Thursday, March 26, 2009

Belief: the power behind rebellion

The latest Adbusters article is really, really good. It's entitled They believed, why can't I?. It's good, not because I think everything this guy says is true (because I don't). It's good because he's wrestling with the paradox of belief and skepticism. He talks about the ideal of rebellion being attractive, yet it seems that most of this rebellion is shallow because there's no belief behind it, only unbelief in something else. Here's one paragraph:
"Ask liberals in the United States today what they believe in. They might tell you they want an end to the war in Iraq, that they desire universal health care or are inspired by Barack Obama. But these aren’t beliefs, they’re actions, policies and politicians. A belief is something like universal peace or a caring society or a world with great leaders (or no leaders at all). It is only by believing in such grand impossibilities that small accomplishments are possible. This is why liberals, for nearly two decades now, have accomplished nothing. Many contemporary radicals are little better. They have grand beliefs but little desire to realize what they believe. Doing so would jeopardize their outsider status as rebels. As such, their belief is in bad faith."
And then he says:
"Belief motivates. It gets you up in the morning and headed toward the horizon; it makes you act to bring about what you know is impossible."
Go read the rest here

The article reminds me of a chapter entitled The Suicide of Thought in Chesterton's Orthodoxy. He sums up the modern rebel this way:
“The new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it...By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”

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