When terrorists crashed planes into buildings and sent the world spiraling toward oblivion on September 11th 2001, I really wanted to know why.
I didn’t think I got a very good explanation, to say the least of it.
George W. Bush said “the terrorists” were “evil” and they “hated us for our freedom”. He later seemed to shut down alternative opinions by condemning “ridiculous conspiracy theories”. At the time, I wasn’t much of a conspiracy theorist, but just calling people “evil” really didn’t seem like a valid explanation for such a world altering event.
My dissatisfaction wasn’t entirely about evidence standards, mind you. It wasn’t even some prior distrust for the government. I just thought the bit about the cartoon super villain, cackling with his henchmen about their plans to destroy the world, for no other reason than the sheer joy of doing something terrible, was kind of hard to believe.
Perhaps if I had stronger religious convictions it would have been easier to swallow. “Ah, must be the devil!” wouldn’t bring us any closer to solving such problems, but it would at least give my mind the comfort of considering the puzzle solved.
Whatever the obstacles, I didn’t buy it, but at the time, I didn’t care, either. “It’s us vs. them” was enough for me to support the wars and feel good about killing the bad guys. Maybe they were evil, maybe they just had a conflict of interests, maybe they were getting back at us for something, but if your team and my team are going to have a killing contest, I want my team to win, and we can ponder the philosophical implications after the game has ended in my side’s victory.
Years went by, and I didn’t feel like I had gained a much clearer understanding of the underlying issues, even though I spent my evenings watching Fox News on more nights than not.
Then, in 2009, I stumbled upon what would commonly be described as conspiracy theories. Greed, envy. vendettas, thirst for power, and other simple human motivations were assigned to various known and unknown persons and groups to explain world events. The world was no less scary when I started to think my own government was responsible for every horrible thing in the world, but there was a certain comfort that came with thinking that things were at least going according to someone’s plan, even if it was a plan I disagreed with, and being able to make sense of things through a series of dot connecting exercises which, in hindsight, varied significantly in their merit.
A few years of that often paranoid worldview eventually gave way to what I, for a time, thought to be more grounded to reality. Sure some people were control freaks and greedy beyond the average person’s comprehension, but the vast majority of people, I told myself, were simply misguided. They had simply not been exposed to what I told myself was the one true moral principle of non-aggression, and by this ignorance had sought to impose various methods of control on their fellow citizens with the most noble of intentions. In this view, everyone wanted to be a good person, and was simply in error as they went about this pursuit.
The Leftist infiltration of the libertarian movement made this viewpoint impossible to maintain. As well financed propagandists, well versed in our way of thinking, went about trying, with substantial success, to subvert the teachings of our thought leaders with communist propaganda, ignorance was suddenly off the menu. It is easy to believe somebody is misguided when they are unaware of the better path, but when they study that path, and use that knowledge to deter people therefrom, mens rea, a Latin legal term for guilty mind, comes into play.
This revelation was vital in my ideological shift rightward from libertarianism. I used to think Left and Right were equally misguided in their pursuit of power over one another, but now the Left had revealed themselves as knowingly working against what I perceived to be the highest value.
One could say similar things about the Right if they translated the term to mean “whatever is said or done by members of the Republican Party”. However, as the Leftists were wreaking havoc on the libertarian movement, and more of us were pushed rightward thereby, it became obvious that there was a significant disconnect between the likes of Paul Ryan, and the intellectual foundations of Right wing thought.
My effort to understand this phenomenon, combined with the sudden focus on immigration in the political discourse, led me to more deeply contemplate ethnic motivations as being more central to human action. This surely did more to explain our foreign policy than mere greed and bloodlust. Domestically, it served as a vital complement to my prior view which was much more centered on economics. Ethnic groups, acting on primal motivations to see their group succeed over others, acted in often unconscious ways to that end, and since their subconscious minds were being led by primitive survival instincts, they were always assured of the righteousness of their cause.
Though not speaking in ethnic terms, Jonathan Haidt described this in his book The Happiness Hypothesis. He used the analogy of “The elephant and the rider” in which one’s conscious decision making processes represent the human rider of an elephant, which itself represents one’s deeper instincts and the emotional needs which stem from them.
He describes the analogy thusly;
I’m holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop, or to go. I can direct things, but only when the elephant doesn’t have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I’m no match for him.
Viewed this way, moral narratives are reduced in value almost to the point of irrelevance. Our moral narratives are shaped in our own minds around baser instincts, and have no objective standard by which to measure them. It seemed rational, however, and my mind is the sort which demands rational explanations.
On some days, however, I find even this explanation wanting. On those days, I find myself somewhat envious of people who have strong religious convictions. Evil simply does a better job of explaining certain phenomenon.
There are plenty of examples, but abortion tops the list for me, and a piece in Vice News, published yesterday, provides an excellent example.
Titled “If You Don’t Want to Provide Abortions, Don’t Go Into Healthcare” Monica R. McLemore rails against a female nurse who, owing to her religious convictions, refused to participate in abortion procedures provided by her employer, the University of Vermont Medical Center.
Such conscientious objections are supported by US law, and the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has taken her side in the dispute.
Ms. McLemore finds this abhorrent, proving definitively that abortion advocacy was never about choice, or about women, but something far more sinister.
She hits every intersectional Leftist talking point imaginable, and a few beyond the common limits of imagination. To hear Monica tell it, anything done “under medical supervision” is “by definition … healthcare”. She specifically includes “gender affirmation” procedures, such as cross sex hormones, puberty blockers, and genital mutilation, and course, abortion, but there really is not any limit to the scope of this viewpoint.
By that same reasoning, the Nation’s opioid crisis is merely health care. Euthanasia surely falls under the same umbrella. Ditch the camouflage and issue medical licenses to the military, and one could just as easily justify unprovoked wars in this fashion.
To hear her tell it, anybody who does not want to participate in such activities ought to be barred from employment in the medical profession.
Yet, if one were to interrogate Ms. McLemore about her views more broadly, inconsistencies would surely emerge.
Can a funeral home refuse to employ a transgender person because their repulsive appearance is offputting to their clients? I suspect Ms. McLemore would say no. Is a bakery, which fits none of the special criteria she assigns to health care, allowed to refuse clients over religious convictions? One doubts she would permit such a thing if given the power to decide.
If the medical industry were turned to eugenic purposes, carrying out abortions and sterilizations with ethnic aims, would she chastise medical professionals who objected on moral grounds? Of course not. If conversion therapy for homosexuals and gender dysphoria came back into fashion, would she classify all dissent as heresy? I doubt it.
It is difficult to assign an ethnic motivation here as well. Ms. McLemore would certainly deny having any racial animus against black people, but she notes that “people of color, and Black people in particular, are disproportionately more likely to receive care from public and religiously affiliated institutions that are affected by these conscience rules.” The implication necessarily being that she favors the disproportionate impact of abortion on black families, a thing which, in any other context, would be considered White Supremacy.
This being the case, it is difficult to frame Ms. McLemore’s supposed convictions as part of a coherent theme of righteousness, even a misguided one. Her desire to compel a woman to do things which are against her conscience, seems little more than a desire to kill children, and conscript decent folk to participate in the slaughter.
Maybe George W. Bush was right. Maybe the terrorists really are just evil people, who hate us for our freedom.
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