Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A Nuance I Hadn't Considered

If a person's arguments don't hold up, or if they ignore or refuse to examine pertinent evidence, it becomes permissible to look into the psychological reasons why they hold their positions. I've long been aware that many liberals hold a "progressive" position in order to feel good about themselves. Oftentimes taking the progressive position allows an ersatz form of atonement. If virtue is as virtue does, there can often be much to atone for. For instance, what if, for whatever reason, you never volunteer your money or time to charitable works? Well you fix that by voting for Democrats, the party of the downtrodden, who will take from the rich and give to the poor! What if you favor abortion, the ultimate form of the strong oppressing the inconvenient weak? Easy! Vote for the party of "the little guy", or maybe go out and protest the eating of meat, or the cutting down of trees.

I often think of the liberal holding his positions in order to bludgeon conservatives over the head for being morally inferior. Ace of Spades has a post which got me thinking about the other side of the coin. He points out that the vitriol is oftentimes not so much an offensive move as it is a defensive move. If your very sense of virtue and absolution comes from the compensating liberal positions you hold, then what happens if someone tries to undermine your positions? Where does it leave you if the thing that served to "wipe away your sins" is taken away from you?

This all brings to mind the following bumper sticker idea I had a while back (it would be kind of an inside joke for Catholics or Orthodox, as it refers to the Sacrament of Confession):
"Relativism Is For People Who Can't Handle Absolution"

What I mean by that, is that everyone carries a burden of guilt. If you are repentant and have Confession available to you (and you use it!), this guilt can be washed away from you using God's way. It is absolutely amazing what a load off this is. And if you refuse God's way? Well you've still got the guilt, only now you need to redefine the very nature of morality to turn your guilt into something else (hence, moral relativism), and get relief from the weight of it.

Ace's post is well worth reading. Here's an excerpt:

In college I was a spectator to a fight between two people. One was a conservative, the other a liberal. They were fighting over whether or not the government should provide some social service. The liberal was quite insistent that the conservative's failure to support this service made him a loathesome, selfish person.

He blew up. "What are you talking about?!" he demanded. "You and I do the same things. Neither one of us donates our time or money. We just sit around and [shoot the breeze] and drink beer. But because you have this political position that costs you nothing in terms of effort or money, you pat yourself on the back for being morally superior!"

I actually think that's a big problem with modern liberalism, especially in terms of its diminishing political appeal.

Liberalism isn't just an ideology. It's not just politics. It's what makes them good people. The political has truly become the personal.

Many liberals take genuine offense at the expression of an anti-liberal political notion. It's not just a political disagreement; to them, it's an attack on them as a person. As the liberal has so much of his sense of personal worth invested in his identity as a liberal, disagreements over policy are actually attacks on the core of his feeling of self-worth.

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