Progressive Thought and the Reversal of History
In one respect, history represents constant change and novelty. But in another respect, it involves constant repetition of the same themes. In this regard, it is somewhat analogous to music, where you have a certain rhythm, bass line, and chordal structure, on top of which is the melody. But the melody is constrained by the structure. Often we notice the historical melody to the exclusion of the droning and repetitive bass line.
Primitive societies abhor change, and do everything within their power to prevent, deny, or undo it. Often, when change happens suddenly, these cultures will simply assimilate the novelty into their old system of belief.
However, one far-sighted observation of the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion is that many modern human groups are every bit as primitive. While they might have a veneer of civilization, their more basic function is to structure existence and to allay anxiety. You see this, for example, in very obvious cases such as the NAACP or the ACLU.
Clearly, these groups once had an instrumental purpose, but now their only purpose is to provide a cognitive structure for the world of the people who belong to these groups, and to reinforce the structure through contact with like-minded people. It's not even a pleasant world. Rather, it is a dark, paranoid, and conspiratorial world.
And yet, the paranoid world of the far left is preferable to the ambiguity of the the real world. In fact, I shouldn't even say "ambiguity," for does anyone acquainted with reality think for a moment that Representative Cynthia McKinney is a victim of white racism? Or that President Bush is imposing a fascist theocracy?
Human beings have an amazing capacity to deny change and to live in the past. Then again, if viewed through the lens of Darwinian evolution, this should not be surprising. After all, evolution did not design us to be happy, or well adjusted, or even to know reality. Rather, in our horizontal aspect, we were specifically selected to survive and adapt to a certain environment.
All successful species are stuck in a rut of adaptation. Humans are no different. The majority of cultural beliefs are not adaptations to external reality but adaptations to internal reality--they help to alleviate anxiety and uncertainty, and to structure existence.
After World War II, anthropologists discovered primitive groups that had been entirely static and had never "entered" history. Their belief systems were entirely structured around various benevolent and malevolent tribal spirits. Upon noticing American soldiers and their boats loaded down with riches that were distributed to the population, they did not alter their basic conception of reality. Rather, they simply incorporated the American G.I.s into a "cargo cult," and gave their old gods a new identity. Time and change were successfully warded off.
On the bottom floor of the primitve group psyche, there is a deep sense that time is not progressive. Rather, time is the enemy. It does not advance, but wears away and corrodes. Things that unexpectedly develop in time, like, say, President Bush, the conservative movement, or the threat of Islamic terrorism, are not exactly denied. Rather, they are regarded as bizarre aberrations--they are not really real. For the progressive, their reality has been stolen--I mean this literally, for example, the perpetual obsession with the 2000 election and now with "Diebold"-- and a false one has been inserted.
In order to deny the corrosive effect of time and change, primitive groups enact rituals to reassert the original divine order. This is why you can see that the left is so astonishingly ritualistic in their thinking. For their philosophy, like any religious philosophy, revolves around certain iconographic symbols that abide outside time. They are "forever." They need only be uttered, like magical incantations, and we are back in the comfortable tribal delusions of the 1960's: "War is not the answer," "America is a racist, sexist, homophobic country," "culture of corruption," "tax cuts for the rich," "Be Very Afraid, the world is cooling/warming."
Like the Islamists, the "progressive" is animated by a beautiful ideal located in the distant past. In truth, it never really existed. Rather, it is purely archetypal and precedes any particular "thoughts" about it. Once it is embraced, it then produces its own thoughts. The formality of a thinker is not required. If you peruse, say, huffingtonpost or dailykos, you will see that the memes that are reflexively channelled there are overwhelmingly angry, paranoid, and alarmist. In reality, this represents alarm over the fact that time really does exist, and rage at the fact that the wider world does not mirror their tribal ideal.
The progressive party is the nostalgic party that actually wishes to deny history and escape from time. Perhaps I should again emphasize how common this is, both in individuals and in groups. Freud, for example, said that the neurotic "suffers from reminisences." For what is a neurosis than a perpetual replaying of events of the past that are superimposed on the present, the constant structuring of reality in terms of the timeless unconscious?
Similarly, the progressive navigates through life while keeping his eyes riveted on the rear view mirror. Therefore, the same things keep happening. It's positively eery: Bush is Nixon. Iraq is Vietnam. The terrorist intercept program is Watergate. Clearly, these progressive cargo-cultists think that all the economic gifts brought to us by those two tax-cutting bwanas, Reagan and Bush, really arrived courtesy of the old big government gods.
The archaic community lives in a tribal memory that is impervious to the ravages of time. But as reality increasingly deviates from the sacred memory, it is the duty of every tribal member to renew, reassert and rejuvenate the ideal through rituals of various kinds. You can see these primitive magicians at dailykos, going through their various rituals and Ghost Dances, raging against reality, desperately trying to cleanse and "renew" it.
For primitive groups, time is terror. Therefore, it is no surprise that we routinely hear from the left that "George Bush is the world's biggest terrorist." That he is, in the sense that he has no respect for the tribal ways of the progressive mind and its sacred, eternal myths. Similarly, last week Muslims were outraged at the new edition of Indonesian Playboy, describing it as "terrorism." Again, entirely true for people terrified of time.
In the long run, in almost every measurable way, things are getting better--the economy is "humming along," as they say--low unemployment and interest rates, people living longer than ever, an environment that has never been cleaner in my lifetime, reduced crime rates and illegitimacy. These are all the things progressives supposedly care about, but the better things get, the worse they feel.
And where things are getting better for the resurgence of their world view, they don't seem to have much gratitude: materialism and spiritual exhaustion, neopaganism, barbarous entertainment, the cult of the body, sexual license, self-worship, moral relativism, multi-culturalism... What's their problem? Still not primitive enough?