The End of Time

The terms Left and Right have been ubiquitous in Western public discourse for so long people just assume they are universal constants. The fact is though, they are neither universal nor constant. There is no African Right or Burmese Left. These cultures have not been shaped by the French Revolution. Similarly, what it means to be on the Right or Left has changed over time. Today’s left-wing American genuinely detests yesterday’s left wing American, who is probably on the Right today.

There is not much in the way of ideology on either side. There has not been an important thinker on either side in a long time. The last important radical thinker was probably Herbert Marcuse or perhaps John Rawls. On the Right, Paul Gottfried and Sam Francis are recent, but their influence is only on the fringe. The main driver of politics is the Left and they are wildly ignorant of the intellectual history that shapes left-wing politics today.

In the main, people divide up over history. What controls the American Left is the sense that the past is littered with monsters. These monsters are things like slavery, discrimination, morality, decency and so forth. The fact that these things have existed means they could exist again. The practical effect of something like slavery, for example, is zero, but the possibility it could return shapes the present. These monsters haunt the dense fog that is the left-wing mental space.

This is why the Left maintains all of its focus on the future, a place that is free of those monsters like inequality and human suffering. It is a secular Gnosticism in which a mystical and esoteric understanding of what lies at the end of history justifies the assault on the present. The monsters of the past haunt this fallen world and the only way out is to destroy this world thus freeing mankind from its grip and allowing man to move into the next phase of human history.

On the other side of this is the Right. They share the Left’s disdain for the present, but for entirely different reasons. They see the present as a degraded version of some past they hold up as the ideal. To be on the Right is to consume yourself with discovering forgotten kingdoms and then imagining yourself in them. Just as the future is an escape for the man of the Left, the past is a refuge for the man of the Right. The difference is his escape is much more detailed and appointed.

It is on the Right where you see the immutable differences between American and European politics. In Europe, the man of the Right can embrace ancient social structures like pre-Christian paganism and tribalism. He can embrace the aristocratic age of the high Middle Ages. These are not pasts that an American can conjure as they do not exist in the American past. The one shared alternative is the period of the interwar years but that brings unique problems.

For Americans, the most popular past is the Founding. Throughout the 20th century, right-wing Americans have said some version of, “If we just return to our founding principles everything will be fine.” Even at this late date there is an effort to conjure the 18th century colonial experience into the present. Implementations of this have been a desire to return to the America of the 1950’s or the 1980’s. In both cases, it is a desire to go back before the start of the present troubles.

This difference between Left and Right explains the difference in tangible results over the last century. Left-wing activity can move forward. Time marches on regardless of human desire, so the illusion of progress is easy to maintain. It just requires the destruction of present customs and traditions. The image of a toppled statue provides the left-wing mind with s symbolic step toward the promised land, which in turn provides a motivation to keep moving forward.

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