|Then and Now. Part 2 of 3|
|Written by Tim Heydon|
|‘All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.’ - T E Lawrence ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’|
Left- Liberalism and the Decline of Britain
The changes which have occurred in our country over recent decades have been attributed to different causes. Some have pointed to Britain’s diminished role in the world which has induced a mood of retreat and defeat in the political class, tending to make it look for a new direction in Internationalism and Globalisation.
It has been suggested that the growth of an omnipresent and too easily milked welfare state has sapped character; investing people with an unhealthy reliance on the state and an attitude of entitlement which has undermined norms of honesty, self reliance and self respect. It has it is said, provided a man-made comfort- blanket which has dulled spirituality and undermined religion. Alternatively there is the suggestion that a kind of moral and spiritual torpor has occurred linked to the rise in living standards. Then there are those who point to a widespread alienation of people from the economy and the political process, and so on. But a key factor must surely be the growth in influence of left-liberalism.
Left-Liberalism is the Key
Left-liberalism is an extremist ideology characterised by commitment to radical individualism and to radical equality, meaning equality of outcomes. These commitments are mutually exclusive, because freedom of individuals must lead to inequality.
The commitment to equality takes precedence and, therefore whilst promising freedom, this ideology destroys it. The State as arbiter of equal treatment steps into every aspect of existence. It must, because since actual equality cannot exist in a free society, political coercion is required to make people behave as if it did.
The State drives out personal freedom of choice wherever it intrudes, including the most fundamental freedoms of all: freedom of speech and freedom of association at almost every level from the nation downwards.
Such freedom as the State allows is restricted to increasingly narrow areas of private life, such as sexuality and personal relationships. The undermining of the traditional family and of parental authority over their own children is in line with the drive of those drunk on state power (and their own) to weaken social structures which stands between individuals and the power of the State in the enforcement of ‘equal rights’.
The demand for unfettered personal autonomy is ultimately the result of emotional immaturity; of an adolescent focus on the self. It involves a refusal to admit that a person cannot exist in any great isolation – live in a kind of sealed-off personal moral bubble; that what we are and how we behave affects others.
The Denial of the Claims of Society
There is little acknowledgement that beyond certain limits the blessings of individual freedom become licence which can work to the detriment of all. Nor is there any real acknowledgement that an individual owes a duty to the rest of society (from which as Hegel and his intellectual heirs have pointed out every individual has obtained his or her very idea of selfhood and indeed the basis of the individual’s intellectual, political and spiritual life), to contain personal freedom within these limits
From Classical Liberalism to Libertarianism
In what follows we will analyse the two strands that make up modern left-liberalism; an extreme conception of liberalism (personal freedom) and equality. First, extreme liberalism.
The emphasis on the extreme personal autonomy of modern Liberalism which demands that freedom of the will comes before the (denied) claims of society (eg,‘a woman’s right to choose’ and the demand for euthanasia) has come about because the traditional restraints of religion, custom and sense of community which curbed a corrupting excess of liberty in the classic liberalism of John Stuart Mill have progressively been cast aside as the insistence on individual freedom has been driven forward under its own internal dynamic. The denial of Mill’s restraints has been encouraged by a virulent secularism underpinned by nihilist marxisant philosophy. Far more than most, Liberals tend to be atheistical.
The Drive to Maximum Personal Autonomy
The natural outcome of the drive to its logical conclusion of individualism is that few restraints are left. For the liberal, restraints are an unnecessary infringement of personal liberty. Unnecessary because the liberal has an optimistic view of human nature. In the right conditions, left to themselves, the natural goodness of people will ensure that they will work out any problem or disagreements satisfactorily in the end. Therefore extreme personal autonomy poses no threat to civil society but instead enhances both it and the individual. It is this type of thinking that has produced libertarianism, an extreme form of liberalism closely adjacent in its outcomes to neo-Marxist left-liberalism
Libertarianism is a form of liberalism which believes in freeing people not merely from the constraints of traditional political institutions, but also from the inner constraints imposed by their allegedly mistaken attribution of power to ineffectual things.
Intelligence and Education is no Substitute for Experience
It is in fact significant that it is indeed intelligent, educated and comfortably off middle class people who do. Ordinary people who are less influenced by ideology but while perhaps not being able to articulate their ideas, tend to have a nitty gritty apprehension of the reality of liberal social policies born of personal everyday experience. They are inclined to take an extremely cynical view of a society which has chased out the internal disciplines of religious morality and the external disciplines based on the possibilities of human wickedness. Not for nothing has it been said that a liberal is one who has the education to appreciate other people’s cultures and points of view and the income to get away from them.
A Gross Misreading of Human Nature
Liberals often have a naturally sunny view of human nature, thinking the best of people at all times. Nice, but how naïve, some might say – and they would be right. There was precious little evidence of the natural goodness of humanity in the Gulags or the Nazi Death Camps or the killing fields of Cambodia or the mud and shell holes of the Somme or the centuries- long cruelties of the Roman Amphitheatres or the wholesale exterminations of Genghis Khan or the genocides of the Muslims in their conquest of India, or the Japanese butchery in the Rape of Nanking and elsewhere, for example.
But the modern liberal’s natural inclinations when it comes to assessing human nature are underpinned by the gross misreading of it by their ultimate Guru, the 18th Century French thinker Rousseau. According to Rousseau, human beings are born naturally good and if they behave badly it is because they are corrupted by their institutions.
The idea that uncivilised people are morally superior to those in more advanced societies goes back at least to the Roman author Tacitus who compared the morals of the barbarous Germanic tribes of his time favourably compared to those of Rome. Now Rousseau, spurred on by tales brought back by the explorers who were then opening up previously unknown areas of the world brought this idea into prominence.
In reality, Rousseau was unaware of how ‘savages’ actually lived – for example he knew nothing of the human flesh eating habits of the constantly warring tribes of Papua New Guinea.
What he seems to have done is to accept the ideal of a Christian society as the norms of humanity in its ‘natural; ie modern social-structure –free state , dispensing with utterly realistic concomitant Christian doctrine of original sin; of the natural tendency of individuals towards selfishness and evil.
Far from a naturally good humanity being made bad by its environment, modern anthropology shows the contradictory fact that human institutions have underlying similarities based on factors common to human nature. Fundamentally, people are not made by their institutions. It is they who make those institutions.