Sentimentality was cynicism’s other side. Both attitudes dehumanize people by turning them into caricatures, but whereas the caricatures of the cynic generate hatred and contempt, the caricatures of the sentimentalist provoke tears. Both attributes are equally distant from the real world, and both are corruptly self-conscious. The cynic is proud of his acumen in not being taken in by the world, while the sentimentalist regards his tears as proof of a compassionate sensibility. Put the two attitudes together and you have melodrama: quite a distance from reality, indeed, but better perhaps than either attitude by itself. The politics of the liberal mind is a melodrama of oppressors and victims.
Today, the successors of those generous souls who agitated
for giving money to the Third World are agitating for the “forgiveness” of the
resulting debts that now hang heavily around the necks of the peoples of those
countries. This is a campaign which suggests one more possible definition of the
liberal mind—as a boundless enthusiasm for spending other people’s money.
But the logical point comes back to the basic unreality of the liberal mind: namely, a refusal to think in terms of real human beings. Instead, the generic man of liberal thought is like a window dresser’s dummy—merely a vehicle for provoking hatred or tears.
As the liberal mind has diffused itself through modern society, our understanding of
real people engaged in real politics has weakened. Whole classes of people have been
lost to an image of martyrdom.