Ars et Arma: Art in the Occident, Part III

ADMIRABLE AND PROFOUND is that statement of the artistic conscience of the Occident which occurs in that novel which, more perhaps than any other, captures the full ambiguity of art in the Occident. I speak of Doctor Faustus, one of the last great masterpieces of our day; I speak of what Adrian’s devil has to say of art in it:

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George Soros on the Open Society

I HAVE JUST FINISHED reading George Soros’ essay “The Capitalist Threat,” which, despite the ostensibly aggressive slant of its title, amounts rather to a defense of the open society than an attack on capitalism. At the heart of this essay, Mr. Soros considers what he identifies as the fundamental premise of the open society:

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Ars et Arma: Art in the Occident, Part II

WE LOOK FIRST to our Western antiquity: what do we find? What is art to antiquity?
      But already we discover that the case is complicated. It is complicated first by the fact that the noble arrogance of the ancients in the face of all manuality led them to an undue contempt of most of the arts, as sculpture, painting, and music. The physical origin of these works could never be forgotten by the high spirituality of the Greeks, nor even the Romans. They thus possessed no sense of art, as little as any other people on Earth prior to the Renaissance. As all the peoples of all the world, they had musicians, painters, writers, sculptors: artists, they had not. The word “art” itself derives from a different tradition; it comes to us from the Latin ars, meaning a work, the product of practical ability. It is perhaps most similar to our word “craft,” both in the high and in the more colloquial acceptations of that word; originally it could be infused almost with scorn, precisely the same kind of scorn as when a person today might comment that a certain “piece of art” has a “craftsy” feel to it. And most intriguingly and most fruitfully, the Latin word is perhaps etymologically related to the Latin arma, as in arms, weapons.
      Art, as it was understood in the pre-Christian period, was thus a concept much different from that which we celebrate today. Indeed, without the intercession of the disembodied, bloodless Christian era, I much doubt that the modern idea of art—art as redemption of the low in the high, art as spiritualization of the material, art as resurrection of the body in the soul—would ever have been possible. In Antiquity we look in vain for any concept of the “artist”: the “artist” was born for the first time in the early Renaissance, and for the artist, the Renaissance was in truth a Nascence. That is a fact most pregnant with destiny for our West—a fact which today brings us, if we but follow it truly, to the great trouble of our time.
      But we will come to that yet.
      The artist did not exist to the Ancients, save in a prototypical form: not the artist, but the poet. The dispute which activated much of the culture of the Greeks was publicly that between philosophy and politics, between the life dedicated to truth and the life dedicated to virtue, between the vita contemplativa and the vita activa; but more profoundly it was a dispute between the philosopher and the poet, between the life dedicated to truth and the life dedicated to life. Socrates against Aristophanes; Plato against Homer; that is much of the heart of Antiquity, and thus much of the core of the West itself.
      Now, the poet was the maker; his name derives from the Greek poiein, to form, to give form. Not the creation with which one charges the artist today, but rather, the recreation of reality was his right domain. The poet was tasked with truth-reflecting. But the tragic poets were chroniclers of the nobility of the political figures of their day; they were recorders of the great deeds of magnanimous men. They were therefore the higher representatives of the political life, the finest flowering of the vita activa. It was in truth the comic poets who competed with the philosophers for the highest laurels; for the comic poets, because they were comic, hold this advantage eternally over the philosopher: they may speak the truth without concealment and without adornment. This means as well the truth about philosophers and about comic poets: because they make laugh, they are immune to the consequences of their laughter. Let it never be forgot that Socrates was sent to his hemlock in part for what Aristophanes wrote of him: so far as the public contest is concerned, the poet shall win out every time.
      But the comic poet must also please, just as the tragic; he is constrained to work within the special expectations and requirements of the public arena. The philosopher has but to make himself unobtrusive and seemingly innocuous, and can be well satisfied when he is ignored; but the poet must make himself loved. Thus the poet is open to the critique which Socrates leveled at Callicles: it is the love of the people which stands ever and always against the love of the truth; the poet, as poet, must be a liar, and worse yet, a flatterer of the demos.
      Enter thence the grand style in art. He who knew more of it than perhaps any human being living or dead, said, of it:

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Science and Denial

IT IS AN OBJECT of periodic amazement on the part of environmentally concerned individuals, the percentage of Americans who deny the reality of climate change. How is it possible—these individuals ask themselves—that anyone could be so ignorant?
      But a trouble becomes immediately evident in this very line of questioning. The majority of those who ask this question are in reality almost as ignorant of the actual science behind climate change, as are the deniers of climate change. They accept the conclusions of science without understanding them, just as the denier rejects those propositions without understanding them.
      This means, practically speaking, that the vast majority of human beings have to take the reality of climate change on authority—on the authority of the scientists who claim its reality. Not “facts” but humble acknowledgment of superior knowledge is the ultimate basis of this question in most human minds.
      This leads to certain distinct difficulties. Authority is not a given; there are many authorities in this world, and some conflict with others. For the average American, the question becomes, what authority shall I accept on the issue of climate change? The authority of my political leaders, the authority of my intellectual leaders, the authority of my religious leaders—or the authority of the scientists? And on what basis shall I make my decision? To acknowledge the authority of the scientists means to accept, without being able to verify, the following propositions:

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Ars et Arma: Art in the Occident, Part I

LET US exert our retrospect. Let us imagine for a moment that all the painters following the great Giotto in what later was known as the Renaissance, had restrained themselves to reproducing “Giottoesque” canvases and frescoes, had sought never to express their own “styles,” their own “personalities,” but instead had dedicated themselves to mimicking, with all the skill at their disposal, the archetype of the great master. Let us envision the next several centuries as the expression of this “decision,” so that, looking back on the Italian Renaissance, or visiting its museums, we would see a long and unbroken procession of the Giottoan style applied by dozens if not hundreds of different hands to thousands of different subjects. Let us imagine that the same precedent was established in poetry, after the model of Dante, sculpture, after the model of Donatello, and music, after the model of Palestrina. What would we, with our sensibilities, perceive, looking on such a history?
      We would perceive principally two things: stagnation and slavery. Stagnation, on account of the stylistic monotony of the tradition; its visual, its verbal, its auditory uniformity. We, who are accustomed to viewing the years between about 1300 to 1600 as a time of the most remarkable explosion of colors, forms, sounds, would find the alternative history presented above as a most striking dearth and poverty. Its uniformity would appear to us as monotony, its fidelity would strike us as slavish. It would seem to us an incredible waste, and if we were pressed to say just what had been wasted, we might instinctively blurt out—why, talent! Genius!
      What would we mean? Just that the great personalities, the great souls, who made their mark so distinctly on our actual history, had been in this alternative history enslaved, subjugated to another’s artistic vision. Masaccio and Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli, Boccaccio and Petrarch, Tasso and Aretino, Monteverdi and Rossini—what, all the stableboys in another’s stalls? And these but a handful of names, in a list as long as you please! All that great, nay, impossible wealth of power and ability, squandered in servile imitations, parrot or echo-like repetitions—but is this not tragic?
      Quite, my dear reader—truly, I could not agree more. But that is a most striking reaction on both of our parts, the more striking as we are not wont to perceive it as such. Truly, it says an enormity about you, about me, and many times more importantly, about the Occidental Tradition to which we belong, and the crisis in which it presently finds itself.
      For note it well—the “alternate history” proposed above is in fact but the abridged and somewhat caricatured artistic history of the entire world beyond the borders of the West. Choose you the civilization you will, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Indian, the Egyptian—its artists all dedicated themselves taste and soul to a single rigidly defined, tyrannically moderated, artistic style. They dedicated their lives, often anonymously, to the perfection of a single exemplar, the refinement and ever more excellent representation, not even of an ideal so much as an archetype. Or take what tribal people you please: the same tendency makes itself seen; the same obedient and loyal reflection of what came before, albeit without the elegance, the refinement, the consummate skill which characterizes the later periods of the afore-mentioned civilizations. The natural condition of the arts, it would appear, is one precisely of “stagnation and slavery;” it is anything but Western.
      To be sure, matters have somewhat changed since the global dominance of the West; the West itself has changed matters. But these changes, it might well be argued, have been more superficial than profound. Look to the new Chinese school of painting, if you will, or to the incomparable technical skill of so many Oriental musicians and instrumentalists. Therein you will perceive, in general and with notable exceptions, a stunningly competent and admirable capacity for the reproduction of Western models. This new tradition cannot be too highly praised for its proficiency, but it is nonetheless nothing Western, nothing new…
      Then, of course, there is Russia—that eternally problematic and enigmatic Russia, which has had to struggle in its soul, and often enough even in the souls of its greatest artists, between East and West. Russia—that case unto itself, that glorious neither here nor there, which perhaps not even after the interminable, unconscionable nightmare of the past century has terminated its incredible stores of energy, power, promise, because notwithstanding all that has transpired it has never learned to feel ashamed of them— No, this is not the place to speak of Russia. Russia is an exception to every rule, and can but confound the present discourse. Then we lay Russia out of sight for the present, though never out of mind.
      As for the East, or the tribal peoples of the South and of the pre-New World Americas—they all of them adopted a traditionalist style which almost worshiped that which had come before, and sought diligently and with all due reverence to preserve and continue the sacred greatness of the past. Often enough in such cultures as these, the art of the present is seen as being the perpetuation of the gift of some god, the extension into the present moment of a far distant and almost forgotten donation from heaven to humanity. That infuses the very idea of “art” in such places with a sense of duty and responsibility—duty and responsibility to a more divine past. This art could therefore best be called by a name usually reserved to the Egyptian style, but which in truth encompasses the vast majority of artistic traditions in all the world, in a pattern whose only major exception is our own. The art of the non-Occidental world, we may say, is hieratic.
      But this is true not only of the non-Occidental world. Look as well closer as well to home. The Renaissance, as everyone knows, was a rebirth. That implies that what was reborn had succumbed, had died: the culture of antiquity in Europe had “gone under,” had been buried by—by what? By Christendom. What was the nature of this death, this going under? This period we call the Dark Ages, for the degree to which it obscured the genius and the achievements of classical antiquity—what was it, finally? Not, to be sure, a time in which “nothing was done”; not even artistically is this the case. There are many who object to the very idea of the “Dark Ages,” and to an extent they are right to do so; they would rechristen that period as “dark,” not indeed for being inactive, backward, and without sunlight, but for being forgotten, lost, by a world which is blinded by the brilliance of the Renaissance. They speak, and rightly so, of the High Middle Age.
      But no one who looks on the history of the West, even from such a vantage, can fail to see that there was a rupture in its history. No one can believe that the arc cast from Athens to Florence, from the Greek classics to their Italian rediscovery, was unbroken, no one can perceive anything like continuity there. The break is represented everywhere one looks, be it in the old statues defaced by the Vandals, or the old architecture left to crumble and to rot; be it the fragments and whispers of the ancient gods which appear radically reinterpreted within the Christian tradition or the palimpsests of classic philosophy and poetry which survived consumption because some monk scrawled his shopping list on them. It is represented more palpably yet by absences—by all we have lost in those centuries of intercession—by the missing verses of Sappho and Anachreon, the forgotten dialogues of Aristotle and vanished writings of the pre-Socratic sages, the invisible sculptures of Phidias and Praxiteles, the whole constellation of ancient music which no modern ear has ever heard, or the accents of old tongues we struggle to reconstruct always somewhat in vain, always somewhat as the deaf trying to imagine the human voice. The West came back to us through the Middle East: but that means, it had gone away.
      What do we see when we gaze upon the Middle Ages? Speaking to our themes, speaking aesthetically, artistically, we see—generations and generations of artists, each attempting, often anonymously, almost always humbly, to refine, perfect, and render more fully the noble archetype of the Christian tradition. We find an incredible lineage of iconography, all bound to a rigid style and untransgressable rules: we find the falsely-named Gregorian chant, its forms, scales, and rules imposed tyrannically from above, via religion and via politics, to the exclusion of other competing and innovative developments; we find long centuries of a poetry metered out to the poets line for line and measure for measure, and chained generally to religious themes. We find, in short, hieratic art, an imposition on the spirit of the West from without—we find the Orient within the Occident.
      Speaking artistically, the Middle Ages appear then truly as dark ages, as the intercession and interruption of a truly and uniquely Western tradition. They represent the slumber of the Western spirit, its long deep sleep, finally broken in the Renaissance, which latter age was as much a reincarnation as a rebirth, an awakening and a remembrance and, most essentially and most importantly, an innovation on an elder theme.
      And thus the question that shall spur us as we proceed: what is the nature of this nature, this purely Western nature? In what does Western art, born to us in classical antiquity and requited to us in the first act of modernity, finally and most profoundly, consist?

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The Truth Shall Set You Free

WE COMMENCE from a perfectly uncontroversial point of departure: societies disagree between themselves as to what is the right way to live. These disagreements are not principally philosophical; they are customary. They become philosophical only when the confrontation between the customs of different societies is elevated to the level of contemplation, and only within the minds of certain individuals who are fit for such confrontation by nature, education, and favorable circumstances. The variety of human societies at present or at least historically is a necessary condition for human philosophy, but it is not sufficient, because the majority of human beings when exposed to different customs remain simply hostile toward them. Most humans are creatures of loyalties and faiths peculiar to the societies in which they are born, or to portions of those societies; if they were not so, then no society on the face of the earth could long exist, but all would be quickly riven apart by the incessant internal disputations and feuding of their very members.
      The disagreements between societies as to the right way to live lead to conflicts and wars between societies, and these conflicts and wars enforce the natural closure of each society toward foreign customs and outlandish ways. The special character and quality of any given human society brings the loyalty and love of its members; when this is contrasted or threatened by other societies, then the philosopher or the warrior is born.
      But there are also internal disputes between different parts of one and the same society. The poor are sometimes at odds with the rich; the non-educated with the educated; the left with the right; the vulgar with the cultured; the warriors with the civilians; the citizens with the immigrants; the rulers with the ruled; etc. Here, again, the disputes are not principally philosophical; they are political or social or ethocal. Each segment of society wants its agenda to become the agenda of the whole; each segment of society would like to rule and to impose its peculiar desires, views, or needs on society as such. It is uncommon for the different parts of one and the same society to want to change the very premises on which that society is built; in general, all parties in question agree as to the ends of society, and dispute only over the means. But at times, when it becomes apparent that the ends of society themselves are destabilizing society, and that the very premises of society are leading it on toward destruction, then the revolutionary or radical attitude crops up among human beings. In times like that, which are known as times of crisis, the parts of society might begin truly to disagree about first and last things.
      Human beings are not beasts, and their disagreements, their conflicts, even their wars, are not merely based on violence or on force. Human beings are “rational animals,” which is not to say that they will everywhere and always act in accord with simple logic, nor arrive at valid and justifiable conclusions, nor even have a clear sense of why they do what the do: it is rather to say that human beings everywhere and always will feel it necessary to defend their irrationality with rationality, and to build rationalizations around even their most basic instinctive desires. This is not a matter of nothing; it is a fundamental aspect of human social existence, and it has enormous consequences for all social orders.
      I once was witness to a devastating war between two ant colonies, one red and one black, that had founded their colonies too near to each other, oblivious each to the presence of the other. Their respective queens had sunk the seeds of their kingdoms deep into the earth, and had begun to propagate the new generation which would erect their societies. New tunnels were built, and the red colony amassed as well a hill of pebbles about its gate. Their populations began to grow and to thrive. By and by their workers began to range across the earth in search of food, and thus encountered the members of the other colony. Skirmishes were waged at the line of encounter, and soon a massive battle for supremacy of the territory was underway. It was something to watch as the smaller and faster red ants assailed the stronger and better armored black ants several at a time, or as big-headed warriors would clash in the open field, each striving with the other to cut the life from its foe. Before long the entire landscape was riddled with the corpses of the little beasts.
      But note this well: this was never a dispute over “custom.” The black ants did not invent sophisticated arguments to claim, for instance, that it is absurd and wasteful to make hills of pebbles, nor did the red ants contrive to proclaim that these black ants were too primitive even to form up battlements for their own defense. Neither side proposed conditions for armistice or surrender; they fought until there was no one left to fight. The dispute was one of simple resources and the simple force required to seize them; it was decided wordlessly by the trial of respective powers. No human being and no human society ever resolved its conflicts so quietly.
      On the contrary, human beings transform all quarrels into conversations. Their quarrels are thus neither perfectly rational—for it is never by reason alone that they are resolved—nor perfectly irrational—for it is neither by force alone that they are resolved. Both domestic and international conflicts are all carried out and concluded through a mixture of reason and force. Human beings are unique among the animals, because the quarrels between human beings depend on speech. Internationally, one cannot stop up the words of other nations; but to put an end to internal conflicts, it is often enough to put an end to speeches. This is why war is more common than civil war. The same observation has historically been considered the indisputable justification for limiting freedom of speech. It is known universally that the tensions between different parts of one and the same society lead to internal conflicts and in extreme cases to civil war or the upheaval of the prior social order, and the prevention of these unwelcome ends requires closure within society—the suppression of certain voices or interests, the censuring of certain ideas, the oppression of some who do not rule but who can easily fall at odds with the rulers.
      The open society attempts to resolve the internal conflicts of society in a way which is totally novel in the history of human societies: namely, by positing a system which passes no judgement on any other worldview, and which therefore avoids the deep tensions which characterize other systems. It resolves the conflictual nature of societies’ basic premises, or of the conflicts between parts of one and the same society, by suspending judgement as to the best society or the best ruler. As regards first and last things, the open society is agnostic. It views itself as a kind of forum in which all social ideas can be openly debated, and thus postures as the one society which loves truth over custom. While closed societies—tribal or totalitarian as they may be—are dedicated to preserving their peculiar errors at any and all costs and preserving these unto perpetuity, the open society is dedicated instead to avoiding the necessarily bounded, erroneous quality of all tribal or political adherence to any single set of human ideas. By sponsoring no set of values and virtues, the open society permits the debate of all values and virtues in the “marketplace of ideas”; it encourages their conflict and their disputation, so long as these remain non-violent. It therefore appears to be the most philosophical of all societies; sign of this is the fact that all open societies everywhere protect the freedom of association and speech.
      There are two grave problems with the idea of the open society, one in its fundaments and the other in its praxis. We begin with the latter first, to commence from the superficial: we approach this question as though coring the trunk of a tree, proceeding initially contrary to growth, and treating first and last of the bark.
      Now, the open society, to maintain its forum-like quality, must remain forever agnostic, forever “skeptical.” So soon as it accepts as true the arguments of this or that social or moral ideal, it must commit itself as well to putting this true ideal to practice, which means—it must overthrow itself, and establish a closed society in the place of the open society. The open society therefore must restrain itself ever and always to the state of evaluation of the various proposals for the best society; it cannot permit itself to consent to any of them, unless the best society proves identical to that of the open society. But even in this unlikely case, and supposing the open society were to come to such a conclusion, it would lose its character as the open society. For if the best society is that society which permits all human beings of any worldview whatsoever to live as they see fit, save as they infringe on the rights of other individuals to do the same, then the open society can permit only those worldviews compatible with this way of life. All other worldviews must be suppressed as false worldviews. In becoming aware of its superiority, the open society thus destroys its own basis; it transforms from the open society into something else.
      The open society can therefore remain open only so long as it withholds judgement about its own worth as the best social order. The open society, or the society dedicated to permitting the truth to come to the fore, must guard against the arrival of the truth. It must be, nor merely agnostic or skeptical, but explicitly relativist, hostile toward any and all degrees of certainty. It believes and must believe that the truth, far from setting us free, will be the very death of our freedom, by dissolving both the justification as well as the lifestyle of the open society. The open society, which postures as the champion of truth, becomes dogmatically hostile to the very notion of truth. Its worldview, without which it perishes or overthrows itself, is the relativistic worldview.
      We may restate this realization as follows: the open society remains agnostic about all worldviews except its own. About its own worldview, far from being agnostic, it is dogmatic. Even if at first it is open to the idea that it might one day transform from the open and agnostic society into the closed but true society, it hardens over time into a degree of doctrinairism, for the simple reason that all societies wish to preserve themselves. The open society therefore comes to hold that the best society cannot be discovered by human investigations.
      But this works as an inadvertent or incidental philosophical defense of the open society: because no society can be the best society, the best society will be that which makes no claims as to the best society and permits constant debate about the best society. The open society seeks to be fundamentally non-dogmatic, but it can only do so on the basis of a dogmatic premise. At times the non-dogmatic aspect, at times the dogmatic aspect of the open society, manifests itself, depending essentially on how well off the open society is at any given point in time. When it is winning, it can afford to be magnanimous; but when it enters into times of crisis or near crisis, it, as all human societies, must defend itself more rigorously. The open society, which was to be the one least beholden to the merely materialistic concerns of economy and wealth, in the end is bound to them much more than other societies whose ruling classes are endowed with contempt of mammon.
      These tensions at the heart of the open society are felt ever and always by careful observers, and they make the open society somewhat difficult to pin down, somewhat elusive and evasive to analysis. Put generally, human beings are not philosophical, and therefore no human society can be philosophical. This is no less true of the open society than of any other. The open society, which purports to be the one society open to all possible human social orders, is in fact in the last analysis radically closed to all but its own. This makes it identical to all other human societies: what differs in it is not the absence of dogmatic faith in a particular form of social order, but rather the presence of a dogmatic belief in its own openness. While all human societies believe themselves to be the best societies and for that reason celebrate their closure to other ways, the open society is alone amongst all in proclaiming itself to be immune to this delusion. It is thus more difficult to free oneself of the dogma of the open society than of any other society on earth.
      To be sure, the peculiar closedness of the open society never finds expression in explicit legal prohibitions. There are, in the open society, no laws against investigating the underpinnings of the open society, nor against publishing the results of those investigations. The open society cannot proscribe such investigation without playing into an open hypocrisy which would be a hundred times as damaging as this or that book published here or there against its principles. The open society has countless subtler ways of dealing with its internal enemies. Most of the time, it has no need to employ any of these: for it is a universal characteristic of human beings in normal times to be loyal and faithful to the society to which they are born, and beneath whose protection, nurturing, and education they have come of age. Most human beings born to the open society adhere to its ideals unconsciously and uncritically, and consider it, without any reflection to support this belief, the best society. The members of the open society are strongly reinforced in this loyalty by the peculiar relativistic dogma of the open society; it is harder to see through the illusion of the open society which speaks constantly of philosophical openness to other ways, than to see through the illusion of the tyrannical society, which is proudly closed to other ways. There is thus in the free society even more than in other societies a natural pressure toward the perpetuation of the standing order, and this is quite sufficient to neutralize those few serious efforts to discover and publicize the errors, limitations, or contradictions upon which that order is founded. This preserves the open society quite adequately in all times, save in times of crisis.
      We are living, however, in a time of crisis.
      In normal times, most human beings do not concern themselves with the truth. They concern themselves with countless other matters which have nothing to do with the truth, goals and preoccupations which do not depend on the truth nor certainly culminate in it, as survival, honor, wealth, prestige, status, family, etc. So long as society demonstrates itself a generally capable watchman of the public security and the general welfare, most human beings are quite content to live their lives, indifferent to deeper philosophical problems. So long as there is a degree of peace and a modicum of prosperity in the open society, the members of the open society are but little tasked to seek out anything so remote from their experience as the “truth,” and those few exceptional individuals who concern themselves seriously with the truth in any place and any time, the truly free individuals, are easily outnumbered and easily neutralized by the vast enormity of human complacency.
      But in times of crisis, everything is thrown to the wind. Society, failing to secure its promises to its citizens, becomes the object of ever stronger skepticism and even cynicism. In moments like this, it becomes evident that there is a widening gorge standing between what such a society claims it will achieve, and what it really does achieve; the errors and failings, not to say the lies, of society are increasingly brought to light, or at least are more easily felt impinging through the threadbare surface. The question “Why?” comes readily to the minds and the lips of ever more individuals; “truth” becomes a going concern, and one which some can even profit from. “Why are we suffering this way? Why is everything beneath us suddenly so shaken and unsteady? Why has society led us to this end?” It is widely felt that everyone has been enslaved to noxious falsehoods; and in consequence, it is widely believed that the “truth shall set one free.”
      What is meant by this sentiment? Not, certainly, what is meant when the philosopher thinks such a thing. Nor even what the artist or the free spirit might think. On the contrary. Very few human beings who do not concern themselves with truth in times of plenty, will suddenly begin to seek it in times of dearth. Just as they had abundant distractions from the truth before, now they have much more urgent questions to attend to than philosophical ones. Most people by the formula “the truth will set you free” mean only this: society has failed to secure their desires or perhaps even their needs; its failure is due to an error or a contradiction in its founding. To establish “truer” foundations becomes therefore an urgent requirement. Everyone begins inquiring into the “true” society, by which is meant, a society which can guarantee such things as survival, honor, wealth, prestige, status, family, etc.
      Consider. If you tell an entrepreneur that the present social system is broken, on account of specific economic policies, and if you tell him furthermore that he will not succeed in making himself affluent under these present conditions, he will perk up and listen to you. If you tell him then that we must shift our polices, say, from free trade to protectionism, in order to grant him the possibility of making his millions, he may well acquiesce to your logic, or at least he may well take your argument seriously or find himself in some way influenced by it. But if you tell him that free trade must be overhauled because it is based on the lie of the dignity of work and on the spurious excellence of wealth, when in fact there are many loftier things in this world than labor and lucre, he will dismiss you out of hand.
      We must have sensitivity to the depth of the present crisis, the degree to which it entitles us to bring the errors of society to the light of day, the extent to which it opens up the possibility of a profound shift in principle. Particularly as we have urgent goals, it behooves us to step lightly. It is among the vulgarest delusions commonly inspired by the American Revolution, that one might remake society from scratch, basing it on true axioms and building it logically from foundation to steeple, so long as one has sufficient public support. This has never been done and never can be done. Popular movements interpret philosophy through the liquid lens of their native element, populism; they always end differently than they begin. Custom, as Herodotus said, is king—as much with us as with anyone. We can gain nothing by ignoring the fact; we may gain enormously by carefully attending to it.
      Now, the open society, as all societies, has not only to contend with the strife within its borders, but also with the conflicts outside of its borders. The open society is agnostic, and preaches tolerance toward different laws and customs, because it refuses to come to any explicit conclusions about the best society. But it is the only society in the world to do so. The open society, which should, if it remains true to its premises, consider no other society its enemy, faces nonetheless the universal hostility of all societies which are not themselves open societies. The open society is the great pariah of the world. But because the only society which can even dream of becoming an open society is a society of powerful economic and military standing, or a society protected by such a one, open societies tend to be powerful or well defended. The open society thus cannot be openly attacked by its enemies; its enemies must dream subtler ways of undermining it. The open society, if it is to stave off these dangers, must approach the world beyond its borders with a degree of perspicacity and secret suspicion, which it claims ever to foreswear in its inner relations. This mandates the development of a strong military and a sophisticated intelligence system. But to both military and intelligence, openness or “transparency” is not only inimical but deadly.
      The open society, as any society, cannot therefore be perfectly candid. If any open society you please were at this moment to publish the full extent and findings of its espionage, it would risk total collapse within a month. Beyond the fact that many of these secrets could be used to destroy it, the most devastating revelation would be the degree to which the practices of the open society contradict the principles of the same. Its citizenry, who are by and large duped by its specious claims of moral superiority, would not be able to abide its hypocrisy, and they would clamor for immediate purification. So the open society must be closed to the degree that its enemies are powerful, and it must also develop sophisticated and capable ways of mystifying this closure so that the populace does not become aware of its extent. One knows that the King has his secrets, and one is well inured to the fact; but the President must always seek to appear as though he were the frankest and least tainted man in all the world. One must believe that even such secrets as he does possess are innocuous.
      The open society is therefore constrained to contradict itself incessantly in the most shameful and irritating of ways, on account of the simple fact that it cannot remain perfectly open toward its adversaries and its foes abroad. The open society is slowly corroded by this contradiction, not only through the acidic influence of its own concealed hypocrisy, but also because individuals within the open society who are basically inimical to the open society, can take advantage of these bad necessities to work at compromising the open society from within.
      The true lovers of the open society, its truest protagonists and supporters, are thus constrained to realize that the open society, the one human society which refuses to pass moral judgement on the customs and laws of other societies, is the only society which is compromised merely by the existence of other customs and laws. Of all human societies, it is the most delicate. The global diversity of beliefs and social styles, of customs, religions, and ways, which the open society over all other societies purports to love and promote, is in fact the greatest toxin to the open society. The only way the open society can be perfectly open is if it is surrounded on all sides by other open societies which hold to its same principles.
      Yet even if it is fortunate enough to find itself surrounded by open societies, or successful enough to make all surrounding nations adopt the principles of open societies, its trouble nonetheless persists. There is always and everywhere the doubt that what my neighbor is doing might not be not identical to what my neighbor says he is doing. The open society, even if contiguous exclusively with other open societies, would persistently have to wonder if its neighbors really were open societies, or if they were not merely posturing as such to lure it into a state of dependency and ingenuous vulnerability. It would have to wonder if those states, like it itself, were not merely apparently open, while in fact holding many secrets and contradictions, and it would have to wonder as well what those secrets and contradictions might be. It therefore would not be able to dismantle its complex militaristic and espionage apparatus, nor bring all of its actions perfectly to light. It would continue to promulgate itself as the open society, even while it acted secretly and behind state doors as the closed society. Not even a global confederacy of open societies can suffice to render the open society open; only a unique government ruling all the globe, which no longer has to fear any external enemy whatever, can achieve that end.
      The open society, everywhere and always, necessitates the dream of a single world order.
      The road to the single world order is fraught with trouble. The open society can neither conquer its enemies by brute force—for it can hardly hope to remain an open society, when its members include individuals who almost certainly harbor deep and abiding resentments against it—nor can it, as other societies do, strongly condemn its closed neighbors and argue against their ways—for it is committed to the principle of openness in the face of all possible social orders. Being able neither to force its enemies to adopt its principles, nor to freely shame the world into opposing those which do not, it must then seek to convert its enemies to its position. For only those who are already enamored of the principles of the open society will be willing to consider the idea of a single world open society. Then all or most of the societies of the world must first become open societies, before they may unify into a single and global open society.
      It is not easy to convert all the peoples of the world to the principles of open societies, and it is impossible to force them to do so. One can take advantage of civil wars and the internal disorder of foreign states to bring about new open societies throughout the world; but this kind of geopolitical maneuvering is never easy and still less is it cheap, and it is always compromised in certain cases by other and more pressing matters of geopolitical defense and security. The open society is best able to achieve its ends when it becomes an undisputed global superpower, as has been the case of the United States since the collapse of the Soviet empire. But even in this brief period of American apotheosis, it has become clear that the military route toward the production of a world society is not adequate to the task. The disastrous experiments of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan more than prove that point. The people of the world must be prepared to accept the open society; it cannot be foisted upon them by merely political or military means.
      Then a number of other strategies are sure to be employed by the open society toward the preparation of the single world order, as: globalization, and the widespread distribution of those tempting products that the open society dedicates itself to manufacturing and perfecting; the infiltration of all the countries of the world with Western markets, Western medicine, and Western ideals; the favoring of those countries which are slavishly dependent on the open society, and clandestine efforts to undermine those which are not; the encouraging of the idea of a “global community” through technological innovations which “connect” the “citizens of the world”; the favoring of policies of open immigration and “no borders”; the constant and propagandic humanizing of the faces and traumas of distant peoples; the attempt to render all human beings everywhere more uniform and homogeneous; and finally, the relentless combating of all articulations of differences or inequalities between human beings, which might incite the old ideas of distinction and separation which once universally governed human societies. Put simply, the open society supports revolutions where it may; and where it may not, it slowly indoctrinates and bribes the peoples of the world to its own ideals through what it calls its “culture.”
      The single world order is yet very far from us, and it is possible it is unattainable. But we must contemplate it, for the simple reason that it exerts the power of a final ideal over the minds and hearts of the many today.
      Once the single world order is achieved, and the last obstacle to a truly open society has been overcome, the nature of the open society will at last become evident to all eyes. The single world order will then have no enemies but internal. Because the open society was originally intended as a novel way of addressing the internal conflicts of society, it would seem then that the single world order will finally be able to live up to its destiny as a perfectly open and perfectly transparent society, as a philosophical society, dedicated to endless improvement. But the open society is premised on the idea that society must be an open forum for the debate of how to attain the best social order, and this presupposes that there might be a best social order which is not the open society. It is therefore possible that human beings in the open society will conclude that there is a social order which is preferable to the open society. The single world order cannot countenance this possibility, because it threatens that unity which is, as has been seen, the overriding prerequisite for the open society.
      The open society therefore cannot maintain its control over the entire globe, unless it is capable of cowing the great majority of human beings and convincing them that the open society is the best society. It can do this only by closing itself to all other possible social orders. The single world open society must perforce become the single world closed society.
      The question arises then as to what to do with dissidents. The single world order might be able to maintain its absolute hegemony though simple technological means, by the subtle sophistication of the forces at the disposal of the state. It would thus become the a perfect technocratic totalitarian state, some variant on the theme proposed by Brave New World, but without even the land of the Savages to provide a foil for it. In the meantime, or failing this possibility, the single world order will have to resort to more traditional tactics to undermine heterodoxy, such as propaganda and de facto control of the press (both of which will be greatly simplified by the monolithic quality of power in a single world order), ideological mastery of education systems (which will no doubt fall within the unitary possession of the state), increasing manipulation of historical knowledge, and the continual repetition and inculcation of those public dogmas which are most useful to the open society: namely, the dogma of human equality and the dogma of moral relativism. Those who challenge these dogmas will not have to be silenced so much as ignored. So long as they do not gain much support among the wider public, the single world order can simply let them scream themselves hoarse. But it cannot permit any “reactionary movement” to come of this challenge.
      This means that the single world order will have to immunize its people to the claims of its scattered opponents. Since the easiest way to keep its people subdued is to keep them fat and distracted, it will produce a ceaseless and brilliant river of new technologies to ease the toils of its people, assuage their sufferings, and augment their pleasures, as well as a flood of toys and entertainments to pander to the animal in them and to wear away at all remaining moral and intellectual resistance. Our modern technology will readily provide it the means to do all of this: for science, which is nothing but a valueless philosophy, and which therefore cannot threaten the world state in any way so long as it agrees to tread carefully about certain clearly delineated issues, will be quick to offer itself as tinkermaster and serf to this new king, in return for a constant flow of funding to feed its slakeless obsession with “information.” It will happily generate the wonders and the miracles by which the new religion perpetuates its rule, in return for the patronage of the same.
      By and by, after long enough of this continual exposure to this regime, the citizens of the world state will not even realize the degree to which they have been transformed into unthinking slaves. The size of the state, and the degree of its control over the only means of communication (as telephones or the internet) which could conceivably unite the few remaining disparate rebels, will make all possibility of revolt vanish to naught. Those who dissent will be left to pass their lives lonely and isolated and purposeless, their small protestations lost to the great thunderous chattering that by then will be the one remaining vestige of the human voice.
      The single world order, combined with the technological prowess we human beings presently have at our disposal, would result in the establishing of final and unbreachable borders around our nation and our ideas, where today we have permeable and passable ones. It would require building in the place of the present more or less open society, a radically and universally closed society, which tosses the doctrine of “openness” like a blanket to smother the challenge of dissidents. It would mean the uprooting of all human cultures and all human ways, in favor of a single race of vapid, colorless individuals fit for slavery, and neutered to philosophy. It would mean the replacement of church by state, the establishment of a soulless social religion which confers no immortality and offers no moral guidance, but which is adhered to universally, and whose inadequacies are compensated for by an endless phantasmagoria of carnal gratifications. It would mean the founding of a universal, doctrinaire, and potentially perpetual, tyranny on Earth, against which there could be no recourse, nor any hope of escape, because it is as ubiquitous and all-powerful as a god.
      All that could be hoped for in such a time, would be the coming of a world-wide disaster, of such magnitude and such ineluctable natural power, that the single world order could not resist it. Then those individuals whose souls have somehow not been buried in the morass, those few individuals somehow still open to the promise within the human soul, might glimpse once more the possibilities arising from a sudden crisis in the social order, and awaken to the truth of their sordid and inhuman condition.

• • •

Judging the Book by its Cover

WHAT is prejudice? By its roots, the word means but “judgement before the fact,” which is to say—judging a human being, before one knows who or what he is. As it is clear that no one judges for no reason, the judgement in question is usually the the result of that human being’s inclusion in a peculiar group, be it a racial group, an ethnic group, or a group marked by some characteristic (such as skinny people or fat people or people who wear glasses or people who work in Hollywood or what have you).
      Now, not all such judgements classify as “prejudice,” and many of them are inevitable. For instance, if I encounter an animal with the form of a human being, I will certainly presume that he is endowed with certain capacities, such as the ability to speak and understand speech. If I were to treat every stranger as a perfectly unknown quantity, such that I could not even suppose he was fluent in my language or had normal feelings about social relations, it is obvious I would be utterly paralyzed in my day to day life. I would go about doing all kinds of absurd and unreasonable things, approaching each stranger as if I could not be sure he were not a complete idiot or a psychopath. Or another and more concrete example: if I am a plumber looking for a journeyman, I will disqualify out of hand all tetraplegics, under the assumption that they are incapable of doing the job that I need them to do. Who would call this prejudice?
      Then prejudice is an unfair judgement before the fact. It is a judgement which is not warranted by experience. If I, as a misanthrope, approached human beings as if they were all of them depraved and unintelligent, that would be prejudice. If I, as a plumber looking for a journeyman, refused to hire Mexicans on the grounds that they are lazy or immoral, that would be prejudice. Why? Because we all know human beings who are not depraved and who are of excellent intelligence; we all know Mexicans who are much harder working than most of their neighbors and who hold themselves to the highest ethical standards.
      Yet it is not enough that there are one or two exceptions; there must be many exceptions. It will perhaps happen that I approach a human being to ask him directions on how to get to the supermarket, only to find that he is deaf and dumb. I have surely not been guilty of prejudice; the odds were strongly in my favor that the person before me would know how to answer me.
      A man is guilty of prejudice, then, when he supposes things about an individual human being on the basis of a general judgement of the human group to which that individual belongs, when the judgement in question is unwarranted, because it is not widely true. Prejudice is, moreover, generally negative, though one can of course imagine positive prejudices. (“Why, George must be a good man; he’s a Democrat!”) Wikipedia quotes one Gordon Allport as defining prejudice as a “feeling, favorable or unfavorable, toward a person or thing, prior to, or not based on, actual experience.”
      The question of course is—experience of what? Of the “person or thing,” or of the group to which it belongs? The answer to this question is in truth the crux of the very problem of prejudice as such.
      To see this, let us take another example, this one more controversial. It is widely known in Europe that gypsies are prone to thievery. This knowledge is based on generations and generations of collective experience—the experience of passengers on trains and buses who must constantly watch their pockets and purses; the experience of restaurant owners in many European cities who cannot leave their silverware on out-of-doors tables from the certainty of never seeing it again; the experience of countless homeowners in rural areas who cannot put up copper gutters or leave any wires exposed from the certainty of losing them to the hands of roving metal thieves. Everyone knows that the thieves in all these cases are overwhelmingly gypsies. This is a fact, and anyone who thinks differently is invited to spend a year living in any major continental European city, particularly in the South, where he can put his good faith in the gypsy race to practical test.
      Now, if a gypsy asks to be let in my home, is it prejudice if my reaction is based in part on the reputation of his ethnic group? Is it prejudice if I deny him entry, or at the least keep a careful eye on him while he’s between my walls?
    If we say that this is not prejudice, being, as it is, merely the sensible application of probability, then I am afraid acts of irrational and unwarranted prejudice are much rarer than we generally take them to be, and our views on “discrimination” really must become a little more modest. We must allow, for example, that there is no prejudice in supposing that a given man is more prone to commit violent acts than a given woman, or that a given woman is likely to be more sentimental and empathetic than a given man, and we must allow that it is therefore not prejudicial to suppose that men are better fit for the military than women, or that women are better fit for child rearing than men. When a white man in a city crosses to the other side of the street to avoid a group of young black men, that is not prejudice (suffice it to look at inner city crime statistics!) just as it is not prejudice when we suppose that a person who votes Republican is also a Christian. In all cases there will be exceptions to the rule; but these exceptions are to be treated as they come.
      If, on the other hand, you say it is prejudice to treat the gypsy differently than we would treat a person of different descent, on the grounds that we know nothing about that particular gypsy, and he might not follow the habits of his compeers—well, then we are back to wondering just how this more generous principle is to be embodied in daily life. For in consequence we must surely suppress all negative judgements about persons we do not know. We must approach each new individual as if he were a paragon of goodness and even excellence, and not permit our awareness of the generality of human frailties and human limitations to influence us negatively in any way whatsoever. Each new individual must be to us as the finest of all God’s creations, until we have reason to believe otherwise; for to suppose him in any way weak or inadequate or fallible, as a normal human being, is to fall into the trap of imposing on a stranger negative characteristics which are merely generally true of that category “human beings.”
      I suspect, however, that this is merely setting us up for incessant disillusionment. I suspect we will be more likely to pass even harsher judgement on everyone around us, when we find they have fallen short of our impossible standards. I suspect we will be guilty of a much more insidious and much more dangerous “prejudice” by acting in this way, than if we were to act on the basis of real observations about differences in human groups. I suspect, in short, that our injustice will remain, but will be of a different and perhaps more poisonous kind.
    And I suspect as well that the inventory of our household items will soon find itself somewhat abridged.

• • •

A View from Europe’s Shores

(Note: As all of my sources are in Italian, I have elected not to include links to any of them here. Anyone who wishes to know the particular origin for any of my claims is welcome to contact me.)

• • •

In the Twilight of Tolerance

OF ALL the curious notions to beget from our contemporary social and political mores—and they are nary in short supply—the idea of the “hate crime” has long seemed to me one of the most foolish and least defensible. I have never been able to decipher why a fellow that strikes another for being homosexual or Mexican, should somehow be more sharply to blame than the one that strikes another because he reads too many books, speaks with a lisp, or believes in wealth redistribution.
      I do not dispute that questions of intent are of real legal matter. We differentiate, meaningfully and usefully, between degrees of murder, and we all know the difference between a crime of passion and one committed in cold blood (a distinction, incidentally, which is decidedly blurred by the concept of the hate crime). Yet in all these cases, ready legal and moral defense can be made of the distinctions in question. What, precisely, is the reason for holding the hate crime in particular contempt?
      Those of my readers familiar with my investigation of the concept of genocide will be neither unprepared for this question, nor for the answer which might be furnished in response: namely, that the hate crime, the very existence of the hate crime as a recognized juridical principle, indicates an illness within our societies, or at least a weakness. All laws forbidding this or that act within a society, exist to protect the society from the tendency toward such acts. Such laws reveal, clearly if sometimes unconsciously, precisely where a society perceives its vices and its vulnerabilities to lie. Some of these are more or less universal, as crimes against murder or rape; but the more interesting and the more revelatory are those specific crimes which are unique to a people. For whatever a people is strong enough to permit without fearing for its well being, ceases to be the stuff of its criminal law.
      What is the weakness we guard against with our laws on hate crime?
      I believe the answer will be apparent enough to anyone who does not like to squint at contemporary society: our weakness is that of all highly heterogeneous societies; our diversity is our weakness. It offers too many surfaces for friction, too many hairline cracks running in too many directions across the face of the civic order, too many points at which the entire edifice might just up and crumble under novel pressures. In this chaos of ethnicities and ethoi, of classes and ranks, of religions and political ideologies, that forms modern society, there is wanting some guarantee against disorder and anarchy; there is wanting a safeguard. The hate crime laws are that safeguard; they are sigil of that guarantee. And they are the surest sign that this diversity which we so vaunt in ourselves and so eagerly embrace and advocate, is in fact a great trial and encumbrance to us.
      Once one has grown accustomed to seeing through the veils covering diversity, multiculturalism, and like amorphous ideals, one begins to perceive the sign of our basic lack of ease with our condition everywhere. Surely one of the most salient examples of our contemporary disease, is that virtue we have adopted to acclimatize ourselves to the very new kind of world we are building: namely, tolerance.
      Tolerance is an odd name to apply to a virtue, particularly one indicating, as it has come to indicate, the open-minded acceptance of all human customs, usages, and ways. Given that we have nominated the crime against tolerance to be a crime of hate, it stands to reason that tolerance itself should be a form of love. Yet the word originally bespeaks quite a difference concept. Tolerance originally means abiding what is foreign and unpleasant; it means precisely the power of enduring with stoical dignity what one would rather avoid or emend. Yet the diversity which occasions our tolerance is surely not held to be an ill to which one must inure oneself; on the contrary, it is supposed to be a great boon, something to be celebrated insofar as it has been achieved, and encouraged insofar as it is deficient.
      This is peculiar, but it is not all. Tolerance, in its original sense, implies a breaking point, a degree beyond which one is simply not able to go. Tolerance is a kind of threshold, and that is far from being merely its technical meaning. Yet tolerance as a contemporary political and social virtue is not allowed to possess any limits: one is not permitted to become intolerant, simply because the conditions of society have become so diversified that one can simply not any longer stand them. On the contrary, one must hold out—one must not even feel the necessity of “holding out”—one must be pleased with the tumult at one’s doorstep. Tolerance is not discretionary, and its adoption is not a function of the quantity of ethnic or “cultural” intermixing: it is the very sine qua non of contemporary society, and it is not permissible to reject it.
      Any confrontation of the original specifically social use of the word tolerance with its current use must alert us once again to just how queer that contemporary use really is. The diversity we have come now to eulogize far past any of its evident merits was originally regarded much more modestly, as a trouble which decent and moderate men would meet by an act of will. Atimes, it was perceived, it would be necessary to abide new social elements whose presence could not originally be regarded as pleasant nor altogether even beneficial. But somewhere, it was determined instead that these differences were to be embraced and adored as differences; and at that point the word “tolerance” began its peculiar metamorphosis into the concept which we of today employ quite thoughtlessly to indicate things rather alien to the original acceptation.
      Only there is a problem with all artificial social ideas, all constructs upon the natural ways of a given human being or human society: they are fundamentally prone to inner contradictions. And few so grave, I would aver, as that lurking in the heart of tolerance: for the contradiction sheathed within our most famous contemporary virtue, cannot help finally but culminate in its utter self-destruction.
      Let us consider. We have said that tolerance, in its common use today, is much changed from its original acceptation: that tolerance today is understood as mandatory and boundless; that it presently indicates, not merely the allowance of ways and ideas we do not understand and cannot appreciate, but also respect for them. It does not suffice, for instance, to say that we do not like the Voodoo witch doctor down the road, that we think his world-view abhorrent and fallacious, that we consider his ways risible and detestable, but that we are for the good of the social order prepared to leave him well enough alone in his folly: nay, for this implies a degree of contempt and even hatred which our present liberals are not wont to tolerate. We must have outright respect for that Voodoo witch doctor, we must acknowledge that his worldview has no less reason than our own to exist.
      That represents a decided change. The original meaning of tolerance was: the keeping of the social order by the decent and rational avoidance of unnecessary strife between incompatible perspectives. It was the pragmatic if not statesman-like insight that perfect homogeneity is neither possible nor desirable in this world, and that the result of this will be occasional intermixing of inimical philosophies, whose clashing can only be avoided by nourishing a universal preference for peace and civil rest. It was recognition, that is to say, of a human good above tolerance, which was the very guide and measure of tolerance. Its logic can be summed up thus: because order in society is preferable to disorder, it is necessary sometimes to live and let live.
      The new tolerance, on the other hand, is the belief that this diversity is itself a good to be sought out and encouraged. The old tolerance could do as well without diversity, as with it; indeed, it was more at ease, the less it was exercised. The new tolerance without diversity becomes as a hoe without a garden, and loses all purpose, but clutters the yard and rusts away.
      For this very reason, tolerance today faces a most peculiar challenge. The old tolerance fully preserved the original concept of tolerance: there really was a threshold, a breaking point, beyond which the old tolerance not only would not extend itself, but would be shamed to reach: in the face of certain worldviews, certain behaviors, certain ideas, the old tolerance would consider itself morally obliged to stop up and refuse entry, if not to draw the sword. That was a precept of justice to an older generation. The newer tolerance is not so clear on this point, but seems often to want to live and let live with a perfect indiscriminacy. Yet it must come to terms with the fact that not all worldviews are tolerant, and that a truly open society sooner or later will crash against a truly closed ethos. The burning question then becomes—whether to tolerate the intolerant.
      There are but three positions that a proponent of tolerance may take up in response to this question: he may embrace a position of total tolerance; he may tolerate all except the intolerant; or he may take up a mixed and pragmatic middle position, permitting the intolerant until such a point as they become dangerous to society. An example of the last might be Germany’s position today with respect to the incipient but still impotent neo-Nazi political party within its borders.
      Beginning with the last possibility first, I dearly doubt such a compromise can long be sustained in any contemporary society. It might be possible here and there, on specific questions, but it can never be the guiding principle of any present-day democracy. If one believes in tolerance, one has already committed oneself to a number of unspoken premises. One adheres in the first place to the philosophical underpinnings of the tolerant position: either one believes that there are no objectively demonstrable standards of right and wrong in this world, or else one believes that the tolerant attitude itself is the objectively demonstrable right attitude. Either one holds to tolerance from moral indeterminacy, not to say moral relativism, or else from a dogmatic belief in the justice of the open society. Neither of these positions is very compatible with the half-hearted tolerance which permits intolerant attitudes until they transform into intolerant actions; not the second, because intolerance reveals itself to the dogmatic liberal as erroneous and scandalous; not to the first because if there is no human good whatsoever, there is no final justification for the tolerant mindset, and no justifiable criterion to determine when it is right to intervene in the actions of other human beings.
      In another essay, I have called the two forms of present-day tolerance soft tolerance and hard tolerance—soft tolerance being the view that all worldviews, all thinkable human positions or moralities, are of perfect rational equality one to the next; and hard tolerance being the view that the open-minded liberal position which worships at the alter of diversity is the morally correct position. I will not recapitulate here work I have already done elsewhere. The interested reader is invited to review the second part of my essay The Democratic Era. (A link is provided at the end of the present essay.) Here, it suffices to consider the likely end of each form of tolerance.
      Soft tolerance, which refuses to draw moral boundaries of any sort, is incapable of differentiating between those worldviews which sustain it and those which harm it. It therefore cannot militate against those human beings who would militate against it; it opens its borders to, and casts the protection of its laws over, even such individuals as would shun and overthrow it; it blindly and often ingenuously nourishes the adder at its bosom. It tends to believe, without the first shred of real evidence for such a belief, that all human beings will be drawn to it in the long run by some invisible and inexplicable magnetism. It is weak because it can make no pronouncement regarding society or the world; it limits itself to exalting the virtues of openness, open-mindedness, and diversity, which prove at once to be but bland and vapid rules of order when confronted with the hard sharp colors of living moralities, and the ethics of peoples who still pronounce on good and bad, and know how to judge the ways of others. And it is only a matter of time before the feeble pastel of this meekly tolerant worldview is washed away completely from within, by some more vibrant and barbaric ethos which is not ashamed to take advantage of a weaker enemy, nor to feed at the rot of a dying tree. Soft tolerance will be replaced because it must be replaced; it is a kind of vacuum of custom, incapable of satisfying the hearts even of its own proponents. It has in the long run only two choices: it may destroy itself to make way for something more vigorous and vital, or it may be destroyed by another; but at foreign hands or at its own, it is doomed to perish.
      Hard tolerance, on the other hand, is not so unarmed as its feebler brother. It holds indeed a clear and rigid standard for any who would habitate with it (and often enough, these standards are thrown farther afield than its home). It holds with crystalline severity that diversity is a boon to the world, and that in consequence intolerance against any given individual is the one unacceptable and immoral act, the one evil. It is tolerant toward all, except the intolerant; and it is intolerant toward none, except the intolerant. It would root out intolerance from the world, and it is not commonly squeamish in the use of any tactics which might help it to achieve this end.
      There is nothing to prohibit the practical success of such a worldview. On the contrary, it seems almost the destiny of certain parts of today’s world to succumb to the poison of a despotic and statist kind of “tolerance,” which insinuates itself into the private life of all its citizens and manipulates their ideas and their actions through a cunning range of interventions. But in winning, this kind of tolerance, too, must lose: for in its victory it obliterates the one thing it claims to love above all.
      Hard tolerance proposes from the first to be a specific outgrowth of a specific worldview: namely, the liberal-progressive worldview. It is inseparable from that worldview, and that worldview is inseparable from it. It is a host-like virtue, which permits all ethoi to live beneath its shield and shadow, on the single condition that everyone agrees to treat everyone else precisely as it dictates—namely, with tolerance. But all ethoi of all the world have their yea and nay; all have their intolerances, which are part and parcel of their very character and being. There is one and only one worldview characterized essentially by tolerance to all other worldviews: and that is the liberal-progressive worldview. In forcing all its guest-ethoi to bow before the dogma of tolerance, the liberal-progressive worldview compels them all to become, in essence, liberal-progressive. That which remains, when this transformation has been effected, is only the outward shell of diversity, a great pageant and masquerade which is but the rainbow masking of so much inner uniformity. By and by with the passing of the years even this outer display must fade to monotony—for the trappings of custom, without the life of custom, gradually become more trouble than they are worth, and will be sloughed off like so many rags and vestiges. Then all that will remain is the overwhelming, inescapable fact of gray homogeneity, broken up here and there by some dispirited and rootless effort toward self-distinguishment, or some sterile attempt at disinterment of buried traditions. Hard tolerance, every bit as much as soft tolerance, destroys itself in the end: but while soft tolerance does so by attaining its sacred diversity and being consumed by it, hard tolerance saps the substance from all viewpoints but its own, and so starves.
      We are witnessing, in this drama of tolerance, one of the prime signs that the ecumenicalism which Christianity imposed on the Western idea of right and wrong, is failing, and must urgently be replaced with another, perhaps more ancient, conception of human virtue.

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