It's an interesting piece by a liberal academic, who identifies herself as Clarissa. Clarissa has a similar view of liberal modernity to myself, but unlike me she supports it. She sees modernity as destroying traditional identities and ways of being in favour of a more self-defined, individualistic life. According to Clarissa, many people find the prospect of this transformation terrifying and they react with rage. Therefore, it is anti-modern conservatives who are responsible for acts of violence, including 9-11, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Tucson shooting and even the two world wars.
In her own words:
...Today, we have received further proof that when people are exposed to an unstemmed barrage of Tea Party's hysterical rhetoric and when those hate-filled diatribes come in touch with people's intimate terror of encroaching modernity, an explosion isn't far behind.
...There are many people out there who feel confused, lonely and lost in a world where modernity is destroying old certitudes, identities and ways of being. Modernity is liberating in the sense that we are a lot less tied to collective identities ascribed to us at birth. Gender identities, normative sexualities, class origins, religious backgrounds still exist, of course. Nevertheless, they are nowhere as binding as they used to be before the advent of modernity. It isn't easy to challenge the identitarian status quo, but it still can be done. For many people, though, this liberating potential of modernity isn't worth the steep price they have to pay for it: individuality.
There is no burden bigger than that of a personal responsibility, personal choice, individuality. A society that strictly prescribes its collective identities offers people a great degree of freedom from the irksome necessity to make their own decisions. At birth, you are handed a set of norms that you are supposed to observe as a representative of your gender, social class, religious denomination, etc. You accumulate enough of these collective allegiances and you can guarantee that pretty much every aspect of your life will be defined for you. Then all you need to do is follow the check-list of expected behaviors. No painful dilemmas, no fears of making the wrong choice. And most pleasantly - no need to think.
Modernity is terrifying because it erodes the stability of collective identities. Remember, nothing gets people to die for it as disinterestedly and enthusiastically as collective identity. You threaten people's right to live their lives unthinkingly, without the hypnotic dictates of collective identities on how to organize their existence, and they will erupt in violence. If you were told that the Tea Party is about the economy, the taxes, the deficit, the immigrants, the politics, or anything like that, you've been deceived. Tea Partiers are people who are terrified of and confused by modernity. The world is changing, and they don't understand it any more. Internet, new technologies, globalization, world economy - everything is getting too complex for them. That's why they get together on their rallies and scream senseless slogans. That's why they adore their Sarah Palins who offer them simple slogans that seem to offer pithy explanations of incomprehensible realities.
Of course, the sound bites that their leaders offer them ("the best way to deal with a multi-billion deficit is making a budget," "immigrants get free healthcare in the US," "gays bad, abortion bad, taxes bad, guns good," "get the government out of my Medicaid and into that woman's uterus") only offer a momentary relief from the anxieties of modernity. When the burden of dealing with an incomprehensible world gets unbearable, these misfits of contemporary existence erupt in violence. They ram airplanes into the Twin Towers, blow up a truck in Oklahoma City, and start shooting into the crowd in Arizona
In the XXth century, two world wars were fought because the entrance into modernity was more painful for some people than for others. What happened in Arizona yesterday should remind us all about how violent people get when dragged into the modern way of being against their will. Of course, modernity will win in the end. The nature of time, which cannot be stopped in its tracks and frozen in immobility, is proof of that. In the meanwhile, though, modernity's discontents will wreak a lot of damage on everything and everybody they come in touch with.
Let me begin by congratulating Clarissa for not taking the more usual trite liberal attitude that modernity is radically transformative but that nothing is lost in the process. She admits that traditional identities and ways of life are being lost and that it is a deeply unsettling process for many people. She admits too that liberalism has imposed itself on society, against the wishes of many people.
Clarissa believes that the steep price of modernity is worth it, because people are "liberated" from traditional identities, thereby gaining greater individuality, more choices and the responsibility of making personal decisions.
Is she right? Is liberal modernity worth its steep price? I'd suggest the answer is no. First, if people are so traumatised by losing their identity and way of life, then how can it be considered liberating for them to suffer through it? Liberation usually suggests the lifting of a burden rather than the imposition of one.
Second, destroying traditional identities doesn't create a greater depth in individual thought or responsibility.
Look at what has happened in Sweden. The belief that people should "shape their own lives" has led the Swedish state to condemn traditional gender identities as being socially constructed and oppressive. And so the state is "mainstreaming" a unisex future in which men and women must have the same pattern of work and family life.
How does this represent an advance in people thinking for themselves? Swedes are being given just one option determined for them by the liberal state. And it is a less differentiated pattern of life than the traditional one.
If liberal modernity impoverishes the identity of individuals, if it takes away what once gave depth and meaning to our sense of who we are, then it does not and cannot improve our individuality. It is more likely to alienate us and to trivialise our existence.
Clarissa seems to believe that liberal modernity has given people free rein in what to think or believe. She overlooks the way that liberalism itself has become a state ideology, an orthodoxy that the young are indoctrinated in at school and university. It is likely that there were fewer restrictions on what people might think or say in the past than there are today.
And what of the claim that it is conservatives enraged by modernity who are responsible for outbreaks of political violence?
The record doesn't seem to back this claim. For a period of time, many political attacks were carried out by anarchists, a political group wanting a more radical version of modernity. There is a list here of such attacks, which included the assassinations of a Russian Tsar, a French President, two Spanish Prime Ministers, an Austrian Empress, a US President, an Italian King, a Russian Prime Minister and a Greek King.
In the 1970s and 80s, the radical Red Brigades were responsible for acts of political violence in Italy. In Germany, the Red Army Faction killed 34 people during its period of existence from the early 1970s to the late 1990s. In the US in the 1970s, the left-wing Symbionese Liberation Army killed two people. From the 1970s to the late 1980s, the Japanese Red Army carried out a dozen or more acts of political violence.
None of this fits Clarissa's theory that it is the instinct to political conservatism which is responsible for acts of political violence in the modern era. She has forgotten the history of the radical moderns who sought to force revolutionary change on society. She hasn't worked left-wing violence into her theory.
I still don't fathom why the lefties, who always assume the moral high ground, find a (conservative) political worm in every bad apple.ReplyDelete
No communication is possible with the likes of Clarissa. She's walking collateral damage. May she live to see her revolution crushed.ReplyDelete
Clarissa's condemnation of people who refuse to embrace liberal modernity reminds me of druggies who condemn people who refuse to embrace drugs. Those who refuse are always said to be motivated by fear, never by disgust, and fear is always equated with cowardice. I fell for this sort of shaming language many years ago, much to my regret; but I did at least learn, eventually, to recognize and resist manipulation through shaming language. In the case of people who resist modernity, fear is simply rational anticipation of destruction of something they love. There's nothing shameful about that.ReplyDelete
Note that Clarissa artfully insinuates that 9-11, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Tucson shooting and the two world wars have moral equivalence.ReplyDelete
If "modernity", adequately adapted to, while liberating the multitude from traditional identities, at the same time creates a vast pool of anomie and alienated individuals, do the "winners" outnumber the "losers"?
So, we're "modernity phobes" rather than "homophobes", "xenophobes", and the like. Same old, same old. My mother recently told me I was a "technophobe" because I didn't want her to give me a Droid. Maybe... I just don't have any use for it, or consider it an improvement to my life.ReplyDelete
Can't I just analyze and examine something, and reject it because I don't want it, rather than out of fear?
Of course, as it's recognized here, *yes*, we *do* have a problem with "modernity", as it has been defined by the hegemonic left. However, this is just a sidestep to the question of "is this 'modernity' desirable?". The left assumes that it is, based on the assumption that most people prefer anonymous, individually-crafted identities and loyalties to those based on birth, blood and belief. That assumption is simply not proven and, in fact, the resistance to the hegemonic left's programming in this regard indicates that quite a few people do *not* prefer that kind of "rootless" individualism, and instead prefer a kind of individualism that is rooted in birth, blood and belief.ReplyDelete
Of course, someone like Clarissa would claim that the number of "resisters" is low, but that is also unproven and is subject to vigorous debate. The number of resisters certainly varies by country (the US has more resisters, on average, than other Western countries, do, due to the more vigorous right in the US), but by all accounts the number of resisters is not small. And in light of that, the question is begged: why should the hegemonic left's vision prevail? On what basis can this be justified, if it really is not nearly a 100% consensus view?
That debate gets into the underlying merits of rootless individualism vs. rooted individualism, and that is a debate conservatives can win. That's precisely why most of the left sidesteps that debate and simply assumes that their perspective is "objectively superior".
While it's true that history marches in one direction, it isn't true that any one cultural system continues in an endlessly progressing manner for all of history -- cultures make bad decisions, take bad turns, and suffer as a result, either being subjugated by other cultures or outright vanishing. There is no case to be made based on time's arrow that Western liberal ideas are inevitable to succeed on a global basis. They could just as easily lead Western culture into a declining whirlpool, allowing other cultures that do not embrace the Western left's ideas to overtake the West. The left does not believe this as a possible outcome, but they are not really thinking clearly -- there is no historical precedent at all for a culture based on rootless individual self-determination to succeed in a competition with other cultures -- none. Of course, they don't care for history much (other than viewing it as a catalogue of crime), and likely this will be their undoing.
I'm glad Clarissa is openly stating the liberal vision. This is a very good trend. Inform people the error of it. Show no mercy to liberalism. Liberals sometimes remind me of Umbridge from Harry Potter.ReplyDelete
Novaseeker asks, "Why should the hegemonic left's vision prevail?"ReplyDelete
We don't know for how long the "left's vision" will prevail. Nothing prevails forever. But it seems to be prevailing right now because the left's vision projects the ruling ideas believed in and articulated by the intellectual elites of our time. That's why it's a political hegemony.
It's anybody's guess how or when educated opinion will change. However, despite the confidence of people like Clarissa, the liberal consensus that dominates public life in Western societies is unlikely to be an historic endpoint.
Perhaps the political influence of the internet will grow - if sites like this multiply and prosper - and this will be a key factor in the propagation of attitudes and values which are opposed to the universal utopianism which the liberals have in mind.
If you do not have a collective identity, you do not have a nation. If you do not have a nation, you cannot defend yourself against the barbarians that are always at the gates. The liberal social order Clarissa craves will be no more. Why should I defend Clarissa if I share no common identity with her?ReplyDelete
Clarissa's ideas aren't new, see Eric Fromm's "Escape from Freedom" blaming the rise of facism (and to his credit to a degree communism) on the same issue. Its also incredibly smug, we're the "progressives" you're the backwards types.ReplyDelete
It also ignores the conformity in the left wing thinking, their desire to embrace throw back ideas (environmentalism/nature worship, foreign spiritualism), the fact that they don't actually live as disconnected individuals but come out of and live in left wing communities.
Its essentially a condescending attitude to issues of change rather than a properly inclusive idea (eg "'clinging' to guns and religion") and a way of looking down on your political opponents rather than just seeing them as your enemy.
All of that would be better if this guy was actually a right winger, but he's not. He is not a reactionary example but a member of the empowered detritus of modern liberal society
Another problem would be for liberals to regulate and control the Internet. Don't underestimate the insanity of liberalism. They will stop any dissent from the liberal vision. Proceed with caution.ReplyDelete
Almost all of these occassional acts of quasi political violence by Whites and Jewish males in America are acts of rebellion against authority, not against liberal modernity. The desire to take extreme action against authority is a common trait among those with paranoid tendencies, and opposition to certain kinds of authority (such as the Police) is something that liberals celebrate in their popular culture.ReplyDelete
I'm hard pressed to actually think of a clear example of a conservative or nationalist taking extreme against action as a liberal leader in the U.S in the last 40 years or so.
If it acts of violence against liberal modernity she is looking for, then most of these are committed by Muslims.
I still don't fathom why the lefties, who always assume the moral high ground, find a (conservative) political worm in every bad apple.ReplyDelete
The philosophical underpinning of leftism is believing what you want to believe in, regardless of reality.
Yet weren't these same liberals the first to criticise missionaries, etc who when seeking the lost, sought to improve conditions in the third world. Weren't these same liberals screaming about such as colonialism ?ReplyDelete
And isn't it the same liberals, who now look back on those times and criticise the destruction of traditional cultures ?
I guess the question is then not about destroying traditions and values, but about who is "allowed" to do the destroying.
I guess the question is then not about destroying traditions and values, but about who is "allowed" to do the destroying.ReplyDelete
No, the question is:
Which cultures are we allowed to destroy?
Also, the missionaries weren't destroying cultures, they were replacing them. The lefties are destroying cultures and leaving a vacuum behind (or so they say).
"In the 1970s and 80s, the radical Red Brigades were responsible for acts of political violence in Italy"ReplyDelete
Last time I checked it was the fascists doing false flags.
"I'm hard pressed to actually think of a clear example of a conservative or nationalist taking extreme against action as a liberal leader in the U.S in the last 40 years or so."ReplyDelete
Sorry, that's supposed to read "against a liberal leader in the U.S in the last 40 years or so".
Basically under the liberal hememony we now have, political violence has decreased (as it usually does when a particular ideology has a monopoly) while violence by the mentally ill and Muslims has increased.
""I guess the question is then not about destroying traditions and values, but about who is "allowed" to do the destroying""ReplyDelete
It is more about which cultures are being destroyed.
Lets be clear, even moreso than the primacy of autonomy the dogma of the liberal-left says that all problems on earth are caused by the West, Capitalism, or Western-Capitalism.
It is a religious article of faith, and since Ethnic-Euro Males were the ones to create both "the West" and "Capitalism" we are the Satan of their theology.
Clarissa so much hates the idea of a common identity that she writes out of history the fact that "modernism" survived those two world wars last century only because the good guys found within themselves enough tribalism(among the virtuous) and intolerance (of evil) to take on the bad guys. She uses the mischevious form, "wars were fought". Well, who fought them and why will they fight them the next time? Who will fight the next war against troublers of modernismReplyDelete
What is the discussion here, people? It is so strange to read a blog where everyone agrees and there is absolutely no debate. Does the moderator simply refuse to post the comments of those who disagree or voice an opinion different from that of a "common identity" set forward here? Yawn.ReplyDelete
Nup, debate is encouraged. Will you do it?ReplyDelete