One of the most extraordinary episodes in the intellectual history of the twentieth century—if, indeed, something that lasted half a century or more can properly be called an episode—is the moral and sometimes material support given by much of the western intelligentsia to the Soviet tyranny, a tyranny that made all previous tyrannies seem relaxed, liberal, and almost amateurish by comparison. Men who found the slightest circumscription of their own freedom intolerable raised hosannas to the most systematic and concerted abrogation of personal liberty yet attempted; many were hose who strained at gnats to swallow a camel.
No doubt the explanation for this phenomenon is psychologically and sociologically complex. A commonly cited factor that supposedly contributed to it was ignorance of the real situation obtaining in the Soviet Union: intellectuals were therefore able to project on to the Soviet Union their utopian fantasies unconstrained by any appreciation of the sordid realities. This explanation, however, is entirely false. ...
The Soviet Union was valued by contemporary intellectuals not for the omelette, but for the broken eggs. They thought that if nothing great could be built without sacrifice, then so great a sacrifice must be building something great. The Soviets had the courage of their abstractions, which are often so much more important to intellectuals than living, breathing human beings.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Anthony Daniels explains the puzzling phenomenon in this article from a special edition of the "The New Criterion" on the fall of the Berlin wall (HT Selva Brasilis). The sin of intellectuals, according to him, is that they frequently favor utopia in detriment of reality, and political idealism at the cost of human existence. In his words: