The progressive Left often claim they ‘are on the right side of history’. It is especially beloved by Obama who confidently declared, ‘My fellow Americans, I am confident we will succeed in this mission because we are on the right side of history.’ The trajectory of history progressives prefer was clear when Obama praised Angela Merkel as being on the right side of history for her disastrous decision to flood Europe with immigrants.
The Guardian solemnly assures us that Jeremy Corbyn has been ‘on the right side of history’ for 30 years. Labour List proclaimed David Cameron was ‘on the right side of history on equal marriage’. Even Nick Clegg has been praised in The Commentator for being ‘on the right side of history’ on the EU.
Progressives believe history is moving in one direction and they are on the winning side. This is based on a simplistic Marxist misunderstanding of Hegel. Supposedly every thesis provokes an antithesis and from the two emerges a synthesis which in turn becomes the new thesis, and so on ad infinitum until finally the Marxist utopia is reached.
This concept is used to de-legitimise genuinely conservative voices. If you are on the wrong side of history your defeat is inevitable so you should shut up and get out of the way. If you stand on the wrong side of history you are supposedly holding back progress to a better world, which is highly immoral. This is a form of the ‘God is on our side’ argument, only being progressives it is minus God.
History has no sides; historians, however, do. In order to ensure history appears to have an inevitable arc it has to be re-interpreted. In Orwell’s 1984 Winston Smith’s task in the Ministry of Truth was to rewrite past newspaper articles so they accorded with the latest political developments. Today we have the revision of Britain’s historic past in order to make it accord with present day progressive verities and to silence conservatives.
According to progressives our record of aggression, exploitation, racism and slavery means we are unable to critique others. We should not mention the barbarism prevalent in Islam in too many places today because a millennium ago the Christian West supposedly committed atrocities in the Crusades, the defensive wars against imperialistic Islam.
Of course, the British practised slavery, even among themselves. Coal miners in Scotland were legally held as serfs until an Act of 1799. Slavery has been the universal norm throughout history. That is until the untiring efforts of white European Christians put an end to it wherever our power extended.
The greatest engines of change in halting slavery throughout the vast British empire were two institutions sneered at by progressives, evangelical Christianity and the Royal Navy. British Christians campaigned tirelessly to have the law changed, and the Royal Navy rigorously enforced the new law. Similarly in America it is estimated that during the Civil War, 359,528 men from the North, overwhelmingly white Europeans, died to stop the slavery of blacks in the South.
Undeniably Europeans invaded and conquered much of the known world. History is largely a story of conquest, virtually every territory on earth has been invaded and conquered by people from elsewhere. Europe, Asia, North and South America, nations, peoples and tribes have constantly invaded each other’s territories. Neither is it white thing. Arabs invaded Spain and France, Mongols invaded Eastern Europe, Asian history is a mass of invasions.
No nation has clean hands, just as no nation is immune from suffering. From the Romans onwards, Scotland has been invaded countless times, usually by our unruly southern neighbours. Likewise England’s story is one of invasions, often by their unruly northern neighbours.
History is what it is and there is no point in trying to make people feel guilty over it. Except, of course, if you are a social justice warrior. Despite what they claim, no one today is responsible for the supposed sins of the past committed by people who inhabited a different moral universe from today.
The call for reparations for slavery, that people who had no hand in slavery and think it morally repellent should compensate people who have never suffered slavery, is progressive lunacy. Should the redneck trapped in poverty in West Virginia pay reparations to Obama who has surfed on privilege all his life?
No amount of grievance mongering will alter history. History is a record of what has happened, it does not favour any side, there is no inevitable path to progress. The notion that history moves toward the light, as Andrew Roberts says, should have died at Auschwitz.
Being on the supposed wrong side of history is no bad thing. NT Wright assures us ‘the Church’s foundation documents (to say nothing of its Founder himself) were notoriously on the wrong side of history. The Gospel was foolishness to the Greeks, said St Paul, and a scandal to Jews.’
History does not belong to the true and the good. History belongs to those who are prepared to take the best tools to hand and fight the hardest and the longest for the future. This is why conservatives must be ever watchful to prevent the totalitarian Left from usurping our moral authority in the present by manipulating and weaponising our past.