Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
I’ve finally gotten round to reading Shelby Steele’s Shame. The book is really an extended essay — a superb one at that — and I just ran across a section that goes to the heart of the conservative/liberal schism.
But before the quote, a bit of context: Steele makes an unassailable argument that liberalism is not based on facts, but on what he calls “poetic truths,” things like the idea that blacks are eternal victims, that whites (no matter how benign) are infected with privilege, that women (even Carly Fiorina or Hillary Clinton) are oppressed by the patriarchy. Having accepted these poetic truths, liberals are immunized against all contrary facts.
Now, the quote:
Insistence on poetic truth is the methodology — if not the essence — of post-1960s liberalism. This liberalism is an ideology and a politics of ugly givens (America is racist; America is militaristic; American is sexist), and it seeks power in the name of overcoming these givens with little regard to whether they are actually true. Its fundamental corruption is that it demands power commensurate with the hyperbole of its poetic truths. And today — after fifty years of real moral evolution in America — these poetic truths are indeed hyperbolic.
Liberalism in the twenty-first century is, for the most part, manipulation that exaggerates inequity and unfairness in American life in order to justify overreaching public policies and programs.
I’ve often puzzled over why it’s impossible to to engage a liberal in the arena of actual facts. Steele explains why: because they don’t live there; they live in the netherworld of the poetic truth.
Bonus quote, which also seems exactly right:
[F]or me, ideology does not precede truth. Rather, truth, as best we can know it, is always the test of ideology.
So why, after failure upon failure, are there still Marxists and socialists? Because, for them, ideology precedes truth.
Read the book. It’s undiluted wisdom.