How to respond to liberals’ call for “civility”: Thanks, but no thanks
This is my letter to the editor of the Montreal Gazette regarding a piece calling for civil discourse and moderation by a history professor at McGill University, Gil Troy.
To the Editor,
Gil Troy has written a well-worded essay, replete with historical allusions, but regrettably it fails to address the real problem. It’s no use speaking of a “golden mean,” a venerable conservative principle, when we are so far beyond any such mean.
Having been in dialogue with conservatives in the U.S., Canada and Europe for over thirty years, I can honestly say I have seen little—in fact no—appetite for violent confrontation. But there has been a fundamental change in thought in the last ten years. It is now increasingly believed that the “red and the blue” have irreconcilable disagreements.
The conservative view is that accommodating demands from progressives for change, invariably backed by state coercion, simply results in a new set of demands. Only the complete re-shaping of every aspect of society in accordance with progressive principles will suffice. What Mr. Troy would most likely describe as “moderate” today would have been radical thirty years ago. The process is inexorable and, in every case, backed by the diktat of the state. As an example, hate speech legislation has rendered any discussion of the effects of large-scale Muslim immigration on Western societies dangerous, unless it falls within the narrow range approved of by our bien pensants. One cannot simply ignore the beliefs of our elites, the most effective form of dissent; one will be legally bound to adhere to them.
We do not live in a society that is naturally evolving toward greater inclusiveness but one that is being driven forcibly in a particular ideological direction. This is, quite simply, unacceptable.
Calls for moderation, civility and so forth are all very well but in the current situation this amounts to crying “Peace, peace”—but there is no peace. Nor can there be.
This is very good, but I would alter your last paragraph as follows:
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Calls for moderation, civility and so forth are all very well, but in the current situation they amount to a demand for unilateral surrender by conservatives to the progressive radicalization of society by liberals, a radicalization enforced by liberals’ systematic portrayal of conservatives as haters and of any non-liberal position as hatred.
Steve D. writes:
I disagree with your suggested alternative wording of last paragraph of John Purdy’s letter, with its brilliant evocation of Patrick Henry’s famous speech:
“It is in vain, sir, to extentuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace—but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
By analogy to Henry, Purdy serves up a warning to liberals everywhere: that their demands will not be tolerated forever, and patience is wearing thin. For myself, I think there is only one hope left for this country: that the left—not the elite, not the cadres, but the ordinary, unreflective liberals—will suddenly realize they have pushed America to the brink of civil war, and will recoil in horror. Failing that, I see this country in flames before the decade is out. The wording Purdy has chosen serves not as a meticulous explication of the conservative position, but as a warning. We’ve gone beyond explaining; warning is all that’s left.
John Purdy writes:
Thanks for posting this. It was published today as letter of the day under the heading “No Room for Reasonable Discussion”. Ah, the MSM!
Jim C. writes:
Wrong. The way to respond to liberals’ call for civility is not only to agree with them, but to assure them that civility is the highest virtue. Then civilly proceed to make your points on affirmative action, the deficit, and health care. I have a lot of so-called “elite” friends on Facebook, and rarely do they defriend me when we disagree on something like Krugman’s column. I believe Machiavelli would agree with my approach.
That’s fine when you’re dealing with people who are actually civil. When you’re dealing with demonic liars who spend a year saying “teabagger” and then turn around and demand “civility,” it’s not the way to go.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 14, 2011 03:23 PM | Send