The left can be summed up as moral materialism. It is a secular religion that claims to add a moral
dimension to materialism. Its obsessions are largely economic, from its early class warfare focus to its modern environmentalism. Even its racial politics code class warfare by skin color.
Kill off religion and what do you have left? The answer can be seen in China. You're left with materialism and family interests.. Cast off the shackles of the family for individualistic consumerism and you're left with nothing except materialism as can be seen in any major Western city.
Modern urban man is much too "smart" for religion. At least his own. He wants to add an ethical dimension to life without having to believe in anything except the sense of fairness that he already has, but which he does not realize is not nearly as valid objectively as it is subjectively in his inner emotional reality.
And that is what the left is. It strips away everything except that egotistical sense that things should be run more fairly with predictably unfair results.
Liberalism, and the milder flavors of the left, provide a permission slip for materialism by elevating it through political activism. This is the philosophical purpose of environmentalism's green label. It tells you that you are a good person for buying something and soothes the moral anxieties of an urban class with no coherent moral system except the need to impose an ethical order on the consumerism that defined their childhood, their adolescence and their adult life.
Those most in need of the moral system of materialism are the descendants of the displaced, whether by immigration to the United States or migration within the United States from rural to urban areas, who have become detached from a large extended family structure that once sustained them.
Their grandparents had already loosened their grip on religion and as the family disintegrated, materialism took its place. Their grandparents worked hard to provide for their children, but the children no longer saw maintaining the family as a moral activity. Sometimes they didn't even bother with a family. They became lonely individuals looking for a collective. A virtual political family.
Liberalism fills the missing space once inhabited by religion and the family. It provides a moral and ethical system as religion did and the accompanying sense of purpose and its state institutions replace and supplant the family. It does both of these things destructively and badly as its institutions forever try to patch social problems created by the disintegration of the family and its ideas provide too few people with a sense of purpose of a meaningful life.
And yet it isn't entirely to blame for this state of affairs. The left has actively tried to destroy the family and religion, but the American liberal was until recently less guilty on both charges. His main crime was collaborating with the left while refusing to acknowledge its destructive aims. The process by which the displacement of liberal ideas and their replacement by the ideas of the far left is nearly complete. The American liberal is now an aging relic. In his place is the resentful radical.
The process that led to this state of affairs isn't the left's fault either. Even if it's not for lack of trying. In some ways the left isn't the problem, it's a symptom of the problem. Its ability to fundamentally transform people is limited. The transformation that has occurred is because of the choices that people have been led into making trading religion and family for a dead end materialism. Those choices evolved organically from the natural direction of society and technology.
And into that empty space, the left came. It dominates because there is nothing else to fill that space. It can only be truly resisted by cultural groups that have maintained hold of family and religion. Without that sense of purpose, there is only the endless baffled retreat of the Republican Party.
Ennobling consumerism is a difficult task. The left doesn't come anywhere close to succeeding at it. Instead it makes it more expensive and raises the entry barriers for everything by working to eliminate cheap food, cheap household goods and cheap everything. It's a class issue.
Why does the left really hate Walmart? It doesn't really have a lot to do with unions and has a lot to do with class. Walmart's crime is industrial. It's the crime of the factory and the supermarket and every means of mass production and consumption. It makes cheap products too readily available to the masses. Liberals like to believe that they oppose consumerism, but what they really want to do is raise the entry levels to the lifestyle. Liberal consumerism is all about upselling ethics.
When tangible goods become too easy to produce, you add value through intangibles. The fair trade food tastes the same as non-fair trade food. Organic, a category with a debatable meaning, doesn't really provide that much more value. And environmental labels are worth very little. And yet the average product at Whole Foods is covered in so many "ethical liberal" labels that it's hard to figure out what it even is.
Intangible value is all about class. And class is all about creating barriers to entry.
Liberalism has become a revolt against the middle class that its grandparents struggled to reach, a rejection of their "materialism" while substituting the "ethical materialism" of liberalism in its place that envisions a much smaller upper and middle class that derives its wealth and power not from hard work in the private sector, but highly profitable social justice volunteerism in the public sector.
An American Dream of universal prosperity has been pitted against the left's dream of a benevolent feudal system in which the few will be very well paid to oversee the income equality of the many.
The left's private argument against the American Dream is that it's little more than Walmart. And to some degree they're right. Easy availability of the necessities of life does not lead to a meaningful life. But the easy contempt that the left has for it shows its basic inability to understand how important these things are and how hard they were to come by for most of human history.
Salt was once a precious commodity. Today it sells for pennies a pound. The ability to light the darkness meant the difference between studying at night and living in ignorance. Today a light bulb goes for a quarter. At least it did until the left banned them. And electricity, the left also keeps raising the price of that. Few of the post-apocalyptic fantasies spilling out of Hollywood really describe what would happen if the people manufacturing them were thrown back before the industrial revolution..
Progress has made a good life materially possible, but it has also displaced and damaged the social mechanisms that make a good life socially possible. We have easy access to technology and streets full of vicious illiterate thugs. We can discuss anything with anyone, but we live in a society that values few things worth discussing. We have mass production, but not mass character.
For all its feigned populism, such elitist critiques of society are not foreign to the left. The left's elitist critiques differ in some regards, but they are on the same basic wavelength as those of the social conservative. And its solution is to promote what it considers social progress by reversing or slowing down industrial, commercial and technological progress. The environmental movement is only the latest ideological incarnation of this philosophy which strives to slow down the rate of progress.
The left's social collectivism however is no replacement for what is being lost. What it really does is attempt to apply industrial and commercial strategies to human relationships. Not only is it not a challenge to a consumeristic society, but it attempts to worsen the damage by rebuilding society on the model of the factory and the department store as an impersonal system.
That's not a solution to the problem. It is the problem.
The left cannot escape its own materialism. Its attempts at adding an ethical dimension to materialism fail because its ethical dimension is still materialistic. Its pathetic efforts at injecting pastiches of Third World and minority spirituality into its politics to provide the illusion of a spiritual dimension are hollow and racist. The left cannot fill its own hole, because it is the hole.
Like Islam, it provides something for people to believe in, but the thing it provides is the compulsion to find meaning by forcibly remaking other people's lives in a perpetual revolution which becomes its own purpose.
The left can't replace family or religion. Its social solutions are alien and artificial. They fix nothing and damage everything. Their appeal is to those who are arrogant and starved for meaning, who want religion without religion and family without family only to discover that they are not enough.
The only holiday that still allowed the millions of men and women in the Great Circle of the Community from the farthest Alaskan towns across to the great sweep of the Upper Americas and the Atlantic Ocean to cities with familiar names like London and Paris and less familiar names like Armonia and Simetria through the empty industrial wastelands of Russia, to take a day off from work.
The bands were out in the street playing cheerful songs. Vendors giving away treats and drinks pulled their carts along, offering free samples, while drawing crowds along after them to their destination.
And for those who would still not come out into the sunshine of a summer day, each city block, each town district and each village council had appointed canvassers, volunteers who drew a little extra income by assembling lists of all local residents and urging them to get out and vote.
It was Election Day after all.
The vote of any individual meant nothing if there was less than total turnout. For weeks, the canvassers had huddled in makeshift Party offices studying charts and diagrams and listening to inspirational speeches by Organizers telling them that 100 percent turnout was the difference between full democracy and failure.
During the week before Election Day, they recruited teenage boys and girls to hand out armbands and buttons reading “I am the 100%” to the men and women coming home from work. These were meant to be worn everywhere until the day arrived. Now that the day had come there were 100% billboards and skytrails, balloons and floating river pads. Everyone had been exposed to 100% television and radio commercials.
Total saturation had been achieved.
Election Day across the Community had been set for July 15. There would be no more standing in line on cold autumn evenings. At least not in most places. In Australia, July came out in the winter months, but they were obligated to go along with the rest of the Community. For the Greater Good.
That was the theme of Election Day and of everything else in the Community. It was on the buttons and the armbands and the skytrails and the balloons. In the savage nationalistic and individualistic days before the Community, Election Day had been a time to vote for the things you wanted, but in the Community, it was when everyone came out to celebrate the Greater Good by voting for it.
The happy crowds trailing along after the bands and vendors, munching on soy dogs and guzzling alcohol-free beer, were not there to vote for candidates. Instead each man and woman eventually found themselves standing in front of a machine in an open space at a local park.
The old rituals of the privacy obsessed, the curtains and secret ballots, had been swept away in the New Openness which freed the Community of all its divisions. Voting had ceased to be a selfish act and there was no reason for anyone to want to hide their vote. Each voter was not casting a partisan ballot, but engaging in a show of unity. For the Greater Good.
There were no more candidates. No more bills. No more of the confusing mechanics of government. Each voter was confronted with a simple set of questions. 1. Do you want a better life? 2. Do you want to invest in our future? 3. Do you believe that everyone should get along? 4. Do you believe that education is important? 5. Do you think that we should do the best we can for our children? 6. Do you believe that people should give back more to the Community? 7. Do you want to do your part?
These simple 7 questions had taken government out of the abstract realm of politics and into the practical. The correct answers would lead to all sorts of technical processes; not least of these being an endorsement of the current government’s policies; but their most important function was unity.
As each voter answered correctly, a green light lit up over his machine and cheery music played. A wrong answer however led to a red blare and a dirge. Few voters, even those who could not read, made the same mistake twice. Especially since the answers were color coded with a green button for YES and a red button for NO.
There were those who deliberately voted against. You could see them pushing through the crowd, their faces red or sullen, buttons with all sorts of provocative slogans pinned to their chests. Some were plants, government agents who deliberately shouted hateful things at the crowd. And then there were other agents in the crowd who would lead popular counter-chants that would grow into songs that the entire mass of soy-dog chewers and alcohol-free beer drinkers would take up culminating in a cry of “We Are United.”
Fights might sometimes break out, but the police were there to quickly step in and keep matters from getting out of hand. The purpose of these incidents was to make the voters feel good about committing to the Community. Violence at this place and time would ruin the positive mood. There were other times and places where violence would serve better, such as the bread line or the bill line.
Some of the oppositionists were even authentic. They had been forced out of their jobs or nursed some anti-social resentment against the Community. Their kind drifted into cells, usually run by Community agents, to spew their frustrations in basements and abandoned factories. Sometimes they would be provoked into plotting an act of violence and then quickly arrested before it could be carried out, their faces shamefully displayed on the Newscasts again and again as a lesson to others.
This would usually be done before an Election Day when the Community government had done something unpopular.
Anson felt sorry for the oppositionists in the crowd streaming toward the polling park. Their faces were covered in sweat and the anger in their eyes had given way to helplessness. Election Day was teaching them, once again, that there was no point in resisting because they were not fighting some distant government, but the wishes of their own friends and neighbors, their wives and children.
As a Community Mediator, Anson Roegen had seen proposals pass across his desk calling for the final elimination of the NO option to put an end to the Oppositionists and make them understand that history had left their kind behind and that there was no future for them.
Wiser heads in the Organs of the Community, the three organizations, the Department of Peace, the Department of Community Relations and the Department of Human Planing, that controlled most of the human race, had dissented.
The NO button gave the Oppositionists the illusion that they could still win. And at the end of each Election Day, the poll reporters would carefully designate 0.3% for the NO vote. The actual votes weren’t counted. That would have been a waste of manpower and resources. But the 0.3% gave them a crumb of hope.
When the government was unpopular, it might even move the number up to 0.4% and during the worst of the food shortages a decade ago, there had been 0.5% results for two years straight to make it seem as if the votes reflected public sentiment.
To the crowds that had eaten and guzzled, seeing the 99.7% result was an occasion to cheer knowing that they were safely in the majority. The system showed that they were right. But to the oppostionists, that 0.3% told them that all hope was not lost.
That there was a tiny minority that agreed with them.
The actual numbers were higher than 0.3% or 0.5%. Even with all the negative reinforcement, there were still areas where negativity held sway, where the people still remembered when there had been cheap food and cheap cars. And most of all, real jobs that paid a real wage, instead of government coupons of the kind received by everyone on the dole. In these areas, aggressive efforts were being made, but sometimes with limited success.
When the actual votes were occasionally counted, for internal consumption only, the opposition to the Community scored between 12 and 18 percent of the vote. During the food shortages, it had managed 35 percent.
That had been a terrifying moment at the Department of Human Planning.
The jaunty tune stopped as the crowds reached the polling park and simultaneously every one of the dozens of marching bands leading streams of voters to the polls struck up the anthem of the Community, “We Are One.”
And the vendors stopped giving out samples and began to unload their full bounty, first sweets to the children, who were already learning to associate the anthem with free food and then actual, albeit watered down, beer to the adults had been taught long ago to associate the Holiday with the rare giveaways of historically unhealthy foods. It was important that the voters learn to associate short term pleasures with voting to anesthetize them against the long term pain of its consequences.
Anson watched from the shade of a twisted elm, its bark scarred with faded messages from teenagers who had long ago grown old and died in Community Wards. Their names had been overgrown, but in places he could still see the light ragged imprints of hearts standing out against the dark wood.
A mumbling oppostionist bumped into him, one foot dragging. Anson paid no attention to the words, even though it was his job as a Mediator to listen. The rhetoric was always the same. Freedom. Justice. Why can’t the government just leave a man alone?
These ideas were as dead as Mike who had loved Julie and Cathy who had loved Sam. They were kept around only to remind the many peoples of the Community that there was no going back.