Tuesday, November 02, 2004

"Unteachable Ignorance" and Constitutive Values

Now that the American people have dealt a decise blow against the left's policies of appeasement and cultural laissez-faire, we finally see modern American liberalism's true form -- the form that John Kerry tried desperately to hide from public view.

To understand the left's true belief structure, a word about values and priorities in general is necessary. In America, as in any nation, our beliefs take on different degrees of intensity and commonality. Some are more central to the telos of our society, some are more peripheral. The most common and shared values are reflected in the very constitution and form of our society -- namely, democracy and liberty. I like to call them constitutive values. Non-constitutive values are decided within the structure endorsed and legitimated by our constitutive values.

A sizeable portion of the left has now given up on America's original constitutive values. They subvert the ordering of American values, putting their own views on lesser political issues above the interests of democracy and liberty. The first sign of this has been with us for some time -- the use of activist courts to subvert the will of the people and foist liberal social values on society by fiat. The Massachusetts same-sex marriage decision is a prime example, as are the Texas sodomy case, Roe v. Wade and even Griswold v. Connecticut, the seminal contraception case.

Now that the left has been shown its views are clearly in the minority, they seem to be abandoning our higher value -- the rule of the majority. In explaining their loss, liberals are saying that the moral conservatives of the bible belt drove the election, voting on issues like gay marriage and partial birth abortion. The election showed the world that Democrats' views on these issues are clearly in the minority, and now extreme Democrats are picking up a new mantra which goes something like this: "We liberals are enlightened, and our views on these cultural and moral issues are superior to those of the people populating red states. The fact that red state-types can be so easily swayed by dangerously simplistic religious and moral appeals makes us doubt that we could ever get them to see the truth of our views -- they are too stupid." From this sickeningly elitist stance, the next step is the subversion of democracy by claiming the 'stupid' red state members ought to be disenfranchised. For now, they hope the courts will do that job. But if conservatives continue to dominate court appointments, who know to what mechanism liberals will turn.

To see the truth of liberals' deeply disturbing exaltation of their own moral ideas above the constitutive values of our nation, consider this exerpt from Jane Smiley in Slate:


The reason the Democrats have lost five of the last seven presidential elections is simple: A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know, decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class and against the regulations that were protecting those whom they considered to be their rightful prey—workers and consumers. The architects of this strategy knew perfectly well that they were exploiting, among other unsavory qualities, a long American habit of virulent racism, but they did it anyway, and we see the outcome now—Cheney is the capitalist arm and Bush is the religious arm. They know no boundaries or rules. They are predatory and resentful, amoral, avaricious, and arrogant. Lots of Americans like and admire them because lots of Americans, even those who don't share those same qualities, don't know which end is up. Can the Democrats appeal to such voters? Do they want to? The Republicans have sold their souls for power. Must everyone?

Who is really 'selling their souls for power'? Republicans were in the minority on social values issues for decades -- did we advocate the subversion of democracy on the basis that liberals are 'too stupid' to understand our positions? No. Smiley subtitles her piece "The unteachable ignorance of the red states." She has clearly written off the majority of Americans as not worth talking to, not intelligent enough to partricipate in her kind of 'democracy'.

It is frightening, but reflect on its truth: as soon as your opponent stops talking to you on the sole ground that you are not worth trying to persuade, they do not count you as a human being of equal dignity. They exalt themselves above you in worth and demote you to the level of mere beast. Consider the words of Socrates at the end of his conversation with Callicles in the Gorgias, foretelling his own death at the hands of Athens using the metaphor of a physician on trial for allegedly poisoning children:


I think that I am the only or almost the only Athenian living who practises the true art of politics; I am the only politician of my time. Now, seeing that when I speak my words are not uttered with any view of gaining favour, and that I look to what is best and not to what is most pleasant, having no mind to use those arts and graces which you recommend, I shall have nothing to say in the justice court. And you might argue with me, as I was arguing with Polus: I shall be tried just as a physician would be tried in a court of little boys at the indictment of the cook. What Would he reply under such circumstances, if some one were to accuse him, saying, "O my boys, many evil things has this man done to you: he is the death of you, especially of the younger ones among you, cutting and burning and starving and suffocating you, until you know not what to do; he gives you the bitterest potions, and compels you to hunger and thirst. How unlike the variety of meats and sweets on which I feasted you!" What do you suppose that the physician would be able to reply when he found himself in such a predicament? If he told the truth he could only say, "All these evil things, my boys, I did for your health," and then would there not just be a clamour among a jury like that? How they would cry out!

Consider how this compares with the words of Jane Smiley, who we might analogize to the cook-prosecutor in Socrates' parable. Smiley claims that Republicans employ a strategy of class warfare, utilizing the tools of racism and religious appeals to tempt weak minds into adherence to their cause. The physician-defendant, George Bush or conservatism in general, is accused of especially affecting the 'younger ones among you', the least intelligent and most gullible. Just as the prosecutor-cook lies and misrepresents the necessary but foul-tasting remedies of the physician as opposed to his sweets, so do Smiley and her ilk demonize and mischaracterize conservative values and policies by constructing a story of oppression and class warfare. Just as the jury clamours against the doctor when he claims his harsh remedies are for the best, so too do the liberals laugh and mock when conservatives prioritize their core moral values above material egalitarianism.

In the end, it boils down to a fundamental difference in the way liberals view the end of human life. Liberals reject one of the main teachings of Socrates: that it is better to suffer evil than to do it, or rather, that the only true evil is moral evil.

If the new mentality of the extreme left is typified by Jane Smiley, then America is in trouble. This new mentality is a plan concocted with one goal: delegitimating conservative values not by truly debating the issues or discussing differences, but by mocking conservatives themselves. This is dehumanizing, subversive and anti-democratic. It is intellectually dishonest, and it is dangerous. Luckily for us, Jane Smiley's brand of divisive demagoguery will only cause America to further shun her views and her party. While election of President Bush has shown us liberals' true colors, it should also bring us solace: We now know that there truly is a moral majority in America.

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