What do we do with liberalism now?
By Jeff Lukens

It's another sleepless night flipping channels on the television. I come across The Wild One, the 1954 cult classic starring Marlon Brando. It's about a motorcycle gang that descends on a small town and raises havoc.

This movie marks one of the first public displays of the counterculture movement. A girl in the town asks, "What are you rebelling against?" "Whaddya got?" says Brando. There was really no rationale for his behavior, other than an escape from boredom. The movie shows a restlessness with the conformity of life in the 1950s. Although tame by today's standards, the drunken brawling and lawlessness of the film reached beyond the contempt of its producers toward middle-class American values. It was one of the first counterculture statements against everyday modesty and conventional behavior.

Philosopher Bertrand Russell once said, "Boredom is a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it." For many people, a variety of nothing is indeed preferable to the monotony of something. We don't want to be bored, so we often get ourselves into things we later regret. The excesses of 1960s provide many examples.

The cynicism and disrespect of the counterculture bloomed into full-blown rebellion during those years. Vulgarity and deviancy reached new lows. What was unthinkable behavior was accepted, even embraced, within a very short time. Campus radicals protested the establishment and captured the fascination of our culture.

Beyond the riots, protests, and other headlines of the day - for the first time in American history - societal norms were no longer measured against fixed standards. From then onward, our morality became relative only to what everyone else was doing. So began a downward behavioral spiral that continues to this day. When it became apparent that the radical’s cultural revolution would not be won for them immediately, their long march into the establishment began. Thus was born the modern liberal movement.

Liberals always insist that morality is a personal, "do your own thing" decision. Liberalism's appeal seems to be less in its feasibility than in its surprises. They enjoy the excitement of the unanticipated, the thrill of being amazed by the unexpected consequences of their actions. The essence of the liberal outlook lies in how opinions are held. Instead of holding opinions firmly, they are held tentatively, with acknowledgment that new information may lead to their abandonment at any moment. This thought pattern is called relativism.

Moral relativism negates traditional notions of right and wrong in which people achieve stability in their lives. Human behavior is correct merely if it is correct according to the society that accepts it. While relational concepts work quite well for mathematical problem solving, they do not work well for moral issues. This is because human nature always was and always will be, essentially, the same. Morally relative issues become incoherent since different moralities may be equally correct, even when they directly contradict each other. If "all things are relative," then rape, adultery and murder can arguably be no worse than benevolence, love and kindness.

Liberal thought has come to dominate our government, businesses and media, and virtually all other aspects of popular culture. The doctrine of engineered representation, cosmetic diversity, and special entitlements has become our concept of social virtue. Whatever rational justification they used for their ideology in the 1960s faded away long ago. Government spending on social programs, for instance, has repeatedly been proven ineffective and even destructive.

Attempts to maintain behavioral right and wrongs today are often viewed as oppression of the "victims" of society. The list of victim groups -- minorities, women, homosexuals, the disabled, the obese, the young, and the old -- is virtually endless. Victimization makes responsibility useless unless it is backed by preferential treatment. As victims, compassion and excuses for aberrant behavior have become their entitlement, which releases them from responsibility for their actions.

When faced with the failure of their ideas, liberal reaction has become predictable. Exaggerations and accusations fly, and anyone who disagrees with their viewpoint is condemned and demonized. They seem to think that if they shout "far right" and "extremists" long enough, somebody will believe it.

For years, the federal courts have busily enacted the liberal agenda in defiance of any plausible reading of the Constitution. Looming ideological battles in the U.S. Senate with judicial appointments and other issues will surely prove bitter and divisive.

The Civil Rights movement is one of the few cultural shifts that has had a positive impact on America. But it looks like we have come to regret much of what else that era has produced. So, what do we do with liberalism now?

First, we must know the truth of what is happening to us, and then maintain resistance to all the misinformation. Moral reasoning requires major premises in which to start, and only a religious foundation provides them. Only by acknowledging the truth of Biblical teachings will the fog of moral relativism be overcome.

Just as the liberals disassembled culture by a series of ideological conquests progressing area by area, in the same way it must be recouped. Education must be won school by school, university by university. Bureaucracies must be contained, the courts should be criticized when they transgress their authority, and the media should be exposed when coverage is biased. We need to ignite the idea that personal responsibility is the only way to truly deliver everyone to their full potential.

And we must support politicians who advance traditional moral values. As events in Washington vividly illustrate, any conservative political victory is tenuous until we win back the public conscience to a higher standard. Hey folks, it's up to all concerned citizens to help turn this mess around. It may be difficult and boring to stand up for everyday decency and moral principles, but we really have no other choice.

06901


Top    Columns Page

 

Copyright 2000-2007, Jeff Lukens