Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ah, Yes: the Open-Minded Liberal

“I appreciate people who are open-minded, who don’t judge others for their differences, who try to show openness and tolerance for other viewpoints. I don’t like dogmatic people, but see the world as woven of many different strands. Dogmatism is the only enemy!”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard sentences like these from American liberals or self-described progressives. And the depressing thing is that the people who talk this way actually think they're giving an accurate self-description. They really seem to believe they are non-judgmental, or, as they repeat ad nauseum, “open-minded”.

Long ago, decades ago in fact, I learned what such people were all about. I learned that anyone who describes him- or herself like this will usually, within the next few sentences, prove just the opposite. And how could it not be so? Such trite intellectual gibberish as this is typically uttered as prelude to a strident, dogmatic rejection of some different position judged to be not open-minded enough.

In fact the “open-minded”, “non-judgmental” American liberal is one of the most close-minded, judgmental species of folk you’re likely to meet. Like the religious fundamentalist, but more dishonest, the typical liberal goes about the day seeking to erase or censure anything that doesn’t fit his or her own “open-minded” standards.

The "open-minded" liberal believes she has already decided all fundamental questions of right and wrong, all ethical conundrums the philosophers might struggle over, all deep cultural conflicts. And the answer to all these conundrums is: “Progress.” And how do we define progress? Like this: “Those who differ from me must finally come around to my way of seeing things.”

And so: "Open-mindedness" is good, it leads to "progress", and progress means: Eventually you must agree with me.

Paradigms that don’t mesh with the hedonistic self-worship of the American liberal are rejected as “dogmatic”, “close-minded”, “outdated”. Once any of these three latter adjectives gets stuck onto a view, the liberal can safely treat it as anathema. Those who hold to any of the rejected views must then be shunned by the group of “open-minded” people. They are a threat to polite society.

So much for respecting differences. The liberal way is: “We will respect your difference as long as, in all fundamentals, you are the same as us.”

Or course the truths these people take to be obvious and established wouldn’t be recognized as such in many world cultures. But what of that? One of the central dogmas of these “globally-minded” liberals is that world cultures that don’t agree with them now must eventually come around--they’ll come around either through force or the persuasive power of pop culture and Hollywood.

American liberals thus pay lip service to cultural diversity, while being the most avid cultural imperialists you can find on the planet today.

“I don’t like close-minded people” thus means, in American English, “Unless you see things the way we do, you have a closed mind. We're eventually going to fix that.”

Every group has its propaganda, you might say. So why be so disgruntled about this one, why expect American liberals to be any different? Why not just accept that they have their propaganda too?

Perhaps it’s because, unlike with doctrinaire Marxists, unlike with religious fundamentalists, unlike with dyed-in-the-wool misanthropes and cynics, the American liberal’s propaganda is so utterly dishonest. The religious fundamentalist will tell you he has the only truth. The Marxist too. But not the "open-minded" liberal. Their respect for difference and diversity is a transparent lie. Their supposed tolerance and flexiblity only holds up in their own little echo chamber. And their glib self-confidence is forged from another lie--that we, the smiling, credit-card wielding First World liberals, have the answers to everything. Naturally. Because we’ve learned to be “open-minded”, see? We’ve gone to university and have read, gee, almost ten books. And look: our friends are the cool people, so, well, we’re in the know. You others--time to get with the program!

Sounds a lot like the way high school kids talk, doesn’t it? There’s a reason for that.

Compared to these trite narcissists, the devout religious person makes for a bracing conversation partner. At least there’s a tradition, a content behind his or her belief that must be referred to. At least the religious person is not all about patting himself on the back. He or she acknowledges his difference from others; he recognizes that this difference implies debate, substantive debate, and struggle.

Put me at a table of hardcore Marxists, Hindu fanatics or angry Evangelicals any day. Just please, keep me away from the "open-minded" consumerist morons now dominating America.

Eric Mader

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