Show liberals know mercy
April 2, 2017 § 33 Comments
Political theory on first brush seems to involve discussion of ideas as opposed to persons. It is natural to leap to the conclusion that when we are talking about politics (while refraining from psychoanalysis), the objects of our discourse are ideas.
But this is not the case, since political liberalism is not merely an idea. Ideas are not ontic reality: they are a means by which we understand ontic reality. Political liberalism is not a mere idea, but a very real force which operates in society: a pervasive influence as inescapable, for individuals and small communities, as gravity. Political liberalism is a doctrine with vast numbers of adherents, riddled with factions and intramural conflicts: like a religion but with the nature of authority, as opposed to the nature of God and reality, as its primary subject matter.
Liberalism ostensibly prescinds from controversies of religion and applies itself to politics. It is a religion-of-authority rather than a religion-of-God: a Godless deontology and social being, with authority as its locus, in a post-Nietzchean world wherein for practical purposes God is dead. Its central subject matter is the very thing the legitimacy of which it incoherently and inconsistently denies: the authority which some men naturally and unavoidably possess and exercise over other men.
Liberalism therefore transcends – is an ontic reality more than – a mere idea. Liberalism is not reducible to the idiosyncracies, notions, unexamined assumptions, or cultural prejudices of individual liberals or groups of liberals, nor is it reducible to some mere abstraction or idea.
Liberalism is not reducible to an aggregate of liberals any more than you, dear reader, are reducible to an aggregate of mindless atoms. Liberals themselves are of course human beings with liberal commitments, just as (for example) Mohammedans are human beings with Islamic commitments. Persons are distinct from the doctrines to which they are more or less committed and the social matter which incarnates those doctrines to form the body and soul of a religion or other social entity.
Because liberalism is so pervasive it is naturally the case that many liberals happen to be generally well adjusted ordinary human beings. For that matter, some groups of liberals are clearly more well adjusted than others. This is true for social realities other than liberalism too, e.g. the religion of Mohammed. As with Islam the more well adjusted groups tend to be those who take the central doctrines rather less seriously: less monotheistically, if you will.
Or, to invoke the proper object of liberal doctrine, less monoauthoritatively. Through the conceit that liberalism can politely remain merely one political author in a diverse pantheon of authorities, cafeteria liberals ensure that no defeat can permanently vanquish liberalism: it always has a welcome home and can rise again, emerge from its impregnable keep in the central holy of holies, to ravage the plains, mountains, and streams of real life.
Mercy follows from truth, always. To observe that despite sometime appearances liberalism is a despicable horror is not to accuse some particular group among Earth’s billions of liberals of anything in particular, other than commitment to something they at best don’t really understand. I have no special insight into the personal culpabilities of particular people; in fact I actively desire to avoid that particular kind of knowledge. Whether and to what extent folks accept the truth and what they do in response to it is up to them. Knowledge and understanding can sometimes feel like a terrible blow, to be sure.
But it is better – ultimately – to really know and understand the object of your loyalties, than to not know.