The quality most despised by the liberal is success—-the success of others.
Bad ideas lead to bad results.
It doesn’t matter if these ideas come from the political right or left—-from white nationalists on one end of the spectrum, to “woke” social justice warriors on the other. Extremists on both sides of the aisle have this in common: Their ideas lead to disaster. That is why it is important to pay attention to the quality of ideas that are on offer from contemporary political groups that vie for power.
In this essay I consider ideas offered by the political left. Because the terms—-liberal, progressive, left wing—-have been distorted by adherents and detractors, it is difficult to clearly define the political left these days.
But it is possible to broadly identify liberals by their adherence to key ideas. Among these are the notions that people left to their own devices will behave well; collectivist approaches are superior to individual ones; social and economic inequities are immoral and should be eliminated; government is the most appropriate actor to accomplish this; and nationalism is always wrong.
Liberals believe that:
- We all want the same thing.
A corollary is that the values and perceptions of non-Western people are as good as, or better than, our own Western values.
In a previous post I gave the example of actor Mark Ruffalo, who sniffed, “They wouldn’t do that,” at those who said, accurately, that Palestinian radicals use their own children as human shields.
Mr. Ruffalo’s narrow view prevented him from seeing that Islamic Radicals hold beliefs that supersede a parent’s devotion to his child. These include the belief that human life is less valuable than everlasting life; that the highest duty of a Muslim is to fight against infidels (non-Muslims); and that a child who is killed in jihad, that is, in a war against Islam’s enemies, has received a great blessing.
- All cultures are morally equivalent.
For example, Judeo-Christian values cannot be superior to the values of traditional Islam or of indigenous societies. Liberals who want to feel good about themselves will argue that the latter’s values are superior to Western values.
Liberals choose not to notice that non-Western societies are often technologically backward, inward looking and brutal. Aztecs may have been glorious and dignified, but that didn’t prevent them from warring against and enslaving their neighbors. Nor, in all their dignity, did they hesitate to excise the beating hearts of their still-living victims.
- The only bad actors in the world are Americans and Europeans.
Liberals fail to notice that this tenet contradicts their belief that all cultures are morally equivalent. To a liberal, Westerners are racist and rapacious and these qualities lead them to brutalize our more righteous non-Western neighbors.
So for example, liberals don’t believe that Western armies defend freedom. Rather, they subjugate and colonize “Third World people.” They believe that the greater wealth of Westerners is due entirely to their exploitation of developing countries and the black and brown people who inhabit them.
While liberals see Americans as bad actors in the world, they fail to notice the military and economic subjugation practiced by brutal dictatorships like China and Russia. When they do notice, the bad behavior of the Chinese, Russians and others is said to be merely a defense against the crimes of Western actors. We hear implausible explanations. Iranian attacks on international shipping? Well, Iranians are just defending themselves against Israeli attacks and US sanctions. Presumably liberals believe that Israeli military actions and US economic sanctions are implemented out of spite, rather than self-defense.
- Citizenship is a racist anachronism.
Liberals believe that every person in the world has the same right as an American citizen to live in the US. The idea of citizenship is racist.
Any immigration policy that favors people from countries that share American values is racist and immoral.
- American exceptionalism is a false and racist idea.
Liberals are hard-pressed to say anything nice about the US.
A prominent expression of this is the New York Times’ 1619 Project. 1619 was the first year that the US imported African slaves. To the writers at the Times, the brutal institution of black slavery best defines what America is all about.
But liberals choose to ignore the many historic events that define the unique value of the American project. These include: the American colonists’ successful emancipation from the tyranny of the British monarchy; the revolutionaries’ Boston Tea Party against Taxation without Representation; and the US Constitution with its Bill of Rights, guaranteeing civic freedoms never before available in human history.
Liberals also never acknowledge the Islamic world’s history of enslaving black Africans, a project that lasted many centuries longer than the Western version and was far more brutal. Liberals conveniently overlook the absence of a contemporary large black African population in the Arabian Peninsula—-a phenomenon due to the mass castration of black male slaves, a practice unknown in Western slaving.
- Nationalism in the Western democracies is always immoral.
To the liberal, nationalism is what was practiced in Hitler’s Germany. Therefore all forms of nationalism in the West are bad. So out with the bathwater go all forms of Western national pride. Liberals overlook the salutary products of national pride—for example, social cohesion, individual dedication to building a righteous country, and the ability to defend against foreign enemies.
Inexplicably, liberals fail to condemn nationalism in countries such as Russia, Iran and China, which are enemies of the US.
- Different rules ought to apply to different folks.
Despite their bluster about tolerance, it is painfully obvious that liberals like some groups and despise others.
Some groups are “in:” people of color, especially women of color, illegal immigrants, and from time to time, assorted other groups defined by such things as disability, sexual minority status, citizenship, and poverty. Other groups are “out”: religious Christians and all Jews; political conservatives and most especially, white men. A new group of deplorables is the unvaccinated.
It is a point of honor among today’s liberals to defend all manner of social programs that favor some groups but not others. These include Affirmative Action; the many Minority Set-Aside Programs that favor “traditionally disadvantaged” groups; and the billion dollar industry of social welfare programs targeted at minority communities. On college campuses across the country, liberals sponsor exclusionary practices like mono-ethnic graduation ceremonies; “safe spaces” open only to favored groups; and campus events with participation allowed only for some racial or ethnic groups.
One triumph of the “special treatment for people we like” movement is California’s legislatively created Model Ethnic Studies Curriculum.
After much public protest, educators removed anti-Israel and anti-Semitic content from the original curriculum. This outraged radical educators and activists who, in turn, countered with a Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, in which they restored the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic content. (Students are asked to consider how Jews came to have privilege—-they couldn’t possibly have earned it.) This Liberated version is likely to be implemented in many schools across the state.1
The liberals who pulled off this outrage—-largely faculty in Ethnic Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies departments—-highlight the oppression of only four groups: blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans and American Indians. Presumably, other groups are less deserving.
By now, the infection of “different rules for different folks” has spread widely in social, economic and government spheres. The Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts is excoriated for the low representation of blacks. Meanwhile no one seems to notice that there are few whites on professional basketball teams. As Afghanistan falls ignobly to the enemies of the free world, the US embassy in the Afghan capital celebrates LGBT people rather than all the brave men and women of the armed forces. Are LGBT people now better than plain-vanilla heterosexuals? Does the US Embassy celebrate heterosexuals?
- Every disparity among societal groups is prima facie evidence of discrimination.
As conservative black economist Thomas Sowell has noted, no society has ever existed in which all social groups are equal. Even in the absence of discrimination, various groups differ in a host of factors that determine social and economic success: family structure, father absence, work ethic, natural ability, cultural history, and regional differences in geography. Then of course, there are the much maligned factors of personal responsibility and individual effort that are not equally distributed among societal groups.
Underneath it all, like a mass of silent bedrock, is resentment. If I have more than you, there will be conflict.
Thus, the quality most despised by the liberal is success—-the success of others. That is why many liberals prefer the poverty of socialism to the opportunity of capitalism. The intimate sting of failure is more painful than deprivation. Being poor is not so bad if everyone else is too.
What does it all mean?
Not every liberal espouses these ideas. But many do. In any case, these are bad ideas that are now widely accepted by large numbers of people. They are accepted by powerful societal actors such as government officials, military leaders, university professors, public school teachers, think tank experts and other social influencers.
Because these are bad ideas, they are likely to change our country in profound and undesirable ways.
Worst of all, today’s left enforces a new Cultural Revolution. Like the Chinese experience of 1966 to 1976, in today’s Liberal Revolution, there is strict enforcement of orthodoxy. Politicians, civil society leaders, students and others are expected to adhere to the party line. When they don’t, they are “called out,” stigmatized, isolated and silenced. This prevents society from self-correcting. It causes economic damage and destroys historical and cultural assets. It erodes individual rights and other civil liberties.
If this continues, American democracy may be permanently damaged. And of course, no one knows how this will play out in coming years.
- Of all the groups condemned by the far left, the most despised are Zionists. This is reflected in California’s Liberated Model Ethnic Studies Curriculum, as described by educator Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, “The Antisemitic Gall of a ‘Liberated’ Ethnic Studies Curriculum, Algemeiner, August 25, 2021:
Judging by the LESMC’s “Teach Palestine” webpages, the final “liberated” curriculum will look like the first draft of the state’s model curriculum on steroids: Students are taught that Israel is guilty of “settler colonialism,” “apartheid,” and the murder of Palestinian children; that Zionism has nothing to do with Judaism but is rather a racist ideology calling for the “expansion of Israel as a Jewish state in historic Palestine by any means necessary”; that Zionists are responsible for “vicious attacks that equate any mention of Palestine with antisemitism”; and that the primary goals of well-funded Zionist organizations are to “prevent teachers and students from making [the] connection between … apartheid-era South Africa and the current apartheid in Israel,” to “stunt the development of authentic anti-racist curriculum,” and to “silence discussion of Palestine/Israel … on college campuses, and … in K-12 education.”
Students will also be offered “tools to fight for justice from the US to Palestine” that include “resources on how to start your own BDS campaigns.”
For their part, teachers are urged to see that embracing such an anti-Zionist narrative is a “liberatory act” and an essential part of “anti-racist teaching.” They are also urged to “Organize your school! Organize your district!” to engage in anti-Zionist activism and to fight the “Zionist backlash,” which is described as “the treacherous waters of white supremacy.”