Friday, June 01, 2007


And we don't mean Kosmo Kramer! By way of introduction, here is an excerpt from the blogger whose work—One Cosmos—is a hilarious look at the world as we have come to know it, a world turned upside down. Be sure to check it out here.


Back to the question before the Cosmos: why is the moral compass of the Left so broken? Why can they not see the obvious? I’ve written on this in the past, and to my mind, the philosopher Michael Polanyi has provided the most satisfactory answer. I remember the first time I read it, perspiring, trembling, and vigorously nodding in agreement at his metaphysical insight. (Real Truth is felt throughout the entire bodymind.)

People typically think that the Right represents the party of sanctimonious, judgmental morality police, while the Left is the hang-loose, live-and-let-live crowd. Not so. In fact, this is an exact reversal of the situation. The philosopher Michael Polanyi pointed out that what distinguishes leftist thought in all its forms is the dangerous combination of a ruthless contempt for traditional moral values with an unbounded moral passion for utopian perfection. (This is all explained very clearly in a nice introduction to Polanyi’s thought, entitled Everyman Revived.)

The first step in this process is a complete skepticism that rejects traditional ideals of moral authority and transcendent moral obligation. This materialistic skepticism is then combined with a boundless, utopian moral fervor to transform mankind. However, being that the moral impulse remains in place, there is no longer any boundary or channel for it. One sees this, for example, in college students (and those permanent college students known as professors) who, in attempting to individuate from parental authority and define their own identities, turn their intense skepticism against existing society, denouncing it as morally shoddy, artificial, hypocritical, and a mere mask for oppression and exploitation. In other words, as the philosopher Voegelin explained it, the religious hope for a better afterlife is “immamentized” into the present, expressing the same faith but in wholly horizontal and materialistic and terms.

What results is a moral hatred of existing society and the resultant alienation of the postmodern leftist intellectual. Having condemned the distinction between good and evil as dishonest, such an individual can at least find pride in the “honesty” of their condemnation. Since ordinary decent behavior can never be safe against suspicion of sheer conformity or downright hypocrisy, only an amoral meaningless act can assure complete authenticity. This is why, to a leftist, the worst thing you can call someone is a hypocrite, whereas authentic depravity is celebrated in art, music, film, and literature. It is why, for example, leftist leaders all over the world were eager to embrace a nihilistic mass murderer such as Yasser Arafat—literally. Yuck.

All emotionally mature people understand that sexuality, for example, can be a dangerous and destructive force when unhinged from any moral framework. But few people seem to understand that the same type of destruction can occur when the moral impulse is detached from its traditional framework. We can see the deadly combination of these two—“skepticism and moral passion,” or “burning moral fervor with hatred of existing society”—in every radical secular revolution since the French Revolution—from the Bolsheviks to Nazi Germany to campus unrest in the 1960s. If society has no divine sanction but is made by man, men can and must perfect society now, while all opposition must be joyfully crushed—with moral sanction, of course.

Although Polanyi was describing communism and fascism, the same formulation equally applies to the Islamists, who detest everything about modernity and are convinced that the total destruction of existing society and the establishment of their own unlimited power will bring total happiness and harmony to humanity. Again, this must be sharply distinguished from the Judeo-Christian tradition, which holds that fallen mankind can never bring this transformation about on its own. Rather, this type of perfection is discussed only in eschatological or messianic terms, something each individual most work toward. The moral imperative to do this cannot be shifted to the collective.

You often hear it said (in the MSM) that suicide bombers are not immoral, that they are simply operating out of a different moral code. This only highlights the point that, just because you have a moral code, by no means does it mean that you are moral. In fact, the moral code may be entirely corrupt, in that it allows one to behave immorally, all the while being sanctioned by the code itself. This is similar to primitive societies that operate “logically” within a cognitive system that itself is illogical. These primitive individuals can reason perfectly well within the idiom of their beliefs, but they cannot reason outside or against their beliefs because they have no other idiom in which to express their thoughts. Logic doesn't help; it can prove anything, so long as the conclusion follows its premise. If the premise is faulty, then so too will be the conclusion. Likewise, if I believe that murdering infidels will gain me instant access to heaven, it is perversely logical and thoroughly “moral” under such a system to murder infidels.

One can be so enmeshed in the system that, for example, a woman might confess to having ruined her neighbor's crops through witchcraft, just as a a university administrator may confess to crimes against womankind for uttering a banal truth that is forbidden in the cognitively closed, tribal system of the contemporary feminist Ovary Tower. The intellect no longer serves Truth, but is in the service of the ideological superstructure, so that freedom of thought is bound by the confines of the system—by political or academic correctness.

For a while, civilization was able to withstand the skepticism unleashed by the enlightenment, by benefitting from the momentum of the traditional moral framework that gave rise to science to begin with (for example, the use of our God-given free will in pursuit of objective truth in a rational world made so by a beneficent creator who wished for us to know him through his works). But this could only go on for a few generations before it began detaching itself from the religious morality that underlie it. Since no Christian society can ever live up to its ideals, it wasn’t difficult for the skeptics to begin the process of hammering away at the foundations of tradition.

Similarly, for a while, America escaped this destruction because it had a very different intellectual genealogy, having been much more influenced by the skeptical enlightenment of Britain and Scotland rather than the radical enlightenment of France. In addition, America never lost touch with its Judeo-Christian ideals, which inspired individuals to to work to improve and humanize society without violent disruption of traditional ways or heavy-handed government intervention.

Since we see only “through a glass, darkly,” sometimes Truth is most conspicuous in its absence. With rare exceptions, we cannot see Truth “face to face” under the conditions of human existence. But we can see evil face to face, just as we can see the palpable consequences of the absence of Truth, both in individuals and institutions. I think about Polanyi’s simple formulation every time I wade into the left-wing blogosphere. The utterly sad and destructive cynicism. And the boundless moral fervor. Its mantra is “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” For it is purely mindless and reactionary: no digestion at all, just chewing up and spitting out, repeated ad bulimeum. In short, one is not enough and a hundred is too many when you partake of the Satanic Eucharist of primordial envy.

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