Monday, June 27, 2011

The Progressive Reactionarism of the Postmodern Left

Daniel Greenfield

The absurdity of the postmodern left is that it is a chimera crossbred of contradictions mixing together technocracy and environmentalism. Hunting through the trash for discarded food and triumphantly blogging about it on a 500 dollar device. Big government projects and making your own shoes. Stand up to the man and tell him to appoint more bureaucrats. Read Dawkins and then blog about visiting a Middle Eastern mosque. Reject materialism in the latest carefully branded 200 dollar shoes made from recycled rubber tires. If the old left at least had something resembling rational project, the postmodern left has its broken vestiges, dressed up in directionless rage, superstition, anti-materialism and primitivism. The end result of this progressive reactionarism isn't just ugly, it's unsustainable.

The contradictions between the left's big government ambitions and its destruction of everything that makes it work dooms the whole project to a meltdown. The Soviet Union was run by vicious thugs who understood that you needed a massive industrial and agricultural base to build the socialist future. But today's left is completely uninterested in such things. Like lunatic dot com pioneers, they don't bother with revenue streams or business models, just plans and proposals. Ideological compliance matters. Functionality isn't even a blip on the radar.

As hopelessly stupid as many of the Bolsheviks were, they understood that something had to come after seizing the property of the rich. The modern left just assumes that the property of rich is an infinite commodity that can be seized and will still always be there. Not enough money? Raise taxes. Still not enough money? Raise more taxes. And then get ready to move your own money to another tax shelter. Their anti-materialism is more like a hypocritical ignorance of their own material realities. Socialism for them is not a material act, but a spiritual one. To make it work, you must have faith in hope and change.

The Soviet Union in its time made Union Carbide and Exxon look like radical greens. It didn't just pollute, it celebrated the destruction of the natural world as the triumph of modern man. It tore down mountains with the same glee it tore down churches. It destroyed rivers and lakes just to show that it could. This violent vandalism sprang from its materialist roots. Primitive man might be satisfied with smelling the flowers, but Socialist man would stomp all over the flowers and go back and plant some even better steel flowers to show his superiority to the natural world.

But its idiot grandchildren have gone just as radically in the opposite direction to an environmentalism that makes industry impossible and individual prosperity hopeless-- and with them the economic base for their ideology. Embracing environmentalist dogma isn't just a knife to the throat of businesses and a bullet to the head of the consumer-- it's a slow prolonged death for the tax happy Great Society that was built at their expense.

It takes a mighty nation to support a cradle to grave welfare state and grants to analyze the racial subtext of Eskimo poetry. Or a bankrupt nation getting bailouts from the IMF in the hopes of being able to service its debt. And beyond that lie the spiritual values of starving children sorting garbage in slums so admired by moral leaders like Prince Chuck. The anti-materialism of the freegans taken to its inevitable outcome when the economy and then the system that made their dilettantism possible is destroyed.

By a perverse twist, anti-capitalism has become anti-materialism. The strange love child of Marx and Rousseau celebrates the wonders of African capitalism and bemoans brand labels. Structural analysis has given way to identification. A herd instinct for those who fancy themselves too smart for the common herd. The herd is not concerned with where it is going, but only that it is traveling with others of the same kind.

Marx had little use for the noble savage and primitivism for its own sake. His casual observation that "Islamism proscribes the nation of the Infidels, constituting a state of permanent hostility between the Mussulman and the unbeliever" is today only to be found on the right and among a besieged handful of European leftists. The rest welcome in Islam and Sharia Law as the solution to all ills. In their minds, the only way to fully purge the materialism and nationalism of the civilized world, is to fill it with the uncivilized.

The addled left has confused primitivism with anti-materialism, treating poverty as evidence of higher moral values. This attitude hung around the necks of upper class activists all along, but there is no longer any counter to it. Every college assigns critical texts on Orientalism, and yet every campus wallows in the fetishization of non-Western cultures. Gandhi, the former soldier turned independence activist, has become the plaster saint on the wall of Western pacifism, and the Koran has become the book of tolerance and feminism. Those so intolerant of the hypocrisies of their own culture, eagerly wallow in the hypocrisies of other cultures.

The progressives thought they were moving up, but the reactionaries think that down is up. That the way to a better future lies in making do with less and living a simpler life. These ideas are not rational, they are cultic. Their embrace of Islam, the most reactionary creed since the witch doctor and his bone knife, does not derive from a comparison of its relative merits, but from their political escapism. They are too lazy to be bothered to analyze ideas on their merits. Instead they choose the one furthest away from the rational and congratulate themselves on how well they refuse to be fooled by the reactionaries.

The postmodern left has a socialist bookshelf, but the readers are aspiring savages. Aspiring because they lack the aptitude for more than the occasional street protest and date rape. They have a highly developed nose for injustice, but no sense of guilt. They strive to atone for their consumerism with a conspicuous anti-materialism of fair trade and DIY projects. They want to overturn and sustain their privileges at the same time all at the expense of the working class. And while they cash in on cap and trade, it's the ordinary workers who are being capped and their jobs getting traded overseas.

Progressive reactionarism is the escalator of men and women who want to be seen moving forward, even as they slide further backward. Their greatest fear is that the rest of the herd will realize they don't know the difference. The more the progressives move their agenda forward, the more the society they infest moves backward. But most of them are not positioned where they can see that. Nor can they see the bigger picture.

They reduce all transactions to the victim-oppressor equation, unrealizing that to much of the country they have become the oppressors. That the out of work coal miner, the small businessman and the working family trying to make ends meet increasingly hates them and their institutions. That their self-consciously charming coffeehouses, home woodshopping and green advocacy look like the playthings of a dilettante elite about to be swept out of power by popular anger, as thoroughly as the Bourbon kings of France.

The massive unwieldy beasts of government have become the Versailles of a hopelessly out of touch liberal elite, that slums around with books about how hard it is to get by on a limited income, but have no comprehension how much the people who are getting by resent the massive infrastructure of their bureaucratic palaces. The progressive reactionaries have lost sight of the moment when they crossed the terminator from activists to tyrants. That self-delusion is a weakness the Communists did not suffer from. The Progressive-Reactionaries are vain enough to dress up as democrats and pretend that their rule is consensual. Any opposition is met with shrieks of racism. A word that no longer has any meaning except as code for counter-revolutionary.

Of all the tyrannies of history, the Progressive-Reactionaries are by far the dumbest. The only thing they know how to do is bribe their way to stay in power. But even the old divide and conquer politics of apportioning the spoils of government to your supporters only works for as long as you have what to give them. When the economy turns bad enough and there's nothing to hand out anymore, then there's nothing standing between you and the counter-revolution except the hoarse cry of racism.

Jobs? Ask the Commies about that one. They at least knew what jobs are. That's something Richard Blumenthal couldn't do during his senate debate. It's something Obama hasn't been able to grasp with all his shovel ready projects and promises of creating a billion zillion jobs a week. His latest economic plan to create jobs is by legalizing illegal aliens. At this point it's painfully obvious that never having held a job or done a job, he doesn't actually understand what they are. And he doesn't care to find out.

'Jobs' like 'Racism' has become one of those words that goes well in any sentence. The left now uses it like explorers who have landed on a native island, aware that the natives worship some god called 'Jobs' and hope that by randomly pointing to things, taking them and then shaking them upside down, the natives will find those 'Jobs' they keep looking for and leave them in peace.

Conservatives accuse liberals of reading Marx and Lenin. But it's much worse than that. They're reading Thomas Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree, with some Alinsky and Arabian Nights on the side. They're not so much socialists, as they are idiots who think that the economy is a function of their genius and all foreign policy problems can be settled with a beer summit and a heartfelt apology. It's not just that they're ruining America-- it's that they're frequently too stupid to even know they're doing it.

They're too stupid to even understand that their vision of a technocratic environmentally sustainable democracy in which everyone makes do with less and likes it that way makes as much sense as teaching your dog to do tricks by setting yourself on fire. Or that working toward a united world by empowering a bunch of people who kill each other over minor points of religious doctrine and ethnicity is like torching yourself, the dog and the nearby fire station. Or that none of this can even pay for itself because every time they pass a law, jobs fly out the window like startled birds. And the only thing they ever do anymore is pass laws, and then more laws on top of that.

You can't get there from here. That's the saddest thing about the progressive-reactionaries. The old leftists could combine idealism and materialism in a brutal package of a mechanical society. But there is hardly any materialism in the dogma of the new left, except when it comes to their own salaries. They have nothing resembling a plan for a workable society. Not even a bad plan. Instead the envision that a better society will somehow emerge from the piles of mouldering bureaucracy and angry mobs of multicultural refugees. The 'somehow' is left up to someone else to work out.

Like Wily E. Coyote teetering in mid-air, the postmodern left still fancifully imagines that it is going forward. But the only place it's going is down. And as of now, they're taking everyone else with them.

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