For those of you who came in late, we just concluded a series of seven columns explaining in brief the seven basic philosophical ideas at the root of the civilized worldview called conservatism. These columns also distinguish our ideas from the seven basic anti-ideas at the root of the barbarian worldview called radical, liberal, leftist, progressive, socialist, nihilist or Morlockian — the name of the movement changes each time the public gets wise to what they really stand for.
The previous columns have proposed that civilization believes in truth, virtue, beauty, reason and romance, in liberty and salvation, whereas the Morlocks destroying civilization say that opinions are arbitrary, values are personal, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, reason is untrustworthy, and monogamy is oppression but sexual perversion is laudable if not sacred.
The connection between these various ideas is not hard to trace: in order to make something as ugly and unreasonable and vicious as sexual perversion seem laudable, the concepts of beauty and reason and virtue must be desecrated in thought and speech, which cannot be done unless the concept of truth is also desecrated.
Criticism can be allowed only where there is freedom, including freedom of speech, and criticism of sin is possible only when men know and see a vision of salvation, a sense that life is worth living. In order to elude criticism, the liberty of thought and the vision of salvation must be replaced with the concrete gray drabness of a nihilistic world, in which nothing is possible and nothing is worth attempting.
Obviously metaphysical truths so basic to the human soul cannot be literally and honestly removed: no one could live a daily life if he could not tell true from false or right from wrong. The metaphysical truths can only be mocked with jeers and sneers on those occasions when they are needed as arbiters to condemn the perversions, sexual or intellectual or otherwise, of the Morlocks.
The Morlocks do not themselves set up any new concepts in their place. They use the same concepts civilized men use to judge true and false, right and wrong. New metaphysical truths cannot be invented any more than a new primary color can be envisioned.
What they have instead are what I call anti-ideas. An anti-idea is a meaningless verbal formula chanted by rote like charms whenever an idea is encountered in the hope of eluding or evading that idea, or silencing by peer pressure any foe uncool enough voice it. The formulae are carefully selected for maximum emotional impact and minimum intellectual content. The best formula is a single word or turn of phrase, like ‘social justice’ or ‘sexist’ which not only is not defined, it cannot be defined. These are, strictly speaking, not words but word-noises meant like the cries of beasts to express pure emotion, screams and battle cries and grunts of pleasure and so on.
The role of anti-ideas is to jam the gears of thought.
Because the way the scam works is the Thoughtpolice take some perfectly innocent word that is not offensive to anyone, like, say, “he” or “Chinaman” or “Negro” and decree it always to have had been offensive, and denounce any previous generation that used it of being filled with hate, and denounce anyone who is currently using it to be not one of the Cool Kids, and all the Cool Kids use a new and stupider word that mean nothing and pretend they’ve always used it.
This has several immediate benefits. First, as everyone lies and is forced to pretend to believe a lie no one believes, everyone’s manhood is cropped. Liars are weakminded. This eliminates truthfulness.
Second, it establishes who is in the faction as a Cool Kid and who is expelled. The rules for expulsion are deliberately fluid and vague and irrational, so that anyone at any time can be accused and convicted. This eliminates fairness. Unfair men are cynical, and cynics never rebel. Unfair men who expect nothing but unfairness are weakminded.
Third, all prior generations are eliminated from consideration. This cuts men off from the past, severs the roots of civilization. Wisdom, which only comes through cumulative experience, is eliminated. Unwise men are weakminded.
Political Correctness is much more efficient than whips and chains to instill servility, because the slaves of Political Correctness — in addition to being weakminded because they are liars, weakminded because they are cynics, and weakminded because they are fools — also suffer absurdly overinflated egos because of self-esteem, which is the sin of pride. And pride makes you weakminded.
Political Correctness, as Orwell predicted, make the thought of rebellion impossible. All the chains and whips are internalized. Not every soul in the mob wishes this, but it is what the mob as a whole screams for. I wish I were exaggerating.
I have been previously criticized for not given sufficient proof for my asseverations. Allow me to address that point here and now, as it will both tie up dangling threads from previous columns, and serve an an example of the role of anti-ideas in action.
Here is the article from last week — The Seven Bad Ideas of Leftism. Please note two things in the comments given beneath.
First, one assertion is made and repeated that the column is too simplistic, binary, Manichean. Yet there are three qualifications given to limit the scope and impact of the conclusions. The third one is, and I quote: “No claim is being made that all, or even most, of the individuals on the Left adhere to each of these Seven Bad Ideas.”
Hence the assertion that an error in the column is that it blithely says each and every Leftist has all these qualities in the same degree, or has them at all, is simply false. It is a falsehood anyone reading the column can see to be false, with no ambiguity, no valid argument on the other side.
Why bother saying and repeating a false thing? Ah, but the column explains that. This is not a philosophy, not a worldview; it is a set of verbal responses meant to halt, not to pursue, rational conversation.
Second, one assertion made and repeated is that this column (the conclusion of eight columns written over a period of two months) should prove that Leftists actually say and stand for the things they say and stand for, and that it is illegitimate of me to direct the reader’s attention elsewhere to answer that question, which is not the concern of this column.
Yet there are Leftwing persons here leaving comments who assert, at the least two of the points discussed above: one says truth is ultimately arbitrary, based on sentiment, the other says beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
And yet, even though the Leftists here are criticizing the column on the grounds that it is an unsubstantiated assertion that the mainstream of the Left tacitly or openly assert these Seven Bad Ideas, other Leftists — at the same time — are here criticizing the column by disagreeing with the Seven Bad Ideas, that I should not call them bad because they are obviously true.
Again, this is not actually a debating point where some honest but puzzled reader would like me to clarify an ambiguity or address a flaw in the argument. This is a dismissal tactic, used by someone trying to convince the other members of his herd to stopper their ears, on the grounds that the column is not precise and exact enough — in the space of less than 2000 words, mind you — to qualify every sentence with exact and lawyerly qualifications.
Friends, I can easily double or triple the size of any column by adding all the qualifications needed to be as precise and boring as a lawyer. I can. I am a lawyer. But I will not, because the opposition will simply ignore the qualifications the selfsame way they have done here.
To repeat: the Left ignore evidence. The evidence of What Liberals Say is abundant enough that any honest man can find it without help from me, and the dishonest man will not look, so there is no point in my presenting it to him.
The Left ignore reason. I note with some wry amusement that no Leftist attempting to argue the point that they could not believe these paradoxical and self contradictory things on the grounds that no one can truly believe a paradox, which was an objection I honestly expected someone to raise.
The Left are a large group with many currents and counter-currents and no one claims them to be a monolithic block under a central control. However, neither is it somehow an error in logic to point out qualities that some or most members of a set having in common. It is only an error to use common qualities as if they are defining qualities, as if they are a quality all members share by definition. I have not done that here.
I am arguing the point I am arguing, not giving evidence for a point that any man of common sense and an hour of free time can discover for himself. In order to prove me wrong, all that would need to be done would be for one man to honestly call himself a liberal and honestly denounce each of these bad ideas, and say that he believes the opposite.
So, come: tell me his name. Who is the liberal who believes truth is objective; that logic knows no race nor sex; that beauty is divine and real; that reason is sufficient to prove these things beyond doubt; that only sex within wedlock is licit, hence the differences between male and female should be emphasized and celebrated; that the government must shrink to the position of a Night Watchman whose only role is to keep the peace and not to engineer social justice; and that God is real and our nation should follow His commandments?
Tell me the names of the scores and hundreds and thousands of liberals who believe that? Or believe most of it? Or believe four out of those seven?
What I do not understand is why Leftist critics here do and say the things I say they do and say, and do not understand their example lends weight to my argument. I invite anyone who might to explain this to me.
John C. Wright is a retired attorney and newspaperman who was only once hunted by the police. He is a graduate of St. John College (home of Mortimer Adler’s “Great Books Program“). In 2004 he foreswore his lifelong atheism and joined the Roman Catholic Church. He has published over 10 SF novels, including one nominated for a Nebula award, and was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “this fledgling century’s most important new SF talent.” He currently lives in fairytale-like happiness with his wife, the authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their four children.