The Legacy of the Cold Warby Eric
If you haven’t read Raymond’s piece on ideological and memetic warfare, you really should. Although neither Raymond nor I are old enough to remember the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, we both remember the 70’s onwards and many of the points he makes can be seen in the changes from then to now in our culture, our society and our view of ourselves and the world. Much of what he discusses is a legacy of the Cold War that has resulted in profound changes in the way we think about ourselves and our culture. He points out to us the key memes of what he terms “suicidalism”, and others commonly refer to as post-modern leftism:
- There is no truth, only competing agendas.
- All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of
racism and colonialism.
- There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such
standards is an evil oppressor.
- The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be
impoverished and miserable.
- Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
- The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
- For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
- When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.
I can remember a time when people espousing such thoughts were considered to be on the ludicrous fringe of politics in this country. Now they dominate the left and right coasts. I know, I live in the middle of these people. On a local discussion board I belong to someone seriously said (here’s the link to the conversation):
Although I consider my self centrist leanning to the left currently because power is in the hand of right wingers and rligious extremest, I do like Lungren, to me he represents a middle of the road candidate who works for the voters for the most part
This has got to be one of the sillier things I have read recently. If Bush and co are religious extremists, I can not even begin to imagine what Islamic terrorists are considered. Oppressed victims reacting with justified anger, probably. Right wingers is, I presume, part of the Bush and the Republican Party = proto-fascists meme, which would be funny if it wasn’t such a sad distortion of what authoritarianism, fascism and a police state actually are. Centrism is your standard code, these days, for folks who actually don’t, at least to outside appearances, adhere to any set of principles, but instead believe that compromise is the best way forward. They completely ignore the fact that compromise with those who wish to strip our liberties and rights from us is just feeding the monster. Lungren, who is my Congress Critter, does “work for the voters”. He brings home tons of pork spending to the district. The point is, of course, that the memes are so alive and well that we have supposed moderates pretty well spouting their end results unconsciously.
One of the better bits of the piece focuses on an issue I’ve commented on myself. The people working so hard to make sure that the West is unable to be effective in this war completely fail to understand that they are the enemies that Osama bin Laden most wants to destroy. He, and the rest of his ilk, abhor the multi-culturalism that the left cherishes. Homosexuality, secular humanism, Hollywood, intellectualism and so forth are on their list of things that must be destroyed. Or, as Raymond puts it:
Another consequence of Stalin’s meme war is that today’s left-wing antiwar demonstrators wear kaffiyehs without any sense of how grotesque it is for ostensible Marxists to cuddle up to religious absolutists who want to restore the power relations of the 7th century CE. In Stalin’s hands, even Marxism itself was hollowed out to serve as a memetic weapon — it became increasingly nihilist, hatred-focused and destructive. The postmodern left is now defined not by what it’s for but by by what it’s against: classical-liberal individualism, free markets, dead white males, America, and the idea of objective reality itself.
Raymond, further on, points out the danger that this poses. The real danger of the rise of authoritarianism. Ultimately, Islamic extremists such as bin Laden, cannot defeat the US. But, they can, in conjunction with the nihilism of the post-modern Left, defeat classic liberalism and individualism and leave us with no place to go but authoritarianism and a response to their savagery that will make our waging of WWII seem like a pillow fight. For all that the left now abhors how we fought that war, the truth is we didn’t go all the way, didn’t descend into full on barbarism in our urge to destroy our enemies. But, it could happen this time.
Brittingham and other have worried that postmodern leftism may yet win. If so, the victory would be short-lived. One of the clearest lessons of recent times (exemplified not just by kaffiyeh-wearing western leftists but by Hamas’s recent clobbering of al-Fatah in the first Palestinian elections) is that po-mo leftism is weaker than liberal individualism in one important respect; it has only the weakest defenses against absolutist fervor. Brittingham tellingly notes po-mo philosopher Richard Rorty’s realization that when the babble of conflicting tribal narratives collapses in exhaustion, the only thing left is the will to power.
There’s so much more there I can’t begin to touch it all in this commentary. Go read it. Then read it again. It’s a long, thought provoking essay that deals with much of the core issue that the West faces today.