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The Arrogant Misery of Leftists
“Jim” (not his real name) is one of my closest friends. We practiced medicine together for a while, and then I helped him through retirement. I still see him frequently, including, for example, at holiday parties. He is very intelligent, and a nice, well-meaning person. He is also progressive, which I find fascinating. He hates Trump nearly as much as Gary. He voted for Hillary but wanted Bernie. I read about social democracy in places like Venezuela, and wonder why Jim would want that for anybody. For an intelligent, well-meaning person, that really is fascinating.
At a recent Christmas party, Jim said something that caught my ear. Being a polite, nice person, he does not discuss religion or politics directly (…although he makes a lot of oblique references and snide comments; in a polite, nice way…). But he went on at some length that night, making snide comments about the wealth of a mutual friend. We live in Hilton Head. There are a lot of wealthy people here. Jim himself lives in a $3 million oceanfront house which he owns free and clear, and he travels the world. His wife recently took her BMW into the dealership to get it cleaned, and then drove home in a brand-new BMW. She liked it. Why not?
So it struck me as odd that Jim would criticize anyone for being wealthy. But the other guy is wealthier than Jim. Jim wasn’t being vicious, just snide. And they’re close friends – in fact, Jim just got back from spending last week on this guy’s yacht in the Caribbean. Jim may not approve of Caribbean yachts, but he’s not turning down that invitation. He’s not stupid. But he does this a lot – I realized that we had had this conversation, about various other wealthy people, many times. And I started to notice a pattern in his other topics of conversation over time:
Jim lives his life by Judeo-Christian principles but rolls his eyes at Christians. He considers Islam to be a beautiful culture, but Judaism and Christianity to be primitive superstitions which lead to bigotry and violence. Don’t get me wrong – he loves living in a Judeo-Christian society, and he lives his life in a Judeo-Christian way – he just scoffs at actual believers of Judaism and Christianity. Those people are, well, you know…
Again, his criticisms are rarely direct. He won’t say exactly what it is that he disapproves of. It’s just a snide comment and a roll of the eyes.
Jim’s life has been a long, steady, dedicated, and focused effort to gain wealth. He was born into an upper-middle-class family and has gone up from there. He is a good physician but has made several shrewd business moves over the years. He’s taken calculated risks at the right time, was clever with taxes and investments, and has done very well for himself and his family. So, good for him. But as I mentioned, he habitually denigrates those with more wealth than himself. Why? I used to think it was simply an effort to establish his credibility as a proponent of the less fortunate. But now, I’m not so sure. I haven’t quite figured this out yet, but I think his arrogance requires him to continually express his displeasure with those people. You know – those people. He’s above all that. Are you?
His life was saved last year by an extremely high-tech medical gizmo. When he told me about this remarkable, life-saving procedure, he shook his head at how much money the company that developed it was probably scamming from Medicare. Probably. Because, you know, those people…
He admires socialism in other countries, but he very much enjoys the benefits of living in a capitalist society.
He rolls his eyes at redneck gun nuts, but if anything bad ever happened, I suspect that I would find Jim and his wife on my front porch because they know that this is one of the best-armed houses in Hilton Head. He scoffs at those who think they need guns to protect themselves, while he lives in a gated community. With armed guards at the gate.
He shakes his head at the Puritans who think that marriage is the bedrock of society, but he is very upset that his beautiful daughter has been living out of wedlock with her boyfriend (and their child) for the past 10 years. Maybe her daughter listens to him more than he thought.
And so on and so on. And so on.
All those things have something in common, I think. Maybe a few things in common. I used to think it was simple hypocrisy. But now I think there’s more to it than that.
First, arrogance. Those people over there are misguided. Jim is wise and sensible. On the other hand, I am constantly learning from other people. Even from people that Jim would not approve of. I may not really approve of them either, but I think you can learn something from nearly anybody. By looking down his nose at Christians, Jim scoffs even at the wisdom of the ages, seemingly without wondering whether there’s something in those ancient books that could challenge his wisdom. That’s high-level, effortless, unconscious arrogance. Even a lack of interest in the world we live in. What an awful way to live your life.
Next, jealousy. Rather than enjoying his own good fortune, he resents those who have done better. Thus, nothing is ever good enough. There’s always someone better off. What an awful way to live your life.
And then, misery. Everything is a negative. Even a technological marvel that saves his life – he finds something to criticize. Rather than seeking joy, he seeks misery. And he finds it. What an awful way to live your life.
I’m not sure that Jim is a hypocrite, because I think he is too self-centered for hypocrisy. His concerns matter and the concerns of others don’t. At least, not in the same way. He’s not being hypocritical, just self-centered. It’s ok for big government to cause Venezuelans to survive by eating rats, but Jim complained about “greedy politicians” when some new local regulation raised the prices at the Whole Foods he shops at last year.
Jim cares about his well-being, and his security, and his image. He also cares about other people, I think. But in a very different way. A way that I just can’t wrap my mind around.
Again, Jim really is a good person. I like him a lot. That’s what makes all this so hard for me to understand.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Jim is just a stereotypical liberal, with the casual arrogance of the well-off, the hypocrisy required of those with nonsensical personal philosophies, and whose financial success leads him to constant, reflexive virtue signaling. And maybe my friendship with Jim is leading me to try to see things that just aren’t there. The simplest solution is usually right.
Maybe I’m confused not by Jim, but by leftism. I just don’t understand. How such nice, intelligent people like Jim could share even parts of the politics of Hugo Chavez, Joseph Stalin, Chairman Mao – heck, even Nancy Pelosi – I search and search for understanding. I listen to Jim. I read liberal columnists. I watch CNN (well, in airports…).
I just can’t figure it out.
The history of the Democrat party in the United States is horrifying (Jim is a 70ish-year-old white man whose family has been in South Carolina for generations – surely he knows the history of the Democrat party. The party that he continues to vote for.) The history of progressivism/leftism around the world for the past 150 years is even more horrifying. And even if you ignore the history, what do you get out of leftism right now, at this moment? Arrogance, jealousy, and misery. Even in otherwise successful, happy people, like Jim.
How on earth does any thinking, feeling human decide, “You know, I want to be a progressive Democrat.” How on earth?
The more I listen to Jim, the more confused I get.
Can anyone out there help me understand?Published in General
I know people like this too.
What I confuses me is why you like him.
Jim is my friend.
And again, I admire the way he lives his life. Or perhaps I should say, I admire his actions more than his words.
A lot of my Democrat friends live by Conservative principles.
That’s what confuses me.
The fundamental sin is pride, and we are all subject to it. Pride is kept at bay through gratitude. But when you’ve given up on authentic Christianity, you have no one to whom to express gratitude, so pride grows powerful. It doesn’t go unrecognized, and still produces guilt, but that guilt does not foster true humility. Rather it produces the false humility that consoles itself by finding fault in everyone but oneself. So being a Bernie supporter gives one a clear conscience in spending your money on yachts and BMW’s rather than giving to the poor. The longer this goes on the more deep-seated it becomes and the less possible it becomes for the self to recognize what is truly going on.
If you figure it out be sure to tell me because I have spent a long time trying.
Brilliant comment. Thanks.
Apparently Jim is not a psychiatrist.
I know a guy like this as well. He is my cousin. A little story: my father was a surgeon. When this particular cousin was in medical school he came to visit. My parents were in the middle of adding a family room on to the house. Oh, you should have seen that room! It had a sunken sofa–we called it the pit, and it was. A “conversation pit.” So the grownups are sitting on the plywood in the pit. My cousin said that doctors should only make $8,000 a year (It was 1970). My dad said, “You’re sitting in my house and drinking my scotch; you’re telling me that doctors should only make $8,000 a year. What are you going to do after February?”
My cousin went on to become a doctor. He is currently in prison for running a prescribing racket. It was all about the money.
My best friend is a socialist. He is also one of the most kind, caring, smart, and funny people I know, not to mention he’s a good listener. My thoughts are that people like our friends who are far left have the philosophy that: “sure things are great, but we have the wealth and intelligence to make it even better THIS way.” Personally I find that antithetical to our conservative principals, in that the downside to that opinion is horrifying, whereas what’s the upside of marginally improving the greatest, most prosperous nation to ever grace the earth? That’s my 2 cents at least. My friend is way too great a guy not to give him the benefit of the doubt.
So is mine. Exactly.
I don’t get it either. I am related to people who live their personal lives in a very conservative way, but they hate conservatives; in many cases, I suspect that pride is indeed the culprit, and they just can’t stand the idea of admitting that they have been wrong. I was born, raised, and still live in Massachusetts; my parents have always been republicans, but they never had a problem with democrats and they never hated anyone. But some of the democrats I am related to really, seriously, hate republicans; needless to say, this makes things a little complicated in the extended family. One of my uncles who used to invite us over for Christmas Eve didn’t invite us this year; last year, on Christmas Eve, my husband was joking around, and said to this uncle, “We will have you voting for Trump yet”; he said this in a very good natured way, and he was obviously joking, but my uncle didn’t think it was funny at all. When my husband said that, my uncle went all dead serious, and said “We don’t talk about politics here”. And then my husband smiled at him and told him to get a grip, which, ok, he should not have done :) But still. I kind of agree with my husband: I think my uncle really does need to get a grip. This is especially strange because this uncle is very conservative in his personal life; he goes to Church at least weekly, if not daily, his wife was a stay home mother, they had 6 children, I could go on. But I guess when you have been hating republicans your whole life, it is difficult to stop.
Not I, my friend. I have no insight into this phenomenon.
I too am somewhat mystified by why you are close to this person, but I’d guess (and I mean “guess”) that there’s a sufficient long-standing bond to overcome your misgivings. Been there, done that, and still do that. But I’d personally question how smart this person is. He has the trappings of intellect, but it’s hard for me to see a person this out of touch with the inconsistencies in his belief system as being particularly intelligent. I’d take a stab and speculate that he’s hyper aware of certain forms of “bigotry” in others without examining some of his own beliefs.
Hey Dr. Bastiat. I’m here to help.
My theory is that Jim, or anyone in a similar situation, has not really formulated a proper opinion on this stuff. He probably hasn’t ever thought about it very hard. Reading, research, cause, effect, theory, practice, mechanisms, consequences, whatever. ‘Never looked into any of it very much.
He is a democrat, and he believes it’s the hip party; the party that’s cool, modern, progressive, and makes things happen. And he’s repeating the party talking points, because that’s the way the cool, hip, modern, progressive people, the movers and shakers in the party, talk.
Is my theory consistent with observations?
A consequence of my theory is that it would be useless to debate any of these positions in the usual way, as he takes the positions as golden. And so, for a given topic, the best approach would be, instead, to stir up an interest for him to do his own research, in areas not covered by the party line.
Jim is an ahole. He is no good.
Simple enough. People like that should get a strong commupance, but won’t becuase the world rewards them and punishes those who are of good Character. Jim is a self-serving jerk. He gets the rewards, while decent people suffer.
I can only hope a storm washes away his home. He deserves it.
Does Jim know you’re a conservative? Aside from simple jealousy over someone being more successful than him, he could also be virtue signaling in the same way many people in Hollywood or the tech industry do, when they think they have to show other liberals that while they may be incredibly well-off, they’re not like those rich people, who make ostentatious displays of their wealth (beyond the missus buying a Beamer on a spur-of-the-moment decision).
It seems to be a type of mental gymnastics that allows them to believe because they don’t think like those rich people, they’re morally better than those rich people, and therefore can spend their money in only slightly less ostentatious ways. But Jim doesn’t seem to be the type who wants to shout their virtuousness to the world, so if he thought you weren’t sympathetic to him and willing to ignore the dichotomy between his words and spending actions, he might not have confided in you about his political feelings in the first place.
I know people just as you’ve described. Doctors, lawyers, etc. One of them, say, Mark, is a communist socialist who thinks the epitome of life on earth is working for the NSA (in the wealthy upper echelons) because: Knowledge is power. He’s a
communist— dedicated socialist — who sent both his children through school in degrees in economics. (Apparently wealth is happiness — if not power.)
He completely baffled me in a couple of long and argumentative and yet eminently civil conversations over the years. In the first he argued that there was no such things as absolute truth (I took the pro side). And a few years later he argued that there was no such thing as lies, and finally concluded with “lies are the truth”. And when I asked him how he could, as a judge, swear people to tell the truth under the penalty of perjury, he answered, “It’s all a game, man.”
Maybe for some people there really are no rules to this existence; and for rules, you just fake ’em and make ’em, and choose ’em and lose ’em as the situation requires.
It’s not hypocrisy, it’s psychopathy.
Yeah: Jim’s a narcissistic asshole.
Ok, so I used to be in Amway. Don’t laugh. I never got rich, but I got more than wealth out of it. I learned a lot. One thing I learned came from a guy named Bill who did get very rich, but whose last name I cannot remember. Not Bill Britt…Bill something…I can see his face…anyway. Bill once said (and I’m paraphrasing) “How much porcelain is too much? My friends tell me I have too many bathrooms. But how many is too many? It turns out that when someone says ‘too much money’, they mean ‘just a bit more than I’ve got at the moment.’ “
See, guys like Jim are just self-centered. Jim ain’t figured out what “it” is. It being the thing that makes life worth living. When he does, he’ll stop being an arrogant prig.
Yes. He knows I’m a devout Christian. He knows I grew up on a hog farm, lost our farm at the age of 16, have worked my way up with risk taking and hard work, and that I admire those qualities in others. He knows that I think Trump is doing a good job.
Again, Jim is always indirect in his criticisms. Snarky, not clear and direct. On the other hand, I tend to be more direct. My statements require little interpretation.
Damn, you are PISSED today, hahaha.
He is a horrible person, but will never get what he deserves. Like most horrible people.
Only decent people get scrwed
Store up your rewards in heaven, my good man!
Thanks for finding that. I was totally thinking about that scene when I wrote the comment!
I am not in heaven now. I am here, on Earth, spending energy on others, and there is no ROI. None. What I get is nothing back at all.
There is no reward. Oh, people care, but people with power, people with the ability to make a difference? They do nothing, so they don’t care.
If I could do it all over, I’d spend no time at all on others and all my energy one me. THAT is how you get ahead in the world. THAT is how you get the goods. That is how you win the prize.
And I think, brother, that you would find your life cheapened for that approach.
Life is supposed to suck. It’s our test.
It does not seem to suck for others.
I know. Trust Mongo.
Oh, it does. They just hide it well…
For others? It’s not about others. It’s about you. How are you going to deal with the craptastic pile o’ steaming suckitude that life throws at you? Don’t look left. Don’t look right. No one can carry your burden but you. Some people get over with a lighter burden? Okay. Some people have to try to muscle up under burdens the likes of which you cannot even imagine.
I think the system is rigged. Life sucks. Make of it what you will.