A repetitive routine of racial, ethnic, national and even ideological self-flagellation has somehow become one of the defining characteristics of the modern progressive-liberal movement. I first noticed this when our economic history (economics, mind you; this wasn't a social or ethnic studies class) read Howard Zinn's infamous tract, "A People's History of the United States." This majority hating and/or self-hating, masquerading as "empowerment" for minorities, is worked into government school curricula with the explicit purpose of infiltrating this philosophy into the mainstream public through the next few generations.
What's the attraction of this self-evisceration?
In 1951, the social psychologist Eric Hoffer wrote a book entitled "The True Believer." It was heavily utilized in a recent critique of the American far-right, an excellent and informative book called "Republican Gommorah" by Max Blumenthall. I think however, that the prophetic concerns and arguments raised in Hoffer's little book go far in explaining the bizarre loathing of the left in its modern form. The best analogy, fittingly, is in the Right's own pet problem: religion.
What are the core beliefs of Christianity? We can summarize its essential elements in the following way. Long ago, a man named Adam disobeyed God's commands, and so God punished him by condemning him, his wife, and all of his children to the remotest generation as sinful. We are not sinful because we have sinned, per se, but were in fact sinful by birth: we were born disobedient, rebellious, and short of the glory of god. This crime is punishable by death. Not death in the ordinary sense, but infinite death in the fires of Hell. But God did something that we today might call "counter-intuitive:" he had his son born into human form so that he could be killed off, thus freeing human-kind of their sinful nature by the magic of this human-sacrifice, so long as they accept this offer and throw themselves on the mercy of the Lord. In the words of the immortal Hitchens, "we are created sick, and commanded upon pain of death to be well again."
"Here, as elsewhere," writes Eric Hoffer, "the technique of a mass movement aims to infect people with a malady and then offer the movement as the cure."
The artificial disease, in the case of modern-day radical-egalitarian culture, is responsibility for the infinite crimes of our ancestors. The cure is penitence and public disavowal of these crimes. By repudiating our ancestors, our history, our heritage, and our culture, while simultaneously embracing the moral, and perhaps even pragmatic, superiority of other cultures, we can achieve moral purity and self-transcendence. We can speak vicariously for the oppressed, against ourselves, and find redemption.
The self-negation and moral bankruptcy of this proposition should be self-evident the moment you actually do put yourself in another person's shoes. In the opening of Zinn's chapter on American slavery, he makes excuses and explains away the existence of African slavery as not being "real" slavery compared to the American variety. To be fair, he's right in saying the two are not equivalent, and that there is a scale of right and wrong action, rather than an easy binary, but it is odd how otherwise exceptionally intelligent people with sharp noses for crimes against humanity make excuses for the most horrendous crimes when they are committed by "the other." Sam Harris' encounter with a Whitehouse bioethics advisor who couldn't bring herself to condemn a hypothetical tribe that gouged out the eyeballs of children for religious reasons is another sharp illustration of the effects of such a philosophy. The idea on the left that our identity in the West (the origin of this masochistic movement)--our race, our nations, our ethnicity, our cultures, even our values--that all of that is evil, is an idea that is every bit as dogmatic and taken as an axiom of faith as the claims made by its supernatural counterparts on the right.
There is a more pragmatically sinister aspect of this faith of ideological self-immolation. In the aftermath of 9/11, there were a number of public figures who claimed that we deserved it, that we brought those airplanes upon ourselves. This is, aside from disgusting, immediately and obviously false; the western-educated and upper-class terrorists flew themselves into our skyscrapers because they had been convinced that they would get an "advance-directly-to-go" card for heaven, where they would collect 72 virgins, and if they were lucky, advance the cause of reestablishing the old Islamic empire, the Caliphate, in the process. But it's interesting to notice who it was, specifically, that was saying that it was all our fault. Jerry Fallwell and his compadres on the right claimed we had brought it on ourselves by embracing homosexuality and abortion. This actually contains a probable grain of truth, since the Abrahamic prejudices of Fallwell and his ilk are in many ways shared with the pork-shunning Muslim reactionaries who see violence as a legitimate tool for religious evangelism. But the peace-loving progressive-liberals had their response prepared too: Noam Chomsky, the hero of the most radical elements of the modern-day left, responded by saying it was we, the United States, that were the real terrorists, and that while al Qaeda was still responsible, we had more or less caused these delusional religious zealots to bomb us through decades of political manipulation and oppression in the Middle East and elsewhere. This is how to "love thy enemy" as a godless liberal.
What this does is take away a nation's right to self-defense, so long as that nation is us (when others do it, it's always justified, since it's always self-defense). If we go into Afghanistan to try to root out international criminals protected by a ragged, theocratic-fascist government, that's a war of aggression, because 9/11 was itself an act of retribution against American imperialism. What sort of imperialist crimes were these? Among Bin Laden's list of indictments used as justification for the attack were the crimes of not doing enough to stop the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Serbia, and also for stopping a Muslim genocide against Christians in East Timor. We'd have to allow the genocides desired by Bin Laden or any other thug with violent inclinations towards a Western nation, while suppressing the violence they dislike.
This kind of self-transcendence via self-negation from the left is a one-way street, as foreigners are quick to agree with us and point out our historical moral failings (as if that left us responsible, decades or centuries later), while being extremely slow and equivocating about their own culture's record. Try, for example, to find a modern-day Muslim who will admit plainly and unequivocally that it was an wrong for Mohammed to have married a 7-year-old girl. ("But he waited till she was 9 to make it official!"). Similarly, the crimes of the Turkish empire, or the horrible atrocities of the Japanese empire, are relatively unknown in the American classroom, but everyone is intimately familiar with the Trail of Tears and the Japanese internment camps. No one else is responsible for their history, but we in the civilized West are responsible for everything. In accepting this malady of historical responsibility, we open the door to some genuinely dreadful ideologies that are far less apologetic about far worse crimes.
Fortunately, the remedy is not needed because the disease is imaginary. We are not living in sin because Adam ate the apple, and we are not genocidal racists because Americans 300 or 50 years ago had these very real but often exaggerated tendencies. We are individuals, not members of a collective inheriting liability for the sins of our fathers. This should be a fundamentally attractive way of thinking to liberals, as it is the only way to thoroughly combat bigotry, the broad characterization and judgment of entire groups based on membership rather than on their individual character. If we forget this, it's conceivable that we could end up in a society where it's socially unacceptable to use racial slurs against minorities, like "nigger," but common practice to use racial slurs against the races of our own core-culture, like "redneck" for the Irish. Let us hope we never reach that level of ingrained masochism.
Douglas Murray on the crimes of the west:
Christopher Hitchens on the necessary concessions of liberal masochism