I’ve discussed in the past how love has been forcibly limited to the personal and relational spheres, and reduced to ridicule and irrelevance beyond these.
The same thing is true of our innate morality, which is promoted only to the same extent, and no further. “Follow your heart” is a message we bombard our kids with. Yes, it’s portrayed as good to “follow your heart,” but only to the extent that it does not interfere with social institutions and “normal” beliefs. It is good to “follow your heart” in matters of friendship and love, in one’s choice of a career or hobby, but once important beliefs are involved, “following your heart” becomes a sign of weakness or downright corruption.
People who preach compassion in politics, for instance, are ruthlessly marginalized. It is seen as “not serious.” Instead, what should dominate in politics is “realism,” or “pragmatism.” “Realism” and “pragmatism” are code-words for “the ability to rationalize.” All political evils require the ability to rationalize their obvious falsity and their use of coercion. It takes no more or less powers of rationalization to be a Hitler Youth than it takes to be a Young Democrat: both require for the individual to deny his emotions, internalize the proper forms of hatred, and rationalize the absurdity and coercion contained in both ideologies. The whole purpose of the democratic rituals, the pomp of elections, all of the self-importance given to both, the symbols of power, is to make it easier to rationalize the absurdity and the use of force which they represent.
In the face of political movements, only individuals who are grounded in themselves and in their own morality can resist these rationalizations and judge these movements from the outside. For most people, this is impossible, because the way they were raised did not permit them to be authentic, to express their feelings, or to know when they are lied to. There is also pressure on the individual to “be mature” and “not be so selfish” and to “let the system reform itself,” which we know is a pipe dream.
Political and religious authorities want us to take their morality at face value, without involving our own. But this is logically impossible. In order to accept the Bible’s moral precepts, for instance, one must first make the decision of accepting the Bible itself as valid, and this decision obviously cannot be guided by the Bible. It must be guided by some pre-existing principle. The same thing is true for any other form of exterior obligation.
Therefore the dichotomy of innate morality between the relational and social spheres is actually entirely arbitrary. All of human action is founded on inner principles, no matter the scale.
It’s not surprising that inner morality is linked to love in this way, because, as I’ve discussed before, the true self (from which comes our inner morality) is the source of love. Respect for oneself and others, and empathy, leads one away from control and towards love. In order to compartmentalize love, they must also compartmentalize our respect for others. In order to get people to want to control each other, they must first destroy our respect for others. The other fellow is not a human being worthy of respect and dignity, but a competitor who must be surpassed. People who lose deserve to lose.
The essence of morality is to ensure that individuals cooperate with each other. The essence of the capital-democratic system is the complete diametrical opposite: its flourishing is ensured by making sure that people do not cooperate with each other as much as possible without actually killing each other.
Now, if you want to discredit any idea, ideology or movement, the best way to do that is to show that it is based on some emotional reaction. We really believe that we are “explaining away” an ideology by “exposing” its emotional roots, much like the Christians believe science “explains away” the wonders of nature by showing their causes. But neither is a valid conclusion, for the exact same reason: explaining the causes of an ideology or of a natural process does not magically make it disappear. Explaining that the rainbow is a result of the refraction of light over a field of raindrops does not change the appearance of the rainbow; in fact, this explanation adds a new level of beauty and wonder.
Likewise, explaining the psychological sources of an ideology does not render it magically false or unjustified. The issue of why any given person adopts an ideology is quite distinct from the premises of that ideology. It does us no good to adopt an ideology dispassionately if that ideology turns out to be corrupt and based on evil premises. The fact that people become racists because they are hateful bigots looking for a target to blame for their own failings does not disprove racism: the fact that there is no such thing as a race disproves racism. The fact that some people become liberals because they feel that they are being egalitarian towards the least fortunate does not prove that liberalism is egalitarian: the fact that liberalism (and all other statist ideologies) has as a premise the need to dominate, control and exploit those “least fortunate” proves that liberalism is not egalitarian.
The opposite is also true. Even if some Anarchists have adopted the ideology on the basis of jealousy (as we are told), this does not make Anarchism false. The belief that some fundamentalist Christians have that atheists become atheists because of their anger against God or because of having had an absent father does not make atheism false either.
All ideas are rooted in emotions, although we often try to rationalize that fact. The idea of “following our hearts” in serious intellectual matters strikes us as ridiculous because we have been taught that emotions are anti-intellectual and that anyone who does so is simply not being “realistic.” And yet there is really no way to side-step the fact that everything we do, down to the words we use, is heavily emotional. The main difference is in how much of ourselves is being expressed, whether our love or our hatred stems from ourselves or from how we’ve been indoctrinated to think.