Waging “war” against an enemy whose existence we deny
accepts the fact, reported by John Muhammad’s own acquaintances, that he supported the attack on America and desired to harm America himself. Media across the country, reports Daniel Pipes
, have shut their eyes to this explanation. Thus, according to Pipes, a Los Angeles Times
article gave six possible motives for Muhammad’s actions: “his ‘stormy relationship’ with his family, his ‘stark realization’ of loss and regret, his perceived sense of abuse as an American Muslim post-9/11, his desire to ‘exert control’ over others, his relationship with Malvo, and his trying to make a quick buck,” but did not mention jihad.
From this we can see the real depth of the dilemma we’re in. On one hand, we’re supposedly involved in this vast “war on terror” and everyone is deeply interested in how to fight that war effectively. On the other hand, when actual terrorists strike us, much of the liberal media denies that it is happening. What this indicates is that for many liberals, their professed concern about waging the war on terror is a lie. It’s an obligatory motion they go through so as to seem responsible and patriotic. When it comes to actual terrorists, they deny that they exist.
This already crippling tendency in our society has been exacerbated by President Bush’s disastrous decision to refer to our enemy as “terrorists” rather than as militant Muslims or Islamists or Jihadists. How can we take this “war” seriously when our own leaders refuse to name the enemy? It’s as though President Roosevelt sought a declaration of war not on Nazi Germany but on “Aggression.” “We seek a total victory over … Aggression. We will deploy all the mighty power of our nation until we have achieved unconditional victory over … Aggression.”
We would have never made it to the Normandy beaches. Nazi Germany would still be running Europe today.
Or, as Daniel Pipes commented to me, it’s as though after Pearl Harbor the United States declared war on surprise attacks.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 29, 2002 11:18 PM | Send
Whether or not Muhammad is a terrorist is rather irrelevant. For the sake of argument, let’s say he is. Is he connected to Al Quaeda or any other terrorist organization? It seems rather silly to be fighting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan if the terrorists are in America.
If we are targeting a specific well defined terrorist network, that is one thing. But going after “Radical Islam” is no more vague than “terrorism” or “agression”. Would eliminating Islamic ideology in the US keep Bin Laden from attacking us.
Marcus Epstein says,
“It seems rather silly to be fighting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan if the terrorists are in America.”
If the terrorists are in America, Marcus — as they most assuredly are — who keeps letting more in? If you don’t know, ask Larry Auster, Peter Brimelow, Dan Pipes, or Don Feder, among many others who could tell you. (Whatever you do, DON’T ask Ben Wattenberg.)
“Would eliminating Islamic ideology in the US keep Bin Laden from attacking us?”
No. It might keep a fifth column from attacking us behind our own front lines, though. That is, if Ben Wattenberg approves — and that’s a VERY BIG IF.
I’ve read Marcus Epstein’s comment three times and can’t make heads or tails of it. First he says that if Muhammad is a terrorist, that is irrelevant. Then he says that if Muhammad is a terrorist, that means we should ignore the overseas threat and focus on the domestic threat. Then he says that eliminating the domestic threat would not eliminate the overseas threat. And in the middle of all this he says, “But going after ‘Radical Islam’ is no more vague than “terrorism.” I think he meant to say “is no less vague” or “is no more clear.”
If Mr. Epstein would like to try again, I’d be willing to take another crack at it.
I read a month or so ago, that visas were still going to people from the same countries as the 9-11 hijackers. Is this the way to “fight terrorism?”
It was becoming obvious before the DC snipers were caught that the authorities were actually afraid they might be “immigrants.” How can we have confidence in the ability of our leaders to wage “War Against Terrorism?”
“I read a month or so ago that visas were still going to people from the same countries as the 9-11 hijackers. Is this the way to ‘fight terrorism’? … . How can we have confidence in the ability of our leaders to wage ‘War Against Terrorism?’ “
David, we can’t. They’re blind. If the neocons who control the Bush Administration aren’t stopped dead in their tracks with their immigration insanity we’re going to have Armageddon right here in this country.
Unfortunately the problem is much wider than the neocons. The entire establishment of all political stripes—left, liberal, centrist, moderate Republican, conservative Republican, neoconservative, conservative, evangelical conservative—supports the current policy immigration or says nothing of substance against it. (Oh yes, in a brave moment they’ll stand up and say we’ve got to do something about … illegal immigration.)
We tend to single out the neocons because they are the most articulate in pushing the idea of pure universalism; also, it’s nice to believe that if just this one identifiable group were politically defeated, the problem would be solved. The reality is that everyone in the American mainstream shares the same views. In order to solve the immigration problem, America as a whole has to question and abandon beliefs which, over the last 60 years, it has come to regard as the sacred essence of the country.
Mr. Auster, you say,
“Unfortunately the problem is much wider than the neocons. The entire establishment of all political stripes … supports the current policy on immigration or says nothing of substance against it … .”
You’re one hundred percent right, of course, and thanks for correcting the mistaken impression my post may have left.
In confronting a problem so vast, where do we start chipping away (on the “Little strokes fell great oaks” theory)?
The immigration restriction movement has got to start trying to address the grass-roots, mainstream, Republican, Reaganite, Christian, evangelical conservatives. The “red” part of the map. These people and organizations are the core of America that is both the natural constituency for immigration reform, and that also has the numbers and organization to make a real difference. But, as I’ve previously mentioned at VFR, http://www.counterrevolution.net/vfr/archives/000637.html, the mainstream conservatives haven’t touched the issue. They are ignorant of and uninterested in the subject, many of them are uneasy when it comes up. And the reason is, while they are not exactly neocons, their view of America is substantially similar to the neocons’. They view America as a set of principles and functions, not as a concrete living entity; therefore they don’t react to threats to that entity (other than to gross physical threats like terrorism). That, combined with the recoil from anything having to do with ethnicity, has led them to keep their heads in the sand for the last 20 years.
At the same time, the mainstream restriction movement (FAIR, CIS, etc.) avoids conservative politics and questions of culture (FAIR has a liberal, pro-abortion side that makes them not even want to address conservatives), while the paleocons and Buchananites are too angry, too obsessed with American empire and Israel, and lack a broad message that would appeal to these mainstream groups.
Notwithstanding these formidable problems, if you’re asking me where the immigration issue can be turned around, it would be by reaching out to the conservative mainstream, which is a vast untouched area for evangelization.
Mr. Auster has put his finger on it again, although I regret his reflexive deprecation of paleocons and Buchananites, whose views of these matters are the most realistic. Immigration policy is decided for the United States not by the elected officials who pass laws - most of whom, as Mr. Auster notes, have no real interest in immigration - but by those who advise them about immigration. That coterie is a fairly small group based in Washington and New York, people who have little connection with, and often contempt for, the American heartland.
I agree with what Mr. Auster has said elsewhere: blaming things on Jewish conspiracies is a sterile and petty thing to do. Nevertheless, I’ll breach a taboo here. Immigration policy is disproportionately affected by the open-borders activism of Jewish groups and the urging of Jewish pundits, aided immeasurably by propagandistic reporting in largely Jewish-owned and controlled media. This has long been true, although the moment of triumph was the passage of the catastrophic Immigration Reform Act of 1965. We disparage that act by calling it Ted Kennedy’s. It would be more accurate to remember his House counterpart: Emmanuel Celler, Democrat of New York, who was far more involved and knew what he was doing, unlike Kennedy. It was the capstone of a long House career devoted to eliminating restrictions on immigration: Celler had begun his service by voting against the immigration restrictions of 1924.
Jewish Leftists may push mass immigration for left-wing reasons, Jewish neocons may push it for what they claim are free-market or “propositional” reasons, but all push the same thing in the end. Don Feder, God bless him, is one of the very few exceptions. Despite his evident orthodox Jewish faith and principled support of Israel he is far out of the American Jewish mainstream. One can note that Jews have historically had good reasons, from their point of view, to want to keep America open as a refuge. Still, this is one case where pursuing what is perceived to be “good for the Jews” has been disastrously harmful for America.
Until more mainstream Americans - who are not part of the Washington/New York liberal/neocon axis - succeed in getting involved in actual immigration policy making, the current de facto policy of unlimited illegal and legal immigration will persist. Rep. Tancredo of Colorado is fighting the good fight, but he gets no help from his party. The situation is touchy, because what will be required is a willingness, in this case, firmly to oppose Jewish interests without descending to anti-Semitism (accusations of which will follow inevitably, no matter how untrue). HRS
Mr. Sutherland, what about those white Euro Christian élites who have both the intelligence to see what’s going on and the money to put a stop to it? Why aren’t they acting?
People like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Ross Perot, Pat Robertson, Dan Quayle, the Bushes, William F. Buckley Jr., or any of a thousand or ten thousand or a hundred thousand others, cannot be intimidated by particular ethnic groups fighting for their own interests, no matter how well organized such ethnic groups may be. Yet, every time you look, you see them either with their heads in the sand on immigration, or actively on the enthusiasts’ side.
What has made our own white Euro Christian élites crumple?
I was not deprecating the views of paleocons and Buchananites on immigration, with which of course I’m in general agreement, but their reactive emotionalism, anger, and narrowness that has increasingly closed them off from the possibility of exerting any role of intellectual leadership in the broader society.
As far as I’m concerned, Mr. Sutherland is not violating a taboo when he points to the leading Jewish role in the Immigration Act of 1965 and the continuing Jewish role in the propagandization for open borders and the re-making of America into nothing but an idea or a collection of cultures. This is an actually existing agenda which a moral and rational politics has every right to identify and to resist. But if restrictionists continue obsessively blaming the immigration disaster just on Jews or just on neocons, they will only succeed in marginalizing themselves while failing to carry the real battle forward. In brief, I am arguing against the suicidal tendency in paleoconservatism to be forever re-living Pickett’s Charge, or one of its less noble modern equivalents.
There are no doubt lots of reasons for the crumpling of the elites. One is that the abolition of transcendence makes history the final judge. In other words, you have to go with the flow, make change your friend, and get on the winning side. There’s no appeal to anything higher than that. One consequence is that principled opposition to whatever seems the general tendency of things becomes impossible. It can only be interpreted as ignorance or bigotry.
I am wondering why it is so difficult to learn the intellectual arguments shown on Restoration. For example, when a person says it is wrong or racist to be against immigration or multiculturalism “because we are a nation of immigrants and race is meaningless,” I still have difficulty knowing which arguments to put forth. My old argument was, “I want to protect to my culture.” This seems more like an expression of desire not logic. I must make a major effort (as I am doing now) to recall the arguments put forth here. Restoration’s response would be um…“mass immigration means citizenship is meaningless and multiculturalism means culture is meaningless.” The counter would be perhaps, “we are a nation of immigrants, I recognize we can’t let everyone in, and you are just a white supremacist.” My response is “um…er….” The well-known slogans used by most Americans are difficult to attack succinctly.
I suppose what I will need to do is write down a series of arguments and counterarguments and then study. Am I on the right track? Is my series going to be endless?
Regarding the crumpling of the elites, I think you’ll find that most educated Westerners, for many generations, have had to defend traditional things within a liberal framework.
Jim Kalb is right to point out that the Western elites were left in a position where their emotional ties to tradition could only be conceived in terms of bigotry or “sentiment” which would have to be (sometimes reluctantly) yielded to progress.
I know that in the case of Australia it didn’t help when the labor movement became strongly influenced by Marxist internationalism in the 1930s. Prior to this the labor movement was strongly nationalist in Australia and helped to create an intellectual climate in which nationalism still generally prevailed.
Re P Murgos’quandary. Don’t give in to the idea that America has always been a “nation of immigrants”. America was certainly once its own nation, with its own people and its own distinctive culture. Its existence as a distinct nation contributed to the real diversity of culture in the world. Racism is a belief in the superiority of one race to another, or a hatred of another race, not the desire to preserve the existence of your own race.
Having a sense of cultural belonging is important to the well-being of individuals. To want to defend it for yourself and your children is not therefore merely an expression of arbitrary desire, but a reasonable desire to maintain the best conditions of life for yourself and for many millions of other Americans.
In a multiculture, where no-one really has a sense of ownership of the public culture, who is going to step forward to uphold the best traditions that the early generations of Americans sacrificed to achieve? Why is it merely arbitrary desire for you to want to live in a society in which the best public traditions, that your own forefathers created, can be maintained?
The proponents of immigration often also ignore the sense of cultural alienation inevitably suffered by the immigrants themselves, especially second generation immigrants who feel caught between their home culture and that of the mainstream.
Immigration enthusiasts are rarely forced to defend their position, so they often resort to slogans or personal attacks. I’ve found that if you argue things through patiently, and ignore the usual charges of bigotry, you can at least get them to admit that “the other side” has arguments that have to be considered.
Thanks to Mark for the help.
From the “Answering One’s Own Question” Dept:
In a comment on Mr. Auster’s Oct. 29th entry, “Waging ‘War’ Against an Enemy Whose Existence we Deny,”
I asked Mr. Sutherland, “What about those white Euro Christian élites who have both the intelligence to see what’s going on and the money to put a stop to it? … What has made our own white Euro Christian élites crumple?”
Well, billionnaire white Euro Christian heiress and bimbo extraordinaire Pat Stryker has come riding to the rescue, supplying the answer to my question just in the nick of time! Look no further than her behavior to see what the non-Neocon, non-Jewish-American forces are up to:
This is from Steve Sailer’s UPI article, http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20021105-102548-8813r :
“Unz noted, ‘Support for our [anti-bilingual] Amendment 31 in Colorado has withered under a devastating advertising barrage.’ About $3.2 million was spent to defend bilingual education in Colorado, more than 10 times what the English immersion forces spent. Almost all the anti-Amendment 31 funding came from billionaire heiress Pat Stryker.”
Who is this Pat Stryker, exactly — this rich heiress (or should that be air-ess, as in airhead?) whose millions have sent Ron Unz’s decent and hard-fought anti-bilingual campaign in Colorado down to defeat? She’s nothing but a rich bimbo know-nothing. This URL address, http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/chavez.html ,will get you to the Linda Chavez archives in that excellent web-zine www.Jewishworldreview.com. Check out her 10-25-02 article entitled “Bilingual Hate and Violence,” and her 10-04-02 piece entitled “Why Would a Billionnaire Heiress Spend Millions of Dollars to Keep Immigrant Children in Colorado From Learning English?” Here’s a long excerpt from the second, a Chavez piece which deserves to be read in its entirety:
“Why would a billionaire heiress spend millions of dollars to keep immigrant children in Colorado from learning English? Pat Stryker, who ranks 234 on the Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans, announced last week that she is giving $3 million to help defeat a Colorado ballot initiative that would replace bilingual programs with English immersion for the state’s Spanish-speaking students. Surely Stryker isn’t trying to guarantee cheap labor down the road by denying Latino youngsters the single most important skill they will need to succeed in America. No, her motives are far more benign — but the effect is every bit as pernicious. Stryker wants her daughter to learn Spanish. She thinks it would be nifty if her daughter became bilingual. Of course, the best way for her child to learn Spanish is to expose her to native Spanish speakers. If the child hears Spanish spoken for several hours each day and is able to practice speaking Spanish with her schoolmates, she stands a good chance of actually learning the language. In other words, Stryker wants to immerse her child in Spanish because she knows that’s the best way to learn a new language, so she’s enrolled her daughter in a dual Spanish/English immersion program in a local public school. Now Stryker is afraid that the English immersion ballot initiative might deprive her daughter of her classmate-tutors. It just won’t be the same without all those cute little brown classmates helping her daughter trill her R’s properly or teaching her when to use ‘tu’ instead of ‘usted.’ But these are exactly the same reasons most immigrant parents want their children immersed in English. They know — even without the benefit of Ms. Stryker’s college education — that children don’t learn to speak a new language without being constantly exposed to it. No doubt Stryker’s daughter is learning enough Spanish in her three or four hours a day to get by when the family vacations on the beaches of the Costa del Sol or Acapulco. And think how handy it will be when she has to explain to the maid not to throw the cashmere sweater into the washing machine. But the benefits to the Spanish speakers in the classroom are not nearly so clear. These children will have to learn English well enough to function in it permanently. … ”
What was it Christopher Hitchens once quipped, on TV I think, about the English royal family’s genetic endowment having been played out four or five generations ago? Well, the House of Windsor aren’t the only upper crust to have suffered that fate, it appears.
This then, is how our white Euro Christian élites push events toward the direction of utter disaster. The wrongheaded influence of all the neocons put together, Jewish and gentile alike, probably isn’t a patch on that of a single one of these white Euro Christian imbeciles. And we can multiply each of them by how many?
I didn’t answer Unadorned’s question because I do not have the answer. I wish I did. Pat Stryker’s stupid and self-indulgent antics are an example of our urgings to cultural suicide, not an explanation of them. If we knew what it is inside white Christian Americans that leads them to crumple, it might be easier to help them stand up again.
Looking back over my own heritage (colonial settlers in the South, of English and Scottish origin), I am doubly dismayed because the closest parallel I see to the self-renunciation of the American WASP is the failure of nerve of the British upper class. Is there something in the Anglo-Saxon (Anglo-Celtic, if you prefer) makeup that made it inevitable we would fall prey to collective fecklessness in the 20th century? It seems so.
Unadorned is right: People like me can complain all we want about the Frankfurt School and multiculturalists subverting our country and perverting our heritage. It is all true, but does not change the fact that this collapse could never have happened had we not acquiesced in it. There is no better example than the way ivy league universities, most originally founded by colonial Americans to train Protestant divines, now treat American applicants from white Christian backgrounds. Probably there can be no restoring the institutions our ancestors founded, so the challenge is to create new ones more faithful to our traditions. I confess I do not know how to do it, although I would like to try.
A final comment about the bilingual education contretemps: Unz wants to assimilate the unceasing immigrant waves, assuming we can and should absorb them ad infinitum. I am not interested in educating illegal aliens’ children at all; I want all invaders removed and prospective invaders kept out. To be blunt, I am not very interested in educating legal immigrants and their children. I would encourage most to return to their home countries and make such contributions as they can to the life of their own nations. The United States’ immigration policy, for the foreseeable future, should encourage emigration and repatriation and accept basically no further immigration. (Even if it were true, which it is not, that immigrants to the United States represent the best and brightest of all the world, what right would one country have to drain other countries of their talent?)
For demographic reasons alone, time to restore an American America is growing short. We may see the danger, but the Pat Strykers do not, and it is they who can shape policy. HRS
In answer to Mr. Sutherland, I would say that the cause of the Anglo-Saxon suicide is, simply, liberalism—the steady reduction of the human being to a pure entity constituted of rights and desires and therefore identical to all other human beings. From this follows the loss of any sense of transcendence as it relates to the concrete and collective aspects of our culture. Liberalism delegitimizes family, nationhood, culture, ethnicity, race, religion—all those collective entities that are larger than the self, that are inherited from the past, that convey a higher truth, and that constitute culture.
As a result, when their culture or nationhood is attacked, they have no response, because the thing being attacked has no objective reality or value to them.
Once again, what Mr. Auster says is true. Nevertheless, I am still flummoxed. Why, since at least the early 20th century, have ordinary people allowed or accepted unrelenting attacks on the most basic things one would have thought dear to them: their families, their churches, their towns, their countries?
Throughout history, societies have from time to time been subjected to rapid, often violent, change. The 20th century revolution - which shows no sign of ending - is remarkable in that more than most previous upheavals (but like its philosophical parent, the French Revolution) it demands a systematic denial of the obvious about human nature and society.
I am not talking about an attachment to high culture, valuable though that is. It is the willingness to allow basic social life to be stripped of so many of the things that ordered it and gave it meaning that I do not understand. Of course, by the time people of my generation came on the scene, the devastation was well advanced. (It may have accelerated thanks to the ’60s counterculture, but it certainly did not start there.) As a result, we have to imagine what a normally ordered society would be like, never having experienced one.
I suppose that means my question is one I would have to put to my grandparents and parents; really to every generation between about 1914 and 1980.
It is easy to understand how Old Scratch can sucker hubristic intellectuals into believing (or worse, dreaming up) the man-centered liberalism that blights our society, and the allure for them of the unchained individual - master of his fate. More ordinary people, who know we live life subject to many constraints, should be more resistant to evil nonsense.
The tragedy, and what I still don’t get even after Mr. Auster’s reasonable explanation, is the degree to which liberalism’s tenets have become ordinary people’s unspoken assumptions - even though the evidence of their own senses constantly contradicts them. Mr. Auster’s thesis explains why children of the new disorder are intellectually defenseless. It does not answer my question: why did earlier ordinary people who had the benefit of a more traditional formation fall for it? HRS
Perhaps we should turn to the historians among us and ask for historical examples of nations that have defeated liberalism. We could study the tactics used. It is my understanding that history repeats itself unless one learns from history.
To Mr. Sutherland. Perhaps the traditional people did not fall for it. Perhaps they were simply defeated. Maybe what follows are some reasons for the defeat. One, the generation born between 1900 and 1940 have been dying in great numbers since 1960. Two, many, if not most, older people dislike multiculturalism but need social security, Medicare, and a military (even though the military must resort to accepting female soldiers) to defend them. Liberals are buying their votes plain and simple. Three, few people knew the 1965 statute that opened the door to chain immigration would be devastating. Half the school children in Texas are Hispanic. Liberals are buying their votes.
Four, many older people have a blinding hatred for successful rich and upper-middle class businessmen (e.g., George Bush and Dick Cheney), which they irrationally associate with only republicans, which comprises the most voices against liberalism. (The hatred is stark, and I do not know the reason for the hatred. Envy maybe.) They believe in robbing Peter to pay Paul. Five, they feel defeated and therefore act defeated: they try to ignore multiculturalism and mass immigration. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Six, the older people that recognized the threat were busy raising their families and pursuing money, leisure, and career instead of building an opposition. It seems liberalism is about destruction, and it is far easier to destroy something than to build something. This last idea might be the root cause of many wars. The peacekeepers fell asleep while on watch. If the older people (and many of us) had not fallen asleep and had been politically active, things probably would be different. It is not that the older people were lazy; they simply misallocated their resources. I understand the misallocation because I find it very hard to allocate significant resources to activism.
Ordinary people have a natural and healthy aversion to hypocrisy. All modern republics are founded on (and base their legitimacy on) explicit liberal principles: freedom and equal rights as the highest rightful purpose of government, and separation of church and state. In a situation where for generations everyone professes and genuinely believes in explicit principles that are at odds with the implicit traditional good — Larry Auster has clearly identified “common sense” as the closest we can come to an appeal to the explicitly illiberal without being run out of town — it is only natural that the common person’s aversion to hypocrisy will, over time and generations, erode resistance to what everyone professes (and believes!) explicitly and publicly to be true.
As for Mr. Murgos’ question, I am no historian but I know of no long-term-successful resistance to liberalism, ever. So our current circumstance, if it is not completely hopeless (which indeed it may be), will ironically require traditionalists to “think outside of the box.” There is to my knowledge no existing and proven strategy that we can simply adopt and execute. Liberal polities have self-destructed before, but only to be replaced by more resilient forms of liberalism.
Mr. Sutherland is right to be flumoxed and to keep asking how people could let this happen. It can be explained up to a point, but it’s ultimately a mystery. In the early to mid 1980s, I would go around New York City, absolutely stunned by the transformed human environment which represented a total discontinuity with the entire history of our civilization, and look at other white people and wonder how they could just accept what was happening. So many times I’ve run into the fact of whites being utterly indifferent to the de-Europeanization of America, that it finally came down to the circular sounding answer: Whites don’t care about the disappearance of their people, culture, and nation, because they don’t care about their people, culture, and nation. And the reason they don’t care is liberalism, which told them their civilization is a bad thing because it is oppressive and superior relative to others, and so it needs to be brought down.
The psychology is akin to the attitude at work in Clinton’s direction of foreign affairs: It’s bad for America to have so much power compared to other countries, he believed, therefore it’s GOOD for America to LOSE power relative to other countries. So it was a good thing to transfer our nuclear secrets to the Red Chinese, and to waste our military resources in interminable “peace-keeping” missions.
However, Matt offers what may be a more interesting explanation for white’s acceptance of civilizational and racial suicide. If I understand correctly, he’s saying that people are not abandoning a genuine civilization; they’re abandoning a LIBERALIZED VERSION of that civilization. Liberalism emptied the civilization of its real content, while simultaneously blaming the civilization for its hypocrisy in not yet having become COMPLETELY contentless. As a result of all this, there was nothing left for people to be loyal to.
The archetype of this process is the Sixties revolt in the universities. The radicals weren’t rebelling against traditional universities; they were rebelling against secularized universities that had already been stripped of their traditional content and so had nothing real to offer them.
This suggests, by the way, that the way to win liberals back to tradition is not to offer them a liberalized version of tradition à la liberal Christianity, but to offer them real tradition.
Well, I think we are abandoning a genuine civilization in favor of formally liberal “civilization” because we have professed liberal principles explicitly, first as merely superior in authority to tradition and now to its complete exclusion from public discourse, for many generations. I think that what has happened is (at least partially, but significantly) explained as simply a multi-generational trend toward more consistency with our explicit secular creed. We have simply been credulous with what has been handed on to us, as any children are wont to be, despite the irony that what has been handed on to us is rebellion. The bumper sticker that says “be different, conform” summarizes the situation nicely, and it is no wonder that our youth descend into nihilism.
The English are I think largely responsible for saving us from self-destruction generations ago. Secularly the common law system enshrines a magisterial and traditional authority up and against purely formal creedal authority, and the Anglican Church’s minimalist adoption of protestant liberalism has preserved tradition against the tide for centuries. So it hasn’t been only the common man and his common sense that has preserved us: the stubborn minimally-conciliatory stiff-upper-lip anglo has kept his finger in the dike institutionally as well. But now nearly all institutions secular and religious are deeply infected, and the big liberal self-destruction may well be unstoppably underway.
I am glad, I suppose, that I am not the only one flummoxed. Mr. Auster’s observation that “liberalized tradition” is too thin a gruel to lure liberals is well-attested: Look at the collapse of religious practice and belief not only in mainline Protestant denominations but also in post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. In both cases (in the Catholic case somewhat checked by the Magisterium), churches desperate to be “relevant” have largely purged their preaching of uncomfortable dogma. It has lured almost no-one (with the exception perhaps of some homosexuals drawn to “accepting” post-Christian churches) and the formerly faithful are staying away from the Churches of Nothing Much in droves.
I wish I could agree with Matt that the common man and his common sense has preserved us. Much of the frustration that drove my last post comes from seeing that the common man, who should be more resistant to the self-evidently idiotic shibboleths of modern liberalism, isn’t preserving much of anything. We let ourselves be rolled by the liberal zeitgeist. It is no help, of course, that priests, ministers and rabbis who should confront the secular world cooperate with it instead.
I am biased, as a Roman Catholic convert from Anglicanism, but I have to disagree again with Matt. The Anglican Church, for many reasons having to do with Establishment in England and a general unwillingness to irritate anyone with too much theological disputation, has so vitiated what tradition it had that it is incapable, and institutionally unwilling, to defend Christian tradition. I have the greatest sympathy for Anglo-Catholics (I was one). I found in the end that for me, Rome was home, despite the many frustrations inherent in being a traditionally minded Catholic today. The frustration is very real: Perhaps coming to it from outside I have a greater appreciation of the strength and depth of Catholic tradition than many “cradle” Catholics, so am constantly amazed by how so many in the Church - too many of them in dog-collars - so casually toss it away.
Come to think of it, isn’t that the same as we Westerners casually jettisoning Western Civilization? HRS
Well, you need to take my comments as applying across several centuries. I agree that the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, and the common man, have not been able to mount permanently lasting resistence. The Vatican finally cracked in the 1960’s, for example (Paul VI actually said “the smoke of Satan has entered the Church,” and elsewhere explicitly disclaimed infallible status for all of Vatican II in Lumen Gentium — unprecedented in Church history). But the reason creedal liberalism did not result in the immediate self-destruction of Western civilization (in, say, 1700) is because it took time for everyone to sign on to the liberty and equality creed, and it took generations for the hypocrisy involved in professing liberty and equality while upholding tradition to erode the immune system I described.
Liberalism is a parasite and will self-destruct if left completely to itself. It has done so spectacularly on a number of occasions — the Reign of Terror, the collapse of Russian Communism, etc. Something has preserved Western civilization against that massive destructive power for many generations: I think the common sense of the common man (in opposition to his flight from hypocrisy), plus some institutional features that we inherited from the anglos, are major factors here.
I guess that most posters in this thread seem baffled that Western civilization has given up the fight against liberalism. Given the fact that liberalism has been the explicit creed of Western civilization for centuries now, I am more baffled that the resistence has held out so long. (I am a Roman Catholic also, by the way).
How could the common man win a war of culture and politics?
In Australia, most liberal trends have been deeply unpopular. Even today, for instance, foreign immigration is opposed by about 75% of the population, and only 2% support the higher rates of immigration pushed for by the newspapers and sections of business.
But there is no party for the ‘illiberal’ rank and file to vote for, no newspaper for them to buy, no school for them to send their children to.
There is a populist political party called One Nation which sprang up some years ago, which attracted a large number of votes. It has failed though because it couldn’t recruit enough educated, professional people to lead it.
If you want to identify where things have gone wrong, I don’t think it’s helpful to look at the failure of “ordinary people” to resist. I think that if blame is to apply anywhere, it should be directed at the failure of conservative intellectuals of the past to adequately articulate their creed, and to build some institutional support for their cause.
You only have to consider, what are the great texts of traditionalist conservatism? They hardly even exist.
The staggering truth is that most liberal movements of the past, in order to find an opposition, have had to wait for individual liberals to become disaffected.
The first step in effectively opposing liberalism is to adequately articulate traditionalist conservatism, so that it might potentially be adopted by young intellectuals. The second step is to build at least some forms of institutional support for a traditionalist movement.
I wouldn’t suggest that populism can win in the long run, nor do I “blame” the common man for failing to resist. I merely think that as a matter of fact popular common sense has been an impediment to liberalism and has therefore helped to preserve the West up to now. My perspective in the discussion has been to ask why liberalism has not completely self-destructed (taking Western civilization with it) sooner, rather than asking what went wrong. Asking what went wrong with a straight face would require me to ignore the fact that liberalism has been the explicit public creed of Western republics for literally centuries, so in that sense what went wrong couldn’t possibly be more obvious. The thing that begs explanation is why self-destruction has taken so long despite the universal cult and public creed of liberalism, it seems to me: what did NOT go wrong is the big mystery, rather than what did.
Also I do agree that the overt enemies of liberalism are nearly always other forms of liberals. The great capitalism-communism conflict is merely one example.
I agree with much of what Mr. Richardson says. American polls consistently show a large percentage of Americans are opposed to mass immigration. And we do forget that many (and maybe most) people have not fallen for anything; they know, for the most part at least, that liberals are frauds. Conservatives know liberals are no kinder and maybe are ruthless.
I also agree ordinary people (including myself) have lacked the words to articulate why liberals are frauds. Perhaps the ordinary person is like the used car buyer that knows he was swindled but cannot recite the particular laws that were violated or explain how the laws apply.
Perhaps, though, blaming has some usefulness. (Ridiculing and chastising, however, are inappropriate.) It would be helpful to understand why we are in this situation. Understanding will enable us to stop repeating our mistakes.
In addition, I do not see how we can shift blame from ourselves to a few intellectuals among our ranks. We all have been witnessing the destruction for many years, and many of us have remained inactive. Voting was not enough, and most of us knew it.
The greatest mistake is to wait. Act now. Even if we cannot explain exactly why we want what we want, we must, for example, write representatives and support candidates that share our views. We must delay the enemy while our generals can figure out the best counterattack, while we wait for a gifted communicator to step forth. Take heart that Congressman Tom Tancredo, leader of the immigration-reform caucus, was just re-elected in a landslide.
My comments, Matt, weren’t really directed against your posts. I agree with you that rank and file opinion has been an historical impediment to liberalism.
Also, I agree with Mr Murgos that it’s still worthwhile to support political movements to delay the further advance of liberalism.
Isn’t it strange, though, that the main intellectual opposition to the French Revolution came from Edmund Burke, a self-professed liberal until late in his life? That the main intellectual opposition to Victorian era feminism came from Eliza Linton, who again identified as a liberal until late in her life?
How could we expect a deliberate swing away from liberalism when we have to wait for individual liberals to become disenchanted with the excesses of their own movement, or when we have to wait for liberal movements to simply exhaust themselves?
I liked the comment Matt made in his post of Nov. 7th:
“Liberalism is a parasite and will self-destruct if left completely to itself.”
Liberalism cannot stand alone. Matt’s very true insight seems to recapitulate part of the point Jim Kalb was making in his blog entry of May 10th, entitled “Melanie Phillips and Western Identity”:
In it, Mr. Kalb says, “The insoluble problem [British journalist Melanie Phillips] faces is that liberalism needs family values and other forms of restraint and self-sacrificing loyalty to survive.”
Mr. Kalb is explaining how liberalism, in order to survive, needs things which traditionalists honor and which liberalism rejects, spits upon, and tries to undermine. Without admitting it, liberalism is an obligatory parasite on the very things which trads try to protect and resuscitate, without which it collapses.
Well, I can’t take credit. The insight about liberalism-as-parasite is really Jim Kalb’s, but I have become good at parroting it. Anything that seems untenable in my posts is of course mine alone.
Mark Richardson’s point about Burke et al is an oddity worth further exploration. What happened to “native” never-been-a-liberal traditionalism while all this was going on, anyway?
Some of this discussion points in the direction of the plot of Atlas Shrugged. Liberalism is irrational, destructive, and vicious, and so depends on rational, productive, and virtuous non-liberals it to keep the system going, even as it keeps demonizing those non-liberals both for their selfishness and lack of compassion, and for being the supposed cause of society’s problems. So, the argument of Atlas Shrugged goes, if the non-liberals simply got out of the way; if they stopped performing their dual task of keeping the liberal system going and simultaneously serving as the scapegoat (and thus legitimizer) of the liberal system, the liberal system would soon collapse. It’s only conservatives, small c, who keep the liberal order functioning. If conservatives/whites/Christians stopped fighting liberalism and instead just withdrew from the scene, the liberals wouldn’t have those evil conservatives/whites/Christians to blame any more, and, released from all opposition and criticism, would rapidly drive the society into the ground and thus bring about the death of liberalism.
I’m not endorsing the idea, but there is a compelling logic to it.
Mr. Auster’s post about Rand’s manifesto — which I have never read — is quite interesting for its own sake. It also provides more evidence for Mark Richardson’s peculiar but apparently true observation: Rand has been the essential libertine for many of the cyberyouth during the rise of the Internet. For many twenty-something technologists objectivism has become a way of grounding their libertinism in “reality”. Is this a terrible misreading of Rand or another instance of the Richardson Effect: that opposition to liberalism, even when illiberal, only comes from within?
I guess I should have said “organized opposition” in my characterization of the Richardson Effect, since there are many non-discursive natural impediments to liberalism as previously discussed.
Matt, I think you’re right about Rand, although I don’t have the advantage of having read Atlas Shrugged.
I do know that Rand declares in an appendix to the book that “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” John Galt, a character in the book, announces at the end that “With the sign of the dollar as our symbol, the sign of free trade and free minds, we will move to reclaim this country.”
These are classic statements of (radical) right liberalism. Note that the underlying philosophy is based on radical individualism: the only morality that exists is for individuals to seek their own happiness, and individual reason is declared to be the only ultimate authority.
Note also the typical emphasis of right liberals on economic activity, in this case the nobility of productive achievement, and the cause of free trade.
What happens when it is left to a Randite to oppose the liberal mainstream? In Australia we have actually had a Randite Prime Minister - Malcolm Fraser. You can get a sense of the worth of the “conservative” Mr Fraser from the following quote he made as a youthful politician in 1968.
He complained that one Australian university “recognises the following languages - French, German, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Italian, Russian and Japanese”. He then claimed that “the list as a whole is one belonging to the last century except for one of the languages mentioned.”
For Fraser, all of the languages were obsolete in Australia except for ….. Japanese. This observation was based entirely on trading patterns of the late 1950s and early 60s.
Fraser, in other words, inhabited a mental world in which Australia’s European heritage could be completely denied and tossed over in favour of short term trading interests.
Even mainstream conservatives now find it difficult to stomach Fraser, who, by the way, was instrumental in handing Zimbabwe into the tender care of Robert Mugabe.
Matt asked the question of what happened to native traditionalism.
I can only report what I have read in academic histories. It seems that there was an active and organised traditionalist movement in England in the 1600s. It had its main support among a section of the rural clergy and gentry. It survived Cromwell and it survived 1688.
However, when Queen Anne died without an heir in 1714(?) George of Hannover became monarch. George hated the English Tories as they had wanted Britain to withdraw from the continental wars of the time. George instituted a very effective purge which was carried on by his son.
In the meantime, liberal philosophy, as articulated by Locke and Hobbes et al, had transformed the intellectual landscape.
Therefore, by the time you get to a more Tory friendly monarch, George III, the organs of the state, and the media, were dominated by liberalism, and conservatism had to exist defensively within a liberal framework.
Matt has also previously asked the question of why liberalism, once it had become the explicit creed of Western culture, didn’t destroy things sooner. One possible answer to this is that the English liberalism of the 1700s was aristocratic and Whiggish.
Aristocrats were perhaps temperamentally less likely to institute a radical version of liberalism, existing as they did as part of a long-standing social hierarchy. More radical forms of liberal social policy seem to occur in England from the 1850s, when urban radicals became more influential within the Liberal Party.
Another point in this thread which I agreed with was one Mr. Sutherland made in his first post of Nov. 6th, to the effect that we should aim not just at restoring a reasonable immigration policy, but also at repatriation. I favor repatriation of incompatible immigrants already let in by the other side, if present here in unacceptably large numbers, “unacceptable” being determined by ethnic/demographic or political/electoral concerns (for example, it’s legitimate to humanely repatriate Muslims whom the other side has let in in numbers big enough to threaten the thwarting of this country’s traditional pattern of international alliances).
Here’s Sutherland: “I would encourage most to return to their home countries and make such contributions as they can to the life of their own nations. The United States’ immigration policy, for the foreseeable future, should encourage emigration and repatriation and accept basically no further immigration.”
Mr. Auster has expressed a similar idea. Here’s part of a letter I sent someone two weeks ago (in which I talk about this, then about strategy for our side in general):
“More great Auster at http://www.counterrevolution.net/vfr/archives/000888.html :
“Here’s Auster: ’ … we have no choice but to halt and reverse non-Western immigration.’
“Emphasis on the words ‘and reverse’ was added by me — I agree with not only stopping it but reversing it. We should aim at sending all illegals back outright, then sending the others back with financial inducements — to get an idea of how to undertake this humanely and to the satisfaction of everyone, see this Steve Sailer piece (Steve’s writing about a totally different subject, of course, but outlining remedies perhaps applicable by us to this one): http://www.isteve.com/kosovo.htm . I think too few are saying that. It’s nice to see when someone does say it. The ‘stealth genocide by immigration’ forces think if they can just keep the numbers up a bit longer the game’ll be over anyway because Americans are too kind-hearted to enforce repatriation, and then birthrates will finish the job. They should not be allowed to prevail in this way. Commentators should keep mentioning repatriation, as Auster does here — should keep it in the debate.
“Auster again: ‘As for the most influential non-Christian group in America, the Jews, with their small numbers they don’t threaten the legitimacy of the majority religion and culture demographically, as is the case with massive numbers of Muslims and other non-Westerners. Rather, Jewish intellectuals and activists have challenged the majority Christian culture through cultural criticism and law suits using the Fourteenth Amendment as the weapon of choice in overturning local cultural and religious practices. Once the Incorporation Doctrine is repealed and the Fourteenth Amendment returned to its proper and limited sphere (i.e., protecting fundamental human rights rather than expressive rights), the activists’ ability to interfere with the lawful and normal customs and institutions of local Christian majorities would be severely curtailed.’
“This wisdom by Auster is just what we need — simple, concrete analysis of part of the problem, and simple, concrete suggestions on how to fix it.
“Jewish-American and other activists have prevailed by concentrating their forces with great precision on a few of our bedrock’s weakest spots, in such a way that when the granite finally gives and splits, they gain leverage to tear the entire system down. Euro-Christian élites must do the same in reverse — employ pin-point concentration of their forces on a few key spots such as the one Auster recommends overthrowing — ‘the Incorporation doctrine’ — and the one Craig Nelsen’s [ www.ProjectUSA.org ] group FILE is now attacking in Federal court. [FILE seeks to rectify the current totally false interpretation of the XIVth Amendment as automatically making any foreign child born on U.S. soil a citizen — the ‘anchor-baby’ problem.]
“Auster is strategizing. If only our moneyed élites are listening. People like Auster and Nelsen are brilliantly showing them where to apply their money and influence. If our own wealthy, powerful élites can’t find their way even after being spoon-fed the directions, we stand little chance.”
Another thought on the crumpling of the elites and nonresistance of the rank-and-file: I’m reading a book on the medieval heresies and it seems they all had to do with a one-sided demand for “evangelical poverty.” Give up everything limited, concrete and this-worldly that you possess and the things that separate you from the infinite absolute won’t be there any more. Since being a white male American or whatever is limited, concrete and this-worldly it too should be given up.
I suppose that’s really the same point as the one I made earlier about gnosticism (the guilt of finitude) as the explanation for multiculturalism ( http://www.counterrevolution.net/vfr/archives/000940.html#2000 ). I thought I’d throw in some other heretics though. Also, the basic point is that liberalism presents an absolutely fundamental religious problem and must be understood and dealt with as such.
To Unadorned: Thanks for the kind comments.
To Mr. Kalb: The view of liberalism as a gnostic-type Christian heresy makes a lot of sense. But we need to understand that the reason there have been so many gnostic-type Christian heresies, including liberalism, is that there is something inherent in Christianity that lends itself to that potentiality. Here is a brief passage on this idea from my forthcoming pamphlet, Erasing America:
This troubling indifference toward our historic culture can be seen even among conservative Christians. Embracing a universalist individualism that recognizes no ecclesiastical institution or tradition as a carrier of truth, but only each individual’s unmediated relationship with God, the leading voices of today’s conservative denominations, ranging from Protestant evangelicals to the Roman Catholic hierarchy, seem to put little stock in the inherited cultural and aesthetic values of the Christian West.
The deeper problem this phenomenon points to is that Christian faith, though it is the center of the West’s historic and spiritual being, cannot by itself provide the enduring structure of Western society or of any other concrete society. As indicated by Jesus in his distinction between the things of Caesar and the things of God, religious faith must work in a proper balance with worldly values—among which are the values of culture. Without a particular earthly culture to ground it, and an articulated Church tradition to give it lasting form, Christianity can easily spin off into utopian universalist notions, such as the open-borders ideology, that spell the death of any existing culture.
“Here is a brief passage on this idea from my forthcoming pamphlet, Erasing America:”
Mr. Auster, please let us know how we may purchase this pamphlet, once it’s available. Thanks!
Liberalism did spring from Christianity, it seems to me, despite the fact that it is deeply hostile to Christianity, and looking at it as a Christian heresy seems useful. Liberal equality specifically seems like an attempt to look at “judge not lest ye be judged” from an inverted perspective. The “judge not” universalism of course proclaims that we shouldn’t try to put ourselves in God’s place, and that the moral qualia inside others’ minds and hearts are forever beyond our perception, but not God’s. So we can’t objectively value a person-as-a-whole or a person-on-the-inside, nor should we try to build a tower to the sky to be like God so that we can.
Just as a “right to property” pretends to be a phenomenological (that is, radically from the perspective of the individual) restatement of “thou shalt not steal,” liberal equality pretends to correspondence with “judge not.” The problem is that the perspective-shifting is dysfunctional (in both cases).
Liberalism turns the negative prescriptive proposition “judge not” into the positive ontological judgement that all are equal. If “judge not” also applied to God then from the perspective of omniscience radical moral equivalence becomes ontological truth. So liberalism at bottom, at least in its beginnings, is an attempt to take Christian morality seriously but putting us in the place of God.
Fundamentally, liberalism is like a secularized Christian morality for the acutely arrogant and unimaginative. Thomas Jefferson was formally and openly a Deist heretic. Some not-very-carefully-selected (no time for research today) quotes appropriate to his view of equality and its relation to Christianity follow:
JEFFERSON ON SUBSTANTIVE RACIAL EQUALITY:
“And I am safe in affirming that the proofs of genius given by the Indians of N. America, place them on a level with Whites in the same uncultivated state … . I believe the Indian then to be in body & mind equal to the whiteman. I have supposed the black man, in his present state, might not be so; but it would be hazardous to affirm, that, equally cultivated for a few generations, he would not become so.” Thomas Jefferson to Marquis de Chastellux June 7, 1785.
JEFFERSON ON CHRISTIANITY:
“The Christian religion, when divested of the rags in which they [the clergy] have enveloped it, and brought to the original purity and simplicity of it’s benevolent institutor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expansion of the human mind.” — Thomas Jefferson, to Moses Robinson, 1801
“But the greatest of all reformers of the depraved religion of his own country, was Jesus of Nazareth. Abstracting what is really his from the rubbish in which it is buried, easily distinguished by its lustre from the dross of his biographers, and as separable from that as the diamond from the dunghill, we have the outlines of a system of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of man. The establishment of the innocent and genuine character of this benevolent morality, and the rescuing it from the imputation of imposture, which has resulted fro artificial systems, invented by ultra-Christian sects (The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of the Hierarchy, etc.) is a most desirable object.” - Thomas Jefferson to W. Short, Oct. 31, 1819
“Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others, again, of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being. I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; restore him to the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, the roguery of others of his disciples. Of this band of dupes and imposters, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and the first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus.” - Thomas Jefferson to W. Short, 1820
“The truth is, that the greatest enemies of the doctrine of Jesus are those, calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them to the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” - Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, Apr. 11, 1823
“The metaphysical insanities of Athanasius, of Loyola, and of Calvin, are, to my understanding, mere lapses into polytheism, differing from paganism only by being more unintelligible.” - Thomas Jefferson to Jared Sparks, 1820
“Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.”
— Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814
JEFFERSON ON EQUALITY’s RELATION TO THE WILL:
“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”
— Thomas Jefferson, letter to Isaac H. Tiffany (1819)
“Life is of no value but as it brings us gratifications.” Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, February 20, 1784
Particularly appropriate to my earlier posts is Jefferson’s disclaimer of the relation between Christianity and the common law. Radical liberals like Jefferson have always had to struggle against the institutionalized Anglo tradition and magisterium we call “common law” in order to carry out their radical revolutionary programmes. So one of my hypotheses here is that there have been not-formally-antiliberal, but yet substantively antiliberal, Anglo institutions that have helped to preserve the West.
To continue the theme a bit more, at the risk of talking to myself, the common-law impediment is part of the reason that the Supreme Court and Judicial Review became so important to liberals. The common law can be tamed to the liberal will as long as, like a Post-council-of-Trent Pope making ex cathedra proclamations from the seat of Peter, Popes Douglas and Warren on the Court can declare anathema anything they see as violating fundamental liberal dogma. So for example Griswold can be declared explicitly to have a previously unexplicit “right of privacy” that insures he can walk around in public waving his pack of condoms in front of the children of Connecticut, and Roe can invoke the same (now explicitly ex cathedra) right of privacy as justification for publicly murdering her child in utero despite the laws of Texas and district attorney Wade. With the UN emerging as a secular papacy for the church of liberalism it becomes clear that liberalism is capable of possessing virtually any aspect of Christendom and bending it to her will. Who is like the Beast, and who can fight against him?
I would appreciate someone explaining two important paragraphs in Matt’s post today at 01:07 PM. The paragraphs begin with “Liberalism did spring” and “Liberalism turns the negative.” Both paragraphs refer to counterarguments to suffocating liberal slogans I hear almost daily. (If it is not too much to ask, one or two examples or parables would help to make the explanations more understandable.)
“Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.”
I would have said, “Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the [Anglo-Saxon] common law, but men do not live by the common law alone. When the child lies gravely ill, no mother or father prays to the Anglo-Saxon common law.”
Mr. Murgos: perhaps fewer words would be better, though possibly less precise. Liberal equality I think originated in the Christian maxim “judge not”. If it were true that God were to “judge not” that would imply that all are in fact morally equal, since God sees, knows, and therefore judges everything as a consequence of His omniscience. So if we take “judge not” seriously and at the same time set ourselves up as God we end up at liberal equality.
To Unadorned: I don’t know enough history to discuss it properly from an historical perspective, but in the abstract it seems to me that a common law system, specifically contrasted to a code law system, will hold specific concrete traditions in at least as much esteem as it holds any explicit self-contained discursive credal abstractions. A code law system mimics _sola scriptura_ — the statutory is theoretically all there is — while a common law system carries the triune authority of statute, magisterium, and concrete tradition.
So even though structural common law may have preceded Christianity (I don’t actually know if it did or not, only that Jefferson claimed that it did) one assumes that after Camelot much of Christian tradition was incorporated into the substantive body which the common law structure applies. So it was important for a liberal like Thomas Jefferson to deny the fact of Christian content within English common law in order to advance his Deist/materialist agenda without the traditional impediment that the Anglo common-law legacy *content* would create. To Jefferson common law had to be reduced to an empty abstraction, viewed only as container rather than container + contained, because as a container of actual authoritative substantive Anglo-Christian tradition it could otherwise have thwarted his radical vision.
Maybe there is a legal historian around with an opinion better informed by the actual debate over freedom of religion and its relation to the concrete content of English common law that was incorporated in the U.S. Constitution. I don’t know much about what was actually said when and by whom, but I have my expectations based on how common law works.
Lawrence Auster expressed very well in his post the connection between a universalist individualism within Christianity and liberalism.
However, I doubt if this was the ultimate source of liberalism. If so, you would have to go back a considerable way, since most of the great liberal thinkers since the Renaissance have not been primarily interested in Christianity.
Instead, they have been largely humanistic in their outlook. If their liberalism had been motivated by their reading of the New Testament this would have been clear in their writings.
Most of them assume a materialistic explanation of reality, with God somehow fitted in to this, and their prime interest is often the increasing mastery of humans over their social and material environment.
Furthermore, there are other religions which have the potential to encourage liberalism, and yet liberalism hasn’t emerged to the same degree as in the West. Buddhism, for instance, encourages its followers to give up all mental attachments, which you would think would undermine the connection to a particular tradition. Yet the Buddhist nations seem to have suffered less from liberalism than the West.
By the way, Matt, I much enjoyed your Jefferson quotes. Are these from a book of Jefferson’s letters? Jefferson puts the liberal thought processes very clearly, as in the line that “Life is of no value but as it brings us gratifications.” He would have approved of the modern mantra of “As long as it makes you happy..”
Interesting points from Mark Richardson.
Liberalism seems to me Christianity with God removed. As such, it retains historical dynamism and the notion that man is important. That is why it comes out of a Christian and not Buddhist society. Even those who reject a basic point of Christianity, and so are no longer Christian, retain on the whole the forms of thought of the Christian society surrounding them. On the other hand, without God there can be no Creation, so material existence can express nothing but what we put into it. Everything becomes raw material for us to do with as we choose. And that, it seems to me, is the basic principle of liberalism. (Incidentally, it seems to me that the reason liberalism can’t be based specifically on the Bible is that if material existence can tell us nothing, public revelation is impossible.)
On the common law — the point of Jefferson’s denial that Christianity is part of the Common Law is that Hale, Blackstone, Mansfield and others had said the contrary. And there can’t have been much in the Common Law as it stood at the time of the settlement of America that preceded the conversion of England, although it’s true that almost everything comes from something earlier and that principle no doubt applies to the Common Law as well.
Decades ago, William Buckley quoted Whittaker Chambers to the effect that Christianity without the Cross is Liberalism.
Thanks to Matt. If I understand Matt, using “judge not” is inappropriate or dysfunctional when discussing the relative moralities of cultures as a whole or nations? “Judge not” applies only when discussing whether or not some individual or group is going to hell?
This seems to mean that an effective counterargument to the liberal’s “judge not” is “judge not is inappropriate when discussing the relative moralities of cultures as a whole or nations. Judge not applies only when discussing whether or not some individual or group is going to hell.” In almost all cases, the liberal is not talking about heaven and hell; liberal propaganda has left the average liberal defenseless here.
Mr. Wleklinski, yes — didn’t that quote go something like this? — “Liberalism is Christ without the cross, and the cross without Christ is Communism.”
Mr. Murgos: judging that all are morally equal in value is in fact an assertive judgement. So it is a violation of “judge not”, although it may arise from an attempt to be God and take the moral law seriously at the same time. Those kinds of arguments may be useful when a liberal attempts to claim that liberalism and Christianity demand the same things. This happens often in modern churches, although I think in the larger society the argument will fall flat. The origins of liberalism (the focus of recent posts) are different from what liberalism actually *is* ontically, and most run of the mill liberals aren’t going to be persuaded to give up their world view based on this argument-from-Christian-origins. The usefulness of the argument is in refuting the notion that liberalism and Christianity demand the same things; in fact they are sworn blood enemies. All told I was more interested in whether or not it is true than in whether it is polemically useful. Mark Richardsom may be saying that Christianity was something early liberals had to deal with rather than liberalism being a Christian heresy; there may be merit to both views. Protestantism is I think a mixture of Catholic Christianity and Islam (primarily as transmitter of Greek philosophy but also as bundling everything important in a specific text), and it isn’t unreasonable to view liberalism as an offshoot of Protestantism.
Mr. Richardson: my sources are mainly on-line. The Library of Congress has a database of 27,000 Jefferson documents:
They are scanned images of the originals, so even though they are searchable by keyword it is tedious primary research to put anything thematic together. Fortunately all manner of axe-grinders around the Web have done that, and the primary documents can be used to verify the quotes and their context. Having had a few Jefferson discussions over the last decade I’ve got some of my own favorites that I pull out when they seem appropriate. I’m glad you enjoyed them. Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s writings are directly responsible for my own apostasy from uncritical founder-veneration years ago; but it was an Internet thing for me rather than a book thing. Most people don’t realize that Usenet has been around since the mid eighties.
Please disregard my last post and substitute the following.
Thanks to Matt. If I understand Matt, it follows that “judge not” applies only when discussing whether or not some individual or group is going to hell?
This seems to mean that an effective rebuttal to the liberal’s “judge not” is “judge not is inappropriate unless one is discussing whether or not some individual or group is going to hell.” In almost all cases, the liberal is not talking about heaven and hell; liberal propaganda has left the average liberal defenseless here.
All that said, the “gratifications” quote is new to me and I haven’t been able to verify it in the primary Library of Congress documents (not that the LOC claims to be comprehensive). The citation usually given is: “From Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society, New York: George Braziller, 1965, p. 305”.
Atheists on line love to quote Jefferson because he was so explicitly anti-Christian in his private letters.
This information is really nice but I simply asked for information on three people that President James Madison dislikes.It was good information, but you helped me in the wrong way.
Mark Richardson wrote last November in this thread:
“By the way, Matt, I much enjoyed your Jefferson quotes. Are these from a book of Jefferson’s letters? Jefferson puts the liberal thought processes very clearly, as in the line that ‘Life is of no value but as it brings us gratifications.’ He would have approved of the modern mantra of ‘As long as it makes you happy.’”
I’m not sure this is a correct intrepretation. In the late 18th century they had a different understanding of the meaning of these words. For example, happiness didn’t mean satisfaction of desires, it means the fulfillment of a good life in conditions of freedom, with each man at peace under his own vine and fig tree. It was a substantive vision of the good. So even the sentence which sounds to sinister to us, “Life is of no value but as it brings us gratifications,” would not have been so to Jefferson and Madison. When they thought of gratifications, they were thinking of the pleasures of a life well lived in pursuit of the good.
Now I know people will jump on me and point out that the founders’ liberalism led to the modern liberalism because it didn’t articulate the substantive good. All true. But it’s also true that they weren’t simply modern liberals saying “Do it if it makes you happy.”