May 24, 2005

Comfort With Contradiction

Jonah Goldberg on the definition of a conservative:
I think any definitive definition would have to take the notion into account: Comfort with contradiction. I mean this in the broadest metaphysical sense and the narrowest practical way. Think of any leftish ideology and at its core you will find a faith that circles can be closed, conflicts resolved. Marxism held that in a truly socialist society, contradictions would be destroyed. Freudianism led the Left to the idea that the conflicts between the inner and outer self were the cause of unnecessary repressions...

Listen to Democratic politicians when they wax righteous about social policy. Invariably it goes something like this: “I simply reject the notion that in a good society X should have to come at the expense of Y.” X can be security and Y can be civil liberties. Or X can be food safety and Y can be the cost to the pocketbook of poor people. Whatever X and Y are, the underlying premise is that in a healthy society we do not have tradeoffs between good things. In healthy societies all good things join hands and walk up the hillside singing I’d like to buy the world a coke. Think about why the Left is obsessed with hypocrisy and authenticity. The former is the great evil, the latter the closest we can get to saintliness. Hypocrisy implies a contradiction between the inner and outer selves. That’s a Freudian no-no in and of itself....[part of the] general hostility the Left has to the idea that we should live in any way that doesn’t "feel" natural. We must all listen to our inner children.

Now look at the arguments of conservatives. They are almost invariably arguments about trade-offs, costs, “the downside” of a measure...The beauty of the conservative movement — as Buckley noted in that original essay — is that we all get along with each other pretty well. The chief reason for this is that we all understand and accept the permanence of contradiction and conflict in life. Christians and Jews understand it because that’s how God set things up.
I agree with Jonah but I don't think only the left goes gaga over hypocrisy. Bill Clinton was the poster child for it wasn't he? There was much angst when it was said he was using church services for photo ops, complete with large telegenic bible. He stole conservative ideas and then took credit for them and that drove us conservatives crazy. So while I agree that hypocrisy is the joystick that moves liberals, I'm not sure it isn't a feature of modernity rather than a feature of any one party.

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