Tuesday, January 25, 2022
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How do you solve a problem like the Lefties?

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LEFTISM will always appeal to some. Perhaps there’s a ‘utopia’ gene. Or rather, a dormant pathogen, awakened in those with affluence and short memories. The idealistic young – and those who wish to stay that way – are especially susceptible: it’s cool to seek paradise on earth. They’ll never find it, but that’s the attraction. The search itself, the unending quest for ‘social justice’, is reward enough. As with our current jabbing mania, peer-acceptance trumps efficacy.

We all know where this leads. Utopian societies, built on lies, can exist only via totalitarianism. The gulags and concentration camps of the 20th century offer compelling evidence of this, or so we assumed. Alas, pointing this out to Leftists avails us little. Argument-clinching facts are casually dismissed. A hundred million souls perished to Communism. But no, it was the wrong type of Communism.

What can be done? A spot of rebranding wouldn’t go amiss. With increasing implausibility, the Left continues to call itself anti-establishment. But with its protracted obstruction of Brexit, and its enthusiasm for the bio-state, the fraudulence of this claim is laid bare. Add in its near-complete long march through the institutions and it’s clear: the Left is the Establishment. This even includes its attack-dogs, principally BLM, who are lavishly funded by big corporations. Relentlessly, and where appropriate humorously, these points need to be hammered home.

This debased coin has another side: the Left’s arrogation of modernity. To be ‘progressive’, so the narrative goes, is to be on the cutting edge. In one sense, this is true. Philosophically, the Left can never stand still. It can survive only by perpetually pushing boundaries; by building and then demolishing regressive straw men. In this change-the-world mindset, ever-wackier causes – critical race theory, transgenderism, etc – are embraced. The more anxious this makes the rest of us, the more emboldened the Left becomes.

Adolescents crave attention. Hence, the best response to Leftist self-indulgence is to display (or if necessary affect) boredom, to adopt a seen-it-all-before pose. Not easy, of course, when these overgrown children occupy the commanding political and cultural heights. But at a local and familial level it can provide a foothold. Moreover, this ennui, feigned or otherwise, is historically justified. The foundations of the Left’s destabilising agenda were laid by the Frankfurt School way back in the 1920s. Like Communism, there’s nothing very modern about it at all. High time we thought of, and depicted, Leftists in cloth caps. They, not we, are stuck in the past. The world has moved on – largely, as it happens, due to free-market capitalism.

Modernity cuts both ways. Those who can remember Mrs Thatcher’s election triumphs, particularly the first two, will recall the pervasive feeling of the new sweeping away the old. Then, the Conservative Party had a winning formula: it was both genuinely conserving and (particularly on the economy) vibrantly contemporary. Now, it concerns itself only with the latter, and even contrives to get that hopelessly wrong.

This brings us to another aspect of our side’s image. The Left’s dystopian vision is low-hanging fruit. But let’s concede something: at least it has a vision. We, at our authentic best, seek to preserve, to reclaim. It’s a noble, truthful philosophy, and it should be sufficient. But on its own it is too easily, if unjustly, associated with nostalgia, which many floating voters simply don’t feel. Demonstrating for conservatism is a non-sequitur, as Roger Scruton noted, and in the ever-shrinking marketplace of ideas this already places us at a disadvantage to Leftists, to whom activism comes naturally. But there’s no reason or excuse for the Right not having a coherent, captivating vision of the future.

The hope must be that the disastrously heavy-handed approach to Covid, once it fully unravels, will revive the old clarion call for smaller, leaner, fitter government, Florida-style. That would be a start. Casting Big Government as the enemy it is (except in wartime) would resonate with a duped, quite possibly medically compromised, population. This is where the fightback, cultural as well as political, could really begin.     

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Stuart Major
Stuart Major is an independent scholar based in Sussex.

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