Friday, March 29, 2013

Remember, The Left's God is Liberation

Conservatives are the People of the Responsible Self.  We believe in the dogged and responsible life, working and relating in the real world of growing up, working, reproducing, and leaving an inheritance, material and spiritual, for the next generation.  We do not expect perfection or completion in this life.

But the Left is different.  They are the People of Liberation.  The continuance of struggle is, for them, a scandal.  For instance, Herbert Marcuse in One-Dimensional Man writes that "new modes of realization are needed" in today's society.
Economic freedom would mean freedom from the economy -- from being controlled by economic forces and relationships, freedom from the daily struggle for existence, from earning a living.
You can see that this attitude is at the basis of all the liberal programs to regulate society, from wage-and-hour laws to social welfare programs, to minimum wage laws.  Liberals want to liberate people from the necessities of life.  But for conservatives economic freedom is not liberation but merely the right to conduct the struggle for existence on your own terms.

Meanwhile the true artist, for Marcuse, is transcending brute society in his artistic alienation.
Fiction calls the facts by their name and their reign collapses; fiction subverts everyday experience and shows it to be mutilated and false.  But art has this magic power only as the power of negation.  It can speak its own language only as long as the images are alive which refuse and refute the established order.
This is, of course, the conceit at the heart of the leftist religion: that the left is a movement of protest and refusal against the monstrosities of exploitation and inequality.  What the left wants is a humanity utterly plucked out real life and dropped into a fantasy life, a permanent evening consciousness-raising meeting.

But the human condition is irreversibly one of birth, struggle and rebirth.  We have seen what happens when people get relieved of the struggle for material necessaries:  they invent new struggles to challenge themselves.  Half a millennium ago the rich prided themselves on their leisure and the poor suffered in their work.  Today the rich are incredibly hard-working and the poor repose on their welfare benefices.  What does the successful businessman do after he has made his pile?  He creates a philanthropic foundation and goes to work to give his money away to help other people.  Something is happening in the modern world that is not comprehended in the lefty theology.

We cannot know when the liberal movement of liberation will exhaust itself.  Anyway, the yearning for salvation, according to Eric Voegelin is always in danger of the "immanentizing of the eschaton," the attempt to achieve salvation in this life rather than the next one.  So the current secular religion of liberation will, in time, be replaced by another.

But the current culture war between conservatives and liberals does expose the important issues.  How far should we go to soften the struggle for existence with our mechanical gadgets and our force-multiplying technology?  At what point do we cease to be living humans in time and become something else.  And if we did become something else, what would that mean?

The bottom line for conservatives is that we would rather face these challenges on our own terms, and not be bullied by liberals into their vision of the future.

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