Saturday, November 19, 2011
Lawrence Auster's political taxonomy
Before I get into the complexity of my analysis, let me begin with a pithy summation of the problem of Lawrence Auster's political taxonomy:
In order to explain the rather curious (and seemingly escalating) phenomenon of conservatism becoming more "liberal" in recent history, Auster seems to have developed a loose taxonomy based upon a division of "true conservative" and "liberal" -- where the latter category seems to mutate into a multitude of permutations more than microscopic mites might at Chernobyl. One particular type of mutation that seems quite important to Auster is the mutation whereby any given conservative he doesn't like becomes classified as some type of "liberal", or infected with the "liberal" genetic mutation. And if one reads Auster's blog over a long period of time, one gets the sense that nearly every conservative out there is somehow a "liberal".
With regard to the problem of Islam, I certainly agree that the vast majority of conservatives are PC MC -- but whether being PC MC makes one a "liberal" or a "Leftist" is another matter. Indeed, I have been using that acronym for years now precisely to function as an alternative to the L words -- precisely in order to avoid calling conservatives the L-words and rather to find a more reasonable explanation for the phenomenon.
(Note: my quote marks around the words liberal and Leftist throughout this essay do not necessarily at all times denote "sneer quotes", but rather, for the most part, reflect the complex historical and philosophical problem of such labels, and the apparent disregard for, or incomprehension of, that problem apparently evident in Auster's analysis in this regard.)
But we are getting slightly ahead of ourselves.
Taking a step back brings us to the question of Auster's standard and/or criteria for the type of conservative he likes; and who, therefore, earns the right to the putatively appropriate term of the true conservative -- logically then also providing criteria by which to exclude oodles and oodles of other conservatives out there as "false conservatives" (apparently the majority, if not vast majority, of them). The criteria are multifarious and of course involve what could be called old-fashioned values in a general sense; and tend at times to veer into queer (in the old-fashioned sense) territory, vaguely reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's quaint and charming evocation of the "good old days". What this means in concrete terms is not so much central to our analysis today, and in any case would embroil us in lengthy digressions concerning a dizzying array of various issues of the day.
The reader may detect in the foregoing a tonality of somewhat veiled sarcasm. I admit it's there, but it is aroused not so much by a disdain for old-fashioned values but rather for the promiscuous, incoherent and labile methodology (if one can call it a methodology) by which Auster tries to make sense out of the aforementioned phenomenon of a liberalization among conservatives seemingly run rampant. Nor does my sarcasm intend to convey that this phenomenon is a trivial concern -- at least not with regard to one of the most pressing issues of our time: the problem of Islam.
And that provides a neat segue into a recent representative remark by Auster, in which he alludes to
...a comment Jim Kalb made recently at VFR [Auster's blog]...
to the effect that
...liberals totally misconstrue the nature of Islam because they believe that liberalism “fully realizes what’s right and just and fulfilling,” which “makes it the natural way to look at things.”
Auster then massages that further:
Therefore all human beings, including Muslims, must be liberals—or at least aspiring liberals—just like us. That liberals in general and Americans in particular think everyone in the world is really “like us” is of course nothing new; it’s a point that I, for one, make all the time.
Auster and Kalb are quite right, mostly, about this mindset and its drastically deleterious effects it has been having on the West's response to the problem of Muslims in our time. And, as Auster has noted many times on his blog (quite accurately), this mindset is not merely limited to liberals or Leftists, but also informs and inspires the hearts and minds of the vast majority of conservatives. Are we to then conclude that the vast majority of conservatives have become transformed into liberals and/or Leftists? Or that they have come under the bewitching spell, or have acquiesced to the power of, liberals and/or Leftists? None of these conclusions are adequate because of the massive and preposterous enormity -- demographically and culturally -- which they presuppose. In terms of the scale necessary for them to be true, they presuppose the type of thinking that is characterized in conspiracy theories.
Unless we step back and rethink the phenomenon.
As far as I know, Auster has never seemed to posit an etiology for this phenomenon. How did this happen? How did the vast majority of conservatives become infected with "liberal" attitudes, in various ways, in varying degrees, about sociopolitical issues? The hypothesis that makes the most sense -- and which best steers clear of that type of conspiracy theory thinking to which we alluded above -- is that it reflects a long historical process, perhaps going back a century or two, or more.
This process, furthermore, can be illuminated by a reminder: Graeco-Roman philosophy and Judaeo-Christian revelation, the four pillars of Western civilization, contained the seeds of the concept of universalism, which unfolded with their synthesis in Christendom.
This classic Western concept of universalism presumes precisely what Auster and Kalb noted about "liberals" -- namely, that all humans are part of Mankind and share certain good qualities endowed by God (the bad quality of the fallibility of sin which was conceived as a mysterious counterbalance to the good qualities has, perhaps, been all too easily glossed over by "liberals" and "Leftists" in their translation and deformation of their own Western heritage).
When Westerners began to encounter various multitudes of "the Other" throughout the world beginning in earnest in the 16th century, this idea of universalism was not scrapped. When encountering obviously regressive and primitive savages in various parts of the world, the assumption that tended to prevail was that the humanity of those savages -- a humanity modeled after Western standards -- while perhaps most often not evident on the surface, nevertheless was latent, and needed to be coaxed and nurtured, most often through the method that was mainstream in those times, Christianization. The major difference between the Western Colonialists of yore and our Western PC MC Neo-Colonialists today is that the former were more often than not quite willing to take aggressive measures against any particular savages whose recalcitrance to the project of humanization became evidently stubborn and dangerous; whereas the latter, as we know all too painfully well, tend to bend over backwards to ignore, placate and excuse the savagery of the savages of our day -- most especially with regard to the Mother of all Others, Muslims.
I.e., liberals didn't invent the notion that non-Westerners can become civilized; nor did they invent the notion that civilization is presumed to be a Westernization; nor did they invent the notion that Homo Occidentalis is the model of humanity: these ideas were widespread throughout the great era of Western Colonialism that spanned nearly a half a millennium, and which was profoundly informed by the Christian pedagogy that had grown and ripened throughout the epoch of Christendom -- even if, by the time Western Colonialism was in full swing, that epoch was beginning to crack under enormous pressures of a transformation into modernity. The symbolism of humanity as a Western model generously extended to all Mankind is not an invention of liberals. It is an invention of Christendom, with Graeco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian underpinnings. The "liberals" of our time (going back to, say, Wilson, if one must mark a recent beginning point) have simply added their own warped spin to it.
While "liberals" therefore definitely crank up and contort this presumption of universalism -- mainly by having utterly lost the brakes of reason by which the Western Colonialists of yore tended at least, for the most part, to be able to recognize the various limits of the various savages they were trying to help -- nevertheless, the underlying universalism is the same. And in fact we see it today in innumerable Christians who wish to convert Muslims to Christianity -- presuming that such a project is doable because, after all, all humans are really Christians at heart, if they only heard the Good News. And a million Muslims are converting to Christianity in Africa every day (so goes the rumor based upon the mere opinion of some imam on Al Jazeera a few years ago)! This presumption is no less reckless than the "liberal" presumption that motivates our projects of "democratization" in the Muslim world; though the latter currently has far more concrete deleterious effects because it is the enthusiastically pursued worldview du jour with the backing of powerful Western governments. It is the new raison d’être of Neo-Colonialism, with Muslims as its chief object only because Muslims are making the most noise around the world, misbehaving the most, and causing the most problems -- which have to be solved, of course, by us through our project of helping Muslims rediscover their inner Western humanity.
With regard to the complex constellation of other sociopolitical issues unrelated to the problem of Islam which also inform Auster's political taxonomy, they are not relevant to this analysis (except, in certain respects, for the one issue of the problem of blacks, for the PC MC project of anti-racism is perhaps the crux of the PC MC myopia to the problem of Islam); except insofar as they may reveal what I described above as the "promiscuous, incoherent and labile methodology (if one can call it a methodology) by which Auster tries to make sense out of the aforementioned phenomenon of a liberalization among conservatives seemingly run rampant."
At any rate, Auster is generally quite right about the problem of the Western approach to the problem of Islam; but I think he's rather drastically wrong about the framework -- the political taxonomy he has developed -- through which he explains it.
On the complex question of the history and philosophy of Western universalism and its symbolism of humanity, see the following:
Wildersianism and the "inner Westerner" inside Muslims
Wildersianism (the new Wilsonianism) and the distinction between Islam and Muslims
Christian Wilsonianism at Jihad Watch
Correction: Christian Wildersianism at Jihad Watch
More on Christian Wilsonianism
"Christian Wilsonianism" continued...
And perhaps most importantly:
Four phases of Western universalism, and the humanity of Muslims