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One week into the fall semester of my ninth grade year, I came to the reluctant conclusion that my new history teacher was a lunatic. She had decided to forego the expected study of history and instead we would all be focusing our powers of learning on the psychology fad known as transactional analysis. One of the books she trotted out for us to read was called I’m Ok – You’re Ok. Shortly after the publication of I’m Ok – You’re Ok, some smart-aleck penned a response entitled I’m Ok – You’re Not So Hot. I was immediately drawn to that title, not only because I have a predisposition toward skepticism about certain facets of psychology, but because I sensed that the title was actually a more honest expression of reality if one accepts the tragic view of the world — that in our fallenness we make everything about ourselves. Anyway, for whatever reason, I’ve always sympathized with George Scott-Moncrief’s view that psychology smells an awful lot like “the deification of the ulterior motive”.
But I digress.
Someone must have complained about the fact that the ninth graders were studying psychology in lieu of history, because somewhere around Thanksgiving we reverted, without explanation, to the assigned course of study. The animated, vaguely maniacal sessions about transactional analysis suddenly vanished and were replaced by a bored (and boring) context-free recitation of historical facts by the teacher.
The honesty suggested by the sarcastic title of I’m Ok – You’re Not So Hot interested me then and interests me still, not least because someone speaking openly and honestly is as refreshing as it is rare.
This brings me to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
This young woman from the Bronx has, of course, been a source of much consternation on both sides of the political aisle. The hackles are raised in large part because it seems she is unpracticed in the art of veiling her intentions. She is undeniably ignorant about many things yet remains invincibly unembarrassed. There’s something very refreshing about it all.
The left’s old guard has been unhappy with her plainspoken transparency. She has come in for criticism even from members of her own party. One suspects that they wish she would keep her mouth shut. After all, it seems very unwise to be blabbing the totality of your intentions to the frogs you are planning to boil.
The right, of course, mocks Ocasio-Cortez for her ignorance. But one suspects that her ignorance is an outgrowth of her being so convinced of the righteousness of her cause that she sees no need to concern herself with the pesky details. She once said, “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.” Such a statement perfectly illuminates the mindset of virtue signalers everywhere.
The challenge faced by the old lefty politicians resides in how to deal with a new generation, some of whom seem momentarily less interested in lining their own pockets than in demonstrating their moral superiority. We should take Ocasio-Cortez at her word when she says that her interest is in her own moral rectitude. Though she is fantastically wrong in suggesting that morality can be decoupled from the truth, she is at least telling us honestly what she is really about.
The danger posed by Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow travelers, however, is that the cost of their proposals for parading their personal virtue will invariably be borne by someone else. Socialists always end up preying on their neighbors as the necessary cost of their self-righteousness. If you can convince yourself that, in using up the lives of others you are actually doing them a service, there is no end to how superior you can feel.
Careful observers will note that the policies of the left are usually argued on moral grounds. But buried deep inside the unsavory details is the inescapable fact that the cost of their socialist virtue will be funded by someone else – not only in treasure but quite often in blood.
C.S. Lewis, with his typically keen eye, observed that,
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep…but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
There’s a curious story in the bible (2 Samuel 24) in which King David determines that he wants to set up a monument and offer a sacrifice on the property of a man named ‘Araunah’. Araunah offers to give the King the property and everything he needs for the sacrifice, including a pair of oxen. But David has no intention of appeasing his God by burdening someone else with the cost. Having been offered the gift of everything he needed, David responds by saying “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
There is no such thing as virtue on the cheap, someone is going to have to pay. And the question of who gets stuck with the check is the subject that has haunted all religions and most political movements since the dawn of time. Socialists are quite prepared (paraphrasing the Declaration of Independence) to send hither swarms of officers to harass the people and eat out their substance. And they propose this while arguing, with a straight face, that this is proof of their morality. Alas.
Socialists have always demonstrated in practice, though they veil it in their rhetoric, that their aspiration toward civic virtue is going to be paid for in blood. The ancient hunger for redemption is felt as acutely by every socialist as by the most pious Christian. But the great secret of the universe is that the lifeblood of redemption can only ever be given, it can never be taken. It will never be found in the socialist practice of devouring the lives of others. Virtue can be neither borrowed nor stolen.
But socialists like Miss Ocasio-Cortez still insist on donning the mantle of virtue, and they will inevitably insist that someone else foot the bill.
They just count on the rest of us not noticing, when the time comes, that the blood dripping from their lips once belonged to our friends and neighbors.