Glitz and tyrants
of the rich and famous for a left-wing tyrant: Critics assail Fidel Castro’s grip on
. Why is mass-market entertainment and fashion left-wing? In part it’s because pop culture likes the exotic,
miraculous and sexy — that’s what pleases the public — and a Caribbean Marxist paradise run by a personally
magnetic strongman fits the bill. In part it’s because the world of entertainment and fashion is self-seeking and narcissistic.
Those who inhabit it find a thousand reasons — from the short-lived sweetness of money and acclaim to the reality of lies and betrayal — to
think human desire is the ultimate moral reality, and to be dissatisfied with the world the play of desire has so far produced.
A moral and political outlook that aims to reconstruct the world by force, but still on the basis of real human desires,
therefore attracts their interest.
Which suggests another reason. Celebrities follow the lead of their betters in the cultural elite, and a cultural elite that has rejected God
naturally becomes left-wing. It is God who makes things what they are. Conversely, if there is no God then whoever defines what
things are becomes God. The function of a cultural elite that has rejected God is to decide on its own — to construct
through its cultural work — what the world really is. Such an elite gravitates toward political views that treat the human world as a human
creation that requires conscious reconstruction. After all, if making culture constructs reality, then to
become the minister of culture in a Marxist state, backed by despotic power, is to become divine. Who could turn that down?
Posted by Jim Kalb at December 26, 2002 10:05 AM | Send
“…a cultural elite that has rejected God naturally becomes left-wing.” Surely you can not be unfamiliar with Ayn Rand, atheist, conservative and creator of a most logical philosophical system. Your religious right, illogical underpinnings are showing. Perhaps, you need to to change your site from VFR to VFRR, it being self evident what the extra “R” is for.
Also, who could have been more anti Marxist?
I’ve read Miss Rand. As you point out she was both atheist and anti-Marxist, although I don’t consider her conservative or particularly logical. Either way it doesn’t much matter. She has been uniformly rejected, with contempt, by the intellectual and cultural elites that actually exist and function in the West. Those elites have made even Nietzsche function as a left-winger, and they were the topic of discussion.
First, it’s not just that Mr. Kalb doesn’t consider Ayn Rand a conservative; she herself said she wasn’t one.
Second, it’s true she was both atheist and anti-leftist. She was however a radical libertarian, and libertarians share with leftists the denial of any truth higher than man. Denying the natural, social, and transcendent bases of human existence, elevating human will to an absolute, both leftism and libertarianism mean the destruction of civilization.
Also, the statements by Mr. Kalb are logical. To echo Mr. Auster’s previous statement: If people only follow their base urges instead of appealing to something larger than themselves then society will disintegrate. To perhaps clarify and refine his point: The left defines this “transcendant” element as humanity as a whole. Libertarians are even more corrosive and radical - only one’s own desires are important - the will of an individual. One can see radical nationalism in this rubric pretty easily: the particular people transcend all else.
The danger of the left is that it seeks to destroy all that makes up what humanity truly is: culture, religion, and history. But they do this by appealing to “humanity” as a whole. To paraphrase de Maistre, I have met Brits, Pakistanis, Indians, and Russians but I have not met “Humanity”.
In reply to John, Mr. Kalb has in the past made the argument, and I’ve found it pretty persuasive, that the left no longer believes in “humanity” as it once did. “Humanity” is a larger whole transcending the self. But the modern left has become post-modern; it no longer believes in any larger wholes, even the larger whole of godless humanity. It only believes in the self and its impulses.
While I agree with everything that’s been said about libertarians like Rand, and about the human self-deification in the denial of God, it seems to me that George’s challenge hasn’t really been met.
What is it about the “cultural elite” that, when they reject God, they “naturally” become leftists rather than libertarians? From what Mr. Kalb and others have said so far, it seems that they would have both options open to them. So why do they opt for the statist solution?
While we’re at it, who are the “cultural elites” whom the celebrities described in the article are following? It might help clarify the discussion if some typical representatives were named.
To Charlie, this is kinda difficult to explain but i’ll have a go as someone who recently came over to the ‘dark side’ or whatever ‘reason’ is called nowadays.
I rejected God because I could not resolve an answer to a Question. The Question was: ‘If I am responsible for my actions in this universe, then since God created me by his actions then God is responsible for me and every stupid thing I have even done in my life(no free will)? So my choices as I saw them were either, 1) God Manufactured me and thus I will have no respect for the notion of taking responsibility for my actions as i can simply blame ‘gods will’ on everything: ‘he made me therefore I can just blame everything I mess up on him’, 2) I am responsible for my own actions and he didnt create me at all.
I choose the latter.
There is a 3rd choice, reject god, believe the state is responsible for your well-being as an almost semi-transcendant apparatus and thus favour it extending its influence over you to hopefully radiate a feeling of security for you. Maybe even radically intervene to prevent the worlds disasters to make your bad-conscience feel better, when god is replaced the state becomes the big daddy. You hate it at the same time as you wish it to grow as it never fulfils the role expected of it. This is what I see as Leftism.
As I see it taking responsibility and not being a victim is the only option left when you reject God and leftist thought.
“As I see it, taking responsibility and not being a victim is the only option left when you reject God and leftist thought.” — Stephen
Isn’t “taking responsibility and not being a victim” also “the only option left” when you accept God?
You are the sheep to the shepherd herder when you accept god, you lose your will when you embrace him. You lose responsibility and as he is the creator he has the primary responsibility for your actions. He asks you to grow, but in the end all judgments you make in life are his responsibility. He is responsible for his herd as he has absolute wisdom and power. He has no reason to allow his sheep to stray unless it was his intent.
By “cultural elites” I mostly had in mind successful artists, playwrights, theatrical directors, critics, editors, museum and foundation officials, public intellectuals etc.
Such people aren’t likely to be radical individualists because:
1. As members of an influential elite they like things that give influential elites more power. In particular, they’d like to make culture as authoritative as possible, and culture is something people have in common.
2. They like government money and want more of it. The arts aren’t self-supporting and suffer from chronic oversupply of product, so free-market solutions don’t seem attractive.
3. Libertarianism tends to favor business elites, which to some extent are in competition with cultural elites.
I don’t see how no God goes with personal responsibility. To be responsible is to be answerable to someone or something or some set of standards. If there are only atoms and the void there’s nothing to answer to. There are only facts, and whatever I do the deed is equally a fact.
If the answer is that I answer to myself, it seems a pointless procedure. If I am the standard then when I measure myself by the standard of myself I always measure up perfectly. Why bother?
Stephen seems to think that a created thing cannot have free will. Stephen also says “[God] has no reason to allow his sheep to stray unless it was his intent.”
This is a restatement or particular instance of the Problem of Evil. Stated as a question, the PoE would be “how can evil exist in a world created by a perfectly good omnipotent God?” The question appears deceptively rational, but at bottom it is an expression of a wish for personal death.
1) God loves me. Not some putative possible perfect me that would not actually be me, but the actual me as I am.
2) It is not possible for me to be me without all of the things that lead up to me. I am a product of a particular history, and that particular history has evil in it. Without that history it is not _logically possible_ for me to exist at all.
3) Therefore the existence of evil is the result of the fact that God loves me specifically. God has made the judgement that I am worth it . God of course could have chosen not to create me. The existence of evil is an affront to God, and is entirely my a result of my own existence. Evil and I are ontically inseparable.
Suppose God gave the choice to me. I could choose for there to be no evil whatsoever. If I chose that, though, I would be choosing the preemptive annihilation of myself, all that I love, and everything that actually exists.
Stephen’s analysis leaves out original sin, and of course leaving out a crucial doctrine leads to error. The only logical options are 1) this world with its flaws, or 2) personal annihilation and annihilation of everything and everyone I have ever known and loved. To complain that God allows evil is to complain that God allows me. To ask for the retroactive elimination of evil and the Fall is to ask for Death.
God, of course, solves the puzzle by providing redemption rather than simply disallowing evil — and therefore me and all that is important to me — a-priori.
To Stephen: Your reflections on religion are based on abstract syllogisms and bear no relationship to the actual reality of any religion or the experience of any religious person. I’m not telling you to be religious. I am telling you that your thought process about the subject is disconnected from any relevant reality. They remind me of the abstract thought process that led me to become an atheist for a while when I was 13 years old.
Do the cultural elites come to the idea of government as patron before or after their success?
I can see how, when the wealthy are not buying their “art”, artists might, in their resentment, convince themselves that the wealthy are not qualified to judge the matter. From there they move to the notion that there are no objective standards (which might condemn their “art”), only individual artistic “genius”. Since each artist has a need to be supported as he pursues his art, unfettered by the judgment of others, the appropriate patron is pluralistic government, especially one which views subsidies as entitlements.
On this analysis, the difference between the cultural elite and the radical individualist is that the former begin as “starving artists”, and refuse to sacrifice their art in order to make a living for themselves. I.e., they are, in their essence, non-assimilationists demanding subsidies from a culture they despise.
To Stephen: free will is one of the deepest mysteries. It is a necessary precondition of our fallen nature, but it is also what makes us fitting companions for God. No one deserves praise or blame for something they were forced to do; it is only when we were free to have done otherwise that our actions have moral significance. So, the mysterious gift of free will is what gives us the potential to be moral.
Christianity, of course, teaches that by ourselves we are not capable of being perfectly moral. We are fallen, and this means we almost inevitably do evil. (Usually this is because we give in to our animal nature —- that part of ourselves which is governed by instinct rather than free will.) But God, in His Mercy, has not automatically condemned us for our failures: He sent a Redeemer, and through Christ we are restored to our place in the company of God.
Love, whether it be the love of God or of another human being, is not something we earn as a result of our good behavior. It isn’t something we deserve. In fact, if the truth were known, we would all deserve to be “divorced”, because we are all sinners. The miracle, however, is that despite all our faults, God still loves us, as do some of our fellow human beings. That is a humbling realization, but it is also cause for Joy.
J.Kalb, sure there are just atoms and the void but I am personally responsible for my actions and entwined with people in my family, clan, nation and culture. My responsibilities are measured against expectations in this group, I bother because I am inextricably linked with this greater body of people who share interdependencies. I donít fully understand this interdependence, I just know itís really important. Measuring up to my own standard does not limit me either, my ideals are still higher than my abilities. I consider self-improvement good.
I donít know how this relates to the problem of evil, I myself base decisions on a morality where any good or evil is relative to ones own perspective. What is useful to me is good, what is definitely not useful, evil. And the decisions I made under this have served we well, I have no real free will but am a material product, a collection of atoms plugged into the universe, I am not special, fallen, looking to be redeemed. Iím not looking to be saved.
L.Auster’s unhelpful comments that my thoughts are disconnected from any relevant reality do not make for anything useful and are in fact, probably evil by my own measure.
To Laurence: Your reflections on atheism are based on abstract syllogisms and bear no relationship to the actual reality of any atheism or the experience of any atheistic person. I’m not telling you to be atheist. I am telling you that your thought process about the subject is disconnected from any relevant reality. They remind me of the abstract thought process that led me to become religious for a while when I was 13 years old.
“how can evil exist in a world created by a perfectly good omnipotent God?”
I donít consider this is what I meant, I am not restating this old phrase Ėprobably the phrase Laurence was referring to earlier about his own previous atheist stint as a 13yr old.
There is evil in the world, I was created by an evil process, and that I can be redeemed from it should not be a concern for me, there will always be evil in the world and sometimes I will even be that evil. I am not wishing for death, I wish to increase my influence on Life the whole time. Surely a constructive way to live?
Iím not saying im a hater of religion like so many leftist nihilists and self-haters. I see it as useful to me that people are basing their moralities on something that is pretty sound, even if it may end up resulting in their destruction at the hands of the multiculturalism activists.
Stephen earlier wrote:
“You are the sheep to the shepherd herder when you accept god, you lose your will when you embrace him. You lose responsibility and as he is the creator he has the primary responsibility for your actions. He asks you to grow, but in the end all judgments you make in life are his responsibility. He is responsible for his herd as he has absolute wisdom and power. He has no reason to allow his sheep to stray unless it was his intent.”
I appreciate that Stephen doesn’t want his comments interpreted as a paint-by-numbers problem-of-evil reaction to a caricature of religiosity as Calvinistic predestination, but I don’t know any other way to interpret them. Unless Stephen is addressing that caricature rather than any actual traditional (and specifically not Calvinistic) Christianity I don’t know how he can claim that, in the religious world view he is addressing, “[we] lose [our] will when [we] embrace him” and “[we] lose responsibility”, etc. It certainly sounds like Stephen is addressing either Calvinism or some caricature of Christianity that does not resemble the Catholic/Anglican traditionalist Christianity I know and love. For what purpose would there be a Sacrament of Confession, for example, if we had no personal responsibility for anything? For that matter what purpose redemption at all? What exactly is it that is being redeemed?
Also, Stephen should spend some time in e.g. Scotland and watch how closely individual sheep are (not) micro-managed by actual shepherds. The modern sense of the metaphor is that a “sheep” has no free will and is basically a puppet on strings; but I doubt that was the sense intended in the Good Shepherd metaphor. If the relation between omnipotent God and us is proportional to that between shepherd and sheep, then we are free and responsible individuals indeed. In fact a child is much more a puppet of a parent than an individual sheep is puppet of a shepherd, in actual practice. We don’t connect properly to the metaphor because we are not ubiquitously shepherds these days.
I don’t see anything liberating or enlightening about being responsible to the expectations of your group simply because they are the expectations of your group. Sounds rather mechanical. And I don’t understand what it means to talk about something being “higher,” “really important,” “useful,” or a “good” if there’s just atoms and the void. What can be good or useful to an arrangement of atoms? I do think you’re leaving a great deal out of your picture of things.
Stephen is offended by my comment that his thoughts about religion are out of touch with reality. Here’s what Stephen initially said: that to believe in God means to conclude that “God manufactured me and thus I will have no respect for the notion of taking responsibility for my actions as I can simply blame ‘gods will’ on everything: ‘he made me therefore I can just blame everything I mess up on him.’”
I repeat that Stephen’s observations bear no relationship to reality. There is no mentally normal Christian or Jew who thinks that believing in God relieves him of responsibility for his own actions and gives him the license to “blame everything on God’s will.” This is simply a caricature of religion.
Stephen, I would simply suggest that there are other solutions to the question you said led you to reject God. I hope you will reconsider.
I do agree that, once God is rejected, some kind of pragmatism emerges as the only remaining standard of right and wrong, and —- to return to the original topic —- that this pragmatism is one of the reasons the cultural elites embrace leftism.
But saying something is useful is to invite the questions, “Useful to what end?” and “Which ends should we choose?” I don’t see how pragmatism can help us when it comes to selecting ultimate ends (the ones which aren’t selected because they contribute toward some other goal, but are what Kant called “ends in themselves”).