Sunday, April 22, 2012
All the Morals of a Bulldozer
Sultan Knish To be genuinely outraged about something, you need to actually believe in something. Without principles, outrage is just tactical anger, or bullying in plainer language. Principles, values and codes are universal. That is if you are angry about a dog being mistreated by riding on top of a car, then you should at least be equally angry at dogs being eaten. If a man shooting another man after a confrontation and not being charged for it angers you, then it should anger you regardless of the color of his skin. For that matter if racism or sexism offends you, then it should offend you regardless of whether it is directed at a woman or a black man who is a liberal or a conservative. It's child play to notice that the game doesn't work this way anymore. That the media engages in displays of tactical anger, serious-face inquiries into issues that they are concerned about only when they benefit their side, manufactured outrage that is not based on any deeply held beliefs, but only on the need to score some points. If Republicans seem slower on the uptake, it's because their ranks tend to be stocked with old fashioned types who even in their more liberal incarnations still try to maintain consistent values. The mindset that that they confront is alien to all but a few of their opposition political operatives. It is a mindset devoid of any values, operating on a Pavlovian reflex that reacts to talking points without framing them in any larger context. Media moral bullying follows this course, raising issues that they pretend are vital principles, but stop being so the moment they no longer benefit them. The iron clad value of a moment ago is discarded into the trash a second later. The serious faces relax, the twitter accounts go dead and all the attention is refocused on some truly important issue, like the next iPhone. It's not entirely cynical, though it mostly is. The people behaving this way have lost the ability to recognize enduring abstract principles that have an existence beyond their emotions of the moment. They don't live by rules, rather rules live by them, if they are angry, then their anger is a moral issue, if they are not angry, it isn't. Emotions are the only moral barometer that people who cannot see beyond the self have. That makes them natural bullies, their shows of outrage lifting their anger up to self-righteousness. Their tactical anger is part pretense, part real, and even they don't really know the difference anymore. They have been taught that their momentary moral tantrums make them good people, they have not however been taught to be good people. They believe that they are right because they are angry and that they are angry because they are right. It's an attitude you can see in traffic arguments, in divorce court and on the evening news. Like well trained Oceanians, it depends on audiences in colorful Keffiyah scarves and ironic t-shirts who rise eagerly for the daily Two-Minute Hates, shouting against racism, patriarchy, carbon, oil, corporate personhood and logos, gun rights, animal testing, heteronormative bathrooms and any of the endless list of things to be outraged by, without the ability to apply their denunciations to a moral code. Oceanian propaganda was deliberately inconsistent so that none of its citizens developed a consistent code that might allow them to judge the system even by its own rules. Left-wing talking points tend to be like that, consistently inconsistent, willfully senseless, cultivating an instinct for mob rage, for hours of political analysis, but no steady rules of conduct that would apply to the analyzers. The only consistent principle that we are good and they are bad. If you understand that Republicans are racists, that a cabal of corporations, zionists and christian fanatics are plotting to take over the country, and that they hate anyone who is different from them, then you have all the context that you need to understand the liberal message. Without that it's gibberish. With it, it's simplistic but comprehensible propaganda. Boiled down to its essence, the liberal message is that we are good people, because they are bad people. The new Democrats sticker which reads, "Not a Republican" aptly sums up this void. It follows that good people cannot be bad and that bad people cannot be good, and once you accept this message, no further ethics or morals are needed. The very goodness of your side is all the moral code you need. Identity politics substitutes for a moral code, not so much racial politics as racial tolerance politics which holds that liberals are more ethical, because they are more tolerant, better people because they care. The only crime they are ever guilty of is caring too much. Even the Communists and the terrorists were just too outraged by all the capitalism, racism and zionism, and had no choice but to start shooting and starving people. It's possible to spend years immersed in this swill without realizing that none of it is moral or ethical, that it's "They are bad, we are good" blaring from every radio and television set. Morality and ethics is about principles that apply across the board. When your only principle is that your group is good and your enemies are bad, then not only are you devoid of morals and ethics, but you are incapable of recognizing immoral and unethical behavior except with a gut instinct that your ideology has trained you to discard. Cognitive dissonance sets in over everything from Communist gulags to Occupy Wall Street rapes, if things aren't supposed to happen, then they never did. When the ideological good confronts the real world bad, either ideology dies or morality dies. Historically it's more often been the latter than the former. Just ask one of the good Nazis or good Communists who had decent home lives, loved their children and pets, and kept on believing in everything except right and wrong. When you take a bulldozer to traditional values, what takes its place is bulldozer ideology, the expedient virtue of bulldozing things and the virtue of whatever rises in their place. Once you believe in the bulldozer, then you must also believe in whatever mess follows in its wake, otherwise you are forced to take a long hard look at the virtue of the bulldozer. And once that happens, you are one step away from becoming a reactionary clinging to traditional values. What has grown in the wake of the bulldozer is bulldozer ethics, situational ethics that justify the virtue of bulldozing things as a vital moral principle, disguising their appeal in calls to fairness, justice, decency, tolerance and a thousand other virtues that they never practice across the board. Bulldozer values call forth explosive faux moral tantrums at anything that stands in front of the bulldozer. These tantrums can be seen on the late night news, on the front page of the New York Times, which long ago stopped relegating its moral tantrums and special pleading to the editorial page, on liberal blogs and a thousand other places. They don't however represent moral or ethics, only the virtue of the bulldozer-- the virtue of power. The country must know about Romney's dog riding on top of the car. Why? Because it shows that Romney is a bad person. They must not know about Obama eating dogs, because it might make him 'wrongly' seem like a bad person. The only consistent value here is that of the bulldozer. Obama is driving the bulldozer, and so he must be protected, just the same way that the media protected Clinton in his own private war on women and their right to say no to being groped or propositioned, because back then he was driving the bulldozer. When Clinton briefly got in the way of Obama's bulldozer, then the media bulldozed him. There is genuine anger over Romney's dog on their side, not because they care about dogs, though they often do, in the same detached way that they care about the Third World, but because they already believe that he is a bad person. Any anecdote that makes him a bad person feeds their anger. It isn't an outrage based on principles, but on their burning hate for anyone who stands in front of the bulldozer. They already know that all such people are bad, any story that reinforces this feeds into an existing anger, much the same way that people who hate Jews, Christians, the Chinese, women or dog owners feed off selective incidents that fit their narrative. And they mistake their shoddy bigotry for moral outrage. When your only moral value is that of the bulldozer and its destructive rampage, then you have all the moral values of your chosen instrument. The moral tantrums are destructive, rather than constructive, they never seem to fulfill their stated mission of healing America and making it a better place (unless you consider provoking multiple racist attacks over the Zimmerman case to be that) but like driving a bulldozer into someone's house, they make them feel good. And that is what it's really all about. The ego. The moral power of the self. The destruction of the old by people who are convinced that they are the new order. That they are the young, even when they are old. That the destruction they leave in their wake is really construction. And that anyone who thwarts their destructive impulses is the enemy and that destroying him is an absolute good. These are the morals of the bulldozer and the values of liberal America.