I don’t know why many Americans on the political left are embracing a system that has persistently failed throughout history. They love to cradle this system in words that sound warm and fuzzy and very appealing: cooperation, collective effort, common ownership, and mutualism. It reminds one of a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” Why are they convinced that they (modern progressives) can finally make this failed system work? They are in a collective stupor because they have overdosed on a drug called arrogance.
Their movement is full of contradictions. They vehemently oppose the western tradition of supporting “rugged individualism” and wish for all to join the herd and allow the government to shepherd us toward ‘greener’ pastures. The independent ones who choose to paddle upstream rather than go with the flow are ostracized and hated. However, they will compromise their own collective principles if an individual or minority group can bring political benefit to the progressives.
Thomas Jefferson defended the rights of the individual in the Declaration of Independence. He diligently studied the great British political philosopher John Locke. He practically quoted Locke word for word in his original version of the Declaration when he wrote that all individuals have a right to “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.” This comes from John Locke’s writings on natural law. Perhaps Jefferson was wishing to paint with a broader stroke when he chose to edit Locke’s statement when he penned the words “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The primary property John Locke was referring to was a man’s right to his own person. “Though the Earth…be common to all Men, yet every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself.” (First Treatise on Government) Some of Locke’s contemporary philosophers (Hume, Hobbes, and Rousseau) believed that property was created by the state and that therefore the state has sovereignty over the individual. Modern progressives embrace the idea of sovereign government over the natural rights of the individual.
The modern anti-individualism movement is clearly on display in the left’s hatred for guns. An individual in possession of a gun expresses an independence that drives leftists nearly insane. The gun owner is expressing his individual right to protect himself, not only from other individuals of ill intent but also from a power-mongering government. The liberal senses an attitude in the “bitter clinger” that declares himself to be owner and defender of his own self. The gun control freaks are frosted when an individual refuses to call on and trust a collective government to protect him.
Social progressives detest women who find fulfillment in being wives and mothers. Liberal woman expect all female sheep to join the cause and collectively and competitively wage war on male society. Feminists celebrate enthusiastically when a woman chooses death through abortion. They have a seething hatred for those who would choose individual families over collective femininism. Women devoted to families are considered weak and disgusting. The “right to life” is selective and to be determined collectively rather than individually. While shouting that all women have a right to their own bodies, the feminist movement actually promotes the entire opposite. Sheepish females who have chosen to submit to the alpha females of the feminist movement must sacrifice their individual rights for the sake of the common ‘good,’ and their unborn babies must sacrifice their lives for the collective goal of feminism.
Progressive hate Christians and Jews because Judeo-Christian beliefs run contrary to socialist beliefs. They try to transform the Savior Jesus into some sort of social justice hero. But Jesus was no hater of children; he love the little ones and warned those who would kill them or corrupt them that “it would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck” (Luke 17:2) than to face the punishment stored up for those who destroy their own children.
Stay-at-home mothers or families that home-school their children are hated by progressives. This kind of independent behavior runs contrary to their teaching that “it takes a village” to rear children.
John Locke’s understanding of property rights helps us understand the bitter hatred of the left for those on the right who promote families, life, gun ownership, and homeschooling. Those who are reared in families that believe in the right to protect individual property, especially the right to protect one’s own body, represent the future failure of socialism in America.
Jesus taught a balance between individualism and collectivism. Eliminating one in an attempt to promote the other will lead to chaotic failure. Jesus asked his disciples as individuals to “take up their cross and follow him.” Then he taught them “not to forsake coming together in community.” I believe we can be a part of a community without sacrificing our individual rights.
Christians must beware of devoting themselves too fully to a secular cause or idea. Oswald Chambers said that “A man that is devoted to God is not devoted to a cause or to any particular issue; he is devoted to God himself.” (My Utmost For His Highest, p.123)
Photo credit: Gregory Wild-Smith (Creative Commons)