“Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. You know, I just… do things”Joker, The Dark Knight
I thought of the Joker's nihilistic ramblings while reflecting on some news related to the Occupy Wall Street protests. What did Obama’s utterly vacuous campaign slogan “change we can believe in” actually mean? Or, recall Pelosi urging the electorate to pass Obamacare "in order to find out what’s in it." Or, for a more innocuous example, recall Cameron Diaz causing a furor in Peru by sporting a Maoist-themed bag. In other words, it seems the left is very good at wearing revolutionary accessories, fighting the police, and just doing things, but, when pressed, they are very cagey about what they actually want. Well now we have the ultimate manifestation of this phenomenon - a global movement supposedly comprised of hundreds of thousands of protesters who openly brag about having no demands “something Legba Carrefour, a participant in the Occupy D.C. protest, found comforting on Sunday.”
"When movements come up with specific demands, they cease to be movements and transform into political campaign rallies," said Carrefour, who works as a coat check attendant despite holding a master's degree in cultural studies. "It's compelling a lot of people to come out for their own reasons rather than the reasons that someone else has given to them."So, can there be a movement for the sake of a movement with no demands and no political aspirations - a movement in which people "come out for their own reasons?" In reality, the fact that some of its participants are either too ignorant or too evasive to acknowledge it, this movement certainly does have a political agenda (aspects of which I blogged about here). So why not acknowledge this agenda, define it, and proudly advocate for it?
Uh, that's where things get a little tricky.
The inability and unwillingness for the left to argue critically for its agenda is a recurring theme that I have blogged about for years. Clearly, a sheer unanimity of angst exists among them related to perceived societal injustices, yet the vaguest sense of cause and effect, context, or solutions does not. The corollary is that they rarely understand or even acknowledge the implications of their own positions. For example, socialism necessitates the initiation of force against innocent people - that is the point of the redistribution of wealth and the abrogation of property rights. However, most will become angry, switch topics or even deny the reality of that logic to the point of denying the facts of history.
The left chooses not to acknowledge or clarify their demands because it brings into focus the actual political policies necessary to achieve them. And why would that be bad? Because, at root, socialism necessitates the violent transfer of wealth from one group to another group, a rather frightening position to explicitly advocate. Such a program is not only highly impractical, since it leads to stagnation, poverty and misery, but is profoundly immoral as it treats the productive as slaves authorizing the state to perpetrate acts of escalating violence against innocent individuals who want to own the products of their labor.
The important point is that once someone names "socialism" or any policy as a specific concrete demand, someone can come along and logically analyze it by reference to political and economic principles in the context of actual history. Socialism can not withstand such an analysis since it is a immoral in principle and literally a bloody disaster in practice.
So why would it be bad for them to understand the logical implications of their own ideas, and what keeps motivating these people to protest if they have no concrete political demands?
On a basic level, human beings are attracted to the sense of moral idealism. The reality of a particular “ideal” is a whole other story. Since the protesters barely bother to analyze their own moral premises they accept them by default. And what is the default morality of our culture? The morality of self-sacrifice or self-abnegation, i.e., altruism. Those that seek profit, whether through voluntary trade and cooperation or through government favors and pull peddling, are regarded by the left as equally evil. No effort is ever made to disentangle the two, although in reality, this is precisely what is necessary in the context of a mixed economy (an economy that combines elements of capitalism with elements of socialism). In the socialist world view, owning the "means of production" or owning capital is necessarily exploitative and the job of the state is to rectify this supposed injustice.
On the other hand, the morality of egoism which upholds the right of the individual to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing for others nor sacrificing others to himself, recognizes the difference, in principle, between two types of individuals, the parasitic businessman who feeds off government favors or pull and the honest businessman who succeeds through productivity and effort. That is the root of free market advocates' call for less government power to enable honest individuals to voluntarily cooperate in the market based on their own independent judgment free from government coercion - free from government favors - free from welfare for the rich and the poor.
In short, this is why socialism is properly associated with sacrifice and why true laissez faire capitalism is rightly associated with egoism. The dominant morality of our culture and the universities is the former and what explains the attraction of so many to socialist politics. The implicit logic for them is as follows: profit is evil, businessmen seek profit, businessmen are evil, person X is a businessman, person X is evil, therefore, let's go to businessman X's home and threaten to kill him unless he gives back (to us) his ill gotten gains.
The important point is that this implicit train of logic stems from certain moral premises. By evading specific political policies and staying in the realm of the "protest," they can continue to bask in a gushy, idealistic love fest , i.e., they can continue to FEEL good about what they are doing while avoiding both the need to examine their own premises and the messy stuff of intellectual debate over principles, and political policies which further entails knowledge of economics, history, and maybe even arithmetic, subjects with which they are uncomfortable or ignorant.
This also explains the ferocity of the protesters even in the face of facts and rational economic principles. Motivated by the morality of sacrifice, the modern left is the secular equivalent of religious fanatics. It is why they routinely advocate for government censorship of their enemies in the same way that right wing religious fanatics or Islamists try to censor whatever they deem inappropriate. It is only natural that individuals motivated not by reason but by the emotional frenzy that follows from unchecked moral premises would gather in this form. In a previous post I wrote:
I guess now they are getting to the warring mobs part.When an individual rejects the efficacy of his own mind, like an animal, he must turn to a group for guidance, protection, and a sense of pseudo-self worth. The subjectivist left regards people, not as individuals, but as members of collectives whose identities are determined by the attributes of their group. Accordingly, they do not evaluate an idea in terms of truth or falsehood. That is too "simplistic." According to the left, people are conditioned by their circumstances, their "environment", or their race, socio-economic class, or gender. Therefore, it is not necessary to reason or offer a policy that is logically consistent with abstract principles pertaining to individual rights or the laws of economics. One must condition the opposition or "penetrate the message war" by finding some non-cognitive form of appeal, i.e., by offering warm and fuzzy platitudes or demonizing the opposition.Accordingly, the left must view ideas as the arbitrary products of warring mobs.