Friday, July 03, 2015

Fear and Self-Loathing on the Editorial Page

The defining characteristic of late-stage Western democracies is an almost reflexive self-loathing. For instance, we have this guy bemoaning the fact that, since the Magna Carta is not actually a legally-binding document containing all the provisions of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it's somehow just a sham that allows Rubert Murdoch and the Koch Brothers to boil us all for soap, rather than representing the first time anybody north of the Alps put pen to paper to state that the king can't just up and do whatever he wants whenever he wants:
"Governments and the illiberal cherish Magna Carta not despite its lack of legal significance, but because of it. It is a means through which those who do not want their legal powers to be challenged or checked by any court can still pay lip service to the great constitutional tradition."
There is irony in this, as we are gearing up to celebrate the 239th anniversary of another document with no legal weight whatsoever, and yet which bears significance apparently too abstract for that guy to wrap his head 'round.

Meanwhile, confronted with the fact that all the hashtags in the world aren't going to make ISIS go anywhere, a Harvard prof claims that we should just learn to live with them. He draws the (seemingly reflexive) comparison between them and the fact that we did bad things in the past and uses it to bolster his argument that eventually it will just be business as usual when they have a seat at the UN.
"Those oh-so-posh and civilized Brits we enjoy watching on Downton Abbey? Their ancestors created the United Kingdom through violent and brutal acts of coercion and conquest (as any knowledgeable Welshman or Scot could tell you). Those heroic Americans who expanded the “Empire of Liberty” across North America? They massacred, raped, and starved Native Americans to get there — and collected plenty of scalps along the way. The Bolsheviks and Maoists who created the USSR and People’s Republic of China? They didn’t consolidate power via gentle persuasion, and neither did the Wahhabis under Ibn Saud or the Zionists who founded Israel. As the now-deceased Charles Tilly made abundantly clear in his landmark Coercion, Capital, and European States, state-building has been a brutal enterprise for centuries, and the movements that built new states in the past did many things that we would now condemn as utterly barbaric."
Jesus, pull these guys strings and and it's just "Wounded Knee! King David Hotel! Zionism! Manifest Destiny! Crusades! We're Bad Too!"

I grew up with Southern Baptist preachers warning me of the dangers of moral relativism, but the problem with modern Progressivism is its absolute lack of anything even like moral relativism. Bad things are bad, and there are no degrees of badness, except maybe a +5 badness modifier if the bad thing in question was done by a white dude, with an additional +3 if he spoke English.

It's an odd moral calculus, where Victim Blaming is as bad as Victim Stoning.  If you try going Godwin, they hasten to point out that the US had concentration camps in WWII, without acknowledging that there's a pretty substantial difference of degree between a concentration camp where one leaves via the front gate versus one where the only exit is via the chimney.

"Me, me, me! I'm the bad guy, here! Oh, woe is me!" It is an essentially childish self-centeredness. If you ask them to loath someone more than they loath themselves, they reflexively try to find a reason to make it all about them anyway.