Friday, 26 March 2010
One Generation of Tlonists4: Liberalism: Back to the Future
I. Liberal Stance
I am a liberal. It’s painful to admit in this day when a liberal can mean someone who wants to sell children (Rothbard), a drivelling neo-liberal oaf (Timothy Garton Ash), someone who thinks it’s sexist to laugh at Sarah Palin for thinking Africa is a country (Bidisha) or someone who writes self-help disguised as political discourse (uh, practically every liberal journalist I can think of).
Yet I define myself as a liberal the way that I define the term liberal: someone who is sceptical of corporatism whilst appreciating the benefits of a capitalist society, someone who is sceptical of the government as a militaristic force whilst appreciating its role in creating infrastructure and protecting its citizens and someone who reveres religion as a spiritual force whilst disliking theocratic forms of government.
However, using this form of definition, very few ‘liberals’ are in any way liberal. In fact the chief characteristic of our dominant ideology ‘neo-liberalism’ is an open-mouthed awe of business combined with an open-mouthed awe of the big brother state and an ambiguous attitude towards religion: turning a blind eye to fundamentalists in Bosnia, 'Kosovo', Israel and the USA whilst being highly critical of Apostolic Christianity.
Yet who am I to deny that they are liberal?
II: Madness gone Politically Correct
One area where I disagree with the mainstream left/liberals is political correctness. It does exist. It is annoying. And we have to get rid of it if we want to live in a free country.
Ironically enough, two East European friends of this blog, Bogdan and Leos, would entirely agree with me, and are very careful to separate British culture of hospitality for immigrants from the brutal ideology of political correctness.
Don’t worry. I’m not one of those people who leaves comments under ‘Love thy Neighbour’ clips on youtube, saying that there is a barbaric leftist conspiracy to keep this work of Chekhovian brilliance from our TV screens (though admittedly I have come close to saying ‘I can’t be homophobic, I love Mr Humphries and Liberace’). Yet I do think leftists have to stop supporting measures like all-women shortlists, and using the state to force B&B owners and Churches to accommodate gays (whilst at the same time I think that the state should never discriminate against homosexuals and have signed Avaaz letters to this effect). Furthermore, I dislike the way that some on the blogosphere try to shut down debate on immigration by saying that this is racist. I do support large immigration, but this is not the same thing as uncontrolled, unregulated immigration which often affects the poorest people in Britain and the USA.
However, I would point out that political correctness (which I would define as calling someone bigoted based on inference) is far from being uniquely left-wing. The smearing of Israel’s critics as anti-Semitic is equally an example of political correctness. As is accusing people of ‘Anti-Americanism’ for not liking neo-cons.
The French generally do not have a ‘political correctness’ movement and their country is not only more robustly intellectual but it also has a stronger left-wing movement, which is currently giving Sarko a kick in the derriere.
Maybe this is partially a heritage from their 9th Century liberals, especially Alexis De Tocqueville who introduced a kind of liberalism that was founded in scepticism rather than awe for institutions. Modern liberalism has come to disguise awe as scepticism. We need unregulated corporations to protect us from the state. But we also need a surveillance state to protect us from terrorism.
III: Protests not Prozac
Another more institutionalised problem with modern liberalism is that it has become a branch of the self-help industry. Many liberals don’t raise awareness of issues due to genuine scepticism and concern, but because they want to see themselves in a positive light.
Subsequently they will beat their chests in agony at the fate of the third world and join in condemning anyone who stands up to the corporations and sweatshops. Just look at Te Graun’s coverage of Venezuela and Russia and The Independent’s coverage of Russia. Avaaz's blog wrote a disgraceful apologetic response to Saakashvilli's bombing his own people: some countries are too big and white to get much support from the human rights community.
Modern liberal third-worldism can roughly be defined thus: We want the third world to break free of Western exploitation, but don’t want ‘burgeoning dictators’ like Hugo Chavez to save them because some rich well-dressed cool people like us don’t like him so it wouldn’t give us such a great narcissistic hit. We’re waiting for the good fairy to come along and stop third-world exploitation. Until then we'll attack poor people for not wearing tailored clothes but garments made in sweatshops, using the phrase ‘high street fashion’ to imply they buy clothes in Primark because they think it’s so much cooler than M&S.
Subsequently whilst many people regard themselves as liberals, they are considerably less liberal in practice than they are in theory. It seems whenever the USA supports ‘humanitarian intervention’ a chunk of the left will always break off like ice from a melting glacier to praise the bombing of a foreign nation. Not because they have had some conversion experience, but precisely because supporting a military campaign provides an easy source of flattery that will satisfy their pre-existing narcissistic desire to be seen as 'muscular' defenders of liberty, bursting with 'moral courage'.
Another way in which this manifests itself is a curious attitude towards religion: Bosnians and Albanians can be as fanatical as they want (as can Israelis for many liberals). But Apostolic Christianity is attacked as backwards and 'right wing'.
This is most evident from how much of the modern left frames the abortion debate. I have not seen a single credible argument why an unborn child should not be regarded as a human being with full rights. Yet if you express these views, it is taken for granted this is a sign that you are 'right wing' and 'misogynist'. I don't think a lot of left-liberals realise how unpleasant the pro-abortion debate actually is in many countries. Roe v Wade was passed during Nixon's time and the Republicans have been in power almost constantly since then. Yet they tolerate abortion because most of the children aborted are (sotto voce) black. Similarly in Europe the argument is often put forward that crime is reduced by abortion. And let's not get started on the BNP's attitude as to who should and should not be born.
Yet this simplistic left/right liberalism has infected even Christianity in Britain. Just look at Ekklesia's coverage of the BNP. Does it mention that the BNP is diametrically opposed to Apostolic Christianity not just because racism is contradictory to the Bible but because the BNP take a Malthusian and bigoted approach to bio-ethics and support eugenics? Why, no. They are afraid that the BNP might try to make cause with pro-life groups and 'conservative' Christians. After all five (get that, FIVE) Reverends were on the BNP's member list.
Whilst this is a low number it probably seems gigantic to Ekklesia for a simple reason. Reverends are (sotto voce again) middle class, and surely that type have no place in the BNP which every smug liberal knows is about to be elected by tens of millions of working class voters?
That Malthus was himself an upper-middle-class theological liberal will probably not seem too ironic to them.
IV: What is to be Done
If Tlonists regard themselves as liberal then ironically enough the collapse of many ‘liberal’ newspapers is ironically great news. It is unfortunate that we cannot send torpedoes into the sinking wreck that is The Independent and laugh at those asking for a bail out (Indy journalist Johann Hari criticised Israel for praising ‘Vladimir Putin's approach to Chechnya in the 1990s. One third of the civilian population died’ and also thinks that the state should be subsidising him for writing this dishonest Russophobe drivel).
Instead we have to look forward to the internet and backwards towards great liberal writers such as Herzen and Tocqueville.