Some critical premises of the political left stem from kernels of truth, but are applied beyond their original meaning and sensible interpretation. Abstract terms such as rights, freedom, and justice sound good, but one must always evaluate what they mean in practice. Let’s examine three of these premises.
The fine Age of Enlightenment sentiment “all men are created equal” appeared in the Declaration of Independence. What did it mean, and not mean? This affirmed individual sovereignty of citizens while rejecting monarchy and hereditary nobility. It implies government derives its authority from the governed. Finally, this meant the law should treat all citizens the same, rich or poor. This isn’t a complete denial of categories; for example, slaves were considered as property rather than citizens. (Slavery was a problem inherited from colonial times, though it was a huge mistake to mess with that in the first place.) However, “all men are created equal” was never a statement of opinion about nonexistence of differences in individuals; everyone can see that a great many of these differences do exist. Neither was it a statement that differences in groups of people don’t exist. (Actually, the first draft stated “all Englishmen are created equal”.) The founders certainly recognized group differences; for example, the first immigration act restricted entry to “free white persons”.
Radical egalitarians take Rousseau’s “blank slate” theory pretty much like Holy Gospel, thus seeing differences as unfair. They strenuously deny that differences in groups exist, especially those between differing ancestral populations. If they admitted that innate differences exist, then they’d have to admit that they were wrong to push all their tremendously costly and often counterproductive social experiments. (If one day they try to eradicate individual differences as well, this may work out like the story Harrison Bergeron or the Greek myth of Procrustes.) Any differences in results between groups are explained away by saying someone exploited or oppressed them. No evidence will dissuade them; neither will examples of nations that quickly recovered from calamities. Further, anyone better off should be punished and made to feel guilty. One result is Affirmative Action – a system of preferences sold as non-discrimination and justified by what someone’s great great grandfather might have done to someone else’s great great grandfather.
All people do have a right to hold and express their opinion. People do perceive things slightly differently and draw different conclusions. This is to be settled in the free marketplace of ideas. People have a right to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.
The root of moral relativism is subjectivism. This idea means that rather than perceiving reality around us, reality conforms itself to our minds. For example, this is why a man can put on a dress, call himself a woman, and be taken seriously. Subjectivism is truly a strange belief; anyone smart enough to understand the Allegory of the Cave and the Allegory of the Divided Line in Plato’s Republic will know better. (Even so, one of the big fads in academia is postmodernism, which holds untruth to be self-evident.) Subjectivism leads itself to the position that all facts, truths, and values are equal.
Going a little further, all beliefs, lifestyles, and cultures are considered equal. In practice, it’s very selective. Some religions get a free pass for repeated atrocities; others are undeservingly depicted as horridly oppressive. Some lifestyles are celebrated and encouraged; others are denounced as stifling and outmoded. Some cultures are exempted from criticism; others are subjected to collective samo-kritika by cultural Marxists in the education and media machines.
This in turn leads to political correctness. At first it was about changing language as a feel-good measure. Then it became thought control, forbidding any speech contradicting its premises, including entire policy arguments. “Diversity” is highly praised, but this certainly doesn’t include diversity of thought and opinion. Instead, political correctness enforces conformity. Sometimes words ending in “phobia” are made up to describe those who disagree with something, thus reframing it that the dissenter is the one who has a problem, along of course with well-known coinages ending in “ism”. Those who dissent can be punished with smear campaigns, blacklisting, losing their jobs, or – in many “free” European countries – jail time. So much for freedom of expression!
Defining justice is a difficult task; Plato’s Republic is all about that, with some interesting digressions. It is just for people who work hard to be rewarded fairly and get ahead. Also, countries that have a healthy middle class are more just than those with vast extremes of wealth. Things like corporate welfare, graft, casino capitalism, and predatory lending are unjust. For the record, there’s a difference between capitalism and plutocracy.
The social justice concept – as it’s practiced today – goes off the rails. Its most extreme position is Communism. By redistributing wealth, they sought to create a utopia. In practice, they redistributed poverty and created a pile of corpses that made the Mongols look like amateurs. Despite some Marxist influence, Western liberalism is more moderate. Even so, it goes beyond giving the common people a fair shake. The shift in focus from equality of opportunity to equality of results should raise suspicions. It’s reasonable to have a well-regulated social safety net, but it’s gone too far when it creates intergenerational poverty; that does nobody any favors.
All of the above leads to even more absurdity. As Orwell put it, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” For just one small example, when country A colonized country B, that was unjust oppression, but country B colonizing country A is progress and the citizens have no right to question this, much less resist. Also, consider the word “tolerance” – the usual meaning is to get along despite differences of opinion. Now, it’s become a code word for “agree with us or else” – basically the opposite of its original meaning.
A growing problem is cultural Marxism, which takes the above premises to an extreme. This is the predominant ideology pushed by the media and education machines, and exemplified by Social Justice Warriors. They too have a right to their opinion, but it’s not reasonable for them to have a stranglehold on the opinion-forming institutions. Prying their hands from the levers of power will be a necessary step to setting civilization back on course.