Sunday, September 03, 2006


I have changed my leader comment again.

Nothing against conservatives - I usually agree with them. But there are Social Conservatives, Economic Conservatives, Religious Right, Paleocons, Neocons, Envirocons, Crunchy conservatives, Country-club conservatives, and proabably a few others I haven't been introduced to yet. None of them suits, exactly. There are also several species of Libertarian, with whom I also have some sympathies.

But "Postliberal" also gives a sense of my history and my approach to issues. By upbringing, I had both liberals and conservatives in my background, though I identified more strongly with the liberal side. These were old-style liberals, One-Worlders who learned some Esperanto, were horrified at the least leakage of prejudice, and were reacting to the conservatism of an immigrant culture. My people were the type who pushed for their church services to be in English because "we're in America now," and thought that changing to the new should be the default position for everything, because they also believed that the world was progressing on most fronts. Conservative didn't refer so much to politics as it did to being a stick-in-the-mud who never wanted new hymns or new styles, and liberal meant "open to new ideas." People who gave a real effort to understanding Ezra Pound were liberals. People who just wouldn't bother were conservatives.

The uncle I am named after, who is now 80 and votes Green half the time, still sees the world this way. My brother, who teaches technical theater at college, has a residue of this belief, though his liberalism has been more frequently updated. I was a theater and literature major in the 70's, with a contempt for Southerners, fraternity guys, all things military, hunters, and business majors. No matter how smart any of them might be individually, those groups were known to be generally closed-minded, uncurious, and shallow.

Not like Me. I was deep, you see. And sensitive. I was a socialist, not because I actually thought through whether it fed more people, but because it seemed generous, and the free market seemed selfish. I was against The War, not because I had any clear foreign policy ideas, but because I was convinced that liberals wanted to understand different cultures and get along, while conservatives just wanted to shoot people they didn't like.

That culture is in my bones, and I can sniff it out at 50 meters (catch the reference?). When modern Boomer liberals try to put on that they're different from that now, and have grown beyond it, my eyebrow raises and I say to myself "Not so far as you'd think." If you let people talk long enough, they say what they mean. And they've been saying exactly the same things about jocks, frat-boys, and the military for forty years. They now say "corporate" instead of "business," and "Red State" instead of "The South," but the rest of their sentences are the same. The slang is updated, but there is no other change between what we said then and what they say now.

The complete aversion of the modern liberal to any self-observation is rather disheartening.

I ended up with the conservatives and libertarians, and as I noted, agree with them a fair bit. I care about much the same issues as they do - yet I don't seem to care about them in the same order or with the same intensity. I am moved more by the classically liberal idea of presenting a clear and fair argument for one's point of view, without resort to name-calling and condescension, no matter how well-disguised. Conservative issues don't attract me as much as liberal idiocy repels me.


Anonymous said...

Conservative issues don't attract me as much as liberal idiocy repels me.

PURE. 24kt. GOLD.

I plan to shamelessly steal this quote ;->

jlbussey said...

What P.A. said. That's it exactly.

David Foster said...

Note that those who call themselves liberals (or, more commonly today, "progressives") are in fact conservative to the point of being reactionary when it comes to government-created institutions. The current forms of the public education system and the social security system are regarded as having a significance which is almost holy, and any proposed change results in the same expressions of horror with which a religious believer would react if confronted with a total rewrite of a sacred text.

copithorne said...

Diatribes about "liberal idiocy" in which no liberals appear -- no quotes, no policies, no legislation -- are going to be expressions of projection of a disowned shadow.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

No. I will no longer allow those to stand, copithorne. I do not cite exhaustive lists of examples on every post, but over the accumulation of my posts I cite many examples. You are stuck on this issue, that you want to see the whole proof laid out every time.

What "liberals" say does indeed fall along a spectrum, and the generalization - like all generalizations - is a bit clumsy. Nonetheless, there are rich veins of similarity among the commenters of the left.

copithorne said...

If you were able to find even one example, that would be a good start. Your writing would take on a different character.

I know, I've asked you before, and I've asked a number of commenters who write diatribes about "the left" to supply examples of who they are talking about.

Invariably, you and others simply do not provide examples. I would think providing an example would be easier than writing a defense of why providing examples is difficult, but it isn't.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I have puzzled over this, copithorne. To make sure I wasn't blowing smoke, I went back through my archives, and stopped counting at 20 examples of links to articles, or actual conversations I had with people of the left. I have even resupplied the examples to you once; you found the examples to not be real examples somehow. You have perhaps innocently missed all the places where I reference actual persons and articles, but that is hardly my fault.

I make claims that people on the left think certain things which I think are unsurprizing and well-accepted. Perhaps you would consider them to be the unsupported stereotypes of what people of the left think. But when I wander over to HuffPo, or Moveon, or DU, or Marc Cooper, or firedoglake, or Obsidian Wings, or Daily Kos, I find exactly what I expected, and exactly what I claim.

You cannot, therefore, be claiming that there are no liberals who believe as I suggest. The superabundance of information, whether I give it to you or not, would make such a claim a simple obstinacy to acknowledge reality.

You must, therefore, be making a claim that is somewhat different, and here I must make some guesses. Are you suggesting that very few liberals actually fit this stereotype, and that most people of the left are in fact reasonable? If so, I wish you would make that claim directly, as that is a discussable point. Or are you claiming that I am misrepresenting their ideas somehow? Again, I would ask that you make that specific argument persuasively, rather than merely claiming that I have not provided examples.

My darker suspicion may be doing you a disservice, and drawing conclusions based on too few of your comments. But I have the eerie impression that because when you read the comments of people on the left they seem sensible to you, that when you encounter their contradiction you conclude that the conservative commenter is not understanding or misrepresenting them somehow. There is a cast of mind among many people which reasons "If you do not agree with me you must not have heard me correctly, because no one could really listen and not be convinced." While that type of thinking is common to many formal pathologies, it is also found in otherwise reasonable people at times. It is bad thinking, but does not necessarily imply overall bad thinking on your part.

I would offer this as an example question, however: copithorne, can you point to a place where someone has caused you to change your mind about a political or social issue in the last few years?

cakreiz said...

Brilliant post, AVI. Especially this: Conservative issues don't attract me as much as liberal idiocy repels me. That intuitively hits home. We're somewhat fellow travelers, although I was never a socialist or a greenie. Much of my distrust of liberalism comes from its tendency toward wishful thinking, something I loathe.

Post-liberal is a great description. But I'd like to read more of the specifics of your intellectual journey. Inquiring minds want to know.

As for a specific example of liberal idiocy, how about busing? It's changed the architecture of most American cities, vastly increased the size of suburbs, and left most urban areas without a tax base. Oh yeah, it's also subverted the quality of public education. Apart from that, it's been an oustanding policy.

cakreiz said...

You wrote, "I was a theater and literature major in the 70's, with a contempt for Southerners, fraternity guys, all things military, hunters, and business majors." I was a poli sci major in the 70s as well, with most of those biases save one- I volunteered for the Army in 1971. Even then, I appreciated the necessity of self-defense. As for frat guys, hunters and biz majors, forget it.

cakreiz said...

Okay, it's not really fair for me to drop in here and dominate the board, but, jesus, I love this: I was convinced that liberals wanted to understand different cultures and get along, while conservatives just wanted to shoot people they didn't like. In the 70s, I didn't know any conservatives (save a sophisticated Catholic New Yorker who read National Review). Your description is so apt- it neatly summed up our generational view of conservatives.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Well, the agreement of someone who comes from much the same culture may not be surprizing. Are we right in general, or only about certain Boomers?

cakreiz said...

It's certainly true of Boomers. I'm less sure about this younger bunch, who seem much more infested with bile. I don't know.

Your "not attracted but repelled" equation, which I love, makes me wonder if many of us don't define themselves more in terms of our dislikes than our likes. Somehow, it reminds me of why I'm not a gambler- because the angst of losing is worse than the pleasure of winning. Whatever that means....

cakreiz said...

Normally, I don't apologize for poor editing- sorry. (My stepson just kicked my ass in tennis and I'm exhausted).

copithorne said...

Still, AVI, you can write a thousand words about why you can't provide a single example of "liberal idiocy."

I understand that is the response I characterstically get. So, when I see diatribes about "the left" in which no leftists appear, I just note it. I understand it is futile to ask for examples.

In answer to your questions, yes I think your use of "liberal" and "left" represents a confusion of an intra-psychic object with something going on outside your head.

Just as when Islamic terrorists shout "Death to America." Yes, there is an America. Yes, these people can identify a few characteristic actions on which they hang their animosity. I'm sure they could talk for hours about America and what is evil about it. But I wouldn't say that they have a relationship with an "America" that exists outside their psyche.

George Bush has been a huge influence on my political temperament. But maybe an answer to your question is that I had a long series of conversations a couple of year ago with an out of work machinist who persuaded me that free trade agreements were not a good thing -- as I had thought for years.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I'm dying to see what you find wrong with these, copithorne. Prominent liberals making foolish remarks.

You might hang around those sites as well, in addition to the ones I already listed.

copithorne said...

So, you have a phrase from a U.S. Senator, an insult on cable television and jokes by a late night comic as your examples? I'm not going to take up the insult and the late night comic, but the Senator's remark is a good start.

I find a reference to a full sentence from Dick Durbin's speech:

"During a speech Tuesday, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat quoted from an FBI agent's report describing detainees at the Naval base in Guantanamo Bay as being chained to the floor without food or water in extreme temperatures.

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings," Durbin said.

Now, torture may be consistent with your own values and you may even interpret torture as consistent with American tradition. But even if you disagree, I will assert it is not "idiotic" to say that torture is inconsistent with American values.

I invite you to lay out further why opposition to torture is "idiocy" that has changed your political philosophy. But I don't think you've made your point in the least.

copithorne said...

Here's a link to Senator Durbin's remarks in the congressional record.

It is strange to me that I would have to coach someone with a graduate degree the rudiments of substantiating the points they make. But I want to give you every opportunity to expand on what you find "idiotic" about Senator Durbin's speech.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Hmm, seem to have destroyed my own comment...

Durbin likens these Americans to Nazis and the Soviet Gulag. That is idiocy. If a person makes foolish comments amongst reasonable ones, then I still reserve the right to call him a fool. To accuse me of approving of torture is either to miss the point or change the subject - you tell me which.

Let me put the question another way: are you aware that there are more than a few prominent Democrats who have dropped in sly references to fascism and Stalin? Have you heard that prominent liberal blogsites regularly repeated the belief that the Bush Administration was behind 9-11? Did you know that people believe Bush blew up the levees in New Orleans? That US Senators have accused oil companies of conspiracy? That editorial writers at the NYT suggest that the Religious Right wants a theocracy?

If you have read these things, why do you ask me to verify them for you? If you have not, why do you presume to be up on the national discussion?

copithorne said...

I have to presume that you did not read Senator Durbin's speech because your characterization of what he said is false. I provided the link so that you could look for yourself.

So, you're calling someone an idiot based on your own misunderstanding. That's why I talk about projection.

I can see that constructing psychological defenses out of these sorts of misreadings is important to you. Becoming rooted in what your interlocuters actually say will be an important way forward out of this sort of confusion.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

You seem willing to give one side the benefit of every doubt of meaning, and the other no benefit whatsoever. And my main questions from the last comment remain unanswered. Are you unfamiliar with those claims?

kreiz1 said...

Still one of my all-time favorite posts on any blog. I think of this phrase Conservative issues don't attract me as much as liberal idiocy repels me. at least a couple of times a week.

Anonymous said...

Conservative issues don't attract me as much as liberal idiocy repels me.
Eso es.Yes, sir.
Someone once called me "the un-Democrat." In my youth I voted for Jimmah and George.

Liberal Idiocy 101

Most times that Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi open their mouths.

9/11 Liberal Rxn: "what did we do to make them hate us?"
I had too much experience w sane Arabs, both in growing up and in adult life, to kowtow to the insane Arabs. Middle East History was also a factor.

Liberals fawning over Fidel and the Sandinistas. (Support for Hugo appears to be much more muted, outside of the Kennedy family.) I know Latin America much too well to fall for caudillos like Fidel, the Sandinistas, and Hugo. Very little of the "progressive" catechism about Latin America that I learned at university survived the reality of Latin America.

The Kennedys pretending to be rich people who are for the poor. As a childhood friend worked for the Kennedys one summer, I am rather firm in this opinion.

Obama talking about someone being able to go to Europe and be proud of the US. "Change we are working for." As I worked overseas, and my pride in the US increased w every minute I worked overseas(compared to other countries, the US looks pretty good, even w its imperfections), I considered Obama's remark an insult to the US and to me.

Before Gulf War 1, George McGovern saying on TV that we got peace in Vietnam. No George, we got the PEACE OF THE DEAD. I earned 1-O status during the Vietnam War (didn't have to perform service, as draft needs were later greatly reduced), and the genocide in Cambodia changed my mind.

I was from a small NE town w a lot of farms and attended a regional high school in a larger much more educated town. Very liberal, the town where I attended high school. There was an undercurrent of scorn at the school for the "farmers" of my small town, and also a certain amount of condescending attitude towards my "conservative" backward town. So even while I was also a liberal at an early age, I saw an undercurrent of hypocrisy of some liberals: of being enlightened and tolerant at a distance, but close up of being scornful and condescending.

Copithorne, I am not going to debate w you whether or not these are examples of Liberal Idiocy 101. That is how I decided. How you decide, is your choice. Like AVI, I am a Post-Liberal.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I feel very much like you do about this matter, which is one reason I enjoy checking out your blog as well as Neo-Neocon and a few others with similar perspectives.

A few years ago, I found myself in a relationship with a liberal activist type, and I tried to remain open-minded about him and his ideas, but what I quickly discovered was that he was incapable of making a rational case for his ideas and he had no familiarity with any conservative ideas or thinkers at all. And most of his friends were worse than he was.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

"...And most of his friends were worse than he was."

Yeah, that's often the way it happens. You find someone of different belief who you can relate to for other reasons - and then you meet their friends.

Gringo - what small NE town, if I may ask. I am assuming you mean New England, not Nebraska.

Chad Chandler said...

Copithorne, you wanted examples?

Anonymous said...

Dear AVI. Re: copithorne. "There are none so blind as those who will not see." That's famous. This isn't so famous: "Life is too short to waste precious time arguing with a block of wood."

Re: "leader comment". Pedant that I am, may I suggest you refer to it as the epigraph. :)

Count Grecula said...

Conservative issues don't attract me as much as liberal idiocy repels me.

I think you've hit a nerve, AVI. I know that cetainly describes my disposition. I was pretty apolitical until mid-2003/2004. The sheer stupidity and meanness on display from the Left, which continues unabated, basically beat me over to the Right.

Anonymous said...

Conservative issues don't attract me as much as liberal idiocy repels me.

Nicely said. I saw your quote on another blog (with attribution) and decided to come have a look see.

Nice Post