Still, the contrafactual reverie persists in the face of mountains of damning evidence. Milan Kundera, whose experience of life in Soviet dominated Czechoslovakia provided him with his (somewhat belated) political education, is very clear about this inevitable devolution. In The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, he articulates the dilemma that has ever afflicted the left. “Hell is already contained in the dream of paradise,” he contends. “Once the dream of paradise starts to turn into reality, however, here and there people begin to crop up who stand in its way, and so the rulers of paradise must build a little gulag on the side of Eden. In the course of time this gulag grows ever bigger … while the adjoining paradise gets ever smaller.”
But the left has never cared much for reality. It is wedded to theory in the name of which a failed experiment, an invisible omelette, must constantly be refried. Leftist convictions are ultimately camouflage for political ritual, indifference to suffering, and rampant egotism. One can hide from oneself — one’s resentments, failures, and surreptitious motives — behind so-called “progressive” thinking, a veritable hodgepodge of maxims that need not be mutually consistent: All “truths” are valid. All cultures are equal in value. Overpopulation is a curse on the planet. Global warming is a settled fact that demands the demolition of the West’s economy and the overturning of our way of life. There is no such thing as an ultimate purpose except to establish some future utopian harmony — Hitchens’ “teleological.” The family is no longer the primary social unit, its prerogatives having been usurped by group identity politics and the hegemony of the collective. Personal identity is “socially constructed.” History has been superseded by narrative. A nation does not compel allegiance or obligation; nevertheless, the state knows best.
Under such a proliferation of fashionable tenets posing as a philosophy of enlightenment, the individual need not commit to the labor of cultural continuity, the responsibilities of procreation and child nurture, or even the demands of personal intellectual development. Thus, by espousing a leftist mindset, the individual is emancipated from the rigors of independent thought, the preservation of the family, and the defense of the nation and its living tradition. In effect, the individual no longer has a past worth saving or a present worth defending, only a hypothetical future worth sacrificing for. Oddly enough, though, most of the sacrificing is done by others.
“The true goal of this new liberalism,” writes Shelby Steele in New Threats to Freedom, with particular reference to the United States, is to “seize political power in the name of redeeming America of its past.” In so doing, he argues, liberalism works against “the timeless principles of freedom,” since “with freedom there can be no guarantee of results.” Consequently, what we now call liberalism — or left-liberalism, or simply leftism — is a social, political, and ideological movement that wishes to flex “‘moral’ leverage and muscle”; it is not “a discipline of freedom.”
This is even truer of the European Union. While the EU (both the majority of people and their administrators) obviously does not qualify as part of Negri and Hardt’s “multitude” of the dispossessed, eulogized by the authors as “constellations of powerful singularities” that constitute a “radical counterpower,” and while the EU power structure certainly does not envision the military oppression of its own citizens in order to impose a policy of social and economic egalitarianism, which it seeks to accomplish via legislation, it is no less an ideological figment. The proof of this is pouring in by the day as nation after nation faces the prospect of fiscal collapse. The EU is not, as Berman thought, “solid and lasting.”
Like those French sophisticates who cherished six weeks of summer vacation over the welfare of their parents and grandparents sweltering and dying in stuffy Paris apartments during a heatwave, leftists are all too ready to disavow a long and complex cultural heritage and allow our common progenitors to fade from consciousness. And like the Spanish and Italians and Swedes (and others) with a reproductive replacement ratio that assures eventual extinction, they do not mourn over their unborn children and a dwindling future. The veridical past and the possible future have no resonance for these Kaspar Hausers of the revolutionary moment. For the program of the egalitarian left functions as a salve to conscience for those who have given up on a real, viable future in order to pursue their private pleasures while at the same time catering to their sense of virtuous commitment to a higher cause.
What we call “the left” or “the new liberalism” is only the social reification of delusion and hypocrisy, a peculiar amalgam of orphaned intelligence and prolonged emotional adolescence. Aside from those who exploit the movement for their own personal profit — the plutocrats and the power-mongers — it comprises an army of rote myrmidons led by a class of intellectual prodigies who, regrettably, have never grown up.