity because of our limited medical resources?
At the clinical level, national health care inevitably requires each doctor put the interest of the state above his patient's interest. After all, the state foots the bill, not the patient. Eventually we'll learn that it's okay to dispose of "defectives." Not only do they impose a burden on the state, but their lives wouldn't be worth living anyway.
Vice becomes virtue; murder becomes compassion. Welcome to Alice's 21st-century Wonderland. Sadly, we've been here before. Once the simple clarity of an act of murder is lost in a haze of high-sounding rationalizations, anything is possible.
Society hasn't really gone insane; it just rejected truth often enough to completely lose touch with it.
Since 1789, intellectuals have disregarded the spirit for various reasons. Taking their cue, the larger culture came to assume it doesn't exist. Countless messages stripped away faith in anything, leaving people to think good and evil are part of some obscure fairy tale about a Garden in Eden. Few today realize the first sin was man presuming to tell God what was good and what was evil.
Yet despite his cunning insolence, man can't escape the nagging pangs of his conscience. In response, he invents clever nonsense like moral relativism to obscure his guilt. Suddenly, as if by magic, there's nothing wrong with all those abortions any more than there will be with our new "end of life care." It's just a matter of whose "truth" a person accepts.
Since what's wrong for you doesn't mean anything to me, I can demand your tolerance without ever having to ask myself exactly what it is I'm demanding. Unfortunately, evil is stubbornly real. It will not go away no matter how hard I wish, no matter how loudly I demand you tolerate it. The common contemporary phenomenon of magical thinking is a natural extension of this desperate need to wish away evil.