I read somewhere that the word “racism” did not exist until the late 1950s. I can believe it. Now it is the universal solvent of all rational thinking, and it is especially convenient for the Left to use against regions, classes and cultures that disagree with them, and which fail to produce electoral victories. The continuing dismissal of the American South by the Democrats and their allies comes to mind.
Racism as an excuse for Democratic defeat in the South is too easy, too pat. But it has the benefit of allowing Democrats the luxury of being able to ignore the real reasons why white Southerners have so completely rejected their candidates. Liberals are apparently incapable of conducting the introspection necessary to arrive at the conclusion that their attitudes toward those they feel superior to contributes far more to their electoral defeats than some kind of nebulous racism that doesn’t exist in any greater proportion in the South than it does anywhere else in the country.
Of course, as Thomas Sowell pointed out in his brilliant book, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as the Basis of Social Policy, [the title says it all], in order to come to grips with reality the liberal – I use that in the American sense of ‘Leftist’ – would have to change their conception of themselves, and that would be impossibly humiliating.
Cultural wars are so desperate because they are not simply about the merits and demerits of particular policies. They are about the anointed’s whole conception of themselves – about whether they are in the heady role of the vanguard or in the pathetic role of pretentious and self-infatuated people. [p.250]
Because differential rectitude is pivotal to the vision of the anointed, opponents must be shown to be not merely mistaken but morally lacking….This denigration or demonizing of those opposed to their views not only has the desired effect of discrediting the opposition but also has the unintended effect of cutting off the path of retreat from positions which become progressive;ly less tenable with the passage of time and the accumulation of discordant evidence….
For the anointed, it is desperately important to win, not simply because they believe that one policy or set of beliefs is better for society, but because their whole sense of themselves is at stake. [p.252]
The first obligation of the conservative is to know that one can be wholly wrong: emotionally, intellectually, morally. It keeps one humble. It prevents the development of the feeling of being anointed to govern one’s lessers.
I also think that Thomas Sowell’s The Vision of the Anointed should be on every thinking person’s bookshelf, along with Burke’s Reflections on the Late Revolution in France and Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.