When Left Becomes Right

“Now if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object. And this, I think, is just what we find.” C.S. Lewis

“Modernism may be seen as an attempt to reconstruct the world in the absence of God.” – Bryan Appleyard

The political lines are being redrawn, and they are not as they appear. It began in earnest with Brexit vote, wherein Britons voted to begin the formal process of removing the United Kingdom from the European Union. Several months later came our own presidential election, wherein our president was elected on an overtly nationalistic platform. Most recently, the French held their presidential election, wherein despite the recent wave of nationalistic successes on the global stage, the candidate representing the nationalist cause, Marine Le Pen, lost pretty handily, defeated by the candidate who represents the promise of the globalist status quo.

Looking at these three elections, patterns emerge that do not require an politically astute eye, namely that while there were the political trappings one would expect resembling the expected conservative/liberal divide, all three elections were dominated by the nationalism vs. globalism debate, one inherently so. Our politics have progressed beyond the conservative and liberal conversation, and have entered a time of globalism against nationalism, championed by progressives and by those who would claim the mantle of conservatism, respectively. However, lost in all the noise and the confusion of reorientation is something important.

First, let’s define the terms. R. R. Reno of First Things describes globalism well when he writes,

The free flow of capital, goods, and labor brings universal prosperity. A global technological revolution relieves man’s estate. A scientific, pragmatic consensus puts the old ideological quarrels behind us, allowing for consensus-driven problem solving. The emerging human rights regime guarantees human dignity. In a word, we’re evolving in the direction of a more peaceful, more productive, and more just world, precisely as the old consolidating and limiting powers of religious belief, moral tradition, and national loyalty recede.

Globalism is the view favored most prominently by progressives, that the future is a global one, wherein the world operates as a single political and economic entity. The European Union is a sort of proto-globalist society. All are subject to the will and the whims of the bureaucratic and technocratic state. In the globalized world, there is no national loyalty, because there is no national identity, and no national identity because there is no nation. Globalism is thus institutionalized multiculturalism. And doesn’t it sound great? Perhaps a little too great. Ignoring human nature and the many lessons of history involving the clash of cultures, globalist thinking suggests that if everyone can share in the prosperity promised by this new system, no one will have any reason to be in conflict with anyone else. Wealth, in other words, covers a multitude of sins and differences. This is, to be sure, a dubious proposition to say the least.

Nationalism, to the contrary, is built on the observation of many that our national bonds of unity and solidarity are being frayed and threaten to break entirely. Nationalism, divorced from its negative stigma or racism, jingoism, and so on, suggests that a country is most prosperous when it is united and celebrates itself. In other words, nationalism is prosperity through national identity. It is what many modernists would no doubt consider in a belittling manner to be old fashioned; yet perhaps it is the old fashioned nature that is what works in its favor. Let us return to this notion in a moment.

It comes down to this question alone: can America – or England, or France, or Hungary, or whomever else – continue to be that nation if they are also absorbed into the amorphous collection of nations? The view of the globalist is that national identity is no longer meaningful or valuable, that it is exclusionary in a world where inclusion is one of the highest and most important of virtues.

Consider as a point of meditation, this thought: in a time of identity obsession, men and women of the West have never been further detached from their inborn identity to their nation, nor to their assumed identity according to a tradition of faith. We are both obsessed with identity, and desperate to shed those identities that are so freely bestowed.

I mentioned earlier that the nationalist ideal is viewed as old fashioned, and that perhaps this is not the insult it is intended to be. This is why I said that. As the world continues its rush towards the ill-defined goals of their “progress” – progress implies an end, rather than being an end unto itself – we are seeing the world slowly tear itself apart from a spiritual perspective. Lacking a spirit, an animating essence, the world will become a prison planet where living is synonymous with existing. As Chesterton said, the larger the world gets, the smaller it becomes.

The Left and the Right are becoming one. For the moment they still resemble politically what they have for a generation, but we are beginning to see both Republicans and Progressives embrace the same ideology, which is that the best future is the global future. Their means and intentions differ, but their ends are increasingly one and the same. Thus, we are seeing the party lines of Right and Left fade. Both parties have been seduced by the siren song of Modernism, the false belief of infinite progression towards a boundless future. Both sides have thus ignored that the future seduces while severing our ties to our past.

Going back to Reno, who has written extensively on this topic of late:

Today, globalism, in one form or another, unites the establishment left and right… The political establishment quarrels over a great deal, but it shares the metaphysical dream of a more open and fluid world. The left leans in the direction of multiculturalism, where political correctness operates as an obligatory ideology of inclusion. The right tilts in the direction of free markets, even to the point of describing national citizenship as rent-seeking. But the root idea is the same.”

Over time, the Left and the Right will become something altogether unified, shifting the debate to a globalist/traditionalist dichotomy. One thing upon which all seem to agree is that the world is getting worse, not better; that for all of our new ideas and new “discoveries,” the returns are more expensive with less impressive results. What these new directions do achieve, with swiss watch precision, is disruption, chaos, and conflict. People will one day realize that the old ways – take classical education as on brilliant example – provide a superior product if only because they provide stability at the most basic level – the family and the local community.

Orwell famously wrote, “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it comes to hate those who speak it.” I believe this is true, and would say very similarly that the further a society drifts from its traditions, the more it will come to hate those who live by them.

These, then, are the new political lines. Gone are the day of the liberal or conservative world views, for the two have begun to move towards the same larger, more open, and more globalized future. What distinguishes the two is the alleged end of this global view. The left  preaches multiculturalism (except for traditional cultures), political correctness, tolerance, and the cult of inclusion. The right continues to worship at the altar of  capitalism. Both share the ideological underpinning of bigger is better. This new global outlook is less a path to prosperity than a closed track of uncertainty.

The promises of globalization are certainly attractive, but they appeal to the belief of infinite progress, which is of course impossible. Progress implies a goal, progress towards what? Infinite progress is aimless and therefore, unorganized and chaotic. Thus progress becomes its own goal. Progress today for the sake of further progress tomorrow. Perhaps one should organize mass reading of the story of Icarus.


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2 thoughts on “When Left Becomes Right

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful and interesting analysis. For some time I’ve been carrying these same, or similar, ideas in my mind as if they are pieces of a puzzle that can’t fit together, because they belong to two different puzzles, not one. They repel each other because they are opposites, and the result is chaos.

    • Thanks for the comment. It is a very challenging topic, to be sure, partly because it is still in process, and partly because it is both very normal and very abnormal. It is normal because finally it seems as if our politicians are *beginning* to see eye to eye regarding the direction of the country. But the problem is just that they see eye to eye on the direction of the country, because that direction is towards a world without nations. I have a piece coming in the next week that speaks more to this idea of globalism being the perceived inevitable future.

      It is a tough topic to write about, and even tough to wrap one’s head around. But you hit the nail on the head when you said that the result is chaos. Unfortunately, chaos is now a virtue, except it is called “progressive” in politics and “innovation” everywhere else. The problem is that it is a sort of agnostic, nihilistic chaos – chaos without a purpose.

      It is important that we find ways to keep from being swept up in the storm. I err towards a Benedict Option approach, but whatever the case it is important that we who do not eagerly await a globalized future find ways to bolster our smaller lives – finding beauty and goodness in the local and the virtuous.

      Keep reading, friend. Much more to come!

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