When I was young I was a liberal. Well, not by the standards of where I lived, but by the standards of the US. Impossible not to be a liberal when you’re raised in Europe.
Here are some of the things I believed from an ESR post which you should definitely read in its entirety:
- There is no truth, only competing agendas.
- All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
- There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
- The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
- Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
- The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
- For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
- When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.
Okay, I never believed that first one. For some reason I had a burning passion for the truth. That whole thing about hungering and thirsting for justice? Well for me, raised in a village, and seeing people’s characters distorted by malicious gossip, the first and almost the only aim of justice was to re-establish the truth.
There is a story I was told as a child — those not raised in Catholicism, please bear with me — of a man who was a murderer, a thief, a blasphemer, and who died. As he was plunging into hell, a chain caught him by the leg and held him up. He noticed the chain had beads and, looking up, heard a voice say they were the beads of the rosary. You see, even though he didn’t believe, in the rosary or in religion at all, he prayed it every night, because his mother had asked him to. And that single virtue had saved him.
In the same way, what saved me was that single quest for truth. It’s impossible to look at those statements above and not think “wait a minute.”
I read the Gulag Archipelago at 14 and I thought “no, you can’t say the anomie of capitalism or the heart break of the downtrodden in capitalist societies is like that.” Yes, they can sort of, compare Dickensenian England (and having read other stuff, Dickens was just another left partisan selling us a bill of goods, sorry) to the communist system, but that wasn’t even capitalism as such. That was capitalism under a monarchy in a time when the technology was just efficient enough to be brutal. Capitalism had moved on from the early twentieth century. It was communism that hadn’t. And worse, they kept pretending the happy people of Brutopia were all happy and stuff.
I couldn’t stand it, and that set me on a quest to figure out the truth of all these received shibboleths so deeply embedded in the culture by the late sixties that they seemed to be divinely ordained.
There were things that looked at in the light of day were laugh-inducing. No, seriously. Like America being just as bad as any place else, while multitudes were going broke trying to get here. Just get here. And not always for the money, either. I knew a high school teacher who was trying to get here (legally. She’s probably still waiting) just for the chances to be and become and learn.
And that one about Europe being rich because the third world was poor? A neighbor tried this one on me. He was communist, see. And what he used instead of the third world was Portugal. He must have got hold of the wrong leg of the lizard at some point, because “Portugal doesn’t create its own computer, because America won’t let them compete with IBM.” Well, I was fourteen, and I wasn’t stupid. America couldn’t make laws in Portugal, and Portugal had — in fact — expropriated the property of American citizens during the revolution. So that was not what he meant. If he meant because IBM was there already, that’s nice, but given how Portuguese patent and copyright laws are about as enforced as China, that too didn’t make sense. So what was the difference? Well, Portugal had the highest number of national holidays in Europe at the time. It averaged to two or three a month. And I knew that — sheer application — was part of the issue. But not all of it. Portuguese are clearly not lazy, because those who emigrate work like mad. So I came to the conclusion it was the combination of a dysfunctional culture where you were treated with derision for doing something outside your class and where work was not ennobling and so being seen to work was a bad thing. (While among foreigners you could do it.) Add to it a tradition bound teaching system as reliant on memorization as China or the Arab countries, and a built in respect for “the way things are done” which extends to the regulations, and even geniuses ended up just working for the government because it was easier. (From what I hear of writers in Portugal, it still is.) What all this had to do with America was beyond me, except that America was easy to blame and that kept Portugal from doing the incredibly hard and perhaps impossible (these things are very difficult) work of retooling its culture into something more functional. It could go on being proud of its history and saying it was the best ever, and not examining itself in the critical light of day, beyond the “revolution” (actually a series of them) that changed the old boss for the new boss and made some adjustments (some of them very beneficial) but did not unleash Portuguese productivity or creativity. (Just made them into another tired Euro country.) I can’t imagine that the third world is any better. In fact, having family in several of these “downtrodden” countries, I knew they were, on all counts, far, far worse.
Yes, America propped up some dictators now and then. FORTUNATELY I’d read history which means I knew two things: the dictators that America propped up were no matter how bad superior to the communist ones*. And in a cold war all nations do that sort of thing. It’s not moral from an outsider, floating above point of view. But it is moral from the point of view of protecting your own people and allowing them to survive.
As for criminals being victims of society — pfui. I was fortunate (!) to spend fifth and sixth grade in a school where a lot of what we’ll call for lack of a better word the “feral underclass” attended. There was no virtue. They were not victims. They were enjoying themselves terrorizing the law abiding. I could spew this stuff on command in essays for Portuguese class, but it was not true and I knew it was not true. One of my own cousins belonged — by choice — to the feral underclass. He was still in sixth grade at 14 and his parents asked me to tutor him. Tutor him? He hadn’t any problems learning, but he was having so much fun beating up teachers after school and stealing money from little girls who wouldn’t fight back.
Was he a victim? Sure he was. He was a victim of doting parents, so enthralled of the fact they’d finally produced a son that he could do no wrong (in terms of the deep culture that we talked about here before, that passes in families, there might have been reinforcement since her mother — from place of birth and names in family– came from moorish traditions.) They’d failed to instill in his the virtues that would have allowed him to thrive in a free society. So he was a victim all right. Of his family. What the rest of society had to do with this is beyond me.
But though he came to grief later, particularly after his father died, yeah, he was having a good time. He was nobody’s victim.
Those two years also were the ones I got put in “coventry.” For social and political reasons no one at that school spoke to me in public. (I did have a friend, but she was on afternoon classes, while I was on morning classes.) Well, no one till I accrued a cottery of real victims. They were the deformed and the small, the poor and the despised. I’d beat up their tormentors and they clung to me. That was fine, (and some of them learned to fight back. Beware the frightened rabbit in a pack) but they weren’t especially virtuous. Some were very nice people, but some weren’t (being ostracized for that long twists you) and none of them would have benefited from staying victims. That’s just stupid talk.
So I came to doubt all of those shibboleths, which is a good thing because it turns out, as ESR explains in the article, that we have proof all of these were dreamed up by soviet operatives (Stalinist) and implanted in our culture amid the idiot fellow travelers, in order to corrupt and destroy the west.
In that sense it is literally malware uploaded to a healthy culture, to destroy it from within.
Those of you who are computer programmers know what must be done with malware — it must be uprooted, root and branch.
Now, the problem is that it resides in everyone’s heads by now, even our own, having been propagated by our art, our culture, our news, even, which we trusted to be neutral.
And we don’t want to trash the infected sectors, i.e. get rid of the people running the zombie program of dead Stalinists. We can’t, because all of us are infected, to an extent.
It might come to a blood bath, but if it does the system will be permanently crippled and diminished — and because we’re humans, not bits and bites, it’s worth mentioning some of the more infected bits are our friends, our neighbors, our family members. So it might come to a blood bath. In fact, I’m very afraid that’s the path we’re on, but we as free men and men of good will, owe it to ourselves to do what we can to avoid it.
So, our path is more difficult.
For years, my husband has despaired of watching movies with me, because I have that truth-checking program in my head. Hit three or more of those pat “everybody knows” above, and I leave the room, no matter how engaging the romance wrapped around it. You see I grew up, literally, in a socialist country, surrounded by propaganda at all times. It was so heavy handed you couldn’t help but see through it. And I did. Which means like someone who’s been immunized, I’m sensitive to the virus and anti-bodies deploy.
The funny thing is in the age of Obama, he’s started seeing some of it too, with the result that his favorite romcoms right now are Japanese and Korean.
For years, to, it qualified my enjoyment of books. I can stand more in a book than in a movie, but hit me too many times with the “everybody knows” or the mini-truths being propagated from above (like “Obama care rescued us all from death, hallelujah” which I’ve been seeing in movies and some books. Or “everyone who opposes Obama is racist”) and the book takes flying lessons. The same for the horrible oppression of women, and how all women in the regency were secretly suffragettes and PROBABLY hankered for abortions. (Okay, it’s not that bad, but I’m tired of how in regency romances every female runs a shelter for abused women — rolls eyes. Yes, there was a lot of that, but not THAT much.)
Look at those points above that ESR was so kind as to compile for us. Memorize them. Part of fighting the malware is knowing its code. When you find it in your own head, eradicate it.
And write books that mirror how the world really works (to an extent. You can’t do exactly because stories have to be more plausible and cohesive than reality) and propagate them. If you can, homeschool your kids. If you can’t, teach them to see through that propaganda in our culture. Tell them the truth. The enemy died of its dysfunctional culture, but these errors it “uploaded” in our system are designed to kill us. Don’t let them.
It took over 1oo years to come to this. We can’t recover in a year. We’re going to have to take incremental steps, with infinite patience.
Fortunately we’re now at the point that the people most outright running this malware have gone a little nuts, to the point everyone else can see it, and there are pockets of resistance and of just ignoring and cutting off the diseased parts (like gamergate, or what we’re doing in science fiction and fantasy which is go around them with a brief pause to laugh and point.) (Note that second link has a lot of antisemitism and outright racism in the comments, which I am in no way endorsing. Note also that there is a lot of this, because when you realize your society is running on lies, you’re going to turn the absolute other way. And not realize that’s just different lies. Our rescue efforts for society have to fight both the ones running malware and the ones trying to rid themselves of it by flipping the code.)
So it’s come to this. It won’t be easy. I think it’s doable, because their worldview in no way reflects reality and is collapsing in shards all around them. But it won’t be easy and it won’t be fast and a lot of it will feel like, in Dave Freer’s colorful phrase “Taking on hell with a bucket.”
But then easy battles have no glory. Go forth. Fight the lies in your head, so you can fight them in others’ heads. Write compelling stories and teach your children well.
Our culture can be saved. And we’re the only ones who can do it.
Now go. In the end, we win, they lose. Make it so.
*This is because all communist dictators in fact became puppet viceroys of Russia. But, you say, weren’t their counterparts American puppets? Well, usually no, because America is REALLY bad at it. It wins a war, it gives the country tons of money, but allows the enemy free rein to talk and subvert the peace. No. But even if it were, the problem is that the Soviet Union, which, btw, ultimately meant the Russian Empire, was incapable of producing most of what its people need. So when they acquired these new territories, they became places to be exploited, their people slave labor and their product sent to Russia at a loss. When America acquired sway over a country they wanted to sell them stuff and develop factories there while the cost of living was lower. (No, that’s not the same as Russian slavery, because it allows the country thus “occupied” to catch up, see Japan and to an extent — hampered by its stupid communist/fascist regime, China — which of course brings up the anomie of capitalism which is literally worse than the gulags. (If you think that think shame on yourself.)) If you want to know how much worse it was for a country to fall under the sway of Russia than of America, talk to Peter Grant who saw the destruction of the Portuguese colonies in Africa. Be prepared. He’s a GOOD man but not always a nice one. Particularly to morons.