The Left Learned the Wrong Lessons From History
Last week we observed the memorial of the Holocaust and the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
Even without the incomprehension of Trayon White, the D.C. councilmember who seems determined to misinterpret the real history of the Jewish people and substitute for it, instead, vicious lore, there is a lot to think about in the conjunction of the two remembrances.
What is most obvious to me is that we took the wrong lesson from both of the World Wars. Partly, I think, this was influenced by our intelligentsia, in the form of our artists and the press, who, perhaps unintentionally, preferred to re-orient the blame for those two disasters to something less harmful to themselves.
So, from World War I, we took the lesson that patriotism is bad, military might is wrong, and that the nation-state needs to be destroyed, instead of the lesson that blind following of any self-proclaimed elite, particularly one that hasn’t adapted to modern times, is wrong.
This is a problem because it left the field wide open for a philosophy that claimed to be supra national – it wasn’t; it was just Russian nationalism disguised as international socialism – to destroy the cultures and nations of the West from within.
You see, there is in humans, at the most basic level, a space for “tribe.” That’s because, whatever else we are, we are at heart great apes. (We’re at least mildly decent apes, or perhaps good enough apes, okay?) That means we are social animals, creatures of the band, creatures who need to identify with a tribe.
Possibly the greatest achievement of Western civilization was the conquering of the tribe, the destruction of the inherent tribalism of man, the substitution, instead, of a nation-state. This super-tribe is not always ethical or rational in protecting its interests or defending from or attacking other tribes, sure, but it is larger than a tribe and better at organizing for the economic success and safety of its members.
The problem is that you can’t take away the nation-state without filling its space with something else. The something else we filled the space with was another form of tribal identification. It was the tribe of race and gender and class and other Marxist identifications.
Which brings us to the wrong lesson of World War II.
I’m not going to say we shouldn’t learn about anti-semitism. For reasons of psychology and the position Jews have occupied in history throughout time, they are a consistent and vulnerable scapegoat whenever someone needs to have someone else to blame for current problems.
Yes, we should learn about anti-semitism, and the Jews being made the scapegoat of a Europe that was tearing itself apart.
But we need to learn beyond that – and that’s a lot to say since it was recently found that most high school graduates don’t know anything about the Holocaust – and we need to learn the right lessons.