[Disclaimer: This is a long, philosophical post. Once the ideas started rolling, I had to shake them out into words, or I’d have gotten nothing else done. If you’re not in the mood for this kind of thing, feel free to stop reading it.]
This post by Clark on the Popehat blog is worth reading (via Instapundit). It’s got a quick summary of the #GamerGate controversy (hashtag de rigueur) that’s been hovering around the edges of blogospheric awareness. More importantly, Clark gives an accessible description of the Left’s vampire/zombie/body-snatcher tactic of infecting the opposition.
What’s most interesting, though, is what he appears to miss in his discussion of the culture war. He talks about how “the winning move” can sometimes be “to immediately surrender, ask for forgiveness, and join the winning team,” but then he puts the age-old war between ideologies in terms of the current framing. More specifically, the current framing of the Left:
One pole tends (and note that word “tends”) to be Protestant, centralized, “scientific”, pushing for “the greater good”, and “Blue” (as we say in the American language).
The other pole other tends (second disclaimer, same as the first) to be Catholic, decentralized, “traditional”, tolerant of inequality, and “Red” (again, in Americanese).
Thus does a person who appears, if anything, to tilt a little toward the latter group wind up reinforcing the former group, most notably by balancing “the greater good” with “tolerant of inequality.” That’s evidence that these really aren’t the two salient categories and we need to dig a bit more deeply to find the real defining differences.
As the culture war ebbs and flows, who switches (that is, what kind of person switches), and in what order? And what remains constant for them?
We’re talking generations, here. Maybe Clark has identified something in the current mixture of the battling tides, but that’s a limited view. I’d suggest that the political issues, things like sexuality and income inequality, are just trappings. Even “tradition” versus “science” or “progress” isn’t very helpful. We can easily see how quickly the Left’s radical mechanisms (whether abortion or Social Security) become hidebound traditions that must not be challenged.
Frankly, it appears that Clark’s materialist presentation of the world (evolution is all) is getting in his way.
I suppose that, somewhere, there are people who really do not like “progress,” defined in some way or other, but enough to define a millennia-long “side”? Over generations? This isn’t a real difference between people, I don’t think. Rather, I’d propose that the fundamental difference between the sides is the ultimate tendency toward either cooperation or self-preservation.
Real people have their own unique balance of these two tendencies. The line between the groups is therefore theoretical, but it comes down to this: All things being equal, on which side does your coin fall?
This is an important distinction, because (I’d argue) the side to whom Clark gives “pushing for ‘the greater good'” is the side that falls toward self-preservation in the modern context. Perhaps that seems counter-intuitive, but “the greater good” isn’t a readily identifiable, objective quantity, and the more basic question is whether a person pushes for a “greater good” only when it happens to benefit himself.
On the whole, I’d suggest that the people who ultimately prioritize their own well-being are more likely to switch sides toward that end. Actually, it’d be more accurate to say that people born into different circumstances merely take different views than they would have a generation or two before, and assessments of personal advantage are more prone to rapid change than long-term calculations for reaching the best outcome for the most people.
What personally benefits a straight, white, Catholic male may be very different than what benefited his father, and the same is true for a gay, black, Protestant woman. But they can still have common ground when it comes to what is best for their community.
Adapting my dichotomy to Clark’s evolutionist presentation, the two sides in the culture war are (1) the people in whom the urge toward cooperation and universal ascendance (which is pretty much my objective definition of “progress”) versus (2) the people with a stronger urge toward the more basic evolutionary mandate to survive and prosper as an individual organism. In a more Christian theological presentation, we might see the gradual sorting of those who follow the pattern of Christ (and will be saved) and those who reject it (and will not).
In religious terms, the back and forth on shorter-term issues matters little, because salvation is the goal, not evolutionary victory. Indeed, the escalating adversity of being on the “losing” side better prepares the way for ultimate judgment.
Let me pause for a moment to stress the importance of the appropriate perspective for all of this. Only some minority of people are strongly on one side or the other. Most have leanings and float back and forth across some imaginary middle line. The same-sex marriage example continues to be useful in understanding what’s going on.
In keeping with Clark’s explanation of #GamerGate, the aggressive Left has infused cultural institutions (academia, entertainment media, government schools, and news media) with its true believers. Through these levers, they’ve distorted the marriage debate and framed it in a way with which many people (maybe most) would disagree if the relevant questions were laid out as a matter of reason and in terms of balancing competing goods.
You’ve heard the arguments: Gay marriage is a continuation of the battle against miscegenation. We shouldn’t judge one person’s love to be less deserving of recognition than another’s. Gay marriage won’t hurt anybody’s straight marriage.
It didn’t matter that these statements are either wrong or irrelevant to any logical consideration of the basic question, which is whether society should have a way of differentiating and strengthening relationships that can create children without the specific intent to do so. With the argument presented to the public being so one-sided, people followed the tide toward the “progressive” conclusion.
It was always obvious where this was going if the tide turned. Clark’s examples of the Left’s rejecting true tolerance and forcing the losing side to pledge fealty to the new order were predicted all along, and as they become more common, those folks who floated to the Left will sort into different groups.
Most (perhaps) will simply keep their heads down. In the Left’s broadly disseminated cultural narrative, religious people are always suspect, so why go to their defense? Doing so would be uncomfortably close to being the villain in every sitcom and mainstream movie. Better just to let the new reality rest. And hey, weren’t some homosexuals oppressed in the past? Even if our traditionalist contemporaries weren’t around back then, maybe it’s OK for them to do a little paying for the sins of their ideological fathers.
Some others (like Clark, I suspect) will speak out against that reverse oppression, hoping to stop the radical lurch sharply at the right balance. But they won’t reevaluate the radical change, itself.
Some small minority will reevaluate and move forward with the lesson learned (for whatever that’s worth), but not to the extent of becoming advocates. Basically, they’ll return to their prior cultural leanings, but continue to be passive.
And maybe a relative handful will go so far as to take up the traditionalist cause, either calling for reversal of the lurch or looking for other ways to shore up what remains.
Thus, each wave of radical change captures more of the gray area, restricted only by whatever wall exists beyond which toleration of oppression cannot go. When it recedes, the aggressor wave isn’t pushed back an equal amount. Rather, its proponents merely stay silent for a while. They pause in their oppression, and the more-cooperative side isn’t inclined to the same tactics. If the tide of self-preservation really turns, then the aggressors just switch sides and push on their new targets. After all, as I said above, the fleeting issues aren’t the crux.
In materialist terms, this battleground clearly gives the more-aggressive side the advantage in combat. That’s why the Left — the will-to-power dominators — will likely continue to win until they destroy our society’s foundations. When that happens, we’ll be back to dark days in which the imperatives of survival force those in the gray area between the two character types to relearn the value of cooperation within a framework of real tolerance.
Unless, of course, we understand ourselves as rational creatures with access to spiritual guidance from a Being who defines the intention of the universe. In that case, we should be able to reason our way to a better social structure and place it on the foundation of our metaphysical sense of right and wrong.
[Note: Within an hour of original posting, I added some clarifying text, particularly toward the end of the post.]