Tuesday, June 24, 2003


I made the mistake of linking from the fabulous Iranian girl's blogto Andrew Sullivan's blog. It's amusing in many ways. He blames the left for being against gay marriage. Somehow this is more of a 'right' issue. Tee-hee.

It made me think--what are these labels? There is a strong moral content to each 'side' on the political spectrum expressed in a conviction of the perfidy, maliciousness, moral bankruptcy of those on the opposition. It seems to extend to evaluations of character of the persons in those camps.

It helps me make sense of things like ethnic cleansing because if you can think that someone from your same race and social class and nation who lives two dorm doors down from you deserves to die--well, I guess that demonization sort of thing is rather easy when you come down to it.

Sullivan seems to believe, roughly, that the left is deeply immoral (Earlier I promised to use the word 'evil' sparingly and I'm trying to make good on that vow). I find this so strange. I have strongly held political beliefs and I become angry at times. I do think that the quest for power and wealth at the expense of the good of others are wrong. However, I don't tend to see those who disagree with me politically as necessarily immoral. Stupid, misguided maybe--but not immoral.

Ordinarily, you might say I am leftist--I suppose I would like to be leftist. But I struggle with that because there are some perspectives that other leftists have that I vehemently disagree with. So I feel like a poseur when I claim to be a leftist.

I'm a girl without a label at times. But overall I'd say I'm one who hopes for a socialist paradise.

If I were like Sullivan, I suppose I could just delude myself into thinking that the views I don't like are not 'really' the leftist views. It amazes me that he doesn't have to struggle with himself as he allies himself with so many who regard gays and lesbians as deviant or worse. He seems to think !Bush! is going to come out in favor of gay rights one of these days.

The Canada thing is great. But isn't there a reason why it happened in Canada?

If you are a neo-conservative I would imagine that Canada is your Babylon, is it not?

Even so, none of my disagreements with the left take the form of agreeing with the right. Sometimes, they take the form of admitting that in some ways I am a liberal.

(For example, I sometimes have thoughts like this: We NEED the rule of law. When you have good, just laws and these govern society as opposed to individual choice--well, that's just a good thing! And my current worry is that some of the recent developments indicate the rule of law in the U.S. is becoming weaker and weaker and maybe some of our institutions are not the rock hard protectors of liberty we might hope for.)

I wonder what neo-conservatives are for sometimes and where this moralizing comes from. I think--aren't they simply for the absolute protection of private property and wealth at all costs? Weak (or no) labor laws...weak protections against forms of discrimination...weak (or no) environmental protection...every man for himself...The moral elements seems to be: Capitalism is intrinsically good and anything that interferes with the growth of capitalism (even if chosen in a democratic manner--such as the social policies of the U.S. prior to the Reagan years) is evil.

Their current schtick seems to be 'we are for democracy.' That is Sullivan's schtick. Yet if a form of government is chosen in a third world country that prevents capitalism from flourishing in even the smallest way then they don't seem to have many qualms about squelching democracy. They don't worry about the way differences in power and wealth give some control over social institutions.

Actually, rather than democracy I'd say the neo-conservative is mostly for voting. They really like people to vote and then what happens after that is their problem.

So are they 'for' anything over and above the golden idol of private property?--E.g., they seem a bit torn between libertarian freedom and privacy and big brother-ish social control. Or the libertarians seem to fuel the rhetoric but the big brother types seem to determine the policy.

This is painting with a broad brush--but I'm trying to gesture at the question that bothers me. This is: Where does the moralizing come from? Where does the righteousness come in? The views on the right (rather wide, in the end, as Sullivan's punditry proves) seem to be fairly disconnected from anything I would attach to traditional morality--e.g., loving kindness to one's fellow human, generosity, courage, honesty, charity, etc.

E.g., the whole Christian concern for the poor, the sick, the orphan, the widow, the prisoner. I'm pretty sure the left and old-style liberal has that bag sewn up in political (if not private 'faith-based') terms.

Rather than a moral perspective it seems as if for neo-conservatives an economic theory has been embraced in the way you would expect a religion or moral perspective to be embraced. An economic theory plus a near-religious patriotic fervor (but one that is concerned not primarily with the well-being of one's fellow citizens but with the power of one's nation-state and its world standing).

The moralizing aspect seems confused to me. I see that the idea is that somehow the creation of wealth and protection of property is understood in a moral light. That's pretty obvious. I see that the same goes for the patriotism--loyalty to one's country is given a moral value (not just loyalty but the desire for one's country to dominate). At the same time, this does not follow any traditional understanding of morality...Even the religious elements about personal conduct are not crucial to the neo-conservative (as Sullivan proves).

I think the economic theory is mistaken. I.e., the idea that any form of wealth redistribution or socially shared wealth will lead to economic collapse and chaos. They are probably correct that redistribution through taxation or other means (land reform, e.g.) will lead to less overall wealth I think the cost is worth the benefit since the wealth is concentrated less in fewer hands.

But even if it weren't mistaken it just doesn't seem like a 'righteous' view. One to get all on your high horse about.

As for the patriotirc fervor--that I also don't get. The country is beautiful, the culture produces wild and interesting things as well as massive amounts of trash (but, whatever--anyone who has traveled will be quite aware that the trash of other nations is just as various while not as widely exported). It's hard to generalize about 'the people' so different and various are we. The constitution and form of democracy we have in the U.S. is something to be glad for (even though certain elements--such as due process--seem to be experiencing a fairly concerted attack recently) given the currently available alternatives. But there are lots of other countries whose democratic process functions just as well or better. [For the sake of argument I'll leave aside the major problems...]

And there is no historical evidence to suggest that the U.S. will lead the world in a moral way or use its power for good in all cases. So why the unquestioning faith in this? And why would it take a moralizing form? [Oh wait--I forgot the whole neo-conservative spin on the cold war. Never mind.]

I guess what I mean to say is: Even if you agreed with some of the neo-conservative way of interpreting history and current events you'd have to wonder where the sanctimoniousness comes from.

Isn't it a civil religion of a sort?

I really find myself falling back on some kind of pseudo-philosophical psychoanalysis to explain the high dander of the neo-conservative. Will to power--poor are weak, strong crush weak--certain people find this notion quite satisfying. That's the best I can do at this point.

Otherwise the whole perspective of the neo-conservative seems (1) unconnected to morality and thus not a reliable source for self-righteousness and (2) essentially an amoral view--one that does not lend itself to any kind of scorn for those who, e.g., believe in global warming or want the government to pay for poor children's lunches and checkups and fillings.

And this is why I hate surfing the web--because it makes me think about crap like this.

Eight weeks! I had eight weeks free from blog punditry, newspapers, the internet...I just checked out. And shit--in one day I'm back to blabbing 'til the cows come home.


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