|Fiction | Code | Blocklists and Attack logs | Coding and Infosec | Reviews | Opinion | Contact me||c.j.paget.co.uk|
We are all Tories Now
The coming collapse of the social contract
So, let's start with an apology to, you know, real conservatives, for what I'm about to do in this post. What I'm about to do is use the term 'Tory' to represent a person only concerned with their own self-interest at the expense of all else. Obviously there's a lot of conservative people who are conservative because they wish to preserve traditions and institutions that they see as being in the common good (about some of which, like due process under law, they are right, and about some of which they are no doubt wrong). However, the term 'Tory' is widely used in the derogatory sense of someone who is only concerned with their own self-interest, and that's the sense in which I'm going to use it here. Using the term in this manner we can see that the modern left (the 'social justice' or 'identarian' left) has now abandoned any pretense of working for the collective good, and is essentially a new form of self-interest driven quasi-fascism. Now, not everyone on the New Left is like that, but enough of them are to carry the day. The recent rise of people like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn would seem to run counter to this, and may in part be driven by a nostalgia for the 'old left' and the days when human solidarity was a thing. But you only need to look at them to see they are the last of the Jedis: proud relics from a bygone age. The New Left is better represented by people like Rachel Dolzal, Requires Hate, and Bahar Mustafa: people who game a broken ideology in their own self interest, and who push an agenda that is essentially the return of of old-school fascism but now targetting whites, and specifically white men, instead of any other group. In the coming century the white working class will be forced to chose between these people and the likes of UKIP. They will choose UKIP. The left as we know it is likely finished, maybe Corbyn and Co, or their Blairite opponents, can keep it afloat for a while longer, but ultimately it will become something that has no political future. As the rank-and-file of the left fills up with rich, university-educated careerists schooled in third-wave-feminist social-justice theory, the working class will walk away from the parties that once spoke for them.
Once-upon-a-time, long ago, when the western world still had something that could meaningfully be called 'a left', you could claim there were two types of people in the world: those who thought only of themselves or of their tribe, and those who thought of their identity within a larger 'community' of human beings. The attitude of the latter group was mostly born out of Christianity, I think, because in deciding that anyone could become a Christian it created the idea of an all-encompassing community of shared rights and responsibilities. Buddhism and Jainism apparently had a similar idea long before, but that never really penetrated to the west. It was the Christian idea of a non-tribal, non-racial, global 'Christendom' that led to modern ideas of all-encompassing collective identity ("we, the people") including, I think, that of the 'ummah' in Islam. Eventually this was channeled into the left-wing collective ideologies of the industrial era (what I will later call the 'old left').
However, things have moved on, and we now find ourselves in an age where people who think in terms of a genuinely 'common' good, seem almost to have quit the political stage. We now live in a world of competing tribalisms, identities, and agendas, in which everyone is either out for themselves, or else out to promote the interests of some group with whom they identify, to the detriment of everyone else. We live in a world of irresolvable hatreds and ruthless self-interests, particularly on the so-called political left. We are all Tories now.
Such a world can only be one of unrelenting conflict and warring. Furthermore it will be a world in which the powers-that-be attain ever greater dominance, gradually crushing most of the population back into a state of quasi serfdom. Effective and *meaningful* politics requires collective action, and communities with weak collective identities, and strong subdivisional identities, will always be smashed into their component pieces. Divide and rule works best on populations that are already exhibiting strong fault-lines. For this reason one would expect the powers-that-be to invest time and money into creating and widening those fault-lines. Perhaps this is already being done: it would explain a lot.
But what has bought us to this pass? The change has come almost entirely on the political left. Whilst, as I note above, there's always been people with a communitarian attitude on the political right, one has to admit they've always been fewer. In so far as the standard political divisions into 'left' and 'right' make any sense (which they increasingly don't) the right has tended towards a more individualistic, and selfish worldview. Many 'free market' voices on the right espouse that everyone pursuing their own naked self-interest will ultimately produce the greater good. However, this argument misses and important point: if everyone nakedly pursues their self-interest, you don't have a free market, you have a battlefield. In order to pursue self-interest, or freedom, or happiness, you first have to give up some of your freedom or self-interest in a social contract. This social contract is the agreement that I will moderate my behavior towards you, if you moderate your behavior towards me. We will both agree to play the game of life by certain rules, and it is these rules that allow us to pursue anything at all beyond a brutal fight for survival. Core to this Social Contract has always bee the idea of a shared 'human' identity: that regardless of our many differences, I am like you, and thus we share an understanding and common interests, and will treat each other as equals in value, if not in so much else.
The philosopher John N Gray, whose thought I've a lot of respect for, (this is, of course, code for 'whom I am now going to disagree with'), has made much of the fact that this is largely wishful thinking. There have always been individuals who reject the social contract for ruthless self interest: our jails and boardrooms are full of them. There have always been groups who consider themselves apart from, and superior too, the 'common herd'. This shared identity has never been total, at one point or another in history groups have been thrust out from the 'ummah', often by advancing the claim that they are not human, or are in some other way 'special', and thus that the social contract does not apply to them. This 'moral exclusion' is often disastrous for the excluded group, who suddenly find themselves in 'the state of nature', fair game to be preyed upon by all. When one looks at even recent world history, one sees that these ideas are often honored in the breech, and if they've been strong over much of my lifetime, that's only because Europe suffered a series of particularly large breaches in the 20th century. The idea of 'progress', that we, as a species, can be said to be 'getting better', is something of a myth. The brutality of the breakdown of Yugoslavia, or the treatment of the Rohingya people in the far east (themselves not innocent of ethnic violence, everyone has played a hand in that game), or the Rwandan genocide, or the civil war in Syria, all point to there still being a thin line between our 'civilized' selves, and our savage animal nature. We haven't improved. But there's a point that I think John Gray misses: the Social Contract may not be something that carries much weight if you stress it severely, but much like another social illusion, money, it is a good hack.
Money has no inherent worth, yet we treat it as though it did. Doing so allows us, allows our societies, to function at a level that otherwise wouldn't be possible. We hear a lot said about the evils of money, and it is certainly a temptation that can motivate people to commit evil acts, but we take the good it brings so much for granted that we often see people imagining futures without money. Such people see money as a technological parasite i.e. a technology that impels us to produce more of it, while giving us no benefit, like nuclear weapons. You could take it out of the system and the system would still stand without it. It's interesting that we so rarely see people making the same suggestion for electricity or mathematics or writing, though I'm sure such people are out there. Money, as any player of "Sid Meyer's Civilization" knows, is a core technology that allows a modern society to function.
It seems to me that the social contract, and the shared 'human' identity that underpin it, are also such social technologies. Many years ago I was mugged. It was pretty brutal, to the extent that I thought I was being murdered, but in the end I walked away with minimal physical damage. Still, for sometime afterwards I experienced a very unpleasant state of mind. I could not shake the belief that absolutely anyone, anyone at all, could suddenly violently attack me. At the time I told myself I was being irrational (this, of course, did not make it go away) but in retrospect I was being perfectly rational. Anyone, anyone who could walk and who could carry a weapon (knife, clawhammer, screwdriver) or who was bigger than me or understood better than me how to do violence, could attack me at any time (yes, including the women). But they don't. Why don't they? Well because, um... well, one doesn't *do* that kindof thing, right?
It's not much to base your personal safety on, is it? And sometimes it lets us down, just as money sometimes lets us down when we collectively lose faith and have a run on the banks. But 90% of the time this 'magical thinking' works. I remember where I was when normality resumed: I was visiting Liverpool, walking through the city center on a sunny day, feeling a little on-guard with all these strangers around me, when I saw a father fussing over a toddler who was making a bid to escape from his buggy, and I suddenly realized "These people could do you harm, but not one of them intends to, or would. The people who attacked you were aberrations." Well, it wasn't a realization, I knew that already, the difference was that I (or perhaps more exactly my subconscious) began to believe it again. At the time I considered this my return to rationality, but really that's wrong. It's really a return to an irrational belief in people's better nature that has very little to support it, but which one must believe in (to some extent) to function normally in a modern society. And if everyone believes it, invests in it, and acts as though it were true, then it is kinda true most of the time, if we don't stress it to hard. Just as with money we take this conceptual technology for granted, and only notice it when it breaks down.
John Gray is right that we have not gotten any better. But the infrastructure we cage ourselves in has gotten somewhat better. However, this infrastructure is built upon a common human identity, upon the idea that we are all alike, and all in this together, the idea that we are all of equal worth. The idea of something like an all-inclusive 'ummah' of all human beings. But this idea is starting to fall apart, or, more exactly, it's being torn down by multiple groups across the political spectrum who have no further use for it. This is happening on both the political right and the left, but it's most serious manifestation is within the 'New Left', as the left were previously the people one would have expected to be singing "The international ideal unites the human race." However, somewhat tellingly, the American translation of that song says, "The international working class shall be the human race!" which is a distinctly different sentiment, isn't it? Perhaps the issues of moral exclusion that plague the 'New Left' are not that new after all?
But I keep using this term 'New Left', and it's time to go into what that means. Let us first discuss the 'Old Left'. The old left was the socialist left that existed throughout much of the twentieth century. It was a product of an industrial economy that employed large numbers of people in industrial occupations, was concerned with the enlightened structuring of society through government intervention, and had a strong working-class component manifesting through trades-unionism. In the western world 'working-class' largely meant white, male, working-class, and the old left was not always the friend of women or minority groups, despite it's claims to a universalist, inclusive outlook. This left was exterminated during the Reagan-Thatcher years, and the repeated failure of socialist economies and the challenge of globalization allowing jobs to be exported, much of the life was drained out of it. One still encounters the occasional pocket of the 'old left' but by and large it has ceased to be a meaningful force in society.
In the resulting vacuum two major types of 'New Left' have appeared. There's the Blairite left, which has abandoned outright socialism but which seeks (or perhaps sought) to harness free-markets as an engine to generate cashflow to fund government intervention (let's call this the "Third Way Left", and speak no more about it). And there's the 'Social Justice New Left' that is becoming more strident and visible in the twenty-first century. I first encountered this 'New Left' five years ago at science-fiction conventions (a genre which an outsider might be surprised to discover is highly political). From the start the new left said things that made me queasy, but then so did the old left, so does the right, so does everyone. It took a number of unexpected blows to wake me up to the New Lefts' uniquely worrying characteristics. The New Left seems to be a feminist left, but what kind of feminism is it? Many have said the attitudes it espouses are third-wave feminist in nature, but the wikipedia page on third-wave feminism seems to paint a different picture. Others have used the term 'intersectional feminism', and this is perhaps nearer the mark, but for all I know there's people moving under this banner who would reject any association with the kind of attitudes that we see so much online these days.
I'm just going to pause here to do the 'not all feminists' thing, because I think it's important. The 'New Left', as one experiences it through the media, has a strong feminist character. However, many people who describe themselves as feminists consider it a perversion of their agenda, and so far they've been the only people who I've seen effectively stand up to some of the more extreme manifestations of the New Left. Unfortunately it's a battle they are losing, not least because the New Left says the right thing often enough to, I believe, make some of it's detractors feel very conflicted. Still, they exist, and I think it's important to note they exist because one day we might need such people to rebuild the idea of inclusive community that the New Left has thrown away.
Here's what we can say about the New Left: It is a profoundly middle-class and upper-class phenomenon. The New Left ignores class in favor of race and gender, and is utterly unconcerned with the situation of the working class (at least the western white working class). Indeed, I've had repeated conversations with people, both online and face-to-face, who assert that 'white men rule' and that all white men (or sometimes just 'all men' which presumably includes men-of-color) rule equally. These people openly deny the existence of the white poor, or white working-class. They assert that men and whites enjoy 'privilege', and that this privilege trumps and overrides any privilege of wealth, birth, and status. Male privilege and white privilege are taints that can never be washed off, no matter what a person's actual situation is. The New Left has nothing to say to the western, white working-man (who is not so much working these days) beyond "check your privilege". In at a stroke eliminating class politics the New Left serves the interests of a new, international, multi-ethnic, multi-gendered, power elite, educated at our best universities and seeking to carve out a slice of the pie for themselves. It should be recognized that many of these people do face discrimination in the positions they seek to occupy, as those positions in the western world have traditionally been occupied by upperclass white men. It's right and natural for them to form a political force to argue their right to sit in the boardroom. However, the New Left goes so far in redefining the world in terms of the interests of the groups it represents, that it's borderline fascist. It has not only abandoned the idea of a common human 'ummah' but demonizes one racial and gender group, as being the source of all the world's ills.
UPDATE: Since I started writing this, I've discovered that the term 'New Left' is already in use for the left of the 1960's. As this was a hippie, pacifist, 'universal free love and brotherhood' left, I dont' think it equates in any form to the new left of the 21st century. Would the hippies have rallied around Bahar Mustafa's call to #KillAllWhiteMen? I don't think so. I'm searching for a new term for the 21st century 'New Left'. So far the best I have is 'New Left of New Left'.
Of course, the New Left's redefinition of privilege to be about skin color and gender, to be essentially a genetic and chromosonal phenomenon, is a return to the old race-essentialist and gender-essentialist tropes of the extreme right, but now retargetted at different groups. But it's more than that. Many of the loudest proponents of the New Left are themselves startlingly privileged people. Born in one country, educated at a top university in another, now living in a third, they enjoy a level of education and opportunity far above that of most people. One effect of this is that they're insulated from the reality of what most people's lives are like, and they judge the lives of men or white folks in terms of the lives of those in their vicinity: i.e. those in the middle and upper classes. Furthermore, the claim that 'privilege' is a genetic phenomenon absolves such people of having to consider their own privilege. They, no matter how rich and privileged they are, consider themselves the underclass, and declare themselves to be 'punching up' regardless of who they target. This allows them to get on with the business of carving out their own career and own interests untroubled by questions of their own advantage. Much like Ayn Randianism and other right-wing individualist ideologies, the New Left fosters the idea among many of it's members that they are the victim, that they are self-made and entitled to what they have, having won it from a hostile society, and that society owes them, and they owe nothing in return.
The New Left repeatedly claims to be working for an 'inclusive' community, but it's a lie. This 'inclusivity' always requires the exclusion of anyone who disagrees with the New Left, or says things they don't like. In an Orwellian demonstration of doublethink the New Left insists that 'inclusivity' and 'diversity' will only be achieved when the right people have been excluded. For example, Johnathon Ross, a white, male comedian with a working-class background, was excluded from the science-fiction community for fear that he'd make jokes that would offend some members, at the same time as the anti-white racist troll "All that's required is that you hate" (requires_hate for short) was being championed as an 'exciting new voice' by many members of that community. In some cases people who excluded Ross for fear of a joke he hadn't made were the same people who supported requires_hate's vicious racist and sexist rhetoric, and her calls for writers to be beheaded, raped, have their hands cut off or acid poured down their throats. This was acceptable to this 'progressive' community because the New Left insists that "there's no such thing as racism towards white people" and advances a number of definitions of racism that are exercises in moral exclusion, putting whites and especially white males, outside of the ummah of humanity. This declares open season on the excluded group, allowing behaviors to be practiced towards them that wouldn't be acceptable aimed at any other group (which is exactly what requires_hate was doing). However, the New Left has no concern with offending white males, and commonly denigrates those who complain as 'oversensitive' in a manner that closely echoes the behavior of racist and sexist movements of the past. It demonstrably has no interest in creating inclusive spaces for this large section of the demographic, and has repeatedly supported outright hatespeech, up to and including death-threats, directed at this group (of which I'm a member, incidentally).
Unfortunately the New Left doesn't understand that failing to make a safe space for any group ultimately means failing to make a safe space for everyone, and requires_hate went on to attack women and people-of-color by the simple expedient of making them honorary members of the hated group. In the case of people-of-color this meant declaring "you sound white" or "you think white", making them honorary whites so they could be attacked on that basis. Despite this text-book lesson in what happens when you promote moral exclusion and allow racial and gender hatred I've yet to see anyone among the 'New Left' concede that there might be a problem here. Indeed, people still insist that we shouldn't call requires_hate racist, because it's not racism when the target is whites. I eagerly await the day that someone tries to use this 'no such thing as racism towards whites' as a defence in a court of law. Whichever way the verdict goes we will at least know where we stand.
The utter hypocrisy of the New Left, at least in science fiction, is demonstrated by the outrage of these people towards sins made by various writers. Requires_hate would rail against the depiction of rape in a work of fiction, or against portrayals that she considered racial or gender stereotypes, or instances of 'cultural appropriation', and all her followers and minions would rage and rail with her. How interesting then to discover that she's the person behind "Courtship in the Country of Machine Gods", which was celebrated for its lovely writing, its touching lesbian love story, its interesting use of Baudillardian concepts, without anyone noticing or objecting to the fact that at its core it's a thinly-veiled genocidal fantasy about wiping out an inherently inferior race of white people. Go look it up, read it for yourself, see if it seems that way to you. As you read this story, try race-switching it. Make the protagonists white, and the antagonistical race by any other racial group. How does the story look to you now?
In truth, requires_hate's writing would not be so objectionable if she hadn't pilloried people for lesser sins themselves, and most people in science-fiction didn't realize it was requires_hate writing these stories. But it is interesting that in this day and age a story that presents genocide quite so approvingly doesn't get so much as a raised eyebrow from people who are livid some white writer described a rambutan in a way they find 'exotifing'. Similarly a recent story of hers features a white woman, born into slavery in the far east, who is sold as a bride to an aristocratic asian woman. Oh yes, and the white woman, who is smart for her race, was tasked in childhood with developing bioweapons to wipe out her own people in Europe. At no point is any of this, the slavery, the genocide, really implied to be, you know, *bad*. Now, let's be clear, I find the genocide fixation somewhat disturbing, (but then genocide/xenocide is a staple of SF) but I'd have no problem if this story really was written by 'Bees'. If this was a sweet-as-pie Thai woman's secret fantasy of power over a white woman (or anyone) then I'd have no problem with it, and I'm sure there's plenty of women (and men, though that wouldn't been RH's thing, I don't think) very happy to put on the costume and play the role. But this story wasn't written by Bees, because Bees is a lie. This story is written by someone who has frequently exhibited hateful attitudes to white people (for instance at one point saying we should all 'just go home'), who once said that "Christians breed like cockroaches and should be treated like cockroaches" and who ran a #KillAllMen hashtag long before gamergate's #KillAllFeminists. AND THIS PERSON TORE INTO OTHER WRITERS FOR RACISM, SEXISM AND HOMOPHOBIA. However, for too many New Left types none of this is objectionable. So long as a person-of-color is doing it, it's "punching up", and thus we see that the new left expounds and ethical theory that is racist to its core. In truth, the fall of requires_hate was based entirely around the question of her attacks on
The New Left's ideology has some profoundly ugly and dangerous elements. These will be picked up and used by some very alarming groups in the near future. This will likely discredit and damage a lot more of the left than the actual "New Left" ideology, but that's another issue.
With all this talk of race and gender, we should stop to point out something else about the new left: many of its spokespeople are white and male. This isn't, as both sides want to characterize it, a war between men and women or between whites and other ethnic groups, this is a battle between New Left social-justice-warriors, and wider society. There's people of all types on both sides. The presence of many white men in the New Left ranks might seem to imply that these men are not guilty of self-interest, they're still not working for a 'common' interest because they're supporting an ideology that is inherently exclusive, but the excluded group is themselves. I'm sure that for some of them that's true, and those ones we can acquit of the charge of being crypto-Tories: they're operating in a Tory system, but they themselves are the marks, not the players. For others the matter is not so simple. In leftist environments the ideology of the New Left is the new language of power. You can use it to smite your enemies by accusing them of being racist, homophobic, misogynistic, whatever. You can boost your own standing by demonstrating commitment to the belief system, particularly by attacking its designated enemies and hate targets. And as New Left environments tend to resemble the Soviet Union in terms of people having to say the right things or suffer the consequences, so it's in your own best interest to demonstrate commitment to the party line. Likely many of them are just trying to make their murky accommodations with the new regime. It'll be interesting to see how long they can keep that up. I wonder whether there's any signs of 'male flight' yet in those areas of culture and society where the New Left has taken hold?
Inevitably, of course, the New Left produces a counter-reaction. On the extreme right there are a great many people whom have always wanted to claim that racial warfare is inevitable, and that people of different races or creeds cannot live together. The New Left is their wet-dreams come true. Here at last is the enemy they always knew was lurking under the facade of humanist liberalism, here is a left they can understand, a left that speaks their racist, sexist language, because it has essentially borrowed their worldview and pointed it against whites. They think that many whites will be driven to their side by the New Left, and they're right. Thus we see the rise of neo-fascist movements all over the western world as the very idea of a multi-cultural, multi-racial commonwealth is destroyed by the very people who claim to champion it.
But the most important impact of the New Left isn't on culture. It's on class politics. For people in the working-class, or let's be honest and call them the 'underclass', the New Left is a catastrophe on a scale unmatched since the institution of the workhouses. As it gradually takes over more and more of leftist debate, the white working class will find they have no one to represent their interests. The left will gradually become the party of college-educated women and minorities, representing their interests against those of the 'old guard' of college-educated white men. Further, the racial and gender focus of the New Left will cause significant division among the underclass, setting male and female and white and other-ethnic components against each other, undermining their ability to stage collective action. The New Left, then, is unavoidably the class enemy of the working class, whose experience will be "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, except it's a she." Indeed, the new boss is likely to be worse than the old boss, if my experiences are at all representative, because the new boss is in the grip of an ideology of hatred that means she can never relate to the issues experienced by white men, of even concede that any such issues exist.
And this is where shit's gonna get real.
The new left is causing a flow of political support away from the left in general, and over to the hard right, and it's happening at a time when pressures on the working class are going to get steadily worse. Globalization, new technology and the rise of corporate political power will squeeze the standard of living of the common person. This will accelerate as the New Left ceases to be their champion, and instead starts to champion the interests of middle-class women and minorities (which, despite all the vitriol, will often be in alignment with those of middle and upper-class white males). As the working class becomes more desperate, it will look to more desperate measures. Old socialist left groups will pick up some support, but they are seriously weakened in the new world order. The ideologies who can hoover up these disenfranchised whites are those of the hard right, and possibly, if it occurs to them to try, those of militant Islam. The working class too will start to abandon the idea of an 'ummah' of humanity, and start looking about for enemies to blame for what's happening to them. Who do you think they're going to focus on?
Thus we will have arrived at a point where society is utterly riven into combatant groups who owe each other nothing, who cannot talk to or understand each other, and who are all committed to their own self interest at any cost to everyone else. Lacking any kind of shared identity (because it's surely obvious that the New Left cannot build any solidarity with the white underclass) they will be unable to build any kind of modus vivendi to live together. Serious and violent class and racial conflict is the inevitable consequence. Possibly Dylan Roof is an indication that this is already happening (though he may just be a crazy outlier). One thing that is for sure, a world with a weakened collective identity and social contract is an environment that favors violent extremist ideologies. And New Left ideology will assist their rise: the dangerous arguments that the New Left deploy can, and will, be taken up and retargetted at them and those they speak for. When the real underclass start 'punching up', things are going to get ugly indeed.
We are all Tories now, all out for our own self-interest no matter how much lip service we might pay to 'the common good'. But, as ISIL and Dylan Roof demonstrate, there's worse things we could be. We will get to being those in the passage of time.