The Crucial Question
The whole history of the world is summed up in the fact that, when nations are strong, they are not always just, and when they wish to be just, they are no longer strong. —Winston Churchill
This is one that I’ve been intending to write since before this blog was started. Maybe I should have written it sooner—although another one, a brief history of the new progressive left, should have been one of the first to be posted, and I still haven’t written it. In some ways the issue at hand represents a central, pervasive theme of this blog, and also a kind of oil/water interface between politics and Dharma.
Thus far I have asked a certain big question to two natural-born leftists, at least one of whom is still a friend after my joining sides with the resistance and becoming an obnoxious pro-Trump polemicist. One of them flat-out denied that the question was applicable; and I don’t remember the other giving a recognizable straight answer, just some evasive eel-wriggling. But it seems to me that the question, or the answer to the question, should be crucial to any intelligent progressive or neo-Marxist who isn’t simply a nihilist, i.e., to one for whom ethics is an actual issue.
Anyway, the question—which I hereby ask any progressive lefties who read this, if any actually do—is this: Does a government (or more broadly, the powers that govern a society) have the right to commit national suicide for the sake of ethics or justice? In other words, should the ideal of morality or universal compassion take precedence over the survival of the civilization and the well-being of its citizens?
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, just playing devil’s advocate here, that the progressive left really does advocate greater ethics and justice than do classical liberals, libertarians, or the conservative right (including all those evangelical Christians). Well, does that necessarily make progressivism the better system? It may seem like an idiotic or evil question, but consider.
A standard, plainly obvious case in point is war: Does a national government have the right to refuse to defend its own country against hostile invaders simply because war is evil? Should they have the right to give up without a fight because dying is more ethical than killing? If we were totally moral and compassionate, at least from a Buddhist or biblical Christian point of view, we’d simply disband our armies, and maybe even our police forces also, and turn the other cheek, whole-heartedly forgive our enemies, and not punish anyone. At most we’d take malefactors aside and compassionately remonstrate with them, attempting to educate them on the benefits of being nice (not to mention politically correct).
What’s going on with the new left, and with globalists at least pretending to be on the right, is less obvious, maybe, but of the same general nature. Angela Merkel’s exhortation to “respond to terrorism with compassion” while Germany continues to import Islamists, is a case in point. Another one is the Swedish government absolutely refusing to acknowledge that Muslim migrants from Africa and western Asia have started an epidemic of rape and general lawlessness in Sweden. (I read recently that the government there refuses to record statistics on the ethnicity of criminals, claiming that the only important thing to know about rapists is that they are men, and that crime is caused by poverty, not by ethnicity—ignoring empirical truth for ideological reasons, and occasionally punishing those who don’t ignore it, and dare to mention it publicly.) Open borders in general may be viewed as passive submission to foreign invasion, with many of those invaders, especially in Europe, being hostile to the indigenous culture.
Merkel’s “respond to terrorism with compassion,” and tender-hearted (let alone fearful) appeasement in general, results in violent radicals, people who respect force more than gentle ultraliberal social justice, thoroughly despising the timid, decadent weaklings who forgive them, and thus results in more terrorism and acts of violence. Less than a hundred years ago the nonviolent appeasement policy of the UK and France resulted in Hitler playing them for fools, and eventually resulted in the Second World War.
The biblical Christian or Gandhian ethic that it is better to die than to kill may be very exalted spiritually, but as a social tool for bringing justice to the world it works only with relatively compassionate, relatively civilized enemies. For Gandhi to employ peaceful methods of protest against the British was arguably effective; but employing similar methods against the Khmer Rouge would have caused great hilarity among the followers of Pol Pot.
Of course if everybody followed the Buddhist five precepts, or the gospel of niceness, compassion, and PC, then armies wouldn’t be necessary at all, nor would locking one’s front door at night. But the cold, hard fact is that everybody doesn’t keep five precepts or the progressive gospel, and they probably never will. Some people will, and others won’t, because we are human.
Here’s an alternative version of reality to consider: Moral purity and justice simply are not practical for an entire society; a certain amount of ruthless amoral pragmatism is necessary not only for prosperity but for very survival. Darwin was right and is still right with his idea of the survival of the fittest, not the survival of the “nicest.” Rome’s Third Punic War, Britain’s Opium Wars against imperial China, and America’s wars against native tribes and also against Mexico in 1848 (in which we beat the Mexicans up and took away Texas, California, and everything in between) were not only acts of amoral ruthlessness but flat-out criminal atrocities; yet from a political point of view, or a Darwinian one, they were very effective in increasing the prosperity and security of the citizens of the motherland.
Bearing this in mind, a serious spiritual seeker, or one who insists upon moral purity, would do well to renounce worldly society—to renounce “the world.” Even within society relatively virtuous Buddhists can keep five precepts largely because people who aren’t so virtuous and don’t keep five precepts are protecting their ass. Did Gotama Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth recommend renunciation of worldliness because of the times, or because society, to a significant degree, is necessarily unspiritual and morally inferior? I consider the latter to be obviously more likely. A truly moral, compassionate, gentle society is at the mercy of the worst, most violent savages within attacking distance.
Following is a historical example of peaceful morality facing amoral ruthlessness. It is an account of Ikhtiyar-ud-din-Muhammad’s valiant conquest of the Buddhist university of Odantapurī during the Muslim conquest of most of India, from a chronicle called Tabaqat-i-Nasirī, by Minhaj-ud-din (translation by someone named Raverty):
Muhammad-i-Bakhtyar, by the forces of his intrepidity, threw himself into the postern of the gateway of the palace, and they captured the fortress, and acquired great booty. The greater number of inhabitants of the place were Brāhmanas, and the whole of those Brāhmanas had their heads shaven, and they were all slain. There were a great number of books there, and when all these books came under the observation of the Mussulmans they summoned a number of Hindus, that they might give them information respecting the import of these books; but the whole of the Hindus had been killed. On becoming acquainted (with the contents) it was found that the whole of the fortress was a college, and in the Hindu tongue, they call a college, vihār.
But even to acknowledge such events as this nowadays might be considered Islamophobic by compassionate, gentle neo-Marxists. Even so, regardless of political leanings, I would guess offhand that to be at the receiving end of the sort of thing glorified in the chronicle above would not be what ordinary people would want for themselves or for their children.
It’s not simply a matter of foreign invasion either. Consider the case of bankrupting a national economy with compassionate socialism (“Everyone is entitled to a basic living allowance, bread, circuses, and the best free healthcare”), for example.
It seems to me that only if you say Yes, a civilization should die rather than do what is not most ethical and just, should you endorse “social justice,” because if followed “correctly” it is a suicide cult. By saying Yes to the crucial question, at least a person would be rationally consistent. But all this is going with the assumption that the new left, alias neo-Marxism, really does command the moral high ground—which is totally debatable and manifestly doubtable. It seems to me that the new left has simply replaced morals with unrefined or partially refined feminine sentiment, motivated by empathy and timidity, plus a bit of resentment and spite against those who have been most successful.
On the other hand, if the new leftist doesn’t wish to admit that her ideology implies civilizational suicide, then we’ve got a case of the naiveté which Camille Paglia mocks thusly:
What has happened is, these young people now, getting to college, have no sense of history. Of any kind. No sense of history. No world geography, okay? No sense, okay, of the violence and the barbarities of history, okay? So, they think that the whole world’s always been like this—a kind of nice, comfortable world where you can go to the store and get orange juice and milk, and you can turn on the water and the hot water comes out, right? They have no sense whatever, okay, of destruction, okay, of the great civilizations that rose and fell, and so on, and how, and how arrogant people get when they’re in a comfortable civilization, etc. Okay? Right? So they now are being taught to look around them, to see defects in America, which is the freest country in the history of the world, okay and so on, and to feel, okay, that somehow America is the source of all evil in the Universe. It’s because they’ve never been exposed to the actual evil of the history of humanity! Okay? They know nothing!…
As far as I can see, all they’ve been taught is no bullying, okay? Do not bully, okay? Right? You should be a nice person, okay, because people…are really…nice. Okay? And that really is the answer, that’s the answer, really, to international affairs and geopolitics: “If we’re nice, they’ll be nice.” Okay? “And if they’re not being nice now, it’s because we weren’t nice to them in the past!” Okay and so on. I mean it is SO naive! You cannot believe the naiveté! And we’re heading, okay, into this very murky future, okay, of the world, okay, with terrorism on the rise, and I don’t know how this generation is going to cope with that. I don’t think they have the ability to cope with it.
This was spoken at an interview. When she writes she edits out the okays. And with regard to those who take issue with Paglia’s statement that America is “the freest country in the history of the world,” I would guess that with regard to freedom of thought and expression she may very well be right. Especially now that telling plain facts about Islam, for example, amounts to criminal “hate speech” in places like the UK and Germany.
With regard to the crucial question at hand, a moral purist like Gandhi would in all probability answer Yes, entire civilizations should follow the strictest morality even if it causes their speedy destruction—it’s better to die than to kill, or even than to lie, cheat, or steal. Then again, Gandhi was a bit of an ass in his saintliness; most people, especially those with families, would say Hell No! It is no coincidence that followers and leaders of the new progressivism are so often childless.
We each have a choice: 1) survival and maybe even prosperity, with respect for justice and right, leavened by some selfishness and ruthless amorality; or 2) being pure, blameless (maybe a bit depraved sexually, and favoring free abortions on demand, but otherwise pure and blameless) sacrificial lambs. Pragmatic realism or idealism: the choice is one of personal temperament, and shouldn’t be imposed upon us by a decadent globalist elite, or by howling mobs either. Choose for yourself, as is your right.
|...and in the left corner, weighing in at 132 pounds, all the way from Gujarat in India...|