Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Next Attack

     As he so often does, Dystopic / Thales / Ar-Pharazon the Golden has fingered an important gambit in the war over American principles:

     Once upon a time, it was quite rare to see Leftism naked; laid bare for all to see.... Today, however, the mask slips a little further. The title lays it out, though we must fisk this mess too: You don’t have a right to believe whatever you want to.

     Let the weight of this statement sink in. For the unspoken, but obvious, corollary is that since you do not have a right to belief, you can be compelled by force to exchange your belief for that of another. And who is to do the forcing? That’s the eternal question.

     Please read it all.

     Shocked? Don’t be. It’s the logical next step in the Left’s lexical campaign to destroy the meaning of the most important word in American politics: rights.

     The nature of a right is an old favorite subject of mine. A “right” isn’t just some arbitrary thing or condition someone has demanded. It must arise from human nature itself: the requirements built into our species for survival and flourishing. And of course, since a right must differ from a permission, its existence cannot depend upon someone else’s approval or cooperation. That limits the possible domain of rights to defensive claims: rights not to be attacked or otherwise aggressed against.

     In that light, how can anyone attack the right to believe what you like? There is no way to compel anyone to believe any particular thing. Indeed, there’s no way for Smith to determine with certainty what Jones does believe. Therefore the right to believe what you like is innate, even more so than the right to life. It literally cannot be infringed.

     (Might that change some day? I suppose I must allow the possibility that some bright boy with too much time on his hands might develop a technological way of reading a living human mind. However, we live in the present, and for the present there is no such technology.)

     But the assault isn’t actually on the “right to believe.” It’s on the concept of rights itself.

     The Left has already made important inroads in this sector. Their many claims of assertive “rights” — for example, the “right” to a job, or to a particular level of income, or to “decent” housing – have already clouded political discourse to the point that the original understanding of rights has been lost by all but a few. Far too many politicos have conceded such claims, whether from weariness or from the scent of a political advantage. Far too little has been done to clarify the matter, in part, no doubt, because of Leftists’ viciousness toward those who would call them what they are: whiners, liars, thieves, and would-be tyrants.

     Note how tightly the assertion that there is "no right to believe" couples to the Left's campaign to suppress the use of various other words and phrases. That campaign has already induced far too many good and decent persons to engage in self-censorship merely to avoid being shouted down as “racists,” “sexists,” “homophobes,” or what-have-you. You cannot cite many-times-reproduced statistical differences between the sexes, or among the races, without incurring the fury of condemnation. Indeed, a college professor recently suffered such an attack when he dared to observe that on average, men are taller than women – a factual and noncontroversial observation if ever there was one. It’s why I make regular use of words the Left has attempted to suppress. (Yes, I do so in public, and with a smile.)

     The danger is real and severe. Belief is a specimen of thought. Thought requires symbols -- words -- for its operations. Deprived of the necessary symbols, thought ceases to be possible, which makes an imposed orthodoxy impossible to resist. The “right to believe” might be even more self-evident than the rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” but the power to think through what one has seen, heard, and learned, and to reason one’s way to one’s own conclusions, depends entirely upon having the lexical tools that power requires.

     In his devastating 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell observed that:

     [I]t is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

     Orwell went considerably further in his subsequent analysis. He put the most piercing of his conclusions into the mouth of Syme, the Newspeak linguist who would eventually become an “unperson:”

     “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it....The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak....”

     “By 2050 — earlier, probably — all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron — they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like ”freedom is slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

     [George Orwell, 1984]

     Orwell, ever alert to irony, gave the following thought to antihero Winston Smith:

     One of these days, thought Winston with sudden deep conviction, Syme will be vaporized. He is too intelligent. He sees too clearly and speaks too plainly. The Party does not like such people. One day he will disappear. It is written in his face.

     Food for thought – hard, serious thought.

2 comments:

Dystopic said...

Nice reference to Tolkien there. Ar-Pharazon the Golden defeated Sauron, but was in turn suborned by him. So I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not, lol. I'll try not to succumb to any Dark Lords.

Mark Clausen said...

Whenever the left goes on about "rights," I respond with this great quote from The Princess Bride:

"You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

But it is terribly frightening to see the left actually admitting that we don't have the right to free thought.