Friday, September 3, 2010

Our Friendship vs. Their Resentment

After the success of the Glenn Beck Restoring Honor rally, some of our liberal friends are determined not to be outdone. Labor and religious leaders and the NAACP are organizing a rally on the National Mall for October 2.

"The AFL-CIO is determined that the Tea Party and its corporate backers are not going to get the final word,” said AFL-CIO executive vice president Arlene Holt Baker. "We will expect tens of thousands of union families to come."

"We are fueled by hope and not hate," Holt Baker said.

I have a suggestion for the labor and religious leaders and the NAACP. Don't.

If you chaps mount a rally it will show up a profound difference between the goal and the vision of the Beck folks and the goals and vision of you lefty chaps.

The difference that will come out for all to see is the difference between friendship, not to mention faith, hope and charity, and the resentment that powers the left.

The mainstream of western thought owes much to the commonplace assertion of Aristotle, that we are social animals. The notion of human sociability suggests the idea that we should resolve our differences in a spirit of friendly negotiation rather than by force.

That was the point of the Restoring Honor rally. It was a friendly gathering. In fact the folks that attended spent a lot of the time friending each other on Facebook. A young black woman at the rally told the media not to call her an African American, but an American. "These are my family," she asserted, echoing the words of an older black man who testified to the media back in the spring.

The speakers at the Beck rally also emphasized the Christian values of faith, hope, and charity, not to mention the notion of the providential God that is shared by both Christians and Jews.

They did not mention specific goodies they wanted in recompense for past injustice.

Living under a providential God, or blessed to live in the culture of American exceptionalism, we Americans discover a responsibility to deserve the providential love of God. So the rally speakers emphasized that the future begins with us, with our dedication to responsibility, friendship, kindness.

But the left believes in a culture of resentment, a resentment nurtured in the minds of helpless victims cheated of their rightful place in the world by oppressors and exploiters.

There is, of course, plenty of injustice in the world, and resentment is a natural sentiment that all of us experience. We resent the friend that got into Harvard when we didn't, the co-worker that gets a promotion that we didn't, the guy that got the girl that we didn't. Resentment shows up in the seven deadly sins as envy, only resentment is envy on steroids.

You want to watch that envy, because, according to Roger Scruton in A Political Philosophy resentment is the emotion that leads to totalitarianism.

I see [resentment] as an emotion that arises in all societies, being a natural offshoot of the competition for advantage. Totalitarian ideologies are adopted because they rationalize resentment, and also unite the resentful around a common cause. Totalitarian systems arise when the resentful, having seized power, proceed to abolish the institutions that have conferred power on others, institutions like law, property and religion which create hierarchies, authorities and privileges, and which enable individuals to assert sovereignty over their own lives.

Once the resentful acquire power they reduce everything to pure power, and "dispense with mediating institutions"; individual rights are replaced by central control. We have seen how this works. Central control everywhere seems to mean bureaucracy.

Converted into a "centralized power structure" society becomes transformed into an army. An army is, after all, a centralized power structure for projecting power on neighboring territories.

But in the totalitarian power structure the power is directed inside the territory, at groups targeted for punishment. These targeted groups become the replacement for the ancient scapegoat in which tribal societies purged themselves of the wrath of the gods.

The Jacobins targeted the aristocrats and then "emigrés." The Soviets targeted the bourgeoisie and then "kulaks." The Nazis targeted the Jews. Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) targeted Communists.

Our liberal friends, unfortunately, have too often toyed with this inflammatory material. They used to target the malefactors of great wealth. Then it was the big corporations. Then it was the racist South. It used to be the religious right, but now it is the Tea Party activists, who are stigmatized and marginalized as racists, bigots, sexists, and homophobes.

It is, of course, laughable to turn the Tea Party into the liberal scapegoat-du-jour. These chaps haven't done anything yet except go to rallies and pitch out a couple of Republican senators.

But there is a bigger issue in the resentment/scapegoat dynamic. In its original form, the scapegoat was the king. It had to be. It must be the king who must be sacrificed to propitiate the gods. That should be obvious. The king is the representative of the tribe or nation. If something has gone wrong, then he should take the blame. To sacrifice a lesser person is an insult to the gods, and would provoke the gods to greater wrath.

The scapegoat concept is understood in the corporate and military shibboleth that, when things go well you say that your team were the ones that made it possible. When things go wrong, then you, the leader, take the blame.

President Bush understood this. He understood that he had to be the national scapegoat for the unpopular war against terror. He bowed his head and took it like a man--like a mensch, you might say.

But liberals don't understand this. That is why they are going ahead with their October 2 rally, which will doubtless be a display of liberal resentment. Of course, Jim Wallis, liberal evangelical, insists that it will all be sweetness and light. "[W]e must move this country forward beyond divisiveness and hate, to rebuild and reclaim our destiny," he says.

But then why does organizer Holt Baker talk about the "Tea Party and its corporate backers?" Corporate backers? He means, one assumes, the libertarian billionaire Koch brothers and the Scaife family that fund groups like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks.

My advice to liberals is to put money into keeping as many of your senators and representatives in the game as possible. make sure that your troops are properly led and execute on a good strategic retreat.

But don't try to pretend that you can turn out a grass-roots movement this fall that can rival the Tea Party.

Because if you showcase your political philosophy of resentment up against the Beck philosophy of Restoring Honor you guys are going to look like the sore losers.

1 comment:

  1. The October 2 rally will be protrayed as a humangous historical success. They, the liberals, will forcefully transport fans to the scene and will count exactly the size of the crowd, not just estimate like on 8/28. You might even see little vans here and there that "provide applause" when necessary to help speakers to be heard. It will be a carefully staged and crafted event. For me is deja vu and reminds me of the times when, way back in the communist paradise, highschool pupils and uni students were "trucked" (there weren't enough buses) late October under not to pleasant weather conditions, to the orchards and fields to pick apples, corn and even dig out rotten potato, because the agricultaral workers needed help, so the authorities said, or we were standing for hours and hours to listen to our supreme leader reminding us of what we owe to the government that is and always will be looking out for us much better than our parents ever could.