One of the things that makes mankind special is that we can – and do – take in data, make sense of it, assign it to categories in order to make it useful, and act accordingly. These categories, whether they are of the more scientific “mammal or not mammal?” variety or the softer stereotypes of, “Does that person pose an above-average risk to my person?” are not necessarily accurate – but they tend to be broadly helpful in going about our lives.
There are always dangers with categorization, as we know very well. Broad stereotypes lead to enhanced tribalism of all kinds (from xenophobia to racism). There is a reason the Torah tells us to have the same law for the stranger within our gates as for the citizen – we instinctively think otherwise. Nevertheless, the same text tells us that we must categorize and make judgments. We must be responsible for our actions and choices, because it is our choices that define who we are.
What amazes me is that there seems to be a broad push within the liberal world to remove all the classic categorizations: nobody in polite intellectual company uses the word “evil,” for example. Or, for that matter, asserts that people have souls. Of course, if we do not make moral decisions, then we are reverting to a more basic existence where nothing is “good” or “bad.” Such labels have no meaning to a mere animal.
When I wrote the first draft of this piece, I thought that we were seeing a reversion to the Garden of Eden – to a time before we ate the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, and learned to see the world in categories, with everything assigned a place along some kind of scale between opposites: beautiful and ugly; good and evil; man and woman; materialism and spiritualism; matter and energy. By eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we learned how to make distinctions and judgments, to perceive that there are in fact moral differences that we can and should see.
But, as @susanquinn so delicately corrected me, I was wrong. Liberals are not actually keen to remove all categories, to put us back into a primordial mental state where we can no longer make useful distinctions.
Instead, they want to rewrite everything. Stereotypes are necessary to a liberal – it is just that all the ones we have from experience and tradition must be wrong by virtue of the fact that they come from that same experience and tradition. So liberals absolutely have stereotypes about whites and blacks, men and women, and even good and evil; it is just that everything we thought was right is, apparently, wrong.
We thought it was best to judge people by the content of their character: WRONG. We thought that men and women brought unique perspectives and value to relationships: WRONG. Heck, we even thought that there was such a thing as “men” and “women.” The joke is clearly on us. How could we have been so blind so as not to see that white people are bad, and gender is fluid, and humans are just animals? The world was SO wrong for so many millennia. Bad world.
Liberals do not want to eliminate distinctions. They just want to rewrite them all.
Still, my earlier thought that the liberals seek to revert mankind is not entirely incorrect. Because there was a key feature about living in the Garden of Eden: there was nothing productive to do there. Eden was a paradise – one with no mission, no tasks, no responsibility. All Adam and Eve could do was engage in hedonism, the ancient equivalent of endless orgies and Netflix-bingeing. They had no jobs, no children, nothing of what we would today call “real life.” Adam and Eve did not have to be adults.
And it seems to me that this is a key feature desired by the Left. Marx wanted everyone to have a job, but modern liberalism wants everyone to be given money with no obligations attached. Because there are no traditional roles, there is no traditional family. Because life is just about self-identity (and especially sexual identity), there is no investment in other people, and certainly no investment in a relationship with G-d. We fixate instead on how, in our deepest and basest fantasies, we want to deploy our sexual organs. Not for the sake of growth or reproduction, but just to scratch an itch. This was the Garden of Eden. It is also the liberal paradise.
In this – OK, I admit it, grossly overextended – analogy, then the thing that broke mankind’s stay in Eden was when Adam and Eve decided to do the one thing that made this paradise impossible: they ate the fruit, and deliberately chose to be able to make clear distinctions between good and evil – and every other dichotomy found in the world. Like the child who sees the emperor is naked, Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened.
Adam and Eve became hopelessly bored in the Garden, and they had no sense of what would happen if they ate the fruit. We have an advantage over them: we do not need to act out of sheer boredom or blody-mindedness, because we have already tasted the fruit, and we see the value in family and relationships and creative work and an honest living from hard work. I choose not to be animal. I choose not to be the sum of my lusts. And I seek to always be able to tell good from evil.
Which means that if anyone can tell me what fruit I can eat that enables mankind to once again be able to distinguish between Good and Evil, please do so. Like Adam and Eve, I would much rather do the one thing I am told not to do, rather than endure another minute of this narcissistic pointlessness.