Quite a few self identified leftists are distancing themselves from the recent and disgusting habit of many of their more ‘progressive’ brethren of aligning themselves alongside the islamosfacists. Most notably Bernard-Henri Levy (identifying reflexive anti-Americanism as only one of the hatreds at the heart of the new left) and Nick Cohen (describing his disappointment with the apologists of islamic terror); and now Yacov Ben Moshe has produced a short essay which summarises most eloquently the reasons why, while I often feel that I hold classically liberal values, I cannot under any circumstances find common cause with the progressives amongst us:
The progressive demands that we believe his claim that he serves a higher truth and a loftier goal. He tries to force us to accept the idea that his ideas are unassailably good. And, even if they fail to be good, his virtuous pretentions are supposed to indemnify him from guilt or shame. Even if he make mistakes, behaves badly or cause harm, virtue will save him from blame. His “caring and good intentions” are supposed to trump the fact that he cares about the wrong things in the wrong way and his intentions are a humbug. Virtue is more than a sham- it is the prim, ruthless face of coercion. It is aimed outward, at others, as a self-justification; an accusation and, above all, a yearning for Utopia.
Utopia is an attack on the individual. There has never been a Utopia that could survive for long without crushing the individual. That is why “selflessness” is considered a key element of virtue. Hannah Arendt foresaw the destructiveness of progressive virtue many years ago. In her work On Revolution she wrote:“Virtue has indeed been equated with selflessness ever since Robespierre preached a virtue that was borrowed from Rousseau, and it is the equation which has put, as it were, its indelible stamp on the revolutionary man and his innermost conviction that the value of a policy may be gauged by the extent to which it will contradict all particular interests, and that the value of a man may be judged by the extent to which he acts against his own interest and against his own will.”