Questioning Liberalism

Nov 23, 2015 · 6 min read
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I have to admit that I have a liberal bent. I have generally believed in the basic goodness of mankind and I have believed in freedom and equality for all. In general I have believed in always giving people the benefit of the doubt when something goes wrong and I have believed that the circumstances people find themselves in (the structure of their environment or childhood) is the greatest predictor of the behavioral patterns.

But this has all come into question, lately…

Growing up in the Hindu faith, I started my career as a thinker, deeply studying the philosophies of Swami Vivekananda and other Vedic thinkers. The Hindu faith has a very colourful canvas when it comes to the ontology of Good vs Evil in this world. Unlike most monotheistic faiths Good and Evil are not binary in Hinduism. This dichotomy is seen in the wider context of karma and the epochal cycles of the universe. Everything has its place, the universe is what it is and not what it ‘should’ be. There are gods and asuras, kings, priests, peasants and everything in between. The Good can turn bad and the Bad can turn good. Walking the path is an arduous journey in which the protagonist has to face many challenges. For sure there are Archetypes that represent Good and Evil, but they are nuanced.

This rich tapestry comes with its own deep flaw however and it is this: when so much is possible, each person comes up with his/her own answer. I found this to be true in my own family and greater community, each person creates their own version of faith, there are no singular answers. The lack of singular answers or consensus is not bad in itself but means that in general Hindus have been less concerned with ‘Reality’ and are more happy to live ‘Mythic’ lives. This has been a major disadvantage when compared with more Western/Scientific values as it produces less results (read technology) in the ‘real’ world.

In my teens I discovered science. Science in many ways is like the search for the one true faith, the one equation to rule them all. I know this will anger many but I believe that it is true for most practitioners. We search and test nature to tease out her hidden secrets. These secrets allow us to control nature in new and wonderful ways, from creating airplanes to mobile phones. It reinforces our belief in the basic tenets of the scientific endeavor and it grows stronger. The science of cosmology takes it a step further and promises to show us the creation of the universe itself. The sheer consistency depth and breath of the scientific endeavor is of such a large scale that it would only take a fool to deny it.

Science, as I found however, also has some deep flaws . Flaws that I could only vaguely sense while immersed in the ‘endeavor’ but came to full fruition with the use of psychedelics (more on that another day).

The problem with science is that it can only deal with what is ‘real’, ‘measurable’ and ‘symbolically’ manipulable. For one, I believe this set of traits is only a subset of ‘what is out there’. By way of analogy perhaps we can unpack this line of thinking:

There was a time in mathematics when we didn’t ‘believe’ in imaginary/complex numbers. They just couldn’t be real. Sure we could have positive numbers and negative numbers but not imaginary ones. It took a shift in perspective to appreciate the ontology of these new and strange ‘complex’ entities. Today, complex numbers are ordinary, and used in many real world applications. In a sense, they have been accepted as ‘real’.

Similarly I believe that we are stuck today in Science with what is called ‘real’ all the whilst ignoring what is called ‘unreal’. This fact is at the very heart of Science and guides every practitioner. Of late however, we have begun to sense in a very real way, through the use of quantum physics (though not exclusively) that not everything is ‘real’ in the ordinary sense of the word. Superposition, Entanglement and Non-Locality for example are phenomenon we can’t do without and yet they have no ‘real’ correlate.

This new ‘reality’ has not yet sunk into our collective consciousness. In fact many commentators have called theoretical physicists in today’s outer-belt of physics as ‘voodoo’ scientists and pit them against theologians .

It is not easy to accept the facts… that the universe has more that one way of ‘being’.

Furthermore Science is flawed because it is stuck and controlled by politics and corporatism. The very questions that science can ask are often held in the hands of politicians, businessmen and career academicians who control the purse and soul what can be achieved. Bright minds with alternate views are held to be heretics, never to be given access to institutions, their equipment or their funds. It stifles progress at its inception. New thoughts cannot access the collective consciousness.

And this is where the Liberal Project has failed us.

Being Human, and Human societies are not binary. It is not only a question between conservatism and liberalism. We need a more ‘complex’ way.

It is not just about what is measurable. The human mind and our collective group consciousness is not amenable to scientific scrutiny with current methods. We have barely scratched the surface of what we mean and think consciousness is forget anything else.

Furthermore scientific institutions are controlled by special interests and hence we can’t even trust (at least wholly) the results of what we call Social Science. The kinds of studies made, the preconceptions used, the facts of media manipulation, statistical sophistry, historical accident and a million other factors generally mean that no ‘scientific experiment’ can be conducted that is not already ready to confirm the inherent biases of the experimenter.

The facts are that the tenets of Liberalism fail the reality test. Human beings are not inherently ‘Good’. It has taken me the better part of a lifetime to accept this fact. We are not inherently bad either. We are more like a superposition of these states.

Totally free and liberal laws do not lead to stable states nor do they lead to the betterment of Human Society as a whole. There are people who take advantages of such situations and children who are totally free to do as they please do not necessarily grow into law abiding and righteous individuals.

In a real sense total freedom leads to total chaos.

In many ways this is the instinct of the conservative. It is the idea that if we want healthy societies then we need to create them out of what we already know. Conservatism is a philosophy in which practitioners tend to look for historical precedent in the application of ideas. It leads them to look for ideas that have been tried and tested over human history and to apply these ideas to modern civilizations.

Yet we all know that this line of thinking can and does also go too far. It can lead to laziness, to the application of archaic laws and the imposition of a brutal past that we are trying to distance ourselves from.

This takes me back to the original idea of questioning Liberalism and here as above I shall assert my ideas rather than try to prove them wholesale.

Liberalism has failed because it unable to account for the ‘complexity’ of ‘reality’ and of the ‘human condition’. It rests on a faith in science and progress that is positive when reality shows us (not unlike the Hindu faith) that progress is actually cyclical and that Science can be corrupted.

Food for thought, go figure…

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