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Why the left blames us

Posted by Richard on July 9, 2005

I was listening to Hugh Hewitt and Tom Oliphant on the former’s radio show Friday afternoon. They were discussing whether and why our actions in Iraq were the cause of the London bombings, other increases in terrorist activity, and/or greater al Qaeda recruitment of jihadists. Oliphant struck me as more reasonable and thoughtful than most leftists on this subject, but the two of them seemed to be talking at cross purposes, unable to effectively communicate with each other.

It finally occurred to me why. It’s the liberals’ view of human nature. It isn’t about sympathy for the terrorists’ cause or blaming America or even hatred of Bush (well, for some it is). It’s much, much more fundamental.

Liberals and leftists are determinists. Fundamentally, they’re not comfortable with the concept of moral agency — the idea that individuals are autonomous, that we control our own lives by choices that we make. To most liberals and leftists, human beings are rats in a Skinner box. Our actions are determined by the external stimuli to which we’re exposed.

Most liberals are consistent about this. They apply the same questions to terrorists that they apply to murderers, rapists, child molesters, and petty thieves: "What made them turn out that way? What caused them to do that? What can we change about their environment to elicit better behavior?"

They apply this standard to successful and decent people, too. If you’re rich and successful, something outside of you made you that way. Success or failure, decency or degeneracy, it’s not your fault or your responsibility. That’s why it’s only right to redistribute things from those who got lucky to those who were unfortunate enough to be exposed to the wrong stimuli.

To those of us in the real reality-based community, the liberals’ concerns about what’s behind the Islamofascists’ behavior sound like blaming the victim, mainly the US. So we look at them incredulously, angrily: "Are you really that ignorant? Haven’t you read Daniel Pearl’s book? Don’t you understand what Wahhabism and Salafism are all about? The problem isn’t us, it’s the world-view, beliefs, and goals of these crazed Islamofascists!"

"But we need to understand what makes them think and act that way," reply the liberals. "What can we do to provide them with a more appropriate world-view, beliefs, and goals?" Sigh.

This determinist view of human nature is so logically absurd that it’s hard for me to fathom why it wasn’t laughed out of existence when first proposed. If we aren’t autonomous, and all our "choices" are determined by forces external to ourselves, then what Mr. Determinist says is merely what those external forces cause him to say, and whether I believe him depends entirely on whether external forces cause me to believe him, and there’s really no point or value to us discussing the question at all. In fact, there’s no value to any intellectual activity. In fact, there’s no value to my saying there’s no value. In fact, there’s no fact.

I’ve always liked Nathaniel Branden’s take on determinism (paraphrased, but close): When a man tells me that either (a) he doesn’t think, or (b) it doesn’t matter whether he thinks or not, I’m inclined to take his word for it.

Nonetheless, determinism is a notion that countless people cling to (to a greater or lesser degree), and it’s remarkably difficult to disabuse someone of the idea through the use of reason. Why? I believe it’s because, fundamentally, most people’s view of human nature isn’t based on reason or learning. Instead, they extrapolate from how they feel about the human they know best: themselves. I suspect that many people don’t have a strong sense of self-control, and most people would prefer to believe they’re not entirely responsible for themselves.

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6 Responses to “Why the left blames us”

  1. Anonymous said

    Beauty! Nothing like linking the determinism and lack of individual responsibility of the Left to their failure to strongly and vehemently oppose people that want to destroy everything they stand for.

  2. GHC said

    What is it about the determinists environment that causes this type of behavior, and what can we do to change such behavior?

  3. Anonymous said

    Thanks, Eric.

    GHC, don’t make me come over there and smack you! 😉

  4. Jan said

    This is a brilliant insight. Wish I had thought of it. I have certainly been exposed to it in my former life as a social worker.

  5. Anonymous said

    “I suspect that many people don’t have a strong sense of self-control, and most people would prefer to believe they’re not entirely responsible for themselves.”

    When you find someone who is a classic determinist, a person certain that external influences can be studied and ultimately controlled like a Skinnerian experiment, then you’ve found someone who loves the idea of gun control.

    Really, the gun-control people that I’ve pinned down with questions about the topic ultimately break down and exclaim. “I’m afraid of what I would do with that thing!” as if the gun would compel them to perform destructive acts, instead of the reverse.

    Because they can envision themselves acting recklessly with firearms, they can readily believe that those of a lower social order and intelligence level (that’s EVERYONE to them) would have a far lower resistance to the awsome and corruptive power of guns, and may randomly go on crazed shooting sprees, succumbing to their base natures.

    This is the core argument of gun control fanatics – “What are you gonna use that for?!?” said in a panicky voice, as they stare at an AR-15 in bewilderment and terror.

  6. TF Stern said

    Hard to beat what you said so well. Somebody beat me to it, “wish I’d said that”.

    Was Adam the first Determinsit when he told the Lord, after having taken a bite, “The woman gave me and I did eat.”, followed closely by Eve, “The serpent beguilled me and I did eat.” Sounds like everyone has passed the buck at some point, but they, Adam and Eve, at least they took some of the responsibility upon themselves when they admitted that yes, we did eat.

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