Violence and the civilized society: Conformity and dissidence in different societies (Part Three)
By Mark Wegierski
(Initial drafts of this essay date back to 1988.)
It may be supposed that conservatives today would want to define "violence" narrowly, precisely, and rigorously. One possible way of defining violence is one where overwhelming physical aggression is explicitly involved.
On the other hand, it could be argued that, for example, some speech is so transgressively noxious, that it is a sort of "violence" against society. One of the most vicious examples that one can think of, was the calumny about Lyndon Johnson and the body of John F. Kennedy on the flight of Air Force One. It may not be inappropriate to hope that the originators of such calumnies could have met swift and severe punishment.
It might also be noted that the attempt by some conservatives to assert that abortion constitutes impermissible violence, cuts no ice with most liberals. The assertion by some conservatives that unrestricted abortion in the United States has resulted in over 54 million victims since 1973, is met with a disinterested shrug by most liberals.
The direction of this argument is tending towards what in liberal democratic society is a crucial distinction (which is often theoretically, if not practically, paid lip‑service to): that those who advocate violence in politics, and/or the violent overthrow of liberalism and/or democracy and/or liberal democracy, are illegitimate. Yet, liberal democracy has been remarkably tolerant of some violent extremists of the Far Left, as well as of the radical imams today.
Here, as in many other cases, ideological considerations enter into the picture. In current-day Western societies, one could guess that an armed right‑wing insurgency (insofar as anything so unusual can even be conceived of) would be – it may be surmised -- quickly suppressed with the strictest severity, with liberal cries of "hang'em high and hang'em all!" and "zero-tolerance!" Liberals would suddenly become enthusiasts for the death penalty -- at least in such cases. At the very least, they would expect the agents of the government to proceed with zeal and alacrity, and shoot-to-kill as necessary. One can notice the glee with which some liberals describe what will eventually happen to gun-owners in America who refuse to give up their guns – i.e., they will be annihilated by the U.S. military's attack helicopters!
Indeed, there can be perceived a real ambiguity in traditionalists' or conservatives' relations with "liberal democracy." Much of this arises from the fact that liberals and left-liberals have continued to define "liberal democracy" increasingly expansively, i.e., not as a formal system allowing for popular choice among different belief-directions, that indeed significantly helps to mitigate violent conflicts between persons of highly differing beliefs -- but as an entire way-of-life, world-view, or ideology, that must be upheld and imposed on the population as a whole. Conservative and traditionalist parties, political and cultural currents, or thinkers within this kind of "liberal democracy" have found themselves described as "illiberal" and "undemocratic" -- and therefore, all but "illegitimate." There has been a tendency to turn all the multifarious normative instrumentalities of left-liberalism (mass media, mass education, and consumerism) towards the extirpation of traditionalist or conservative ideas (particularly nationalism and traditional religion), under the rubric of attacking the fascist-tending "authoritarian personality." In some Western societies, various forms of conservative dissent have been attacked as "hate-crimes," subject to substantial fines and jail-terms. Traditionalists and conservatives are, of course, temperamentally unwilling to carry out violent struggle against "the liberal democracy" that seems to wish to banish their ideas ever further from "respectable, mainstream opinion," but one can only imagine the rage of left-liberals if they were ever confronted with an armed right-wing uprising. What kind of inhuman monster could violently rebel against this most free, most democratic, most prosperous society of ours!
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.