conservatism

A History of the Bicycle: Harry Mount reviews Paul Smethurst’s The Bicycle: Towards a Global History

From The Spectator

Bicycling is more than a means of transport: it’s a religion — that I peddle, says Harry Mount

Harry Mount is exhilarated by cycling — but finds Paul Smethurst’s history of the bicycle disappointingly stodgy
The romance of cycling is suggested in this advertisement for Columbia Bicycles, with its quotation from ‘Lochinvar’

The romance of cycling is suggested in this advertisement for Columbia Bicycles, with its quotation from ‘Lochinvar’

The Bicycle: Towards a Global HistoryPaul Smethurst

Palgrave Macmillan, pp.194, £19.99, ISBN: 9781137499509

Bicycles — in Britain, anyway — are the Marmite means of transport. I am among the bicycle-lovers, almost religious and certainly addicted in my need to have a daily bike ride. But I can see why people — and drivers in particular — hate some of us: for our smugness, our need to keep on moving through red lights and along pavements. It isn’t like this in Holland, where bicycling is so embedded in daily life that most drivers are bicyclists and vice versa; where mutual understanding leads to mutual respect.

Why do bicycles have this effect? Of intense affection among some, hatred among others; of mass use in some countries, limited use in others? Paul Smethurst could have answered the question. And his book does have some juicy little statistics in it. But I’m afraid it’s so mired in stodgy academese that it’s a deep disappointment.

It touches on some good points, not least class and bicycling. As former third- world countries advance, they cast aside their bikes, considered a sign of poverty. They particularly cast aside old-fashioned sit-up-and-beg bikes, now extremely fashionable among the British bicycling middle classes.

In time, though, China and India are bound to embrace the bike once again. There’s a natural life cycle — if you’ll forgive the pun — to the bicycle. Poor countries exchange them for cars when they get richer. When the roads clog up, they return to the bike, the magical object that sails serenely past traffic jams. Already, Chinese cities are starting to introduce pollution-reducing mass transit systems with integrated bike-share schemes.

Read the whole thing here.

Rod Dreher explains who the NYT editorial board hates more than anyone else

Guess who that may be!

Armed gunmen die in an attempt to shoot up a controversial cartoon exhibit in Texas … and the New York Times editorial board blames the people exercising their freedom of speech:

Those two men were would-be murderers. But their thwarted attack, or the murderous rampage of the Charlie Hebdo killers, or even the greater threat posed by the barbaric killers of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda, cannot justify blatantly Islamophobic provocations like the Garland event. These can serve only to exacerbate tensions and to give extremists more fuel.

Some of those who draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad may earnestly believe that they are striking a blow for freedom of expression, though it is hard to see how that goal is advanced by inflicting deliberate anguish on millions of devout Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism. As for the Garland event, to pretend that it was motivated by anything other than hate is simply hogwash.

When a free people face execution in a free country for exercising their First Amendment freedom, it is disgraceful for a newspaper — a newspaper, for pity’s sake! — to equivocate in the defense of that freedom of expression. Charlie Hebdowas (is) an obnoxious, vicious, spiteful scandal sheet, but when religious fanatics take it upon themselves to murder its editors and cartoonists, there can be no question on whose side we must stand. Same too with Pamela Gellar and her provocateurs. They have a right to be wrong without having to fear for their lives. It is disgusting that the New York Times cannot grasp this basic principle of liberty.

Funny how the Times editorial board, back in 1998, took a different line when the matter was the cancellation, under Christian pressure, of a Manhattan theatrical production about a gay Jesus who had sex with his disciples. From that editorial:

What we are witnessing, once again, is the peculiar combat between freedoms that is repeatedly staged in America. The practitioners and beneficiaries of religious freedom attack the practitioners of artistic freedom — freedom of speech — without seeing that the freedoms they enjoy cannot be defended separately. There is no essential difference between suppressing the production of a controversial play and suppressing a form of worship. No one would have been forced to see ”Corpus Christi” had it been produced, but now everyone is forced not to see it. That sword has two edges, as Roman Catholics, indeed all the faithful, well know.

It is easy to appreciate the dilemma Lynne Meadow, the Manhattan Theater Club’s artistic director, found herself in, but it is impossible to approve her decision. That there is a native strain of bigotry, violence and contempt for artistic expression in this country is not news. But it is news whenever someone as well regarded as the head of the Manhattan Theater Club capitulates to it instead of standing firm and relying on the police for protection. This is not only a land of freedom; it is a land where freedom is always contested. When courage for that contest is lacking, freedom itself — religious or artistic — is terribly diminished.

Benign explanation: the Times editorial board are hypocrites and examples of the maxim that a liberal is someone who is afraid to take his own side in a fight. The explanation I actually believe: Who, whom? – that is, the Times figures out who the Enemy is (right wingers, conservative Christians, et alia) and deploys its journalistic energies to smiting them, with no regard to principle.

Read Rod’s bog here

The Politicized Life

Just discovered this terrific blog over at the Washington Free Beacon, thanks to Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry.

On Forbearance: or, Why I Pity Jonathan Chait

By Flickr user Simon CunninghamIn lieu of a movie review this week, we’ve published my chapter from The Seven Deadly Virtues. (You can buy it here!) If you’re a reader of this here blog, it may seem a bit familiar to you. Consider it a thesis statement on “The Politicized Life.”

Consider it also a rebuttal to Jonathan Chait’s sad statement of intolerance. In a much-discussed essay, Jonathan Chait celebrated the politicized life, implicitly called for political segregation, and announced that he would be saddened if his daughter came home with a Republican soulmate:

The Politicized Life, Ebola Edition

This Christian woman sews dresses for little girls in Africa. DISGUSTING. GROSS. UGH. / APPop quiz, hotshot:

You’re dying of ebola and have the choice between bleeding out in the street unloved by anyone or being cared for by a Christian missionary. What do you do? What do you do?

If you’re Slate‘s Brian Palmer, that’s apparently a tougher question than you might think. Here’s Palmer:

Boycott ALL the Things!

54352612One of the mouth-breathing conspiracy theorists at Vice thinks you should boycott the NFL because a couple of NFL employees have had trouble with the law and some of the folks who are paid a great deal of money to play a game that they love of their own free will wind up with brain damage.

The mouthbreather raises a good point! We should hold all of our entertainments to these standards! Indeed, we should boycott all the things.

Andrew W.K.: ‘Party, Don’t Politicize!’

LET'S GET A PARTY GOING (AP)Andrew W.K., America’s premier partier, is no more a fan of the politicized life than yours truly. In his advice column for the Village Voice, W.K. smacks down a guy who wrote in to complain about his dad, a “65-year-old super right-wing conservative who has basically turned into a total asshole intent on ruining our relationship …

The Totalitarian Impulse and Art

I don't judge artists by their terrible politicsJed Perl has an important essay over at the New Republic on the incessant politicization of the arts by the left. As someone who has made a hobby of taking on the politicized life, you can imagine how pleased I was to read it. Perl’s thrust is this: art is separate from the artist, and vice versa. Which is to say, you can disagree with a person’s politics and still approve of—or learn something important about humanity from—their art. Here’s a taste:

Lynn Stuart Parramore: The Saddest Person in America?

mob pitchforksImagine that your life is so hollow and devoid of meaning, that you, upon hearing a song played in a grocery store, feel compelled to go home, print out that song’s lyrics, and present them to a store employee demanding that, in the future, they refrain from playing that song so as to refrain from …

When Is the Politicized Life Okay?

mob pitchforksI participated in a Bloggingheads earlier this week with Kevin Glass; our topic of discussion was something I’ve been scribbling about for the last 18 months or so. If you watch, you’ll note that there’s a picture of one Adam Kredo over my left shoulder informing everyone that my office is a “den of borderline anti-Semitism.”

I want to drill down a bit deeper into a point Kevin and I touched on briefly near the end, about when it’s “okay”* to live the politicized life. When is an opinion so outré that we should shun the opinion holder? When should we seek to impoverish those with whom we disagree?

If You Don’t Like Jason Biggs’ Twitter Feed, Unfollow Him

This person's Twitter feed can only bother you if you let it. (Photo by Flickr user titi-)There’s this show on Netflix called Orange Is the New Black about women in prison. One of the actors on this show is Jason Biggs, who has a Twitter feed. One need not watch the show to enjoy his Twitter feed and vice versa. Neither is integral to the other. There is literally no requirement whatsoever that the two of these things be consumed in tandem.

And yet, there’s a Very Serious Post over at Salon by Daniel D’Addario in which he pronounces that “Jason Biggs’s awful Twitter feed is ruining ‘Orange Is the New Black.’” I am … puzzled. Well and truly puzzled. Because, as I wrote not 50 words previously, there is literally no requirement whatsoever that the two of these things be consumed in tandem. One can watch the show and understand every single detail without ever once reading a 140-character missive from Mr. Biggs. And one can read his 140-character missives about The Bachelorette without ever once watching even a second of his television program and still understand that he thinks the program is dumb. They are not related at all. If you think OITNB is amazeballs and that Jason Biggs’ Twitter feed is utter shite—two opinions I happen to hold—you can watch the show and not follow him on Twitter. The whole point of Twitter is that you can follow whoever you want and are required to follow no one.

D’Addario seems to misunderstand how “Twitter” and “acting” works:

How to be a conservative

Here is an enlightening interview with Roger Scruton from Prospect magazine. Here is the intro:

Conservatism, the philosopher Michael Oakeshott once wrote, is not a creed so much as a “disposition,” a cast of mind rather than a set of beliefs. Roger Scruton echoes Oakeshott when he writes, in the preface to his new book “How To Be a Conservative” that the “conservative temperament is an acknowledged feature of human societies everywhere.” The conservative, in Scruton’s sense, asserts that “we have collectively inherited good things that we must strive to keep,” and is sceptical of large-scale attempts to remake the world in the image of abstract ideals. “Good things,” Scruton writes (and among those good things he numbers “law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life”), “are easily destroyed, but not easily created.”

Read the whole interview here and buy one of Scruton’s books.

The Scent of a Conservative

The Pacific Standard reports on a new study that suggests some people are attracted to “the body odour of others who share their political ideology”.

That’s right: To some extent, we emit red smells or blue smells, and consciously or not, potential mates can and do notice the difference.

“It appears nature stacks the deck to make politically similar partners more attractive to each other in unconscious ways,” a research team led by Brown University political scientist Rose McDermott writes in the American Journal of Political Science. As she and her colleagues note, this dynamic can be explained using evolutionary theory, noting that such compatibility increases the odds of successful mating and compatible child-rearing.

Read the whole article here.

The taxes are too damn high and there are too many of them!

The Fraser Institute released a report this morning that shows the average Canadian spends more on taxes than on anything else.

In 2013, the study finds that the average Canadian family earned $77,381 and paid $32,369 in total taxes (or 41.8 per cent of income) compared to 36.1 per cent for food, shelter and clothing combined.

By comparison, in 1961 the average family earned approximately $5,000 and spent much more of its income on food, shelter and clothing (56.5 per cent) while $1,675 went to taxes (33.5 per cent).

The total tax bill represents both visible and hidden taxes paid to the federal, provincial and local governments. This includes income taxes, payroll taxes, health taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, fuel taxes, vehicle taxes, import taxes, alcohol and tobacco taxes, and more.

Since 1961, the average Canadian family’s total tax bill has increased by 1,832 per cent, dwarfing increases in shelter costs (1,375 per cent), clothing (620 per cent) and food (546 per cent).

Of course, as John Moore of Newstalk1010 pointed out this morning, they chose the 1961 date for a reason. 1961 is the year before Canada introduced in subsequent years the Canada Pension Plan, unemployment insurance and universal healthcare. That’s fine and dandy John but, as your panel pointed out, are we getting value for the money we spend on these services? Could we do better if were able to invest the money we spend on taxes in a different way? And when is it enough? Should government expand to include even more areas of our private lives? In Ontario, we apparently just decided that government can grow even more with a new pension plan.

(And is it just me or does anyone else notice that John has increasingly become a shill for Unifor? I know he’s a spokesman for a water company but does he have a contract with Unifor, I wonder?). He certainly loves the t-shirt.

http://pic.twitter.com/pw7pAu4n8J

http://pic.twitter.com/g9e2l2n3Th

Beyond the economic issue, there are some fundamental principles at stake. In a previous post, I told you about the Danish tax that places a 180% fee on cars. Apparently, the main reason they do this is not for the environment but to ensure equality. Danes do not want some Danes to have access to goods or services that other Danes do not have which is ridiculous. The government restricts individual freedom and forces the outcomes it wants. Of course John and his Unifor buddies would say that what the government wants we want – we voted for them. But is that really true? Consider: in the last Ontario election, only 52 per cent of the population voted and the Liberals won with 42 per cent of that. That’s pathetic and hardly an endorsement of bigger government.

Taxes are unavoidable for the most part – you pay most of them even if you don’t use the services. Some of these taxes are fine are far as it goes but where is the point when government takes too much from individuals and makes some of the most important life decisions on our behalf?

I say we are beyond that point.

“We need conservatism now more than ever”

Found this article from the January 4th issue of the The Spectator and I thought I would share it with my followers. You’re welcome.

Stand up for the real meaning of freedom

We need conservatism now more than ever

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When pressed for a statement of their beliefs, conservatives give ironical or evasive answers: beliefs are what the others have, the ones who have confounded politics with religion, as socialists and anarchists do. This is unfortunate, because conservatism is a genuine, if unsystematic, philosophy, and it deserves to be stated, especially at a time like the present, when the future of our nation is in doubt.

Conservatives believe that our identities and values are formed through our relations with other people, and not through our relation with the state. The state is not an end but a means. Civil society is the end, and the state is the means to protect it. The social world emerges through free association, rooted in friendship and community life. And the customs and institutions that we cherish have grown from below, by the ‘invisible hand’ of co-operation. They have rarely been imposed from above by the work of politics, the role of which, for a conservative, is to reconcile our many aims, and not to dictate or control them.

Only in English-speaking countries do political parties describe themselves as ‘conservative’. Why is this? It is surely because English-speakers are heirs to a political system that has been built from below, by the free association of individuals and the workings of the common law. Hence we envisage politics as a means to conserve society rather than a means to impose or create it. From the French revolution to the European Union, continental government has conceived itself in ‘top-down’ terms, as an association of wise, powerful or expert figures, who are in the business of creating social order through regulation and dictated law. The common law does not impose order but grows from it. If government is necessary, in the conservative view, it is in order to resolve the conflicts that arise when things are, for whatever reason, unsettled.

If you see things in that way, then you are likely to believe in conserving civil society, by accommodating necessary change. New Labour sought to weaken our society externally and to divide it internally by its unquestioning acceptance of the primacy of EU supranational authority, internally by indiscriminate immigration, class warfare and the ‘reform’, which usually meant the politicisation, of our hallowed institutions. Conservatism, by contrast, aims at a cohesive society governed by laws of its own and by the institutions that have arisen over time in response to its changing needs and circumstances.

Such a society depends upon a common loyalty and a territorial law, and these cannot be achieved or retained without borders. But we find ourselves bound by a treaty devised by utopian internationalists in circumstances that have long ago disappeared. The EU treaty obliges its member states to permit the ‘free movement of peoples’, regardless of their desires or their national interest. With its open welfare system, its universal language, its relative wealth and its carefully defended freedoms, our country is the preferred destination of Europe’s new wave of migrants. At the top of every conservative’s agenda, therefore, is the question of immigration: how to limit it, and how to ensure that the newcomers integrate into a civil society in which free association, freedom of opinion, and respect for the law are all axiomatic.

Conservatives recognise that the right to vote out our rulers and to change our law is the premise of democratic politics. Whenever possible, they believe, our law should be made in Westminster, or in the common-law courts of our kingdom, not by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels nor by courts of European judges.

Until recently the conservative emphasis on civil society has led to an equal emphasis on the family as its heart. This emphasis has been thrown into disarray by the sexual revolution, by widespread divorce and out-of-wedlock birth, and by recent moves to accommodate the homosexual lifestyle. And those changes have to be absorbed and normalised. Ours is a tolerant society in which liberty is extended to a variety of religions, world views, and forms of domestic life. But liberty is threatened by licence: liberty is founded on personal responsibility and a respect for others, whereas licence is a way of exploiting others for purely personal gain. Liberty therefore depends on the values that protect individuals from chaotic personal lives and which cherish the integrity of the home in the face of the many threats to it.

Conservatism is a philosophy of inheritance and stewardship; it does not squander resources but strives to enhance them and pass them on. For conservatives, environmental politics needs to be rescued from the phony expertise of the scaremongers. But it must also be rescued from the religion of Progress, which urges us to pursue growth at all costs and to turn our beloved country into an array of concrete platforms linked by high-speed railways and surveyed from every hilltop by eerie wind-farms.

Those beliefs are difficult to act upon now. Through quangos and official bodies, the state has been amplified under New Labour to the point of swallowing private initiatives and distorting the long-established charitable instinct of our citizens. Regulations make it difficult for people to associate, and the nonsensical rulings of the European courts constantly tell us that, by living according to our lights, we are trampling on somebody’s ‘human rights’. Conservatives believe in rights but rights that are paid for by duties, and which reconcile people rather than divide them.

Left-wing thinkers often caricature the conservative position as one that advocates the free market at all costs, introducing competition and the profit motive even into the most sacred precincts of communal life. Adam Smith and David Hume made clear, however, that the market, which is the only known solution to the problem of economic co-ordination, itself depends upon the kind of moral order that arises from below, as people take responsibility for their lives, learn to honour their agreements and live in justice and charity with their neighbours. Our rights are also freedoms, and freedom makes sense only among people who are accountable to their neighbours for its misuse.

This means that, for conservatives, the effort to reclaim civil society from the state must continue unceasingly. One by one, our freedoms are being eroded: free speech by the Islamists, free association by the European Court of Human Rights, the freedom to make our own laws and to control our own borders by the European Union. We conservatives value our freedom not because it is an abstract possession of the abstract individual, but because it is a concrete and historical achievement, the result of civil discipline over centuries, and the sign of our undemonstrative respect for the law of the land.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 4 January 2014

Liberalism is a religion and it’s forcing me to convert

Sorry this is another lengthy post but worth the read.

I’ve been thinking about how to write about this topic for the past week. It doesn’t resonate in Canada like it does in the US because the majority of Canadians are already true believers and any dissenters have been for the most part shunned from the public square. Liberalism-progressivism long ago became the Canadian state religion. But in the US, these things still matter. I mentioned in a previous post how the Hobby Lobby decision has sent the American Left into fits of rage and intolerance – the Supreme Court ruled in favour of religious liberty which at one time was THE cornerstone of Western democracy. Now the Democrats and their leftist allies want to overturn even this very narrow ruling. There is only one right way to think and it is dictated by the state. Against gay “marriage” and contraception? That’s unacceptable and akin to racism. Either shut up or face the human rights tribunal. And you better apologize while you’re at it. Not that it matters

How Liberalism Became an Intolerant Dogma

In a July 11 article for The Week, Damon Linker explains “How liberalism became an intolerant dogma” (http://theweek.com/article/index/264546/how-liberalism-became-an-intolerant-dogma).

My own cherished topic is this: Liberalism’s decline from a political philosophy of pluralism into a rigidly intolerant dogma.

The decline is especially pronounced on a range of issues wrapped up with religion and sex. For a time, electoral self-interest kept these intolerant tendencies in check, since the strongly liberal position on social issues was clearly a minority view. But the cultural shift during the Obama years that has led a majority of Americans to support gay marriage seems to have opened the floodgates to an ugly triumphalism on the left.

The result is a dogmatic form of liberalism that threatens to poison American civic life for the foreseeable future. Conservative Reihan Salam describes it, only somewhat hyperbolically, as a form of “weaponized secularism.”

I have often argued with my liberal friends and acquaintances that their worldview, despite their adamant denials, is a religion. Of course they take great offence saying they are atheists and don’t believe in the invisible God or the quaint and outdated idea of Truth. But they do: their God is the State and their Truth is what the State says it is. To my liberal readers, I mean no offence – I’m just pointing it out.

The Church of Illiberal Liberalism

As you would expect, Rod Dreher (http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/illiberal-liberalism-church/) is excellent on this issue:

Under traditional liberalism, maintaining religious liberty is of vital importance; under the new, illiberal liberalism, religious liberty is a threat. In her analysis of the reaction to the Hobby Lobby ruling, Megan McArdle says that contemporary liberalism, as distinct from earlier iterations, drives religion out of the public square by abandoning the concept of negative rights (the right not to have to be forced to do something) in favor of positive rights (the right to force others to do something to serve you). Excerpt:

In the 19th century, the line between the individual and the government was just as firm as it is now, but there was a large public space in between that was nonetheless seen as private in the sense of being mostly outside of government control — which is why we still refer to “public” companies as being part of the “private” sector. Again, in the context of largely negative rights, this makes sense. You have individuals on one end and a small state on the other, and in the middle you have a large variety of private voluntary institutions that exert various forms of social and financial coercion, but not governmental coercion — which, unlike other forms of coercion, is ultimately enforced by the government’s monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

Our concept of these spheres has shifted radically over the last century. In some ways, it offers more personal freedom — sex is private, and neither the state nor the neighbors are supposed to have any opinion whatsoever about what you do in the bedroom. Religion, too, is private. But outside of our most intimate relationships, almost everything else is now viewed as public, which is why Brendan Eich’s donation to an anti-gay-marriage group became, in the eyes of many, grounds for firing.

For many people, this massive public territory is all the legitimate province of the state. Institutions within that sphere are subject to close regulation by the government, including regulations that turn those institutions into agents of state goals — for example, by making them buy birth control for anyone they choose to employ. It is not a totalitarian view of government, but it is a totalizing view of government; almost everything we do ends up being shaped by the law and the bureaucrats appointed to enforce it. We resolve the conflict between negative and positive rights by restricting many negative rights to a shrunken private sphere where they cannot get much purchase.

A totalizing view of government — good phrase. In the new American liberal dispensation, we begin to approach what in modern France is called laïcité – the idea that maintaining the secular nature of the public realm and the state’s monopoly on power requires keeping religion and religious expression firmly privatized. It may ordinarily be understood as the principle of the separation of Church and State, which almost all Americans, left and right, favor. But in France, it is generally taken to mean that religion may be tolerated only insofar as it does not interfere with the state and its purposes. If that’s not a totalizing view of government, I don’t know what is. These different emphases of what secularism is may seem subtle, but they’re important — and we’re seeing them take hold in this country.

He continues:

The Church of Illiberal Liberalism worships a jealous god, who will brook no rivals.

And here’s the most important thing to grasp about the Church of Illiberal Liberalism: its communicants do not have the slightest understanding that theirs is a creed, a set of dogmas, a worldview that makes exclusivist claims. They think their ideology is not an ideology, but reality, plain and simple. The book to read to understand where we are and where we are going is James Kalb’s The Tyranny Of Liberalism. The Mark Levin-esque title is misleading; this is a philosophically serious book. From a 2009 interview with Kalb:

Ignatius Insight: You spend quite a bit of time, understandably, in the book defining liberalism and variations thereof. For the sake of clarity, what is a relatively concise definition of the liberalism you critique? What are its core principles and beliefs?

James Kalb: By liberalism I mean the view that equal freedom is the highest political, social, and moral principle. The big goal is to be able to do and get what we want, as much and as equally as possible.

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That view comes from the view that transcendent standards don’t exist–or what amounts to the same thing, that they aren’t publicly knowable. That leaves desire as the standard for action, along with logic and knowledge of how to get what we want.

Desires are all equally desires, so they all equally deserve satisfaction. Nothing is exempt from the system, so everything becomes a resource to be used for our purposes. The end result is an overall project of reconstructing social life to make it a rational system for maximum equal preference satisfaction.

That’s what liberalism is now, and everything else has to give way to it. For example, traditional ties like family and inherited culture aren’t egalitarian or hedonistic or technologically rational. They have their own concerns. So they have to be done away with or turned into private hobbies that people can take or leave as they like. Anything else would violate freedom and equality.

More:

Ignatius Insight: You argue that liberalism “began as an attempt to moderate the influence of religion in politics, [but] ends by establishing itself as a religion.” How is liberalism a religion? What are some examples of its religious nature? What significant challenges do these pose to serious, practicing Catholics?

James Kalb: People in authority treat liberalism as true, ultimate, and socially necessary. So far as they’re concerned, it gives the final standards that everyone has to defer to because they’re demanded by the order of the community and also by the fundamental way the world is. That’s what it means to say it’s the established religion.

Like other religions it helps maintain its place through saints, martyrs, rituals, and holidays. A candlelit vigil for Matthew Shepard is an example. There’s also education. All education is religious education, so education today is shot through with liberal indoctrination. Liberalism even has blasphemy laws, in the form of the laws against politically incorrect comments on Islam, homosexuality, and other topics that you find in Europe and Canada.

It also has some special features. Liberalism is a stealth religion. It becomes established and authoritative by claiming that it is not a religion but only the setting other religions need to cooperate peacefully.

The claim doesn’t make much sense, since religion has to do with ultimate issues. The religion of a society is simply the ultimate authoritative way the society grasps reality. As such it can’t be subordinate to anything else.

Liberalism has been successful at obfuscating its status as a religion, and that’s been key to its success. People believe they are keeping their own religion when they give first place to liberalism. What happens though is that their original religion gets assimilated and becomes a sort of poeticized version of liberalism.

You can see that tendency vividly in my former denomination, the Episcopal Church. At least at its upper levels “mission” now means promoting things like the UN Millennium Development Goals. I was in an Episcopal church recently in which the Stations of the Cross had been replaced on the wall by the Stations of the Millennium Development Goals.

That’s not a special oddity of the Episcopalians, of course. You can see the same tendency in all respectable mainline Protestant denominations. You also see it among many Catholics. That kind of assimilation is, I think, the biggest danger to the integrity of religious life today.

Read the whole thing. It’s really important. It is vital to fight in court and elsewhere to maintain authentic religious liberty against the dogmatic advances of the Church of Illiberal Liberalism, but in Kalb’s reading, it is more important for the traditional churches to fight within themselves to maintain their traditional self-understanding, in the face of MTD, which is the only kind of overt religiosity the Church of Illiberal Liberalism can tolerate. This is why Kalb, a Catholic, endorses what I call the Benedict Option:

Still, we’re stuck with liberalism right now. As things are, to live a life as free as possible from its poisons probably does require moral heroism. Certainly it means a break with the usual middle-class lifestyle. I can’t give a lot of useful advice to moral heroes, but it seems likely that a better way of life today will require things like homeschooling and other forms of intentional separation. We need settings in which a different pattern of life can be established. We all do the best we can, though.

There are lessons here for Canadian conservatives – maybe we should not have surrendered so easily? That quaint and cherished concept of the separation of church and state that liberals used to love so much means nothing. Now the state IS the church. Problem solved.

What are the foundations of your morals? Care to find out?

In previous posts, I have written about Jonathan Haidt’s theory of moral foundations and I thought it would be interesting to give my followers an opportunity to complete Haidt’s quiz.  Do you consider yourself liberal, moderate or conservative? Where do you score on the scale?

Or perhaps you’re a member of the “activist centre” as our new Premier likes to call her brand of extremism – just kidding, well not really.

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Anyway, the whole purpose of the exercise is not to pull people apart but to bring them together, to better understand our motivations and opinions and to find the things we have in common. Alan Jacobs at The New Atlantis blog Text Patterns (http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/) summarizes Haidt’s theory and book nicely:

In his recent and absolutely essential book The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt tries to understand why we disagree with one another — especially, but not only, about politics and religion — and, more important, why it is so hard for people to see those who disagree with them as equally intelligent, equally decent human beings. (See an excerpt from the book here.)

Central to his argument is this point: “Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second. Moral intuitions arise automatically and almost instantaneously, long before moral reasoning has a chance to get started, and those first intuitions tend to drive our later reasoning.” Our “moral arguments” are therefore “mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly, crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives.”

Haidt talks a lot about how our moral intuitions accomplish two things: they bind and they blind. “People bind themselves into political teams that share moral narratives. Once they accept a particular narrative, they become blind to alternative moral worlds.” “Moral matrices bind people together and blind them to the coherence, or even existence, of other matrices.”

Complete the Moral Foundations Questionnaire at YourMorals.org (http://www.yourmorals.org/)

You have to register but it’s easy to do, there is no spam, and you are doing a service by contributing to the research. The quiz is located under the “Explore Your Morals” tab and it’s the first quiz in the list titled “Moral Foundations Questionnaire”. There are many other surveys as well, if you’re interested.

As you might expect, dear reader, the conservative cyclist scored high on four of the five foundations. On Harm, I scored near the average liberal position at 3.6; on Fairness (my lowest score), I scored 2.6, lower than both the average liberal and average conservative scores; On Loyalty (3.7), Authority (3.8) and Purity (3.3), I scored above the average conservative score.

738385 “Haidt found that in general, the moral mind of liberals rests on two of the five bases: Harm and Fairness. The moral mind of conservatives rests on these two bases, but also the other three: Loyalty, Authority, and Purity. Because of this, Haidt says, liberals have a much harder time understanding conservatives than vice versa.” courtesy of Rod Dreher

More on epistemic closure…and the last on epistemic closure

One of my favourite bloggers is Rod Dreher at The American Conservative. He’s a fantastic writer and a prolific blogger who writes on everything from politics and religion to art and sports.  He’s fair minded and will criticize and praise conservatives and Republicans as much as he criticizes and praises progressives and Democrats. And he doesn’t seem to share the general anti-Israel sentiment common at The American Conservative. Rod doesn’t write about Canada but that’s expected: he lives in St. Francisville, Louisiana.

His most recent book is titled The Little Way of Ruthie Leming which is the story of his Louisiana childhood and his sister’s battle with cancer. I’m reading Crunchy Cons right now which is his 2006 book. The subtitle says it all: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-Range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (or At Least the Republican Party)”.

A conservative counterculture! I love it, except for the Birkenstocks of course. Anyway, I may write more about Crunchy Cons in a later post.

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The reason I mention Rod here is that he, quite coincidentally, also wrote a commentary on Pascal-Emanuel Gobry’s latest article about “epistemic closure”. Of course, his commentary is better written than mine is and he takes a different direction.  It’s worth reading the entire commentary which can be found here at The American Conservative website: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/epistemic-closure-culture-war/

Two key highlights for me:

“PEG [Pascal-Emanuel Gobry] gives examples, so you’ll want to read the whole thing. His broader point is that people on the left (it’s pretty clear he’s talking about media and academic elites) are so deep in their own bubble that they think their own way of seeing the world is obviously true, and they cannot imagine that there is another honest (if mistaken) way to interpret the world.

Are there conservatives who think this way too? Of course, and being someone who doesn’t enjoy tedium or ranting, I do my best to avoid getting into political or philosophical conversations with them, and I don’t read, watch or listen to their media. But with the exception of talk radio loudmouths, these conservatives have little or no voice, and therefore little influence over the broader culture. More particular to PEG’s point, the thing that we relative few number of mainstream media conservatives always notice (and talk about when we get together) is how uniform (and uniformly liberal) opinion is within our newsrooms, and how utterly unaware our liberal colleagues are of their own biases.”

And:

“Which brings us back to Reader Bobby’s comment [alluding to the comment at the beginning of the post] about elites only rubbing shoulders with other elites, a social habit that misleads them into thinking that everybody sees the world as they do. We are all guilty of this, more or less. But we ought to work harder at trying to imagine the world as it might look to people very different from ourselves. That doesn’t mean that we are wrong in the conclusions we’ve arrived at, or in the convictions that we hold. It does mean, however, that we should be more humble about what we know, and more understanding of others when confronted by the true difficulties of knowing anything for certain.

Much has been made over the past few years about how folks getting to know gay people personally has converted them to the gay-rights cause. There’s a lot to that. It’s harder to hold stereotypical views of someone in a particular class if you know them personally. Yet I wonder: does it ever occur to liberals that they ought to try to get to know, say, a conservative Evangelical [or a conservative cyclist for that matter]? If not, why not?

I know exactly what he is talking about. I’ve worked in government and academia and I can tell you there are very few conservatives working in either environments. And people speak to each other as if there is only one position. They don’t think to ask themselves if someone else may think differently. And these are the same people who preach about diversity……but only if you think the way they do.

 

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