Wednesday, March 16, 2016


The paradox of the individualistic society is that it can only exist if individuals embrace virtues that are greater than their own needs and whims. A society where each individual acts as a little tyrant, pursuing his desires with total selfishness at the expense of everyone else becomes collectivist as the little tyrants turn to a series of big tyrants to get what they want no matter who gets hurt by it.

Social compacts are the alternative to big government. Communities built around unwritten laws in which people do the right thing keep government at bay better than a million laws ever could. No Constitution can protect a people that does not know or care about what it says. Laws embody ideas about what a society can be. But only the people can actually live out those ideas in their lives.

As individual virtues and social compacts break down, selfish squabbles escalate. Tribalism turns into legal civil war. Laws become the means by which one group imposes its will on the other and by which one man seizes the property of another. The people come to view the system with contempt. All virtues and principles are abandoned as neighbor turns on neighbor in resentment and hatred.

Our society has cultivated narcissism as its highest virtue. Even liberalism has become condensed to an identity politics of narcissism in which each victim gets to talk about their feelings for fifteen minutes before crybullying for someone's head. Political discourse has become an exchange of feelings. And unlike contradictory ideas, clashing feelings of entitlement cannot be resolved.

Ideas can exist objectively. Feelings only exist subjectively. Identity politics resolves this problem by treating the objective response to feelings as privilege. But even subjective empathy can never truly approach the subjective experience of the crybully. Even a member of that same identity group will differ in some way from the multiple intersectional identities of the crybully. And that difference is its own privilege. This isn't really politics. It's self-help narcissism crossbred with stale Marxism.

Marxism pretended to be a science. Its idiot inheritors use the same highly specialized vocabulary to describe their imaginary science of feelings to decide whose feelings get hurt microscopically worse.

But that's the only kind of politics that narcissists can be expected to embrace. The left has personalized the political as much as it has politicized the personal. Its politics is purely personal. Its ideas can be condensed to "X upsets Y". With the corollary that in the future X will not be allowed to upset Y because Y will be in charge of everything and stupid people like X will all die off so that history is on the side of Y and not X. This is a seven year old's politics with better vocabulary.

But narcissism of the kind that our society has cultivated is a formula for perpetual childishness. Adulthood means doing things you don't want to do and discovering that they can make you the person you want to be. That's how virtue is born. Perpetual childhood prevents virtue from ever forming. Instead public life is cluttered with oversized children who have the language skills, resources and political power of adults, but none of the virtues that come with maturity.

They blame everyone else for their failures. Nothing is ever their fault. Everything is unfair. They can never admit they were wrong. Every failure adds more grievances and enemies to be blamed. They are incapable of acknowledging simple facts. Instead they lash out when they are shown why they cannot have what they want. The immature mind treats reality as a personal attack. It does not care what the truth is. It only wants its feelings validated by blaming someone, anyone else. 

A childish society is an "I Want" society in which everyone wants everything and no one wants to do the hard work of getting it. The clamor of demands is negotiated through the childish hierarchies of bullying, shame, braggadocio, tears, outbursts, violence and deceit. Any social compacts or laws that interfere with "I Want" are always unfair. Anyone who doesn't agree is the enemy.

Denying a narcissist anything hurts their feelings. And so they lash out in retribution. They are immune to facts or explanations. They know what they want and they know that society isn't fair because it isn't oriented around their feelings, but they think it will be once they get their way.

Democracy can't exist under these conditions. No civil society can. Without common virtues, there can be no enduring common ground. One side makes concessions while the other celebrates its successful bullying until the first side finds its own bully. Without a consensus, winning becomes everything and the winners are those who break the most rules while complaining the hardest.

And refusing to live by any rules while playing the victim is what narcissists are so good at.

Ideas, virtues and principles are the enemies of narcissism because they imply that there are greater and more important things than its feelings. To the perpetually immature, everything is personal. The attempt to move from the subjective to the objective is treated as devaluing the importance of its feelings. The narcissistic refrain of crybullies in campus debates is, "Stop talking and listen to me".

The safe space represents the total rejection of all dialogue. It is also the ideal metaphor for the politics of an immature mind. It extends the entitlement of the crybully from its mind into the physical space with the ultimate goal of expanding that physical embodiment of its entitlement to the entire world.

All rights become condensed to self-esteem. Individual virtue is reduced to a lack of shame. Narcissists are always fighting battles of personal self-expression against "haters" who make them feel bad about themselves. Freedom of speech, and any other freedom, can't exist in this space of emotional tribalism where negotiating the validation of your identity is the only thing that matters.

And yet it's ideas that resolve personal conflicts. They allow us to set limits of mutual respect. These principles make it possible for us to exist as individuals without big government to watch over us. Principles check our entitlement. They tell us that there are things which matter more than what we want or the anger we feel. They tell us that we are not entitled to steal from someone just because we really want to. They remind us of the price we end up paying for winning at any cost.

These are the things that set apart society from savagery and human beings from animals.

A narcissistic society only empowers individuals to destroy their individual freedoms and the society that made it possible. The self-centered logic of narcissism can justify anything as long as it feels right. Principles are abandoned, virtues are mocked and morality is meaningless. The longer this goes on, the worse society becomes since the very worst way of finding happiness is perpetual immaturity.

Narcissists who can't win their own battles turn to bigger narcissists. Little tyrants become big tyrants. Anything is justified and the very idea of a truth apart from feelings dies away. All that's left is a brutish scramble to find the power proportionate to the feelings of everyone in Youmerica.

And these days we all live in a Youmerica where feelings matter more than facts, where narcissism is the only politics, where the only way to win is to hate and cry harder and where the future is a government as big as the ego of its rulers. Youmerica is our culture, our government and our creed.

Youmerica is the nightmare of the Founding Fathers come to live. "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion," John Adams warned. "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." The same is true of all the rest of it.

We have no government capable of contending with human passions unbound by any code. The only government that will serve is tyranny. We can have a virtuous society of free men and women. Or we can have what we have now, and that is only a taste of what is still to come in the dying days of an empire whose people are busy trading their virtues for pottage without counting the cost.

Without virtues, all politics are reduced to their basic roots of tribal emotion and personal greed.

Without personal responsibility and truth, the cycle of decline will never be broken. Instead it will intensify. There will be scapegoats and circuses, massacres in the forum and fires in the night. There will be a new tyrant on the balcony every week and a new mob in the streets calling for blood.

And the country we once had will never return. There will be no America. Only Youmerica.

The country that we once had was not merely documents or buildings or territory. It was people. They were not a perfect people. Far from it. Like all of us, they were deeply flawed. But they believed in things. And as flawed as these things were, many were willing to live and die by them. They were willing to seek truth even if where it led did not please them. They made mistakes, but they grew up and became the men and women who tamed a land, build a nation and saved the world.

If we are to deserve the inheritance they left us, we must become better than we are. All of us.

We have been betrayed, undermined, misused, lied to and exploited. But in the end only we are capable of that final betrayal of our dreams and our heritage. We can choose to rebuild a social compact, a moral society that can undo the damage that has been done. Or we can let it all go.


Anonymous said...

You nailed it, Daniel. Well done.

Leah said...


poonja said...

Inspiring words. Sadly, they are all too true.

Anonymous said...

You can have virtue, morality, and principles without religion. The social compact is enshrined in the constitution of the United States. It protects individual's rights from infringement other individual's and the government.

TeeJaw said...

I’ve seen a microcosm of what you describe. I was the president of a homeowners’ association.

Daniel Greenfield said...

Anonymous, the Constitution is a political compact encompassing our Federal government. It sets out some philosophically important principles, but it's not a substitute for a working social compact on a community level.

TeeJaw, my deepest sympathies

Infidel said...

In California, laws keep getting passed, but often not enforced. It is a weird situation, I used to go walking in the park where I used to live, and see maybe hundreds of violations, but no enforcement unless someone complained to the police. Even when the police patrol cars drove by, they generally turned a blind eye (with good reason, the authorities would have dropped charges, and the officer would look like a fool and be ostracized).

Daniel Greenfield said...

laws are the universal fix-it tool of an out of control government, but their proliferation also makes it harder to apply them

Anonymous said...

Sadly,there social inertia,oblivion and lack of truly conservator activists,like gifted preachers or small group liders so there is too little time for to many things to do.This means work,money and faith to make people to choose the truth instead leftist bribe.

ahem said...

When men do not share a vision of virtue, they cannot rely on 'common sense', and it becomes necessary to adjudicate even the most minor of circumstances. That's why the Left can't write laws fast enough, and why it is so innately oppressive.

Gaiseric said...

While unintended, in the first few paragraphs you explain exactly why our forefathers were wise to keep immigration to the low single digits for most of our country's history; and why the spikes in immigration of the mid to late 1800s and the early 1900s had such strict quotas imposed after the effects of them were seen.

Without immigration in numbers that are assimilable, you don't get a society. You get a patchwork of competing societies, most of which have no cultural context in which to understand the whole point and purpose and the sources for the early success of the American experiment.

HolylandIsraelTours said...

Excellent piece.
How many people do you think have the patience to read this article from start till end when most Western literate people can maximum tolerate Twitter, Instagram, Snapshot or FB?
Not too much hope left is there?

Mark said...

'Adulthood means doing things you don't want to do and discovering that they can make you the person you want to be.'

Money quote...good always.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant analysis, DG!

What keeps me awake at night is the thought that this generation of selfish little me-monkeys are the leaders of tomorrow. Heaven help us all...

Bluebpage said...

"There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is its power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anybody? But just pass the kinds of laws that can neither be observed, nor enforced, nor objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers - and then you cash in on guilt." - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 406, 1957

lobsterboy said...

Incredibly brilliant.

Anonymous said...

"the more laws that are written, the more criminals are produced"---lao tzu

Stacey Gordon said...

"As soon as laws are necessary for men, they are no longer fit for freedom".

artof said...

The only solution, at this point, is a humbled nation returning to its God. America is the prodigal son.

Clearnet said...

Superb insight into the falling of the Western Empires. Truthful, clear, Mr. Greenfield. You are a surgeon with a scalpel, I am so grateful for your brilliant grasp of the facts and your precise expression. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Daniel, shared parts of this with my early twenties son who had to go to his boss today and tell him he was responsible for a major mistake on a project. Not easy for him but truth matters and he did not shy away from it. I believe he will find your words encouraging.

Daniel Greenfield said...

I hope things work out for him.

Anonymous said...

I think in California, we are letting it all go:

But the law and the Constitution have never stopped the California Legislature. In fact, Public Safety Chairman Reggie Jones Sawyer, D-Los Angeles said, “This is California; we don’t pay too much attention to the Constitution,” when Paredes pointed out the unconstitutionality of AB 1673.


Published on March 16, 2016.

King Western Man

Anonymous said...

Sad to say there are so many "adults" who fit those characteristics. At some point, our society will need a reset. Sadly, many will not even have enough awareness to know what even happened. Keep up the brilliant writing, Daniel.

Barbara Nelson said...

You posit the standard false definition of selfishness. Selfishness does not mean doing whatever one wants; it does not necessarily mean trampling on the rights of others. "...there is a fundamental moral difference between a man who sees his self-interest in production and a man who sees it in robbery. The evil of a robber does not lie in the fact that he pursues his own interests, but in what he regards as to his own interest..." Ayn Rand

Hasdai said...

Thank you for this preachy, sanctimonious article. With any luck, it'll have the same success as the ravings of the Biblical prophets - not very helpful in saving their nation, but hugely successful in providing their nation's enemies with propaganda fodder.

"Repent! Repent! Repent!" they endlessly shout, in a Darwinian world where everything flows and nothing stays, and where justice is a wholly human and cosmically imaginary construct. As for me, I will stand with my blood, for genes are all that matter in reality.

mmercier said...

Nature is the mechanism that effectively eliminates those species that do not successfully respond to their changing environment. Your fellow man will commit your suicide for you, feel no need to repent.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"laws are the universal fix-it tool of an out of control government, but their proliferation also makes it harder to apply them"

Actually, the proliferations of laws makes it easier for authorities to apply them... to their enemies. When you can't get to your fruit salad at breakfast without breaking at least three laws, you'd better be careful. Sadly, that's most of us.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

The Left's dogma during its coming to power: the subjective is the only true standard.

The Left's dogma after coming to power: We have new standards for you... ours.

Anonymous said...

I remember America, when....

We started our days dreaming of what we could achieve
and be happy for it. And slept with the satisfaction
of having done it.

We greeted our fellows and even strangers with real
benevolence; a sincere wish for their good.

We knew that sticks and stones could harm, but words would not.

Success came from admirable courage, work, tenacity.
We didn't envy or disparage the success of others.

We lived free of fear of incomprehensible taxes,
regulations, lawsuits, liabilities. New ideas were
greeted with 'why not' not with 'why risk it?'

We learned from History to avoid errors once made,
not to wallow in the bitterness of past sins.

As the many souls who live these precepts, we are,
as always, keeping that America alive and strong.

Anonymous said...

Hasdai in her belief of a dog eat dog world proves the lack of intelligence resulting from 1,400 years of inbreeding. The proof of drooling imbecility is saying, "justice is a wholly human and cosmically imaginary construct. As for me, I will stand with my blood, for genes are all that matter in reality" Fact is that Hasaid will probably not stand with 'my blood', but lay in it, either from her own people, or those who laugh at the notion of an imaginery moon god. Yes, the miserable moe-ham, pedo/rapist/thug/murderer and despoiler who'll end up in the dustbin of history.

Anonymous said...

Another gift for Hasaid who thinks justice is an illusion.
“Kingdoms without justice are but criminal gangs.”
St. Augustine, City of God----couldn't have said it any better. The question to Hasaid is why do you think it's great to be part of a criminal gang or bigtime bully?

And for mental misfit Mohammed, the old testament offers,
"You shall not steal. You shall not lie, neither shall any man deceive his neighbor/taqyiua. Thou shalt not swear falsely by My name, nor profane the name of thy God. I Am the Lord. Thou shalt not calumniate thy neighbour, nor oppress him by violence. The wages of him that hath been hired by thee shall not abide with thee until the morning. Thou shalt not speak evil of the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind: but thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, because I Am the Lord. Thou shalt not do that which is unjust, nor judge unjustly. Respect not the person of the poor, nor honour the countenance of the mighty. But judge thy neighbour according to justice."
Leviticus 19: 11-15

Thee emmissary said...

We are screwed. Let natural selection do it's damn job.

Anonymous said...

Activity for grown-ups: substitute the following.
Early Chilhood Teacher–Politician (welfare oriented),
reading and writing-thinking,
the classroom-town,
academically-mentally retarded,
the class-the citizenry
Kindergarten teachers have a lot of the same responsibilities of other teachers but also have to take into account that many of their students will be experiencing school for the first time. They must teach students basic skills in reading and writing in addition to showing them how to behave in the classroom and play nicely with others.
Kindergarten teachers need to be able to assess where students are academically and emotionally in order to set goals for the class and individual students.”
Welfare oriented politicians have a lot of the same responsibilities of other politicians but also have to take into account that many of their constituents will be experiencing life for the first time. They must teach constituents basic skills in thinking in addition to showing them how to behave in town and play nicely with others.
Welfare oriented politicians need to be able to assess where constituents are mentally retarded and emotionally in order to set goals for the citizenry and individual constituents.”

KenjaNoSekkyoudan said...

Thank you!

T S Adams said...

These virtues you want everybody to live out are basically Christian virtues. You can't live them out until the nature of Christ dwells within you. Until then it's every man for himself.

I became a Christian and it changed me to the man you want to cultivate and save our country. Without Christ it is chaos to the music of Satan's children at play.

If you want true virtue read I Corinthians 13: all of it and then go get a beer and weep for your country because you can't do it without Christ in you.

Tricia said...

What a brilliant post, it puts in to words so much of what I've been thinking. Things are not likely to get any better unfortunately as we continually walk away from our constitutional founding and the virtues that allowed us to abide by it.

I hope you don't mind but I linked your article to a post on my blog,

Anonymous said...

‘Perpetuaal childhood prevents virtue from ever forming’[…] even worse, this doctrine pushes its young members to extremes to demonstrate they are grown-ups, see how many leftists´offsprings convert to islam and indulge in killing sprees. Paradoxically they end up inside a doctrine that requires them to ask their seniors how to properly wash genitalia. Pathetic and dangerous.

Anonymous said...

"A society where each individual acts as a little tyrant, pursuing his desires with total selfishness at the expense of everyone else becomes collectivist as the little tyrants turn to a series of big tyrants to get what they want no matter who gets hurt by it."

sure all falls apart - eventually. but in the meantime it works just fine for the little tyrant. and "meantime" may last for quite a while, perhaps generations.

so. is self-governance doomed to fail?

Anonymous said...

Fantastic blog Daniel. I wish I could get everyone I know to read it, even the self-absorbed one.

SoCalGT said...

Excellent article. One of the best I've read in a long time.

Anonymous said...

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

John Adams

Post a Comment