Hard heads and bleeding hearts
How left and right talk about their respective psychologies.
This article is not consciously partisan towards the left or the right. My aim is to present the different ways that I perceive the left and right talk about their own psychology, and the psychology of their opponents.
The positive psychological attributes that one side conceptualises for itself are, as you shall see, negative attributes for their political opponents — so the conceptualisation of political psychology exists through interdependence.
I am not making a value judgement in this piece as to which psychological attributes are more or less desirable in a person or political system.
My intention is to replicate what I perceive to be the ways the right and the left talk about themselves and each other — no more than that.
I have used the semi-pejorative term ‘bleeding hearts’ and the semi-complimentary term ‘hard heads’ as labels for the two political sides simply for my amusement.
I do not know if it is better to be a ‘bleeding heart’ or a ‘hard head’ — if either.
But these terms are a shorthand for one part of what the article is about: they tell us how the right thinks about itself, and how it thinks about the left.
My experience only extends to the English-speaking left and right.
Under globalised modernity the categories of ‘left’ and ‘right’ have a certain universal application, but I am an unsure whether the conceptualisations here could be extended to civilizations and societies outside the English-speaking world.
You will see that both sides lay claim to certain forms of rational thought and affect towards the world.
For example, both left and right believe themselves to be scientific and rational in their approach to the world while their opponents are irrational, emotional, or superstitious.
This reflects different conceptualisations of reason, science, and emotion.
It is tempting to think that one side must have the correct conceptualisation of reason, science, or any other category of thought or feeling.
My view is that while both political camps captures elements of ideas and emotions in their conceptualisations of the world neither can claim the whole truth since the very nature of science, reason, and so on relies on paradoxical interdependence.
Finally, I have written each position as if I am either a rightist or a leftist.
This comes easier to me, and I think neatly illustrates the life world of these positions.
These little personifications are not meant to be statements of my beliefs or facts I believe about the world.
I say this so you don’t give up reading believing that I am trashing or endorsing the right or left position in each description.
Bleeding hearts (the left)
We use the scientific method to understand the world.
By the scientific method we mean an holistic understanding of the world that includes the social sciences (such as sociology and anthropology), history, and the natural sciences.
We believe that science and reason burn away irrational superstitions and delusions about the world.
The right claims to believe sincerely in these superstitions and irrational beliefs.
This is why the right is irrational and dangerous.
The right is also deluded as to the nature of reason. It dabbles in a vulgar empiricism that insists on looking for what it calls ‘objective facts’ instead of accepting the perspectival nature of knowledge.
What you know, even about the natural sciences, depends where you stand within the power relations of society.
Therefore, there is no area — even mathematics and classical music — that cannot be interpreted in a political way, or in relation to the operation of power — particularly class power.
Our reason tells us that the right is merely using superstitions and irrational ideas to fool the weak and powerless.
Religion is the most prominent of the delusions that have been exposed through reason as ideologies that are used to allow the exploitation of ordinary people.
Other ideas that are mere irrational delusions include: the existence of sexes, moral views on sexuality, trans-historical morality, traditions, the value of monarchy, love (a word that disguises sex), race differences, nations, patriotism, free markets, inequality as a positive value, common sense, and the existence of god.
If you believe in any of the above you are suffering form an irrational delusion that must be removed.
You are probably being exploited, and these beliefs allow other people to do this to you.
You are the victim of an unjust system. Your anger and indignation is justified.
We believe that the more rational and scientific the world becomes the better it becomes.
We believe that science can be used to improve human beings; it has already allowed us to master the atom — soon we will be able to remove inequalities between humans.
We are not moralisers. We are merely removing errors that will make the world run in a smoother and more efficient way.
We believe that reason is synonymous with improvement, which we sometimes call progress.
We sometimes disagree about how this progress is to be achieved (whether it will be a welfare state, social democracy, or communism), but we know that there is a general direction of travel for human beings towards a better world.
This better world will be rationally planned and people will be stripped of many of the ideas about themselves that they falsely believe constitute their humanness.
These include: nationality, sex, sexuality, common sense, class, education, hierarchy, race, national history, tribe, family affiliation, and religion.
We will then relate to each other purely as humans with few, if any, of the distortions listed above.
Unlike the right, which is driven by greed, irrational superstition, and a joyful celebration of watching other people suffer, we believe in universal fraternal love and dignity.
We feel badly about human suffering wherever we see it and wish that suffering to come to an end.
Our feelings about human suffering are not parochially limited to our family, tribe, race, religion, and nation.
We want to extend our care to the whole world.
We are as devastated by an earthquake in Nepal as by a flood in Cornwall.
The right, due to its ideological delusions, only cares about people nearby — and ultimately only about their own selfish, individual welfare.
We know that by making the world rational, planned, and through distributing material goods more equitably human suffering may be greatly reduced — even eventually eliminated.
We take feelings seriously while the right uses an emotionally driven, so-called reason, to justify cruel mistreatment of other people.
If a person feels they have been badly treated, we must listen to them and believe that they have indeed been badly treated.
We do not want to ask questions about an individual’s responsibility for their situation. This is rightist ideology.
A person is very much a victim of the system that creates them. We know this rationally through our understanding of psychology, economics, and sociology.
We feel that humans have much more in common than many people think.
We feel that those in authority or power are ridiculously pompous, puffed up, and cruel.
These people do not respect artists, people with ideas, or the sensitivity of the common man.
We feel sadness because great art and science is lost due to our system of exploitation.
We feel that any man may be the next Beethoven or Picasso — if only the system did not constrain him.
We feel that exclusive love between humans is an ideology.
There is sex, and sex must be: “As easy as drinking a glass of water”.
We may share and share alike without envy and jealousy in sex as much as in economics, but only once we remove the repressive structures that have been unjustly thrown up by the powerful.
We believe that the repression of the sexual instinct is harmful. This conceit was probably invented to control the imaginary category ‘women’ by the powerful.
We feel people may come together for sex and personal satisfaction and then, when these are exhausted, should be freed from those bonds.
Humans suffer from the burden of repression, and if we could only truly express ourselves there would be greater harmony in the world.
We, therefore, have a certain sympathy with the criminal element in society who have merely fallen foul of current fashions in repression and hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is not usually a social good; it is a trick by the powerful who wish others to follow rules they ignore as part of the mechanisms of social control.
The only worthwhile hypocrisy is perhaps the hypocrisy of propaganda.
If there really are differences between the sexes, sexualities, races, and nations it would be better to tell a noble lie in our art and thought, “These differences do not exist, comrades!” than to accept that the differences do exist, and so risk oppression by sex, nation, or race.
The family is also an oppressive institution, which people must be liberated from.
We feel that a collective nursery is as good for children — if not better — than the nuclear family for it allows us to foster a collective good will among children.
This goodwill emerges by itself in the right environment.
We feel that people are basically kind (or at the very least have no fundamental dispositions apart from the society that shapes them), or well disposed.
But the creation of civilization has required the exploitation of particular groups of people, and the creation of social categories to control people who are fundamentally the same.
We have now reached a stage of development in our civilization where our technology and social knowledge allows us to dismantle the institutions that built this civilization. This will allow all to enjoy the benefits — particularly the material benefits — reserved previously for a select few.
Human beings may then return to their well-intentioned state.
We sometimes claim to hate the political right. We cannot really hate them because they are merely products of a system.
We feel that violence may serve a purifying role in society. We feel that wars, imperialism, and violence are part of the system; but these are not eternal.
What is required is a final blood letting that will purify the world. This will allow us to enter the sunny uplands without war or violence
This is why the expression, “Let the last king be hanged with the entrails of the last priest,” has attained popularity on the far left.
Once the world has been washed clean with the blood of the oppressors a new order, without war or violence at all, will emerge.
We must be prepared to make this sacrifice for the final good of humanity.
When we are more moderate we do not demand a blood sacrifice, but perhaps say that by abandoning the nation and its traditions to supra-national organisations world peace may be achieved.
This is superior to the rightist view, which holds that wars — like the poor — are always with us.
This view is, of course, merely an excuse for endless wars for exploitation.
The current system will pass soon, and another step towards progress will have occurred.
Hard heads (the right)
We use the scientific method to understand the world. By the scientific method we particularly mean the natural sciences and allied technological disciplines (e.g. engineering).
We believe that the natural sciences are more free from value judgements than any other discipline — particularly the value judgements associated with Marxist-inflected thought.
We believe Marxism is pseudo-scientific; it has a disproportionate influence on the humanities and the so-called social sciences.
We further believe that Marxism is only one manifestation of pseudo-rational, pseudo-scientific thought that goes back to the French Revolution and possibly beyond.
A new manifestation of this woolly thinking is a line of thought we call ‘post-modernism’, although the people we describe as ‘post-modern’ would not necessarily describe themselves as such.
A characteristic of the ‘post-modern’ or ‘Marxist’ view of the world as we understand it is that these lines of thought refuse to accept that there are objective, eternal truths derived from science, religion, and common sense.
The natural sciences create the most realistic picture of the world available.
The conclusions reached by the natural sciences are uncomfortable — particularly for leftists. Genetics, for example, may tells us that there are encoded, prior biological inequalities in human beings that cannot be altered through education or training.
Understanding this is part of what we mean by being hard headed and rational.
We are realistic about the limitations of human beings.
This is why we accept that human beings —and nature itself — is organised in a hierarchical fashion.
The nature of these hierarchies changes through time, but the requirement of hierarchy remains unchanged.
Thus, the medieval aristocracy of brutal men on horseback was a necessary hierarchy for feudal Europe; and a highly intellectual technocracy skilled in the hard sciences is the required hierarchy for a technological age.
But the requirement for hierarchy is constant, even if the priority of the hierarchy may change — in this case an exchange is made from martial courage to highly abstract intellectual brilliance.
If we respect the fact that inequalities are inherent and objective in human life we may all find a little satisfaction.
Unfortunately, human beings are disposed to be irrational and not accept that unfairness is necessary — a social good, even, that allows new technologies and arts to flourish.
It also allows us to love people by elevating them against others because of their talent for friendship or their blood relation to us.
The left has little to no reason and merely rationalises the envy of those lower in the hierarchy who are discontent with objective reality through obscure, superstitious beliefs — such as Marxism — or millennial religions.
We grant sanctuary from politics. The family, the home, the market place, and the mosque — these are not political arenas.
The left says everything is political, but the right says the political extends to only a small sphere of human affairs.
When the left allows politics to intrude into all areas of human life it sets husband against wife, father against son, priest against congregation, and manager against worker.
The left’s insistence on emphasising power relations in all fields leaves no room for love, sacrifice, suffering — or privacy. The left achieves equality by removing everything that makes us human.
The result is that when the left rules societies fall into chaos, disorder, and crime, for the government is literally out of touch with reality and reason.
We have greater compassion than the left because we do not delude people with foolish hope or grand political projects that end in murder and disaster.
We are the truly kind people because we speak hard truthes.
Tough love is the only love.
We accept that there are people who are beautiful, great athletes, fine minds, mediocre people — and evil people.
This is the inequality of life, and to try and change this is actually cruel for you cannot make a bad man good, or a good man bad.
You can only defend society, as far as possible, from bad men — and see, though it is impossible to be complete in this, that people are rewarded as far as possible according to their abilities.
The left denies these truths and so are sentimentalists. Sentimentality is a great cruelty; it is the cruelty of the bleeding heart.
It is the cruelty that tell a man he may be whatever he chooses when his real challenge is to become what he is.
We do not believe marriage is about personal self-fulfillment, sex, or finding your ‘eternal’ love match.
Marriage exists to raise children and sustain society.
You will probably suffer in marriage no matter who you marry, but the suffering can be transfigured through art or religion.
You will love, but love only comes with suffering.
The reward for suffering is to raise the next generation and throw the nation, religion, and your family forward in time. This grants your largely unimportant ego a little immortality.
The left destroys the possibility for this minor immortality by encouraging people to indulge their whimsical sexual pursuits, envious materialistic desires in immediate gratification, and by destroying the traditions that have been sustained through the centuries.
We believe there is a way of knowing that is often referred to as common sense that cannot be reduced to rational, quantitative, or scientific explanation.
We cannot explain why common sense works, but we know it does.
However, we suspect that an element that makes common sense work is that it is empirical rather than abstract.
In this respect, common sense pre-figures scientific thought because the common sense view seeks demonstration and experiment.
This contrasts with the leftist approach, which adores highly abstracted thought that cannot be easily subjected to practical demonstration.
We feel the left is clever, but impractical.
The left adores climate science along with abstract theorising about the sexes, dialectical materialism, and similar intellectual pursuits because these have a high level of abstraction.
There may be some truth in these ideas, but largely these allow the left to disappear up its own arse and escape reality.
We, the right, stick to what is practical and before us. We work on politics like engineers and computer programmers. We look at what is there and follow the logic — even if this makes our feelings uncomfortable.
Our conception of common sense is also bound up with traditions, ceremonies, and other activities that the left sees as irrational.
This is partly why we maintain religious traditions — even though many, if not all, of us do not believe in a god in an objective sense. We believe that religions serve an unfathomable purpose in human affairs and an important utilitarian role in holding societies together.
We accept that many people could not live without a religion; only a very hard-headed few may look at the world ‘as it is’ without contemplating suicide, and even many of those —among the best men in human history — have killed themselves.
It is better to have the consolation and social stability of religion than to worship so-called human reason, which — as seen in communism and Nazism — leads only to worshipping human beings.
We do not believe that common sense is a final arbiter, but we are very reluctant to give up common sense assumptions about the world and replace these with new notions.
Common sense has an oddly levelling effect in our hierarchical conceptualisation of the world.
The people who are often most skilled at highly abstract thought often lack common sense and so are easily bamboozled into foolish political projects that the common man wouldn’t touch.
There were many eminent scientists, journalists, and artists who completely believed everything that Soviet propaganda said about communism while bin men, carpenters, and milkmen (i.e. the very men who were supposed to benefit from communism) were not fooled.
We are actually more forgiving and compassionate than the left because we accept that humans are flawed. We do not expect perfection, though we may expect people to do their duty as best they can.
We value repression and hypocrisy.
Repression prevents the most uncivilized feelings from irrupting into society, and — though we are all hypocrites — we do our best to serve as an example, perhaps because we have learned through experience what constitutes a bad choice.
We are also prepared to accept that a man may excel in his field, and we excel in ours while accepting that there will be inequalities in rewards between us.
For example, a stockbroker may accept that a skilled carpenter excels in that field while he excels in stockbroking. They can meet as ‘equals’ in so far as they are two masters of their fields. The stockbroker earns more, perhaps, but this is not the parity that really counts.
It is the left that is excessively materialistic in its obsession with vulgar cash or material object equality.
Material rewards are not the only rewards in life. We find this easier to say because we accept that there may be a spiritual or mystical element to life.
We further believe that this spiritual or mystical element actually contains a rational element. We may even go so far as to say one cannot be rational without religion.
The left, foolishly, thinks along the lines suggested by Marx that we can achieve a society where everyone will hunt, ironmonger, and carry out literary criticism in a single day.
But this would be a society of general mediocrity with no masters in any field.
It would be a society that was equal, but without equity.
We are more interested in a person being willing than able.
We do not believe there is anything really new under the sun, anyway.