A friend of mine joked that she woke up on October 7 as a liberal and went to bed that evening as a 65-year-old conservative. But it wasn’t really a joke and she wasn’t the only one. What changed?
The best way to answer that question is with the help of Thomas Sowell, one of the most brilliant public intellectuals alive today. In 1987, Sowell published A Conflict of Visions. In this now-classic, he offers a simple and powerful explanation of why people disagree about politics.
We disagree about politics, Sowell argues, because we disagree about human nature. We see the world through one of two competing visions, each of which tells a radically different story about human nature.
Those with “unconstrained vision” think that humans are malleable and can be perfected. They believe that social ills and evils can be overcome through collective action that encourages humans to behave better. To subscribers of this view, poverty, crime, inequality, and war are not inevitable. Rather, they are puzzles that can be solved. We need only to say the right things, enact the right policies, and spend enough money, and we will suffer these social ills no more. This worldview is the foundation of the progressive mindset.
By contrast, those who see the world through a “constrained vision” lens believe that human nature is a universal constant. No amount of social engineering can change the sober reality of human self-interest, or the fact that human empathy and social resources are necessarily scarce. People who see things this way believe that most political and social problems will never be “solved”; they can only be managed. This approach is the bedrock of the conservative worldview.
Hamas’s barbarism — and the explanations and celebrations throughout the West that followed their orgy of violence — have forced an overnight exodus from the “unconstrained” camp into the “constrained” one. …
Many people woke up on October 7 sympathetic to parts of woke ideology and went to bed that evening questioning how they had signed on to a worldview that had nothing to say about the mass rape and murder of innocent people by terrorists.
The reaction to the attacks — from outwardly pro-Hamas protests to the mealy-mouthed statements of college presidents, celebrities, and CEOs — has exploded the comforting stories many on the center-left have told themselves about progressive identity politics. For many years, they opted for the coping mechanism of pretending that the institutional capture of universities, corporations, and media organizations by the woke mind virus was no big deal. “Sure, students shutting down events they disagree with is annoying,” they would say, “but it’s just students doing what students do.”
October 8 was a wake-up call for those who didn’t appreciate that the ideology of the campus has spread to our cities, supercharged by social media. …
The events of the last two weeks have shattered the illusion that wokeness is about protecting victims and standing up for persecuted minorities. This ideology is and has always been about the one thing many of us have told you it is about for years: power.
And after the last two weeks, there can be no doubt about how these people will use any power they seize: they will seek to destroy, in any way they can, those who disagree.
This unpleasant conclusion is surprising only if you are still clinging to the unconstrained vision. But if there is any constant in human history, it is that revolutionaries always feel entitled to destroy those who stand in their way. …
Nowhere is the shift from the unconstrained to constrained vision starkest than on immigration.
For decades, both Europe and America basked in an “unconstrained vision” of immigration. In the U.S., the melting pot that could integrate the nineteenth-century Germans, Irish Catholics, or Japanese could surely absorb those crossing the southern border. And many of these new arrivals would do jobs Americans didn’t want to do. Europe needed immigration to deal with an aging population, with many European countries inviting people from their former colonies to fill labor shortages and skills gaps.
But over time, especially from the late 1990s onward, the unconstrained vision ran rampant through media and political elites, and immigration went from being a solution to specific problems to a moral good in its own right. …
Over the past decade, more and more people in America and Europe have quietly shifted toward the “constrained” view of immigration. The Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump were early warning signs of this ongoing transformation. …
But despite these shocking statistics, the issue of illegal immigration has been impossible to discuss in polite company for decades. No matter how bad the problem became, to raise concerns about it would almost always lead to accusations of bigotry and xenophobia.
“Gas the Jews” and “From the River to the Sea” at the Sydney Opera House
What we have witnessed over the last two weeks — with enormous pro-Hamas rallies in cities like London, Paris, and Washington, D.C. — has the potential to change the immigration debate in a decisive way. It is much harder to pretend that allowing people to enter our country illegally is a moral good when you watch some of them celebrate mass murder in the streets of your capital cities.
- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has recently announced the intention to deport illegal immigrants “on a large scale” as his coalition hemorrhages votes to anti-immigration parties.
- France has banned pro-Palestine protests and warned that foreign nationals who take part will be removed from the country.
- Britain has also threatened to revoke the visas of foreigners who praise Hamas.
Whether this represents a permanent realignment toward a more constrained view of immigration or merely a temporary blip on the path to progressive dystopia remains to be seen.
To express concern about border security has for many years been coded as “right-wing.” But how many people, after the horrors of October 7, believe that a secure border is anything other than the most basic test of national security? …
The reason the readjustment is necessary and, in my view, highly likely, is that proponents of the unconstrained vision have been allowed to ride roughshod over the concerns of ordinary citizens. They have used this window of opportunity to implement extraordinarily impractical and outright harmful ideas because they take the unbelievable levels of safety, plenty, and freedom we enjoy in the West for granted. The one form of privilege you will never hear them address is the first-world privilege that we all benefit from every day.
They have done this because the fundamental flaw in the unconstrained model of the world is a failure to understand Thomas Sowell’s greatest maxim: there are no solutions, only trade-offs. …
Western civilization has produced some of the most stunning scientific, technological, social, and cultural breakthroughs in human history. If you consider yourself “liberal” or even “progressive,” it must surely be clear by now that America and her allies are the only places in the world where your values are even considered values. If our civilization is allowed to collapse, it will not be replaced by a progressive utopia. It will be replaced by chaos and barbarism….
The truth is that we [no — just the ruling class of woke fools] have indulged in magical thinking for too long, choosing comforting myths over harsh realities. About terrorism. About immigration. And about a host of other issues.
In a related development, yesterday the woke leader of the West persisted in gaslighting us:
Brief reminder that Jews are the second most frequently targeted group for hate crimes in the United States. Muslims are #15.*
*as measured by incidents reported to the FBI. https://t.co/xEOiACc087
— Charles Fain Lehman (@CharlesFLehman) October 23, 2023
Even the Babylon Bee cannot make stuff up fast enough:
It's hard to stay ahead of reality at The Babylon Bee. We had this written last night only to wake up and see the White House doing exactly this before we had the chance to publish pic.twitter.com/Xheyvt2CrB
— Joel Berry (@JoelWBerry) October 23, 2023