Even mankind’s best ideas are not immune against abuse. The record, such as mass murder in the name of God –the Wars of religion in Europe, Islamism- secular salvation –Socialism’s GULAG- make the point.
A note jotted down in response to something your correspondent has read says, “Liberalism (in the American sense of the term) is applied hypocrisy”. At first, this appeared to be a finding that this column could not use and so the memo seemed to be headed for oblivion. Upon some reflection, that was not to be.
To begin, a correction is in order. A few years ago, the caveat regarding the American meaning of “liberalism” would have avoided misleading associations. By now, Europe’s Liberals have also fallen victim to the vulnerability of their US ilk. As a result, they have become Social Democrats in their soul. This Achilles heel of Liberalism’s mutations comes from a commitment and of an aversion. If properly applied both express ethical values and are even essential for the function of freedom as a system. As we know, the difference between medicine and poison is the amount of the potion. The adage is true in Liberalism’s inclination to let freedom degenerate into license.
Liberals –located in their own parties or in others - can lose traction to the extent of becoming discredited. To demonstrate their fairness liberals wind up supporting through their unquestioning tolerance political strategies that contradict their principles. This self-disassembly begins with the idea that an intelligent judgment includes the rational analysis of contradictory positions regardless of their source. Indeed, it is true that every idea that commands a majority has once been the idea of a single person. However, from this there is a shortcut to political insanity. The adage does not tell that every idea, even if it sounds mindless, will conquer. Most ideas that appear odd are insane constructions devoid of reason. Considering alternative propositions because it is rational, does not imply that, at the end of their evaluation, no judgment may be rendered. From the right to voice ideas does not follow that these should not be judged, rejected, or even be fought. All men might be equal. But not all ideas are of equal merit.
Contemporary Liberalism tends to ignore that the commitment to principles is not necessarily a sign of stubborn intolerance. The liberal rule to “listen” and to “consider” is one of utility. So is the freedom to do whatever one desires. However, going along with everything anyone might propose is not an obligation of the open-minded citizen moved by the principle of tolerance. Those that tolerate everything will ultimately convince themselves to put up with anything. Overlooking this truth tells why tolerance and freedom, applied without their logical limitations, lead in cities to zones in which the law is suspended and deviants rule that “express themselves and their culture” freely and “passionately”.
In its degenerated form, Liberalism, as represented by those that claim to act in its name, abuses its own idea by allowing it to serve as a pretext for permissiveness. Where claimed freedom and individuality are accepted as excuses to curtail majority rights, there the anarchical rule of crime begins. Any principle of decency that is distorted to justify lawlessness because rules imply coercion, will undermine its credibility as a blueprint to structure society.
Meanwhile, “socialism light” produces policies that have not worked too well at other places and at other times. Forgetting their original commitment to “as little state as possible”, liberals try to bridge the gap between their imposed good intentions and feeble performance with regulations. This is the point at which an alliance with genuine collectivists is forged.
Liberalism’s frantic attempt is to be “fair”, is interpreted as an “understanding” for all political actors. In real life, the adherents wind up opposing only weak enemies -such as the past’s “Fascism.” This approach undermines the credibility of liberals and it damages the political culture of the societies they influence. The effort to show polite “appreciation” for all is accompanied by purposeful amnesia. Its target is the past record of the forces liberals choose not to oppose so as to demonstrate their virtuous tolerance. This combines with the steadfast ignorance of present behavior that includes the manipulative suppression of facts. Such as in “a hospitalized local resident was accosted by a band that robbed and beat him. The attackers wore… The police request your help to apprehend …” What is not accidentally missing is the looks of the perpetrators and the language they used. However, if the criminals are natives, this is emphasized to “combat prejudice”. (Such formulations reveal that one is to look for “asylum seekers” or other guests.)
Systematically ignoring the misdeeds of hostile elements because these are “sincerely committed” to “their ways” can signify something other than a commitment to diversity; a lack of a principle is revealed. When this happens, a step is taken towards political oblivion. Elections and trends in several countries confirm it.
Endangering those societies that are exposed to it, “real-existent” Liberalism is inclined to suspect those that show a firm commitment to the core values of their indigenous culture. This happens in the name of unbiased objectivity that claims to be open to inputs by not pre-judging anyone. Never mind that a warmed-up old idea that failed is not a new vision. Ignoring that, to demonstrate your open mindedness, one lands in a value-free zone. If once there, you conclude that for some reason you must not assert your principles, then at best, you are confused. Having reached that state you will find yourself affirming that, if many say “it feels good” then it must be good and may be done. This is the point where liberals tend to endorse aberrant practices by acting as their apologists.
The inclination to indulge in moral ambivalence has sources besides the listed “tolerance”, the “respect” for “cultural peculiarities” and a commitment-deprived “openness”. Call the missing link that serves to right everything, “the pedestal complex”. As a movement, Liberalism is inclined to proclaim itself to be the embodiment of the “good” and the “rational”. From this attractive pedestal, it likes to place a halo upon itself. So adorned, the new Liberalism can ignore the consequences of it endorsed policies and to overlook the damage caused by what it tolerates. It is this lack of self-check at which that “applied hypocrisy” enters the picture.