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The Liberal Bubble of Self-Deceit Liberals Should Have Known

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Dr. Ben Carson and the Responsible Self

by Christopher Chantrill
February 19, 2013 at 12:00 am


CONSERVATIVES were electrified last week by Dr. Ben Carson’s appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast. Partly it was because he was taking it to The Man.

But partly we were all thrilling to Dr. Carson because he is a living breathing poster boy for the idea of personal responsibility.

Put simply, we conservatives thrilled to Ben Carson because we are the People of the Responsible Self.

Let me explain. Or rather, let sociologist Robert Bellah explain.

In “Evolution of Religion” Bellah argues that the “conception of a responsible self” got started over two millennia ago when religion promised “man for the first time that he [could] understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.”

Notice the Big Idea. If a man “can understand the fundamental structure of reality,” rather than just get knocked around by gods and demons, it stands to reason he could do something about it, and it’s a very short step to the idea that he ought to do something about it.

Centuries later we come to the Great Awakening, the great religious revival in the Britain and British North America around 1750. Revivalist preacher Barton Stone commented on the effect of the awakening on the mechanics and farmers of the 18th century:

[W]hen we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakening from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.

I interpret the story of the Responsible Self as the successive awakening of humans, as they migrate to the city, from the “sleep of ages.” Here’s another moment of awakening, when the German Army’s Gen. Hans von Seeckt woke up in the 1920s to the need for something more than soldiers as drilled and disciplined slaves. He realized that the army needed soldiers to be “self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility.”

Then there are the quotes from Sean Hannity’s Friday night Fox News special with Dr. Carson here and here. Dr. Carson: “People are starting to think for themselves.” Heather Mac Donald: “Does the message of personal responsibility sell politically any more?” Mary Walter: “It’s easier to be ignorant and reliant than responsible and informed.” Talk about a love-in for the People of the Responsible Self.

Of course, the real hero of Dr. Ben Carson’s story is his mother. She is the one that woke up from the sleep of ages and came to the faith that she could make a difference and raise a son out of poverty to become an outstanding pediatric brain surgeon. And that she ought to do so.

So much for the People of the Responsible Self.

Now, you may have noticed that our liberal friends are not People of the Responsible Self. To them the life of responsibility — of going to work, following the rules, obeying the law and paying your taxes — is very small beer. Liberals are higher and better than the responsible self: they are people of the creative self, the expressive self, the radical self, the educated self. There is nothing wrong with that, except for one thing.

Liberals, through their cultural and political power as the ruling class, have encouraged in their political clients the notion of the “marginalized self.” It’s not that the 47 percent couldn’t wake up from the sleep of ages and take responsibility for their lives. It’s just that liberals think they shouldn’t have to. It’s all the discrimination, the patriarchy, the racism, the marginalization: the marginalized self is “owed.” For this crime against humanity liberals are probably going to burn in hell for all eternity.

All this is a pity, in the view of the People of the Responsible Self, because the people of the marginalized self are the people voting for trillion dollar deficits and unsustainable entitlements, and apparently The Man, President Obama, he of last week’s State of the Union speech, wouldn’t have it any other way.

How do we change this? Not with politics, for sure. Politics is and always has been about winning power and distributing the loot, and that’s all. So it is foolish to encourage Dr. Ben Carson to run for president.

If you want to turn the people of the marginalized self into People of the Responsible Self then you must start a religion or a moral movement and persuade all the freeloading 47 percenters that they ought to become People of the Responsible Self, because otherwise they will all go to hell. Maybe we should ask Dr. Ben Carson to run for Reverend.

People don’t change their lives for rational reasons. They change because something weird — like, totally — happened to them on the road to Damascus.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican

Racial Discrimination

[T]he way “to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,” Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District

Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State

Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050

Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values


Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization

Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph

Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self

Drang nach Osten

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion

Government Expenditure

The Union publishes an exact return of the amount of its taxes; I can get copies of the budgets of the four and twenty component states; but who can tell me what the citizens spend in the administration of county and township?
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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