Under The Sun

Thursday, January 22, 2004


Another deep insight from Jim Kalb:

"Every society is based on some understanding of things that's too overarching and fundamental to be altogether articulate. That understanding lies behind all social institutions, including government. In a complex society that understanding has to take a definite and institutional form. If it doesn't then it won't be able to assert itself, and particular activities and institutions will lose their relationship to the underlying common understandings needed to maintain coherence and public acceptability. They'll go off in specialized directions and become generally incomprehensible, or they'll become a battleground for warring ideologues and get captured by someone with an ax to grind. Therefore the need for organized public religion.
"Liberals of course reject all that. They think that everything can be made perfectly rational so we don't have to worry about unstated common understandings except as prejudices to be done away with. The result is that liberal dogma, which can't be proved either and has problems of its own, becomes the religion. You can't say "Merry Christmas," but every college has to have all sorts of observances around Martin Luther King day."

Kalb personally pines for the era when "organized public religion" meant the Roman Catholic Church, which I think is stupid. (Sorry, Jim.) But his basic point is fully valid regardless: we must be able to publicly express our societal commonalities. Not "we should be able"--though we should--but "we must". He is exactly right that the impulse that is forbidden in the form of religion will always assume other forms. Multiculturalism is a religion for many liberals; so is environmentalism (I hope you all read Michael Crichton's speech on that topic, to which I linked a while back). Both of those concepts are worthwhile, but as religions go, they went. Same with religions on the conservative side: Christianity itself, for one--I posted recently about how the suppression of religion makes it more virulent, not less--and patriotism. Idiot patriotism and idiot multiculturalism are mirror images, two symptoms of the same illness. And the illness is that we are forbidden to publicly deal with the fundamental political question: what is a just society? A just society is a free society--but if you suggest that homosexuals should be free, you'll get shouted down. Not--this is crucial--just by idiot religion, but by intelligent religion as well, because intelligent religion has been forced to choose sides. And on the other hand, a just society is a moral society--but if you suggest that homosexuality is immoral, you'll get shouted down. No one, on either side, is actually asking whether homosexuality or something related to it is actually a bad thing. No one is asking anything; people are just shouting. Different groups shout at different things in different places, obviously; and it's possible that one is right and the other is wrong. But there's no way to find out, let alone build a political compromise, because there's so much shouting, on and by both sides, that no dialogue is possible. The essence of political society has broken down. And it's broken down for exactly the reason Kalb says: because modern liberalism has ruled too much of the population out of court. In fact, it has alienated so many people that there is a real danger that they will soon hold enough power to fix that very Court.

Last night at dinner I was snickering at the way the Democrats are shooting themselves in the feet, and my parents asked me if, how, I could really support President Dubya. The answer is that I don't support him; I don't support politics at all, which is why I don't vote. But I'm rooting for Dubya, the same way I root for the Braves. I'm rooting for him because I'm sick of liberalism doing exactly what Jim Kalb says it does: trying to tell other people what they want. If a majority of the American people want to re-elect Dubya, then I want that majority to win[*]. They have just as much right as my parents to vote for the United States they want to live in, and if the consequence of that is 30 years of a reactionary Supreme Court, well, that's how the Constitution says our republic works, and if you don't like it you can move to Canada[**]. But if you do, be well aware that you brought that fate upon yourselves.

([*]: No, I haven't forgotten Florida 2000. But if a President noted for his divisiveness actually gains election share after four years in office, then the people noting the divisiveness are barking up the wrong tree.

([**]: No offense intended; I'm quite fond of Canada, and I'd be happy to live there if I weren't living here.)

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