Sunday, September 28, 2008

Left / Right / East / West / South / North







If I had a nickel for every time I have uttered or written the words
Leftist or Leftism or Left over the past seven years, I could retire in the Virgin Islands.

Along the way, I have not ignored the more purist, cultured and scholarly diffidence to such terminology along with, of course, its mirror-image Doppelganger or Moriarty, the
Right or Right-wing as well as the spatial accomodation to that eternally duelling duo, the Centerbetween themnor to forget various adjectives (radical or extreme or far etc.) and various hyphenated prefixes (neo- or paleo- or ultra- etc.) used to extrapolate the appearance at least of a more nuanced spectrum. Particularly since this diffidence has been expressed by Eric Voegelin, perhaps the one philosopher who has inspired and taught me more than any other, as well as by Hugh Fitzgerald, whose erudition I admire (though I cant entirely eradicate a niggling sense of phoniness about his allusions), and by the film and theater critic John Simon, whose penchants I rarely distrustmy complete pleasure in bandying that terminology around has suffered from the constant irritant of my intellectual conscience over the years.

At the same time, my disciminating eschewal of liberal from my political lexicon comforted me somewhatthinking that by avoiding that vulgar term, or only judiciously noting that “classical liberalism” was a good thing, and by only using various permutations of Left, I was somehow above the fray. But this did not wholly assuage my misgivings.

As time went by, I noticed that the terminology, when applied to the reality of sociopolitical responses to the problem of Islam, acquired interesting and sometimes bizarre effects of complexity and paradox, which I now see as the necessary consequence of the more perspicacious users of the terminology resisting the mutation of the terminology into incoherence the more it was so applied. Two of the more flamboyant analysts in this regard have been the French
geopolitician Alexandre Del Valle, and the American blogger Lawrence Auster. Both of these analysts have responded to the Left/Right problem by artfully deploying flexibility of terms which respond to the political reality where the differences between those two sides are being strained and twisted more and more like fantastic taffy. For indefinable reasons, I prefer the way Del Valle applies his political labels as somehow more nuanced, poetical and appropriately centered; whereas Auster seems to be burdened by a stubbornly tendentious principle that seems to have no center of substance, even though he can perorate on that principle voluminously as he more or less incoherently wields wildly labile terms that try to pin down the point as, at the same time, they madly targetand/or inventall manner of gradations of the false conservative.

The Left/Right problem I am alluding to may be initially illuminated by an epiphany I had a few years ago: The Left/Right continuum is not a straight line, but rather a circle, and on this circle, the Left when taken to its logical extreme meets, and becomes substantively indistinguishable
from, the Right when similarly taken to its logical extreme. For my purposes here, I call these respective positions the polar Left and the polar Right. The polar Left believes in a paranoid conspiracy theory on a grand scale, in which the Westmost especially its major institutions of government, business and mediais evil, controlled by an evil cabal of forces (the Jews, the Illuminati, perhaps a cell of Da Vinci Code Catholics, etc.), and has been more or less successfully thwarting the destiny of Mankind to have some sort of utopia on Earth. This nefarious agenda, furthermore, is believed to be getting grander and more powerful in recent times with the project of globalism, and there is a distinct tonality of apocalypticism in the paranoid rhetoric. The polar Right agrees virtually with all of this. The only major difference between the two is that the polar Left assimilates a radicalization of the Reverse Racism dogma into its gnostic-utopian worldview, whereas the polar Right tends to pursue a white supremacism. However, even there, the two dovetail in their admiration for Islam and the uses they imagine they could exploit in a fundamental alliance with Muslims.

The other major complication to the Left/Right paradigm comes in with the development of Politically Correct Multi-Culturalism (PC MC). This complication is not stark, as the one with the polar opposites described above, but like that one, the PC MC complication has the odd effect of causing Right and Left to interpenetrate and in some contexts to lose their differences. In the most important context of all in our timethe context of the metastasizing menace of a global revival of traditional Islamic supremacismPC MC has the effect of blunting, if not erasing, the differences between Left and Right that might otherwise manifest a bolder relief. All over the West, the vast majority of politicians on the Right are silent about the menace of Islam and the problem of Muslims living amongst us. More often than not, politicians on the Right express various forms of respect for Islam and for Muslims.

Notwithstanding this effect of PC MC on the Right, we have seen a tiny minority of politicians in the West (mostly in Europe, the UK and Australia) demonstrate a clearheaded awareness of the problem of Islam and a willingness to stand up for the defense of the West. And it is not a mere coincidence that virtually all of those in this tiny minority are
or at least are smeared as beingon the far Right. This is indicative of the fact that there is a higher residue of rationality on the Right than on the Left. But its minuscule representation is also indicative of an opposing fact: that PC MC has had enormous sociopolitical influence, and has been able to keep that rationality on the Right down to a bare minimum of a residue that must struggle extraordinarily outnumbered and beleagueured by a general ostracization based upon outright or veiled smears of bigotry, racism, Islamophobia and fascism.

Conclusion:

It is time to scrap the terms Left and Right altogetherand with them conservative and liberal.

This will have the advantage of putting the thriving rhetorical industry of adjectives, adverbs, and hyphenated prefixes and suffixes virtually out of business
at least in this sphere. More importantly, my suggested alternative will help refocus our energies on the more important issue and cause.

My proposal is to substitute a new configuration: pro-Western and anti-Western.

The former will be, perforce, anti-Islam. The latter will be
either insufficiently anti-Islamthereby serving to be anti-Western in a de facto senseor will be blatantly pro-Islam.

What about the other hemispheres of the planet? South and East?

First, it is an undeniable fact of modern life that the West rules the world in socioeconomic and political terms. This Western rule, of course (with exceptions that prove the rule), tends to be enlightened, beneficent and conducive to democratic values and human rights. So it is in the interest of members of the South, and of the East, in their common cause against the global menace of Islam, to also be pro-Western.


Of course, the big fly in the ointment here is that the West currently is deformed by PC MC, and therefore does not formally recognize the menace of Islamin fact, the West currently favors Islam and suppresses criticism of it. To this extent, Western rule of the world currently is impaired. But to the extent that PC MC is not a hopelessly mortal cancer in the Body Politic of the West, to that extent it is appropriate to hold out hope for the West as the gold standard of the worlds resistance to a revival of Islam and as a rediscovery of civilizational pride.

Secondly, if members of the South and East wish to defend their societies from the menace of Islam, they will, by virtue of being thus anti-Islam, become our partners in this cause.

My suggestion is therefore not a statement of current fact, but of reason and hope. The sociopolitical language of Left and Rightwith all its growing complications and contortionsonly seems to serve to add to the confusion of the most important issue: that of an Islam Redivivus. With this challenge maintained by us as the main focus, all the other related issuesparticularly the crucial one of the definition of a West as a center worth defendingbecome clarified.

4 comments:

Nobody said...

Erich: Conclusion:
My proposal is to substitute a new configuration: pro-Western and anti-Western.

The former will be, perforce, anti-Islam. The latter will be either insufficiently anti-Islam—thereby serving to be anti-Western in a de facto sense—or will be blatantly pro-Islam.

What about the other spheres of the planet? South and East?

First, it is an undeniable fact of modern life that the West rules the world in socioeconomic and political terms. This Western rule, of course (with exceptions that prove the rule), tends to be enlightened, beneficent and conducive to democratic values and human rights. So it is in the interest of members of the South, and of the East, in their common cause against the global menace of Islam, to also be pro-Western.

Of course, the big fly in the ointment here is that the West currently is deformed by PC MC, and therefore does not formally recognize the menace of Islam—in fact, the West currently favors Islam and suppresses criticism of it. To this extent, Western rule of the world currently is impaired. But to the extent that PC MC is not a hopelessly mortal cancer in the Body Politic of the West, to that extent it is appropriate to hold out hope for the West as the gold standard of the world’s resistance to a revival of Islam and as a rediscovery of civilizational pride.

Secondly, if members of the South and East wish to defend their societies from the menace of Islam, they will, by virtue of being thus anti-Islam, become our partners in this cause.

A fine essay, but I'd rather go for the terms pro-Islam and anti-Islam, to make it genuinely global/location neutral.

The reason for that of course is your above mentioned fly in the ointment: the fact that the West currently is very much pro-Islam and suppresses criticism of it.

This is more than just a theoretical exercise: to pick my own favorite example - Serbia, which is an exception that has disproven so many rules and demonstrated so many shortcomings about Western apologies for Islam, they have 2 parties - a pro-Western party, and a pro-Russian party. The last time they had an election, the pro-Western party won. Fast forward to this year, and the West recognized Kosovo's independence from Serbia, thereby weakening this party, even though it wasn't remotely pro-Islamic.

I understand and largely agree with your view of the West, but I think taxonomy is one area where we vastly differ, despite having nearly identical conclusions. You think that pro-Western <=> anti-Islam and that anti-Western <=>pro-Islam. Given the policies of the West in Serbia, India, Israel, I disagree. I think that local anti-Mohammedans everywhere in the world should fight their own battles against their local Mohammedan enemies, and not give 2 hoots as to whether the West approves or not.

And I can think of 2 examples already - section of the Serbian anti-Mohammedan populace and a section of the Hindutva parties in India - who aren't pro-US or pro-Western, but are genuinely anti-Islamic, and that too for pretty valid reasons (US support to Bosnia, Kosovo, Pakistan, condemnation of 'persecution' of Mohammedans in certain states in India). While I'd love it if they looked at the West as allies, I don't hold it against them that they don't. Yet, I consider them my allies in this struggle, and there are elements in the West that I consider my enemies.

I agree that this is a tougher sell than pro-Western and anti-Western, and therefore, I'd say that your label is applicable only to the West. For the East or South, pro and anti-Islam would have to do instead, and those terms aren't synonymous with anti and pro-Western in those areas for reasons I describe above.

Erich said...

nobody,

"I understand and largely agree with your view of the West, but I think taxonomy is one area where we vastly differ, despite having nearly identical conclusions. You think that pro-Western <=> anti-Islam and that anti-Western <=>pro-Islam. Given the policies of the West in Serbia, India, Israel, I disagree."

As far as the de facto West, you're right. But I would term the current Westerners who represent the West, direct its policies, and participate in its sociopolitical climate to be anti-Western. If they were pro-Western, they would also be anti-Islam. Since the two dovetail, it doesn't matter on one level which is used as emblematic, but the pro-Western label has the advantage of clarifying what we are standing for and what we are protecting. Any other region can adopt the label for itself: pro-African = anti-Islam as well as pro-Western, etc.

thomas_h said...

As I see it the chief merit of the West anti-West classification beside alluding to West’s centrality lies in its insisting on the actuality of the Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” instead of muddling it up as the traditional Left-Right, Liberal-Conservative etc taxonomies do. To survive the clash the West needs to be constantly reminded of clash’s reality. I think the West, anti-West “formula” would greatly contribute to establishing that reality in the centre of the West’s awareness.

Anonymous said...

I haven't thought about this in great depth, but off the top of my head, I very much like the terms pro-Western and anti-Western for yet another reason: Too many people have no idea that the West even stands for anything at all, or that Western Civilization is imperiled. When you try to give them a few facts about the ongoing jihad against the West, they immediately jump to the conclusion that you hate Muslims and would even support genocide against Muslims living in the West. Therefore, while anti-Islam is also a useful and informative term, I think it's very important to point out to people -- by use of terms such as pro-Western -- that we actually have something precious, something that's in peril, something that we need to stand up and defend. This particular essay of yours has given me a lot of food for thought. Thank you. -- Bradamante