I’m hardly the first guy to point out that Liberals are, at heart, curdled Romantics. But it’s worth re-emphasizing, as it sheds some light on their peculiar psychology as they get crazier and crazier this election season.
Romanticism celebrated individualism and the beauty of nature. It rejected the present and looked to the past, especially the medieval and epic past, for inspiration. It was a rejection of Enlightenment universalism and the mechanization of life that was just over the horizon in the nascent Industrial Revolution.
Fast forward fifty years, and Romanticism is untenable. The machines won. The new artistic movements, then — aestheticism, Decadence, the whole dog’s breakfast called “Modernism”— had to reject the entire past in favor of abstraction. “Art for art’s sake,” was this movement’s motto.
Théophile Gautier didn’t actually say “art for art’s sake,” but it’s an accurate summary of his position. Beauty, Gautier said, is useless — if it has practical value, then it fulfills a need, which beauty by definition doesn’t do:
There is nothing really beautiful save what is of no possible use. Everything useful is ugly, for it expresses a need, and man’s needs are low and disgusting, like his own poor, wretched nature. The most useful place in a house is the toilet.
See what I mean about “curdled Romantics?” The Liberal considers himself a fearless individualist, fighting the twin forces of Conformity and Capitalism on behalf of his fellow man. But…. his fellow man is disgusting. His fellow man is a money-grubbing philistine — les bourgeois, Gautier would say, which is literary French for “redneck.” Like as not, your average Liberal’s fellow man spent most of high school shoving him in a locker. Hence Liberals’ well-known tic of loving The People but hating people. What can you do?
There are only two options when the souls you’ve set out to save turn your stomach. You can embrace the gutter, which was the preferred method of the old-school Commies. They pretended there was nothing more to life than bread, shoes, and shit — give the prole three hots, a cot, and a toilet, and he’s got everything he will ever need. This is why pictures of female Bolsheviks can be used to terrify small children — stone-faced creatures with bowl haircuts, wearing shapeless sacks and clodhopper shoes, always ready with a pamphlet about birth control but rarely in contact with soap.
The other method, which was Gautier’s method, and the SJW’s, is to aestheticize your disgust. For Gautier, the only true art was useless. The SJWs fetishize useless people. They love trannies, for instance, because they’re so elaborately, determinedly bizarre. SJW’s love “victims” because “victims” have nothing else in the world to do but come up with ever-weirder iterations of their pathologies. Like Gautier’s true art, they’re completely useless — by design.
And, of course, there’s still the off-chance that one of them will be sufficiently revolting to epater les bourgeois, which was Gautier’s other goal in life. And as there are fewer and fewer bourgeois left to skewer — thanks to the success of Liberal policies — that becomes ever more important.
Ain’t art grand?