The Righteous Liberal

Lawrence Auster raised a good question about my post on angry atheists:

I don’t understand where you get the idea that elite liberals feel personally extremely guilty for their own sins, and that this is the source of their inordinate anger and hatred against theists. There are many elite liberals who in their personal lives are responsible, decent, caring people living orderly and productive lives. Many of them are faithfully married and devoted to their families. Your portrayal of them as particularly bad sinners, and your theory that their hatred of theists comes from the fact that they, the liberal atheists, are particularly bad sinners and covering up an intense feeling of guilt, seem off the mark to me.

This got me thinking, so I tried to work it out a bit more carefully.

First, evil is any defect of a being’s expression of its nature. Evil thus includes any defect of any kind. In particular it includes all defects of righteousness, all sins. Some such defects are worse than others, but all are evils.  

The more generally righteous a person is, the more apparent to him his remaining defects will be. There is a very concrete analogy from bodybuilding. When a bodybuilder is close to his target percentage of body fat, close to the way, e.g., he wants his abs to be defined, the tiniest gain of fat will be glaringly obvious to him (though probably not to anyone else). A fat man, even if he was paying attention and trying to lose weight, would not even begin to notice such a small variation in his body fat. Certainly he would not berate himself over it, as the bodybuilder does, nor would he kill himself in the gym the next day to get rid of the defect. Likewise a pianist who had practiced a piece for many hundreds of hours would notice a tiny defect in his performance that even other master pianists would not.

So likewise for those advanced in righteousness and sanctity. No one is more convinced of his utter, loathsome sinfulness than the great saint.

Thus a man like, say, Mitt Romney, living a truly virtuous life, and outwardly quite successful in maintaining extremely high levels of personal rectitude, is probably acutely aware of his remaining shortcomings. Such people tend to really beat themselves up if they over-indulge in drink or food, or otherwise pass the bounds of moderation. That’s how they stay so trim. And a liberal, living a righteous life – which is to say, a conservative life – like Romney’s (faithful husband, loving and attentive father, honest businessman, good churchman, magnanimous in his charitable works, etc.) would feel strongly that, e.g., infidelity is a great evil. He would react with horror to the suggestion that he himself commit adultery and divorce his wife. But then, this would mean that he would be perfectly aware, somewhere in himself – in his “guts,” as I put it – that his avowed liberal ostensible tolerance of adultery and easy divorce is at odds with his deep conviction that adultery and divorce are abhorrent. He would be aware at some level that his liberal moral beliefs were false, and that in espousing them publicly he was, not only lying, but advocating and promoting evil.

And I think a lot of liberals find themselves in this predicament. As I have said many times, the liberal is at war with his own body. He is at war with his own nature.

A righteous man cannot feel comfortable with his lies. They must be to him a source of torment. Oh, he may paper the torment over, distract himself from it with busyness or supererogatory acts of charity – organizing a charity ball or something, to save the whales or whatever, and assuage his guilt – but none of that really works. He knows at some level that in promoting gay marriage, or whatever, he is betraying his own deepest convictions. If for whatever reason – whatever selfish reason – he is unwilling to let go of his liberalism and be faithful to himself (perhaps because he fears social ostracism), he is bound to remain in this state of profound, albeit perhaps obscure, moral dissonance.

Now, internal dissonance and conflict in human beings is called “anxiety.” It is the lowest grade of fear. The more the dissonance is amplified, the greater the fear. And as the righteous liberal goes through life, the dissonance cannot but increase steadily. He’ll use up more and more of his neurological and moral resources managing the conflicts between his true, conservative principles and his ostensible, liberal principles. He’ll have to keep track of more and more unprincipled exceptions, the way a liar must keep track of more and more lies. At some point, most righteous liberals therefore eventually have a breakthrough – or a breakdown – and emerge as conservatives, the way David Mamet did. Those who do not, must double down on their liberal wager. Their doubling down consists in a redoubled intellectual and political commitment to moral nihilism, and libertinism. They are the ones who get really angry at conservatives and Christians.

Most righteous liberals are not thoughtful. The more thoughtful they are, the sooner they either suffer the breakthrough to conservatism, or double down on their liberalism. So, it’s the thoughtful liberals that are often angry. 

Provided, of course, that they turn the gaze of their deliberation upon politics at all. There are all sorts of liberals who are very bright, very thoughtful – scientists, for example, or IT professionals – but who have not deliberated upon their liberalism. They’ve attended to other things. Thus while their positions on, say, the interpretation of quantum mechanics may be quite sophisticated, their liberalism is thoughtless.

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18 thoughts on “The Righteous Liberal

  1. Kristor’s view of this matter is also Dante’s. Coincidentally I have just been reading George Santayana’s essay on Dante in Three Philosophical Poets. Kristor’s view is entirely compatible with Andrew Breitbart’s aside in an interview that has resurfaced in the aftermath of his death that liberals constantly “project,” that is, displace their own vices on others, whom they then execrate orgiastically.

  2. The first commandment says “Do not have other gods besides Me. […] I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me”. Why is it that the descendants are punished, not the actual person who hates God? This is because there is a delayed effect of the loss of morality. A liberal has the morality that his parents raised him with, but his children will lose their morality because of liberalism. So this is a step by step, generation by generation, decay into immorality. If you look at the early liberals like John Stuart Mill, they were highly moral men, just misguided. And their liberalism hurt all of the descendants of their culture, including Christians. So a liberal is not necessarily immoral, he is just wrong and his ideas destroy morality in later generations.

    As for the cause liberalism, it is not lack of thoughtfulness. It is simply arrogance. We humans are not intelligent enough to design a moral system from scratch. We need to look to tradition and see what has worked in the past. Religion is the greatest repository of successful moral traditions. Liberals think that they can use the ability to reason to replace tradition. This is arrogant and wrong. The true liberal feels no internal dissonance. His arrogance makes him look with contempt on those who hold on to tradition and religion which his reasoning rejects. There is really nothing one can do with liberals but avoid them and wait for their culture to self-destruct.

    • “There is really nothing one can do with liberals but avoid them and wait for their culture to self-destruct…”

      I completely agree and would include the followers of Mohamed in this as well…separationism in other words.

    • “There is really nothing one can do with liberals but avoid them and wait for their culture to self-destruct.”

      Pagan: paganus: “country dweller” or “rustic” + pejorative implications.
      Heathen: of the heath, similar to pagan.

      People have tried this strategy before, when those who looked to tradition for their morals were constantly attacked by the advocates of an aggressive new doctrine, which took over elites and their institutions and the cities. Avoid contact, move to the countryside or stay there, and hope for this mad new cult to self-destruct.

      White Americans are following a similar strategy now, against multiculturalist racial aggression: get out of the cities if you can, accept that the elites that form the doctrine the state governs by and that generate mass culture (the universities and Hollywood) are invincibly leftist, and accept a relatively rural culture as defining Whiteness. (“Country” = White, “urban” = non-White, and often Black.)

      The prospects of this strategy are even worse than the prospects of the old pagans making a comeback. Doctrines and customs can theoretically make a comeback, but when Whites go the way of the passenger pigeon that’s all she wrote.

      Modern leftism, often tacitly supported by modern Judeo-Christianity, is not showing itself any less aggressive than Christianity was. In forcing race replacement through mass immigration, deconstructing pro-natal behaviors in its target populations, squandering the nations’ wealth and pursuing distant wars for doctrine, it’s showing itself even more destructive and intolerant. Christianity took a long time to get around to crusading; leftism is hip-deep in war-blood already.

      On an individual, purely short-term level, avoiding leftists is common-sense.

      Collectively and with a view to the medium term (I wish we still had enough time to talk about a long run), avoidance is only a viable response if you’re perfectly happy with genocide and the complete elimination of your culture.

      • The left deliberately took over the culture with a view to subverting it; they hold it still. Conservatives and traditionalists have given up entirely. They must reverse course immediately. The current RedTeam-BlueTeam game of political one-upmanship is worthless and even counter-productive whenever we experience one of our hollow “wins” such as Bush being elected prez.

        Conservatives must reclaim the entire culture now: education, the arts, history, law, social institutions, everything. Leftists will not go away until they have killed off every last one of us, they tell us this all the time through their words and actions.

        Evil will triumph where good men do nothing, as we have seen. You cannot win if you do not even enter the fight. Homeschool, be a leader, teach, take back the old institutions and build new ones. Our existing leaders obviously do not know what to do, so it is time for grassroots action.

      • Daybreaker is right, we are the new “backward, uncool” country-folk, destined for extinction if we keep running away.

      • What Rusty says is right.

        I would add, Christians must take over the churches, which have become anti-White and worthless.

        The churches must become institutions that are healthy and saving in a visible, this-worldly sense for the people that have traditionally believed in and supported them, and that will be tempted to return to them (if they are not too decadent and hostile) when things become worse, as they will.

        Only Christians can do this, and only by getting involved. (And even then, ultimately the revolution will have to come from above. The Roman Catholic Church, for starters, is not a bottom-up institution.)

        The atheist / new-age or neo-pagan “strategy” of watching the Christian churches get worse and waiting for them to collapse utterly from lack of support, thus clearing the field for (hopefully) better alternatives is no strategy at all. Apart from anything else, there’s no time for that. If you want ancient gods and ancestor-worship to make a comeback, right now what you need is for Christianity to start working a lot better for the people that have supported it, otherwise there aren’t going to be any descendants to care about any ancestors.

      • There is nothing wrong with living in the boondocks. Galilee was the boondocks in Jesus’s time and that is where Jesus chose to preach. When Jesus left the boondocks and went to Jerusalem, he was crucified. If Jesus had started his preaching in Jerusalem, he would have been crucified before he built up enough of a following for Christianity to have survived. I think much the same applies today.

        Of course by “avoid liberals” I don’t mean do nothing. I homeschool my kids, including Bible study of course. I go to church every Sunday and I talk to the people there about the dangers of liberalism. And I will teach video game programming classes at my church for homeschool kids as a way to expose more people to my church (and as a way to activate kids’ minds). I think all of these activities are more useful than debating with liberals.

  3. And a liberal, living a righteous life – which is to say, a conservative life – like Romney’s (faithful husband, loving and attentive father, honest businessman, good churchman, magnanimous in his charitable works, etc.) would feel strongly that, e.g., infidelity is a great evil.

    The trouble with the egalitarian liberal is that this feeling would be matched by his concern that someone somewhere might suffer mightily under generalized proscriptions, whether by social taboo or positive law, or that such proscriptions might affect the poor and powerless unqually. “I’m personally opposed, but…” is not I think merely a joke. It accurately captures the mindset… at least to within one octave of the answer. Elite liberals don’t (generally) get to be elite liberals by living personally wicked lives; but coming down hard on the wickedness of those less powerful than themselves seems to them, itself, a great wickedness. So they blame the powerful instead.

    • Steve N. “Elite liberals don’t (generally) get to be elite liberals by living personally wicked lives; but coming down hard on the wickedness of those less powerful than themselves seems to them, itself, a great wickedness. So they blame the powerful instead.”

      Have you noticed them being unable to come down hard on the wickedness of trailer-park dwelling racist scum?

      Isn’t it just that the sins they aren’t inclined to scorn and punish aren’t the ones that are really toxic now?

      The left constantly invents new pseudo-sins, which are licenses to mock, condemn and punish the cleverly defined new sinners. This soaks up all the punitive juice anyone has, which leaves the old, real sins tolerated if not approved.

      And the left readily defines those against whom its wrath is sharpened as “the powerful” in some sense, even while mocking their lack of power and relying on it.

      This is most obvious in religion, where “the powerful” in the sense of being acceptable targets are Christians who won’t hit back. People who go in for decapitations and sundry forms of jihad are not “the powerful” in that sense.

      • Well, as you hint, trailer-park dwelling racist scum are the powerful… at least by one measure. Of course they are not actually powerful and, in fact, tend to fall into various social pathologies nearly as often as their non-white SES compatriots.

        Scratch a liberal on AA. What you will get, after all the non-sequiturs about oppression and historical discrimination have been dispensed, is a comic book story about the rich white kid with all the advantages and a poor black kid with none of them. (I’ve done this experiment myself with a very devout and holy leftist.) And in the universe of the comic book, it makes perfect sense that we should give a boost to the latter, if not a firm blow to the head of the former. But the comic book, very much in the vein of a Chick Tract, fails to deal with a) the fact that for every one rich white kid with all the advantages there are maybe ten white kids with few or none of them; b) the fact that the rich white kid will still have the upper hand in the AA solution, in reality even more so as the excluded white kid with fewer advantages presented more of threat to his social and economic dominance than the minority who might at least be tempted to feel grateful; and c) the true bigotry of lowered expectations of the minority due to AA…. oh, and d) the fact that foreign born people from non-historically discriminated against groups will in fact take up the very best slots reserved by AA.

        And liberals only read the comic book. The embarrassing reality is never really considered.

  4. Mr. Auster’s comment could be applied to Muslims. Not all Muslims are jihadists, most are peaceful, nice people. But we know that the non-jihadist Muslims are safe haven for the ones who take their doctrine to the fulllest. And they never turn on one of their own, no matter if he’s ready to kill for the faith.

    Nice liberals are the protective haven in which the hard core liberals find cover to do their dirty work.

      • So? Liberals are often the biggest sufferers of liberalism, but it doesn’t stop them being liberal.

      • Au contraire, liberals only rarely suffer for their policy prescriptions. That almost defines them as being a liberal: They haven’t (yet) been mugged.

  5. Many people who expess liberal opinions are ‘fellow travellers’. They simply haven’t thought in depth about their political views or the sources of their moral sentiments. And the more totalitarian liberalism becomes, fewer individuals will risk being chastised or even ostracised for rocking the boat. If these people can be described as sinners, then they’re ‘accidental sinners’.

    As George Orwell observed: “At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to contradict ‘received wisdom’, but anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy can find himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing”.

  6. “The more generally righteous a person is, the more apparent to him his remaining defects will be.”

    A man may seem righteous, even to himself, so that he’s aware of every little flaw in his nearly-perfect surface, and yet be gold-plated garbage.

    For example, what is the moral as opposed to the practical value of low rates of illegitimate childbirth that would be high rates except for a ready recourse to abortion?

    Sarah Palin has a lot of “scandal” in her family and a handicapped child. She is not in any danger of thinking her family is perfect. Barack Obama is a model husband and father who, if we take him at his word, would see to it that if one of his daughters “made a mistake” she wasn’t “punished with a baby”. He may be modest about it, but his family may look nearly perfect of you make yourself forget that one of the safeguards of its respectability is ready resort to the killing of an innocent, defenseless human being if need be.

    Liberalism resolves the clash between seeming righteous and being righteous by legitimizing whatever it takes to maintain one’s social position. Given that, I can’t attach much importance to the notion of the righteous liberal and the idea that those who esteem themselves nearly perfect may be hypersensitive about minor blemishes.

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