Quick Roundup 193

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sowell on the Angry Left

Thomas Sowell's most recent column grapples with the puzzle posed by intense, constant hatred that emanates from the left.

How often have you seen conservatives or libertarians take to the streets, shouting angry slogans? How often have conservative students on campus shouted down a visiting speaker or rioted to prevent the visitor from speaking at all?


Often it is an exercise in futility even to seek to find a principle behind the anger. For example, the left's obsession with the high incomes of corporate executives never seems to extend to equally high -- or higher -- incomes of professional athletes, entertainers, or best-selling authors like Danielle Steel.


It seems to be the threat to their egos that they hate. And nothing is more of a threat to their desire to run other people's lives than the free market and its defenders. [bold added]
Ayn Rand managed to do this -- to discover a principle behind such apparently random anger -- in her essay, "The Age of Envy", where she also called what Sowell observes "hatred of the good for being the good".

This identification was no small feat as it entailed the integration of such observations with two other ideas that were revolutionary in themselves: (1) That productive work is morally good, and (2) emotions are automated responses to evaluations of the facts of reality in accordance with one's implicit philosophical premises.

Thompson on Michael Moore

I don't know that much so far about Senator Fred Thompson, but he was recently challenged to a "debate" by agitpropiteer Michael Moore over his criticism of the latter for taking some Ground Zero workers to Cuba for medical treatment.

There is an amusing video clip of Thompson's response here, where he treats Moore with about the right degree of seriousness and makes a good point about Cuba at the same time.

Environmentalism as Religion, Part 1,000,006

Yes. The idiots are building a replica of Noah's Ark.
Turkish and German volunteer carpenters are making the wooden ship on the mountain in eastern Turkey, bordering Iran. The ark will be revealed in a ceremony on May 31, a day after Greenpeace activists climb the mountain and call on world leaders to take action to tackle climate change, Greenpeace said.

"Climate change is real, it's happening now and unless world leaders take urgent, decisive and far-reaching action, the next decades will see human misery on a scale not experienced in modern times," said Greenpeace activist Hilal Atici. "Those leaders have a mandate from the people ... to massively cut greenhouse gas emissions and to do it now."
I need not inform anyone that an Ark is not an argument, but then this is no attempt at argumentation. This is simply an attempt to coopt a well-known mythological symbol for the purpose of concretizing the preexisting "consensus" on global warming -- and probably also appeal further to the religious.

-- CAV


Greg said...

Regarding environmentalism as a religion, are the two concepts mutually exclusive?

Do you think environmentalism correctly falls under the broader concept of religion or do you believe environmentalism to be a separate but similar concept?

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the Fred Thompson "Moore Response" link . . . it made my morning!

Gus Van Horn said...

"Is environmentalism a religion?"

That's actually a very good question, and I have to admit that I am not ready to answer it definitively since I have not thought carefully enough about what, exactly, constitutes a religion.

I would say that it is an intellectual and political movement which is becoming increasingly like a religion, though.

This definition by Wikipedia is the best I could find on short notice:

"A religion is a set of beliefs and practices generally held by a community, involving adherence to codified beliefs and rituals and study of ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and mystic experience. The term 'religion' refers to both the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction."

My quick shot from the hip would be that while it resembles a religion in many ways, environmetalism is not (yet?) so uniform as to actually be a religion. Its followers take many things on faith, many do things ritualistically (e.g., recycle, buy hybrids, use paper bags, give up toilet paper), and there is a whole value system emerging around its imperative of "saving" the "environment". On the other hand, there is no rigidly-defined scripture so far and its leaders are not all thought of as "spiritual leaders".

I would have to say that epistemologically and from resulting the behavior of its adherents, it looks more and more like religion each day, but that it lacks many of the "trappings" of proper religions.

One question I have is whether the trappings are really essential to the definition of "religion".

My best answer at present is that it is on its way to becoming a religion or syncretizing with one or more existing ones.

Sid said...

It isn't just the left that uses violence as a recourse. I've seen this among religious fanatics too.

Here, a few months ago, someone tried to publish a book which made some comments about a Hindu king which were deemed "objectionable" by some Hindu groups. So, they destroyed the library where the author had done some research (and plenty of original documents in the process), and shops whose owners were courageous enough to put the book on sale.

The state banned the book, but the ban was . Nevertheless, no one sells the book, for fear of retribution -- a pseudo-ban is in place.

We all know how the Muslims reacted to the Danish cartoons. One of the greatest collectivist movements ever. I doubt if even a thousand had actually seen the cartoons.

The principle is simple -- use violence against something you don't like. It isn't a principle, though. It's an anti-principle.

Greg said...

I am still wrestling with the issue myself. I think you have a good answer that is close to what I have been leaning to. If environmentalism is not yet a religion we may be witnessing the birth of one. And I think it could be argued that every religion in existence was formed by the process of syncretism only differing in degree.

Religion and environmentalism also seem function in the exact same way in that they are used as means to justify one group of people enslaving another for alleged "pie in the sky". The only difference is the flavor of pie.

Gus Van Horn said...


On the one hand, Sowell is discussing the left in America by contrast to everyone else here. Even most fundamentalist Christians don't radiate the hostility as intensely or as often that many hard leftists do.

Having said that, I have noted myself many similarities between hard leftists and their Moslem fanatic allies abroad, and have heard about how intolerant some Hindus can be.

The point you bring up with your comparison is a good one, though: the Western hard left, as they continue abandoning reason, are becoming more and more violent. This is a direct result of their refusal to use reason and their consequent unwillingness (and inability) to cause others to act as they would like by persuasion.

As Ayn Rand has noted before, faith and force are corollaries.


Or, perhaps, for the environmentalists simply the various forms of human sacrifice they advocate aren't so much for "pie in the sky", but for the sky, itself! :-)


Jim May said...

As I understand her so far, Diana Hsieh has stated unequivocally that she does not consider environmentalism a religion, on the grounds that it lacks the supernatural metaphysics of religion, and that environmentalism is an instance of disintegration while actual religions represent misintegration (here referring to Leonard Peikoff's "DIM" hypothesis.)

I am not sold on that argument, primarily because I believe that the epistemological aspect is far more relevant in the context of the current culture -- and epistemologically, environmentalism has ALL the earmarks of religion, dwon to its own concept of Original Sin.

The difference that does exist between the Left and religion is that the LEft is nihilistic; its raison d'etre is the destruction of something (the Enlightenment). Once that happens, then qua Left it's done and will either become a full-blown religion, or die.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you for bringing that up, Jim. I vaguely recall that subject coming up somewhere before (and I have similar reservations, at least based on your summary).

I am interested in reading her thoughts on the matter, but it is clearly going to take more digging to find them than I have time for at the moment.