Friday, 20 April 2012

The ruling Leftist intellectual elite: well-meaning fools, corrupt careerists, clever sillies or evil madmen?


A proper response to the ruling Leftist intellectual elites requires that their nature be properly identified: what kind of people are we dealing with?

My own characterisation has gone through at least four phases.

1. At first I though they were well-meaning fools, who simply needed to be sensibly spoken to, who needed to have the correct information presented to them and properly explained.

2. When they did not respond to rational explanation and good evidence, then I thought they were corrupt careerists; who were pretending to believe nonsense because it benefited their power, status and income. The strategy shifted to demonstrating that what was expedient for themselves in the short-term was going to be disastrous for everybody - including themselves - in the longer term.

3. When they did not seem to believe in the likelihood, or even the possibility, of disaster, then I assumed they were Clever Sillies: abstracting and systematising intellectuals who translated everything into a world of ideals and possibilities, detached from common sense and experience.

4. But Clever Sillies would not be so strategic; would not maintain such an aggressive and long-term (decades, even centuries long) attack on Good things, would not systematically seek-out and try to destroy truth, beauty and virtue.

So I realised, eventually, that the ruling Leftist intellectual elite are evil madmen: that is the nature of the enemy.

Or, at least, it is evil madmen who are behind it all - driving the process across the decades (and centuries).


What difference does it make?

Well consider the dishonest mass media; and the way they cover-up, misrepresent, and invent lies.

Why do they do this?

Well-meaning fools are dishonest because they believe that things will work out better - but when things do not work out better but instead get worse, then they would presumably tell the truth. That hasn't happened.

Corrupt careerists are dishonest because they make more money (etc) by doing so - but the precipitous decline of the mass media (newspapers, TV, news, music, movies etc) shows that the elites will lie even when it leads to the sack or bankruptcy - they will enforce political correctness even if it kills them.

Clever sillies will lie when it is interesting, leads to stimulating novelties, serves to advertise their cleverness - but they would never stick rigidly to the PC script over two or three decades, as our ruling elites have done, if this was a sufficient explanation - sooner or later they would show their cleverness by demolishing political correctness; but they don't.

So, it seems that the Leftist elites must be evil madmen - evil because they display strategic purpose in their destructiveness over a long timescale, mad because they have lost the capacity to notice relevant evidence or to reason: common sense and personal experience have no traction. 

Of course they are not wholly evil, because only partial evil is effective; nor are they wholly mad, because they retain a short-termist shredness and sound-bite logic; but by unilateral and tactical pursuit of partial goods without regard to consequences, they can accomplish more than enough evil to be getting on with...



chris said...

This is what I think causes leftists to behave the way they do.

Basically it's ressentiment.

“Ressentiment (French pronunciation: [rəsɑ̃tiˈmɑ̃]), in philosophy and psychology, is a particular form of resentment or hostility. It is the French word for “resentment” (fr. Latin intensive prefix ‘re’, and ‘sentir’ “to feel”). Ressentiment is a sense of hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration, that is, an assignment of blame for one’s frustration. The sense of weakness or inferiority and perhaps jealousy in the face of the “cause” generates a rejecting/justifying value system, or morality, which attacks or denies the perceived source of one’s frustration. The ego creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability.

Ressentiment is not to be considered interchangeable with the normal English word “resentment”, or even the French “ressentiment”. While the normal words both speak to a feeling of frustration directed at a perceived source, neither speaks to the special relationship between a sense of inferiority and the creation of morality.”

Basically, leftists resent the fact that they are inferior to others under the natural order/human nature, hence they must deny the existence of a natural order/human nature and cast all of their betters as villains and themselves as angels. Funnily enough though, once they achieve power in society, they themselves covet and pursue those things which they cast as evil.

As a result of this ressentiment they wind up acting as parasites. Why? Because their ressentiment necessitates that they deny human nature or else accept within themselves that they are inferior. They will not do this and so subsequently this denying of human nature results in the prescription of an ideology/morality/policies that hurt everyone in the group overall yet advance their own relative position within it. Thus they destroy society so that they may rule as kings over its ruins (total value for the society is low but their relative position within it is high), rather than live as peasants in a thriving society (total value for the society is high but their relative position within it is low).

All communists, marxists, feminists, postmodernists, cultural relativists, social constructionists fall into this category as their motivation to deny human nature is based on their ressentiment.

Or put simply, ressentimenters are parasites and a parasites gonna do what a parasite does.

Bruce Charlton said...

@chris - well, obviously I don't agree that is the cause; but more than that, ressentiment just doesn't seem like an explanation at all - just a circular kind of name-calling.

I'm familiar with the idea of ressentiment from Nietzsche, and it didn't make sense to me there either - so it's nothing personal!

But all critique comes from a perspective, real or implied - mine is traditional Christian.

There are others (for example other religions) but I don't think there is any consistent secular basis for critique - as Dostoievsky perceived, if there is no God, anything is permitted...

Bill said...

It's a mix. Most of them are either cynical careerists or uber-conformists. Then there is a layer of evil geniuses at the top. Clever sillies is a marginal phenomenon and you get clever sillies mostly among the evil geniuses---that is, the people running the West into the ground also find clever sillies an amusing way to pass the time. I don't notice many well-meaning fools, but maybe there are some about.

Kiwiguy said...

I think Jonathan Haidt's work on sacredness provides a partial explanation.

"The fields of psychology, sociology and anthropology have long attracted liberals, but they became more exclusive after the 1960s, according to Dr. Haidt. “The fight for civil rights and against racism became the sacred cause unifying the left throughout American society, and within the academy,” he said, arguing that this shared morality both “binds and blinds.”

“If a group circles around sacred values, they will evolve into a tribal-moral community,” he said. “They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.” It’s easy for social scientists to observe this process in other communities, like the fundamentalist Christians who embrace “intelligent design” while rejecting Darwinism. But academics can be selective, too, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan found in 1965 when he warned about the rise of unmarried parenthood and welfare dependency among blacks — violating the taboo against criticizing victims of racism.

“Moynihan was shunned by many of his colleagues at Harvard as racist,” Dr. Haidt said. “Open-minded inquiry into the problems of the black family was shut down for decades, precisely the decades in which it was most urgently needed. Only in the last few years have liberal sociologists begun to acknowledge that Moynihan was right all along.”

Similarly, Larry Summers, then president of Harvard, was ostracized in 2005 for wondering publicly whether the preponderance of male professors in some top math and science departments might be due partly to the larger variance in I.Q. scores among men (meaning there are more men at the very high and very low ends). “This was not a permissible hypothesis,” Dr. Haidt said. “It blamed the victims rather than the powerful. The outrage ultimately led to his resignation. We psychologists should have been outraged by the outrage. We should have defended his right to think freely.”