Today, while flicking through channels, I came upon an animated movie that provided almost a perfect example of the liberal world view. It so perfectly illustrated the liberal mindset I described in "Liberalism, Its Origins and Consequences" and elsewhere1, that I felt it was worth taking a more detailed look.
The basic plot is nothing new, in fact it is such a pedestrian plot in its broad outlines that it amazes me I never noticed before how many of these children's films follow the liberal view of the state. Well, to be fair, perhaps it is not so surprising, as the liberal view also follows a rather commonplace plot line from any number of juvenile tales, that being the "lone voice in the wilderness" standing up against a popular mistake2. So, I suppose, it is difficult to tell at times if a given book or film is simply reusing a tired, juvenile plotline, or is embracing the liberal philosophy which sadly seems to be based upon that plotline. Since it is hard to tell if the story is pushing an immature fantasy, or an immature political philosophy based on that fantasy, I will, for the moment, not worry about the question and assume, whichever is the primary intent, because the two goals are so close, to embrace one is to embrace the other.
So, back to our film. In "Over the Hedge", a fast talking raccoon tries to steal food from a hibernating bear. In the process, the food is destroyed and the bear threatens to kill the raccoon. The raccoon promises to restore the food by the full moon (in a week), or face the bear's wrath. While trying to find a way to carry this out, the raccoon stumbles across a "family" of various animals (a skunk, some porcupines, a few opossums, a squirrel and some others), led by a wise, cautious turtle who decides what is safe by the tingling of his tail. This group has led a sensible, safe existence by constantly preparing for winter, dutifully filling up a hollow trunk with food, all under the turtle's sage, but sensitive, leadership.
Seeing an opportunity, the raccoon exposes this group to stolen human food, hoping to tempt them with tasty junk food into gathering up what he needs to pay off the bear. And, as expected, they fall for it, being led astray by superficial wants, rather than fulfill their "true needs." Of course, only the wise turtle understands this, and tries to return them to the "right way", but he is largely ignored3. Of course, this eventually leads to trouble for the family of animals, from which the turtle manages to eventually rescue them. And, in the end, the raccoon comes around and sees the value of "the right way".
I know, not exactly an unusual story, but it is striking how well it fits with the liberal view of reality. After all, what is liberalism but the view that people need to be protected from themselves? That they often place superficial "wants" above "true needs"4? That at times this blindness is exploited by sinister forces? And at others simply misleads the blind, ignorant masses into wrong choices? How often do we hear the left bemoan the workers acting against their "class interest"? Questioning why they are so slow to unionize? Worrying that but for the state, the masses would inevitably make "the wrong choice" on this issue or that? In short, what is liberalism but an elitist philosophy the believes the wise minority must protect the foolish majority from their own incompetence?
And that is, sadly, the message contained in far too many children's films. Of course, as I said, it is not exactly an uncommon plotline. And you can see why. It is a popular fantasy among teens, preteens and their equivalents. To be the only one who sees the truth, who is ignored by others5, and is finally vindicated in the end, it is the stuff of many teen day dreams. What is troubling is how many adults also find this an appealing dream, and, worse, how many have founded a political philosophy based upon little more than this juvenile delusion.
Then again, I have argued many times the philosophical basis of much of modern politics is disturbingly juvenile, so this merely serves to make that case6. I suppose I should not be surprised.
1. See also "The Condescention of Understanding", "Liberalism, "Idealists" and Internal Contradictions", "Humility and Freedom", "Outsider Art", "Eurocentrism? Racism? Liberal Traits All", "I Don't Get It. Actually, I Do, and It Is Horribly Insulting", "Arrogance", "The Essence of Liberalism", "Arrogance and Gun Control", "Apology as Arrogance", "Big Government, Arrogance and Part-Time Psychopathy", "The Problem of Established Perspectives ", "Hard Cases Make Bad Law", "Man's Nature and Government", "Seeing People as Stupid", "Our View of Our Fellow Citizens", "Individual and Aggregate", "Those Other People", "Another Look At Exploitation", "Common Sense,Philosopher Kings, Arbitrary Law and Dictatorship", "Help and Harm", "Hard Cases Make Bad Law", "In Loco Parentis", "The Case for Small Government", "Harming Society", "De Gustibus Non Disputandum Est", "The Life Coach Culture", "The Great 'What If?' - Advertising, Gullibility, Education, Capitalism and Socialism" and "For Your Own Good -- The Problem with Subjective Rights".
2. I often think this is why so many liberals are willing to tolerate Churchill, even though the views he held would have been absolutely abhorrent to them. Because he spent such a long time "in the wilderness" he is a perfect fit for their elitist world view, and they can't help but have a soft spot for him, despite his views. And it doesn't hurt that he had a fondness for pithy witticisms that also fit with their idea of what is "clever". (See "The Era of the Cocky Know It All ".)
3. The film is surprisingly honest then the turtle denounces the raccoon, but in so doing is a bit too honest, calling the others "stupid and naïve". It is interesting because it does quite clearly explain the foundation of interventionist beliefs, and, more than that, it also is rather true to life, as, though it works at times to their detriment, those on the left many times simply cannot help but express their true feelings, and end up running down those "other people" for their lack of intelligence. (See "Intellect and Politics".)
4. See "The Most Misleading Word", "Luxury and Necessity", "Res Ipsa Loquitur", "A Question of Fairness", "Protean Terminology", "One More Meaningless Word and Its Consequences", "Confucius, Aedes Aegypti, Pluto, Sub-Species, Conservatives and Republicans", "Misunderstanding Arbitrary Definitions", "Weasel Words and Hollow Words", "Semantic Games", "Misleading Terminology", "Smoking Versus Sex -- Want and Need Take Two", "Can We Ban the Word 'Scarce'?", "Government by Emotion" and "Selfishness as Reason - 'Wants', 'Needs', 'Fairness' and Other Guises for Arbitrary Decisions".
5. Is it not the cliché that every teen cries "you'll miss me when I'm gone"? Is it not almost the same to claim "you'll see how right I was"?
6. See "An Immature Society", "The Presumption of Dishonesty", "Deadly Cynicism", "Self-Serving Cynicism and Our Cultural Immaturity", "Life Is Not Fair - And Trying To Make It So Makes Things Worse", "The Threat of Perfection", "Utopianism and Disaster","Catastrophic Thinking, The Political, Economic and Social Impact of Seeing History in the Superlative", "All Life in a Day, or, How Our Mistaken View of History Distorts Our Understanding of Events.", "Shameless", "In Defense of Standards" , "Addenda to "In Defense of Standards"" , "O Tempora! O Mores!, or, The High Cost of Supposed Freedom" , "A Bit of Clarification" , "Our Unique Age, A Tempting Falsehood" , "Inversion of Traditional Values", "Cranky Old Man?", "Faux "Maturity"", "Pushing the Envelope", "I Blame the Romantics", "The Adoration of Youth", "Juvenile Intellectuals" and "Trophy Spouses".