Monday, August 16, 2004

Accepting substitutes

Intellectuals are people who need to identify purpose and meaning in their lives. Liberal intellectuals will therefore often have some kind of "religious" world view, even when they are determinedly secular in their views.

Take the case of Jason Soon, a Chinese-Australian who helps run the right-liberal Catallaxy website. In a recent discussion he wrote,

The day that both Western and non-Western countries live up to the ideals of Western liberal civilization will be the closest we come to Heaven on Earth, and a true End of History.

In the meantime we hasten the coming of that day by enhancing our soft power by (1) Westernising every corner of the globe through trade and cultural imperialism; (2) living up to our ideals and therefore appearing credible when urging them on others; (3) Westernising to the greatest extent possible and consistent with our national interest the rest of the world by taking in immigrants.

What did Jason mean by the phrase "The End of History"? He confirmed later in the discussion that he meant the permanent global dominance of liberalism, this being the final achievement which human progress has always been working toward.

It seems obvious to me that this is a kind of secularised religiosity. There is still a striving toward heaven, but it is toward a heaven on earth which is achieved as a kind of decisive political act. Human life, in this view, has always had meaning in terms of a progress toward this decisive and definitive end point of history.

There is a moderate kind of utopianism about this, and even a resemblance to millenarian ideas.

Understandably, Jason Soon is willing to sacrifice much to bring about the End of History. He is willing to foist a Western cultural imperialism on other cultures, which presumably means letting loose Britney Spears and friends into societies where traditional family life and traditional morality are still strong.

He is also willing to try to Westernise other peoples by actually bringing them physically to live in the West. Anything, it seems, is justified which brings closer the day of the End of History.

Of course, I think Jason Soon is misguided in the way he attempts to construct meaning and purpose in life. The advance of liberalism tends, if anything, to hollow out human existence, rather than to bring it to a meaningful perfection.

My advice to a young intellectual would be to seek meaning within the more enduring aspects of human life, such as we can experience within the core of our identity as men and women, or through our sense of connectedness to our own ethnocultural tradition, or within a commitment to moral virtue, or through the fulfilment of our natures as men and women within the family, or through our deeper responses to art and to nature, or, for the most spiritual, through a real religious feeling rather than through a secularised substitute.

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