By: R.J. Moeller
Previously, on rjmoeller.com….
I 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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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