To recap from this series, to date, whatever the objective realities of the matter, people still tend to see and to organize themselves along – or slightly above or below but still substantially along – left-right lines. In accordance with this, there are certain illusions people have and see with regards to both themselves and their opposition. To date, we have covered five of these:
- The illusion of being in the reasonable center
- The illusion of indistinguishability at a distance
- The illusion of vociferousness as increasing distance
- The illusion of inevitable progress (which may be balanced, on the right, by the illusion of unavoidable decay)
- The illusion of insanity of the opposition (which doesn’t mean they’re necessarily sane, only that the reasons for believing them to be insane don’t necessary work that way)
That’s not the whole of it. Then, too, I am not sure I can see the whole of it. What I can see, beyond the five above, are the five below:
There is an illusion – yes, on both sides – of guilt by association. This is related to, but not exactly the same as, the illusion of indistinguishability. How many nail-bomb-building moral sons of Bill Ayers are over on the modern American Left? Can’t be too many, I think, based on the serious dearth of Earth-shattering kabooms we hear, or rather don’t hear, lately. How many hair-shirted and sandwich board clad – with said boards reading, “Repent! The end is near!” – folks are there on the religious right? Based on how the typical Christian lives, and those being by no means a particularly bad set of men and women, there aren’t all that many. How many Christians do you really think, given a button that would make the Westboro Baptist Church and all its members go poof, wouldn’t push that button twice, the first time slowly, for the emotional satisfaction (well, that and to savor the screaming1), and the second time, quickly, to make sure. How many leftists and liberals are dead set against gun control? More than a few.
Then there’s the illusion brought on by willful blindness. For example, “No enemies to the left!” said Alexander Kerenski, Prime Minister of Russia, in 1917. Pity Kerenski wasn’t able to see that the people to his left were largely intellectual idiots and dogmatic homicidal maniacs, and that there may have been people to his right who were considerably more reasonable and sane. He said that not too long before being tossed out on his ear by the Bolsheviks, who, interestingly enough, were to his left.
You don’t see as much of this – the notion that there are no enemies to the right – on the conservative side, by the way, though there is some. Still, the next time I see a conservative lining up with the American National Socialist Party,2 the KKK, or Stormfront will be the first.
Part of the problem here, I think, is that we take something – civilization, actually – so much for granted that we forget how hard it is to build or to hold onto, and so forget that we have something important in common with our more moderate political opponents. Thus, taking it for granted, we forget that common ground, see the opposition, and so line up with those more extreme sorts for whom civilization is probably just a burden they’d as soon be done with.
Gun control gives a pretty good example of the next illusion, the illusion of one’s opponents having taken a sharp turn, when it is we, ourselves, who have turned sharply. However there is a more recent, less broadly controversial, more easily seen example in relation to the First Amendment. Take for example, this moronic, historically illiterate, logically retarded, quasi-Nazi twat. She’s taken a turn for restrictions on speech, apparently with criminal penalties attached, and has completely lost sight of what “free speech” means and what it’s for, or what the precedential effect of restrictions is likely to be. From her point of view, though, I am sure, she is certain she is being reasonable and staying on course, while the rest of us cisgender normative, hetero-fascisti, doubleplusungood badthinkers and thought-criminals are the ones who have made a radical turn.
The next two illusions are usually seen together, though it is worthwhile looking at them separately. One concerns the possibility of stasis. The other concerns the possibility of perfection.
As far as stasis goes, when has that ever happened? When something like it has happened, when has it not been a hellhole for whoever was stuck in it? And yet what wickedness would people on the extremes not do to fix in place the little personal paradises they would impose on the rest of us? (There’s another related illusion here, the illusion that the rest of mankind has no moral value beyond that of stage props in the silly plays extremist millennialists write for themselves to star in. It’s not common enough to delve into at this time, though. Note, though, that 911 was largely an exercise in theater.)
The last illusion I am going to cover is the illusion of the possibility of perfection, or at least substantial improvement, in Mankind, for whatever value of perfection or improvement prevails, today. On the extreme right one could see it in Nazi eugenics programs like Lebensborn, in the unjust and unwarranted sterilization of Carrie Buck,3 and in old fashioned Tories garnering privilege – real privilege, not the inane and invisible privileges much decried by the social justice warriors – for themselves, their inbred class, and their descendants. On the left…well…contemplate the initial draft of the Students for a Democratic Society’s Port Huron Statement: Man is “infinitely perfectible.”4 Or consider Lenin’s New Soviet Man, more dedicated to Marxist-Leninism than Lenin, himself. Or note the degree to which people of more or less left-leaning sensibilities find their life’s employment in academia, journalism, the arts, to include theater and film, the news media; all places where one may, if one is deluded enough, try to effect real, profound change in people, to bring them closer to perfection, through education, training, propagandization, and relentless, merciless nagging. (Oh, and Gulags; mustn’t forget the Gulags.)
It’s an illusion because it does not – cannot – happen. Both approaches fail because they refuse to admit the efficacy of the other. Neither succeeds well because, even taking both together, Man is too unreliable a medium for that kind of sculpting, and will lie for advantage, to boot.
Next week: some suggestions for using the understanding of the illusions to avoid a catastrophe, together with a couple of book recommendations.
1 Okay, maybe some would just push it the once.
2 Which seems to have many trivial manifestations. You can find your own links, but why bother?
3 Which, yes, as a matter of fact still pisses me off.
4 http://www.sds-1960s.org/PortHuronStatement-draft.htm. I’ve mentioned this before.
Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from Amazon.com for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through baen.com.
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