“What a fool believes…he sees.
No wise man has the power to reason away
What seems to be.”
–The Doobie Brothers
Rational discussion with a liberal, let alone a hard-core leftist, is nigh onto impossible. Facts are like high winds that threaten to blow down their ideological houses of straw. And, like a shaman in the night, they try to frighten them away with loud noises (their voices) and traditional incantations (Nazi! Tea-bagger!). Their poor pink souls are locked inside a belief system that more appropriately defines who they are than what the world outside is. But from whence cometh their odd behaviors? The inimitable P.J. O’Rourke ponders his own journey, and derives some answers:
What I Believed In The Sixties
by P.J. O’Rourke
Everything. You name it and I believed it. I believed love was all you need. I believed you should be here now. I believed drugs could make everyone a better person. I believed I could hitchhike to California with thirty-five cents and people would be glad to feed me. I believed Mao was cute. I believed private property was wrong. I believed my girlfriend was a witch. I believed my parents were Nazi space monsters. I believed the university was putting saltpeter in the cafeteria food. I believed the NLF were the good guys in Vietnam. I believed Lyndon Johnson was plotting to murder all the Negroes. I believed Yoko Ono was an artist. I believed Bob Dylan was a musician. I believed I would live forever or until twenty-one, whichever came first. I believed the world was about to end. I believed the Age of Aquarius was about to happen. I believed the I Ching said to cut classes and take over the Dean’s office. I believed wearing my hair long would end poverty and injustice. I believed there was a great throbbing web of psychic mucus and we were all part of it somehow. I managed to believe Gandhi and H. Rap Brown at the same time. With the exception of anything my mom and dad said, I believed everything. […]
What I Believe Now
Nothing. Well, nothing much. I mean, I believe things that can be proven by reason and by experiment, and believe you me, I want to see the logic and the lab equipment. I believe that Western civilization, after some disgusting glitches, has become almost civilized. I believe it is our first duty to protect that civilization. I believe it is our second duty to improve it. I believe it is our third duty to extend it if we can. But let’s be careful about that last point. Not everybody is ready to be civilized. I wasn’t in 1969.
Is There Anything To Be Gained By Re-Examining All This Nonsense?
I like to think of my behavior in the sixties as a “learning experience.” Then again, I like to think of anything stupid I’ve done as a “learning experience.” It makes me feel less stupid. However, I actually did learn one thing in the 1960s (besides how to make a hash pipe out of an empty toilet paper roll and some aluminum foil). I learned the awful power of make-believe.
There is a deep-seated and frighteningly strong human need to make believe things are different than they are–that salamanders live forever, we all secretly have three legs, and there’s an enormous conspiracy somewhere which controls our every thought and deed. etc. And it’s not just ignorant heathen, trying to brighten their squalid days, who think up such things. Figments of the imagination can be equally persuasive here in clean, reasonable, education-chocked Middle America. People are greedy. Life is never so full it shouldn’t be fuller.
[…] Many people think fantastical ideas are limited to the likes of harmonic convergences, quartz crystals that ward off cancer, or at worst, hare-brained theories about who killed JFK. Unfortunately, this is not the case, especially not in this century. Two of the most fecund areas for cheap fiction are politics and economics. Which brings me to Marxism.
Marxism is a perfect example of the chimeras that fueled the sixties. And it was probably the most potent one. Albeit, much of this Marxism would have been unrecognizable to Marx. It was Marxism watered down, Marxism spiked with LSD, and Marxism adulterated with mystical food coloring. But it was Marxism nonetheless, because the wildest hippie and the sternest member of the Politburo shared the same daydream, the daydream that underlies all Marxism: that a thing might somehow be worth other than what people will give for it. This just is not true. And any system that bases itself on such a will-o’-the-wisp is bound to fail. Communes don’t work. Cuba doesn’t either.
Marxism […] gives you someone to blame besides yourself. It’s theoretically tidy. And best of all, it’s fully imaginary so it can never be disproved.
(“What I Believed In The Sixties” excerpted from Give War A Chance, 1993)
Everybody’s young and stupid once; maybe even young and stupid enough to embrace the tired tenets of old Karl Marx. But most of us–like P.J.–grow up and grow out of it. Here’s one who didn’t. Unfortunately, he’s now the President of the United States: