April 23, 2007


The Big White Lie (Andrew Klavan, 4/23/07, City Journal)

The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don’t have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don’t have to say that everyone’s special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don’t have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don’t have to pretend that Islam means peace.

Of course, like everything, this candor has its price. A politics that depends on honesty will be, by nature, often impolite. Good manners and hypocrisy are intimately intertwined, and so conservatives, with their gimlet-eyed view of the world, are always susceptible to charges of incivility. It’s not really nice, you know, to describe things as they are.

This is leftism’s great strength: it’s all white lies. That’s its only advantage, as far as I can tell. None of its programs actually works, after all. From statism and income redistribution to liberalized criminal laws and multiculturalism, from its assault on religion to its redefinition of family, leftist policies have made the common life worse wherever they’re installed. But because it depends on—indeed is defined by—describing the human condition inaccurately, leftism is nothing if not polite. With its tortuous attempts to rename unpleasant facts out of existence—he’s not crippled, dear, he’s handicapped; it’s not a slum, it’s an inner city; it’s not surrender, it’s redeployment—leftism has outlived its own failure by hiding itself within the most labyrinthine construct of social delicacy since Victoria was queen.

The best comedy reveals truths to us, which is why a liberalism that is premised on lies can never be funny, except to the degree that we're all laughing at them. He's wrong though that we need to be honest with them when good manners, rather than political correctness, counsels against it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 23, 2007 3:18 PM

Aside from interacting with well-meaning innocents, 'politness' never trumps honesty. Politiness is often in the eye of the beholder. Being 'polite' to incivility is nuts. Patient tolerance with the misinformed is good manners. If they're 'polite' they'll come around, if not, screw'em.

Posted by: at April 23, 2007 4:06 PM

The followers of the Procrustean path of Marxism are convinced that they may manipuate consciousness by manipulting language.

Now there is slight validity to this, but only ever so slight. The advantage is usually temporary at best, and the reality behind the symbol usually reasserts itself, with the vengeance of confusion.

The benders of language end up with bent language, a linguistic African-american picnic, in which we are all left to wander alone and confused, like the builders of the tower of Babel, unable to communicate with our fellows,

They begin with the sophomoric proposition that meanings are evolving in a living language, and from there go to the notion that meanings may be ascribed to suit political goals.

I must confess that I indulge my personal revulsion to and ridicule of this practice by referring to it my speech and writing as "gay," by which I intend the tertiary meaning of the word.

"Gay" began as something like "happy," or "cheerful," as we'll all feel when Johnny come marching home. Then the word was politically apropriated to become the preferred expression for "homosexual."

Alas for the poor homosexuals, the language exacted its revenge upon this outrage, and "gay" came to take on a third meaning, derived from the second, namely, "sick," "twisted" and yes, "bent."

I submit that this modern sin of Babel, that is, the hubristic delusion that man may re-create reality by mere linguistic manipulation, should be resisted whenever it appears. If a word is being bent before our eyes, let us challenge the bentness with a phrase like "so-called," or with quotation marks, or a footnote to the ambiguity.

Gutter-talk drives a language toward change; the institutions of linguistic conservatism, such as schools, dictionaries and the restraining influence of every individual literate, careful speaker and writer hold change in balance. Thus we preserve language as a tool for communication and comprehension.

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 23, 2007 4:37 PM

"The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names." -- Chinese Proverb

Posted by: jd watson at April 23, 2007 5:34 PM

What Mr. Klavan said pretty much sums it up for me, although I'll admit that speaking the truth sometimes requires us to use some tact.

Here's another advantage: Think of all the stuff that does not surprise us -- price controls cause shortages, socialism invariably fails, tough penalties stop criminals, regulatory agencies get hijacked by established industries, government money mostly goes to the middle class, campaign-finance reform gives inordinate power to fringe groups and just funnels money in new directions, communist societies have abysmal economies and secular societies don't have kids, minimum wages usually increase unemployment, whole language methodology is a crock, etc., etc.

As Mona Charen once said, conservatives have the privilege of not being surprised by news that mystifies liberals.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 23, 2007 5:50 PM

leftism is nothing if not polite

Is this guy related to Cliff?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 23, 2007 6:02 PM

Being impolite to the uncivil allows the deviant to disorder your behavior. It's childish.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2007 7:48 PM

Have you never ended a discussion with a ranting deviant? How did you proceed? Did they think you impolite? Did you care?

Posted by: at April 23, 2007 8:36 PM

I thank them. It confuses the heck out of them.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2007 10:17 PM

oj, in the same vein, keep smiling. It drives the b*st*rds crazy.

Posted by: erp at April 24, 2007 9:48 AM