Friday, September 30, 2005
Liberals Vs Leftists
I must return to the quote I keep on my sidebar that is attributed to Edmund Burke: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.Gandhi was a good man. Hitler was not. Yet this good man could not recognize who Hitler was and what would have to be done in order to stop him. Moral pressure, such as civil disobedience, only works against regimes that are susceptible against it. When did the concept of the "lesser of two evils" drop out of our cultural vocabulary? Buddhism abhors violence, yet Minh-Duc of State Of Flux is a Buddhist and supports the goal of the war in Iraq. In one of his recent posts, he reviews the growing acceptance of the Iraqi constitution and writes:
Gandhi was a good man, but when it came to the holocaust, he proposed that nothing should have been done. If we had followed his lead, how many millions more people would have died? How many today would live under the boot of the Nazi philosophy?
War is a terrible choice. No reasonable person could believe that it is benign or intrinsically "good" to wage war. Yet, it is sometimes a choice that reasonable people need to make simply because there is evil in the world and it cannot go unchecked--not if you truly care about other human beings.
These events may be strange to those who doubt the benefit of democratic process. But for advocates of Democracy, this is easily understood. The political process moderates extremists, forcing them to be pragmatic and make compromise. Bottom line, extremists can be coopted by democracy. Democracy promotion is not a eutopic as critics claim, but rather it is a pragmatic (and only) tool to combat extremism.You can hold the most elevated ideals and merge those with a critical and pragmatic strategy to improve human life. Rationality is not exclusive of idealism. Only idealism fused with pragmatic attempts to facilitate ideals can create the conditions that promote peace and human freedom.
Carl at No Oil For Pacifists takes on the underlying philosophy of the immoral pacifists of our day by rebutting the contention that moral certainty is to be distrusted:
Those taking political positions have an obligation to be fully informed. This necessarily requires both an appraisal of the facts and logic of others and the willingness to re-assess should circumstances change. But, thereafter, certainty isn't a sin; that's a nihilistic corollary of faddish postmodernism....It's a great post. The same people who argue for relativism rebut their own case by claiming that Sheehan has moral supremacy because of the death of her son (for a cause with which she does not agree). They don't see the contradictions in their own beliefs. Pedro The Quietist is surpassingly good at revealing their intellectual barrenness. Try this post for a beginning.
What lies behind the relativists, the appeasers and the perfectionists is that they wish to accept no responsibility for any bad outcome, and taking any action would implicate them morally in the results. They want to be held harmless for life's tragedies. That is not possible. They are willing to accept being sorrowful victims, but not willing to accept being flawed rescuers. They can accept defeat, but not victory. What they advocate is the abandonment of all human rationality. I hate their philosophy. It can only exist because of the achievements of all those who did not accept it.
All too often, what these people are really thinking is "it will not happen here". Relatively few of them are really willing to accept being a victim to avoid harm to others. Do you think Cindy Sheehan would have stood before the tanks of Tiananmen Square? I know she would not have done that. She is not willing even to recognize the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis that Saddam Hussein killed. She does not care about those victims - they are not real to her. All she cares about is the death of her son. It is possible to empathize with her sorrow while rejecting her deductions.
The extreme leftists of our day are mostly narcissists lost in the towering and crumbling edifices of their own egos, and they can afford to be that way because of the moral nature of their own society. They are safe because of the actions of others. They are fed because of the productivity of others. They have rights because of other people who are willing to die to defend those rights. And they continuously sneer at and belittle the very people and beliefs in which their own existences are grounded. To recognize what they have gained from this society would force them to figure out how they should pay it back, and that would be most uncomfortable. Almost all of the extreme leftists of our day are morally contemptible. They paint their opponents as evil in order to prevent having to recognize their own moral responsibility for making things better. They espouse perfectionism as an escape from their own responsibilities.
Life is imperfect. If you create a vaccine against an emerging illness and administer it to half the population of the US, hundreds of human beings will die from adverse reactions to the vaccine. You know that before you launch such a program. If you don't develop the vaccine and the disease sweeps through the population, millions may die. I claim that there is a shared responsibility for both outcomes. A rational human being must learn to deal with that, and seek to mitigate the harm of either outcome.
It has been reported that hurricane Rita killed about a hundred people, and most of those died from the evacuation. That's life. It makes sense to examine how those deaths happened and figure out how some of those risks could be lessened in a future evacuation. It does not make sense to announce that attempting to avoid a disaster is too dangerous.
The middle way of our time between the despotic ideologies of the right and the left is classic liberalism. Classic liberalism recognized man's ability to choose a better course. Classic liberalism wanted to expand individual freedoms in order to allow that ability scope in building a better society. Classic liberalism embraced the idea of individual moral responsibility for oneself and others. Classic liberalism sought to create freer societies so that free individuals could direct the evolution, by consensus, of their own societies. Classic liberalism won out in the United States, but i is not an irrevocable victory. Classic liberalism recognizes the right of the individual to seek his own path as long as he allows others to do the same. Classic liberalism endorses and promotes competition in belief systems and ideologies conducted within the framework of a representative society.
Classic liberalism won out in the United States, but it is not an irrevocable victory.
The extreme leftists of our day don't embrace liberal ideas. They embrace fascism wrapped in a cloak of Marxism. It's a terrible, crazed mutation that will kill us all if we allow it to win. They are nihilistic utopians who are not willing to try to build a society based on their own ideas. Instead, they seek to destroy the society that exists. They are deranged and dehumanized robots who fear their own flawed humanity so deeply that they cannot stare into the mirror. Most of all, they are the enemy of all classic liberals everywhere.
In other words, war can be just.
That he chose NOT to wage war was a POLITICAL statement, not a moral one- and therein lies the moral weakness of pacifism.
There cannot be two moralities that are antithetical to each other.
I do not know whether Gandhi, if he had had to make the choice about Hitler for himself, would have had made the correct choice. He didn't have to. His tactics were correct based on his local problems. His advice about Hitler was utterly wrong.
I read "If there ever could be a justifiable war" as a statement that there cannot ever be a justifiable war.
See the Claremont Institute:
"I do not consider Hitler to be as bad as he is depicted. He is showing an ability that is amazing and seems to be gaining his victories without much bloodshed."
This was written by Mohandas Gandhi in May of 1940, the same month in which Winston Churchill became prime minister of Great Britain, the same month in which Hitler launched his attack upon Belgium, the Low Countries, and France. Within a month of this statement by Gandhi, Hitler would be in control of all Western Europe. And of course, the murders of civilians, the destruction of millions because of their race or their political views or their nationality, would begin in France as it had begun already in Poland, in Czechoslovakia, and wherever the writ of the Fuehrer ran.
May 1940 is a late date for a respected world leader to be writing such a thing. In fact Gandhi, a great man in some respects, did not understand Hitler nor the totalitarianism of which Hitler is one of the two supreme representatives. Gandhi's doctrine of nonviolence would have met with different results, had he been applying that doctrine against such a man and such a regime as Hitler and Nazi Germany. In November 1938, Gandhi went so far as to advise the Jews of Europe to offer only nonviolent resistance to Hitler. As he gave this advice, he also advised Britain, France, and America not to declare war upon Germany.
The situation in Europe was a little different than the situation in British India. In Europe, teams of German soldiers were already touring about the countryside, murdering groups of Jews. Later, larger groups would be loaded onto railway cars, then transported to factories that had been constructed for their murder and cremation. The aim was not to persecute or humble the Jews. It was simply to destroy them all, whether they resisted or no. It was parallel to the policy deployed against certain insects and other sub-human pests in Europe today. It did not matter whether they complained or failed to complain, resisted or submitted.
Gandhi was too good a man to see Hitler for what he truly was. See this discussion of Gandhi's letters to Hitler (it is very sympathetic to Gandhi).
Gandhi's position of absolute non-violence is only morally correct when the people adopting it are the people who will die in the exercise of it. This is a tragic truth.
"Gandhi's position of absolute non-violence is only morally correct when the people adopting it are the people who will die in the exercise of it. This is a tragic truth."
That is a truth, for sure.
Your remark on antithetical moralities jolts me a bit- I understood Gandhi's remarks to be politcal statements, precisely because he was NOT in the position the Jews were in. Therefore, what was moral (that war be wagewd on Hitler)- an absolute- cannot be antithetical to another morality (his pacifism), that was applicable to himself. He have WANTED the Jews to be pacifist, but surely, he could not demand that of them.
There is a difference between what we demand of ourselves and what we have the right to demand of others, right?
I am trying to formulate the question I wanted to ask of you.
More than 2 million people a year die in the US. That leaves maybe 10 to 20 million people in official mourning. Why should one whacked out DC shill for monstrously evil murderers deserve our sympathy? She deserves to be drawn and quartered.
We do not owe her respect for her ideas.
There is a difference.
For the life of me, I can't understand why. If life is sacred, then all life is sacred- and so is being 'our brothers keeper,' in the process. Shouldn't it be incumbent upon us to save that life?
The question bothers me, a lot.
I would say that the religious answer, in general, would be yes.
If you have the ability to save a life, you should do it. Obviously that is too simplistic, because sometimes your duties conflict with each other. But basically it appears to me to be the same issue.
However, I don't think the law can generate that spirit in people, and I don't think the law can create a moral society.
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