The other night I saw a portion of NOW with Bill Moyers on PBS. He was interviewing Will Hutton (author of the book A DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE: WHY AMERICA SHOULD JOIN THE WORLD, an old friend of America’s, but a friendly critic as well. Hutton was for years Editor-in-Chief of one of Britain’s most influential newspapers, THE OBSERVER, for which he still writes a column).
The full transcript is here.
What I wanted to talk about is this. Two of the things that Hutton says worry him about American politics are the increasing role of money in the drawing of political boundaries, positions, etc., and the absolute inability of the Left to put together a cohesive platform to debate the Right, thereby causing the Big Eagle to flop around in circles because frankly, it’s really only got one viable wing. There is as a result no real debate, nor ideological banter. There is only a murky middle ground and the Extreme Right.
Of course, in this country we effectively castrated the Radical Left in the first half of the twentieth century with our crusade against the Communists (coincidentally, communism and socialism do not pose a threat to democracy, but to capitalism. Capitalism is in and of itself the anathema of democracy, unless each person has exactly the same amount of money. Socialism/communism strive to give each person the same amount of money, so that they can each buy similar numbers of votes. In both the case of the US and the USSR, which have been for quite some time effective oligarchies, the people with the most money are those who decide and can afford to ignore policy). But ultimately, the tools that the Right and Left use are fundamentally different. Reading Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich helps put this in perspective. In my opinion, unless things are going great, the Left’s position NEVER is more persuasive, particularly since our culture itself tends to emphasize the linchpins of the Right’s platform. For example:
The tools of the Right typically are:
Pride, Fear, Blame, Isolation, Reward, Institution and Ritual
Whereas the tools of the Left are typically:
Humility, Trust, Responsibility, Community, Work, Individual and Freedom
So, when you look at it, in a society where true education is not prized, the religious temperament is inclined to blindly follow leaders without personal revelation, and where personal gain is placed higher in the social contract that universal growth, it is no wonder that the promulgators of the Right have so many more followers than the left. Further, in the absence of any true Radical Left, it is unlikely that the anykind Left (which of course includes the milksop, pantywaist Democratic party of which I am a member) will be capable of producing any candidates that are truly worth a damn and that possess any kind of backbone or recognizable agenda – particularly when they, like the Social Democrats and Catholic Center parties in 1930’s Germany are not able to put into plain, everyday language exactly what it is they stand for, and why anyone should stand with them.
Ah, well. Perhaps we are indeed in a repeat of history. We certainly are a culture of complete self-interest. Which of course, is the Isolation the Right needs to build upon. Anti-Nazi activist from the 1920-1930s (and early biographer of Hitler) Konrad Heiden said:
Hitler was able to enslave his own people because he seemed to give them something that even the traditional religions could no longer provide; the belief in a meaning to existence beyond the narrowest self-interest. The real degradation began when people realized that they were in league with the Devil, but felt that even the Devil was preferable to the emptiness of an existence which lacked a larger significance. The problem today is to give that larger significance and dignity to a life that has been dwarfed by the world of material things. Until that problem is solved, the annihilation of Naziism will be no more than the removal of one symptom of the world’s unrest. – Konrad Heiden, Der Fuehrer, 1944