Some Americans are slowly realizing that reformers, whether “progressives” or “liberals,” are inherently opposed to the majority because of the psychology of reformism.
Pat Buchanan is one of the few Americans who dare write about race. If you write about race, it’s assumed you are anti-equality, and the only blasphemy of this time is to be against our egalitarian ideal. Otherwise, why would you be writing about race, as we crusade onward toward total equality?
He poses a vital question that extends beyond race, however:
If Kagan is confirmed, the Court will consist of three Jews and six Catholics (who represent not quite a fourth of the country), but not a single Protestant, though Protestants remain half the nation and our founding faith.
If Kagan is confirmed, three of the four justices nominated by Democratic presidents will be from New York City: Kagan from the Upper West Side, Sotomayor from the Bronx, Ruth Bader Ginsburg from Brooklyn. Breyer is from San Francisco.
What kind of diversity is this â€” either in geography or life experience? – “Are Liberals Anti-WASP?,” Patrick J. Buchanan, May 14, 2010
When he asks “Are Liberals Anti-WASP?,” Buchanan breaks through to a bigger underlying question. Race (which includes the distinctions between Caucasians, such as WASP — Western European — and Southern, Eastern and Semitic Euripids) is a subset of social status and rank, which in itself as an issue is a subset of our quest for equality.
But why do we quest for equality? It has become our holy grail, even though it was not to our founding fathers — they believed in political equality as a means to an end of avoiding tyranny, but nothing else. Instead, in the postwar period the West has become obsessed with achieving equality of results where its forefathers were concerned with equality of opportunity.
To understand this paradox, we must look into the mind of a reformer. Let us for the moment glide over the decision to become a reformer, and the high correlation with anger at one’s parents; instead, let us assume that we have decided we are reformers, and pick any stripe you want: progressive, liberal, leftist, Christian, you name it.
Once you have decided to become a reformer, you find yourself needing to make a good case for your position, socially. You will be explaining to friends, co-workers, neighbors and potential converts the reasons why you are a reformer. You need a convincing argument that works in multiple scenarios — from academia to man-on-the-street — so you’re going to use the lowest common denominator, which is an appeal to the fears and hopes of the individual.
For this reason, you’re going to explain what you’re doing as moral good. You are trying to achieve reform; it is all positive. By the binary nature of moral good and evil, then, those who oppose you are negative or bad. Well, who are they? If the system is unjust, as you are arguing, that means that those who are thriving in it now must also be unjust or at least unconcerned that it is unjust. They are selfish. They are moral bad. And because reformers start as a minority, these morally bad people are always the majority.
In fact, this is the easiest narrative of reform to suggest: the majority (we don’t need to name names, but everyone out there, present company excepted of course!) is selfish and doesn’t care about the injustice perpetrated. So what do we propose in response? Equality, or the idea that everyone gets the same amount of wealth. It’s so simple it’s catchy like a Taylor Swift tune and hard to get out of your head: the problem is that some are selfish, so spread the money around, and we will have defeated selfishness.
The problem with this approach is that it’s not scientific; in fact, it’s an inversion of the scientific method. In the laboratory, we study reality and then make conjectures that we test and refine. In reformist politics, we first look at the theory we want to support, and then invent arguments against it. If we start out assuming that our society is broken, that leads us to demonize anyone who is not like us a reformer. It’s a tautological and cult-like mentality.
If I have learned anything from America, it is that as a whole Americans like justice. But the idea of justice is split between the reformers and the rest, who because they are not reformers and therefore must like our civilization as it is, get lumped in with “conservatives.”
The result is an impassable chasm: regular people want to continue living in a system that while imperfect joins a long line of imperfect systems, including nature herself if seen through a purely human perspective (we can be eaten). Reformers need power, and will justify it with the presence of the oppressed, which leads them to construe the majority as the oppressors and thus hate them with the ferocity of a skinhead. Reformism is an inevitable path toward hating the majority in your country.
Regular people tend to see their way of life as natural, and reform as “artificial,” mainly because a conservative approach to life is organic. We set up a civilization, and see who is able to take care of themselves and take advantage of the opportunity offered. We try to make sure it’s roughly meritocratic but don’t look too closely because we know that everywhere on earth, someone is gaming every system. Instead, we want to make sure that if someone is dedicated, they can succeed even if at first they meet small injustices.
This view is compatible with both the human spirit and the scientific method. It allows us to not see the world through a negative light, as reformers must, since the need for reform implies an inherent injustice. It also allows us to support a kind of natural selection in our own community, where we struggle for success in a flawed but consistent world. It forces us to understand our world and meet it halfway, in contrast to reforms which try to set up a purely “human” order of equality which lets us avoid understanding the world, so long as we understand the social dogma of equality.
Buchanan and others are probably traumatized by the class warfare and its subset, racial antagonism, that comes with a dying West that has been wracked by reformers for nearly a millennium. As a result, they are asking whether racial hatred or class hatred is the force dividing us. In actuality, we are divided by the existence of a self-described minority who have convinced themselves that because they are having trouble, the system is unjust, and therefore needs them to become reformers. This backward logic creates distrust and hoodwinks many people, since “the problem is that society isn’t equal, and we need to make it equal” is both simple and catchy enough to be more tempting than complex treatises on economics and history.
The result has produced a neurotic culture that runs into conflict with others because it does not know itself:
In a sense, the evils of Islam are largely externalized and really amount to blaming the wrong party. It should be acknowledged that we in the West are often the problem, not the Muslims, due to our failure to value that Christian and Western culture that we have all but discarded.
Poor Muslims seeking work in wealthy Europe have not set out with a plan to overwhelm the West any more than a Mexican picking tomatoes in the Imperial Valley is doing so in hopes of creating Mexifornia. – “More on the Clash of Civilizations,” Philip Giraldi, American Conservative, May 11, 2010
The title of that article, like the one cited above it, says more than the article contents. It references historian Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, a book that suggests that instead of being the ultimate evolution of humankind, liberal democracy is an unstable order because it fails to connect citizens to real meaning that is central to their lives. Equality and freedom after all are facilitative goals, not prescriptive ones, and as a result they do not give their citizens something to shoot for. “Do this and you will be rewarded because we all agree it is good” may be the message of the future, not “you can do whatever you want and no one will judge you.”
People want “organic,” or “whole,” societies of this nature. They make clear what values are held in common, and these values are not divided by conflict between genders, religion, science, government, social activity and economics — rather, these are all acting in unison with the same set of values expressed in each according to its specific language and needs. They also make clear that actions toward that value system are valued by every member of society, so that anyone striving toward actions compatible with those values should be rewarded.
Without an organic and unifying whole to a society, we are left with dogma and bureaucracy. Reformers, by their desire to “fix” an organic system and replace it with a fair one, inevitably create powerful governments to enforce equality. However, those governments are essentially large bureaucracies with no memory and so they are easily gamed. Here’s David Brooks on the type of Nietzschean “last man” who games the system:
About a decade ago, one began to notice a profusion of Organization Kids at elite college campuses. These were bright students who had been formed by the meritocratic system placed in front of them. They had great grades, perfect teacher recommendations, broad extracurricular interests, admirable self-confidence and winning personalities.
If they had any flaw, it was that they often had a professional and strategic attitude toward life. They were not intellectual risk-takers. They regarded professors as bosses to be pleased rather than authorities to be challenged. As one admissions director told me at the time, they were prudential rather than poetic.
If you listen to people talk about Elena Kagan, it is striking how closely their descriptions hew to this personality type. – “What It Takes,” by David Brooks, The New York Times, May 10, 2010
Reformers are inherently system kids. They don’t want to deal with the vagaries of nature or culture; they want a bureaucracy that they can game. Since all bureaucracies are gamed by justification, it’s no surprise that reformers act via justification. They do not want to deal with ambiguity. They want to set up a centralized authority and decentralized dogma that will reward them not for results, but for intention. This way they can please others and get ahead without taking actual risks. Regular people fear this mentality because they know how easily systems are gamed, producing results “on paper” without achieving actual results.
Regular people are beginning to fear that “reform” is another type of “bread and circuses” approach to government: tell people it’s not their fault, let them destroy those they’d like to think oppressed them, redistribute wealth and centralize authority.
The backlash is surprising in its stealth. While my co-writers have covered the Tea Party and its nuances, it may be a fading phenomenon — more of a flare sent up to rally the troops than the movement of the troops themselves. What it has done is generate a series of legislative motions to stop the oppressor-oppressed dialogue from being sponsored by the state:
Under the law signed on Tuesday, any school district that offers classes designed primarily for students of particular ethnic groups, advocate ethnic solidarity or promote resentment of a race or a class of people would risk losing 10 percent of its state financing.
â€œGovernor Brewer signed the bill because she believes, and the legislation states, that public school students should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people,â€ Paul Senseman, a spokesman for the governor, said in a statement on Thursday. – “Citing Individualism, Arizona Tries to Rein in Ethnic Studies in School”, by Tamar Lewin, The New York Times, May 13, 2010
What they’re trying to do here is reverse a reversed narrative of justice. The normal narrative of justice is that we set up a meritocracy, and punish those who do unfair things. The reversed narrative of justice is that we assume things are unjust, and subsidize those who perceive unfairness might have happened. When that narrative is re-reversed, we see a new idea being the conduit: our system may not be perfect, but we are against taking from the successful to subsidize people whose claim on injustice remains unproven, especially after 150 years of increasing civil rights legislation.
Look for this issue — long dormant in American society, probably since the founding of the country — to explode in the future. The next targets will be welfare, and after that, affirmative action and other entitlement programs based on presumed injustice by skin color or religion. Paradoxically, by going through this process of defining ourselves and getting our narrative of fairness back on track, we will learn more about fairness and thus have more of it in our foreign and domestic policies.