One Purity To Rule Them All

What is with purity and a particular kind of thinking on the right?

There are the Tea Party types who attack RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). There are other ideological purists like S. Freeman with whom I was discussing JFK.  As he said in our discussion (quoted in full in part 4 of my JFK series):

People would have a MUCH clearer understanding of the political system, of politics in general, and of the ideological orientations (including the basic conservatism of Kennedy) IF people did not work constantly to muddy the meanings of ideological terms, and if we did a much better job teaching ideology in our education institutions.

That fear of muddying and the complaint about the lack of necessary ‘education’ to ensure right-minded thinking. Those damn liberals don’t even know what liberalism is with their constantly getting everything a “little bit muddy”. Freeman seems a bit obsessed with mud and ideological uncleanliness.

A similar thing is found with ethnic nationalists, race supremacists and even human biodiversity advocates. There is a fear that too much mixing or mixing at all will destroy something fundamentally good. There is a belief, contrary to the evidence, that there is something pure in the first place that must be defended. All of human evolution and history has been a process of mixing and mixing again. If humans weren’t born with an instinct to mix it up at every available opportunity, we wouldn’t have so much genetics of Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Purity, such a strange concept. And disgust, such a strange response. I understand that these impulses play an important role in human psychology. I don’t mean to dismiss them as irrelevant. I only mean to point out how endlessly fascinating it is the way they manifest in these modern times. Liberals get blamed for utopianism, but this purity impulse seems more utopian to me than anything liberals ever go on about.

What would the fantasy world of purity look like if these people were able to achieve it?

An entire society with pure races and ethnicities, pure ideologies and education. Everything with a place and everything in its place. Imagine a world purified of all that doesn’t fit, all that is mixed and ‘muddied’. All impurities eliminated or isolated. A pure world of pure people with pure thinking and pure behaviors. Where right is right and wrong is wrong, where white is white and black is black. Where this and that, us and them are clearly demarcated and firmly separated. Where visions are constrained and boundaries are thick. A world of order and authority, of rules and laws, of mores and standards.

More interesting, if these various purists were the only people left in the world, it would be fun to watch them fight over their respective purist agendas. Whose vision of purity would be the one purity to rule them all?

I want add something here as a side note, instead of starting a whole new post.

I’ve recently been writing a lot about races. Some of my most compelling thoughts have been on eugenics. According to HBD theory, distinct genetic populations are created through social engineering, either eugenics or something like eugenics (e.g., manorial lords deciding who can and can’t get married). In this context, purity of races has to do with social control: who is controlling whom and to what purpose that control is serving. HBD theorists interpret the data as showing very specific genetic-based behavioral tendencies were being created.

I argue that races aren’t biologically real while also arguing there is nothing to stop us from making them real. I see the racial social order in America as essentially a eugenics program with such things as anti-miscegenation laws playing a similar role to that of manorial lords determining marriages. It isn’t an issue of there existing pure races. The real issue is the desire for pure races, a centuries old dream that some are still dreaming. It is one of the most powerful visions of purity ever imagined by the human mind.

It just occurred to me, however, that there is an even greater example of a vision of purity being used as enforcement of social order. That example is India’s caste system. That is an awesome example, not just centuries old but with roots that are millennia old. If one wanted to test HBD theory, that would be where to look. How genetically distinct are the caste populations? And if somehow one could control all the social/environmental factors (an impossible task, I acknowledge), what genetic-based differences might be observed? No one knows.

The caste system is different than the race system, but there is an ideological affinity between them. I’d love to read a book that compared them and looked at all the evidence: genetic, cultural, political, etc.

On the small-scale, purity impulse is just a psychological defense against, for example, eating rotten food that might make us sick. It has a very simple purpose and a very basic survival value. However, when brought to the level of all-encompassing absolutist ideology, it becomes something entirely different. In whatever form it takes, the impulse toward purity when it gains control of a society can be powerful indeed.

Conservative Focus on the Negative

Considering ideological predispositions, there is one study I came across that I’ve never focused on before. I realized it allows for useful perspective on a particular distinction and on general confusion.

The study had to do with what people focus upon. The conclusion of the results was that conservatives spend more time focusing on that which they perceive as negative whereas liberals spend more time focusing on that which they perceive as positive. Now, that is beyond interesting.

It makes sense according to other research.

Conservatives are shown to on average have a higher fear/disgust reesponse. It’s easy to see this just by observing politics where conservatives often have long lists of all the things they are against. This was obvious with the Tea Party. It can lead liberals to calling them obstructionists.

Liberals, on the other hand, tend to be drawn toward the new and different, toward possibility and change. Liberals often push visions of hope wtih optimism and expectation about what good can be achieved. This was heard particularly in Obama’s first campaign. But conservatives see it as naive and moreso dangerously naive.

Liberals point out the positive results being blocked by conservatives. And conservatives complain about the negative results they fear from the agenda liberals push.

This made me wonder about the debate on the nature of conservatism. Is conservatism most fundamentally about defending tradition against change? Or is conservatism more primarily motivated by reaction to what it is against?

This could appear like simply a difference of emphasis, but it is an emphasis that might make a world of difference. A difference of emphasis could cause a drastic difference in political behavior and policy. This is what Corey Robin argues in his theory of reactionary onservatism. He actually argues that it goes past just emphasis, and he makes this argument by pointing how contemporary explanations of conservatism don’t fit the actual ideological history of conservatism.

What is intriguing about Corey Robin’s argument is that I don’t think he is claiming or even implying that conservatives are necessarily trying to be deceptive. Most conservatives probably believe the narrative told of conservatism as traditionalism.

The disconnect maybe just comes from the typical human challenge of self-awareness and self-understanding. Often, outsiders have more perspective to objectively assess a group or movement. This would be true for liberals as well, and I’d love to see a non-liberal write an equally compelling analysis of liberalism.

I have no desire to repeat Corey Robin’s argument here. Instead, I’ll follow a recent line of thought I’ve had about popular entertainment. What many see as liberal entertainment I’d argue is actually conservative in the reactionary sense. Two examples of this are film noir and action movies.

The argument for these genres being liberal is that authority figures often aren’t the heroes, sometimes the authority figures are challenged by or even disrespected by the heroes who not unusually are lone vigilantes. Furthermore, these movies often glorify what traditionalist-identifying conservatives claim to be against: sex, violence, etc.

The argument for reactionary conservatism, however, brings forth an explanation that seems to be confirmed by the study I mentioned above. These movies are conservative precisely for the reason that they are obsessively focused on all the issues that cause conservatives to feel fear or disgust. They are being invoked in presenting a sense of moral order or the need for renewal of moral order, even if only manifest in the hero fighting the good fight or standing by his personal principles.

This is where the confusion is brought to the surface. At least for conservatives, the best way to see what they are about is by looking at what they are against. Film noir and action movies probably will tell you more about conservatism than even the most scholarly tome written by a conservative thinker.