Friday, August 11, 2006

What explains the left?

Theodore Dalrymple has an interesting essay on the City Journal website today. He tells us about an interesting social experiment attempted by his local government.

". . . A few years ago, the borough council permitted a developer to build six apartment complexes across from my building, on the condition that he reserve three of them for “social”—what Americans would call public—housing."

The results of this are about what anyone with an IQ in the double digits would have predicted. The dividing line between the private and public areas is as obvious as the borderline between Israel and any of its Arab/Muslim neighbors.

"The little gardens in front of the publicly owned apartments are overgrown and jungle-like; they look as if no one really cared for them since the construction of the housing. Litter and household detritus—from diapers to the packaging of fast-food meals—covers them, some of it festooned on the overgrown bushes. At a certain point, private property takes over. The little gardens are cared for and neat; not a single piece of litter clutters them. If one were to appear, a property owner would soon remove it. My apartment, I am glad to say, is opposite a privately owned building."

Dr. Dalrymple goes on to wonder what could account for the difference. After all, he points out, poverty cannot force a woman to dispose of her baby's soiled diapers in the front garden.

The answer is self evident to most of us. You do not value what you do not work to obtain.

This dovetails nicely with a piece written by the irreplaceable Fjordman on The Brussels Journal about the welfare state. Fjordman speculates that the self destructivness of some in our society could be the result of growing up in the nanny state:

Is this boredom, the sense of futility and the meaningless of life in the nanny state one of the causes of the famously high suicide rates in Scandinavia? Theodore Dalrymple thinks so: “One reason for the epidemic of self-destructiveness that has struck British, if not the whole of Western, society, is the avoidance of boredom. For people who have no transcendent purpose to their lives and cannot invent one through contributing to a cultural tradition (for example), in other words who have no religious belief and no intellectual interests to stimulate them, self-destruction and the creation of crises in their life is one way of warding off meaninglessness.”

Fjordman also believes that this can also go a long way to explaining the tendency of some to hold left-liberal political views:

In his classic The True Believer, Eric Hoffer writes something similar: “The poor on the borderline of starvation live purposeful lives. To be engaged in a desperate
struggle for food and shelter is to be wholly free from a sense of futility. The goals are concrete and immediate. Every meal is a fulfillment; to go to sleep on a full stomach is a triumph; and every windfall a miracle. What need could they have for ‘an inspiring super individual goal which could give meaning and dignity to their lives?’ They are immune to the appeal of a mass movement. [...] There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society’s ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom. In almost all the descriptions of the periods preceding the rise of mass movements there is reference to vast ennui; and in their earliest stages mass movements are more likely to find sympathizers and support among the bored than among the exploited and oppressed.”

To quote the latter-day Brunnen-G it all makes a senseless kind of sense. It would explain how people born into greater liberty, affluence and security than any generation in human history could feel nothing but scorn for the political and economic system which created that freedom and abundance. How they could instead have embraced first communism and now Islamofascism.

Why else would people who claim to stand for the rights and well being of women, children, minorities and homosexuals serve as appologists for a brutal system that treats women as the property of men, allows for the sexual exploitation of children, oppresses religious minorities and buries homosexuals alive?

Of course there would have to be other factors at work as well. One thing that could help explain the Left's desire to capitulate to the Soviet Union during the Cold War was that they were suffering from a form of the Stockholm Syndrome. Living under the constant fear of a Soviet nuclear attack could have caused some people in that era to have sought safety through surrender (you could also call this the French Syndrome). After all if you espouse communist/socialist views and are subservient to the USSR they will not blow you up.

This seems to be working in Europe today in the bizarre spectacle of European nations imposing dimminitude upon themselves in the face of demands from Muslim minorities. We see European countries which are liberal democracies and secular welfare states which treat the traditional European religion of Christianity with open contempt and have tied themselves in pretzel knots accommodating every left-liberal fantasy from cradle-to-grave health care to legalized homosexual marriage getting on their knees before the savage Dark Ages cult of Islam. They are paying for the construction of mosques and Islamic schools which inculcate poisonous hatred of Jews, Christians, democracy and secularism. They give generous subsidies to Islamic publications which serve to spread that hatred even further throughout their societies. Their law enforcement agencies are known to look the other way for honor killings and female genital mutilation as well.

These different factors seem to be working together in Western societies to form a kind of psychic perfect storm which is threatening to overwhelm the Free World. The generations born after World War Two and the Great Depression did not labor to create or defend the freedom into which they were born. They did not risk their lives to defeat the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese and they did not stand in the post war rubble, roll up their sleeves and rebuild.

The freedom and opportunity, wealth and security of the modern West were handed to the post war generations on a silver platter and what one does not work for one does not value. The security afforded by the dynamic economic expansion of the post war West coupled with the social welfare safety net removed fear and uncertainty from the middle and upper classes (and blunted it among the lower classes). How many students at elite universities can say, like the late actor James Cagney and his brother, that they lay awake at night “scheming how they would get food the next day”?

To take away the fear of failure is to deny people the need to strive. For a society to give unearned privilege is to encourage contempt. To bring people raised in this corrosive environment into contact with an enemy whom they feel that they cannot defeat, both because they fail to value their own culture and therefore do not believe that it deserves to win and because they have been denied the experience overcoming obstacles in their personal lives is to invite them to identify with that enemy.

I do not put this forward as a perfect explanation of the liberal-left's hatred of the democratic capitalist culture which gave them freedom and secutity. I do, however, offer it as at least a beginning of understanding the psychosis of the left.

If anyone else has a better idea, or any idea, to explain why people who have inherited such blessings choose to turn on the societies which produce this largess I invite them to contribute it to the debate. Western Europe is almost certainly lost. You can probably add Australia and Canada to that list of the “already gone too far”. This leaves the United States, those European nations that were once part of the Warsaw Pact, Ireland and India as the last hope for freedom on the Earth.

We need an effective defense against the rot from within or the entire globe is destined for sharia.