Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Not guilty

To continue the theme from the previous post. I think that what most clearly characterizes, defines my brand of robust and self-confident liberalism from its bland and diluted official version (that basically everyone, kind of, supports in one way or the other) is that it is completely unapologetic. I’m quite aware of the awful crimes committed in the name of the liberal civilization (and some of them even genuinely so). Well, our human history is in any case based on awful crimes. If any random tyranny manages to establish a certain stability for a couple of generations, that stability will be based on crime and aggression, it will be maintained by crime and aggression and it will be destroyed by them. That is what history is, what it (most likely) will be and what it has been. The only feeble exception is this unique effort for rational self-control. It is of course gigantic hubris to think that it will amount to anything: in fact it is almost certainly bound to fail. But in that failure it would not be remarkable: without reason and self-control all our efforts will fail. It is the attempt that is unique – the first conscious effort ever to end the slow holocaust of history.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The centre that couldn't hold

The early 20th century was such brutal time to liberal self-belief in the West: the twin nightmares of the world wars, the collapse of the international system, the world depression followed by sustained, credible and vital totalitarian challenges. And after all that, amidst all the ruins of the mid-century stood - yes, Western liberalism. A curious end to all those horrendous blows. But they did have an effect: postwar liberalism has been a hollow materialist affair, there is no vigour, no self-assuredness left, only a method of increasing production. The masses are apathetic, tired by work, consuming mindless entertainment. The elites are intellectually timid and morally puny, concentrating on their technocratic efficiency. This apologetic affair is an alien liberalism for me - the tradition is not, should not be defined by doubt and uncertainty but by a fierce assertion of doubt and uncertainty combined with a firm, self-confident rejection of all those pathetic (and morally and intellectually disastrous) projects to force a pretended certainty on our human experience (I suppose currently the strongest version is the primitive fundamentalist religion). But that sort of confidence and affirmation is not what we have, and as there sooner or later will become an existential crisis in one form or another, I don't believe that these undefended positions will be held, however correct and proper response they are to our experience of being in the world. This simply won't do, not indefinitely.