Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Left and the Right: Heretics versus Converts and Surrogate Figures

The old adage many times tested and proving its validity runs as follows: "The left is looking for traitors, and the right is looking for converts." The general validity of this observation has deeper causes, which are both objective and subjective. Already Schumpeter and others (perhaps following Nietzsche) noted that Marxism shares some peculiar commonalities with a religious order, and, in particular, with Christianity or, better still, the Christian Church.

The purity of and obedience to the one true party line and its dogmas is a vital imperative the violation of which represents deadly heresy. And heretics deserve scorn, hate, and annihilation. Frankly and honestly speaking, the left does have a difficulty to handle debates and criticism.

The right has created a culture in which it is capable to handle various sides of its own party with respect. For the left, such respect seems to be seen as an old prejudice of high society which the devotees to the principle of equality have successfully overcome and discarded a long time ago.

For most part, the right does not depend on the necessity of following one's party line and on having the need to call divergent and different views on the right as betrayal and evil. It is thus freer and more capable to discuss options, new ideas (while being the representative of the "old regime"), and also better at criticizing itself.

One of the reasons for this (and there are more than one) is that the price of an error for the right is not perceived as being so high, if not deadly, as for the left that is operating from the position of the weaker.

At the same time, the truth is that the establishment has become very effective and good when it comes to planting its own columns within the left, as a result of which the left is often but a diluted shadow of the right these days, a shadow that follows (even if unconsciously) the animal that has cast its shadow, and the shadow is travelling around the beast depending on the position of the sun, without being ever being its own or in a real  opposition.

Still, I think that it may be fair to say that the left are greater partisans of group think. Individual thought is a key deadly sin. Punishable by eternal damnation.

Much of this is very ironic, for, in this, the left is, indeed, much based on the faith in its exclusive truth, while it originally espoused or attached to itself the adjective "scientific." But it is in science based on rigorous thinking and reason where differences can be rationally adjudicated and progress can be made. In this regard, whether one likes it or not, the right, while espousing the irrational on the inside, did get ahead with its practice of cultivated political thought.

The left, espousing (for most part) faith in rationality and progress, has not only been on the retreat, but it has also regressed from the position of philosophical leader--perhaps because it has for most part a great contempt and disdain not only for philosophy and any other schools of thought, but for almost all other traditions and hence history of thinking. In practice, this means that many on the left do or have not learned much from other thinkers.

It is easy and self-flattering to assume that one holds the one and only truth and that everyone else is and has to be wrong. And the left is falling in these self-made chains the deeper and the more easily, the more it has nothing to do with the ancient tragic archetype and the more it is ignorant of it.

Yet, more than the right, the left remains a victim to mental and existential dependence on "father figures"--old authoritarian fathers for whom "let the life live" is never an option and who suppressed and denied "the female part," to recall Socrates' strategic reprimand to the tyrannically bent revolutionaries recruited from the ranks of the Athenian oligarchic "right" in the Republic.

The left thus has its iconic and sacred father figures. They used to be three--like a trinity. At some point, Stalin counted as the fourth, and, for others, it was Trotsky, and then also Mao was added as No. 4 or No. 5. But no mothers. Again.

The treatment of these father figures can be well compared and contrasted with the treatment of the founding fathers in the US by the conservatives and the liberals. The American Founding Fathers, perfect children of their time, were children of the Age of Enlightenment. These fathers are treated more like pagan gods--with respect and reverence, but without the inquisitional zeal and insistence on virginal "purity" of the one right beliefs decreed by the one and only true, universal church.

For most part, the left still remains a heir to Western monotheism. There are, of course, also forms of the "pagan" left, but this paganism is of the post-modern kind, which means that it is based on the foundations set by the right.

The problem of the left, as I see it, stems not only from its original framing as new "Christianity for the masses," but also as being created as a radically anti-philosophic project. In a word, as a new Christianity for the masses, but, finally, purified and cleansed of any of the philosophy or "Platonism" which Nietzsche and others (on the right) saw in Christianity as its gravest danger, fault, and as its biggest Achilles' heel.

In this, not only sadly, but also tragically, the evolution of the left has confirmed the validity of one of its own dialectical laws: the law of negation, which is turning one side of the contradiction into its opposite. Or to put it more poetically, the leftist living yang, the lover of the young and living (like Machiavelli's Fortuna) has been ossified into an enfeebled, geriatric patriarch who, like the old god and father figures, are jealous and are bent on devouring their own children. If so the the left, which was much a Western or West-born affair, also remains caught in the loop of a very ancient Western archetype, no matter how atheistic or "modern" the left would like to see itself.

Now I might be able to move (possibly) to what I wanted actually address first--Andrew Korybko's denunciation of Raul Castro as a "traitor" on the account of Cuba's deal to re-establish diplomatic relations with the US.

The bottom line? If there is any, it might be this: if the right is looking for converts, it would suggest that the right recast and rejuvenated itself as a new and growing faith and religion. And if the left [the would-be principal heresy of all) is looking for heretics, it might indicate that the left is still stuck largely in the stage of an ossified cult that is fighting a rear-guard action against the new round of life--perhaps against the return of the Dionysian groupies and crowds who no longer need to think much about dogmas because they not only prefer to feel their own way. And if they get screwed, it is not necessarily because they were overpowered, but rather because they no longer mind and because they have come to like it that way. This is the point where, in Orwell's Animal Farm, people turn into the pigs (and the traitors of their own original cause, in fact).

Or the left might even transfer its need for a saving father figure to some leader of the state even though that one tries to say so often and so audibly that he has no warm feelings for any communists, left idealists or even socialists or for the Soviet past. The search for a powerful father figure often besets those whose own real father ran away and who abandoned them together with their mothers. The same impulse then makes the victims of this surrogate father complex hate (even to death) anyone who questions the wisdom and validity of such a substitution and its character. Somehow, Western culture suffers from this complex more than other civilizations.

One could thus conclude that the political problem of the left is not only a problem of its organization, strategy, and thinking. It is also a problem of its character and integrity. It is also fundamentally a psychological problem. Literally (or almost literally), it is the problem of the left's soul to which the left, by virtue of its ideology and predisposition, has always been behaving with disdain, ignorance and neglect. And if the soul is what constitutes the self, then the left has been conditioned toward the basic self-betrayal from the start.

But, as often, if not always, true Apollonians on the left are as rare as companions and comrades endowed with Socratic daemons.

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