Thursday, July 12, 2007


Upside-Down Politics in the Middle East

Some interesting contrasts that are worthy of discussion (edited):

"Modern liberals - fearful of offending non-Westerners - have almost become more like old-time conservatives in their "live and let live" politics and neo-isolationism.

In contrast, some conservatives have gradually drifted away from their past realpolitik and easy detente with illiberal regimes."

Me: I would think that this doesn't give enough credit to conservatives of the past--a subject for another day-- but this is a common interpretation of conservatism.

"Such an about-face did not start with George Bush and his now maligned neo-con advisers. It was evident earlier with Ronald Reagan. He rejected detente with the Soviet Union and instead championed religious and political dissidents, calling for the end of, not tolerance of, the tyranny of the Soviet "evil empire."

Liberals, on the other hand, have embraced multiculturalism often in guilt and as a reaction against past purported Western chauvinism. We are not supposed to judge different religions and foreign cultures by imposing our own arbitrary standards of morality.

But the end result of multiculturalism in the real world is an insidious relativism."


"Conservatives more often believe in universal absolutes: Some things like authoritarianism are always worse; others like freedom are always better, regardless of cultural differences.

At home in a freewheeling, affluent society, such rigid consistency may seem reactionary, unimaginative and unrealistic. But, abroad, it can translate into something different, as more Western conservatives than liberals have supported such troublemaking champions of individual rights as former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky or the Somali-born former Dutch legislator Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Finally, there is the matter of tactics. Liberals believe more in universal redemption through nonviolence. Evil is not so much innate as it is a result of poverty, prejudice or some sort of oppression. Its antidote then should be education, understanding, dialogue and diplomacy. So don't give up on an Assad, demonize Islamists or isolate Hamas.

Conservatives are more likely to believe evil is elemental, so combating and isolating it is the necessary first step in protecting the weaker from harm.

Who, then, condemns religious fanaticism, terrorists and their illiberal state supporters in the Middle East? Not necessarily, as we would expect, contemporary liberals. Instead, they now more often rail about the Patriot Act at home than the jailing or killing of innocents in places like Damascus and Gaza."


Robert C. said...

In my experience, liberals are in fact reluctant to claim any universal or absolute truths--even that slavery is bad or totalitarian governments are bad or worse than others in an absolute, Truth-with-a-capital-T sense. Yet I don't think they would be so hesitant to say that those governments are bad in a more limited, contextual sense.

It's just that they don't believe in any absolute Truth. I don't understand that position, myself, and I keep hoping someone can explain it to me.

In the meantime, I'm happy to see multiculturalism debunked.

I do think liberals I know are just as likely to worry about the killing of innocents in places like Gaza as they are to worry about the Patriot Act. It's just that the innocents they're worried about are being killed by Israel. But we are ten times more likely to criticize our own government and society as we are to criticize, say, Hamas.

Hanson is right to suggest that belief in absolutes is conservative. I feel like a conservative when I suggest in class that Truth exists and that slavery is always worse than freedom. It's strange, especially when I think, as Hanson suggests, that a belief in absolutes is as least as likely to lead to liberal policies as conservative ones.

Hanson has some good points, but he passes over guilt too easily. White liberal guilt is a motivating force which leads us to reflexively side against Western governments and peoples, while we gloss over the faults of other cultures and governments. That guilt is also an active force in multiculturalism.

Where are we taught these things? How can we get rid of them? Is it possible? Is it worth it to stay in academia, if I will feel the need to counteract some of the ideology of the university by teaching some good reasons for American patriotism and idealism? Or is it all a lost cause?

Stephen said...

I wish I knew. Certainly my move could be interpreted as getting out and giving up.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, Robert C.; what crack pipe have you been smoking? *Radicals* don't believe totalitarian governments are bad or that there is Truth. Liberals do. At least this liberal, and every other liberal he knows, do/does.

And BTW, Hamas sucks. Duh.

Robert C. said...

Anonymous, you're right, it is radicals, not liberals, that I am talking about... at least, I hope those notions are still radical. But the vast majority of my fellow graduate students take those positions. Our pedagogy teachers believe these things as well--we talk about Truth not existing as part of our pedagogy classes.

I often prefer liberal policy solutions over conservative ones. I think of myself as center-left. In my classes, though, I feel like a hard-right conservative, because I believe in absolutes.

Academia is further left than most liberals. But I don't think those positions are so uncommon anymore. I don't know whether they're liberal positions or radical positions, but they're gaining acceptance on the left, and relativism is an integral part of multiculturalism. Both ideas have widespread influence on what's taught to college students and are gaining traction in our society. If those ideas are radical, rather than liberal, then I hope liberals will combat them. That hasn't been my experience.

Stephen said...

I tend to think that Robert is right in this case.