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‘Yes, we shall set them to work, but in their leisure hours we shall make their life like a child’s game, with children’s songs and innocent dance. Oh, we shall allow them even sin, they are weak and helpless, and they will love us like children because we allow them to sin.
We shall tell them that every sin will be expiated if it is done with our permission, that we allow them to sin because we love them, and the punishment for these sins we take upon ourselves. And we shall take it upon ourselves, and they will adore us as their saviours who have taken on themselves their sins before God. And they will have no secrets from us.
We shall allow or forbid them to live with their wives and mistresses, to have or not to have children — according to whether they have been obedient or disobedient and they will submit to us gladly and cheerfully … and we shall have an answer for all. And they will be glad to believe our answer, for it will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves. And all will be happy … except the hundred thousand who rule over them. For only we, we who guard the mystery, shall be unhappy.’
As some of you will be aware, the above passage is from The Grand Inquisitor, a mini-story in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
One would like to think that most will see its relevance to today’s world.
A “safe” and sorry lot
Considering everything we’ve witnessed over the last couple of years, it would appear many are indeed happy to submit to those who rule over us. Why worry about having to make a ‘free decision’ for oneself when the powers that be can take care of all that? One is given certain wriggle room, a modicum of freedom ‘to sin’, no more, no less.
What’s really wanted — not unreasonably so — are safety and security, not freedom. Thus, it’s not quite ‘better be safe than sorry’. It’s more a case of ‘better to feel safe in the hands of a greater power than to be free.’
‘Such “liberals” must have to perform some spectacular mental gymnastics.’
In this light, it explains why many people who describe themselves as liberals went unquestioningly along with lockdowns. ‘Oh, nobody likes them but they’re for the greater good.’ That was the gist of the mantra that was sold to the masses and the majority bought it without the merest of critical assessment.
Surely genuine liberals would have wanted to be as certain as one could be that such an attack on liberty was worth the significant sacrifice. It became obvious early on in the pandemic, to those still thinking soundly in any case, that covid-19 was a severe and potentially deadly infection for only a small percentage of society.
What wasn’t fully known was the cost of extensive lockdowns — not just economically but in all aspects of life and death — although there were numerous dissenting voices telling us to tread carefully, this blog included.
In this context, ‘playing it safe’, liberal style, surely should have meant doing our best to keep life as normal as possible. Yet governments across the world, with consent from many of their citizens, did the opposite. (In slight mitigation, the minions were constantly fed worst-case scenarios.)
‘As we should all know, however, identifying as one thing is quite different from actually being that thing.’
It’s a similar story with the covid-19 vaccines. It was clear that a not-insignificant number of the population had robust natural immunity to the infection.
So again, one would have thought that those of a supposedly liberal persuasion would factor this in before endorsing, punitively, vaccine mandates. Nothing of the sort was forthcoming. (The slight mitigation here is that at the start of the vaccination rollout hopes were high that the jabs would be something of a silver bullet for all. It soon became clear that this wasn’t the case.)
Then there’s the response to mad Vlad’s (Vladimir Putin that is) decision to send his troops into Ukraine.
That the West’s hawkish right-wingers have jumped at the chance this war has presented to denounce all of Russia and its evil ways is no surprise.
What is surprising, though, are the efforts of many of our so-called liberals to outdo the neoconservatives in this regard. It seems some want to remove Russia and its people from the planet completely.
On the flip side, Ukraine and Ukrainians can do no wrong whatsoever. And they never have done any wrong. To suggest otherwise is blasphemous. I guess I was missing that day in religion class when we learnt all about the saintly, chosen people of Ukraine.
‘If I say it, it’s true’
These “liberal” double standards are nothing new, of course. I recently happened upon a 2002 interview with the late writer Christopher Hitchens where he spoke of such mental gymnastics performed — ‘liberal illusions’ as he called them — in the minds of his liberal contemporaries.
He explained how such types had to ignore many glaring illiberal practices of three fêted liberals who had been his chief targets, calling out what he considered their hypocrisy, so to put it. These individuals were Mother Teresa, Princess Diana and US President Bill Clinton. (Watch the video at https://youtu.be/93vTib-WWvs. The part relevant to this text starts around the 27-minute mark.)
One assumes that many who call themselves liberals do so because it sounds virtuous. It has non-threatening connotations.
It’s much better than labelling oneself as a radical leftist — even if that shoe appears to fit well. Or saying, on the other hand, one is a libertarian or a neoconservative.
As we should all know, however, identifying as one thing is quite different from actually being that thing.
One’s constitution and actions are what really count. Many, though, like to illude themselves on this. And as long as their conduct and values fit inside the accepted framework, they’ll never be truly challenged on it.
A win-win for all. Except for the free-thinkers.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.