[Note: I've been struggling with a review of John Taylor Gatto's The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher's Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling, as I had promised earlier. It is proving to be difficult... for me. Why? In a word, cowardice.]
Image found at Lemon Lime Moon
The Left and the Right
My use of "left" and "right" in this post refers to their current manifestation in the zeitgeist of today. If one looks at even the recent history of the past 200 years, these distinctions are muddled, and it is beyond the scope of this post - which will be long enough as it is - to explore this. The intrepid reader would do well to look at the phenomena of (19-to20th) turn-of-the-century progressivism, Fabianism, behaviorism, corporate foundation "philanthropy," and State paternalism in general. Googling about and doing some serious reading on these subjects can be very enlightening - to the point of being disturbing.
Not to be overly-inflammatory, if that can be avoided, but it would behoove any "leftie" to take a deeper look into the phenomenon of fascism. (Fuck the woolly-headedness of Jonah Goldberg - that would be a very stupid place to start - but while his thesis is ridiculously reactionary... eh, I'll stop there. Please don't beat on this coward. Goldberg is still fair game, though, heh.)
Suffice to say that the current manifestation of the broadly-defined stakes of "left" and "right" are very cartoonish by the popular "intellectual" standards of today. The serious student of political philosophy would do well to pause before declaring a clear affiliation to either.
But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good.The reader may interpret the above quote, and the whole purpose of this "affiliation" section as emblimatic of my cowardice. The reader would be right.
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood...
- lyrics for The Animals' Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
I take solace in the fact that I have always been registered as an "Independent" voter. I take solace that I have often described myself as being "to the left of Che Guevara," and "to the right of libertarians." These provocative pronouncements are, frankly, a glib way of my attempts to distance myself from dogmatism. History is apace, however, and my cute dodges simply will not do.
Another, somewhat dated, dodge was "social liberal, fiscal conservative" - dated, because since I've finally understood Keynesian economic theory, it is only the dogmatically stupid who would embrace "fiscal conservatism" as some sort of found wisdom, rather than the empty slogan that it is. "Social liberal" is another matter entirely - I could not disown that under any circumstance, unless it somehow morphed into a tolerance for those who would injure others (a position, of course, with which many on the "right" disingenuously, and absurdly, try to impugn the "left".)
The truth is - and here is where my cowardice becomes more understandable (I hope, says the coward) - that I would be a candidate for stoning no matter where in history I'd appear. By any State, no matter its configuration, and by Its apologists. But I digress.
I feel an affinity for what might be called "the dirty fucking hippies." I loathe the "establishment," business-suit-armor, money* and its lovers. I like "safety nets" for the old, the young and the infirm. In today's discourse, these are in contradiction, as I am for Collectivism, and against State.
In the language-of-today's discourse, my "affinity" is with the "left."
One final, and perhaps controversial, point. The "left" is in ascendance, on "the street" (which is where anything matters, anyway.) Despite appearances, and the current configuration of the grips-of-power, the "right" is the aggrieved faction today. They are therefore more reactionary and outrageous in their rhetoric, to the point of being despicable. Not to mention the actions of some of the most extreme and delusional of the aggrieved right. I do not wish any of what I am to write to be used to buttress their position. In spite of this, much of what I am to write can and will be used to buttress their position. It is unavoidable, so I will soldier on.
The Left and the Right Are Useful Idiots
There is a third leg to this stool, and it is the human factor, manifest as greed. Ideological labels such as "right" and "left" are degraded to becoming merely empty sloganeering once greed becomes unchained, and cynicism rules the day. The well-educated cynic can manipulate the sincere with this division. These cynics are truly the ugly among us, but it should be kept in mind that they would have no significant hold at all if they did not reflect our own ugliness, regardless of ideological affiliation. The ugliness of greed, exacerbated by the fact that both sides, for the most part, have been sold on the idea that private property is good and right. That last bit is the biggest crime of this country's founding - and it is deep in the DNA of (U.S.) America. Any of us who denounce property are radical anarchists, right?
Truth-tellers must get stoned.
Everyone is against the big bad State, but the left (I am dropping scare quotes from here on out) is all out for collectivism.
The right claims that collectivism is the State, or at least it unavoidably leads to it. In this they are right, at least in matters of scale. Leaving aside the inflammatory accusations from the left regarding state's rights, for example, the right is correct in pointing out the importance of smaller and local governance. National concentrations of power inevitably create easy targets for those who would engage in mass manipulation and social engineering. The tension between freedom and collectivism can only be alleviated if we "know our neighbors" on a tribal scale. The cognitive dissonance of the estrangement between participants in a common endeavor inevitably results in, to our evolved primate brains, nefarious creations of the "other" and excuses for inhumane, and inhuman, behaviour.
This is why the oft-ridiculed "thousand points of light" emerges. What the right remains stubbornly unaware of is that such a characterization of local community solutions to the "safety net" problem is an inadvertent and reactionary nod to the fact of concentrated governance (we are talking about the sincere here.) The reactionary position of the left is that this is only an excuse for gutting collective social programs. Much rhetorical hay can be made of these positions. The social engineering of the concentrated State loves this debate because it divides, and division is the most powerful tool of the cynics who have their grips on the centers of power.
Everyone, left or right, wants to take care of little old ladies, as it were, but immersion in such rhetoric and mutual paranoia leads to many of the less thoughtful to stake out unconscionable positions, characterized by offensive references to "welfare queens" and other such strawmen (straw-women?) The social engineering of the concentrated State loves this debate because it divides, and for ostensibly good reason.
But it is, in the end, a strawman debate. Because we do care, left or right - it is just that we have overly-abstracted the question, because of the cognitive dissonance of the estrangement between participants in a common endeavor, because of scale only. The social engineering of the concentrated State loves this debate because its cynical proponents wish to preserve this scale. It is their grip, their raison d'etre.
My Collectivism Is Better Than Your Collectivism
Who's getting the welfare check? Whose ox is being gored? This is where I can stake a left/right position.
Regardless of how manipulable, by the PTB, the left becomes when it advocates for the big collective safety net (and this is a valid criticism from the right,) they are at least honest, if naive, about their intentions.
The breathtaking dishonesty of the right, however, is on clear display today. With their despicable appeals to patriotism, and their defense of the State war machine, there is absolutely no way they can be taken seriously in their otherwise-defensible ideological concerns.
The divisions between the modern left and right have been so cynically engineered - yes, engineered - that both suffer from a lack of a true and honest consistency.
It is my final word here that, to me, the modern left is at least struggling with the question, and that there is a human heart beating at the center of it, and it is here that there is hope. That is why they seem to be in a weaker position, with factional infighting - because they are still thinking. The right seems to have staked itself to a hard position, and in that is true weakness.
That is why the right is truly, and appropriately, the aggrieved.
*This includes any fungible commodification. The fact that it will be with us always (even in a "non-monetary" system - after all, one will always be able to trade beer for just about anything) does not deter me. I still have a deep disrespect for the concept, and it shall remain a soft sin to me. Money is a genuflection towards commodification, and I reject this.