How can the left insist that we look at minorities only as individuals, while simultaneously favoring minorities as groups?
writes from Canada:
About the apparent honor killing on the streets of London, you wrote:
It’s all a mystery how such savage violence appeared in England. It’s beyond us. And it must remain beyond us, because it is wicked and immoral to think that people’s ethnicity, race, and religion matter. People should be seen only as individuals, not as members of any group.
Yet everything we know about these people, every law we erect to protect them, every racist epithet we throw at the poor people who dare to question them, every right we provide to them, are ALL based on these “individuals” being members of protected groups. That’s how they define themselves, that’s how they want to be treated under the law, during employment, etc.
How can we maintain this contradiction? “Everyone should be treated as an individual,” yet every time we treat them as individuals, they hide behind their group identity and claim special group rights that go far beyond individual rights. How is it that the liberals can extend individual rights to members of collectives, but only expect those individual rights to be observed by us who appreciate them yet can be ignored by the multiculturalists who would never wanted individual rights?
To restate your point: On one hand, liberals-leftists and ethnic minorities reject any kind of negative generalization about protected groups. They say we must look at everyone as an individual. For example, the mass murderer Nidal Hasan is not to be seen as having beliefs and views common to Muslims as a group; he must be seen solely as an individual, whose crime proceeded solely from individual, not collective factors. On the other hand, everything liberals-leftists and minorities demand for the protected groups, they demand for them as a group. And your question is, how can this be? How can the liberals do this, how can they justify this gross contradiction, how can they get away with it?
The difficulty conservatives continually have with this type of issue is that it seems to them that the liberals are practicing a huge double standard, and this double standard bothers them, it’s illogical, unfair, contradictory, hypocritical.
But looked out more deeply, it’s not a double standard, but a single standard. The standard is: whatever helps advance the left, whatever helps enhance the power of the protected groups, whatever helps weaken traditional Western society, is good. And the opposite of those things is bad.
Thus prohibiting any negative true statement about the group characteristics of a low-ability, dysfunctional, non-assimilating, hostile, or violent minority helps weaken traditional society and advance the left and the minorities; therefore it is good.
At the same time, giving those same low-ability, dysfunctional, non-assimilating, hostile, or violent minorities special privileges and entitlements based on their group characteristics also weakens traditional society and advances the left and the minorities; so it also is good.
In fact, banning criticism of a group and insisting that any negative characteristics of members of that group must only be seen as the characteristics of individuals and not of the group, is also a group privilege. Protecting a whole group from being spoken of critically as a group is a group privilege, just as much as giving the group special advancements is a group privilege.
Why do conservatives fail to grasp this truth about liberals, that liberals don’t have a double standard, but a single standard?
Because conservatives assume that liberals share with them, beneath their various mutual disagreements, a common belief in the society, in fairness, and in discourse. It is in relation to those values that conservatives feel that liberals practice a self-seeking double standard.
But in fact the liberals-leftists do not believe in those nice old fashioned common standards. In varying degrees of thoroughness and in varying degrees of awareness of the inevitable consequences of their ideas, they believe in ideas that will weaken, degrade, damage, and ultimately destroy the society. That is their lodestar. The conservatives cannot see this awful truth, or don’t want to see it, because it would mean recognizing that liberals-leftists are not common citizens with conservatives, but enemies. To oppose liberals and leftists as such is too awful a prospect. It would mean rejecting the beliefs that the conservatives thought they had in common with liberals and leftists. Take, for example, the belief that we should never form negative general judgments about a group and never see people as members of a group but only look at them as individuals. If the conservatives realized that this position, in which they themselves deeply believe, was really a leftist, anti-Western position used by the left to disarm the society and allow its enemies to gain power over it, rather than a nice, consensual, mainstream position, then the conservatives would have to give it up. Which would mean the end of their entire world view—their liberal, all-welcoming, anti-discriminatory, universalist world view. It would further mean the end of ordinary politics, the end of the idea of a unified country and the transformation of politics into some kind of war. All of which is too awful to contemplate. So, in order to keep the society together, at least in their imagination, the conservatives imagine that the left is less bad than it really is. They imagine that the left at bottom holds to the common values of society, but is merely being selfishly hypocritical in its failure to support those values consistently, e.g., “Gosh, sometimes the liberals tell us to look at people as individuals, and other times, when it suits their purposes, they tell us to look at people as groups.” The conservatives think that the left is being hypocritical, not evil. They believe that the left is practicing a double standard that is bothersome but tolerable. They don’t see that the left is practicing a single standard: the advance of radical notions of equality, inclusiveness, and “fairness” that must destroy the society.
This failure of conservatives and moderate liberals to oppose group-privileges leftism goes back (at least in the American case, which is my main context in this discussion) to the mid Sixties, The civil rights movement and laws were (ostensibly) purely about individual rights, the elimination of group privileges and group disabilities. But almost immediately all kinds of expressions of black group consciousness appeared, with blacks and liberals saying that they wanted such and such for “blacks,” and speaking in the name of “blacks,” and advocating the well-being of blacks as blacks, making blackness a central concern of society, even as any mention of whiteness was, of course, prohibited. As soon as this happened, the moderate liberals-conservatives should have instantly said, “Hold on. This whole thing was about getting rid of group identity and having a society in which we deal with each other solely as individuals with equal rights. But now you’re making all kinds of claims in the name of advancing and celebrating blacks as a group. That’s not acceptable.” But the moderate liberals-conservatives never did this. Yes, they grumbled—sometimes a lot—about affirmative action and racial preferences, but they never decisively said, “Speaking in a public setting on behalf of blacks as blacks, of black pride and all the rest of it, is totally unacceptable. Whites have embraced the end of any white group consciousness in the name of individual rights for all citizens. Advancing black group consciousness and black pride violates that entire idea.” Instead of taking such a stand, and taking it over and over again, and meaning it, the whites deferred to and retreated before the new order. (I offer a further explanation of the psychology of that retreat, and what would have been an alternative approach, here.)
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Yet, paradoxically, even as conservative and moderate liberal whites were cowardly retreating before a radicalized, group-privileges liberalism, they kept imagining to themselves that what was really happening was the more benign, individual-rights liberalism. In reality, the old liberalism of individual rights and non-discrimination had been combined with the leftism of minority collective privileges and majority collective guilt. Moderate liberals and conservatives could not separate themselves from this package, because the individual-rights, non-discrimination part of it had become sacred to them. So they ended up going along with the whole package, even while intermittantly but never effectively protesting the part of the package that they disliked. And this is why, even today, they are unable to recognize clearly the malevolent nature of the nonwhite supremacy regime we now have in this country, a regime in which blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and others are given a vast array of special privileges, ranging from racial preferences to massive media concealment of their negative behaviors, while whites are portrayed as racists for everything they do, even for just standing on line in a shopping mall waiting to get a book signed by Sarah Palin. But, again, because whites married themselves to the whole package, they are—or at least have been up to this time—emotionally and intellectually incapable of fully recognizing the destructive, anti-white, anti-American nature of what the left is doing.
Bruce B. writes:
You wrote: “They believe, in varying degrees of thoroughness, in weakening, degrading, damaging, and ultimately destroying the society.”
“They don’t see that the left is practicing a single standard aimed at the destruction of the society.”
I agree with you on their single standard. But is, for example, Hillary Clinton’s single standard destruction of our society? That seems to be her effect not her standard. Sometimes I think their single standard is simply a bleeding heart for the “other”, whoever that other is. So they reject any kind of negative generalization about protected groups (the other) but demand things for them as a group.
I remember your idea about the liberal/left substitution of the horizontally transcendent (the other) for the vertically transcendent (God).
I was aware of the problems with those sentence when I was working on it. You’re right to draw my attention to them again. I’ve changed the first sentence to:
In varying degrees of thoroughness and in varying degrees of awareness of the inevitable consequences of their ideas, they believe in ideas that will weaken, degrade, damage, and ultimately destroy the society.
I’ve changed the second sentence to:
They don’t see that the left is practicing a single standard: the advance of radical notions of equality, inclusiveness, and “fairness” that must destroy the society.
Leonard D. writes:
You wrote, regarding the alleged double standards of the left:
The [single] standard is: whatever helps advance the left, whatever helps enhance the power of the protected groups, whatever helps weaken traditional Western society, is good. And the opposite of those things is bad.
Although I would agree that the above are how things play out in democratic politics, I disagree with this characterization of the motives of the left. Their motives are purer than that. It is about equality and individualism. If there is a double standard, it is between those two ideals.
Equality is one altar at which progressives worship. And I mean that only somewhat metaphorically (their worship being sacrificial). Progressives, like older Christians, have as an article of faith of that we are all equal before God. But progressives take that several steps further: that we should be all equal in this world. Complete equality is just; any other arrangement is unjust. We are all the same. Kumbaya!
Progressives do admit individual difference, of course, in spite of its seeming contradiction with the axiom of equality. (Individual difference is, at least thus far, too plainly obvious for anyone to contradict.) How they can both be true is somewhat of a mystery, but then, lots of religions have their mysteries. Progressives are individualist-chauvinists, who place no value on any group smaller than the human species but larger than the individual. They do not admit the existence of natural groups, except the most obvious ones. Groups cannot be allowed to impede the individual in his quest for self-fulfilment. Groups have no rights, rights inhere only in individuals.
For example, while they can be pressed to admit that there are two common sexes, progressives think that most of the apparent differences between the sexes are social constructs, and thus that it is better to talk about “gender” (socially constructed sex roles) than “sex”. And furthermore, there are not really two sexes, there are more! There are homosexuals and hermaphodites and other sorts of people “in between”!
The supposed double standard arises as a natural consequence of the axiom of equality. How can we tell if any particular individual is being discriminated against? We cannot. But for any reasonably large group, we can prove discrimination statistically, simply by looking at whether or not every aspect of the group is reasonably close to average. If any group is non average in any way, then we have proof that either (a) the groups are not the same (untrue axiomatically!) or else that there is discrimination. Thus we have defined social justice: that all sufficiently large groups should be statistically the same. This sounds crazy, but it is exactly what is coded into discrimination law. (This was what was at issue in the recent Ricci case; see this discussion of it by Steve Sailer.)
It’s a complicated problem for sure. But I would simplify it by putting it this way: what is it that reconciles the left’s apparently contradictory belief in group equality of outcome on one side and in radical individualism on the other? And the answer is: both of these ideals advance the leftist purpose of breaking down the unequal, repressive, traditional society, and the left will opt for whichever one seems most advantageous to their purpose in any given situation.
Your response to the reader from Canada regarding the Left’s valuation of individuals vs. groups is outstanding. I have struggled with that same issue, the apparent double standard, to no avail.
“Whites have embraced the end of any white group consciousness in the name of individual rights for all citizens. Advancing black group consciousness and black pride violates that entire idea.”
What does this say about making the case for whites reasserting their own group identity to restore traditionalism? If we are headed toward increasingly assertive ethnic and racial identification, does this represent a triumph for the destructive aims of liberalism even if—or especially if—whites get the wake up call? How so exactly?
It seems the only fair way to treat everyone is to remove the legal and governmental recognition of groups and stand by individuals. A neutral system. Any level of group recognition could still exist in society, outside of any legal recognition or deference.
I’ve always said that, at the level of the society as a whole, there needs to be a white majority culture that sets the tone for the whole; but at the level of law we deal with citizens as individuals. I’ve also said, paradoxically, that since whites are the only group that believes in treating people as individuals, if we want a legal system in which people of all backgrounds are treated as individuals, the society must continue to have a white majority culture reflective of white standards.
The reader from Canada writes:
I have always seen this contradiction though not noted it as sharply as when I saw your story the other day.
My personal beliefs were always that the “balkanization” of our societies through multiculturalism was an intended consequence, a very deliberate consequence, by the left, for the benefit of the left. What I had not grasped deeply enough, until now, was the use of individualism as a paired tool to trap the conservatives.
I am reminded of two things.
One, the duality of Islam, how the idea of humanity being split into Muslims and Kuffirs, on the basis of supposedly “being born equal” humans, justify the most vile practices in the name of Allah. Is this not mirrored in the standard socialist/communist ideology of us (left, liberals) versus the “other” (whites) politics of the left and multiculturalism where whites are not protected, are not recognized as a group, and always viewed as the oppressor, even invoking collective guilt by the evil actions of our supposed ancestors? And is this not further exemplified by Obama now wanting to process 9/11 planners in civilian courts, not only extending Geneva Convention protection, but full Miranda rights? What monstrosities! [LA replies: Yes, I was going to mention this example in my reply to Bruce B. but left it out. They are bringing the 9/11 terrorists to trial in civilian courts in the name of equality, fairness, “rule of law.” But those ideals, applied the way Obama is applying them, are nothing other than a monstrous attack on the society.]
Two, how the above belief system is so totally incompatible with our Western system (supposedly) based on Aristotelian logic, where contradictions cannot exist and equality for all before a single set of laws is respected and upheld.
I am with you—these deep contradictions must be pointed out at every opportunity.
Remember the Burnham view in Suicide of the West. It’s that the optimists cannot deal with the decline of the West, so they transmogrify every sign of decline and defeat into a sign of progress and triumph. For example, a Muslim in the Army shoots American servicemen. To us this is obviously a sign of catastrophic decline, but to the left, it’s a sign of the triumph of diversity! In this way many sentimental optimists are recruited into the overall program of cultural Marxism, the Left.
While these liberals really do believe in equality, diversity, tolerance, etc., they are the “useful idiots.” That is how Lenin saw them. Yes, it’s a large mass of “useful idiots” here in America, happily riddled with unprincipled exceptions and plenty of nice, optimistic people, such as in Minnesota. The hard core (and I count Obama as one of these) are Gramscian cultural Marxists who seek total power and exult in nihilistic destruction of good, beauty, and truth. That is the esoteric side of the program, and as you pointed out, they are always consistent with it. The exoteric part of the program is generated for public consumption so that the “useful idiots” go along with the program enthusiastically. It changes from day to day as the situation requires.
Leonard D. writes:
[W]hat is it that reconciles the left’s apparently contradictory belief in group equality of outcome on one side and in radical individualism on the other? And the answer is: both of these ideals advance the leftist purpose of breaking down the unequal, repressive, traditional society, and the left will opt for whichever one seems most advantageous to their purpose in any given situation.
I agree with you that the left will opt for interpretations that advance their situation.
But as to the rest of it: in my opinion, you’ve got the cause and effect reversed. We agree that leftists are always trying to break down the unequal, repressive traditional society. But I see that as springing from more fundamental causes. You are seeing it as the root cause, with individualism and egalitarianism springing from it.
Your vision of the thing does have the advantage of being simpler, in one sense at least. Namely, that there is one single underlying axiom, and thus no actual contradiction. On the other hand, it requires believing that leftists are at heart fundamentally destructive or negative. I.e., the priority is to destroy the existing organization of society, whatever it may be, and the nature of that society don’t matter. There is certainly some truth to this, especially in terms of politics. One course to power is the destruction of existing order.
By contrast, my vision of the thing is that leftists are fundamentally positive: they do have a vision of what they want, and they are working towards it. Mine has two problems: first, it is somewhat more complicated that yours. There really are two axiomatic beliefs, not one, and they do contradict each other. Second, that one of the two axioms is falsifiable and also false. How could anyone believe that all groups are equal? And yet … they manifestly do.
The reason I am dwelling on this difference is that our two visions imply radically different policies in terms of how to deal with the left. In your vision, the left can only be fought. It is a test of power, and unfortunately, they are on top, and have been on top for the last 75 years at least. In mine, the left can be at least partially defeated by truth. (Radical individualism is not falsifiable, but radical egalitarianism is.) This seems to me a lot more hopeful.
Furthermore, in your vision, the leftist cannot be fundamentally well-meaning. He can mean well only insofar as he deceives himself as to his true motive (wrecking). By contrast, in my vision progressives are well-meaning; they are tragic, not villains.
No. I do not see the primary motive of the left as the destruction of the society. I see the primary motive of the left is the ending of inequality. And since the existing society embodies inequality in their minds, it must be destroyed. The destruction of the society is a corollary of the belief in equality.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 19, 2009 01:42 AM | Send
And it doesn’t matter whether they consciously think, “We want to destroy the existing society,” or “We must bring about a more equal world.” The direction, and the result, are the same.