Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Professional Left

This is a subject I know little about. The people of the left I encounter are largely amateur. They might volunteer for a cause, or send money, but their primary contribution to advancing any overall progressivism seems to be confined to creating a social environment in which their people are acknowledged as the good and pure ones, while their opponents work from evil motive. I have written about this partly because of its pathetic nature - a permanent high-school culture devoted to who is cool on the street.

None of them get rich off this. There are certainly jobs and promotions in many fields (some almost entirely) which depend on this indirectly, as in jaed's comment about the "aspirational class" in my post on flag pins. But the people I have met who make their living this way are few, and none in my current experience. I have known attorneys who take up particular causes with an interest in changing American law in dramatic ways. But most of these make their living defending individuals in that realm, folks who are often poor and have legitimate grievances and need of protection under the current system.

Come to think of it, the really radical people I have come in contact with tend to be speakers brought in at work, who come from one or another nonprofit. Those, I suppose, might fit the description of Professional Left. They don't make anything, serve anyone, or do anything, really. They go around telling people what ideas they should have, and lend their weight to legislative and civil-action endeavors.

So I pass along the link about Professional Leftists by Richard Fernandez, and the related essay by Oleg at The People's Cube with some hesitation. I know that such lobbyists exist. I know that the directors of NGO's, nonprofits, and foundations are much more liberal than I, and that it stands to reason that the most committed radicals would seek out such positions. But I don't know any. It sounds plausible.

The plausibility derives from an entirely different direction. There is a CS Lewis essay The Inner Ring, which I believe was published in The Weight of Glory. It bears the same title as the Fernandez article, and seems to describe something of the same phenomenon in a more general way. A sample:
In the passage I have just read from Tolstoy, the young second lieutenant Boris Dubretskoi discovers that there exist in the army two different systems or hierarchies. The one is printed in some little red book and anyone can easily read it up. It also remains constant. A general is always superior to a colonel, and a colonel to a captain. The other is not printed anywhere. Nor is it even a formally organised secret society with officers and rules which you would be told after you had been admitted. You are never formally and explicitly admitted by anyone. You discover gradually, in almost indefinable ways, that it exists and that you are outside it; and then later, perhaps, that you are inside it.

There are what correspond to passwords, but they are too spontaneous and informal. A particular slang, the use of particular nicknames, an allusive manner of conversation, are the marks. But it is not so constant. It is not easy, even at a given moment, to say who is inside and who is outside. Some people are obviously in and some are obviously out, but there are always several on the borderline. And if you come back to the same Divisional Headquarters, or Brigade Headquarters, or the same regiment or even the same company, after six weeks’ absence, you may find this secondary hierarchy quite altered.
This is the world that I know, and have written much about. I am only seeing at this moment how profoundly this essay has affected since I first read it some thirty years ago. I have been always on guard against this temptation - perhaps those around me might wish I had focused on different sins. Though there is nothing of doctrine or politics in it, this essay has formed many of my religious, social, and political belief.

If one takes it seriously, it can lead to despair: the knowledge that there are others who will wield enormous power over you, in your everyday life and in the wider world. You might have joined them, or attempted to. You might have become a macher. We write, and argue, and persuade; we do our jobs, we give our tithes and offerings, we try to move in the world as God commands; we vote, we buy, and sometimes when called are even able to be a little heroic. But we are the small people, and others, who even in full humility we can see are less worthy, will have their way.

But beyond the despair is the comfort: it was ever thus, in every age and place. This is the world God has assigned us to, and we are asked no more than to be found at our post when the call comes. We might by chance fall into a place where our pebble selves turn the tide of the great river. But if not, no matter. The call is the same.

I have little hope that the church in America will revive and become a beacon. I believe the center of its gravity is passing to the Third World, while we here abandon doctrine for works, and works for doctrine, ending up with neither. I do not see an America where the encroach of government into our lives is finally thrown back, or even significantly lessened. Bureaucratism will take its inexorable toll, technology in the hands of do-gooders will do evil, and being a peaceable people, we will find no single incident that is too much, forcing us to act and disassemble the whole mess and start again. Our grandchildren will put up with intrusions we think abhorrent, but they find minor.

Yet this bothers me very little, and changes my outlook not at all. It was ever thus. This is the lot that mankind has always faced, and 99% of it worse than mine. As one good dies and evil triumphs, God sends another good from an unexpected direction, growing in near-secret while we watch the destruction of nations.

I also wonder if something of Lewis advice is in my mind in my suspicion of Chicago, as contrasted with my approval of Barmen, in the previous post.
"Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule."

1 comment:

GM Roper said...

AVI, in my experience, there is not only the "professional left" but professionals who are leftists. Let me explain

I've been in the mental health field for some 40+ years now. Starting as a recreation therapist in 1969 then moving up to caseworker, program director, chief of staff services, and through Director of Special Programs before leaving for the private sector. All of my friends who are in the helping professions such as Psychologists, Social Workers, Counselors, Marriage and Family counselors, RN's, and Psychiatrists are lefties with the exception of maybe 5% of us that are confirmed conservatives of one stripe or another.

"How can you be a therapist, helping people and be conservative.

My only response has typically been (in a tone reserved for the politically correct crowd) "How can you be as educated as you are and not be conservative?"

Sadly, few of us on the left or right are willing to engage in dialogue that might change minds and history, instead opting for name calling and derision. Me included. I gotta work on that :D