Aristocrats and Animals
Posted by Jew from Jersey
6 October 2004
A deep ideological gulf always separated the western progressives from the communist and totalitarian regimes they have supported over the years. The central difference is the progressive issue itself. The Eastern Bloc countries may have been Communist or Marxist, but not a one of them was ever Leftist or Progressive. There were no vegetarians among the Bolsheviks. In all such regimes, at both the government and popular levels, there was very little sympathy for criminals, especially the violent kind, and absolutely no aversion to capital punishment. Neither was there in any of these regimes or their publics the slightest sign of support for gay marriage, drug use, abstract art, or a host of other issues that are the definitive points of progressive politics in the West. Indeed, Eastern communists considered precisely these issues to be symptoms of the decadence and imminent collapse of the West. This is precisely why they did not tolerate them for one second in their own countries. Somehow, the Western progressives were never bothered by the fact their favorite issues were tolerated far less in the Communist countries they supported than in the Western countries they opposed.
And yet, until the collapse of the Soviet Union, and perhaps even more so the collapse of the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua in 1990, most Western progressives adamantly insisted that these regimes were somehow the living vindicators of progressive issues. This is an inconsistency that demands an explanation. Could it be that they were really so deeply misinformed about these regimes about which they claimed to know so much? In the early days of the Bolshevik and other revolutions, this might have been the case. Even then, this was clearly not a matter of being misinformed, but of wishful thinking. They saw the violence and intolerance of the revolutionary stage as “eggs” that had to broken to make an “omelet.” But in each case, very soon it became clear that the regime in question was not about making omelets so much as about breaking eggs as such. The ends had been used to justify the means, but the means ending up becoming an end in themselves. It is true that at each such juncture, western progressive support for the regime in question tended to ebb and become fixated on some new, fresher revolution elsewhere. The wishful thinking was thus transferred, undiminished, to the next set of victims. Still, preference for the Communist regimes, even the old, ossified, hopeless ones, continued. Certainly, progressives continued to support these countries over their own countries to a wide degree.
This suggests two things. First, progressives had acquired a certain taste for violence in its own right, or at least the kind of arbitrary and limitless violence practiced by the revolutionary regimes. They had discovered that the “breaking of eggs” that they had at first tolerated for the sake of a higher cause had some appeal in itself. This did not fully compensate for the loss of messianic utopian spirit, but it still gave even the stalest revolutionary regimes an advantage over the democratic Western ones. This trend has become even more obvious since the collapse of the USSR and Sandanista Nicaragua. In the absence of any new socialist revolutions, progressives have taken to supporting regimes that have never even claimed to be socialist. The only enduring criterion regimes must meet in order to qualify for progressive support is a penchant for violence of the wanton and arbitrary variety.
Second, progressives clearly do not hold the non-Western dictatorships to the same standards as they held their own governments. Subsequently, they do not hold the rights of the citizens of those countries to be of the same value as their own rights.
Overall, the main differences between western leftists and eastern communists may be summed up in the following two points:
Furthermore, the way the two sides interpreted this ideological gulf was in no way symmetric. The eastern regimes welcomed the support of their western foot soldiers even though they were perfectly aware of these differences. They have always viewed the western progressives as useful idiots who would weaken the resolve of western society and undermine western governments. If the western activists choose to do this by promoting lawlessness and goofy causes, so be it. There was no danger of vegansim or “No More Prisons” spreading to the communist world.
It might be the case that the western progressives are equally duplicitous in advancing such causes. It is possible that some of them do not believe in such causes at all, but advance them simply to undermine western society. However, this is probably not the case. While progressives have been known to be duplicitous and disingenuous when advancing their causes in the western mainstream, it is hard to doubt their commitment to the causes themselves. It is also hard to doubt their naivete. In the late 1960s, Abbie Hoffman described vacationing in Florida and picking up some cheesy band music on a Cuban radio station. Hoffman expressed what appears to be genuine incredulity that entertainment of such a mainstream variety would be broadcast by a revolutionary regime. He concludes that poor Castro must have been too busy battling capitalists to have heard about Country Joe and the Fish. Presumably, if only Castro had known about Country Joe, the Fish would have been adopted as the official band of the revolution. Hoffman’s inability to understand that Country Joe and the Fish would be the first up against the wall in Cuba seems sincere.
There is perhaps more at work here than simple naivete. While western progressives certainly don’t view non-westerners as useful idiots, they probably don’t exactly regard them as equals either. This condescension is evident in the tolerance progressives show for flagrantly anti-progressive policies in communist and totalitarian countries. The persecution of women and homosexuals, the imprisonment of journalists and intellectuals for political crimes, widespread use of torture, etc. are ignored and even defended by progressives when carried out by communist or anti-western elements. These are violations of rights that progressives hold as sacrosanct for members of their own society. There may be an element of simple political expediency in some of these duplicitous attitudes. However, after a century of such duplicity, a clear sense emerges that progressives do not view non-westerners as having the same basic rights as westerners. Nor do they view non-western governments as capable of upholding even the minimal standards they expect from western governments.
The progressive view of non-westerners as sub-human is even more evident in progressive views of international relations. Progressives consider any deficiencies in non-western countries, including injustices perpetrated by the autonomous governments of those countries on their own citizens, to be the result of western interventions in the past. There is apparently no statute of limitations on how long this blame game can go on. Even countries that have been independent for longer than they were ever colonialized in the first place are still said to be suffering from some kind of post-post-post-colonialist syndrome. It seems that if non-westerners are set on the road of perdition by westerners and left to their own devices, they will continue down this road until the end of time. The assumption underlying this mode of thought is that non-westerners are incapable of distinguishing between good and evil. Only westerners are fully human in the moral sense. Progressives are westerners who choose good, while conservatives are westerners who choose evil. Non-westerners are not capable of either. Once upon a time, before the age of western interventions, non-westerners lived in a state of nature. This state of nature was neither good nor evil, it was innocent of the distinction between good and evil. It was pure. Westerners invaded the non-western world like the snake in the garden of Eden. Even when they tried to do good to the non-westerners, by introducing them to medicine, writing, due process of law, etc. the net effect was effect was simply to implicate the non-westerners in the good/evil distinction and thus sever them from their innocence.
But this innocence was not lost forever. If it were, there would no longer be any distinction between westerners and non-westerners. Progressives continue to treat non-westerners as a separate species, incapable of good or evil in their hearts no matter how implicated they may be in their actions. No matter how evil their behavior, it can only be the result of intervention by westerners. The little-discussed corollary is that these non-westerners can never really be good either. Furthermore, they are incapable of making any moral decisions, so just as their contamination must have come from intervention by westerners, their only hope for change must come from further intervention by westerners. Just as non-westerners would have remained in a state of blissful innocence eternally, if not for the intervention of westerners, so they are condemned to a state fallen from grace eternally unless westerners intervene again. Of course, this second wave of western intervention must be entirely different than the first one. Not only must it not be evil, it must not be good either. After all, many of the western interventions of old were for the “good” of the natives. This new intervention must lead the natives back across the divide that separates knowledge of good and evil from ignorance of the difference, “breaking on through to the other side,” as it were. What this means in practice is driving non-westerners to the point of depravity from which there is no return.
This line of reasoning was presented in its clearest form by J. P. Sartre in his famous introduction to Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the earth.” Sartre encourages Africans to murder Europeans, even innocent European children, and explains that this will accomplish two goals: it will liberate Africa from Europeans and liberate the African from European hang-ups. What could he have possible meant by this second claim? Was he suggesting that prior to European colonialism, Africans lackadaisically and regularly murdered innocent children? Sartre almost certainly was a racist, but not so crude a racist. What he probably meant was that left to their own devices, Africans didn’t distinguish between good and evil. Moral distinction had been introduced by Europeans in order to control Africans, and flagrant violation of morality is necessary to blur the distinction again. Sartre probably viewed Fanon as an ape, an ape who had been caged so long that he was incapable of surviving in the wild. He had to be made fierce again before he was set free. In captivity, fierceness would be viewed as evil, but in the wild it is necessary for survival and simply part of the amoral order of nature.
If this seems incredible, consider the case of Saddam Hussein. Why were Western progressives so upset over any Iraqi civilian casualties of the American invasion, while they were completely indifferent too the executions of the many more Iraqi civilians at the hands of Saddam? Why did they view the American deposition and capture of Saddam as an egregious violation of human rights, while they had nothing to say about the millions of abductions, tortures, and rapes committed by Saddam for 25 years? This was not the result of ignorance or misinformation. Western progressives who had visited Iraq often admitted to having exclusive knowledge of Saddam’s mistreatment of Iraqis. They concealed this information because they were afraid it would justify an American invasion. As Scott Ritter memorably put it: “I could tell you, but that would be waging war, and I’m waging peace.” In other words, this was a true value judgment. There were no “egg and omelet” arguments offered concerning Saddam. There was never any omelet and these were just plain old eggs breaking. It just happened that it didn’t matter. Why? And if that didn’t matter, why did Saddam’s capture and civilian casualties matter so much?
Western progressives may have their cats declawed, but they would never protest a predator in the wild preying on smaller animals. This is the order of nature. They would, however, protest the same smaller animals being killed, or even slightly inconvenienced, by some development project or other human activity like medical science. What matters is not the destruction of those small animals, but the fact that it is being done by humans. Predators in the wild are allowed to kill the smaller animals because it is their natural right. Finally, you know you can safely bet your last dollar that progressives would protest loudest of all if humans proposed hunting, caging, or otherwise removing the last predator in the wild. This would be a far greater crime than hunting the smaller animals, who are lower in the food chain anyway.
The lives of Iraqis were never important, what mattered was the natural Iraqi “ecosystem.” Iraq was one big nature reserve, the last of its kind, where wild predators like Saddam stalked their prey. He could kill them. This was the natural order of things. For Americans to kill anyone, however, was interfering with the native ecology. Saddam, being at the top of the food chain, was also the rarest and most noble of all the indigenous species. His capture meant the end of the natural habitat as such.
The sensibilities of Communist societies are distinctly lower-middle-class, precisely the people the progressives detest the most in their own societies. Western progressivism, while ideologically incoherent, is firmly clustered around the two poles of fascination-with-violent-crime and senseless morally gratifying crusades at great public expense. Such interests are unthinkable for anyone without the personal wealth sufficient to isolate themselves from the costs involved. Western elites take for granted, even resent, this wealth that has come so easily to them. Their progressivism is clearly intended to assuage this guilt. Ironically, it also incurs costs that fall heaviest on those not so wealthy. At the same time, the wealthy don’t seriously consider for an instant parting with more than token amounts of their wealth.
Their compassion may be authentic, but if this were all there was to the issue, they might assuage their guilt in any number of ways. They might give up their wealth. They might become neo-stoics, believing that what’s theirs is theirs, life is short, and there’s no point in anyone complaining. They might seriously study how wealth is generated and help others to generate some. Instead of doing any of these things, they take up progressivism, a quasi-religion that tells them they deserve advantages, because they are more than mere mortals. At the same time, their resentment is turned outward toward the mere mortals, who are not so deserving. If the resentment they harbor against themselves is turned towards the common man, the compassion in their guilt must be turned elsewhere, to the animals. Animals are capable of no wrong since they can’t really think and they are deserving of all indulgence since they have no one to look after them. And, of course, animals are wild and a potential nuisance to the hated common man.
What can it all mean? Could it be that progressivism is simply a luxury status symbol, like the Lexus and Rolex? It certainly contains such an element of commodity status-seeking. By glorifying the violent criminal, the progressive is saying: “I can afford private security.” By enclosing vast tracts of land as “wilderness,” he is saying: “I can afford inflated land prices. I can afford a Jeep Explorer.”
There’s more to it than that. There’s also a pretension to superhuman status. By idealizing the violent criminal, the progressive is also saying: “It is heroic to violate the common man’s idea of decency. I should be allowed to do it, too.” By placing natural resources beyond the use of other humans, he is saying: “I need the untamed wilderness to express my authenticity. Why should it be wasted on commoners who are simply looking for a cheap, safe place to live?”
The animal is not only an object of the progressive’s compassion, it is also the embodiment of his ego. This is a situation similar to that of the sultans of old who kept pet elephants and would let them roam loose to wreak havoc in the marketplaces and yards of their subjects. It is both the wantonness of the violence of animals and the harm it causes to the common man that make it appealing. Otherwise, progressives tend to disapprove of violence. In particular, they object to violence directed against animals and mascots, as well as any kind of violence that appears unspontaneous. Spontaneous violence is a sign of primitive authenticity. Unspontaneous violence is repression.
If a mascot attacks a common man, you can’t blame the mascot since he’s not fully cognizant of what he’s done. Besides, animals are not evil by nature, so if they attack, it’s a sure sign they were in some way provoked. On the other hand, if common men attack a mascot, this is sheer sadism. Self-defense is no excuse, since if the common men had treated the animals properly, nothing would have happened. It is the height of cruelty and barbarism for common men to band together or amass weapons in anticipation of an attack by mascots.
The hapless mortals are usually not the poorest of the poor, who are regarded by the progressives as animals, especially if they can be induced to violence. It’s also easier for progressives to treat other humans as mascots if they’re physically or culturally different from them, even if they’re not poor. The non-elite who share the racial and ethnic background of the progressives are especially hated since they are a reminder of the progressives’ humble origins.
It is natural that democracies are doubly offensive to progressives. On the one hand, they make aristocracy impossible. On the other hand, their negative freedoms make it unlawful for animals or mascots to attack humans. Democracy also allows the commoners to defend themselves against attackers as they see fit. Progressives find highly disturbing, for instance, the image of a police force of common men picking on a poor helpless mascot who had been provoked to attack commoners, and the aristocrat is granted no special privileges to intervene.
The aristocrat sees the free democratic common man as his enemy because he tries to subvert his status as an aristocrat and because he restricts and confines the wild animals that the aristocrat keeps as mascots. In a democracy, there is no qualitative basis for an aristocratic status. In a state where no one is above the law, the violent human beings that aristocrats regard as their pets will fare no better than common criminals and be treated as a public nuisance.