One of the things I keep trying to explain to my “woke” colleagues, when they stand tall and righteous and put their shoulders back and say that Heinlein was racisthomophobicsexist or that great authors of the past should have been better than to follow the prejudices of their time, is that when you’re immersed in your time, you don’t see the prejudices and the blind spots.
I have a little more insight into how culture shapes what’s possible to think, because I changed my culture as an adult. While this can be done (obviously) and immigrants should be encouraged to do it, (or go home), the acculturation is never complete. What happens is that you acquire a sort of cultural double vision. Depending on how far your acculturation goes, you’ll see the defects in thought or at least the unquestioned assumptions in one of the countries better, but also have a strong feeling of being outside enough to see some flaws in your dominant culture. In my case, for instance, I see the flaws in Portugal very clearly, like the obsession with speed over diligence or being decisive over being right, but I still see some in the US which is why sometimes I say “what people born and raised here don’t see.”
I have, of course, even more insight, due to being a conservative in the US, in a culture and profession (the arts/publishing) that is not only majority left, but majority extreme left. For many years, the only way to stay at least plausibly under cover was to see what they were seeing, and what they expected.
But without that, most people are blind to the … ah, unconscious or unthinking parts of their culture. Heck, even with what I’ve been through, I still tend to accept a lot of things unconsciously, unless I step back and go “Now wait a minute.”
Man is a social ape, and part of being a social ape is the tendency/desire to fit in with the band. Our choice not to stand out is instinctive and natural. And cultures as a whole develop blind spots. It’s just how humans are. So, for instance, people in Europe can’t imagine how “empty” the US is, because what they see on TV is mostly the big cities, and because what passes for rural fastness in Europe is for us really densely populated. They also can’t really picture our freedom of the press because their countries retain at least a sense of not making the country look bad in the eyes of foreigners.
Most people in the US, OTOH, a country where the people are supposed to be sovereign, no matter how much that’s broken, can’t imagine governments that don’t give a good goddamn about their people’s survival, comfort or health. Americans also have a weird blind spot about war and thinking of it as a choice. (Accident of history, being isolated from the squabbles in Europe, and leader with foresight who fought before the battle came to our shores.)
The biggest flaw that’s been hitting me in the eye recently is how historians in the future will either laugh or cringe, or both, at the left in the US at this time and place.
This is a movement that hates “slavery” so much they are taking down the monuments and erasing the memories of those who lost in the American civil war, even those who had monuments erected to them before or after the war for feats having nothing to do with it, or those that made it explicitly clear they were fighting for their “country” not slavery. It is a movement that thinks slavery had such long lasting impact that it should earn unending reparations to people who even LOOK like those enslaved from people who look like the enslavers, even in cases when, clearly, neither set had ancestors in the US. It is a movement that wants to do away with the founding documents of the country they were born in — the same country that has secured liberty and prosperity to the largest number of people in the history of humanity — because it was written by people who owned slaves.
And yet, these same people want the government to provide them with free health care, and if they got their full way, other “positive liberties” (to quote Obama) including free college, free housing, free food, guaranteed income, guaranteed jobs.
But Sarah, you say, there is no contradiction in that. They just want to have perfect liberty by having all the necessities taken care of, leaving themselves free to express themselves and be the best people they can be.
Um… I could counter all that with statistics of the different achievements of people with guaranteed income — say, trust funds — and those who have to scratch for a living, but the point of this post isn’t even that.
The point of this post is that the moment all your necessities are furnished by someone else, someone else gets to make all the decisions for you. I mean, if your health is paid for by the taxes of your fellow citizens, and the government aka the nation looks after your every need: should they pay for your health if you insist on smoking or drinking? Or should those resources be husbanded for people who take better care of themselves? Okay, Sarah, but isn’t there a point to individual responsibility? Why shouldn’t you be required to take minimal care of yourself, so you get the benefits of the government’s care, which as you say someone else pays for.
Ah, but there’s the rub. See, ultimately, there’s always something some of us say or do that can be used to justify denying care or giving only palliative care. For instance, I’m overweight, which seems to be one of the remaining sins in the current lexicon. Sure, I gained tons of weight over 20 years of untreated hypothyroidism, even though I was starving myself for a long portion of those. But hey, I allowed myself to be overweight. So my prognosis is poor. Why spend money on me, when someone else could have better results?
Hell, even when it comes to my autoimmune. I’m a poor prospect, so why give me top of the line care?
If the government controlled other things, it would be exactly the same. Food? Sure, I break out in eczema all over when I eat a diet rich in carbs. But hey, flour and rice are cheap, and why should I get a specialized diet, since I’m only a writer who isn’t even a leftist or a supporter of the state, and besides my prospects of survival are poor?
College? Sure you want to be an economist, but your teachers say you’re cheeky and talk back, and the state doesn’t need that. What we need right now are pipe fitters. Here, you can take this six week course.
When the state is paying the bill, the state gets to decide what is better for you. The European constitution gives you the right to “death with dignity” because death with dignity is much cheaper than expensive treatments with a low chance of survival. After all this money is for everyone, you know?
And like the NHS, in Britain, they won’t even let you seek treatment outside their tender mercies. Why should they? They pay for you. That means in the end they decide what to spend on you. They own you. And if you went outside their system and your kid got cured? It would look pretty bad for them, wouldn’t it? Why should they allow you to do that? And besides, peasant, you have a bad attitude.
And obviously there are lives unworthy of living. Oh, so you do this kitchen foil art thing, and thousands of people like it. Sure. But look, this other person started a steel mill, which brings money to the country. Who do you think is going to get the food and care?
Because here’s the thing, when you’re a subject of the state, and you exist for the use of the country/government, they get to decide if you continue existing, or what degree of comfort you exist in.
And it’s not even a big decision. Most of the time the decision will be made by a petty bureaucrat and supported by other bureaucrats, right or wrong, because if they doubt their colleague, they endanger their own power.
You’ll go to your death saying not even “if only Stalin knew” but more “If only clerk number 4589 had listened to my case more attentively.”
Those who give you everything have the power to withhold everything. In a massive bureaucracy, it’s not hard to come up with excuses and justifications as to who must live and who must die.
The only thing sure is that the individual will have no say in it.
Slaves are, after all, not able to look after themselves. Just not smart enough. There needs to be a vast and enlightened bureaucracy to do it. And the bureaucracy has to decide who gets to live and who gets to die, of course, because they know best.
Do you think the “progressives” will ever understand that they’re trying to slouch back into that slavery they condemn so vehemently?
Or do you think they only object to slavery because of skin color? (In which case they’re fools. In the long miserable history of human slavery, there have been slaves of every color. There still are.)
We are all prisoners of our times and our assumptions.
But there are immutable facts of human nature that should be taught, such as “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”
The alternative is for the European Nations who fought against the Nazis to recreate all of the Nazi policies and their dehumanization of humans, under new and more “caring” names.
Everything for the state. Nothing outside the state.
Not even a right to life.