Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What's Happened to the Left?

In the face of the Islamic attack of 9/11, the left has retreated from its historic antipathy towards religion. At least this is true in the case of Islam, despite the fact that Islam is a primitive religious fundamentalist ideology that sees no separation of church and state, that currently underwrites the most oppressive treatment of women and gays, and that is opposed to pluralism yet alone the multi-cultural so cherished on the left. If not supportive of Islam, the left has adopted a policy of anti-anti-Islam, attacking the critics of Islam, just as it became anti-anti-communism as the reality of communism became too absurd to defend outright. The rare exception is Christopher Hitchens, who was invigorated by the events of 9/11 to fight what he sees as a fascist and religious foe. But his singular example reminds us of the gulf between the contemporary left and what might have been.

As the threat of Islam became more and more apparent, the left has become dogmatically relativistic; they have ignored the vast distinctions between contemporary Christianity and an unreformed atavistic political ideology wrapped in religious garb by a vicious 7th century warrior/tyrant. To equate the two religions, they have minimized the faults of Islam and maximized the limitations of Christianity. In practice, this means the left has to come to the defense of Islam.

Let’s consider a counterfactual reality where the left had taken a very different path. Suppose they acknowledged Islam’s far greater faults but stressed that this was a difference of degree, not a difference in kind. For example, they might have put forth the thesis that Christianity has evolved by becoming tolerant, worldly, and accepting of secular knowledge, but Islam remains primitive, anti-life, irrational, un-reflective, dogmatic, and bellicose. They might even suggest that Islam is a reductio absurdum example showing what happens when faith, dogma, and religious authority are taken to extremes.

The Christian retort might be to acknowledge that there is a vast difference but it is a difference in kind. The example of Jesus and Mohammad are in stark contrast; Islam is inherently political by design; and the original focus of Christianity is the good news for the salvation of the individual soul. Both the secular left and Christian right could agree that Islam is a barbaric practice that needs to be scrapped if Muslims are to enter the modern civilized world. Both could agree that Islam has little room for reason while Christianity has welcomed reason into human affairs. And both could agree that in Islam, Mohammad’s harsh warrior-like tyrannical model is an antiquated Old Testament paradigm and that Jesus provides an alternative model.

That did not happen. The left couldn’t break free of its multi-cultural relativism nor turn-off its hatred of America long enough to get a reasonable perspective and a sense of proportion.

Let’s compare this to another time when we fought another enemy: Nazism.

In our fight against fascism, Nazism, and Japanese imperialism, we were keenly aware of our moral superiority and proud to be fighting on the side of liberty. There was no question about the vast difference between them and us; but we each had our differences in emphasis on how best to express the essence of our values. Even if one reached for the words democracy and liberty, there was disagreement on the meaning of those words. But we knew there was a profound difference between the enemies we faced and our great nation; and we never lost sight of that fact.

There was one writer who believed that the difference wasn’t fundamental but one of degree; we too were heading down the path previously taken by our European foes. In “The Road to Serfdom,” Friedrich von Hayek described how England started down that path three decades ahead of America and Germany preceded England by another three decades. He described in detail the steps to tyranny and the degree each nation had traveled down that road. Hayek understood the importance of not only isolating the principle but also respecting difference of magnitude. At no time was there an insinuation of moral equivalence. If he had title his book “Churchill is Hitler and Roosevelt is Stalin,” no one would have ever heard of him, England would still have a welfare state, and America would have a Canadian health system … or worse.

Social democrats dissented from his conclusion that it is only a difference of degree—seeing totalitarianism as a difference in kind from the welfare state. But that what makes for a reasonable debate between people who can respect each other. Today’s left has removed themselves from reasonable debate by failing to single-out the barbarity of our foes and the commonality on the right, center, and moderate left. Islam is a threat to all of us. We can argue about our differences but they are dwarfed by the nature of the threat created by Islam.

My explanation of our greatness emphasizes the importance of our Classical heritage, which since Aquinas championed Aristotle, has laid the foundation for the progress we’ve seen in the last 700 years. I’d argue that Christianity deserves praise for being flexible enough to absorb this heritage. Obviously, some of my Christian friends would put the emphasis more on religion. But in our disagreement, which in both cases reflects a lifetime of reflection, we are well aware of the odd man out: Islam. Why can’t the left get that?

17 Comments:

Anonymous leelion said...

It will interesting if the western political left and Muslims inherit the world; I wonder how they'll get on?

1/10/06, 10:03 PM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Leelion,
Let's not even begin to give any thought to that idea. Instead, let's work to do away with the both of them.

Jason,

When I read the passage where Hayek pointed out that it was only a matter of degree which separated Italy and Germany from the rest of Europe in WWII, it changed my way of seeing the struggle between good and evil. In war, the contrast is stark, as it is today; it is Islam and the Left vs. the Western Tradition of Liberalism and Judeo-Christianity. But, when trodding the road that leads up to war, we don't see the differences so clearly.

To those of us who read this blog, the differences are stark today. But, as many people say, we are now living in a time similar to 1938. For those who are still asleep in "1938" the Left still looks like it is part of America.

This war is very strange in that it crosses the borders of nations. It will be interesting to see how that will play out in the West. Will there be actual civil war? Will the lefts penchant for bombing Starbucks and torching SUV's merge with Jihadi suicide bombing? Will the Left actually forge an organized alliance with the Jihadis, rather than just a loose mutual admiration society?

1/10/06, 11:19 PM  
Blogger John Sobieski said...

I think the term 'useful idiot' and 'feeding the alligator hoping it eats you last' are appropriate.

What many people do not know are that many leftist organizations are communists and anarchists who are intent on destroying the capitalist west. They have made great strides. I would have thought such conclusions ridiculous until Islam smacked me on the side of head and I began to research and I began to understand how much the left was protecting it.

It is a pity the Democrats have chosen to defend Islam. It's a losign position. Even the Republicans are still stuck on 'few, radical Islamists' rather than a blunt statement that Islam itself is the problem.

1/10/06, 11:35 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Leftists have never, ever been constrained by moral considerations of means to an end.

You can have a bread line without bread, you know.

1/11/06, 9:26 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Little do people realize - and here I include our leaders and business leaders - that Islam has its own economic principles - principles which are different from, and at variance with, capitalist economic principles. Hence, capitalism will not survive the take-over of the West by Islam. But this, of course, will please the leftists, since they wish for the downfall of capitalism anyway.

Maybe, there'll even be a goodly amount of Schadenfreude in this: Capitalism saw off communism - the leftists' dream system. It will probably give them great pleasure to observe the Islamic economy seeing off capitalism!

Is this part of their agenda, perhaps?

1/11/06, 11:43 AM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

More missives from the Ay Rand Institute. Risible as always, Jason.

I enjoyed your thumbnail analysis of Christianity and how you were able to do it without mentioning its overwhelming dpenedence on the Greek idea of death.

I could go on and say that what the left generally oposes is fundamentalism regardless of sect but you seem to deny the existence of fundamentalism outside Islam. You don't believe Islam is concerned with salvation?

Then you make the swith to Canadian health care. Quite a trip. Did you read that our health care costs as a percentage of GNP are up another couple percentage points (twice any other nation's) while measures like life span and infant mortality are distinctly middle of the pack. Sounds like the "free market" is flawless, no?

Now Hayek did point out the need for markets in pricing but plasma TVs and health care might not be similar markets so this needs a little analysis before the Randroids start the knees jerking.

Been a while since I've seen Aquinas mentioned. I'm going to bet that none of your "Christian friends" have ever read him or have tackled the problem of a rational ethics (Rand fell flat on her face there).

So there we have another Jason posting --- "I hate Islam and I hate social welfare spending". You can cut it down to that since your depth never goes further and you could save some typing.

1/11/06, 12:23 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Ah, Ducky, more anti-anti-Islam from the left field with the typical dash of moral equivalence: all religions are the same--or Ducky’s preferred variation (all fundamentalisms are the same.) Thank you for illustrating my point.

1/11/06, 12:40 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Yes, Pastorius, there are grave similarities with 1938 … one of my favorite topics.

Axis, it still amazes me that the left doesn’t get it when it is so blatant. But they sided with Islamists before in 1979 when they supported Khommemi only to be the first to the slaughter … which LeeLion is what would happen.

One has to wonder if Mark is right; their dream of a socialist utopia has burst and now they have nothing left but their hatred and desire to destroy socialism’s destroyer: the capitalist West. As Beamish notes, to that end, they will accept any means … even Islam (as Horowitz writes in “Unholy Alliance.”)

1/11/06, 12:54 PM  
Anonymous leelion said...

Jason, re Mr Ducky's Ayn Rand reference, are you a follower? We had an Objectivist broadcaster in New Zealand who was a supporter of the Iraq war. Very interesting guy of the David Kelly rather than Peikoff school. I wonder if Rand would back Bush in Iraq and the war on terror, and whats the consensus amonst Objectivists in the U.S.? So many Libertarians like Lew Rockwell and Harry Browne seem opposed to any war whatsoever. Seems too idealistic and impractical to me. I've been a follower of Robert Ringer for years. He seems to have softened his views and calls himself a "practical libertarian" or something similar.

1/11/06, 1:52 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I’m familiar with all the authors you mentioned. I think Rand has much to offer that isn’t said elsewhere. She is in the Aristotelian tradition but with much of the libertarian philosophy of John Locke. She’s more argumentative than I am … I prefer to look for common ground even when people express themselves quite differently than I do. Thinking about one’s worldview or philosophy or religion is an ongoing activity that isn’t revolved by a simple argument. She’s worth a read even if you don’t agree with her. It sounds like you’re already familiar …

1/11/06, 2:31 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

War is necessary, even desirable. No other human endeavor parallels the romantic synthesis of fulfilled destiny like utterly defeating a mortal enemy and eradicating his culture from the historical record.

1/11/06, 4:33 PM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Beamish, the holocaust must have had you creaming your pants. You watch old film clips of the camps?

What a trog.

1/11/06, 5:03 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

The Holocaust was a product of your leftist ideology, Ducky. It was necessary for the civilized to destroy Nazi culture to show the flaws of your beloved national socialism.

1/11/06, 5:08 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

Jason

Ducky has now defined deviancy down again he has gone to moral relitivism to moral irrelevance.

Hmmm that is odd you should dredge up the Holocaust in a post to Mr Beamish. There is one certified anti semite on this board and you are it comrade.

Hey bird brain lets count the bodies of Ayn Rand followers and Groucho Marxism. I am not a Rand follower but this is insane.

1/11/06, 8:09 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

I find it intriguing that Ducky would characterize my praise for the corrective power of warfare in terms of joy for the Holocaust. The people killed in the Holocaust weren't victims of war, they were victims of a leftist cultural policy that required a necessary war to eradicate.

It is, after all, leftist culture's "look-the-other-wayism" that allows such atrocities as the Holocaust to occur.

1/12/06, 6:36 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

"To equate the two religions, they have minimized the faults of Christianity and maximized the limitations of Christianity."

I think you meant, "they have minimized the faults of Islam"?

As to the overarching issue you are raising - why doesn't the left "get it"? Why this unholy alliance? I am in the mood to make vast generalizations rather than explore nuances and so with that caveat, I will venture to say that psychologically both the Left and Islam share a common tendency towards UTOPIANISM. Funny thing it is this notion that islam means "peace". I have no doubt that many Muslims believe this. Once everyone is Muslim and completely identical - there will presumably be "peace", as all differences, which produce human conflict, will have been erased. Apparently they fail to grasp the irony that their pursuit of this utopian "peace" is the source of so much violence and the cause itself of "un-peace". But so set are they on this utopian vision that they believe that their (imagined utopian) ends justify the means. The history of communism reveals that the left shares the same psychological propensity. Both fail to grasp something that is quite obvious to the rest of us - that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

1/14/06, 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its extreme right wing Fascism that caused the holocaust, the same rhetoric that is been verbalised ad nauseam on this site. I see a lot of hate inspired fear of the Islam culture and I see a lot of finger pointing at the left. What I don't see is a solution .So what is the outcome of your extreme right hatred and fear? Ethnic cleansing of all Muslims and lefties? Racist hypocrisy and fear is what Fascism is built on.

4/14/06, 1:55 AM  

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