Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My conscience hath a thousand several tongues

Showing possible proof the my life is actually guided by the hand of fate, David brought up John Dean's book Conservatives Without Conscience last night. I'd been meaning to blog about a recent posting by Glenn Greenwald over at his blog, "John Dean and Authoritarian Cultism - a Review" for a few days now, but forgot this is the same book he was talking about. Go read Glenn's post. It's written by a lawyer so it's got a lot of words in it, but it's very worthwhile. I'm going to have to pick this book up.

Dean's book is an analysis of the conservative movement, what drives it, and what attracts people to it.

Dean contends, and amply documents, that the "conservative" movement has become, at its core, an authoritarian movement composed of those with a psychological and emotional need to follow a strong authority figure which provides them a sense of moral clarity and a feeling of individual power, the absence of which creates fear and insecurity in the individuals who crave it. By definition, its followers' devotion to authority and the movement's own power is supreme, thereby overriding the consciences of its individual members and removing any intellectual and moral limits on what will be justified in defense of their movement.

I guess I've never really thought about things that way, but it makes sense. In reading this description, I was struck at how well it describes the evangelical Christian movement and why they are so attracted to authoritarian conservative political doctrine.

A major component of premillinenialist Christian doctrine is that, after the Rapture, after the post-Rapture Tribulations, Jesus will return to rule over the world as king. If you really stop and think about that, it's a remarkably medieval notion. Completely undemocratic. Positively un-American.

These Christians don't just look forward to the day that they will have an unquestionable ruler over them with absolute power, they long for it. It's a seductive doctrine, surrendering control over your life to an absolute ruler in which you have faith that he can do no wrong.

It's also an amazingly dangerous idea. It's not like people in our history haven't found what they thought was their Messiah, only to be proved frighteningly wrong. Seventy-six people died at Waco. Nearly a thousand people died at Jonestown.

Getting back to Greenwald's review of Dean's book, this is the part of this movement I think is so dangerous: (emphasis mine)

...those who submit to authority necessarily relinquish their own conscience (in favor of serving the conscience of their leader and/or their movement), those who are part of this movement are capable of acts which a healthy and normal conscience ought to preclude. They can use torture, break laws, wage unnecessary wars based on false pretenses, and attempt to destroy the reputation of plainly patriotic and honest Americans -- provided that they are convinced that doing so advances the interests of the authority they serve and the movement of which they are a part.

The most horrible of acts are never committed in the name of evil, but in the name of good. It is with that very sense of righteousness that we are able to hurt our fellow man so effectively. Any movement that swaddles its followers with that same righteousness is dangerous and one that can be twisted to do evil, even with the best of intentions.


Matthew said...

I think Dean's book sounds good, and we need more like it.

While Dean takes great pains to say that he isn't bashing conservatism, per se, but a certain strain of conservatism, it's still a good sign in that the problem liberals have had for the last few years is that they've been Bush-obsessed.

Conservatives have been publishing books that attempt to destroy the ideology of liberalism, while liberals write books about how bad Bush is. While I concur that Bush isn't great, he's only a temporary figurehead. In 2008 a new president will be elected (and, let's face it, he'll likely be a Republican. Democrats don't have their act together yet). Liberals will have spent their energies railing against a man who was only in power eight years, while they could have been dissecting the ideology of conservatism.

We need more books on ideology, and Dean's is a good place to start.

Narc said...

I'm not sure where you're getting that, Matthew. Just from a few minutes on Amazon:

Ron Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine.
Glenn Greenwald, How Would a Patriot Act?
David Sirota, Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government--and How We Take It Back.

And then there's:
Edward Klein, The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go to Become President.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories.
John Podhoretz, Can She Be Stopped?: Hillary Clinton Will Be the Next President of the United States Unless...
Carl Limbacher, Hillary's Scheme: Inside the Next Clinton's Ruthless Agenda to Take the White House

I'm sorry, but your claim that liberals are just "bashing the President" while conservatives are discussing the issues just doesn't hold up.

Matthew said...

I didn't say such books didn't exist. I merely stated that we need more of them.