Liberalism and the destruction of the good, the true, and the beautiful
November 16, 2013 § 33 Comments
I frequently see the claim in neoreactionary circles that the goal of liberalism is to destroy whatever is good. But the goal of liberalism is not directly to destroy whatever is good. It is to create a world where freedom and equal rights are made universal through political action. It is when this political ideology encounters reality that it becomes the destruction of all that is good.
It is important to understand and articulate this, because nobody understands themselves to have the aim of destroying all that is good (even though, as liberals, they do in fact materially pursue that end).
In short, the telos (end) of liberalism is the destruction of all that is good. But liberals themselves don’t understand that to be their goal. Liberalism wouldn’t have the pervasive appeal that it has without this incongruence between the goal as understood by liberals and its actual material effect. That is, liberalism wouldn’t work if it wasn’t a lie.
(Note: this is a slightly edited comment from here).
[…] is liberalism focused on the ways in which women are generally inferior to men. It views this as a socially […]
The thing is, though, it really does seem to manifest as directly destructive behaviors sometimes.
Consider the issue of female beauty. Don’t you think it’s odd how ugly feminist women tend to make themselves? It’s not just that they seek to be androgynous in a misplaced bid to look like and be equal to men. They actively uglify themselves, with tattoos, weird hair colors, facial piercings, and the like.
So sometimes liberalism/feminism really is directly about the destruction of the good, true, and especially beautiful things.
I wrote a post about this awhile back:
On the uglification of modern women.
And I also made a YouTube video to go with it:
It makes perfect sense in the context of advanced liberalism, which is a rebellion against all hierarchy — including the hierarchy implied in sex differences and natural beauty. Modern art in general represents an assault on nature and nature’s God, and it is no accident that this translates to how women dress, get tatted up, etc. It represents a big middle finger at nature and nature’s God, and at those subhuman male rapist tyrannical oppressors who dare to suggest that feminist women would do better to conform themselves to objective standards of beauty.
Liberalism is an abstract political war on authority and inequality. Objective standards of what is good, true, and beautiful are a form of discriminating authority.
So Liberalism is a massive, civilization-wide rebellion against God?
Liberalism believes itself to be for something: political freedom and equal rights. But it turns out that being for political freedom and equal rights isn’t just wrong: it is incoherent, quite literally self contradictory.
Self contradictory systems of logic are capable of generating everything and its opposite all at once, so in practice liberalism becomes a synthesis of arbitrary will layered over a particular historical state of affairs.
So yes, ultimately liberalism is a rebellion against nature and nature’s God. But as a proximate matter that isn’t how it sees itself. This is important to understand because most modern “conservatives” see themselves as favoring “authentic” freedom and equal rights, as if there were such a thing –which is to say, most modern conservatives are really just lukewarm take-it-easy don’t make so many radical changes all at once liberals.
These terribly destructive political ideas must be abandoned wholesale and entirely and without equivocation: that is, we must repent. This is quite difficult for folks who have a conservative disposition. But it is necessary, because today to be “conservative” is simply to be in lukewarm and equivocal rebellion against God rather than open rebellion.
This makes the description of American style conservatives as being “classical liberals” particularly apt then. Of course, even those who do call themselves that wouldn’t like the implication that they are merely classical liberals who are in political disagreement with modernist liberals, aka, “Leftists.”
‘A classical liberal is still a liberal.’ This is a difficult thing for a modern English speaker to realize; our forefathers were _wrong_. Yet to be traditional is also to be pious towards one’s ancestors.
But when one’s ancestors were themselves ‘enlightened’ rebels against throne and altar and are directly responsible for impious modernity and the tyranny of whiggish progress; the supplanting of god with man?
I think it is telling that American ‘conservatism’ is so taken with liber(al)tarianism’s worship of the superman and the super-will.
What is to be done?
What is to be done?
Moldbug said nothing. He was just happy and liberated to stop believing in democracy. For a faithful Catholic I’m inclined to take Tolkien’s view that evil of modernity is so hydra-headed (or as proph put it, a factory of damnation), that our primary mission is not to worship any of the heads. Reject proximate cooperation with evil, avoid materially cooperation as best as possible, save anyone left willing to hear the Truth.
Yes, just avoiding the idols of the age individually and in small communities is extremely valuable in itself.
I don’t have a better answer to the “what to do” question than the one I gave here.
Liberalism wouldn’t have the pervasive appeal that it has without this incongruence between the goal as understood by liberals and its actual material effect. That is, liberalism wouldn’t work if it wasn’t a lie.
This turns a light on for me. I’ve heard many times in Catholic spheres the question, “Why don’t Catholic dissidents just leave and join a denomination favorable to their views?” Well, when you are completely addled by the lie that all authority is abuse, and any inequalities (even rational and natural ones) are oppression, then you have a duty to stay within the only holdout institution left on earth and reform it.
The only thing still baffling to me is the utter obliviousness to the damage. The Diocese of Rochester for instance had a 33+ year reign of liberal nonsense under Bishop Clark and the rotten fruit is inescapable: It’s bottom of the list in Mass attendance, new vocations, and top of the list in school/parish closings. And of course one need only look at every Protestant denomination that liberalized to see them bleeding membership even faster. And in the face of all that, liberal Christians still want everyone to go Episcopalian.
You’re right; when I say the goal of liberalism is the destruction of whatever is good, I don’t mean that’s a conscious thing, like they have “destroy good” on a banner at their meetings. Only in comic books do the bad guys twirl their mustaches and brag about how evil they are; in real life everyone has good intentions. But as you say, liberalism is a lie, and the truth of it is that whatever is good must be destroyed. Or to be more accurate: whatever has traditionally been seen as good in the past must be destroyed.
Evan Sayet has the best explanation of this that I’ve seen. In summary, liberals, being environmentalists, believe that this life can be made fair and just if we just create good rules and institutions. The corollary to that is: since the rules and institutions that were thought to be good in the past didn’t bring perfect fairness and justice, they must not have been good after all, and therefore must be torn down and replaced.
So, Christianity? We still have poverty and hatred, so tear it down. The Catholic Church? Even more so, because abuse and clericalism. Objective standards of beauty in art, architecture, and the human form? They make some people feel bad; get rid of them. Traditional marriage and the family? Some families are miserable; trash it. Celibacy, chastity, modesty, frugality — all bad jokes we should get rid of.
Yes, liberals currently claim to be in favor of equal rights and individual freedom, but that’s just an accident of history because those happened to be the foremost tools for attacking traditional authority when they were growing up. And that’s already changing: liberals don’t want me to have individual freedom in my own health care decisions, for instance. They care about the “equal rights” of homosexuals in Illinois, but not those of Copts being persecuted in Egypt thanks to US meddling. They will quite happily drop the pretensions about rights and freedoms when they sit on the throne.
So I think donalgraeme’s definition is probably best: liberalism is rebellion against God’s authority, and by extension against God’s institutions and the natural laws of His creation.
Although we probably agree on many things, I definitely disagree here.
The very essence of liberalism is the belief that individual freedom and equal rights are the primary legitimate purpose of government. That’s what liberalism is, full stop.
What is more, I think it is absolutely crucial that this be unequivocally acknowledged: that the essence of the thing to which liberals are (more or less, depending on the individual liberal) loyal is political freedom and equal rights.
Now, this thing-to-which-they-are-loyal does have as its telos rebellion against God and nature. But the telos of a thing is not the essence of the thing.
This is a very important point in my view. The idea that liberals don’t really believe in freedom and equality is pervasive in ‘conservative’ circles, for a variety of reasons, despite being completely and utterly wrong. The reason are various, but the most important one is that this keeps the revolving door moving: a person can reject one form of liberalism and then swing right back around and embrace another, because those Democrats don’t really believe in freedom and equality they just pretend to. Authentic freedom and equality is the kind our faction embraces, of course.
This kind of inner narrative is what makes it possible for many people to be simultaneously loyal to both Christianity and liberalism, for example. If rebellion against God were the essence of liberalism rather than something that follows from liberalism it would be impossible for any genuine Christian to be liberal. But there have been and continue to be many Christians liberals, that is, people with simultaneous loyalties to Christianity and liberalism. This is possible because liberalism is a political doctrine, and Christianity does not prescribe one and only one politics.
The incongruity you see in “freedom for me but not for thee, etc” is built into the self-contradictory assumption that it is possible for government – the very essence of which is to authoritatively discriminate in order to enforce a particular conception of the good – to have as its primary mandate the elimination of authoritative discrimination. The incongruity is built into liberalism itself, it isn’t there because a particular faction of liberals are using the ideas of freedom and equal rights instrumentally.
The very essence of liberalism is the embrace of the idea that individual freedom and equal rights are the primary legitimate purpose of government. Once one unequivocally rejects loyalty to that idea, one ceases to be liberal. If one has any personal loyalty to that idea, one is liberal: to be a liberal just is to have some loyalty to that (ultimately self-contradictory) idea.
Not that you need to hear it from me, but I think Zippy has just provided the most cogent definition and description of liberalism I have seen here in the blogosphere. Now if could only get our fellow commentators at the Orthosphere and other traditionalists to really grapple with the nature of liberalism as opposed to defending variations of it.
But there have been and continue to be many Christians liberals, that is, people with simultaneous loyalties to Christianity and liberalism.
I recall one of the Usual Suspects remarking that Catholics should accept same-sex marriage laws simply because they are American. Someone retorted (well, in my opinion) that Catholics should accept Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn simply because they are Englishmen.
Would it be fair to say that this simultaneous loyalty is exactly what Our Lord warned us about serving two masters? If so, can it really be said that we are in any kind of communion with someone whose creed, nay, virtually their every breath, is “freedom” and “equal rights”?
Would it be fair to say that this simultaneous loyalty is exactly what Our Lord warned us about serving two masters?
Well, maybe for some. But in general we all have loyalties to all sorts of different ideas and institutions. It seems to me that it is possible for someone to have liberal commitments without those commitments trumping e. g. love of Christ, love of family, etc.
Nothing as pervasive as liberalism can become so if it completely crowds out all of the loyalties that various people have to good, true, and beautiful things. But loyalty to liberalism is pervasive, and the danger of viewing it as just a radical and comprehensive secular religion for extremists is the “revolving door” problem. Just over ten years ago a tradcon as extreme-right-wing as Lawrence Auster was arguing that there is a “good” kind of liberalism. I argued against that in the comments (as “Matt”).
It is important to recognize the full truth about liberalism, first and foremost, in order to combat it’s hold on ourselves. It does us no good whatsoever to view it as something to which only those bad narcissistic people over there have loyalties.
[…] about liberalism, and Zippy Catholic has written several essays recently on that topic. First, he explains a bit about the goal of liberalism, which is the overarching movement from which feminism has […]
You’ll be waiting a long time, Ita Scripta Est. The Orthosphere, neo-reaction and etc. are all a permutation of left-liberal with a gloss of “conservative” views. Their focus is on autonomy, individualism and atomic disconnection from any sort of hierarchy or authority.
I no longer can tell if they are conscious of this and lying about it or so totally caught up in their liberalism that they can’t see outside of it.
Your description of the Orthosphere writers – Kalb, Proph, Bonald, Kristor,etc – seems wildly out of touch with reality to me, FWIW
That’s interesting, can you explicate further?
I mean, the guys you are talking about are like the libertarians of internetty reactionary Catholic traditionalist writing. Kalb is at least familiar with some other schools of reaction, but he also loops back to such an abstracted view that it’s hard to believe he is serious either.
They don’t need me to defend them, but again, your description doesn’t match the reality I see even slightly. It is hard to tell where the disconnect lies without any idea of where you are coming from.
As for Kalb’s abstraction, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it has been very influential on my own thought.
“Their focus is on autonomy, individualism and atomic disconnection from any sort of hierarchy or authority.”
Bonald on heirarchy: http://bonald.wordpress.com/in-defense-of-patriarchy/
Bonald on Authority: http://bonald.wordpress.com/the-conservative-vision-of-authority/
Bonald on atomic disconnection: http://bonald.wordpress.com/in-defense-of-culture/
[…] Definition of Liberalism. 2. Liberalism and the destruction of the good, the true, and the beautiful. 3. Why feminists think all men are […]
I think we just blasted past each other,Zippy. It happens.
I’m just going to link my blog and you can see where I’m coming from, it is much easier than trying to line-item respond to various posts (although to my not-credit I have done that as well with the relevant fellas).
Have some happy holidays!
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