Sunday, April 06, 2014
The Eich affair: why conservatives are wrong, Part 2
I my last post I explained that the liberal state to which conservatives are now appealing against the persecution of Brandon Eich for opposing Same Sex Marriage, has a certain logical structure which these conservatives, as far as I can see, do not understand. The whole purpose of it is to allow each person to pursue a conception of the good without conflicting with other people doing the same thing. This 'pursuit of happiness' is even written into the American Constitution.
To be exact, this is understood as the pursuit of one's own desires for oneself (and consenting partners). Barriers to the fulfillment of these desires, ie barriers to happiness, should be demolished. They are unjust. Those who maintain such barriers are being hypocritical, enjoying the benefits of the liberal system (since they are free to pursue their own happiness) while trying to stop others doing the same thing, or doing so as successfully as they might.
As I have explained before at greater length, it was always just a matter of time before liberals moved on from the demolition of the more concrete barriers to pursuing the fulfilment of one's desires, such as laws prohibiting certain persons from entering certain professions, or company policies which effectively do the same thing, to the less concrete barriers which come from attitudes. It is perfectly true that hostile attitudes can make life a misery for the misfit. Everyone with socially conservative views is about to experience this personally, if they don't already. So attitudes hostile to the 'gay lifestyle' - yes, we are talking about sexual behaviour - should logically, in the liberal system, be prohibited, if not by law then by social pressure, in order to allow homosexuals to pursue their chosen lifestyle without being shamed. There you have it.
Is this a paradox? That social conservatives are shamed about their views so that progressives need no be shamed about theirs? Not really. Each person has the right to pursue his own lifestyle. The conservative is trying to stop other people from pursuing the gay lifestyle. That's wrong. The gay campaigners are trying to stop other people from trying to stop people from pursuing their chosen lifestyle. That's right.
Yes, it is simple, it is coherent, it is consistent. To allow conservatives to attack the gay lifestyle would be inconsistent with the liberal project in just the same way, and for the same reason, as allowing people to beat up gays in bars. Everyone is protected equally: everyone can pursue their own conception of the good as long as they don't stop anyone else doing the same thing.
American (neo-)conservatives and Catholics, especially, have fallen into a trap which should have been obvious, by going along with the liberal / neutral state / free speech system. They thought that if they conceded the free speech of others, their own free speech, including the freedom to proclaim the Gospel, would be protected. Sorry, guys, you were fooled; it was never going to work. A system of 'tolerance' cannot tolerate intolerance. Because Christianity wants to change people, because it holds up a higher ideal than the impulses of the belly and the groin, it is intrinsically intolerant. It has no secure place in a system of tolerance, any more than fascism.
Countless popes warned us that rather than concede the public realm to a liberal theory of 'liberty', we should strive to have society organised on Catholic principles. They were right. The problem I have outlined is what Pope Leo XIII was talking about in his condemnation of Americanism, it is what Pius XI was talking about in calling for the reign of Christ the King over societies, it is what St Pius X and Pius IX and many others were talking about in condemning the establishment of the state on 'natural' principles rather than on Catholic ones. Our anger today should be directed not at the liberals: they are just being consistent. It should be directed at the useful idiots who stopped Catholics from opposing liberalism itself, especially in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, and are still whinging about freedom of expression and religion as if these phrases are going to protect us.
Those 'conservatives', in fact, are nothing more or less than conservative liberals. They get annoyed at the more radical liberals from time to time, when they 'go too far'. But they are part of the problem, not part of the solution, because the more things go wrong the more they cling to the liberal principles which are actually causing the damage, instead of criticising them.
Today, what we need to do is not - except tactically, in the very short term - appeal to our right to free expression, but do our best to persuade our fellow citizens that original sin is not such a stupid idea, and that the life of grace yields genuine joys: in short, to counter the basic assumptions of the liberal system which are contrary to the Faith. To the extent we can do that, we can wear down the principles underlying the coming persecution. It is nothing more nor less, in fact, than a genuine proclamation of the Gospel.
In another post I will talk about some implications of what I've just argued.