The big shift
Of course, this is the Left, but also the Right, of the good old days. The days of gentlemanly conduct and of real sportsmanship during a debate. These were the days when cultivated, curious and humble people argued passionately, but honourably. These were the days of decency, of common courtesy and civility.
But also these were the days of ideological integrity and consistency. For example, the arguments and the sentiments that were employed by many decent citizens against the Iraq war were largely aligned with those that were employed against the Vietnam and Korean wars. Most readers will likely remember whence any meaningful opposition emerged against the last “big” war – the US “intervention” in Iraq: Much like before, even though the US invasion garnered public support in key Western nations (e.g. 72% of Americans, 54% of Britons were in favour of it according to Gallup polls at the time), there was still vocal, defiant and fierce dissent.
There was a substantial part of the population that objected and condemned this war as illegal and unjustifiable. Notably, however, the “big shift” was probably already underway: Even though many honourable citizens (regardless of their political leanings) remained consistently opposed to State aggression, too many leftist figures were not part of that opposition anymore. To the contrary, a shockingly strong wave of left-wing intellectuals, academics and of course, politicians, openly expressed support for the war.
It clearly requires high-level mental gymnastics (or astoundingly flexible morals) for anyone that ostensibly believes in freedom and equality for all people to reconcile and embrace the notion of forceful aggression, invasion and occupation. This is especially true for well-read, educated, discerning (and previously righteous and moral) people, who seem very unlikely to fall into the propagandistic traps of the day or to believe that “spreading democracy” is an adequate justification for belligerence.
Perhaps there were other explanations for this shift: maybe it became clear that the “marketing campaign” of the supporters of the conflict was too effective and thus it was politically expedient to embrace it, instead of fight it. Perhaps opportunistic calculations were allowed to supersede ethical considerations and perhaps that old saying has some merit: “if you can’t beat them, join them”.
No matter what the explanation might be, the fact remains that this shift, that started inconspicuously and evolved incrementally, has slowly but surely grown into something else, something rather bizarre and politically surreal.
As we find ourselves witnessing a war on the doorstep of Europe, something that only a few years ago would have been completely inconceivable, we see the tables perfectly reversed. The new “Lefties”, throughout the West, have become the war hawks, arguing for further escalations, advocating for more military aid, rejecting peace talks and realistic diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the conflict. Much of the Right has also adopted this same stance, as it is not only politically pragmatic but also increasingly irrefutable and a priori incontestable. There are, of course, some that argue for peace, but one would have a hard time believing they mean it, as they mostly propose terms that are strikingly unreasonable and almost amusingly divorced from reality.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions
Unfortunately for all of us, there is no shortage of individuals that truly and passionately believe that they are better than everyone else, and are therefore in a position to rule, to govern, to command. As might be expected, many of them use this perceived superiority as an excuse to go ahead and do what they always wanted to do – namely to boss people around and control them, as this is the only way they can derive any sense of self or any purpose at all.
However, there are also certain rare cases of ambitious politicians that actually, genuinely believe their own narrative: they frankly, earnestly see it as their “duty” to help, to guide or to lead other people – to “fix” them, to correct them, to save them and to show them the “right way”. Even though I lack sufficient evidence to prove this, I sincerely believe that it is the latter compulsion that is prevalent in the higher levels of governance, both public and private.
As explained above, this innate yet unearned confidence, this absolute certainty that you are better (in all the ways that matter) than everyone else, and most importantly, this “righteous” urge to interfere inother people’s lives, to “steer them towards the right direction” and to save them from themselves, is extremely dangerous. It can often feel like a selfless, purely “good deed” to the perpetrator. After all, they have nothing to gain from any of this. They are just helping their fellow human, because they know better and because they feel it is their “duty” to do so.
However, what might look like humility and decency at first glance, can actually turn out to be a perfectly convincing cover for pure arrogance. Even the kindest, most humble person can fall victim to this slippery slope: Feeling bad for someone who’s going through a really hard time can easily lead you away from compassion and closer to pity. Without even realising it, you could start looking down on them, or perceiving them as “less than”. You could quickly come to see them as a “charity case”, assomeone that is in some ways “beneath” you, as a poor wretch in dire need of help and guidance.
This is exactly where that fine line lies: the border between being a considerate, reliable and kindhuman being and respecting another person’s boundaries, self-determination and autonomy. Another thought that would/should preoccupy a healthy, balanced and agile mind is this: Why do you assume that you know what’s best for this person and why do you think you can “help” them, even though you haven’t been asked?
Intervening in someone’s life and interfering with their choices and decisions, totally uninvited and unsolicited, practically amounts to unprovoked aggression. Regardless of the kind motivation and the clear intention to help, the fact remains that such actions are indistinguishable from common hostile measures and they violate another individual’s liberties, self-determination and usually their private property too.
The New Left
This elusive, yet all-important line, this crucial barrier, actually demarcates the difference between collectivism and the pursuit of independence and freedom. And this is exactly where the modern Left stumbles and reveals itself to be nothing more than just another disguise for authoritarianism, centralised control and pathological proprietorialism. As the old saying goes, if you go far enough to the Left you end up in the far Right and vice versa.
Regrettably, this is where we find ourselves today, at that far end of the political spectrum, where the extremes meet. We’ve reached a point that tipped us over to political surrealism; if not to veritable dadaism, meaninglessness and justifiable nihilism. The body politic is utterly rudderless, purposeless, motiveless. There is no Left and there is no Right anymore. The new Left is comprised of war hawks, that yearn for never-ending conflict, that clearly recognise that “war is the health of the State” and that pray for further escalations. As for the new Right, after having demonstrated weakness, indecision and general impotence on any and all important problems, they instead choose easy targets, they seek out sensationalism and controversy and they pick diversionary fights over non-issues.
In conclusion, let us now reevaluate that all-important question that we raised in the beginning. Do we really have a choice, or merely the illusion of one? What options does any sane, rational voter actually have and just how much does his or her “voice” count ?
The answer is as straightforward as it is dispiriting. As Ayn Rand put it, “the smallest minority on earth is the individual”. That’s the real “little guy”. Nobody stands up for him, nobody cares and nobody protects him. The individual is politically negligible, practically unprofitable, and effectively useless to anyone that seeks to use people. So, for better or for worse, the individual has but one recourse: to educate himself, to question, to doubt, to debate and to think for himself and ultimately, to act for himself.