Monday, November 09, 2015

The pity of it all

I have a new post up at What's Wrong With the World. Its theme is why Matt Walsh is a healthy corrective to some bad trends in our Western thinking.

Toward the end of the post I start talking about the positive aspects of what Walsh writes and about how he is not just a corrective to wussiness but also a corrective to mere bitterness and destructiveness.

I wanted to say more about that temptation here, where I have full moderation turned on, because I think it is something some conservatives need to hear.

There is a reaction going on right now against wussy conservatism. I get that. I get not liking wussy conservatism. I'm not a wussy conservative myself. But the reaction (sometimes known as "neoreaction") is dark, disturbing, and often outright vile. We get, for example, the implication that if young women get raped by Muslims and the young women were so-called "SJWs," we shouldn't worry too much about it, because they are our political enemies and wouldn't thank us for our concern. We get a similar implication about anybody assassinated by Vladimir Putin: If he was probably somebody "we" don't care about, then "shrug" about his being assassinated.

Then there was the utter vileness directed at David French for having the gall to tackle the Alt-Right and for the additional crime of having adopted an African child.

On and on goes the drumbeat in those circles--"SJWs always lie" "SJWs are traitors," "We shouldn't care what happens to SJWs" and so forth.

I'm perfectly happy to use the word "evil" where it fits. I'm willing to say that the left supports grave evil.

But when it comes to the point that we are implying that the rape and murder of those on the political left is no biggie because they are "SJWs" and "traitors," that is destruction, not conservatism.

It is also stupid and immature. If you live in the real world and know real people, you begin to get a sense of the pity of it all. What I mean by that is that most real people who support evil policies fall somewhere on a continuum of muddled-ness, and that muddled-ness itself is a cause for pity and sadness. Yes, the saying that the line between evil and good runs through the middle of each human heart gets overused and (in a sense) isn't entirely true. When people were shoving Jews into gas chambers and when the abortionist literally rips off the head of the unborn child, this isn't some kind of generic evil that is "the same for everybody."

All true. But back up a level. Back up to the people who shut their ears to the Holocaust or who even accepted and parroted Nazi talking points. And on our side of the Atlantic and in our own time, ponder for a minute those who parrot pro-abortion or pro-gay talking points.

My point is that people are to some degree brainwashed from the time that they are young. The schools are a huge source of this brainwashing, as are TV shows, the mainstream media, and employers. It is self-propagating, too. Brainwashed people go on to brainwash others. This does not make them free of responsibility, but it does mitigate their acceptance of evil ideology. It should all the more mitigate it when the people we're talking about are not themselves the ardent persecutors--not the people bringing the lawsuit but merely the people making dumb, intensely annoying, muddle-headed comments about how maybe the baker should have been nicer and baked the cake after all, for example. It should make those of us who see reality more clearly have somewhat of a "There but for the grace of God go I" feeling. Here's a friend or relative whom you like, care about, or have family loyalty to, and suddenly he's going on about how maybe gay "marriage" isn't so bad, because after all it's only civil marriage, and we shouldn't try to "impose Christian morals" on non-Christians in the secular world--some nonsense like that. Or a friend is rattling off a talking point about how abortion is a "difficult choice" and he doesn't want to tell a woman "what to do with her body."

Is it disappointing? For sure, especially if you expected that the person would be able to think more clearly than that. Is it even infuriating? Definitely, especially if you try calmly debating and feel like you're getting nowhere.

But on one day or another, I challenge you, you need to be overwhelmed for a moment by the pity of it all. All the hearts, all the minds, all the souls gone astray. All the people led into darkness and confusion by the Spirit of the Age. It's part of the tragedy of human history.

Once you have felt that, once you have seen that, once you have grown to that point, you should never, ever fall for cheap shots about how it doesn't matter if someone gets shot, killed, or raped, because he (or she) was just an "SJW." You should never cooperate with fantasies about getting into a literal shooting war with the left.

Do I believe in the culture wars? Yes, indeed. I consider myself a proud culture warrior. One of the reasons I don't give up on speaking the truth and fighting the rearguard in Christian circles is because I have a strong sense of how error spreads like a disease through the institutions and the churches. We must never give up on the culture wars, and it literally doesn't matter to that "never give up" advice if we are losing. Indeed, we should fight the harder if we are losing, for the sake of our own souls and the souls of our children.

But "culture war" doesn't mean literally not caring about or even kind of liking the picture of the people on the other side getting killed. "Culture war" doesn't mean increasingly hating anybody on your own side of the issues who seems more squeamish than you are about calling a spade a grub hoe. (Frustration, yes. Hatred and vitriolic contempt, no.) "Culture war" doesn't mean having no sense of degrees of guilt, or mitigation, or ignorance. Culture war doesn't mean having no love whatsoever for anybody at all except for some extremely narrow group one has designated as those who "get it." "Culture war" may mean using language that the left, and the wussy right, calls "demonizing"--language like "evil" and "baby killer." But it doesn't mean demonizing in the sense that you talk so much about "SJWs" and "traitors" that eventually you don't care about murder and mayhem as long as you can convince yourself that the victims were (probably, mostly) people who disagree with you! That is appalling. That is not what conservatism stands for or ever should stand for.

This is why I actually consider Walsh, in a sense, a moderate. Before anyone dissolves in laughter, here's what I mean by that: Walsh is outspoken to the point of brashness, he pulls no punches, but he is not representative of the truly nasty "alternative right" (or "identity right" or "manosphere" or "race-realist right") that is unfortunately arising among us. He doesn't seem to be pandering to them, either, as Ann Coulter is. In fact, he almost seems blissfully unaware of their existence (lucky man).

"Be angry and sin not" is much easier said than done. In a culture war in which we are increasingly the less powerful side, it is an indispensable skill. Somehow we have to keep our righteous anger both glowing and untarnished. We have to have a combination of dash, energy, courage, and chivalry. We have to fight hard and never give up, but never fight dirty. We have to hate evil with a passion but not hate people--not even wicked people.

"Be angry and sin not" is one of those things we cannot afford to get wrong, so we have to keep trying until we get it right. In that struggle, some groups are our enemies just as much as, if not more than, the left.


Jeffrey S. said...

Thanks for this.

I was thinking of writing a similar piece, but focused solely on the author Vox Day, who you actually reference in your own piece. There is much to admire about Day -- he has written an excellent book of apologetics, he thinks clearly and writes intelligently about many issues (especially evolution), and he even writes some decent fiction. The problem is that he has given into the temptation you outline here -- which is a temptation Christ warned us about Himself:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Specifically, I cannot understand why Day walks up to the line he does of almost making excuses for Anders Breivik -- he does it in this post:

("the mass shooting of the Norwegian Labor Party's larval quislings...Breivik wasn't a madman. He simply put into action on what many Norwegians were thinking and his murderous actions were a warning sign of what was to come if the current program of mass immigration was maintained...I will not be in the least bit surprised if Anders Breivik is one day regarded as a national hero in Norway, much like George Washington and William Tell, two men who also offered murderous resistance to their own governments.")

And he's done the same thing in many other posts. Perhaps he could wiggle out of the direct implication that he's condoning Breivik's actions ('I'm just pointing out the facts on the ground -- I think it is objectively true that one day the people of Norway will blah, blah, blah') but it is clear from his comparisons and choice of words (calling the children murdered by Breivik "larval quislings" and choosing to compare Breivik with Washington and Tell that something is very off with Day's moral compass.

I think he fits perfectly into the problem you outline here, so I don't need to write separately about him -- I'm just glad you gave voice to the problem and provided one more light in the darkness for those of us who want to fight the good fight without losing our soul in the process.

Lydia McGrew said...

Yes, that's a perfect (and chilling) example.

We had someone who showed up at W4 saying similar things after the Breivik shooting. I forget if we deleted the comments and also banned him, or condemned the comments and banned him, but we certainly did ban him.

It would be sheer sophistry to pretend that Vox Day is not there acting as an apologist for Breivik. It is the merest fig leaf (and a pretty transparent one, too) to say things to the effect that one is merely describing facts on the ground or merely making predictions, etc., given especially his evaluative terminology.

I have thought for a long time even from what little I know (and you clearly have more data to this effect) that Vox Day is not a good influence in the blogosphere in the political realm. There is too much darkness and destructiveness there.

John said...

I suspect that all of us who have taken fire in the culture war need to be talked back, from time to time, from crossing a line that shouldn't be crossed--whether that of retaliation or gloating over an enemy's downfall. The Scriptures of both Bible Testaments sound out sentiments quite similar to yours, Lydia. At the very least I find myself pulled to rejoice at the "educational opportunity" that might come to evil people when they suffer some of the hurt they inflict on others. But hurt people usually don't make good learners. And sometimes my inner thoughts are even less noble.

I have always felt that the redeeming quality of the "imprecatory Psalms" (like 137) is that the believer most likely lifted bitter hatred to God where it might be dealt with, instead of using it to drive actual enactment. I encourage a good reflective reading of Psalm 73, which seems a twin to Lydia's theme and suggests a hint of pathos toward the wicked. Ah, for those rare moments when we can actualize the strategy of Rom. 12:18-21/Prov. 25:22 and heed the warning of Prov. 24:17-20.

Btw, I had forgotten about Breivik, had never heard of Vox Day, and even had to look up SJW. I appreciate the opportunity afforded by this post to cultivate a more noble heart.