Sometimes stereotypes become a substitute reality. Take “conservatism,” for instance:

Conservatism, allegedly a “right-wing” phenomenon, always stands for penny-pinching, heartless, union-busting, old-boy networking Scrooge-ism, not to mention unfettered, unregulated capitalism. In fact it does not stand for any of those things. Conservatism means: conserving or preserving the status quo, even if it means preserving a wealth-consuming and wealth-spreading, right-violating, deficit-financing welfare state. The Left always wins in these circumstances, even if it loses elections. Conservatives do not challenge the moral premises of the Left. It shares the basic altruistic, collectivist premises of the Left. It would rather “progress” to full statism in a soap-box racer, instead of on the Left’s Harley-Davidson. But both sides depend on building their statist utopias on the standing rubble of a semi-free economy. — Edward Cline, “Are Left and Right Meaningless Political Labels?”, AIM, December 1, 2011

Labels have been emptied of their original meanings:

In truth, there is no fundamental difference between the Far Left and the Far Right. They are both totalitarian in nature. Their median is a mushy socialism posing as “Progressive” welfare statism that leaves no whine or grievance left behind. And in all historical cases, the median has always drifted inexorably in one direction or another. The “liberty, equality, and fraternity” of the French Revolution that threw off the aristocracy – a revolution colored by egalitarian collectivism – gave way to the Reign of Terror, a dictator, and two decades of war. In truth, the direction is irrelevant. One can be enslaved, robbed, imprisoned, and beaten by a man wearing a brown shirt as thoroughly as by a man wearing a red one. Or a black one. Or even by a man in an Earth First T-shirt. — Cline, ibid.

“What Is the Use of Use?”

Is utilitarianism a moral system?

“[T]he English philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), [was] the father of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism defines the good as the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Utilitarianism, especially in its undoctrinaire forms, has a lot of appeal. Most of us are at least intermittent utilitarians. At least, we expect those running society to act on broadly utilitarian principles, to “maximize” goods and services (read “happiness”) for as many people as possible. — Roger Kimball, “Is Utilitarianism Useful?”, PJ Media, November 30, 2011

Another way is to say: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few — or the one.” [Star Trek] But how far would you be willing to take that prescription? Like all would-be comprehensive systems of thought jostling to replace religion, utilitarianism has its limitations:

The utilitarian promise works to the extent that we understand ourselves as creatures who behave in order to achieve certain ends. To the extent that we see our selves as moral creatures — creatures, that is to say, whose lives are bounded by an ideal of freedom — utilitarianism presents itself as a version of nihilism: a philosophy, a Nietzsche put it, for which the the question “Why?” has no answer. — Kimball, ibid.

(If we turn it around — “The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the few — or the many.” — it comes off sounding not just immodest, but downright dictatorial, don’t you think?)

The Climate Apocalypse

And while we’re on the subject of bogus religions:

Today, we often use the word “holistic” as a kinder, gentler substitute for totalitarianism — particularly since the left has made not just the personal political, but everything a person does, says, eats, wears, buys, etc. And global warming is nothing if not a mechanism to politicize those aspects of an individual’s life, as well as shared experiences such as work, housing, transportation, and everything else. And in that sense, it really is a substitute religion or a core component of an larger substitute religion, which has long been a goal of the left . . . — Ed Driscoll, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Climate Apocalypse”, PJ Media, November 29, 2011

The turning point for the foundation of any religion is usually guesswork, but not necessarily with global warming alarmism:

If one were to pick a point at which liberalism’s extraordinary reversal began, it might be the celebration of the first Earth Day, in April 1970. Some 20 million Americans at 2,000 college campuses and 10,000 elementary and secondary schools took part in what was the largest nationwide demonstration ever held in the United States. The event brought together disparate conservationist, antinuclear, and back-to-the-land groups into what became the church of environmentalism, complete with warnings of hellfire and damnation. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, the founder of Earth Day, invoked “responsible scientists” to warn that “accelerating rates of air pollution could become so serious by the 1980s that many people may be forced on the worst days to wear breathing helmets to survive outdoors. It has also been predicted that in 20 years man will live in domed cities.”

Thanks in part to Earth Day’s minions, progress, as liberals had once understood the term, started to be reviled as reactionary. In its place, Nature was totemized as the basis of the authenticity that technology and affluence had bleached out of existence. It was only by rolling in the mud of primitive practices that modern man could remove the stain of sinful science and materialism. In the words of Joni Mitchell’s celebrated song “Woodstock”: “We are stardust / We are golden / And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.” — Fred Siegel, quoted in Driscoll, q.v.

I remember the first Earth Day well. As I walked past them, a group of perhaps two dozen college students and a handful of professors reverentially raised a green-and-white flag and paused for a moment of silence. Out of sheer curiosity I would have lingered, but I had to get to the restroom.