Pleased as I am at the killing of Bin Laden, I find the amount of moralizing about it troubling. Asshat bureaucrats worrying about its legality. And Christian and humanist types being "chilled" by the celebrations of his more than well deserved demise. To me, there is something corrupt in this hyper-ethical attitude, the very opposite of what its practitioners imagine. Something deeply im-moral.
As if justice can only be found in the processes of the liberal state and its fetishes. As if the thin soup of "our common humanity" as "God's children" trumps the actuality of human evil and suffering.
I am reminded of Burham's idea that while liberalism may not be the cause of the West's death, it provides a soothing rationale for it, enabling its believers to imagine themselves moral agents in what is actually a suicidal loss of faith. It makes them feel good about themselves while they adjust to and accelerate the destruction of their world. Hence, this insane contradictory combination of exhibitionist moral narcissism and underlying relativist nihilism.
I just read a review of John Keke's book A Case for Conservatism. Having read the reviewer's previous intellectual hijinks in other venues, I was, I admit, not hopeful. He made some good points, but rejected out of hand conservatism's attachment to habit and tradition on the grounds that it would have continued a whole host of horrors: subordination of women, racial discrimination, etc. Aside from conveniently confusing conservative reticence about change with refusal to change, his words did provoke some further and unseasonable thoughts in me.
What a liberal must hold to is that all of Western history prior to 1965 --wonderful diverse foreign non-Western cultures are, of course, excepted-- was a huge mistake. Everything really ought always to have been the way it is now. And even now is only an approximation of the imminent future glory of the liberal state. What else is the Religion of Progress about? Oddly, it is a vision of a utopian future for a species whose past is little more than an epic saga of tragedy. Liberalism is, in a way, a radical rejection of human history, except as a long tapestry of unfortunate bad examples, until We came along.
I beg to differ. And I have begun to wonder, therefore, if many of the things that we would now reject out of hand --rightly or wrongly, by the way-- were not, in their contexts, necessary for the survival of those societies and therefore, relatively good. And if our rejection of some of them on moral grounds (see Burham's theory above) is not actually a disaster in the making.
Take "the subordination of women." In one lifetime, the absolute right and capacity of women to do and be absolutely anything they want to has moved from a strange, even laughable, opinion to Obvious Unquestionable Sacred Truth. Ask Larry Summers. But the impact on males is now showing up and it is not good and not likely to improve. Even women are starting to complain, as they find it increasingly hard to meet adequate mates. What if patriarchy is the requisite natural order for human survival? What if there is a species-specific nature to us, on a very particular planet, and rather than being infinitely malleable, human nature is only finitely malleable, and only in some secondary ways? In that case --unthinkable as it may be in the last three cultural minutes-- conservative attachment to habit and tradition might have been a better way to go.
What if everybody cannot have everything they want and still survive?