Friday, November 11, 2016

How Do We Get the Left's Army to Go Home?

I am reading a memoir by philosophy popularizer Bryan Magee, Confessions of a Philosopher: A Journey Through Western Philosophy. But don't imagine it is about his life. Oh no, it starts with the young Bryan, aged 5, being concerned that he never experienced the act of going to sleep.
[O]ne moment I was talking to my sister in the dark, and the next I was waking up in a sunlit room having been asleep all night.
Then, at age 9, Bryan was amazed that he could move his finger just by thinking it. What did it mean?

It wasn't until he went to university that he realized that there is a word for puzzling about life, the universe, and everything. It is called philosophy.

I tell you this by way of an introduction, because later in the book Magee, who had read the whole of Marx's Das Capital, describes Marxism as "intellectual terrorism."

But that, I thought, is the way to describe everything about the Left. When they are not doing actual terrorism, as they are doing right now, "protesting" the election of Donald Trump, they are engaged in intellectual terrorism, beating up on anyone that doesn't agree with them with their all-purpose pejoratives of racist, sexist, homophobe.

This notion of "intellectual terrorism" showed up at exactly the right moment, because I am writing an article in my head about the fact that everything the left has been agitating for is achieved. But try telling any army to quit and go home, pal. The whole world view and ethos of the left is "activism," the struggle. Without activism, without the struggle, life would have no meaning.

That is why a nice woman I know said to me some years ago that she had always wanted to "do activism." Of course she does; that is what they teach good little girls in school today. That is why the colleges in the nation are convulsed in the days after Donald Trump's presidential victory by "protests" making non-negotiable demands that Trump is "Not My President."

But everything the left wants has been achieved. It's time to declare victory and go home.

First of all, the working class.

When rich kids Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels issued their Communist Manifesto in 1848 it made a lot of sense that the bourgeoisie would replace the feudal lords as the oppressive ruling class, and that there was a fundamental conflict between employers and workers, and that the workers would probably starve unless something was done.

In fact, it was in 1850 that the European working class started making real wage gains, and that was before the workers had got the vote and before any pro-labor legislation had been written. Then in 1870 the whole intellectual framework of Marxism was demolished by the marginal revolution. Then, by the end of the 19th century it was clear that the bourgeoisie, and in particular the great robber barons, were not that interested in power. When they had "made their pile" they quit business and started philanthropies: medical research and universities in the case of John D. Rockefeller; libraries and Peace foundations in the case of Andrew Carnegie; and libraries and art collections in the case of J.P. Morgan. By 1900 it was clear that the working class was rising, and the level of absolute poverty was going down.

So, by 1900, it was clear that special, violent, revolutionary means were not warranted to help the workers. And indeed, the Great Enrichment has continued down to the present moment. It has brought billions out of starvation into prosperity wherever capitalism, the economic ideology of the bourgeoisie, has been tried.

But if the bourgeoisie were not the monsters that Marx had imagined and the workers were prospering then what was the point of all the pro-labor legislation, that, in 1900 was just beginning a huge tsunami that would engulf all nations' governments. I take the position that the only thing government knows is to make war. If we didn't need to make war on the bourgeoisie, then what was the point of spending 30-50 percent of GDP on economic war programs, to force nations to provide pensions, health care, education, and welfare for the poor and the middle class?

The brighter Marxists realized this by 1920 and that is why the Frankfurt School intellectuals switched their movement from What About the Workers to What about Blacks and Women -- and imperialism and marginalization of minority groups.

But the fact is that the western nations responded to What About Blacks and Women immediately. Women were given the vote, and emerged, generation by generation into the public square. Blacks got the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s. The west tired of imperialism and gave up its empires. People stopped talking about the "lesser breeds." And upper-class diversions like LGBT got mainstreamed.

But you would never think any of this had happened. We have Black Lives Matter running around acting as if the Civil Rights Acts never passed and that no black could get elected to the US Senate from South Carolina. We have feminists running around insisting that the patriarchy is beating them to an emotional pulp. As if women weren't 60 percent of college students, and had had the right to kill their babies in the womb for 40 years. We have gays running around picking on dangerous wedding photographers. And we have the environmentalists that cleaned up our air and water insisting that the planet is about to fry from global warming.

What is going on here? The answer is simple. Once activists have set up a political army to achieve some great purpose it becomes almost impossible to shut it down and send the soldiers home. The political generals are having far too much fun directing their political army, and the soldiers are having far too much fun looting and pillaging.

So today we have labor unions that flourish today only as representatives of government employees, and they are sending governments into bankruptcy. Today we have BLM activists acting as if police brutality is a bigger problem than gangbangers killing each other and 75 percent of children growing up without a father. We have women still imagining that the racist sexist homophobic patriarchy is out to get them. We have hateful gays accusing everyone else of "hate." We have environmentalists accusing skeptics of being the moral equivalent of Holocaust deniers.

Of course we do. Because otherwise all these "activists" would have to go home, get a job, get married, and spend the next 20 years in the endless grind of raising children. And who needs that, when the alternative is the excitement and a life of meaning in left-wing activism.

That's the big agenda item for the next 50 years. How to get the generals and the colonels and the buck privates in the left's activist army to declare victory and go home.

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