A question that progressives constantly ask, fluttering like a moth at the candleflame, is: why do people choose to support policies against their own interests? The proposed answers: They’re stupid. They’re deluded. They’re intrinsically racist or sexist or privileged or wanna-be serial killers. I don’t think those answers are helpful: yes, maybe in self-aggrandizement, but not in political strategy.
Odd assumption for progressives: that “their own interests” are all economic. Yes, of course, some people vote on this basis, but few wear t-shirts or bill caps with dollar signs on’em.
In Dostoevsky’s NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND, the narrator—riddled with self-hatred and one of the most repulsive characters that I’ve ever encountered in literature—addresses this question directly. His answer has given me troubled thought. They want freedom.
Not political freedom or freedom to do as we please or even freedom to be the boss, but freedom from the mandate of 2+2=4. The mandate of responsibility, of logic, of doing what’s in our best interest, of surviving—to succumb to these strictures is to have your name wiped out.
More and more, we see our heroes as irresponsible wackos. Many times I’ve heard, “I don’t agree with Trump, but he says what he thinks.” Even his business failures are triumphs of freedom: he outlives them. JFK retains his noble stature despite his womanizing and his legions of promoters. Entertainers seem to float above it all, unless they happen to commit whatever’s the sin-of-the-week.
My dad wanted no kids, and he deserted my mother when she bore one. I met him later in life, maybe the loneliest man on planet Earth, in flight from his second wife, who was dying of cancer. He’d wound up siring five daughters and made them each swear on a Bible never to have kids. He was in radical revolt against 2+2=4.
I see this in scorched-earth conservatism, but I also see it in the absolutism of progressive groups, in youth-culture songs where you can’t remotely comprehend the lyrics, in students trying hard not to learn, in a culture whose people are not citizens but consumers. We fear being an interchangeable part on Henry Ford’s assembly line. We fear having no tribe that gives us embrace, so we’ll settle for any tribe that seems like a tribe, and the easiest way to bring a group together is rage.
I feel the great plague that roils us isn’t Trumpism or socialism or religion or atheism—it’s nihilism. It gives us infinite freedom to die.