The Importance of Being Mean

The three pillars of liberal morality are engagement, compassion, and inclusiveness; its corresponding demons apathy, hatred, and exclusiveness.  The shorthand word for the three cardinal virtues is niceness; for the three supreme vices, meannessNice is a word familiar among middle-middle class Americans, who have been liberalized whether they know it or not: the sort of people who use neat as an adjective or exclamatory utterance, 30 years after Woody Allen had fun with it in Annie HallMean, on the other hand, is in circulation pretty much across all the strata of liberal society, including those that are unconscious of the fact that they are liberal.  Indeed, it is a word that is used almost exclusively by liberals, with equal exclusivity, to describe conservatives—hardly ever liberals or radicals themselves.

As man is said to be the only animal who knows he is going to die, so a conservative is a man who knows that he is mean.  Some conservatives take pride in their meanness; others are indifferent to it; still others are made uncomfortable by it, despite knowing that to be mean is to lack compassion, even sympathy, for people and situations liberals consider worthy of both.  Liberals perceive such people and circumstances—Kenneth Minogue called them “suffering situations”—everywhere, in their backyards and yours,...

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