I’ve always been right-wing. It’s difficult to say why, but not being a political thinker I suppose I identify the Right with certain virtues and the Left with certain vices. All very unfair no doubt.
From an interview with Philip Larkin
Soon it will not matter whether you are Right or Left, as long as you are part of the resistance.
Guillaume Faye, Archeofuturism
The central tableau of Raphael’s beautiful
shows a conflict in a detail. On
the left, the aged Plato points to his heaven of ideal forms while, to the
right, Aristotle (Plato’s Academy student whom he nicknamed nous, or ‘the Mind’) gestures that
reality is bound to earth. In times which will never return, S. T. Coleridge
was able to say that every man was born an Aristotelean or a Platonist, and
that distinction would have had meaning for the cultured Westerner. Today, in
the twilit West, this esoteric nicety has no meaning to any but antiquarian
specialists in philosophy. School of Athens
Before the political distinctions between Left and Right become as outmoded as that between Raphael’s duo, a note on what remains of the polarity of political difference.
From its origins in the French Revolution to its current state of definitional bemusement, the Left/Right division could be reduced to a basic set of components:
· Moral agency
· Fiscal responsibility
· Societal hierarchy
· Cultural quality
Briefly and provisionally, the Left and Right might be said to differ concerning these components in the following ways:
Moral agency. While a Leftist believes that, for example, crime is caused by poverty, a Rightist holds that each criminal is free to make an individual moral choice as to whether or not they break the law. This is the classic battle, in philosophical terms, between free will and determinism. A famous example of this conflict is the argument between Martin Luther and Erasmus.
Fiscal responsibility. Broadly, a Leftist would approve of higher personal taxation allied with a concomitantly larger role for government, while a Rightist would prefer lower taxation and smaller government on the basic principle that individuals are less profligate with their money than the state. This schism aligns with a command-control economy on the one hand, and transactional laissez faire economic practice, or the free market, on the other.
Societal hierarchy. Simplistically, a Rightist will hold that there is a hierarchy pre-existent in nature, and that this is properly expressed in various social striations, while those of the Left believe that any social difference is the product of exploitation and artificial inequality and can be righted by a programme of social justice and egalitarianism
Cultural quality. Again, reductively, a Rightist will believe that there is a hierarchy of quality concerning the products of a specific culture, and even between different cultures, whereas a Leftist will believe that all cultures, and all cultural phenomena, are of equal worth, and that to hierarchise is to be ethnocentric, or to judge from one’s own perspective as though that were privileged.
Personally, although I am a creature of the Right according to the above codifications, I have always felt that there is or ought to be a tertium quid, a third category. Although the laissez faire economic market is appropriate for elective purchases, for example, I don’t believe it works for healthcare. Although I find my country’s legal system preferable to shar’iah, I think the harsh Islamic legal code is appropriate for Muslims. Although I believe in moral autonomy, society does indeed remove choices from us and force us to act in certain ways that belie this freedom. And, although I believe in limited government, I do feel that large corporations should pay more than they do towards its upkeep. And so on.
I certainly don’t believe that either the Leftist or Rightist viewpoint is morally right; morals have no place here. Using morality – at best an heuristic gauge of reality – to judge political sectarianism is like trying to use a colour chart to measure a length of wood. And I’m not bound to say that because I am a Nietzschean; rather, I am a Nietzschean because I am bound to say that. It is simply a case of which side wins, a case of kinetics, of force and effect.
How nice it would be, though, given the demise of the genuine Right and my own vestigial Leftist sympathies, to find the modern Left were a principled, gutsy, honourable, able, authentic group of wo/men dedicated to making the world a better place for everyone according to the principles of reason rather than emotion.
Instead, from the adventure playground of social media to the uppermost reaches of government, from the humblest of the Twitterati to the most superannuated journalist, from the fresh-faced university freshman to the hoary old street campaigner, what a sorry state the Left is in as twilight grows in the West, as decline turns inexorably into fall.
What a shower. Narcissistic, authoritarian grievance-mongers vie with a radically entitled moral bigotry possibly not seen since the heyday of Catholicism. The perpetually offended jostle with the politically correct to win the laurels for spotting micro-aggression, hidden racism, institutional sexism and latent homophobia. The self-haters, the ethnomasochists, the mea culpists, the oikophobes and the white Western guilt-mongers, in league with the language monitors and the thought police, form a shadow judicial system no word, opinion or individual can escape.
And the worst of it all is that the Left have not only won, but won’t stop whining about it. They resemble a football team after a crushing 9-1 victory whose manager won’t stop banging on about how the opposition’s last-minute consolation penalty goal should never have been given.
Look, Lefties. Do yourselves and the rest of us a big favour. Get hold of the facts and learn how to interpret them. Don’t mistake emoting for reasoning. And shut up until you’ve done that homework. If Russell Brand, Owen Jones and Penny Red are all you’ve got, good luck with 2015.