Saturday, December 27, 2008

The gods of liberalism

Modern-day liberals - or "progressives" as they more discreetly prefer - labor under an awkward misconception; namely, that there is anything remotely "progressive" about the fundamental canons of their blind, secular-humanist faith. In fact, today's liberalism is largely a sanitized retread of an antiquated mythology - one that significantly predates the only truly progressive movement: biblical Christianity.

While visiting the Rivermont Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg, Va., a few weeks back, I heard a troubling, albeit thought-provoking, sermon. Pastor John Mabray addressed the ancient Canaanite practice of Baal worship and, though he didn't reveal it by name, connected the dots to its present-day progeny: liberalism. Baal, the half-bull, half-man god of fertility, was the focal point of pagan idolatry in Semitic Israel until God revealed His monotheistic nature to Judaism's forebears.

In his sermon, Pastor Mabray illustrated that, although they've now assumed a more contemporary flair, the fundamentals of Baal worship remain alive and well today. The principal pillars of Baalism were child sacrifice, sexual immorality (both heterosexual and homosexual) and pantheism (reverence of creation over the Creator).

Ritualistic Baal worship, in sum, looked a little like this: Adults would gather around the altar of Baal. Infants would then be burned alive as a sacrificial offering to the deity. Amid horrific screams and the stench of charred human flesh, congregants - men and women alike - would engage in bisexual orgies. The ritual of convenience was intended to produce economic prosperity by prompting Baal to bring rain for the fertility of "mother earth."

The natural consequences of such behavior - pregnancy and childbirth - and the associated financial burdens of "unplanned parenthood" were easily offset. One could either choose to engage in homosexual conduct or - with child sacrifice available on demand - could simply take part in another fertility ceremony to "terminate" the unwanted child.

Modern liberalism deviates little from its ancient predecessor. While its macabre rituals have been sanitized with flowery and euphemistic terms of art, its core tenets and practices remain eerily similar. The worship of "fertility" has been replaced with worship of "reproductive freedom" or "choice." Child sacrifice via burnt offering has been updated, ever so slightly, to become child sacrifice by way of abortion. The ritualistic promotion, practice and celebration of both heterosexual and homosexual immorality and promiscuity have been carefully whitewashed - yet wholeheartedly embraced - by the cults of radical feminism, militant "gay rights" and "comprehensive sex education." And, the pantheistic worship of "mother earth" has been substituted - in name only - for radical environmentalism.

But it's not just self-styled "progressives" or secular humanists who have adopted the fundamental pillars of Baalism. In these postmodern times, we've also been graced, regrettably, by the advent of counter-biblical "emergent Christianity" or "quasi-Christianity," as I prefer to call it. This is merely liberalism all dolled up and gratuitously stamped "Christian." It's a way for left-wing ideologues to have their "religion" cake and eat it too. Under the guise of "social justice," its adherents often support - or at least rationalize - the same pro-homosexual, pro-abortion and radical environmental policies pushed by the modern-day Baal worshiper.

Though the "Christian left" represent what is arguably a negligible minority within larger Christianity, the liberal media have, nonetheless, embraced their cause and seized upon their popularity among elites as evidence that the so-called "Christian right" (read: biblical Christianity) is losing influence - that Christianity is, somehow, "catching up with the times."

Because emergent Christianity fails the authenticity test whenever subjected to even the most perfunctory biblical scrutiny, I suspect it will eventually go - for the most part - the way of the pet rock or the Macarena. But this does not absolve leaders within the evangelical community from a duty to call leaders of this counter-biblical revolution on their heresy. It's not a matter of right versus left; it's a matter of right versus wrong - of biblical versus non-biblical.

Nonetheless, the aforementioned pillars of postmodern Baalism - abortion, sexual relativism and radical environmentalism - will almost certainly make rapid headway over the next four to eight years, with or without help from the Christian left. The gods of liberalism have a new high priest in Barack Obama, and enjoy many devout followers in the Democratic-controlled Congress, liberal media and halls of academia.

Both Obama's social agenda and that of the 111th Congress are rife with unfettered pro-abortion, freedom-chilling, pro-homosexual and power-grabbing environmentalist objectives. The same kind of "hope, action and change," I suppose, that was swallowed up by the Baalist Canaanites of old. So, today's liberalism is really just a very old book with a shiny new cover. A philosophy rooted in ancient pagan traditions, of which there is naught to be proud. There's "nothing new under the sun," indeed.


Primary and Secondary Racism

Ann Coulter was right when she said the essence of being a liberal is having one set of rules for oneself and an entirely different set of rules for other people. Similarly, it could be asserted that the essence of liberal arts education is developing one set of theories that apply only to other people. Few better examples can be found than in the case of labeling theory, which derives from the pseudo-science of sociology.

Frank Tannenbaum had a number of valid points when, in the 1930s, he established some basic premises of labeling theory. He argued that, as a juvenile, everyone engages in some form of delinquent behavior. And he correctly pointed out that not everyone who engages in delinquency is caught and, therefore, labeled "delinquent." Tannenbaum was also correct in saying that parents, teachers, and peers sometimes over-react to juveniles caught in an act of delinquency. He was again on firm ground in asserting that these occasional over-reactions could actually produce more delinquency.

Surely, those who are labeled delinquent are less likely to be invited to associate with those who haven't. And ostracism from conformists can lead to delinquent associations where the strengthening of deviant tendencies can occur.

Writing just a few years after Tannenbaum, Edwin Lemert did a lot to shape labeling theory into its present form. It is a form popular with progressives everywhere. Lemert argued that people can engage in delinquency for any number of biological, sociological, or psychological reasons. Delinquency produced by any of these broad (categories of) factors is called "primary deviance." But Lemert's real contribution to various progressive causes (and socialist policies) flows from his explanation of a form of delinquency known as "secondary deviance."

Lemert believed that if an individual was caught in an act of primary deviance, he was likely to be placed under greater subsequent scrutiny by parents, teachers, and various agents of social control. This, of course, meant the child was more likely to be caught engaging in delinquency again. Adopting Lemert's premises, it is easy to understand how a vicious cycle could develop.

At some point, of course, the child might internalize the notion that he is a "deviant," a "delinquent," or just generally "bad." This could lead to higher rates of delinquency. When it does, according to Lemert, "secondary deviance" has occurred. Many of us have come to dub this process, perhaps somewhat simplistically, as the "self-fulfilling prophecy."

Notions such as "secondary deviance" and "self-fulfilling prophecy" have done much to undermine the integrity of public education in this country. If you learned to read in first grade in the 1970s, you remember the "yellowbirds," "redbirds," and "bluebirds" reading groups. Labeling theorists thought it would be better to call a child a "yellowbird" than to call him "slow."

(Author's Note: I was a "yellowbird" in first grade and we all knew we were slow. We just contented ourselves with beating up the "bluebirds" during recess. Fortunately, due to the kindness of my favorite teacher Elsie Stephenson, I eventually became a "redbird.").

Regrettably, all of this emphasis on self-esteem and negative labeling has resulted in many schools doing away with letter grades altogether. And when the kids play games at recess they are often forbidden from keeping score. They don't want anyone to suffer the emotional trauma that results from being labeled a "loser" - even if for a day.

Liberal progressives have spent years taking a theory from sociology and applying it increasingly to the field of education. These progressives have shown a clear interest in the question of whether negative labels (e.g., "criminal," "dumb") are more frequently applied to blacks and other historically victimized groups.

But, curiously, one area of research remains unexplored: What impact does labeling someone a "racist" have on his self-image - and his propensity for future acts of racism? Frank Tannenbaum, if he were alive today, might argue that everyone engages in some form of racist behavior. And he might point out that not everyone who engages in racism is caught and labeled "racist." Tannenbaum might also say that parents, teachers, and peers sometimes over-react to juveniles caught in an act of racial insensitivity. He would be on firm ground in asserting that these occasional over-reactions could actually produce more racial insensitivity.

We all know that liberals often manufacture cases of racism in order to keep liberalism alive. But we need more research in the pseudo-science of sociology in order to determine how reckless accusations of racism are actually creating more real racism in America. The research can be used to test whether liberals really believe in labeling theory and whether they are willing to apply it to their own conduct. If liberals really do believe in labeling theory, they should reconsider their own careless accusations of racism. If not, they should fess up, assign grades, and let children keep score during recess.


Wacky accusation from small-time Australian Leftists: Conservatives are "postmodern"

It's not easy being a conservative. Most of the time your colleagues and peers regard your views as embarrassingly old-fashioned. The culturati and the academy love to poke fun at you. And, when you're at a dinner party, there is no more sure-fire way to upset the bonhomie than to express sympathy for a conservative position on any subject matter.

Then, just as conservatism seemed destined to remain decidedly unfashionable, Deakin academics Geoff Boucher and Matthew Sharpe publish their provocatively titled The Times Will Suit Them: Postmodern Conservatism in Australia. Apparently, during the past decade or so, conservative ideas have not only been very much in fashion, they took a decidedly postmodern turn. The vanguard of this latest postmodern conspiracy is neither Jacques Derrida nor Michel Foucault; the culprits, this time, are John Howard and the entire editorial board of Quadrant.

The crux of Boucher and Sharpe's argument is that conservatism morphed into a form of relativism. Under the former prime minister, they claim, universalistic normative principles such as international human rights gave way to nationalistic assertion and cultural particularism. Values were appealed to "not because they are just but just because they are ours". The Howard version of conservatism also cemented in the Australian psyche a "scepticism towards the modern idea that people can make the world" better through "planned political action". In Howard's Australia, everybody was feeling so relaxed and comfortable that commitments to grand projects such as social justice and equality seemed a thing of the past.

Boucher and Sharpe's perverse use of the postmodern label raises an interesting question: What is conservatism and how do conservatives approach the kinds of issues postmodernists have been raising? The first thing to note is that unlike those other two isms of the modern age, liberalism and socialism, conservatism, on the whole, has been defined by its lack of a utopian vision. Keenly attuned to unintended consequences, and the persistence of human frailties, conservatives traditionally have preferred evolution to revolution, custom and habit to fads and fashions, pragmatic approaches and common sense to theoretical speculations and abstract generalisations. Because of the peculiarly change-oriented character of modernity and modernisation, conservatives often have felt the need to remind their fellow citizens of the value of the permanent, that the wheel doesn't have to be reinvented willy-nilly. In these and other respects, conservatives embody a certain postmodern modesty about what philosophy or theory can achieve, although their preference would be for empirical and pragmatic solutions to life's dilemmas. Along with David Hume, they also believe that having a sense of humour is a good antidote to hubris.

Where conservatives differ markedly from postmodernists is in the latter's embrace of romanticism. Postmodernism regards all critical reflection as "ironic play" and suffers from a tendency to see the world in aesthetic terms. In this respect, postmodernism has more in common with aesthetic modernism than it likes to admit. Art becomes a model for all of reality and anybody but a philistine judges art according to nonaesthetic criteria; hence, the outrage of the chattering classes regarding the public's disquiet with the depiction of children in Bill Henson's photographs. For the postmodern culturati, only a complete prude or ignoramus would see these images aspornography.

Here conservatism and postmodernism clearly diverge. Although conservatism has produced its own share of bohemians and aesthetes, conservatives are suspicious of rhetoric that puts the world views of an artistic and intellectual class above those of the much scorned middle-classes. However, it is the conservative approach to questions of art and culture that has been most open to misrepresentation in postmodern times. The conservative position that has received most publicity during the past decade is the one that has challenged literature departments embracing film and popular culture. The dominant image has been one of conservative critics railing against the postmodern tendency to equate Shakespeare with The Simpsons. No such thing as a postmodern conservative on this score.

The problem, though, is that the rhetoric surrounding the so-called culture wars has become the only measure of the conservative position on cultural matters. Conservatives are supposedly cranky, crusty, intolerant types who look down their noses at the culture of the masses. But this is a more accurate description of a circa-1950 left-wing intellectual writing for a journal such as Meanjin or Partisan Review than it is necessarily of a contemporary conservative intellectual.

Another conservative response to the postmodern question has been to admit that indeed postmodernism represents something new or at least something quite challenging for society and culture. In fact, conservative sociologists such as Daniel Bell, Christopher Lasch, Philip Rieff and John Carroll have led the way in demonstrating the kinds of predicaments that postmodern culture represents for individual identity and community wellbeing.

I would argue that these conservative theorists not only beat their leftist counterparts in diagnosing some of these changes; they also understood the unintended consequences of increased affluence, the triumph of a bohemian ethic and the loss of meaning in the sphere of culture much better than more fashionable strains of social and cultural theory.

After all is said and done, the quintessential characteristic of the conservative is that they have a deep need to confront and understand their times. As conservative American columnist David Brooks notes in his book Bobos in Paradise, the past few years have seen the emergence of "blue jean conservatives". He celebrates them as new kinds of conservative who "treasure religion so long as it is conducted in a spirit of moderation rather than zeal", who "appreciate good manners and cherish little customs and traditions" and who "reject grand rationalistic planning" and feel that the world is "far too complicated to be altered effectively by some person's scheme to shape reality". Sound postmodern? Perhaps the authors of The Times Will Suit Them went looking in the wrong places for their postmodern conservatives.


Australian social workers as arrogant and uncaring as British ones

Children taken from parents with no evidence of risk

A judge says it was a "gross abuse of power" for child welfare staff to forcibly remove two babies from their parents' care when there was no evidence they were at risk of harm. Ordering that the children be returned to their parents immediately, Supreme Court Justice George Palmer said the New South Wales Department of Community Services officers' actions had "gravely imperilled" the children's best interests. "My principal concern is that young children who have been well cared for by their parents have been removed from their care for some three months and, if the DOCS officers have their way, will be kept out of their parents' care for another three months, for no good reason," Justice Palmer said.

Although the parents were recreational cannabis users, the judge said there was no evidence that it posed a direct risk of harm to their children - a 15-month-old girl and a month-old boy. He said there was no evidence the children, who were given the pseudonyms Georgia and Luke, were neglected or physically or emotionally abused. Given that the parents were not mentally ill and had no relevant criminal history, he questioned why their children were forcibly removed and why DOCS was pursuing a care plan that would keep them in custody until May. He said there had been "a serious abuse by certain DOCS officers of the department's power to take children into custody".

The court heard that DOCS sought to meet the parents on September 12 but did not respond to their attempts to reschedule. When the couple failed to show up, three officers came to their house. The mother denied her children were at risk but the officers returned with two police officers and removed the children. The parents, who cannot be identified, applied to the Supreme Court to have their children returned, a move opposed by DOCS.

Officers' attitude showed "an intransigent refusal to acknowledge a mistake, regardless of the consequences to the children", Justice Palmer said. A psychologist who assessed the children and their parents noted: "Both parents are well able to provide for the safety, welfare and wellbeing of their infant children."

Justice Palmer last week ordered that Georgia and Luke be immediately returned to their parents. DOCS declined to comment on the case, saying it would carefully examine the judgment and consider whether to appeal.



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 readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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