I admire Maura Dowling. She’s done terrific work at her site for many years now, which has put her on my twice-daily reading list. Besides, she’s one of the only two Long Island bloggers in the Dextrosphere, which makes her special indeed. So the following should not be interpreted as an attack on her, merely a disagreement.
The following comes from one of her recent pieces:
I believe a lot of people on the left are moral and decent people so why are they doing this? It leads me to the conclusion that it is a mass psychosis brought about by countless 24/7 lies, propaganda, and hate. Mass psychosis is a phenomenon known throughout recent history.
The mass-psychosis thesis is being advanced in several quarters. Is there evidence for it? No, there is not. Indeed, there is powerful evidence against it. A psychosis sustained even for a few weeks is massively disabling, to the point of justifying imposed, round-the-clock supervision on the sufferer to prevent harm to him or others. Psychosis sustained for years, in an individual trusted to run and sustain his own life without a minder, is unknown.
The mass-psychosis thesis is a convenience for conservatively-inclined bien-pensants. It allows them to excuse a terrible phenomenon, a thing that horrifies all of us in the Right. And it should horrify us, for it represents the widest and most complete moral-ethical default in the history of this country.
Ask yourself a probing question: If you were confronted by ravening hatred of you in some arbitrary individual, founded upon easily disproved assertions, which explanation would you prefer:
- That your hater actively, consciously wishes that you would come to harm;
- That your hater is psychotic, and just needs some help to return to reality.
Mind you, I’ve asked which explanation you would prefer, not which one is correct. The great majority of Americans, in a politics-free context, would prefer the second explanation – not because it’s more likely to be true (it isn’t), but because we have become unwilling to admit the existence and the power of evil.
Yet there is evil, and it has been hard at work in our politics.
In The Shockwave Rider, one of John Brunner’s later novels, he has his protagonist Nicky Haflinger conclude that the essence of evil is regarding other human beings as things, of importance only in how they can be manipulated to one’s advantage or forced out of one’s way. That is the core of the Left’s Weltanschaaung, the essence of its thinking. There is no innocence in it – no way in which it can claim to be pursuing morally justifiable ends. It can only attain its goals by treating men as rightless objects to be manipulated.
Now, there may be a few Americans who vote for the Democrats’ agenda witlessly, without thought for what it implies for Americans generally. There may be a few who vote Left because they’ve been successfully deluded about the Left’s aims and how its proposals and demands point toward those aims. And no doubt there are some who do so because their fathers and grandfathers did so. But given the weight of the evidence before us, how forgivable are such persons? Don’t they have the same moral responsibility to others as do we in the Right? Are they excused from the obligation to think about the implications of the measures they approve…or to answer for the consequences, once they’ve become visible? For such are the implications of a diagnosis of “psychotic.”
After them, consider the larger number who have embraced hatred – who actively wish harm to those who disagree with them, i.e.: us. To them, we are not individuals with rights, but things upon whom they’re free to splatter their venom. Ultimately, we are to be forcibly “re-educated”…or should we resist them further, removed from the body politic by any means expedient. Are they psychotic or evil?
There’s the comfortable explanation for which no evidence exists, and the horrifying one consistent with everything we’ve seen and heard for five years and more. Choose according to your reason, not your tastes.
Allow me to present, once again, my favorite snippet from my favorite Neal Stephenson novel:
“You know, when I was a young man, hypocrisy was deemed the worst of vices,” Finkle-McGraw said. “It was all because of moral relativism. You see, in that sort of climate, you are not allowed to criticise others — after all, if there is no absolute right and wrong, then what grounds is there for criticism?…
“Now, this led to a good deal of general frustration, for people are naturally censorious and love nothing better than to criticise others’ shortcomings. And so it was that they seized on hypocrisy and elevated it from a ubiquitous peccadillo into the monarch of all the vices. For, you see, if there is no right and wrong, you can find grounds to criticise another person by contrasting what he has espoused with what he has actually done. In this case, you are not making any judgment whatsoever as to the correctness of his views or the morality of his behaviour — you are merely pointing out that he has said one thing and done another. Virtually all the political discourse in the days of my youth was devoted to the ferreting out of hypocrisy.
“You wouldn’t believe the things they said about the original Victorians. Calling someone a Victorian in those days was almost like calling them a fascist or a Nazi….
“Because they were hypocrites… the Victorians were despised in the late Twentieth Century. Many of the persons who held such opinions were, of course, guilty of the most nefarious conduct themselves, and yet saw no paradox in holding such views because they were not hypocrites themselves — they took no moral stances and lived by none.”
“So they were morally superior to the Victorians — ” Major Napier said, still a bit snowed under.
“– even though — in fact, because — they had no morals at all.”
“We take a somewhat different view of hypocrisy,” Finkle-McGraw continued. “In the late Twentieth Century Weltanschaaung, a hypocrite was someone who espoused high moral views as part of a planned campaign of deception — he never held these beliefs sincerely and routinely violated them in privacy. Of course. most hypocrites are not like that. Most of the time it’s a spirit-is willing, flesh-is-weak sort of thing.”
“That we occasionally violate our own moral code,” Major Napier said, working it through, “does not imply that we are insincere in espousing that code.”
“Of course not,” Finkle-McGraw said. “It’s perfectly obvious, really. No one ever said it was easy to hew to a strict code of conduct. Really, the difficulties involved — the missteps we make along the way — are what make it interesting. The internal, and eternal, struggle between our base impulses and the rigorous demands of our own moral system is quintessentially human. It is how we conduct ourselves in that struggle that determines how we may in time be judged by a higher power.”
It could hardly be put better. Humans are naturally censorious. It proceeds from the desire to feel superior. You cannot feel superior to others without cause. That powers the search for a justification for one’s censorious inclinations: the fuel of an immoral politics.
An immoral politics – one that runs roughshod over the rights of those who disagree with it – is evil. The hatred it engenders is the best possible evidence.
An early edition of Dale Carnegie’s famous tome How to Win Friends and Influence People contains a piercing summation about the human desire to feel superior to others:
Do you feel that you are superior to the Japanese? The truth is that the Japanese consider themselves far superior to you. A conservative Japanese, for example, is infuriated at the sight of a white man dancing with a Japanese lady.
Do you consider yourself superior to the Hindus in India? That is your privilege; but a million Hindus feel themselves so superior to you that they wouldn’t befoul themselves by condescending to touch food that your heathen shadow had fallen across and contaminated.
Do you feel yourself superior to the Eskimos? Again, that is your privilege; but would you really like to know what the Eskimo thinks of you? Well there are a few native hoboes among the Eskimos, worthless bums who refuse to work. The Eskimos call them “white men”—that being their utmost term of contempt.
Each nation feels itself superior to other nations. That breeds patriotism—and wars.
The unvarnished truth is that every man you meet feels superior to you in some way….[A]nd the pathetic part of it is that frequently those who have the least justification for a feeling of achievement bolster up their inner feeling of inadequacy by an outward shouting and tumult and conceit that are offensive and truly nauseating.
I consider it noteworthy that that passage was removed from later editions of Carnegie’s book.
If you feel yourself superior to others, it’s a short step to regarding them as things to be manipulated. You can convince yourself that all manner of force and fraud are justified in doing so, because they’re means to “good ends:” your ends. And you will look on with approval when others – others who agree with you, of course – do the same.
We must cultivate the inclination opposite to our natural desire to feel superior – humility – precisely because it’s unnatural.
Catholics are taught early on that evil is real, and that there is an animate force that promotes it at every opportunity. That force – Satan – exploits such opportunities by pandering to Mankind’s weaknesses, most notably our appetites, our propensity for excusing our own faults, and our desire to feel superior to others.
As with God, Satan’s work is often furthered by human wills and hands: his agents among us. Many such men are in politics. No small number of them have risen to the captaincy of nations.
One of the foulest of the corruptions worked upon Christianity these past few decades has been the imperceptible but steady nudging of evil out of our conceptions and teachings. Of course, if evil is unreal, then there cannot possibly be an animate evil force, a Satan. But to refuse to see evil it is not to make it go away. It certainly won’t protect or defend us from its agents.
It is mandatory that we oppose evil: that we recognize it when we see it, label it accurately, refuse to excuse it, whether on utilitarian grounds or any other, and act against it swiftly and resolutely. That removes the exculpation of “mass psychosis” from the sphere of acceptable reactions, for that would take the matter “out of our hands.” Surely we cannot be blamed for not curing the demented when there’s a perfectly good psychiatry industry to see to it for us.
Evil, on the other hand, is something we can all fight – and we must do so.
Who can protest and does not is an accomplice in the act. – The Talmud