The 'Right Side of History' Argument Is a Crock

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Historiography is defined by Britannica as “the writing of history, especially the writing of history based on the critical examination of sources, the selection of particular details from the authentic materials in those sources, and the synthesis of those details into a narrative that stands the test of critical examination.” In short, “it’s the history of history.”

Among academics, there are “schools” of historiographies like social history, cultural history, and gender history. But by far and away, the most popular is narrative history where events are identified, defined, and placed in order as time “marches” forward to…what? What is the end of history? Where is history going? How will we know when we get there?

And who the hell are leftists to tell us?

Related: Alone at the End of History

Every time you hear some left-wing blowhard tell you or conservatives that they’re on the “right side of history,” you have history’s permission to tell them they’re full of crap.

Progressive author William Deresiewicz writes in The Free Press “that we stand in a privileged relationship to history. That ours is a time of inflection, of “crisis”—which is exactly what people on the left have been insisting, with increasing hysteria, since Trump first appeared on the scene. (And yes, they also say it on the right, which doesn’t help.)”

History, in the progressive myth, is a kind of plus factor in political struggle: an invisible force, like something out of physics, that adds its strength to ours. History is on our side—we can’t lose! For decades now, Democrats have been assuring themselves that the coming of a majority-minority America will guarantee a future liberal hegemony. Latinos in particular are supposedly the cavalry that’s riding to the rescue. Well, now it’s beginning to look as if they just might ride in the other direction. As for millennials—a vast electoral cohort that currently skews progressive, and thus the latest leftist messianic hope—people have a funny way of getting more conservative as they get older.

We can’t predict the future based on what’s happened in the past. Past is not “prologue” and history is not “cyclical” and despite George Santayana’s warning, it does not repeat itself. Rather, writes Deresiewicz, the left comprehends history as “a secularized version of the Holy Spirit. ‘History is on our side’ is a secularized version of ‘God is on our side.’ ‘History will judge them’ is an update of ‘God will judge them.'”

In other words, us. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Which means that we have the right—the duty—to teach others how to live. How to speak, think, eat, spend, make love, raise their children, vote. You know how enraging evangelical preachers can be, how insulting it is to hear them talk about how sinful and benighted the secular are? That is how most people, including a lot of rank-and-file Democrats, feel about the self-anointed progressive class.

What bragging about being on the “right side of history” does is prove that anyone saying it is spouting propaganda. It’s an attempt to convince us that issues like transgenderism and climate change have already been decided (“the science is settled”) and that any further argument puts those trying to posit the contrary out of step and on the “wrong side of history.”

Every time I hear the phrase “late capitalism”—as in, the period we’re living through, a ubiquitous assumption on the left—I want to bang my head against the wall. Who says it’s “late”? We can speak of the “late” Middle Ages, or the “late” Roman Empire, but only because those things are over. We don’t know when capitalism will be over, and we won’t until after it already is. It could have centuries to run. Marx also thought that he was witnessing the final stage of capitalism, and so did Lenin, and so did many in the sixties. Same problem with “late empire,” meaning the American one—another thing they thought they were seeing in the sixties. Yet however ambivalent I am about both, capitalism as a system and America as a power display remarkable capacities for self-renewal—no doubt because they are uniquely open to talent.

“The Great Reset,” and “The Great Resignation” are seen today as long-term trends in history. But 50 years from now, how will they be interpreted? How will they be explained? Not even Nostradamus would be able to predict that.

The left screamed that Reagan was on the “wrong side of history,” yet his legacy is still being felt around the world. And remember when “Occupy Wall Street” was on the “right side of history”? Where are they today?

The left is arrogant to say that anything is on the right or wrong side of history. But perhaps they repeat the mantra like a broken record because they’re terrified they may be on the wrong side of history and exposed as the lazy cretins they truly are.



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