Thursday, March 27, 2008

The “declinist” left’s pathological pessimism

Everyone is pessimistic now and again. Like when the home team is on a losing streak or the stock market is tanking there’s good reason to feel trepidation about the future. It’s natural and reasonable. But when you are perpetually pessimistic, even in the face of good news all around, when you make a career out of, and take glee in predicting doom and gloom, then that would be a pathological condition.

On the right, we’re all aware at some level that the left’s worldview tends to the pathological. Socialists are forever reminding their ‘constituencies’ about how badly off they are. They try to define conditions such as poverty in a way that increases the numbers of ‘poor’ voters. The worse they can make things appear the better. Their glass isn’t just half empty, it’s cracked and leaking rapidly. Yipeee!

Andrew Potter, in his article, ‘A convenient untruth’ in today’s ‘Post’ does a masterful job of capturing this kind of pessimism:

One of the most disturbing aspects of the growing concern over climate change is the giddy delight with which some members of the left await the coming global catastrophe.

Let us call these people "declinists," and their animating philosophy "declinism." What motivates declinism is an attitude so pessimistic that it is almost theological: not only are things worse than they used to be, but they're getting worse with every passing year.

... climate change is the ultimate declinist wet dream. .... declinism gathers up everything the left dislikes about contemporary society and puts it all in the dock facing the same charge: it is causing the planet to heat up.

... There is no point in arguing with declinism, because it is not a set of empirical propositions but an ideology.

Over the past 100 years, life got steadily better by almost any conceivable measure. Life expectancy rose while infant mortality dropped; the air quality of our cities improved, our food got cheaper and more nutritious, and the workplace became safer as wages steadily climbed. If you have any question as to the arrow of progress, ask yourself one question: Given a choice, when would you rather have been born, 1900 or 2000?

Declinism is both a sin and a betrayal. It is a sin because it displays an utter lack of faith in humanity, believing that we will inevitably abuse the gifts of freedom, knowledge and power and become the agents of our own destruction. It is a betrayal of modernity and of the liberal ideals that have breathed life and hope into human progress for the past four hundred years.

And speaking of pathological:

In its resentment of modernity, the declinist left finds itself in agreement with a broad spectrum of Islamofascists, evangelical nuts and tin-foil-hat anarchists, who equally fear the globalized future and pray for a return to a glorious but thoroughly imaginary past.

It’s a highly recommended read.

1 comment:

Blazing Cat Fur said...

Crikey I'm sorry I missed that - a good article, just surf Babble for confirmation.