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August 02, 2007

The Toxic Self-Delusions of the Liberal Psychology

A New York Times writer writes of her curious living arrangement, sharing a house with her boyfriend, his wife (!), and wife's boyfriend.

Just to clarify, it's not quite, as GOB Bluth proposed, "Fuck Mountain." The husband and wife are separated, but neither can afford to live in their big house without the other's contribution, and the divorce hasn't gone through yet. (Not sure the papers have even been filed, and I don't know how you get one of those easy-peasy no fault divorces without an actual year or so of physical separation.)

The situation is kinda bizarre, of course. But what's interesting is the writer's belief that this curious arrangement could add to her "Edginess Quotient." At least that's what she thought at first, until she realized that living with her boyfriend's wife (as well as the dude stickin' it to her) might be kind of a drag. Especially because it was a drag precisely due to those horribly bourgeois reasons like sexual jealousy, and, um, not wanting your boyfriend's wife all up in your grill all the goddamn time.

Dr. Helen rags on her a bit. If I may be so bold to sharpen her point, and toss in a little bonus self-flattering political hackery to boot, liberals have a particularly large gulf between their cherished self-image and their realistic self-awareness. Everyone has this to some extent, of course. I'm not saying it's unique to liberals, just that they often seem to have an especially big gulf between their idealized view of themselves and a more grounded self-assessment.

Again, I don't want to claim that liberals have cornered the market on inflated self-opinions. However, it seems to me that conservatives have far less reservation about admitting they often act due to simple self-interest. Oh, we're not eager to offer that admission. But because we believe that human beings are inherently flawed -- and on this point religious cons and non-religious cons agree, although not for the exact same list of reasons -- we're less hung-up about admitting we act in our own self-interest for no particular greater good or noble purpose.

Liberals have a big-time hang-up with this. Try extracting this admission from a liberal sometime even in the most nonthreatening way. Most will simply not admit it. Or it will take you two and a half hours you'll never get back.

This is, it hardly needs be said, an enormous bit of self-deception on the part of many liberals. (Generally, the less humorous ones, which is most of them; the funny ones, seeing the flaws of humans (including themselves) more clearly have a much easier time with this.) They have a large amount of self-esteem riding on the proposition that they act almost entirely selflessly and thinking only of others in their daily lives.

I'm not saying they're more selfish than conservatives. I'm just saying there's a much larger gulf between their actual level of selfishness and their admitted level of selfishness. Their emotional investment in their presumed near-zero level of mercenary impulse causes them to verge more wildly from reality on this point.

Indeed, many liberals seem to believe they have already pretty much acheived the Buddhist ideal of Nirvana, the complete self-abnegation of the soul so that the world is viewed entirely objectively, from an angle's high-above-it-all point ov view, rather than subjectively, down on actual planet earth competing and striving against millions of other people doing the same. If you don't believe me, ask them "Would it be preferable to save an American's life or a foreigner's?" They will usually decline to express a preference because the destruction of the self and joining of the universal oversoul admits of no feelings of tribal or sectarian loyalties whatsoever; they can't say "I choose the American if I'm forced to choose" without admitting they haven't quite attained Nirvana yet.

For serious Buddhists, it's not hard at all to admit the non-attainment of the ultimate metaphysical state of Nirvana -- it's supposed to be hard, and can take a lifetime. (Or, you know, several lifetimes.) But liberals have this notion that believing in liberalism is itself a very efficient shortcut to that exalted state of emptiness of ego. A Kerry-Edwards bumper-sticker gets you pretty much as far as a lifetime of devotion to the teachings of Krishna.

They by and large haven't actually shed tribal or personal loyalties -- except in the case of those who actively hate their fellow Americans, in which case they're really just substituting one tribal loyalty for another when the favor any foreigner over their fellow countryman -- but it is critical to their self-conception to believe that they have.

Indeed, you will occasionally find liberals wrestling with -- or at least making a show of wrestling with -- a question that simply asks if they have any reason to favor their own lives over any stranger's lives. "A fire is burning; you can only save either yourself or a stranger, and there are no chivalrous reasons (women before men, children before all, etc.) to favor the stranger of yourself; he or she is your exact same age, sex, marital status, and has the same number of children as you and the same level of physical competency to save himself asyou and is in all other ways similar to you, except he is not you; who do you save? Yourself or him?" Having eliminated considerations of chivalry, heroism, or sacrifice for the greater good from the hypothetical, liberals will still often put on a great show of struggling with the moral quandry of choosing to live or choosing to save someone else and die.

Conservatives would tend to answer this more honestly. Either they'll say "Well I'd hope I'd make a heroic decision, but I don't know if I would" or they'll just say, "Look, all other things being even, of course I'd save myself. Be real."

And this realism is again simply due to the fact that conservatives do not define themselves as morally perfect, unselfish, caring only for their fellow "Global Citizens," etc. They view such a self-definition as childishly unrealistic -- and for good reason -- so admitting the obvious truth of the matter requires jumping over far lower egotistical hurdles.

Less importat is the Hipness Gap, the gulf between one's self-assessment as a cool, dispassionate, non-jealous, open-minded, experimental, I'll-try-anything-once sort and the reality of one's actual ratings in these areas. Again, liberals place a hell of a premium on the idea of hipness, and, as hipness is so important to them, they naturally believe they possess it in great heaping spoonfuls. Conservatives care less about this -- we do care, don't get me wrong; we just aren't willing to work as hard as liberals at being hip -- and so we're more honest about expressing boring, passe tastes and and a preference for outdated bourgeois social norms. The woman writing this New York Times article wanted to see herself as a woman unbound by old and irrational preferences for sleeping with a boyfriend without his wife (!) and the guy stickin' it to her in the next room; she was disappointed to learn she was not, in fact, quite as footloose and fancy-free in such matters as she'd hoped.

I doubt many conservatives would have had similar illusions on this score. A conservative might be forced into such a difficult situation by economics or strange circumstance, but her likely best possible starting attitude would probably be "I hope to God I can put up with this ridiculous bullshit." And definitely not "Yeah, I'm probably cool and with-it enough to play Pictionary every sandwich night with my boyfriend's wife and this other dude who's putting it to her."

She conceived herself as cooler than she was; she thought she had come closer to obliterating her own selfish ego and uniting with Buddha in Nirvana than she actually had; she was, in short, fairly clueless about what sort of person she actually was. She was too blinded by the person she wished herself to be, or at least thought she ought to be, to take realistic stock of who she actually was.

To bring this 'round to current politics: Liberals, of course, also have a great deal of distance between their own capacities for unfairness, nastiness, dishonesty, and hypocrisy than they believe they do. Again, their sense of self depends heavily on the proposition that they are superior, if not superlative, in their fairness, civility, honesty, and integrity; they have great difficulties admitting deficiencies (beyond a fairly trivial sort) in any of these virtues.

Now, I don't believe that either group, liberals or conservatives, has a particular monopoly on virtue. Individual people, obviously, may be more virtuous than others, but when it comes to large groups, I tend to imagine that all the usual sins are spread, collectively, about equally over both.

However -- I strongly believe that the liberals have a far less realistic self-assessment as regards their own, and their political brethren's, scores on these virtues.

I don't believe conservatives or liberals are more honest, generally, than the other.

But I do believe liberals are strongly convinced they're more honest.

I don't believe conservatives or liberals are more fair, generally, than the other.

But I do believe liberals are strongly convinced they're fairer.

I don't believe conservatives or liberals are more civil, generally, than the other.

But I do believe liberals are strongly convinced they're more civil.

I don't believe conservatives or liberals have more integrity, generally, than the other.

But I do believe liberals are strongly convinced they have more integrity.

And to toss out the obvious:

I don't believe conservatives or liberals are more intelligent, generally, than the other.

But I do believe liberals are believe zealously, rabidly that they're more intelligent.

This lack of accurate self-assessment has caused a great distortion in our current politics. Throughout time, both Republicans and Democrats have resorted to pimping cheap sexual scandals to win elections.

Throughout time, both Republicans and Democrats have resorted to simplistic-to-the-point-of-dishonesty messaging to win elections.

Throughout time, both Republicans and Democrats have engaged in embarrassing hypocrisy in excoriating in the other party what the blithely forgive in their own.

But here's the thing: Because liberals have far more difficult time admitting to themselves they're guilty of sins of integrity or honesty or the like, they have convinced themselves that, at least until recently, they've been too darn honest, fair, and civil in politics, conducting them with far too much integrity.

Because, you see -- it's only conservatives who've been letting down Team America in these areas for the last forty years.

Every election the liberals lose, they claim the same basic reasons for losing: We were too nice. We weren't "tough enough." We were too honest. We weren't willing to go into the gutter like the other guys.

We were too smart for the American people.

However, they've been saying this for the last century. And they were wrong: The whole time they imagined they were being too goshdarn good-spirited, civil, fair, substantive, honest, and intelligent to their electoral detriment, they were actually matching conservatives punch-for-punch in meanspiritedness, incivility, empty slogaeering, dishonesty, and outright stupidity.

But now they've decided the gloves should finally come off.

Now they'll really "get tough."

Now they'll actually match conservatives in their nastiness.

But they've been doing that all along. Not that they themselves noticed.

So what are they doing now?

Well, quite a few of them seem to be going well beyond the accepted levels of venom, dishonesty, and nastiness in order to "match" conservatives in these areas; not realizing they were already at the same level as conservatives along these lines -- let's say we were both set to 7 -- now they've turned it up to 11.

What else can explain the constant death-wishes expressed on liberal blogs? This is something that should bring heavy shame to those calling for the deaths of their enemies. But they're shameless -- they think this is the right way to behave. After all, they were nearly perfect angels before; now it's time to play the conservatives' game of wishing death upon political enemies.

Really? That was "our game"? I didn't know that. I tended to think that such expressions were shameful, juvenile, and malignant, classless, and a rather pathetic confession of impotency, signifying, as such death-wishes do, that the utterer is on the level of shut-in crazy whose only effective manner of communicating with the world is to spit curses at it.

I've got news for liberals -- it has not escaped conservatives' notice that we'd have a much easier time in politics and in the courts were a few planes carrying the right people, as it were, were to crash upon take-off. The deaths of any number of Democratic politicians and judges would, almost necessarily, help our cause.

And yet we don't call for such things. Because to do so is shameful. Even to think such a thing is shameful, even though it might occur to us on occasion as well; but to say it aloud, to the world, on a public blog? That reduces us. It makes us small, mean, petty, and pathetic. It's a shameful sentiment that is bad enough to think, let alone proclaim to the world.

Proudly. Proudly. That is something fairly new in modern politics, something we probably haven't seen since some proudly expressed their darkest desire to see John F. Kennedy finally get the .303 justice he had coming to him.

So-called men and self-declared women of the "reality-based community" uttering pathetic curses and jinxes like an old, impotent Gypsy hag and calling themselves brave and honest for daring to do so.

This nastiness is hardly limited to death-wishes, of course; that's simply the most aggressively transgressive part of the new cult of liberal "toughness." Also in the mix: shamelessly outing closeted or simply not particularly forthcoming gay conservatives -- and not just politicians. The New Cult of Toughness demands such life-churning outings be applied with equal zealousness to mere staffers. To mere soldiers who say things liberals disapprove of. To mere unknown amateur reporters for obscure web magazines.

We have a substantial number of liberals who are actually driven to anger by the thought that the United States might win, or at least achieve something resembling a decent stasis, in a war it's now committed to, because that victory might tarnish their electoral chances.

A majority of Democrats now proudly announces their support of deranged conspiracy theories ill-befitting members of the self-declared "reality-based community," theories of such malignance and hateful lunacy that in years past they were lucky to see publication in the gutter-porn magazine Hustler.

Now they're lively topics for tony liberal dinner parties.

Smart, tough.

They have to be "tough" now, you see. After all, liberals have been far too civil, far too caring, far too honest, and far too kind-hearted for far too-long. Now it's time to really cut loose -- cut loose fairness, cut loose civility, cut loose honesty, cut loose integrity, cut loose simple sanity. Those were all just baggage holding them back, it turns out.

Well, liberals, you've remade your party into the phantasmal horror you long imagined the Republican Party to be. Your senators and top-tier presidential candidates are now required to pander to those who believe the US government itself conspired to murder 3000 Americans on 11 September 2001. Because you've permitted -- or fostered -- or encouraged -- the seething political psychopathy that self-respecting men and women once shunned.

Are you happy?

And do you imagine this sort of politics-without-frontiers will ultimately prove to be a winning model?

Do you wish to shame yourselves further by continuing down this road?

Or is perhaps about time -- maybe for the first time -- you took a more realistic assessment of the way you and your political correligionists have been behaving before this new era of shameless, shameful "toughness"?

digg this
posted by Ace at 04:42 PM

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