Thursday, January 21, 2016

Principles Versus Power

     Perhaps you’ve already seen the following:

     The statement supposedly comes from one of the Dune novels. Wherever it may have originated, it perfectly expresses the overarching methodology of Islam, the American Left, and any number of groups throughout history that began their rise from a minority position but had no real interest in freedom.

     He who asks you to conform to a principle that:

  • You hold;
  • He doesn’t;
  • Which serves him at the moment;
  • But which he would not honor were your positions reversed; a villain. He deserves no consideration and should get none. Worse, if you concede to him, it won’t be long before your positions are reversed. That’s why Saul Alinsky emphasized that Leftists should “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” He knew that “the enemy” – i.e., freedom loving Americans – would feel pressured to abide by a rule of conscience that could only be used against them.

     Far be it from me to decry rules of conscience. Ultimately, they’re all we have. But if we know, with empirical certainty, that the petulant minority demanding that we give them a privilege – i.e., that a rule that applies only to us shall not bind them – we cannot accommodate them without consigning ourselves to rightlessness.

     This underscores the immense strategic importance of knowing your enemy’s motives. I’ve written about this recently enough that it should not be repeated...yet in dealing with our enemies of today, we forget it all too quickly.

     Some months ago, Ben Domenech of The Federalist wrote about the fusillades over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act:

     It’s instructive to observe George Stephanopoulos’s behavior on this topic, given his role as a very public shill for the Democratic Party. He’s not interested in having a debate on the subject or in acknowledging the importance of RFRAs – something he obviously did two decades ago while working for President Clinton. He’s interested in spouting aggressive talking points to frame Republicans as bigots for giving people the ability to defend their religious freedom in the courts. That’s the entire goal here: turn religious liberty into something that lives within the bounds of scare quotes.

     And this goal is motivated not just by the political aims of the left, but by a broad rejection of tolerance as a virtue. It was all well and good when tolerance was about conservatives and religious types swallowing their objections and going along with things – but now that the left is being asked to do the same thing? Forget about it.

     It was (and is) a textbook case, as was made clear by the assaults on Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery owned by a Christian couple; by the underhanded attack on Memories Pizza, a Christian-owned pizzeria that had refused service to no one; and of course by the vicious assault on Brendan Eich, formerly the CEO of Mozilla – who, incidentally, is now spearheading the development of a new and quite exciting Web browser.

     Never forget that the original argument by advocates of same-sex marriage was couched in terms of freedom: a “right to marry.” Never forget that even before the notorious Supreme Court decision, homosexuals could marry one another quite easily – i.e., by presenting themselves to a sect that agreed with them for a religious wedding. What they demanded was government recognition of their marriages, so that they could force those of us who for reasons of conscience refuse to facilitate their behavior to do so against our consciences.

     The kerfuffle had nothing to do with a supposed pent-up desire among homosexuals to marry. It was about overcoming the conscience-based resistances of those whose faiths condemn homosexuality, compelling them to accept, and to service, something they find noxious. That is, it was a drive for power over us – and its principal weapons were verbal: the words rights and “fair.”

     So much for the Left’s tolerance of differences of conscience.

     The same-sex marriage foofaurauw is useful because it so vividly illustrates the utter consciencelessness of the Left. It will use anyone’s principles against him with no intention of honoring them reciprocally. But the Left isn’t the only community of interest that wields our principles against us like a weapon. Consider Islam, whose devotees demand absolute hands-off latitude from American authorities but would never allow the erection of a Christian church in the nations it dominates. Consider the many cases of asymmetry in international trade, where country X lays heavy restrictions on exported American goods but screams in outrage at any tariff or regulation we apply to its exports. Consider the mess along our southern border: Mexico, which polices its southern border ruthlessly, displays indignant astonishment when we make a gesture toward policing ours. The list could be extended, but I believe the point has been established.

     In all such cases, what’s wielded against us is our conscience, plus one other wholly irrational thing: our desire that others think well of us. Why we should want the good opinion of others who seek to defraud, exploit, or destroy us, I have no idea. But the tactic works. Our enemies may hate us for our virtues, but that troubles them not at all when they wield them against us.

     Among political problems with a moral dimension, this is one of the most painful. Yet it does admit of a solution. I’ll return to it presently.


Anonymous said...

"He who asks you to conform to a principle that: You hold; [and] He doesn’t"

This is what proves the existence of the civil society. Principles vary; both in kind, and in ... oh, I'll call it "flexibility". But certain bedrock principles must be shared in order for individuals to live in society with one another. This is not to suggest that there is only one type of civil society; there can be many, each with differing principles. But a civil society cannot exist wherein there are multiple, contradictory principles held by different segments of the populace. The result can only be conflict between those segments.

It's easy enough to see from your intro regarding Islam. What becomes abundantly clear from reading the remainder of your post, is that the "Left" (broadly defined) does not exist in a civil society with the "Right" (again, broadly defined), any more than Islam can exist in society with non-islam.

Reg T said...


Perhaps you were implying it, and I'm just not savvy enough to catch the implication, but I think it goes beyond "our desire that others think well of us". I think it extends to the mistaken desire that others see us as being "reasonable", not "hide bound" by our principles, refusing to even discuss alternatives.

Unfortunately, that is used against us - even by those who purport to represent our best interests (like the NRA) - when we feel we must _compromise_ - compromise some of our rights away, just to be "reasonable" and "fair".

Even when we realize they will never like us, if we believe we must be responsible and willing to "get along", we lose. I argued once on a list about it being time to stop being civil, that it was time to return the favor and get up in the face of the Left, letting them know we refuse to let them reduce our rights incrementally. And to do it in a very uncivil way, since that seems to be the only thing that will make them understand. As we also need to do with those who adhere to the cult of islam.

Avraham said...

I am interested in a solution to this problem. said...

Reg T - thanks for the admission of potentially missing Fran's subtleties. I can only wonder how much I've missed. It was impossible for me not to think about Trump as I read this.

Although he has tons of "issues" as a bona fide conservative, he does not kowtow to those who are in opposition to many of the things necessary for our very survival as a sovereign nation.

Not an endorsement - just an acknowledgement that when someone does not bow to the insanity of the left and Islam it is very winsome.

Thanks for the post Fran!