by Brad Nelson
One of my friends, who is certainly wiser than I am, thinks there may well be some “magic words” to stem the tide of collectivism. They would be words (whatever they are) to turn one’s head and heart from, say, Mao to Madison (or from Frank to Franklin). That indeed does sound reasonable. After all, it was the free market that led to the airplane, computers, the telephone, TV, cars, medicines, cell phones, tractors, trains, washing machines, and even the flush toilet. None of these were invented by government. And this is all self-evidently so.
But freedom isn’t just a useful method for producing material goods; it is also a vast good unto itself. In wide contrast to the roughly one hundred million who were killed in the pursuit of collectivist ideals in the last century, freedom as the cornerstone of society has brought protections for the individual and the ability to have the greatest amount of choice about how to live. This, also, is self-evidently so (at least if one has read outside of the bounds of Howard Zinn).
But, alas, I had to inform my friend that there are probably no magic words to move a mind that had been indoctrinated into the Cult of the Left (“Progressivism,” if you will) to just common sense and realistic attitudes.
I don’t think he’s buying it. I’m the pessimist (although I’m working feverishly to find those magic words). He’s the optimist. And if he has the temerity, he’ll write an article in response to mine, no doubt telling me exactly why I’m full of it. But if it’s true (and I think it is) that people didn’t become a card-carrying member of the “Cult of Collectivism” overnight, perhaps it’s reasonable to expect that they can’t be brought back to America’s founding principles overnight, that there are no “magic words.”
After all, in the words of Winston Churchill, all we have to offer people as free-market capitalists who believe in individual freedom and personal responsibility is “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” (as opposed to unearned entitlements and non-stop feel-good self-exlated Kumbaya-ism). The idea of having to earn something through hard work is being severely undermined by the demagogues in government who have convinced people not only that “free stuff” is due them, but that they can think of themselves as near saints for taking it.
In addition, if you choose the “individualism” route, you’re often considered of a lower moral caliber. In the words of Obama, such a system is “everyone out for themselves” (which, to a great extent, is absolutely true — thank god you don’t have to pay my rent or come over to my place and fix me breakfast every morning, although the free market allows me to do this for myself, thank you).
In the Cult of Collectivism (at least according to their way of thinking), they don’t have selfish motives like “profit” or anything so crude. They believe in “social justice,” “equality” (of outcome), “diversity” (getting lost in the comfort of groupthink and being insulated from the discomfort of contrary opinions), and most of all they believe in “living sustainably and in harmony with the planet” (defined in such a fuzzy way as to suggest that it matters more to feel caring than to actually do something fact-based and effective).
Okay, admittedly I have yet to offer any magic words myself. But don’t you see my problem? It’s not that I’m not clever enough to come up with such words. It’s that there are no words. Even if someone is living the capitalist dream (and I know such people), many will not let go of their fanciful “Cult of Collectivism” beliefs because such beliefs offer everything that a typical religion does, even if it is of a more earthly orientation:
1) Redemption from the guilt (inculcated by the Left) for having been successful
2) The promise of redistributive “goodies” from others
3) A scapegoat for all their feelings of envy and anger — things are never their fault, it’s the fault of “the rich” or some other hobgoblin
4) An escape (if only psychological) from the pressures and feelings that we all have of not being good enough. (Freedom does come with some costs.)
5) And this one is perhaps the most sinister of all: Being a member of the Cult of the Left is a blank check for people to pursue their own quite selfish goals without really having to do much more than posture. The “Cult of Collectivism” fulfills the same purpose as the Indulgences of old that the Catholic Church used to sell. You can fly around in a carbon-spewing jet as Al Gore does, but as long as your are hawking “carbon credits,” it’s alright.
What “magic words” can I offer in the face of all this, especially when all I (or you) have to offer is “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” which is at the very heart of American-style freedom? Those who not only do not value freedom (which is the same as “choice,” as in one’s choice of health care or anything else) but who also see freedom as a detriment (perhaps an immoral one at that) are not going to be an easy crowd to convince.
Will it be sufficient to tell someone “Own your own life instead of letting Nancy Pelosi own it”? For some, it might be. But the Cult of Collectivism, like any cult, has programmed people in such a way as to resist that kind of message outright. The speaker of such words is thought to have evil motives or, at the very least, that such a person is not yet “enlightened” and doesn’t yet know how the world really works (or ought to work).
And primary to understanding the intransigence of those indoctrinated into the Cult of the Left is noting how our society has devolved to a narcissistic, therapeutic one. Dennis Prager characterizes this as many people being “nice” but not “good.” Instead of focussing on right and wrong, on productive work, on personal character, or any other traits that have been long-established as the keys to success and to being a civillized person, we now focus on a bunch of emotionally fuzzy stuff such as “diversity,” “social justice,” “multiculturalism, or “environmentalism.”
And it’s not that conservatives don’t care about the environment, for equal good manners toward people of all colors, or equal treatment under the law (as opposed to “social justice”). It’s just that we don’t make it a fetish to constantly stroke our self-esteem about how supposedly saint-like we are in regards to these things. One does one’s duty and gets on with it. But only the superficial or the emotionally vapid need constant high-fives or back-slaps for simply doing the decent thing.
But the Cult of the Left is much more concerned with the back slap and simply being perceived as being the kindest, nicest, and — gosh darn it — most likable people on the planet. The Cult of the Left inculcates an unhealthy need to be liked all the time instead of being good all the time. And that’s a tough nut to crack, particularly because the ideology of the Left is based upon exaltedly self-flattery combined with the implicit idea that those on “the right” are all ogres.
Thus those on the Left (as any good cult members tend to do) do not even have to think about the rightness of their own principles. All they need to know is “not that,” not “the right.” And this is cult programming. Any cult worth its salt puts up imposing barriers to the assimilation of new and conflicting information.
Yikes. Find the magic words to get your way out of that trap. Cults are anti-logic to begin with which makes the problem very difficult to solve with logic. Perhaps you understand why my own words are so often voluminous. I know there are no magic words. But I keep trying.