related: Professor is a Label that Leans to the Left
From Academia With Love
The excellent Dennis Mangan on liberalism as gnosticism.
Guy White complains that the most common retort he gets from liberals is that he is ignorant:
Ignorant is anyone who has ever disagreed with a liberal. What truly shows that liberalism is a cult where everyone is taught to say the same thing is that the same word is always used: ignorant.So, that got me to thinking about Lawrence Auster's recent remarks about liberalism and gnosticism. He believes that gnosticism is of the essence of liberalism. Since gnosticism claims to have a kind of inside knowledge, it makes sense that the a common insult that liberals hurl would be to accuse someone of ignorance. The gnostics understand, and everyone else needs their teachings.
People aren’t stupid, dumb, dull, idiotic, ludicrous, moronic, imbecilic, unintelligent, deficient, retarded, laughable, mindless, out to lunch, nonsensical, dim, dopey, slow, witless, senseless, unknowing, birdbrained, foolish or misinformed.
No, if you disagree, you are always ignorant.
For the uninitiated, the Gnostics were around in the Hellenistic World around the time of Jesus of Nazareth, and in fact biblical scholars believe that the Gospel of John was written to counter the claims of the Gnostics, whose ideas had infiltrated the early Church. The Gnostics (from Greek gnosis, knowledge) believed in the dualism of the world, good vs. evil, dark vs. light, etc, and more importantly they believed strongly in the notion of the physical world versus the spiritual realm.
Gnosticism is closely related to Plato's philosophy but you can just Google all this. Ultimately, gnosticism is about those who hold "secret knowledge" (similar to modern conspiracy theorists) which can be divided into levels until initiates are "ready" to receive it.
On the other hand, some might say that conservatism claims insider knowledge and is thus gnostic. In a long-ago post, I claimed that conservatism is allied or related to curmudgeonry, and that the single defining element of curmudgeonry is the notion that one sees through the shallowness and vanity and stupidity of the masses and their pursuits. So what's the difference between the two outlooks, and why would liberalism be gnostic and conservatism or curmudgeonry not be? Maybe because a conservative would claim something like "reality doesn't care what you think", i.e. the world is what it is and, while we can try to make progress at the margin, this will always be difficult and we should be aware of our own hubris. The liberal-gnostic believes that reality, i.e. the world, is inherently flawed, but that it is given to a small elite to be the light-bearers.
Or is this just conservative hubris in thinking that we are reality-based, and others are not?
To expand on Mangan's argument, and partly in reply, it should be noted that liberalism has plenty of this 'hidden knowledge' in terms of language and methodology, particularly at an academic level.
If you question why, for example, it's racist to deny that all Western countries are "institutionally racist", you will be directed to large volumes of material that explain why this is indeed the case. The word "racism", as we have all noticed, no longer means discrimination on the basis of race or colour, but "racism = prejudice + power".
Does it not strike anyone that if an argument requires thousands of pages of writing, produced at a third-level institution of learning, in order to support it, then maybe it isn't a very good or rational argument?
Not so with liberals for whom the more convoluted an argument, the more correct it must be. Conservatives on the other hand, are able to make arguments far more succinctly, which is possibly why we don't spend so much time in libraries backing up our views. As Margaret Thatcher stated, "the facts of life are Conservative".
In many ways, a Conservatism of sorts is a natural "default" state of being, and this in itself is one reason why liberals can't tolerate it. For liberals, like their gnostic forebears, anything "natural" belongs to the physical world of animal needs and desires; lust, greed, and low taxes. The spiritual realm, however, calls for social evolution, where yes, we can!TM build a new, wondrous society based on enlightened ideals, and in the process set aside our brute desires and learn to co-operate.
Like Pol Pot and Mao did.
Another factor, and one that fits nicely into Mangan's juxtaposition of Liberalism and Gnosticism, is the moralising factor. When you disagree with a liberal, you are not simply of a different ideological outlook. No, you are A Bad Person and your motivations and moral fibre can be justifiably called into question.
This is common among the Left, and has been in evidence recently as Scott Brown emerged victorious as Massachusetts' first Republican senator since 1972. Said one lefty, reported at American Power blog:
What you did to this country tonight is disgusting. You voted for hatred, you voted for ignorance, you voted for Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and the vomit producing Republican Party. You deserve every rotten, stinking thing that party has in store for you. I say let the Republicans have this country and take it down, that is the only thing people will remember, that's the only thing that will make them understand just what they have done. Fuck you you fucking tea bagging assholes.
The equation of knowledge with moral purity is classic gnosticism, and the equation of the 'ignorant' with moral degradation is a common tool of liberal debate.
E.g. "You reject nationalised health care because you hate poor people"
Classical Liberalism stressed the imporance of awareness and education so that citizens could understand their rights and responsibilities. For Classical Liberals, knowledge means the ability to think critically, to engage with other philosophies and ideologies, and education for its own sake has been a mainstay doctrine of Liberal policies and organisations for centuries.
But this is not the same as what liberal gnostics mean by knowledge. Theirs is private, insider, knowledge, not public, easily accessible knowledge, a knowledge that is the preserve of "experts", such as those at thinktanks and academic institutions.