The Left’s Gordian Knot
Thus, the poor are kept at a distance in order not to depress property values. Peace is bought at the expense of appeasement, social tensions, and future conflict. The Humanities curriculum in the universities is devoted to the ephemeral, the fashionable, the deviant, the radical, and a host of social clichés, while the rigors of classical scholarship as well as the archive of the larger and sustaining culture are cast aside as colonial excrescences. Traditional wisdom is anathema. The pursuit of “social justice” on which the Left prides itself is just another cold platitude that the conduct and lifestyles of its adherents demonstrably invalidate. They promote the global warming and anti-oil hysteria under the pretence of mending the planet, a program that facilitates the progressive transfer of power to the hypertrophic State while profiting the petrocracies of the Middle East. The plenary human rights agenda that offers asylum to jihadists and terrorists who plot our destruction is entrenched as a pillar of moral supremacy — which, as UK rights barrister Paul Diamond points out, amounts to nothing less than a national suicide pact. And all this in the name of improving the human lot by creating man and the world anew, as if by fiat or a secular “Let there be.” The Left is consumed by the fervor of coercive genesis.
Gradual social progress is both possible and desirable — what Karl Popper in The Open Society and Its Enemies called “piecemeal social engineering” — but a revolution of the human sensibility is an idea whose time will always be deferred. Society is susceptible of adjustments and modifications and the human condition can be little by little ameliorated through the agencies of prudent public legislation and technological and scientific development. Change by judicious increments over time may lead to progress in human well-being. But radical upheavals and massive structural transformations in the political, economic, and social life of peoples are usually doomed to failure.
The reason is, or should be, obvious. Man himself does not change in his essential being: envy, sloth, selfishness, cupidity, resentment, and deception are as much a part of the human genome as charity, love and imagination. The “vices,” however, invariably trump or impede the “virtues,” as is evident both from the course of history and the maculate and dishevelled lives of many of humanity’s supposed benefactors. As J.B. Bury mordantly wrote in The Idea of Progress, a hymn to the march of human reason, “the belief that our race is travelling towards earthly happiness was propagated by some eminent thinkers,” yet many of these “high-priests and incense-burners” were “some not very fortunate persons who had a good deal of time on their hands.”