Awakened From, Not Argued Out Of

I live in a liberal state and in a liberal city, and work in a liberal if not completely gay profession. I’m used to stifling my thoughts and maintaining a discrete silence in such a hostile environment, since it is pointless to argue with a liberal. To do so is to not know what a liberal is. Liberalism can only be “awakened from,” not argued out of. —Gagdad Bob

How difficult this is for me to remember. And I have no excuse for not remembering this, because that’s exactly how it happened for me. No one sat me down and explained to me exactly how logically absurd my worldview was. I would never have listened… and had I listened I certainly would not have heard.

Of course, some people did try to explain things. And as they did I pitied them for their childishness, or raged against them in their ignorance, depending on my mood or the situation.

No, instead I awoke… am still awaking (I hope and pray to awaken more). I am not awake, but at least my eyes are no longer squinched totally shut. (And a great deal of psychic effort it takes to squinch those psychic eyes, I tell you! What a relief to let the orbital bones of the soul have a little rest.)

How and why did I awake? Well, I suppose there is a story to that. A few that know the story have encouraged me to share it here on the blog, which is something I intend to do. It’s a bit of a long one (or I, in my infinite self-absorption tend to make it a long one because it’s about my three favorite people: me, myself, and I), so I’ve been hesitating to undertake it. I will though, I will.

But the important thing to remember for today is that I awoke. I was not argued out of.

I too, like Bob quoted above, live in a very liberal neighborhood in a top-3 liberal city, and work in a field absolutely lousy with doctrinaire liberals. And I don’t mean go-with-the-flow, vote Obama cause he seems like a reasonable guy kind of liberals. I mean religion-is-poison, whites-are-evil, if God were not dead it would be necessary to kill him kind of Sauron Morgoth Saruman liberals! (Ok maybe I’m exaggerating a bit.)

Often I’m tempted to try and argue them out of their positions. Often I give in to the temptation. Nothing ever comes of it except sour feelings and frustration, and a feeling of being alienated from my fellows.

Awakening is the only thing that works. And there’s a Great Awakener in the sky that can manage things a lot better than I can. As for me, I can make my body, my life, my mind and my spirit such that they radiate more love, more awakening, and more truth. That has an effect far beyond some wordy diatribe.

Today I radiate a little; tomorrow I can radiate more. Besides, it’s more fun and it feels nicer.


25 comments on “Awakened From, Not Argued Out Of

  1. CorkyAgain says:

    I don’t know if it counts as being argued out of liberalism, but in my own case it was a matter of taking seriously their admonition to “question authority”. I took their critical stance further than they intended and applied it to themselves.

    I didn’t simply accept their description of conservatives at face value, instead I did what they’re always saying you should do: I went and looked at conservatives for myself, to form my own opinion of them. What I found is that conservatives aren’t the monsters the liberals are always saying they are — in fact, what the conservatives were saying often made more sense.

    The liberal admonition to question authority seems to presuppose that all claims to authority are illegitimate. But that presupposition is itself open to criticism, and once you’ve begun that critique, you’ve opened your mind to the possibility of a conservative stance.

    • outofsleep says:

      This is a great point.

      In some sense something similar happened to me. A very specific question about liberal orthodoxy (feminism as it was) led me to begin questioning a great deal else. So in that sense it’s not true that logic had nothing to do with it. And in the final analysis, liberalism is not a logically coherent system. Internally consistent perhaps, but bhorribly cramped and circumscribed so that it must ignore a huge swath of what it means to be alive as. A human being.

      • CorkyAgain says:

        Not all authority is illegitimate. –> Some authority is legitimate. –> What would a legitimate authority look like? Are there any examples of such a thing?

        God in Heaven, the true King on the earthly throne.
        Eru, the Valar, the King Elessar.
        Hierarchy without oppression, because it hasn’t been usurped.

        Thus the making of a conservative mind.

  2. Manwe says:

    Well, I’m glad to see your awake!

    “Sauron Morgoth Saruman liberals”
    Wow, those are the worst! Your story has moved me, friend, tell me where this wicked place is that you reside and I will send forth my hosts, led by Eönwë himself, to smite these servants of Morgoth! 😉

  3. Kristor says:

    I got flipped into considering conservatism seriously by taking my liberalism seriously, rather the way that CorkyAgain did. Circa 1972 – the very apogee of the New Left – I was hanging out with a bunch of Communists in Chicago, drinking their Kool-Aid and feeling I was engaged in something Very Important. Heady stuff for a 17 year old. Anyway, in one of our interminable meetings, I asked, “Guys, why don’t the cops come and arrest us? I mean, they must know we want to overthrow the state, right?” They answered that the cops would not be coming, because allowing us to speak out – the whole fantasy of Free Speech – was just a way that the capitalists co-opted the proletariat, so as to make the proles think they were free, when really they weren’t.

    This made a lot of sense to me at the time. Five minutes later I started to have doubts. If the capitalists were getting me to feel free by allowing me to be free, then … I was free. I began to wonder if the other verities I had learned in kindergarten might also be true. What if America was in fact the land of the free? What if Europe had conquered the world because its society worked better? Withiin an hour I had begun to wonder whether it might in fact be true that what was good for GM was good for the country.

    Two years later, when I was already far down the slippery slope to the right (having become libertarian), my ultra-liberal parents got divorced, and I took that as all the evidence I needed that the ways they had always espoused, and that I had always believed in, were poison. I spewed it all forth, root and branch. Not an altogether smooth or easy procedure. But salutary.

    • outofsleep says:

      What all these stories seem to have in common is thought originating from inside, as opposed to arguments imposed by others. So we might say, yes, logic indeed plays a crucial role, and yet the spark for that logic seems to come from somewhere other than mere arguments.

      What pushed you to think again about your communist friends? What made Corky take the “Question Authority” maxim to its logical conclusions?

      Sometimes it’s the “mugged by reality” thing. But even that doesn’t seem to work out very consistently. Some people would see and ugly divorce and use it as a reason to double down on the embrace of perversion and “free love.” I was literally mugged and beaten once, by wannabes in a gang initiation rite. Still I insisted for years that such behavior is the fault of white racism. Etc. Etc.

      It seems so blatantly obvious once you see it… but until you do, it’s almost impossible! Mysteries upon mysteries.

  4. bgc says:

    Excellent thread.

    And I think your negative point, about avoiding argument, is important.

    For me there was a slow build-up – and I am not absolutely sure what factor pushed me over, but I think it was science: the decline of honesty and the related failure of scientists to pursue the truth.

    I was thinking about ‘genius’ (had been doing some scientometrics – analysing Nobel prize trends etc) and I read Charles Murray’s Human Accomplishment, especially the bit where he tries to look at the psychological motivations, and draws a graph with (from memory) axes of autonomy and sense of reality…

    Anyway, I realized that anything worthwhile in life required roots in reality and a sense of significance: God, and that the God is a personal God, with an ‘interest’ in each person as an individual.

    (So that – unlkie Buddhism and many derived modern abstract spiritualities – what an individual does, or does not do, matters).

    The choice was then whether such beliefs were merely a useful delusion (useful in enabling great achievement) or – maybe – these beliefs were true, just like the great achievers of human history had (mostly) believed…

    Lots happened after that, and my views on the nature and significance of ‘human accomplishment’ changed too – but I think that may have been the key push.

    But it was not an argument.

    • outofsleep says:

      “The choice was then whether such beliefs were merely a useful delusion (useful in enabling great achievement) or – maybe – these beliefs were true, just like the great achievers of human history had (mostly) believed…”

      This is a key point. Have you addressed this in a specific post at your blog, Bruce? It’s something I think I should write on soon myself.

    • outofsleep says:

      That post is all well and good, but some blockhead called Daniel is making all kinds of dense statements in the comments.

      Seriously, thanks. That was well worth revisiting, including the comments.

  5. Proph says:

    I made the journey from a kind of thoughtless, inarticulate liberal (in my VERY early high school years) to a sort-of liberal libertarian by the end of high school, to a standard neocon in my early college years. I began drifting toward paleoconservatism by the end of college, became a kind of Hegelian conservative just after college, and just recently (partly as a result of my own labors and readings, and partly because of my exposure to Bonald, Dr. Charlton, etc.) ascended to full-on reactionism.

    For me, the movement was a purely intellectual one — I was never really “liberal” in the intelligent and committed sense of the word, I only aped the liberal zeitgeist out of ignorance. As soon as I developed even a moderate sense of political philosophy I immediately began reacting against liberalism, even though I tended to retain ancillary shreds of support for certain liberal positions (like gay marriage) for a while after that, although always out of ignorance — and no sooner did I learn the actual conservative argument against them then I adopted them.

    So I am, I think, an odd case, in that my “awakening” came apparently much earlier and much more quickly than it did for many others. It is possible I was never really “asleep” at all; for as long as I can remember I was unhappy with the spirit of the age, and was always seeking out truth, reading as much as I could, trying to broaden my horizons. Curiously enough, my religious development mirrors my philosophical one — I began as a raging and intolerant atheist, then a gentler and more tolerant one, then an agnostic, then a deist, and finally a committed Catholic.

    • outofsleep says:

      This is fascinating. Thank you. And I want to thank everyone else who’s supplied his story. It’s amazing to learn how may others out there who have had similar experiences, each with our own twists and turns and flavors — especially amazing to learn how many people who I enjoy reading, such as yourself, Dr. Charlton, and Kristor, had to go through a long journey to get where they are.

      Often these people make the best and clearest writers on these topics (Cf. Lewis).

      Though sometimes the life long believers are fantastic writers too, of course (Cf. Tolkien).

  6. […] BLOGGER “Out of Sleep” contends that people can’t be argued out of liberalism, only awakened from it. He […]

  7. MnMark says:

    I would refine the “argument doesn’t work” point a little. My personal experience of transformation from liberal to conservative (via libertarianism) began one summer in my late 20s when I worked for a very liberal professor. He hired my to go through all of the papers and books in his office and skim through them, write up a little summary of them, and enter the summary in a database so he could find tha materials later. (This was pre-Internet.)

    I was reading through the materials and came across one of maybe two non-liberal materials he owned: a book named something like “The End of Scarcity” by the economist Julian Simon. His thesis was that we would never run out of natural resources, and that in fact they would get cheaper as time went by, because human ingenuity outweighs scarcity: people find ways to use resources more efficiently, or find alternatives, or find ways to get more of them.

    The argument absolutely infuriated me at first…in fact I actually thought that books like that should be outlawed because with their smooth seductive lies they might mislead gullible people. But the more I thought about his arguments – which I would never have bothered to read if not forced to by my job (at first, though I became rather absorbed in them as I worked my way through the book in much more detail than the professor had asked for – the more I could not see where he was wrong. I asked my liberal friends if they had an answer to the points he made…and they did not. They scoffed at the arguments, dismissed them…but could not make arguments that refuted his.

    At a certain point I flipped over to beginning to believe he was right because I had a growing contempt for “my side” and the fact that no one could refute what he had to say. And it made me begin to question more and more of the things I’d previously believed, until I reached a tipping point where I decided I’d been duped.

    So an argument DID change my mind. But it did so because it had a couple of key, irrefuable points that bugged me, that I could not find where they were wrong.

    However, if some snarky conservative had made these points to my face in an argument, I doubt they would have affected me because I would have been too busy protecting my ego to admit that he had a point. So that is where I would agree with you – a personal argument, with ego involved, is unlikely to change a liberals’ mind. But I think one or two key “leverage” arguments, that get a little wedge into a crack in that liberal facade, can start a process that later on leads to awakening. The key would be to not try to argue the liberal into submission, but to just plant a seed of doubt.

    I did that not long ago with the very liberal recent-college-graduate daughter of friends. She said that multiculturalism was good and wonderful and I asked her if those little tribes in the Amazon jungle had the right to discriminate against outsiders to protect their unique ethnic and cultural identity. She saw where I was going and said, “so you’re saying that if they have the right to do that, then so do we?” and she smiled that awkward smile we smile when we’ve been caught flatfooted and said “hmmm…I will have to think about that.” I think it planted that seed. Enough of those little seeds and the liberal ediface cracks.

    • outofsleep says:

      Excellent comment, and an interesting story from a personal perspective.

      And yes, I agree with you 100%. Learning how the other half thinks can be a key moment in coming towards the truth. People naturally want to reject the “other tribe”.. but if the seed of doubt — the seed of truth, really — is planted, then the seeker can come to the truth on his own terms.

      The truth doesn’t (or very rarely) spontaneously manifest itself full blown in the mind of man. It grows like a seed, indeed. Arguments against error can be indispensable in planting these seeds. Then… a little sunlight and a little rain!

  8. Catherine H. says:

    I love conversion stories. I think it was Winston Churchill who said, “A man younger than 30 who’s not a liberal has no heart and a man older than 30 who’s not a conservative has no brain.” I’ve always proudly worn the heartless banner. My military father raised me as a neo-con of the first water; after attending a very conservative liberal arts college with some wonderful professors, I emerged a traditionalist Catholic with views so steeped in history that my father barely recognized me. I found a husband of the same persuasion, who reached his standpoint after ten years of searching for the truth, deeply influenced by his conservative brother and friends. It’s my experience that only people searching for truth ever “awaken,” and it’s only grace that leads to a search for truth.

    • outofsleep says:

      Thank you for sharing this. Like you, conversion stores are my favorite. It’s really interesting and gratifying to hear stories such as yours.

      Incidentally, I have always like the wit of that quote. But it’s funny, the older I get and the more i understand, what I find is that as a leftist I was heartless — in the sense that C. S. Lewis talks about “men without chests.” I’m a lot more forgiving and friendly now than I was, say, five years ago as a die-hard leftist. I was a bleeding heart back then, sure… but maybe it’s more accurate just to say a bleeding torso… ha ha. I like that “Bleeding Torso Liberal.”

    • Rusty says:

      Would you say what college? My children will be graduating over the next few years and I need every option I can get.

  9. Kristor says:

    @ catherine: Thanks to you for, “… only people searching for truth ever “awaken,” and it’s only grace that leads to a search for truth.” It’s a keeper; it deserves to be called an aphorism, and to perdure down through the ages.

    Coincidentally – no, wait, I mean synchronistically – there is a thread up at VFR [] discussing a question Lawrence has long wanted to pose to a liberal feminist, should the opportunity present itself. It is just the sort of question referred to in this thread as a “seed.” I contributed a comment to that thread, that explicated a series of such questions, arranged in a Socratic form, that is at the same time (I think) realistic. I.e., I can conceive of a thoughtful liberal responding the way that the liberal in my dialogue responds.

    The thread distinguishes between thoughtful and thoughtless liberals. The former are susceptible to logical argumentation. The latter will respond emotionally and irrationally, no matter what one says. They are hard, hopeless cases. Such may be awakened only by suffering occasioned by their errors, or that directly contradicts their errors; as by a mugging.

    Thoughtful liberals, who are interested in understanding things, will when we encounter them be already long since engaged in an extension and refinement of their liberal principles to ever wider and ever more detailed analyses of reality. They will in that process inevitably have encountered more and more situations in which they are forced either to recur to ever more rococo theoretical tweaks so that their overall paradigm can survive the challenge, or else make practical or conceptual exceptions to their principles, whether to save the appearances, or just to live. This happens in the encounter of every theory with the reality it addresses. Theoretical inadequacies are the germ of learning. We traditionalists are engaged in the same procedure, with the major difference that, being traditional, and thus per se extremely well tested against reality, our basic paradigm is far more robust than that of the liberal.

    A thoughtful liberal may encounter a seed either through reading or through conversation. As MnMark points out, conversation is an inauspicious way to broadcast seed; as if one had strown it on the road. But the defensive reactions of the liberal may be avoided, I think, if they are not challenged, but queried in the spirit of disinterested inquiry. I’ll try to demonstrate with another example:

    L [Liberal]: Xenophobia is so evil. And homophobia, too; in fact, you could say that homophobia is just a type of xenophobia.
    T [Traditionalist]: Indeed, you could. Where did xenophobia come from, do you suppose? I mean, how could such a thing have taken root in human societies, all over the world?
    L: Well, it is natural for a society to want to defend itself, right? A small band of people, surrounded by warlike competitors, would have almost no choice but to fear and detest them.
    T: But what about homophobia? What’s so dangerous about homosexuality?
    L: Well, hm. I suppose that, just as a society would want to defend itself, so it would also want to reproduce itself. Otherwise, there would be nothing to defend.
    T: OK. But that doesn’t apply any more, I suppose?
    L: Right. So long as there are plenty of children around, sexual morality shouldn’t really matter as much.
    T: That’s obviously true. As long as a culture is replacing its members fast enough to keep up with its competitors, homosexuality wouldn’t be a significant demographic problem. But here’s a question: are the cultures that welcome homsexuality replacing their members, these days?
    L: No, thank Heaven; those cultures are reducing their impact on Earth’s ecology.
    T: So, eventually, they will die out, and all that will be left is homophobic cultures that rape and pillage the Earth?

    In conversations such as these, the liberal’s defensive mechanisms lie dormant, because his ideas are not under attack. On the contrary, he is being asked to teach his Traditionalist interlocuator, and nothing is more flattering to the ego, or disarming.

    The seeds may then fall on fertile soil, and germinate, and take root, later to flower in a full awakening. The awakening will have been produced by intellectual procedures internal to the liberal, rather than by an argument from without that he apprehends as an attack on his basic principles.

    • outofsleep says:

      “Ever more rococo theoretical tweaks” has a nice rhythm to it.

      The Socratic method seems to be more or less universally applicable, that is to say, perennially effective. The trick, though, I think, is to be simultaneously engaged in a search even as one questions. That is — to be genuinely curious and not just asking leading questions.

      The example you show here is a good example of how to do that.

      I remember being in high school and thinking that Socrates kind of sounded like a jerk. Most smart people can tell when they are being patronized.

      “In conversations such as these, the liberal’s defensive mechanisms lie dormant, because his ideas are not under attack. On the contrary, he is being asked to teach his Traditionalist interlocuator, and nothing is more flattering to the ego, or disarming.”


  10. Mr Tall says:

    I was brought up in a thoroughly conservative context (a small, prosperous, very Christian town in one of the ‘reddest’ counties in the midwest). But my sympathies were always with the brave swimmers-against-the-stream wherever I found them — in school, church, the newspapers.

    By the time I was in college I was leaning over into liberal territory; I’d been bombarded with liberation theology, Marxist economics and nascent multi-culti pieties. I was fortunate, however, to study abroad for much of my junior year, including a two-week trip to the pre-perestroika Soviet Union.

    I can recall standing there in the GUM Department Store on Red Square, watching the Russians line up three times over to purchase ‘products’ more sparse and pathetic than I could have imagined. That trip changed me. I’ve been immune to the lies of the left ever since.

  11. LS says:

    I’d always considered myself an “apathetic liberal,” though 15 years ago a quiz told me I was “libertarian,” which I assumed at the time meant liberal.
    I worked at a liberal weekly paper which was being bought out by a group of “conservative businessmen.” I stuck by loyally, the idea of keeping alive an alternative news voice to the Big Daily Paper being more important than any partisanship.
    The “conservative businessmen” turned out to be a big joke and ran the paper into the ground. They were “fringe bankers” — loan sharks, bail bondsmen and crooked auto mechanics who never ran a straight biz. Mostly repubs with a few democrats, it would be more accurate to describe them as Dixiecrats.
    I had a mini-epiphany: Surely if half the country is conservative, they had to be smarter than these yahoos.
    Some books that slowly turned me: “The Shadow University” about PC on campus (I live in a college town), books by Richard Mitchell about dumbing down of English departments, and some Horowitz stuff.
    In fact, I’d always been fascinated by the “dumbing down” of things since I was a kid (assuming it was the Evil Right Wing who wanted a stupid populace). With the internet and a voracious reading habit the last 10 years have opened my eyes. Early on, I would go down the Arts & Letters Daily blogroll and just read any and all sites, left or right. Over time I just went back to the sites that just made more sense. Plus, blogs came around, which I devoured.
    After voting for Clinton twice, I voted libertarian in 2000, being disgusted with politics AND media at the time. 9/11 definitely sped things up. Here I thought was the liberals’ perfect enemy: Anti-rational, misogynist fundamentalists. The cognitive dissonance in the liberals around me (and in the media) that followed was just astounding to me. The more I read and tried to stay informed on issues, the more I noticed liberal arguments to be illogical/over-emotional and condescending, good intentions notwithstanding.
    Tired of race being injected into everything.
    Sick of the media talking to me like I’m a 9-year old. (I work in advertising, so I’m quick to recognize appeals to emotion, reason, etc.)
    Another eyeopener is just looking around today at the social ills from shitty/liberal childraising. MAJOR pet peeve.
    The odd thing is that over the years I really haven’t changed much of my views. I’m still reluctantly pro-choice (but anti-Planned Parenthood), anti-PC, and so on. Quizzes still say I’m a moderate libertarian/centrist.
    But one thing’s for sure — I’ll probably never vote democrat again.
    Maybe I just grew up.

    Thanks — good post.

  12. […] Sleep diskuteras det huruvida man kan argumentera med liberaler, eller om liberalism är något man vaknar upp ifrån. Samma fråga […]

  13. […] shared our stories before: Dr. Charlton here, Daniel from Out of Sleep (now tragically defunct) here, Bonald here; in the same thread at Out of Sleep, several more of us (including Kristor and myself) […]

  14. […] a year or two–spent as an apolitical moderate. Several other right-wing bloggers, such as Daniel and Proph, report the same progression from one extreme to […]

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