It is some Postmodern supposition that quotes can’t speak for themselves because they are necessarily coloured, selective, etc. From this academic and blogging tradition it is seen as the author’s shortcoming when he doesn’t give his own spin to the material. This is of course, utter nonsense since arguments are Truth-claims.
I’m tired of arguing in terms of ideologies such as Socialist and Liberal, of conceiving the political world as a clash between Progressive and Conservative force. To be Progressive necessarily entails the question: “In progression towards what?” And a sane man will consult the words of Great men and traditions from his past, if he is to make sense of where he is going at all.
Another common supposition, surviving the Cold War, tells us that clashes between ideologies shape the policies and indirectly the futures of our nations. This is the mistake of the viewer who can’t tell the puppets from the puppeteer. Political identities are not bestowed upon the individual by an overarching ideology from above, but are largely self-constructed and thus assembled from a wide variety of topics.
Political identities were bestowed on people from above when political movements were like armies and religions, complete with flags, regiments and vows. However things have changed since the 30-40 period: Even on this website there’s never a full-blown agreement on anything, and when people feel like it they just stop frequenting. The contemporary world, united by the flows of digital currency, is no longer divided among ideological lines, and the conflicts of present and future are mostly ethnic in nature.
The influence of elections, and thus of political identities, on policy is insignificant, and this goes for both big and small countries. If you look at the Netherlands, you will see that the government has not been able to reduce immigration during the 80/90 period, despite the rule of Conservative parties, and the same goes for its current government, being unable to significantly reduce government spending or to increase the amount of police, contrary to electoral promises. The same goes for America – the Obama administration never managed to reduce the amount of wars, government debt or even torture in Guantanamo Bay. On the contrary everything has increased.
Ideology does not shape policy. A Hobbesian stability agenda drives everything. The State no longer serves a purpose, in the sense that its policies aim to establish this or that mode of living as a highest way of life – living devoutly for Conservatives, living in enlightened self-interest for Liberals, living for the common good for Socialists – such ideological disputes died with the Cold War. The State is a self-perpetuating thing which does whatever it takes to stabilize its own existence.
The most effective way of doing this is to have every citizen minding his own business, being occupied with paying loans, mortgages and coming home to drown our worries in entertainment. If there are religious people who have extra demands such as ritual slaughter of animals or Darwinism-free education, let them have these privileges. Not because this is good or just, but because it will prevent the zealous mind from rebelling.
It’s about time people wake up and start seeing through the smokescreen. Plato would say: “You’re watching the shades of the puppets.” This is all cognitive dissonance, trying to confuse you by setting you up against decoy targets. The bottom line really is that we have to cut ourselves loose from thinking in terms as “left versus right”.
We have to abandon the picture of rivaling schools and focus on arguments and Truth alone. ‘Right’ could mean anything from religious fundamentalists to secular Liberals/Libertarians, from young couples with promising futures who want to pay lower taxes to an industrial labourer who at home looks up respectfully to his poster of Adolf Hitler.
And the left? Anarchists versus Communists? Totalitarianism versus doing whatever comes up in you? Free sex and marihuana versus life in a Kolchoz? Kumbaya behind a campfire versus cleaning pig-poop with the tip of a rifle pressed between your shoulder blades? The anti-gun lobby is left you say? But I’m sure the Communists would love to get their hands on the guns and use them against their opponents.
If you look at a figure such as Pim Fortuyn, he was considered typically right because of his criticism towards Islam and immigration, then again he was also for public transport and gayrights, understood as items typically belonging to a left agenda. What about people advocating the abortion of mentally and physically handicapped people to strengthen the human race? Surely they are right-wingers. But then what about the anti-abortion activists? etc…
Anyway here’s some beautiful quotes by De Tocqueville:
“Religion can at times rely on the artificial strength of laws and the support of the material powers that direct society. There have been religions intimately linked to earthly governments, dominating men’s souls by terror and by faith . . . When a religion seeks to find its sway on the longing for immortality equally tormenting every human heart, it can aspire to universality; but when it comes to uniting itself with a government it must adopt maxims which apply only to certain nations . . . Religion thus increases its strength over some but forfeits the hope of reigning over all . . . So long as a religion derives its strength from sentiments, instincts, and passions, which are reborn in like fashion in all periods of history, it can brave the assaults of time, or at least it can only be destroyed by another religion. But when a religion chooses to rely on the interests of this world, it becomes almost as fragile as all earthly powers.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ‘Causes Tending to Maintain a Democratic Republic’
“When kings feel their people’s hearts drawn toward them, they are merciful because they know they are strong; and they cultivate their subjects’ love, for that is the bulwark of the throne. Then the reciprocal feelings of king and people resemble the gracious intercourse of domestic life. The subjects, though they may complain about the king, are yet sorry to displease him, and the sovereign strikes his subjects with a light hand, as a father chastises his children.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ‘Causes tending to Maintain a Democratic Republic’
“Democratic institutions awaken and flatter the passion for equality without ever being able to satisfy it entirely.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ‘Government by Democracy in America’
(On a personal note: It seems I never have enough hours in a day. I set out to work on fragments of Plato for the project of Classic Texts, then I wanted to compare something to De Tocqueville, I start reading my books and I end up writing this post.)