Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Utopian Pessimism v. Realistic Optimism

I have now actually reached a point where I find it very, very difficult to watch the nightly news or read CNN's web page. Prior to the Iraqi elections, I could handle the mainstream media's pessimism, the nay-saying, and the Bush bashing. But now that the Iraqi elections have occurred in a way that exceeded everyone's expectations, the continued inability of many in the mainstream media (with a few notable exceptions) to acknowledge that the Iraqi people have taken a first, large, decisive step toward liberty and self-government has my blood boiling. It is as if many liberals and members of the media never believed that the Iraqi people had the capability, desire, nor the requisite humanity to build a foundation for self-government and to recognize the absolute evil of the insurgency. It is demeaning to the Iraqi people, it is demeaning to our troops supporting them in their cause, and it is demeaning to America's core values, which are, of course, the very values the Iraqi people are fighting for.

So where do we find the roots of the liberals' naysaying? I have come to believe that liberals exist in a state of paradox. They hope for and believe in the ability of a generalized 'peace' to somehow descend down upon the earth (apparently from nowhere as they don't generally recognize the direct impact of the transcendent), but at the same time reject and belittle any incremental, real, human efforts toward the same goal if those efforts involve any amount of pain or hardship or sacrifice. To a liberal ala John Kerry, politicians find solutions in creating institutions and government structures, hierarchies and programs. Individuals are not the problem because liberals do not believe in absolute evil--an individual's bad behavior is a reflection of systemic problems and influences. This is true in all issue areas, from the liberal's belief that the unequal distribution of wealth and unequal bargaining power actually cause poverty and even crime (and thus a welfare program and legal changes will solve the problems of the dependent poor or the criminal), to the extreme liberal's belief that underlying Islamist fundamentalist is an angst resulting from global inequity and the United States' capitalist oppression and domination (and thus a fairer global economic order would diminish Islamism). For the liberal, it is the system that needs fixing, not the individual, because evil isn't real. This is the same kind of Utopianism that infected the French revolution -- heads roll when the creators of Utopia fail and search for a scapegoat, believing that only sabotage could have derailed their perfect, systemic plan.

But modern American liberals combine this kind of ridiculous, relativist utopianism with a strong pessimism that is unrelated to any kind of practical realism. John Kerry grudgingly acknowleges that the Iraqi elections were a success, but concentrates on the difficult road ahead, underscoring the remaining strength of the insurgency and doubting the eventual outcome. Media outlets call attention to suicide bombings on election day. Chris Matthews wonders out loud on Hardball whether the indelible ink used to ensure that each Iraqi votes only once will become a 'marker for death,' a target for insurgent killers. How can such a utopian lot be so pessimistic at the same time?

The answer is relatively simple: They care more about their ideology than they do about what is actually happening to actual people. They value their belief that evil is not really absolute but rather a result of unfairness in the world too much to acknowledge that Bush's strategy of killing the evil-doers and incrementally building democracy is working and leading to real benefits for the Iraqi people. If liberals praise the courage and power of the Iraqi people to recognize and reject the insurgency, they would be admitting that the world is not the almost-utopia-but-for-global-systemic-unfairness they believe in, but rather is a place where absolute evil and good do battle for dominance. They would have to admit that real good can be achieved in the world only through sacrifice, and that war and hardship cannot be eliminated by a committee or a U.N. resolution. In short, their entire Utopian-pessimist worldview, which drives their views regarding things as disparate as welfare and foreign policy, would have to be wrong.

The naysaying and the pessimism of the utopian-liberals sounds utterly ridiculous to a thoughtful, realistic person. After this successful election, the liberal pundits wonder about the future for Iraqis, the strength of the insurgency, and worry about uncertainty. One must ask them: Do you think the oppressed Kurds 'worried' about uncertainty under Saddam? Do you think those filling his torture chambers would have traded their position for ean 'uncertain' democracy? Do you think even his own Baath party members feared purges and feared one day finding themselves on Saddam's bad side? Yes.

This utopian-pessism is not a philosophy without costs. Its pessimism, its naysing, its rejection of the possibility that any good could come from any kind of war has the potential to demoralize our troops and undermine the support of the American people. In fact, this is what the insurgents have been counting on. Luckily, the Iraqi people have stepped up to the plate. The insurgents are everywhere on the run. Good is winning. And President Bush will rally the nation to his realistic optimism (the opposite of utopian-pessism, this is a philosophy that understands the imperfection of the world, understands the necessity of sacrifice and hardship to create good, and believes that good cannot but come if we work at it) tomorrow night in the state of the union address.


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