Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Leftists, Rousseau, and Islamicist totalitarianism: brothers under the skin

[NOTE: I ran out of time today for Part II of the Cronkite piece. My plan is to have it appear tomorrow. In the meantime...]

There are several banned trolls whose comments I ordinarily delete here as a matter of course. But every now and then one writes something that I decide to leave up as an example of a certain type of thinking.

Thus, this recent effort from one of my most loyal non-fans in Toronto:

'Militant' Islam isn't going to go away as long as the U.S and Israel continue to control the region through it's military and corrupt policies.

Given that, there is no U.S chance of winning a military victory there. None.

I'm hoping this site will still be around in a few years when defeat is total and humiliating...

A pithy rendition of a certain type of leftist thinking that, like a snake swallowing its own tail, would devour itself if what it wished for came to pass. Because make absolutely no mistake about it: if this commenter had his way, and defeat of the current effort being mounted by the US were to be "total and humiliating," and the other side (Islamicist totalitarianism) were to get its way and become victorious in its goal of a worldwide caliphate, not only would there be no sites left like this, the commenter would find his freedoms curtailed so forcefully that he would no longer be able to exercise his own freedom to be a troll. And that would be the least of his (and our) worries.

I've often wondered about the failure of the Left to understand this very simple fact. Surely, they are interested in the Enlightenment values of reason, human rights (such as for homosexuals and for women) and individual freedom? Surely they understand what sharia law is all about? Surely they understand that these people are quite serious?

But no; the highlighted comment demonstrates all the basic elements of leftist thought: the attribution of all third-world violence and ills to the always-dastardly doings of those twin repositories of all that's really evil: the Great and Little Satans, the US and Israel. These beliefs of the Left are offered as a matter of faith, without even an attempt to back them up with facts or logical argument (although if what passes for logical argument is the work of Chomsky and the like, they needn't bother). Yes, yes, yes, of course; it's the corruption of the US and Israel that is the cause of all the flaws of the Arab world, and if those things went away all the other problems would magically go away--(or perhaps "wither away," in the old Marxist phrase).

What's going on here? I believe that at least part of the answer lies in the philosophical underpinnings of Leftist thought. One of these days I hope to write a long post on its origins in the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who had a similar reductionist theory of human nature and history (I've been wading through this book on the subject, which I highly recommend).

To Rousseau, civilization and society (and reason itself, to a certain extent) were corrupting influences, and must be reformed to better reflect the condition of pre-civilized humanity--a relatively happy state of nature in which people were at peace and non-exploitative towards each other. Civilization led to power inequities and private property (very important to Rousseau, as well as to his heirs, the Jacobins, the Left, and the Communists) and all sorts of unfairness that needed redressing by a state that was not afraid to use Draconian measures and subordinate the people to its will.

In Rousseau's seminal Social Contract (which, along with Hobbes' Leviathan, we were made to read in public high school; somehow I doubt whether that's still the case) he writes [my emphasis]:

...whoever refuses to obey the general will will be forced to do so by the entire body [the public and the state]; this means merely that he will be forced to be free...[if the leaders of the state say to the citizen] "it is expedient for the state that you should die," he should die.

So the resemblance of the Left to Islamicist fundamentalist totalitarianism isn't such a stretch after all. The similarity is their profound dislike of modernism, jettisoning of individual freedom for a sort of mythical collective freedom that will be expressed in the general will, the embrace of violent methods for achieving this heaven on earth, and the glorification of feeling over reason. It's all there in their hero, Rousseau--whether they've read him or not.

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