A Voice in the Wilderness In Defense of "Mere Conservatism"

10Jun/10Off

The Flaws of the Left: Part II

By: R.J. Moeller

Previously, on rjmoeller.com….

sam_oldnewI began a discussion of “The Left’s Fundamental Flaws” by addressing one of the broader, more existential reasons I so vehemently disagree with progressive liberals in this country: namely, the excessive emphasis that Left-of-Center political (and cultural) leaders put on “change at all costs.”  I traced the Left’s ideological thought back to the largely misguided notion of philosophers like Locke and Helvetius that human beings are born “Tabula Rasa” (“a blank slate”).  Therefore, as Helvetius in particular wrote, all that is needed for “perfect” people is the “perfect” environment – engineered by “elites” (translation: “people who went to Ivy League universities”), via legislation and education.

A good litmus test for whether or not you are on the Left yourself is if you agree with the conclusion that the government’s role is, chiefly, to create better, more perfect people.

This distinction in thought is typically where traditional Judeo-Christian religious beliefs and Leftism justifiably tend to part ways, and why the overwhelming majority of self-described religious Americans tend to be on the Right when it comes to politics.

God makes “new” men and women, not Uncle Sam, Big Brother, or even Mother Earth.

As I stated last time, religious people can be on the Left; but anti-religious people, people who denied their Creator and mankind’s fallen, sinful state, invented the Left.

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Today, we bring you Part II of “The Left's Fundamental Flaws”:

In my last column, I attacked the Left’s obsession with “change” and “progress” and noted that such words, as broadly appealing as they may indeed be, still imply a specific direction.  This week I want to explain why the direction the Left has consistently picked since (at least) Karl Marx is the wrong one.  I want to continue my treatment of the flaws of the Left with a description and analysis of some of the specific ideas, movements, and people that I believe paved the way for modern American progressive-liberalism.  Once again, I will be drawing from the wealth of wisdom and insight in Dr. Richard Pipes’ A Concise History of the Russian Revolution to take a look at when and where the type of ideological thought and policy-making we see on the Left today first emerged and took root in other nations, at other times.

In his opening chapter and introduction, Dr. Pipes astutely points out that a common denominator in any nation that eventually adopts Leftist, collectivist, or socialist doctrine for the running of their government and society is the existence of a specific class of radicalized professors, thinkers, writers, and social agitators.  The name he gives this group is “Intelligentsia.”  There are Intellectuals, “those who passively contemplate and analyze life,” and then there is the Intelligentsia, “activists who are determined to reshape it.”

“Intelligentsia” describes intellectuals who want power in order to change the world.

But who cares, right?  If a group of busy-bodies on college campuses and in the newsrooms of media outlets want to get involved and promote their progressive agenda, what’s the big deal?

Well, let me finish fleshing out what it is the Left has traditionally believed before you make any judgments on how benign their current attempts to “fundamentally transform” might be.  Change, in and of itself, is not a moral or immoral thing.  It’s what you are changing in to, and how you plan on changing that matters.

According to Pipes, there are two societal conditions that must be met for an Intelligentsia to emerge as a powerful, and ultimately destructive, force in a nation.  The first is a prevalent “materialistic ideology that regards human beings not as unique creatures endowed an immortal soul but as exclusively physical entities shaped wholly by their environment.”  In other words, the pre-conditions necessary for a radical-Left intelligentsia to take influential prominence in a country are that the nation in question either must be becoming increasingly irreligious, or the religious teaching of that nation must be infused with secular, humanistic, Leftist concepts and beliefs.

Or both, in our nation’s current case.

Materialism in this sense is not the obsession with owning things, also sometimes called “consumerism,” but is the belief that the material world (i.e. matter) is all that there is.  This ideology, whether in its purest, atheistic form, or even when diluted to appease religious liberals, makes it possible to argue that “a rational re-ordering of man’s environment can produce a new breed of perfectly virtuous creatures.  This belief elevates members of the Intelligentsia to the status of social engineers and justifies their political ambitions.”

To paraphrase my favorite writer G.K. Chesterton: “When a nation abandons belief in the Creator, people do not begin to believe in nothing.  They begin to believe in anything.482px-Professor_Bill_Ayers

The second societal condition to be met for the Intelligentsia to dominate political and economic thought in a country is “economic opportunities to secure independence.”  Basically, the peddlers of radical ideology on the Left need to be financially able to spend their time writing papers, going to conferences, appearing on television and radio shows, and schmoozing with Hollyweird elites instead of having to churn their own butter or start their own business to make ends meet.  Without the worry of having to find sustenance, and with the protections that freedom of speech and assembly offer, the Intelligentsia is enabled to “secure a hold on public opinion, its principal means of political leverage.”

I’ve personally often pondered why it is that people on the secular Left, who believe that they themselves are nothing more than randomly gathered and mutated protoplasm, would work so hard at gaining the fleeting socio-political power and influence they so intently seek.  So frequently did secular-Left thinkers in Europe and Russia such as Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Leon Trotsky use what could only be qualified as “religious” rhetoric in detailing their God-less, atheistic visions for utopian life on earth that one is led to believe deep down those men either knew they were rejecting a Higher Power (and purpose) that is real, or they at least understood that the terminology of religious teachings has a powerful and positive effect on most humans throughout history.

Here is Trotsky, one of the key leaders of one of the most significant (and evil) revolutions in human history, describing the ultimate goal of the Bolshevik’s takeover of Russia in 1917:

Man will, at last, begin to harmonize himself in earnest…He will want to master first the semi-conscious and then the unconscious process of his own organism: breathing, the circulation of blog, digestion, reproduction, and, within the necessary limits, subordinate them to the control of reason and will…Man will make it his goal to master his own emotions, to elevate his instincts to the heights of consciousness, to make them transparent…to create a higher socio-biological type, a superman…Man will become incomparably stronger, wiser, subtler.  His body will become more harmonious, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more melodious.  The forms of life will acquire a dynamic theatricality.  The average human type will rise to the heights of Aristotle, Goethe, Marx.  And beyond this ridge, other peaks will emerge.

Trotsky’s devotion to his secular ideology and worldview sounds “religious”, wouldn’t you say?

But I thought only Sarah Palin and the saps in Red-State, fly-over country talked in such dramatic tones about their faith and convictions regarding mankind’s destiny?

As Pipes puts it, “The (Leftists) in Russia aimed at nothing less than reenacting the sixth day of creation in order to perfect its flawed product: man’s mission was nothing less than remaking himself.”

He continues:

The Russian Intelligentsia constituted a closed caste system, admission to which required commitment to materialism, socialism, and utilitarianism (the belief that the morality of human actions is determined by the extent of pain and pleasure they produce, and that the test of good government is its ability to assure the greatest happiness of the greatest number).  No one who believed in God and the immortality of the soul, in the limits to human reason and the advantages of principled compromise, in the value of traditions and love of one’s country, no matter how otherwise enlightened, could aspire to membership in the Intelligentsia or gain access to its publications.

The Leftist Intelligentsia in Russia during the early part of the 20th century believed that political and social change came as a result of fundamental changes in the economic relations between the “working class” and the “wealthy.”  Economics has been at the heart of everything the Left, since Marx, wants to do for (and to) a civilization.  In Russia, they wanted the re-distribution of wealth from the arbitrarily-defined “rich” to the loosely-defined “poor.”  They believed that the raw materials needed for industrial production ought to belong entirely to the State, thereby annexing private enterprise under the State’s control.  They believed that the entire concept of “property rights” (the ability to own something to the exclusivity of others) was evil, and the root cause for much of society’s ills and class warfare.  They believed that the government could take back any land they deemed integrally important to the “collective.”

This way of thinking only makes sense if man is not born with certain inalienable rights.  If we are all here on this rock by accident and random chance, then our “rights” are illusionary and open for the interpretation of whichever political party or movement happens to be in charge at any given time.  If mankind has no divine purpose, if history is not headed anywhere, if we are not fallen creatures, if the only (social) justice in the universe is whatever we can grab for ourselves (by taking from others), then the Left’s plan for social engineering through legislation and education is not only correct, it is ingenious.800px-Declaration_independence

But, however, if, like our Founders believed, mankind is endowed by its Creator with rights that are then freely lent to representatives in a well-defined, but limited governmental setting, then the Left is not only wrong, but dangerously wrong.  If each individual has the image of that Creator in them, then everything from eugenics to abortion to euthanasia is not only wrong, it is wickedly wrong.  If mankind is born morally broken and flawed, then the notion that education and legislation can “fix” (or even “perfect”) us is not only wrong, it is inherently wrong.

My disagreement with, and refutation of, Leftist ideology goes deeper than simple political partisanship.  As I said last week, my devotion is to my God, the truth, and to conservative ideals, ideals, and values – not the GOP or the people who represent it.  Leftist thought originated with men like Marx, but even today in a lesser form, in the rhetoric and policy initiatives of men like Barack Obama, and women like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, I hear many of the same troublesome themes and intellectual undercurrents.  I cannot reconcile my faith and understanding of the world with the secular, humanist, materialist rationale that guided those who pioneered what we now call today “the Left” (including liberalism, socialism, collectivism, and communism).

For all his good intentions, President Obama not only uses the language of a Leftist, but has worked tirelessly to enact pieces of legislation which typify a Leftist interpretation of the world.  Despite the acknowledged nuances that exist in our political and cultural debates today, either my interpretation of things is right, or his is.

The reason I don’t mind using labels such as Right and Left is precisely because they are directional in nature.  They correctly identify that on any path, to any destination, one must choose a direction to aim at.

You certainly can be closer to the middle of two points, but you can’t face both ways at the same time.

Liberalism has been degraded into liberality.  Men have turned ‘revolutionize’ from a transitive to an intransitive verb…The new liberal rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything.  He has no real loyalty; therefore he can never really be a revolutionist…As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is a waste of time.  A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself.

The man of this school of thought goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that poor people and native tribesmen in Africa are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts.  In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines.  In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men.

Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt.  By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.G.K. Chesterton

Comments (10) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Good stuff! It is strange how the non-religious can’t seem to escape using spiritual language to express themselves. Then, when you point out that all their talk about “oneness with the universe” and “connection to the Earth, plants and nature”, by their own philosophy, means they are suffering from delusion, they get offended! :-)

  2. I LOVE YOUR BLOG! Keep up the great work – I will be back!!

    Steve
    Common Cents
    http://www.commoncts.blogspot.com

    ps. Link Exchange??

    pps. I have some Strasburg video posed on CC…

  3. “By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”

    The left has run out of things to rebel against, now they rebel against common sense, the last bastion of functionality. They are becoming non-functional in the process, witness the rise of the buget of the dept of ed, yet the grades nation wide go down every year or stay flat and have since the inception of the dept of ed by carter.
    Their buget this year is what 51 billion? Yet there is NO product we get for our money. The left is non-functional, but dragging the rest of us down with them as they tax us to pay for their non-functional brainstorms.
    In the end all the talk of phylosophy is a BS smokescreen, for the most part it’s just scam to get an easy paycheck for most of the left. They arent really all that deep.

  4. Found your site linked at Townhall.com and think it is very entertaining and thought-provoking. I find myself so frustrated with my liberal friends (who are religious, like me)…how can we take the message of our public values and make a better case to other religious Americans that their private faith is not in contradiction with those values? I believe that limited government and personal responsibility and moral imperatives, not just political talking points.

  5. I have been enjoying all of your blogging and had thought I found a home where I could belong but after this blog I am not so sure. I am a conservative that does not believe in God or organized religion but I do consider myself as moral as any religious person. I felt in this blog you were saying that we can not have a moral society without the existance or belief in a God. Obviously I take complete exception to this. It is completely absusrd to say I can not have morals because I don’t believe in God. I do and can be just as moral as any religious person. In fact, I find it very audacious that anyone would even imply differently. I am sorry to say, but I think there are just as many immoral people on both the left and right.

    I have no problem admitting or agreeing that the Bible is full of amazing lessons stressing how we as a society should treat each other. The only issue I have is with the “miracles” contained which is where faith comes in. In fact we use alot of these lessons in our daily life- thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal, covet they neighbors wife/husband(??) etc.

    I believe there are quite a few conservatives, libertarians, republicans that do not believe in a God or Higher Being. I would like to see the Republican party move past thinking they are the “moral majority” and stick to issues. Feel free to vote on issues the way your religion would tell you but please do not insult me by saying I am not moral.

    Have I missed something in the blog?

  6. I think you missed RJ’s point. (Great post, btw.) The anti-religious are the ones RJ is going after, not those who choose not to believe. He is saying that anti-religious, the secular Left, is the intellectual well-spring from which modern ideologies of the Left (like socialism, liberalism, etc.) emanated from. He is saying that HIS conservative worldview is influenced by his religious convictions.

    Someone who agrees with RJ’s values, religious or otherwise, DOES have a home here. Believe me. It’s good stuff and RJ is an affable guy it seems. I found his site last fall and have enjoyed it immensely ever since.

    Keep in mind…RJ is not a spokesman for the GOP…he is advocating conservative principles from a religious perspective. We can all work together.

    You can be moral without believing in God. He still believes in you.

  7. Rick, Rivenburg, and Jackie- Thank you for taking the time to post such kind words. Please post again!

    Steve- I checked your site out and like what I found. Send me an email (rj@rjmoeller.com) and let’s chat further about cross-linking.

    Debbie- I really appreciate your challenge/question/comment/concern. I really do. I mean it. This is an area that requires both of us to have some thicker skin, and a softer heart. I do not believe that a litmus test for conservatism should (or even could) be belief in the God of the bible. The Founders didn’t believe this. I don’t believe this.

    What I am saying is this: the modern American Left, if you trace its intellectual and ideological roots back a few decades (and no more than a couple of centuries), was pioneered/founded/spear-headed by anti-religious folks who wanted to radically and fundamentally change society to their version of “the better.” Our nation was founded upon a belief that our rights come from our Creator and are therefore above the control of the state (i.e. other humans). Even deists like Jefferson acknowledged this. What I am saying is that I honor and identify with that sentiment as the basis of our rights. From our rights come the discussion of everything else in society.

    Frank is right to say that my “beef” is with the Left, and more specifically, the secular, radical Left. You, Debbie, are my ally. But as my ally, you have to appreciate that I, as a religious conservative, am going to frame a lot of what I say about issues such as size of government, levels of taxation, abortion, gay marriage, etc. in a Judeo-Christian light. This doesn’t exclude you, and if you felt that I was impugning your character, I apologize sincerely. Non-religious people tend to be on the Left. That is a fact. Anti-religious people invented the Left. If someone is non-religious and on the Right (when it comes to public issues, like the ones discussed here at AVITW) then we are partners in conservative crime and I’m happy to have you.

    Does that make sense? I think it is possible for someone like me to boldly proclaim my aversion to anti-religious Leftists (and the societies they tend to create when given power) while still maintaining a genuine respect for someone like you who seems to share many of my values, but parts way with me when it comes to my theology.

  8. Thank you for the clarification. I thougt you were saying that you had to be religious to be moral. Glad to know I have found a place of kindred spirits in our conservative thinking and that all are welcome. The fighting going on out there can, at times, leave people wondering where they fit in. I’m staying here.

  9. Great article Robby. I just got a chance to read it because I’ve been so busy. I’ll see you later tonight.

  10. Debbie

    I’m curious, you say you are a moral person yet you do not believe in God. I would like to know where you think morality comes from, if not from God. Do you believe it is part of natural selection, an evolutionary result?

    Also I am always curious about those who claim to be atheists. Given the size of our universe, the tiny mote of that universe we occupy, and the magnitude of that which we do not yet understand about our universe, how can anyone say with certainty that there is no God? Forgive me but I think true atheism is a type of arrogance born of ignorance. An attitude that seems to say “I’ve been everywhere and I know everything that can be known.”

    It would seem to me that agnosticism is at least honest. I can understand someone who claims they are not sure. But how can you be sure?

    Please understand I mean no offense. But I AM curious

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