Here’s a thought I had:
Over the years, I have grown to despise liberalism. More specifically, I am speaking of the form of liberalism that developed in about 1970, plus or minus, in the U.S. This period of time caused the development of attitudes that still persist to this day. In fact, the general attitude of the U.S. is from about 1970. Its as if the U.S. is stuck in the 1970’s. It still maintains attitudes that originated there and interprets things as if we were still in the 1970’s. Because of this, this era defines the liberalism that is prevalent today. I speak of this form of liberalism as “70’s liberalism”.
Liberalism from, say, the 1800’s is not the same as “70’s liberalism”. Supposedly, liberalism (or the liberal attitude) appears to of originated in Italy in the late middle ages. It seems to be a result of the increasing wealth caused by the merchant class which required changes to the existing social structure, laws, and such. In short, liberalism seems to be a reaction to the fact that money is power. This was not the case in the era preceding it in which social structure is power. During this time, social structure (who’s in charge, where you stand in society, etc.) was the main power in society. This is common for smaller societies . . . its what holds them together. This is why it is so important. As the population grows the social structure starts to be replaced by laws, customs, regulations, etc. and social structure tends to deteriorate in power. As a result, money becomes more influential and powerful. In a sense, money “buys” power. To put it another way, the power of money ends up replacing the power of social structure. This situation causes a whole change in society and can cause great tension and problems in a society. What ends up happening is that there becomes a reorientation of things in response to the change in “power”. This reorientation appears in many different ways depending on the society. It can appear in ways such as a social turmoil, a civil war, or a political coup, among other things. In Italy one of the ways it appeared is in the creation of liberal attitudes which became the origin of liberalism.
It appears, to me, that Christianity had a big impact on the development of liberal attitudes in Italy and, in a way, helped create it. This is no wonder as Italy was the “capitol” of Western Christiandom. Because of this, the liberal attitude is very much rooted in Christian attitudes. This is why liberal attitudes have many religious-like qualities that have persisted down to today. These include:
- An emphasis on “high cause”, sometimes having a point of view that liberal attitudes will “save” us (just like Christianity professed to do).
- A self-righteous quality.
- A tendency to preaching.
- An emphasis on fairness and being “peaceful”, emphasizing the Christian ideal of peace and love.
- It tended to cause change by the use of intellectualism and thought (reminiscent of the Christian conversion process which requires a person to “understand” the gospel – see my article “Thoughts on some of the effects of Christianity on the glorification of understanding, reading, learning, and intellectualism“).
We could speak of this as an “early liberalism phase”. This seems to be before the Protestant Reformation (early 1500’s).
When the Protestant Reformation appeared there developed deeper harsher feelings . . . they were so deep, in fact, that they led to wars. The Protestant Reformation created another reorientation of power to happen. Before, it was caused by money as power. Now it was the question of religion as power. The new Protestant religions forced a “breaking away” from the power and rule of the Catholic church, which was a significant aspect of the social structure of society. But much of this “breaking away” was “forced” by war and conflict, which restricted the development of liberal attitudes as a source of change. Despite this, the great religious conflict that ensued seemed to “force” a liberalism to happen, however small, primarily of an “acceptance” of the other religions as well as a limiting of the power of ones own religion. But even the effect of this was limited because there developed a “you stay over there and we’ll stay over here” point of view to solve the problem. As a result, the liberalism this era created was limited. We could call this “religious conflict based liberalism”. This dominated in the 1500-1600’s.
Beginning in the 1700’s, the continual overpopulation that plagued Europe caused many social problems. Because of this, a new power appeared: the mob as power. As with the previous situations, this new power caused a new reorientation which caused tension. One effect of this was the rise in a new form of liberalism and liberal attitudes. It seems that, now that the mob had power, the liberalism hit deeper into the population and, accordingly, caused a deeper and more extensive reaction. We could call this “overpopulation based liberalism”.
Overall, then, we can see a pattern that, up to this time, liberalism is a reaction to the coming of a new social “power” that is upsetting the existing “power”. As a result, it is a manifestation of a conflict between these two conflicting “powers”. In this way, liberalism means a “freeing” or “liberation” from the existing social order.
After the Napoleonic Wars new conditions created a new form of liberalism. The conditions of the 1800’s created many new and difficult social problems that would have great impact on liberalism. Its here, in the 1800’s, that we see liberalism develop many varied and unique qualities. Also, during this time, there developed a rise in the merchant class and, accordingly, a rise in the fact that money is power, reviving the earlier conflict. In addition, the liberal attitude became applied to many different situations creating many forms of liberalisms. It also infiltrated into the lives of everyday people. Because of this, we could probably say that it was in the 1800’s that liberalism became closely associated with social problems. This closeness to social problems brought in whole new conflicts and qualities to liberalism changing its form. As a result of this, liberalism began to be associated with things like these:
- A breakdown of an existing social order.
- A form of restructuring (or an attempt at it anyways).
- New ideas and points of view.
- Because this often entails breaking down social conventions its often associated with an attack on society, perhaps to the point of being revolutionary.
- There’s a sense of self-righteous cause.
These things, based in social conflict, would become associated with liberalism ever since and, in some sense, defines it. Because of this, we could describe this form of liberalism as “social conflict based liberalism”. This was prevalent from the 1800’s to the mid-1900’s.
Because there were so many forms of social conflicts there developed many different forms of conflict between the two “powers”. It could appear in a number of ways:
- An actual conflict. A good example is Catholic versus Protestant . . . these were real “powers” that conflicted with each other.
- A passive conflict. This means that there are two orientations that are not really conflicting but, being next to each other, they don’t “mix”, causing problems. A good example might be the problems dealing with homosexual people.
- An imagined conflict. This is a conflict that really doesn’t cause any problems but people think it does. Often, its caused because one group is too adamant about their “cause” (such as vegetarians saying that eating meat is a form of “murder”).
- The “rebellious” conflict. This is conflict created by someone who is just rebelling to rebel. This, I feel, is far more prevalent than it may, at first, seem.
We can see then that, during the “social conflict based liberalism”, liberalism began to be used not only for “real” conflicts but “imagined” conflicts or just any conflict at all. In short, then, by the late 1800’s, or so, liberalism was no longer based about a conflict of “powers”, necessarily, but as a mechanism for any social conflict, “real” or “imagined“. In fact, I would even go on to say that, liberalism is now PRIMARILY used when there is some form of opposition to the existing social order. That, it seems, is the primary “value” of liberalism nowadays. In a way, it was used to “justify” ones position against the existing society one feels in conflict with. This is particularly so if one is, in some way, opposing current society in some way, such as:
- Having a different viewpoint or belief.
- Being “different” in some way.
- Not being able to “fit in” to the society.
- Active opposition, criticism, condemnation, etc. of the society or something about the society.
- Being rebellious for rebellions sake.
- They just have some “issue” with the society, whatever its source or reason.
In short, liberalism became a “defense” against conflicting with the existing society. What this means is that any one taking liberal viewpoints are typically opposing or conflicting with the existing order in some way. In other words, people who do not have problems with the existing society generally do not take liberal views. This fact is not surprising as it shows the particularly strong and demanding quality of conformism and values that was found in Victorian society and which caused many people problems. In this way, the demands of Victorian society helped create the “social conflict based liberalism”. We could then say that liberalism became particularly prevalent as a result of the social rebellion that strong Victorian values created. This is because this rebellion pitted the people against the society as a whole. Liberalism, which was an already existing attitude and point of view, was a likely “support” and “justification”. In this way, liberalism was extensively used by people who felt a rebellion against Victorian values.
Its really no surprise, then, that liberalism was used as a justification for breaking the strict Victorian “moral code”. One particularly strong aspect of the Victorian “moral code” was the issue of morality. Many people struggled with the strong Victorian moral ethics. It became a cause, for many people, to rebel against Victorian society as well as to go against it. As a result of this, liberalism became associated with “lax morality” to the point of “immorality” or even “no morality“. This is because liberalism was used by people who were “rebelling” against moral codes and conventions. This, in a way, would establish liberalism as the “philosophical point of view” used by people who were rebelling against society. This worked so well that it made it so that liberalism began to be used as an “authority” for any “rebelling” against the existing society and social structure. In some cases, some people even used liberalism as a “justification” for rebellion or immorality and as a “cause”.
Because liberalism is based in opposing existing society it shows that it is primarily a reactionary point of view. That is to say, its a reaction to the social conditions and reality. This would be one of its great weaknesses. Since liberalism is based in reacting it does not really establish anything. Its almost as if there needs to be “something reacted against” to make liberalism valid and legitimate. In short, as an independent philosophy liberalism doesn’t have enough to stand on its own (for example, there is no established “liberal philosophy”). As a result, liberalism is always “hanging on” and never quite completes itself nor does it establish anything. In some respects, it takes on a quality much like a “leech” or a “parasite” on society. Its only action is in reaction. Its main point of view is always in opposing something else, never in being something on its own.
This tendency of “never being something on its own” tends to make it so that liberalism takes on the quality of a “half philosophy” that never quite becomes “complete”. This fact tends to make it a “perpetually frustrated” philosophy with “perpetually frustrated” people. In other words, liberalism tends to be made up of frustrated people which makes them easily or always “upset” about something. To me, this is one of the hallmark traits of a liberal . . . one can often tell a liberal as they are too easily upset by things.
With the coming of the cold war after WWII, and the social tensions it caused, the liberal point of view would again become prevalent. This seemed to reach a defined form by about 1970. This “70’s liberalism” was very much based in the “social conflict based liberalism”. This especially includes:
- The idea of rebelling against the social norm and social structure.
- The idea of a “lax morality”.
This became, it seems, something of a basis for its development. These are themes that were prevalent in about 1970 and were used a lot. In this way, we see that “70’s liberalism” is actually a continuation of the “social conflict based liberalism” and, in this way, is really a reflection of the Victorian era. This is not surprising as the 1970’s was really the end of the Victorian era.
The historical circumstances that surround “70’s liberalism”, though, had great impact on it, giving it many unique qualities and attitudes as well as giving it a specific form. Some strong elements include:
- The cold war hysteria. This caused a social hysteria and panic. It got to the point of paranoia, conspiracy theories, and an overall fear (see my article “Thoughts on the 70’s mentality and its continuation: the continuation of cold war hysteria“).
- The “hippi movement”. The hippi, in some respects, represented the “liberal a la grande” as they went against the social norms, codes, and social structure, almost a direct descendent of the anti-Victorians who rebelled against Victorian society. As a result, liberalisms attitude permeated the movement.
- The glorification of democracy. The war against communism caused a great glorification of democracy, the American Constitution, and American ideals. These were often treated as if they came from God. Quoting the Constitution, for example, was much akin to quoting the Bible many years ago. In fact, “70’s liberalism” has repetitively used the Constitution as the basis of its “authority”, often distorting and twisting it out of proportion to suit its own ends. This has created a whole distorted and warped view of the Constitution and American law, in my opinion (see my articles “More thoughts on the cold war interpretation of the U.S. Constitution – the ‘frigid war’, ‘the re-enactment of the American Revolutionary War’, and the ‘historical shadow’“, “Thoughts on the cold war interpretation of the U.S. Constitution: distortion “in the name of the Constitution”“).
- Social mania. This, no doubt, has a lot to do with the amount and new forms of mass media that was first appearing at this time. This was the first generation to really be faced with so much mass media on this scale in history and, as a result, fell to its sway quite heavily. TV, radio, music, etc. all contributed to a tendency to social mania.
These historical conditions gave some unique traits to “70’s liberalism”, as a result of the unique historical circumstances that surround the time period, and which give it its particular “flavor”. Some of these qualities include:
- Blind fear. The cold war hysteria has created a deep inner fear that runs through much of “70’s liberalism”. Often, this is “hidden” deep down. Despite this, it motivates much of what they do. An effect of this blind fear is that there is a tendency to see the worst in things. In addition, they will automatically assume malicious intent (see my article “Thoughts on my statement: “The cold war is over. We don’t have to see malicious intent in peoples actions anymore . . . ” – the cold war warpage of American ideals, law, and political views and other things“). They will also see hatred where there is none. I’ve seen many liberals whose whole world view is one of feeling threatened by the world. They feel as if the world is plotting against them, trying to do them harm. They also see threats everywhere and in everything. Because of this, they are often very paranoid. Much of this has origin in the cold war hysteria.
- Using the American Constitution, politics, and law as a defense. In fact, they tend to hide behind it and often use it as a weapon. Oftentimes, the American Constitution is often used as an “authority” for much of its claims.
- It believes itself to be a “high cause”. There is a tendency for them to think that their views are great world-changing views and great philosophies. In short, they have an over-inflated view of themselves.
- Blind Idealism. This tends to develop a pie-in-the-sky mentality which is prevalent in the liberal point of view. Many liberals have a vision of the world and life that is unrealistic and nothing but a fantasy. I’ve often been stunned at how the view the world in such a false way.
- It is reactionary. All they’re doing is reacting to a situation. Because of this, liberalism is not an attitude that takes the initiative. As a result, it tends to always find fault with the existing conditions (which it opposes, of course) and condemns it. As a result, liberalism tends to develop an attitude of condemnation and criticism.
- It often hides a deep mistrust and hatred toward humanity . . . “evil human nature”. Many liberals, I’ve found, have bad views about humanity that they hide behind the façade of liberalism. Much of this originates from the cold war hysteria and its attack on “evil human nature” (ideas such as mankind’s love for “war” and “violence”, mankind’s “hate” of other people, etc. – notice how many of these themes are based in Christian principles and ideals!). Because of this, many liberals have used liberalism as a means to express their own mistrust and hatred toward humanity.
- It has a “save the world” mentality. They seem to think that their viewpoint will save the world. They also think that the world has to be saved.
- They want to “change the world”. This shows how self-righteous they are, as if they are the ones who know what’s best for the world. Of course, they view their point of view as the great-all point of view in the world.
- It creates a very controlling system. Liberalism tends to think it is against a controlling system, almost as if they are crusading against it and are liberating society from some form of control (such as from the government or tradition). In actuality, all liberalism seems to do is to create a new form of a controlling system that is actually ften more controlling. More than once have I described liberal policies and laws as “tyrannical” and something like a “police state”. Look at what liberalism creates! Can’t do this. Can’t do that. This is a crime. That’s a crime. You can get sued for a simple stupid thing. You must be careful of what you say. Everything must be “politically correct”. Its like you got to walk on tip-toes around liberals . . . everything upsets them, and their solution to getting upset: CONTROL!
- It creates a “society of unconscious fear”. They see threats everywhere, they see bad things in everyday things, etc. This makes it so that liberalism creates a generalized environment of fear that is unconscious. They usually don’t see that as they feel their liberal views “protect” them. As an outsider looking into their world it doesn’t take a genius to see that the world the liberals create is one based in fear.
- It creates people that are frightened, nervous, and frustrated and get upset over everything. Many liberals, I’ve found, have an almost neurotic quality about them.
In short, “70’s liberalism seems to entail a bunch of people that are, deep down, frightened and scared of the world. As a result, they hide behind the “high cause” of liberalism and the Constitution. In addition, this fear makes them want to “change everything”, thinking that it will end their fears. This gives “70’s liberalism” a quality of hypocrisy and a lack of genuineness and sincerity.
One of the things we see is that what the 70’s and the cold war created was a tendency where liberalism is used as a “cover” for personal problems, fears, dilemmas, and such. In other words, personal problems are projected as “political problems”, “social problems”, “legal problems”, etc. In this way, they try to solve personal problems through the society.
Much of these problems are rooted in the blind fear the cold war hysteria started. Its as if the cold war hysteria highlighted, and exaggerated, many deep fears people have. This was exaggerated, and distorted, by the social mania which was prevalent in the 1970’s. This made it even worse causing a great exaggeration of it all. In fact, social mania is what made cold war hysteria, with its blind fear, so prevalent and widespread.
One of the effects the cold war hysteria brought out is a fear of the world. In other words, people took the stance that the world was against them and they needed to protect themselves from it. More than once have I said that “70’s liberalism” really amounts to saying “I’m scared of he world” which they are unwilling to admit to themselves. Because of this, much of liberal thinking, and liberal ideas, is nothing but an attempt at a defense against their personal fear of the world, which they won’t admit to themselves.
This fear can also appear as a fear of any violence and death. The best example of this, I think, is how I’ve heard many vegetarians and vegans say that killing an animal is “murder” (see my article “Thoughts on how we kill living things “in their prime” for food“). Its got to the point, even, that you can’t even spank your own kids. You can’t get mad and you can’t express bad feelings. We see, here, the element of control and unconscious fear that is so prevalent with liberal thinking: you CAN’T because they FEAR it.
Often the blind fear turns into an apprehension of the world. One of the ways this appears is as an unwillingness to accept certain facts about life. In this way, some liberals use liberalism as a way to DENY certain facts in life that they don’t want to accept. For example, the fact that wars happen, that people don’t like other people, that you must kill animals to eat them, etc. In this way, liberalism becomes a means of denial more than anything else. More than once have I said that what most liberals need to do is to learn to accept certain “facts” about life. Once they do this, they will cease having liberal views. One effect of liberals who take this point of view is that the more these liberals succeed in using liberalism to deny certain facts, the more they tend to develop a pie-in-the-sky mentality. In other words, they tend to become blindly idealistic and develop a phantasy-like and unrealistic attitude about life. This makes it so that liberals often develop a very naïve, unrealistic, and simplistic view of life. They want things to be “rosy” and the way they want it. In fact, its the qualities of being naïve and unrealistic that often tells me a person takes liberal views.
In some respects, “70’s liberalism” as if offers itself as the “new Christianity”, the “new saviour” of humanities problems. This is not surprising as it is rooted in Christian thinking, as I said at the beginning. Because of the use of Christianity they often use the authority of Christianity as the basis of its own philosophy. In other words, its not their authority but Christian authority that they rely on. This gives them a sense of self-righteousness and “high cause” and a tendency to use Christian themes. This “leeching” off of other authorities is also seen in another form: the authority of democracy and the Constitution. Because of the historical circumstance of the cold war, which was based in democracy and the Constitution, this became prevalent in the 1970’s. Liberalism, during this time, used politics for as much as it could. It found that, by citing democracy and the Constitution, that it gave them power. As a result, “70’s liberalism” tends to use the authority of politics to excess and in ridiculous proportions. More than once have I said that liberals “pull politics out like a weapon”. Both of these situations show a pattern where the authority of “70’s liberalism” is “leeched” off of or taken from other authorities. In other words, they do not have an inherent authority all their own. This tendency, to me, is another example how it is not a “stable philosophy”.
What we see, then, is that historical conditions has brought in many other qualities that, in a way, has turned “70’s liberalism” from just a “point of view” or “opinion”, as it was originally, to a “world view”. In other words, “70’s liberalism” has taken on the qualities of a philosophy of how the world works. In this way, it has “over reached” itself, and gone beyond the limits of its capabilities. This philosophy does not have the depth, the breadth, and the extent to be a “world view”. As a result, liberalism tends to create a limited, naïve, and narrow view of things.
Ironically enough, “7o’s liberalism” is unchanging. Though it professes to be “liberal” and “causes change” it, in itself, is a rigid and defined point of view. In my opinion, “70’s liberalism” is usually more rigid than the points of view it opposes. This is often not noticed as “70’s liberalism” seldom “takes over” . . . it only affects things. If “70’s liberalism” were to really take over, say, politics then I think people will begin to see how rigid, unchanging, and controlling it really is. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a rebellion against liberalism takes place.
From how it appears to me, “70’s liberalism” is undermining to society as a whole (for example, see my article “Thoughts on the damaging effects of liberal points of views“). Despite all its “high cause” and fancy explanations it is still consists of qualities such as these:
- Its a “philosophy of opposition”.
- Its a “philosophy of fear”.
- Its a “philosophy of control”.
- Its a “self-righteous philosophy”.
- Its a “naïve philosophy”.
These, overall, are not constructive for any society. I tend to view “70’s liberalism” as something which “brings us down” or “keeps things on a low level”.
One point that is particularly damaging and undermining about “70’s liberalism”, in my opinion, is that it promotes ‘blind change’. What I mean by this is that it tends to promote ANY change to the existing social condition, good or bad, and it does it blindly and indiscriminately. This tendency is a continuation of the liberal attitude, particularly from the Victorian era, where liberalism was used as a means to oppose and rebel against the existing social conditions, moral values, and such (see above). In the 1970’s this “rebellious attitude” got so “carried away” that it became ridiculous and asinine. In a way, the mania of the 1970’s turned liberalism into the absurd joke that it is now. We must remember that the quality of mania is of being “mindless” and having no “common sense”, people are overrun by their emotions and thoughts. As a result, this mania quality gives “70’s liberalism” a quality of mindlessness. Oftentimes, this mania is rooted in a social-based mania (no doubt reflective of the many new mass media’s that were appearing at this time of history – see above). This is one reason why liberalism often follows social channels, following whatever social mania happens to be “popular” at the time. Because of this, “70’s liberalism” is often nothing but a reflection of the current social mania going on at the time. This fact gives a “flock of sheep” quality to many liberals. Another quality that has made this mania and mindlessness even more ridiculous and damaging is a self-righteous attitude. This self-righteousness attitude, coupled with mania and mindlessness, do not make a good combination. Comparing it to a flock of sheep, its like wherever the sheep turn they are saying “we’re right, the direction we are going is the right direction”. They turn one direction and are “right”, turn another and are “right”, and so on. In actuality, though, all they are doing is following the herd . . . there’s no “right” in which direction they take, they just think there is. All this gives “70’s liberalism” a quality of a maniacal self-righteous mindlessness. This can give liberals a quality of being “insane” at times. Its not surprising that, more than once, have I heard of people speak of “insane liberal views” (even I’ve said that).
Liberalism, though, has had positive and beneficial effects. In this way, it has had a constructive impact on society. I speak, though, of pre-1970’s liberalism. This early form of liberalism has helped society, for example, move from different phases of society (such as a small society orientation to a mass society orientation). Some of the ways it was beneficial include:
- It allowed for a somewhat transition.
- It does not get too self-righteous and they don’t get carried away with a “high cause”.
- It is not rooted in fear.
- It is not that oppositional. It only went against the existing social structure as was necessary.
- There is little social mania involved.
- Once it does its purpose it disappears.
In short, it “doesn’t get carried away”, does its job, and disappears. These traits are not found in “70’s liberalism”. I feel that this is because “70’s liberalism” is too rooted in things like these:
- Excessive blind fear.
- Social mania.
- Blind opposition and rebellion.
- A lack of constructiveness.
- The creation of a controlling system.
- It gets “carried away”.
- It tries to leave a lasting effect on the society.
These all, in my opinion, create a philosophy that is more undermining than anything else. It is totally different than the liberalism that preceded it and is, as far as I’m concerned, a whole other beast. In this way, I do not really consider “70’s liberalism” as being representative of liberalism, as a whole, but an offshoot that has gone extreme.
Copyright by Mike Michelsen