‘Freedom is good, but it’s also a very adolescent worldview’ — An interview with Yoram Hazony

A Neokohn szerkesztője


The Israeli philosopher explained to Neokohn why he thinks a liberal worldview is wrong, why it is important for people to return to God and religious communities, and why conservatives must take up the fight against extremist ideologies. An interview. 

Yoram Hazony, is an Israeli philosopher, director of the Herzl Institute and author of The Virtue of Nationalism, also published in Hungarian. Hazony gave a lecture on conservatism at the Mathias Corvinus Collegium’s Budapest Lectures in Budapest. At the MCC’s headquarters on Tas Vezer Street, he said that the destructive impact of liberalism is perfectly illustrated by the fact that after two generations of liberal rule, America no longer distinguishes between men and women.

Hungarian version. 


You said in your speech, that almost all institutions that used to be Liberal in the United States were taken over by the radical left. How can conservatives deal with this? Because in some ways it is a very different ideology than liberalism.

The first and most important thing is that conservatism is about being able to propagate, to sustain ideas that you inherit from the past into the future. So sometimes you need to repair them, but the fundamental goal is to sustain things from the past into the future. People correctly say, that Ameircan conservatives haven’t sustained anything in the last 60 years.

And the reason is because what’s called conservatism in America is really a form of liberalism. That is, it focuses on individual liberty and individual equality. So as long as conservatives continue to focus on individual liberty and individual equality instead of sustainability of national religious traditions, they will keep losing.

How do we deal with neo-marxism? We have to turn our attention to sustainability of our beliefs. And this is something that Jews are especially good at. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years. And the key to it as Jewish readers know, the key to it is to join a traditional community a congregation or a tribe that is actively handing down traditions.

If you are a Jewish person, then you need to plug yourself into that community and learn from the older people what there is to learn. The same is true with Christians.

Liberalism doesn’t like this. Liberalism says no, ‘your child should be free to think whatever they want, to do whatever they want. Well, why are you trying to tell them to be Jewish?’

Freedom is good, but it’s also a very adolescent worldview. Is that really all you need is freedom? I don’t think so. You need some freedom, but you also need to have something that you inherit which gives your life meaning and you get meaning by passing it to your grandchildren.

But liberals don’t care about grandchildren. They really don’t. They really don’t because what they’re saying is what’s important is what’s important to you. If you feel good getting married, get married. You feel good not getting married. Don’t get married. You feel good at having children and have children. You feel good at having no children, don’t have children. And I can tell you I have nine children and seven have already finished being teenagers and two are new teenagers now. And I can promise you that teenagers, if you tell them, just be free, do whatever you want, that they will reach every crazy and same thing in the world.

And what parents and grandparents owe their children is to tell them, look, this is the way we do it. And they’ll take some of it.

Then how should an ideal conservative leader act like, for example a conservative American president?

The very first thing is the Americans eliminated God and bible from the schools after World War II. And that’s crazy.

It’s banning the core values from the education of the public and everybody comes out atheists.

So the very first thing that has to happen is to get God in the Bible back in the schools and to begin reconstructing a chain of transmission from the past of the future.

It’ll be different in every place, but that part is going to be the same everywhere, that to return the old Christian and Jewish public culture.

In the US it seems that even some Democtats are beginning to see, that progressivism is bad. In Virginia they elected a Republican governor especially because they did not want progresssive ideas being taught in schools. So can you see a turning? Is there hope?

There’s always hope. Don’t forget the book of Jonah. The Assyrians were the most evil people in the world. And in the end the Assyrian king repents and he fasts and his people follow him and God forgives them. That’s our view. We don’t give up.

God in the end will decide what happens, but we don’t give up. There’s always hope. But we’re in a weak position. We need the young people to return to their traditions, to go to Synagogue, to get married young and have children. We need young people to do that.

There’s always some hope, but if the young people won’t stand up for their own assortment, for their own tradition, then nobody will, there’s no future. It’s putting too much in God’s hands.

There is a lot of talk in the United States that there is a clash between the elites and oridnary people. Michael Lind calls it „the new class war”. What can conservatives do about the problems of the working class?

I mean, the first things conservatives can do is they can care about the working class. When we talk about national conservatism, that we’re talking about all of the members of the nation. We’re not only talking about some elites, we’re talking everybody in the country. Everybody has a share in what happens.

The Jewish Bible is the first book in history where the laws are created in order to make sure that every family in the country has a little bit of land and every family in the country has its own piece of independence.

And the same has to be true today that a conservatives can’t forget about some part of the nation. Liberals can forget because they say look as long as everybody’s free, it’s okay. Conservatives say no that it doesn’t work like that. We have to care about everybody. That doesn’t mean that we have to adopt socialist policies because a socialist will say, Yes, we care about everybody, and so the government has to plan every single thing that happens in the country, how much income everybody gets, who buys themselves. So that’s kind of crazy. It leads straight to tyranny. But conservative will agree with the socialists that we do have to care about the working class and if we see that all the factories are being shipped to China, then we have to stop. It’s our job to stop it. You can’t just say, Oh, it doesn’t matter, we’re free. You have to care about your community. That means everybody.

In the West a new „woke religion” replaced traditional beliefs. There are many who argue, especially non-religious thinkers like Douglas Murray that people should return to Judeo-Christian values, but in a secular way, without the religious part. Do you think that is even possible?

No, it’s not really possible. I mean, look, there is some truth in it.  In the Jewish Bible, you don’t stop being a Jew because you don’t keep shabat or because you don’t know much Torah. So I think that Douglas is thinking about something like that that in England, the church of England also saw itself as the church of the entire people. It didn’t say we’re only the church of people who go to church. The church of England was like a biblical Judaism. If you have biblical tradition, then you can include all sorts of people who are more or less believing and more or less observant and they can be part of it. So that’s true. But the part that is not true is that you can’t just say, we’ll do the cultural part, but we won’t talk about God. We’ll do the cultural part, but we won’t be interested in what Moses has to teach us personally. Each holiday, we eat the holiday cookies, the holiday foods for each holiday. But we will talk about God because we’re too scared to talk about him. That’s no good.

We need the young people to say: ‘my ancestors were not fools. They weren’t ignorant people. The rabbis were not ignorant people. The prophets were not ignorant. If they write something, then it has some thing important to tell me it’s my job to figure it out. I have to understand what they’re saying.’

And if you work on it, if you spend time on it, then you do. You do begin to understand what they’re saying. So that’s more than a cultural Judaism or a cultural Christianity. That’s taking a personal responsibility. My ancestors thought this text had something to teach me. They were not fools. I trust my ancestors. So I’m going to study this so that I can begin to understand. If you do that, you can go very long way.

In Europe many Christian churches are becoming extremely progessive. For example in Germany the Catholic Church is going full woke. Can they survive this way, is this sustainable?

It’s not sustainable because it’s not a tradition. They don’t know how to sustain anything. They only know how to keep coming up with new crazy ideas and they keep changing. Every two or three years, there’s some new fad of what the new Marxists are saying. It’s constant revolution. It’s nothing there is sustainable. In the end, it will collapse.

But I’m scared about what’s going to come afterwards because it’s burning through the common sense of the public, destroying all the common sense, and after that people will believe anything, any crazy thing that somebody comes up with could take over a country after they’ve uprooted all the traditions.

It’s true for the church just to go back to the Bible. If you read the Bible, it will help you.

What do you think about the culture wars? Do you think conservative should fight them?

There’s no choice. There’s no choice. Look, we can only do as much as in our power. In the end, God decides what happens. We have to do everything we can do. And if we’re lucky, then God will say, you know, you did good enough. Now you get to win. You see what I’m saying?

There’s no permission, at least if you’re a Jew or if you’re a Christian, there’s no permission in a biblical theory to say, everything’s lost, nothing to do. God will take care of it. You’re not allowed. We have to fight until our last bit of strengths. And then it’s out of our hands.

But also you have to win the battles you can win. And then later things will change. You do have to be smart about this. You have to pick the battles you can win.

There are many young people who grew up without traditions, but they are looking for meaning. What would you advise them, what should they do?

Join a congregation, not a leftist woke crazy congregation. Find a conservative congregation where there are people older than you, their people that are your age and make that the focus of your life. When you do that, it’s not just about doctrine. It’s not just about ideas. Traditional congregation is a way of life.

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