Monday, February 21, 2005

The ossified avante-garde

Belmont Club: "Paradoxically, dogmatism is rooted in relativism more than in the belief that real truth is discoverable. For as long as the truth is believed to be 'out there'; it will be sought. When its existence is doubted none will venture into the dark. Under those conditions, we get exactly what Peretz describes: an illogical attachment to old formulations of the 1960s, which can be uttered only because they are hallowed."

While "dogmatism is rooted in relativism" is not true historically (since relativism is relatively recent), as far as the present day is concerned I think that Wretchard is largely correct. I can't recall the last time that a leftist (I wouldn't call them "liberal") made a cogent defense of leftist beliefs. Leftist thinking seems to be promulgated largely though control of education and the mass media (journalism and entertainment), by virtue of the fact that it is often the only side that is represented, or represented fairly. Its validity is considered to be so self-evidently correct that only a fool would question it, with the result that now whole generations have bought into it uncritically so as not to be fools. This is demonstrated whenever a challange to leftist dogma is met with derision and name-calling, unaccompanied with a logical refutation. That is changing now, of course. I think that this is at the root of the blind rage evident on the left these days. Monopolizing the conversation was the only viable way to promote leftist ideas, and since they can't do that anymore they feel leftist ideology is threatened, and with good cause.

There is also conflict at another level. Historic Christianity is rooted in propositional statements about who we are, who God is, and how we relate to God. The objective truth of propositional statements is incompatible with relativism, and so leftism has become anti-Christian. There is hostility towards a competing worldview, of course, but I think that there is also a level of jealousy, of being cheated. Christianity offers the promise of truth that is knowable, which relativism despairs of finding. So the left has no hope of discovering truth-claims to counter Christianity, because they don't believe that they are out there to be discovered. So they are forced to counter truth-claims, not with other truth-claims, but with... nothing. Thus they place themselves at a disadvantage in a conflict with those whom many leftists judge to be their intellectual inferiors. It must be galling.