Commentator Ingemar, in my previous post, quoted Auster whom he felt gave a better explanation of liberalism than I was offering:
An explanation of the origins of liberalism that I have frequently proposed is that liberalism begins with a denial of God or higher truth. This denial of truth removes all moral hierarchies above man and makes human will and desire the highest thing, with all human wills and desires now being considered (in the absence of any moral standards above man) as equal.Now personally, I don't think Auster's solution probes deep enough into the mechanism of denial which I feel is the ultimate source of liberalism.
Take your average committed Socialist for instance. Most socialists that I know are motivated by a benevolent desire towards humanity in general and Auster's assertion that they do not follow a "higher" morality would seem to me to be false. Most of these socialists whilst denying God would still believe is some overriding ethical system though admittedly its not the traditional Christian one. People forget that Christianity does not have the monopoly on martyrdom. Men and women have died and martyred themselves for the cause of Communism and Nazism as well. As I said before, belief in God is no protection against liberalism if your God is a liberal.
I think the origin of liberalism can be best illustrated by comparing the lives of two young socialists; Malcolm Muggeridge and Walter Duranty. Both men were British educated and as young men started off as committed socialist Journalists. Both were drawn to the then exciting experiment that was Stalinist Russia and were sent by their respective Newspapers to report on the events. Both got to witness first hand the Stalinist engineered Ukrainian Famine.
Faced with the horror of the Famine, Muggeridge recoiled at the inconsistency of his belief in the promise of Socialism with the reality of its terror. His wrote a book, Winter in Moscow, which fictionalised his experiences. Gerard Reed's review over at Amazon describes the effect on him better than I can:
Muggeridge rapidly discarded his illusions in the face of the monumental evils he witnessed. One of his characters finally concluded: "Every tendency in himself, in societies; the past and the future; all he had ever seen or thought or felt or believed, sorted itself out. It was a vision of Good and Evil. Heaven and Hell. Life and death. There were two alternatives; and he had to choose. He chose" (p. 226). He chose to deal honestly with reality rather than blind himself with ideological rhetoric, to tell the truth rather than toe the party line.Walter Duranty, special correspondent for the New York Times, faced with the same reality took altogether different approach. He denied that it was happening, pilloried Muggeride and similar reporters, and wrote back glowing reports to the people in the U.S. He lied.
Both men were well educated and came from reasonably privileged backgrounds. It's not as if education or intelligence were an issue. The problem lies far deeper. The problem lay not in the intellect because of a deficiency of education, Duranty was fully aware of the Russian reality, the problem as Muggeridge recognised was in his choice of how he responded to the reality. It is in recognising how we choose that we find the sustaining power of liberalism.
All human acts are directed toward some form off good. In Duranty's case, he thought lying on behalf of Stalin was "good". Duranty's "good" was evil. Not evil in the specific sense of supporting Stalin, but evil in the sense of lying. Duranty thought it was good to lie. I don't care why he did so, in fact it is irrelevant but what I do know is that he was deliberately trying falsely "inform" Americans. He thought it was good to private the intellects of his readership and distort their sense of reality and was acting contra Caritas.(Charity)
He chose to bat for the dark side.
Our education is a product of circumstances and intellect, and the young man with the unfortunate luck of being born into a liberal household and educated in a liberal school will enter the world with liberal ideas in his head. It doesn't matter what these ideas are, but ideas which don't conform to the nature of reality are quickly dispelled by the experience of it.............. unless a man chooses not to see or learn: It's the deliberate mutilation of a perceptive faculty.
Charity acts to perfect things, evil acts to destroy; and whilst liberalism may be the product of faulty thinking, naive optimism or stupidity, it would be quickly dispelled by the experience of the truth of things. No, what sustains liberalism is a deliberate desire for non-correction, a refusal to yield in the face of the truth. Caritas, which would crush liberalism, is opposed by liberalism's sustaining power.
The will, possessed by Evil, sees the good in corruption and deprivation and acts appropriately. Liberalism is sustained by the power of Evil. Dramatic, but true.
Calls have been made for Walter Duranty's Pulitzer Prize to be revoked. It hasn't been.
His portrait still hangs in the offices of the New York Times.