Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Leftists are not Relativists

Among anti-Leftists, there seems to persist a stubborn belief that Leftists are relativists.

For example, to pick one example out of thousands that presuppose this view, there is this dashed-off editorial remark by Lawrence Auster in his otherwise fine presentation of the problem of non-white savagery (against whites) in the Caribbean:

Why, even when a murder or assault has been an act of wanton cruelty for the sake of cruelty, having no bearing on any rational objective, as is the case with the recent machete attacks in Tobago, do police nevertheless act as though figuring out the motive of the killers is the most important element in the investigation? Answer: the police are liberals who deny the existence of evil.

Actually, Leftists (a term I prefer to Auster’s “liberals”) do not deny the existence of evil, generally speaking: they only deny that it exists among Leftists and non-white non-Westerners. When it comes to white non-Leftist Westerners, however, Leftists believe rather fervently in the existence of evil. Leftists are absolutists, not relativists. Or, to be precise, Leftists are selective relativists who carve out spheres in which they are absolutists—namely, the spheres of anti-Western Leftism and non-Western cultures (as long as those non-Western cultures have healthy doses of anti-Western values, such as Islam). In these spheres, Leftists believe in a system of absolute goods and morals, all conducive to their vision of how to organize society according to an (ultimately incoherent) utopianism.

This notion that Leftists are merely relativists is a simplistic insult used to denigrate them, but ultimately fails due to its lack of a sophisticated appreciation for the complexity of the problem, thus obfuscating the ersatz-religion nature of the Leftist enterprise and its immanentization of the eschaton. The problem, and the issue, is not one of Absolutism vs. Relativism, but rather of a struggle between two competing Absolutisms, where the healthier one abides by the tension of existence, while the more pathological one stubbornly resists that tension in favor of gnostic and utopian urges.


Thomas_h said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas_h said...

About liberal’s absolutism, or relativism:

Can one really be absolutist, but exercise one’s absolutism only in an isolated, and therefore per definition relative, sphere?
In other words can one be relatively absolutist? I think one can be absolutely relativist, but not the other way round. It is precisely the liberal absolute relativism which gives it the license to suspend itself whenever tactically, or dogmatically convenient. Once a person is a believing liberal he is immune to the pains of cognitive dissonance, such a philosophical inconsistency, would cause a thinking conservative.

PS. It is my first visit to your blog the address of which I found on the Jihad Watch. I’ve been enjoying very much your postings there. I regret your contact with L. Auster who I think is a highly intelligent, courageous defender of the West and a brilliant writer has come to an end. What a pity. You complement each other in many important ways.
Thomas H.

Erich said...

Thanks Thomas,

I may not have been clear enough about the absolutism of Leftism: when I said that Leftists are selectively relativist, what I meant was that it seems they are relativist in those spheres, but what is really going on is that the seeming relativism masks an absolutism in this way:

The overarching absolutism of Leftism dictates that Leftists and non-Western non-whites are good, while non-Leftists and whites are bad. The "selective relativism" involved here is simply the apparent language they use of disparaging the values of the white West. They know implicitly that the values of the white West are the dominant values of the world. Therefore, when they challenge them, it seems like they are challenging values in general, but what they are really doing is challenging one set of values they don't like. They are rejecting the dominance of the white West, and offer in place of it an incoherent alternative system which has no real basis -- other than derivations from a cafeteria conglomeration of various strands of heterodox Gnosticism and paganism, synthesized by various 19th century pseudo-philosophers (Nietzsche and Marx being the most famous). In the meantime, Islam has been re-coalescing during the 20th century, and it piques the interest of Leftists, who notice its "ethnic" non-white non-Western nature, and especially its virulently anti-Western disposition.

As for Auster, I find him very good in certain respects, but flawed in other respects. He's sort of like an excellent cello player who insists on picking up a dozen other instruments of the orchestra -- bassoon, French horn, tympani, piano, the triangle, etc. -- which he should leave alone. Or at the very least, he should be more open to discussion with people who disagree with him, rather than leaping to the conclusion that they want to "attack" him and "destroy" him, just because they disagree with him -- which is just ludicrous and asinine.

I wanted to continue my discussions with him: he's the one who removed himself from our conversation, for stupid and weird reasons.

George guy said...

The two things that seem to me to be the elementary building blocks of Leftist thought are first a destructionist form of moral autism and emotionally driven habits of moral reaction.

By destructionist moral autism, I mean that the typical Leftist is only capable of making value judgments in terms of negative activity - destruction, consumption, exploitation, killing, oppression, and so forth. The positive, creative activities - production, invention, investment, and so forth are morally mysterious. The Leftist may understand the mechanical processes of doing these things but their moral value is not understood except in terms of meeting the needs of the poor and oppressed. What the Leftist does not understand is the moral significance of creative activity that is turned towards reinforcing and magnifying other creative activity - particularly the support networks behind our most advanced industries and services. What the Leftist does not understand is economics, that everything must come from somewhere by the effort of people who expect to eat meals and sleep under a roof. The Leftist moral vocabulary is limited to consumption, destruction, and oppression: as a result their understanding of justice is limited to balancing these negatives. Success is assumed to be necessarily defined as something that occurs at the expense of someone else. They do not possess the vocabulary to describe life as more than a zero-sum game. It is this that drives their hatred of Western civilization and 'white people'. The history of civilizations from the lineage of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, Paris, London, and Philadelphia is full of such astounding successes that Western civilization has clearly benefited from a series of unspeakable crimes against humanity. Thus, white people are eternally burdened with a huge debt that can never be repaid, and anyone who does not feel this debt must be a racist for not feeling the guilt of three thousand years of imperialism and slavery.

The emotionally driven moral reactions are necessary because it is not possible to be rational when one is illiterate in the positive moral variables. The idea of doing the good that can be done with what you have, and maintaining a working economic structure where every effort is made to give everyone in the supply chain due compensation is regarded with bafflement, while the real do-gooders are those who work to commandeer everyone else's resources to 'help people'.

Erich said...

George guy,

I agree about the Leftist destructonism. What is going on there, in my view, is that the Leftist as a Gnostic rebels against the cosmos -- the cosmic order. By "cosmic order" I mean what the philosopher Eric Voegelin meant (as well as the anthropologists Ernest Becker, Mircea Eliade and Levi-Strauss among others) -- every culture or civilization develops a world-view that makes sense to them which is a complex fabrication of meaning combining ideas and the physical world around them. This becomes "the cosmos" for them. The West has developed a cosmos, a world, that for the last 500 years has increasingly dominated the whole world of competing cultures and civilizations. This world is intolerable to the Leftist -- as you put it so well in your final paragraph. However, insofar as the Leftist has no alternative world to offer, he must be "destructionist" in response: this was pre-eminently the responses of Communism and Nazism, to destroy with the dream of replacing what is destroyed with some kind of utopian fantasy that is never coherently fleshed out.

The only other recourse the Leftist has (other than indulging in self-destructive fantasies and addictions to escape) would be to flee his own West into a non-Western culture -- become a Buddhist, live in some Third World hell-hole "helping" the natives, or now more and more appealing: convert to Islam. Islam, alone among all cultures in the world today, offers a ready-made organically developed Alternative Cosmos to the West -- with the added spices of being "ethnic" (always cool to the white Western Leftist), and being virulently hostile to the West (again, attractive to the self-hating Western Leftist).