Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What Kind of Person Calls Himself 'Progressive'?

We all want progress. We may disagree whether gay marriage or drug legalization constitutes progress or not. But we all want better things for the world -- better food, better health and well-being, scientific and technical advances, wiser political systems, more peace and freedom, more happy children, more humane treatment of animals, more tolerance, more prosperity for the world, you name it. That's called being a decent person.

So what kind of person has to label himself "Progressive?" Obviously somebody who believes he (or she) understands real progress better than the rest of us. Because if you are a Progressive it implies that everybody else, let's face it, is a Regressive, or maybe just a Stagnant. It's a smirky, self-flattering way of saying you're a lot better than the rest.

So what kind of ego needs do you have to have to call yourself that? And what do you believe about others? In fact, Progressives must believe that other people are worse than they are; that only they can Save the Planet, or create Peace on Earth, or Solve Inequality, or whatever sin bedevils mankind. Like the preacher who is focused on nothing but sin, Progressives must emphasize the alleged flaws of other people. They need to pinpoint those flaws, to feel important. Because Progressives make it clear that the real obstacle to Progress is Other People. In fact, if you really ask a "Progressive" what other people are like, you're likely to hear that much of humanity is either ignorant or evil.

The word Progressive first became popular in the late 19th century, but has now been adopted as a popular synonym for "socialism." Americans tend not to like socialism, associating it with the Soviet Union and other bad characters. But "Progressivism" sounds fine. So it is a euphemism for something people fear; a cover-up label.

The odd thing, of course, is that real progress in the world is almost never achieved by self-proclaimed "Progressives." They generally make things worse rather than better. (See all the mad utopian schemers from Bin Laden to Stalin and Ahmadi-Nejad.) As a group, they are strikingly ill-equipped to even understand the world in any depth. Rather, it's farmers, business people, engineers, teachers, laborers, scientists, soldiers, cops, doctors, writers, inventors, all of whom create real progress --- or who keep the world from sliding back into barbarism. All the radicals in the world together have not created as much economic progress as the inventor of Diet Coke or the Post-It Note. I'm sorry, but it's plainly true. So the "Progressive" ego trip is really only an ego trip.

The same thing goes for "post-modernism," and so many other labels on the Left. If you're a "post-modernist," you plainly imply that everybody else is past it: dead and gone. The Progressive part of the world has moved beyond modernism, or whatever ism is to be surpassed. Well, why would you believe something as obviously false as that? Basically, to flatter yourself and your fellow deludees. The "in" thing is to be "post." Various Left movements love to call themselves "post-industrial," "post-structural," post this, post that. It all means, "you're a dead White male, and your time is past and buried."

So what kind of person needs to believe that? What kind of shriveled self-respect makes you want to feel that nobody is as Progressive and "post" as you are? What school curriculum has taught you to have such contempt for others?

Or take "anti-racism." If you define yourself as an "anti-racist," it means that a lot of others must be a racists, right? But how do you know that? Not many people go around wearing Kluxer sheets. You have to want to believe it, or to be more ready than the rest of us to point your finger at suspects. You're a racist! You're a homophobe! Ultimately, in many cases, being a white middle aged male is enough to make one suspect. Since the Archie Bunker series All in the Family, Hollywood and television have adopted a visual code for evil (white, fat, middle-aged, male) and good (non-white, slim, young, and/or female). Watch CSI and you'll see the code working. And with that little piece of "Progress," the Left has created its own racism, judging people purely by their appearance. The new racism is just as invidious as the old kind, and it is much more pervasive, being propagated by high-tech media.

It's all very childish, with very pernicious effects. It cultivates an accusatory, suspicious sense of victimhood and rage at the rest of humanity. And being based on mere appearances, it is incredibly superficial.

All of Political Correctness, the dominant cultural theme of the Left, depends upon such allegations and accusations. It is incredibly shallow and superficial - but it is also very effective as a power-play. If you can put the world at a disadvantage by implicitly accusing them of sin, you can also manipulate and oppress others, conscious of your own moral superiority. Evidence is not required. It is the pervasive McCarthyism of the Left. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt. If they don't talk like haters, I'm happy to believe they're not haters. Most people want the best for humanity, and appealing to their goodness seems kinder than accusing them of evil.


BBC bias again

It was Matt Frei that put me right. On Monday afternoon I watched General David Petraeus testify before Congress. I listened as he went through the facts of the military action in Iraq. I learnt as he outlined the improvements brought about in recent months.

But it wasn't until I heard Frei's take on General Petraeus's words that I realised what had really been going on. The BBC Washington correspondent told us that he had listened "very carefully" - as opposed to his usual half-cocked approach, perhaps? - and gleaned what was actually being said: "Having tried to resist the fragmentation, the creeping partition, ethnic cleansing, the White House now seems to have bowed to that." Forget the reams of pages and the hours of testimony about military strategy and dealing with terrorists. The real story of the general's report is that the White House is to start ethnically cleansing Iraqis.

Frei is also possessed of an astonishing ability to look into the future and canvas an entire nation's views. At 5pm Washington time - just a few hours after Gen Petraeus's report was available - he felt able to report that the US public had a negative reaction to it. One can only marvel at his capacity to discern from his perch in DC what countrywide polling agencies will take days to discover.

One should not be surprised by Frei's warped take. His reports from Washington drip with condescension towards Americans and, most of all, Republicans. He recently called the contest for the Republican nomination - a race that is rather more intriguing than usual - a "panic-stricken hunt". Given his penchant for such creative contempt for the people among whom he lives, it's no wonder that he has been nicknamed Stir Frei.

Awful as Frei may be, he fits the BBC's editorial agenda perfectly. The lead report on Monday's Ten O'Clock News, by the corporation's world affairs editor, John Simpson, went two minutes without mentioning anything said by General Petraeus, offering instead clips of opponents of the war attacking the report. Simpson then sneered that President Bush cares not a jot what is actually happening in Iraq, caring only how US voters perceive it. Only at the end were we permitted a tantalising glimpse of what the general said.

So yesterday's Victoria Derbyshire phone-in on BBC 5 Live was par for the course. The question of the day was: "Do you believe the Americans? Are things improving in Iraq?" For the first half-hour, every single caller informed us that Petraeus was lying about military progress. And don't think the airing of such biased calls was anything other than an editorial decision. I called in to suggest that it was unlikely that the entire US military high command was engaged in a conspiracy to lie to the world. And was I put on air? Of course not.


Sometimes 'Peace' is a Four-Letter Word

Back in the 1950s, a southern journalist named Harry Golden became famous by turning out a series of best-selling books, the first of which he called Only in America. The title was a reference to a popular expression that reflected the feeling of most of his countrymen that America was special, a unique place that offered millions of people unlimited freedom to express themselves and to achieve dreams that were unimaginable anywhere else on earth.

In the half century since Mr. Golden wrote his book, things have undergone a sea change in this country. Partly the change has come about because of Viet Nam and Watergate. But mainly because the Baby Boomers, surely the most selfish and infantile generation in our history, have achieved positions of power and influence; partly because the Fourth Estate came to be infested with Fifth Columnists, reporters and commentators who believe they are fulfilling their destinies only when they are tearing down the country, its traditional values and symbols; partly because Communism, which should have been left to die and be buried in the Soviet Union, took root and flourished on America's college campuses; and partly because Jimmy Carter, a sanctimonious phony who never met a despot he didn't adore, and Bill Clinton, an amoral opportunist who somehow went from being a punk in England bad-mouthing America during a time of war, to being a military-hating commander-in-chief, were elected to the highest office in the land.

The end result of all this is that we have wound up with a society, not of useful idiots, but of useless ones. We have so badly confused ourselves that the people who most despise America regard themselves as our greatest patriots. They call America an imperialistic power even though we haven't claimed an acre of foreign turf in my lifetime. They insist that we only go to war over oil, although we have made no move to confiscate the oil fields in Kuwait or Iraq. While condemning anything and everything that George W. Bush has done in the past six years, accusing him of trampling on our civil rights without being able to point to a single one, and equating him with Hitler, they sing the praises of such dictators as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.

The one thing all of these blithering fatheads can agree about is that war must be avoided at all costs. In order to promote this cockeyed notion, they even pretend to be concerned about the safety of America's warriors, even though we know only too well that they despise America's military.

Bruce Bawer, author of While Europe Slept, recently wrote a terrific article titled "All Aboard the Peace Racket," in which he eviscerated the peaceniks. He starts out by quoting the Roman general Flavius Vegetius Renatus, who observed in the fifth century that "If you want peace, prepare for war." These days, that bit of sage advice has been turned on its head by the likes of Ohio's Dennis Kucinich, who is quietly campaigning to create a Cabinet-level Peace Department.

An honest peace, as Mr. Bawer points out, is a good thing. Pacifism, however, is not. Instead, "it promotes a mentality that plays directly into the hands of despots." How could it not? The reason, after all, that Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., were able to be relatively successful in their missions was because England and the United States were civilized nations. Is there anybody who actually believes that Stalin, Hitler, the Taliban or Saddam Hussein, would have been equally reasonable?

According to Bawer, the founding father of the global peace movement is a 77-year-old Norwegian professor named Johan Galtung, who, in 1959, established the International Peace Research Institute. If that sounds as much like the name of a Communist front group to you as it does to me, it shouldn't surprise you that Galtung calls America a "killer country" that indulges in "neo-fascist state terrorism." On the other hand, he's not always such a big grouch. Back in the 1970s, he wrote glowingly about Mao Tse-tung's China, and even as he approaches the age of 80, he's still shooting from the hip. Not too long ago, he called for the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in Iraq, not to address the atrocities of Saddam Hussein and his Baathist butchers, but, predictably, those he attributes to the U.S.

Unfortunately, Prof. Galtung isn't the only left-wing chowderhead in the upper reaches of academia. The peace studies chairman at Brandeis said, on behalf of suicide bombings, that they provide "ways of inflicting revenge on an enemy that seems unable or unwilling to respond to rational pleas for discussion and justice."

Similar asinine remarks have been made by professors involved in the peace movement at Purdue, Notre Dame and the University of Maine. What is taught in so-called peace studies departments all over this country is quite simply that America is the root cause of all evil.

One of the favorite lines bandied about by tenured leftists is George Santayana's oft-misquoted "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." And yet that is exactly what they do, and with a stubbornness that would leave even the dumbest of mules duly impressed. Like the most fearful school child, they are only too happy to comply with the bully's demand for their lunch money. Compounding their cowardly sin of appeasement, they then applaud themselves for their maturity and cool judgment.

Less than 70 years ago, Neville Chamberlain, the umbrella-toting poster boy for pacifism, returned to England after selling out Czechoslovakia to Hitler, and vowed there would be peace in our time. What bears remembering is that he barely had time to unpack from his misguided trip to Munich when Germany marched into Poland.


Real--and unreal--threats to the First Amendment

The newspapers are full of a fair amount of hand-wringing over a First Amendment Center poll finding that almost two-thirds of Americans "believe that the nation's founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation." That the belief is ill-founded should be apparent to anybody who knows American history. Many of the founders were deists, who believed in the concept of a "creator," but didn't believe that the creator involved itself in human life and generally rejected the trappings of organized religion--including those of Christianity. There's no evidence that the founders sought to mold their new country along the lines of religious views that they didn't share.

But even though I think that a majority of Americans are wrong about their country's religious identity, I'm not convinced that I should fret more about their theological failings than I do about their overall historical ignorance. For starters, the term "Christian nation" is vague as hell. It could mean anything from a general adherence to Judaeo-Christian values (a position that wouldn't offend even my atheistic heart) to outright endorsement of theocracy and subjugation of non-believers--that covers a lot of ground. A better idea of how many poll respondents actually want to lock church and state in a close embrace lies in the 28% that want to deny religious liberty to those deemed "extreme or on the fringe."

The folks who make up that 28% are scary, but they're a far cry from two-thirds of the population. More troubling to me--though less ballyhooed in the media--are the large numbers of Americans in the poll who apparently favor choking off private support of political campaigns.

The survey also found that 71% of Americans would limit the amount a corporation or union could contribute to a political campaign, with 64% favoring such a limit on individual contributions. Sixty-two percent would limit the amount a person could contribute to his or her own campaign.

Solid majorities of Americans apparently have no problem with letting politicians throttle off the flow of money from Americans to the activists and candidates who represent their views. That's a lot of power to hand to officials who have a personal interest in wielding such authority. We've had experience with so-called "campaign finance reform" in recent years, and the result has been to increasingly turn politicking into a specialized field reserved to well-connected experts.

It's become legally perilous to advocate for or against candidates and ballot initiatives. Spend the wrong money, in the wrong way, or at the wrong time, and you may face crippling fines. It's safer to just keep your mouth shut--and let the politicians slip just a little further out of control. I certainly don't want to live in the worst-case version of a "Christian nation," but in the modern world, state-controlled political speech is more of a threat than the specter of theocracy.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


No comments: