Over at the New Criterion, British Member of European Parliament (MEP) Daniel Hannan addresses a topic worthy of some examination: Why is it that conservatives have a near-monopoly on patriotism and the defense of traditional Western values across the Western world?
Hannan, author of the recently released “Inventing Freedom” which Blaze Books covered extensively (review, interview, key quotes), believes that it is a matter of psychology, primarily the Left’s “honorable and high-minded impulse, namely support for the underdog…Leftists exaggerate it, to the exclusion of rival impulses.”
Conversely, conservatives balance their beliefs in the underdog with other tendencies, “such as respect for sanctity.”
Drawing from Jonathan Haidt’s thesis in his 2013 book “The Righteous Mind,” that we base our political positions on intuition and seek out and fit data points to our worldview, Hannan believes that the Left’s underlying belief in the superiority of the underdog explains how it can justify positions seemingly at odds with each other. One example Hanna cites is the Left’s demand for “equality between the sexes and quotas for women.” Another is classifying a group or nation as the victim in one instance and victimizer in another (“Israel is seen as right when fighting the British but wrong when fighting the Palestinians”).
Hannan argues in effect that when it comes to the progressive mindset, the West is a victim of its own achievements, as “there are very few scenarios in which the Anglosphere peoples can be cast as the underdogs.” Further,
“Nationalism is fine for Leftist opponents of the Anglosphere: Welsh nationalists, anti-yanqui agitators in Latin America, Quebec separatists: All are able to slot their sense of nationhood into the hierarchy of victimhood, to see themselves as underdogs. Anglosphere progressives, by contrast, can rarely do so.”
The British MEP believes that the Left’s negative worldview is detrimental:
“The tendency to what Orwell called masochism is the perversion of a healthy Anglosphere characteristic, namely fair-mindedness. We like to think, we English-speaking peoples, that we are tolerant, that we look at things from other people’s point of view. It is not hard to see how this trait can be exaggerated to the point where it becomes, if not exactly self-hatred, certainly a form of cultural relativism in which the unique achievements of Anglosphere civilization are devalued.”
Hannan ends his essay with a good question for critical progressives:
“I have just one question for those who throw the misdeeds of our ancestors at us, who prate unceasingly about the transatlantic slave trade and the repression of the Mau Mau and the valuation of slaves at three-fifths of a human being and all the rest. Who, at the time, had evolved a freer, fairer, or happier form of administration? Against which contemporary civilization is the Anglosphere judged and found wanting? I am still waiting for a good answer.”