What Do These All Have In Common?

 Posted by on 26 September 2005 at 4:27 am  Uncategorized
Sep 262005

Here are a number of apparently disparate ideologies: Multiculturalism, Communism, radical environmentalism (aka “deep environmentalism”), Islamofascism, and Christianity. What do they have in common?

According to this provocative essay by Eric Raymond, they all uphold self-abnegation or self-sacrifice as a moral ideal, and this is the main threat to Western civilization. Raymond says that in order to defeat the radical Islamic threat, we not only have to stop the suicide bombers, but reject the “suicide thinking” that has infected Western culture. From the article:

These ideas travel under many labels: postmodernism, nihilism, multiculturalism, Third-World-ism, pacifism, “political correctness” to name just a few. It is time to recognize them for what they are, and call them by their right name: suicidalism…

Stalinist agitprop created Western suicidalism by successfully building on the Christian idea that self-sacrifice (and even self-loathing) are the primary indicators of virtue…

The Communist atheists of Department V understood that Christian self-abnegation tends to inculcate a cult of self-sacrifice even among Westerners who are themselves agnostics or atheists. All the propagandists had to do was make the case that the value of self-abnegation applies to culture as well as individuals. By doing so, they were able to entrench the idea that suicidalists are morally superior to non-suicidalists.

They did this so successfully that at least one major form of Western self-abnegation seems to have developed as a secondary phenomenon: “deep environmentalism”. I can’t find any sign that this traces back to the usual Stalinist suspects, but it is rather obviously a result of generalizing suicidalism not just to culture but to species.

I think it’s important to understand that, although suicidalism builds on some pre-existing pathologies of Western culture, it is not a native or natural development. It is an infection that evildoers and their dupes created and then spread as part of a war against the West; their goal was totalitarian control, and part of their method was to talk the West into slitting its own throat.

I have just a couple of comments to add.

First, the usual disclaimer: I don’t endorse everything Raymond has written; in particular his anarchist views. But in this article he has identified a very interesting philosophical thread and analyzed it in a fashion I rarely see amongst non-Objectivists. What I like best is his identification of self-sacrifice as a primary moral evil. In this article, he doesn’t go into a detailed philosophical justification of this position, but based on some of his other essays, he seems to take a quasi-Aristotelian view of human nature and human virtue.

I do think that he underestimates how deeply that the morality of self-sacrifice is rooted in Western culture. Although he mentions it briefly as a “pre-existing pathology”, it is at the heart of western Christian ethics.

Finally, I think it’s important to note that the Soviets weren’t merely using the concept of self-sacrifice as a cynical ploy to destroy the West. The notion of self-sacrifice was integral to their own Communist ideology. However, I do consider it plausible that they did deliberately try to amplify the elements they thought would help philosophically disarm the West and eliminate it as a threat to their political system.

In any case, I encourage everyone to read the whole thing and decide for themselves.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha