The Left-Hand Path to God: The Mythological Appeal of Socialism
Dr. Sanity quotes Lee Harris of TCS Daily, who is one of the deepest thinkers in the blogosphere. His piece is entitled Why Isn’t Socialism Dead?:
“When Hernando de Soto asserts that capitalism is the only rational alternative left to mankind, he is maintaining that capitalism is the alternative that human beings ought to take because it is the rational thing to do. But what human beings ought to do and what they actually do are often two quite different things. For human beings frequently act quite irrationally, and without the least consideration of what economist called their ‘enlightened self-interest.' And it is in this light that we must approach the problem, 'Why isn't socialism dead?’
“.... It may well be that socialism isn't dead because socialism cannot die. As Sorel argued, the revolutionary myth may, like religion, continue to thrive in ‘the profounder regions of our mental life,’ in those realms unreachable by mere reason and argument, where even a hundred proofs of failure are insufficient to wean us from those primordial illusions that we so badly wish to be true. Who doesn't want to see the wicked and the arrogant put in their place? Who among the downtrodden and the dispossessed can fail to be stirred by the promise of a world in which all men are equal, and each has what he needs?
“Here we have the problem facing those who... believe that capitalism is the only rational alternative left after the disastrous collapse of so many socialist experiments. Yes, capitalism is the only rational method of proceeding; but is the mere appeal to reason sufficient to make the mass of men and women, especially among the poor and the rejected, shut their ears to those who promise them the socialist apocalypse, especially when the men who are making these promises possess charisma and glamour, and are willing to stand up, in revolutionary defiance, to their oppressors?
The Florentine statesman and thinker, Guicciardini, once remarked, “‘Never fight against religion... this concept has too much empire over the minds of men.’ And to the extent that socialism is a religion, then those who wish to fight it with mere reason and argument may well be in for a losing battle. Furthermore, as populism spreads, it is inevitable that the myth of socialism will gain in strength among the people who have the least cause to be happy with their place in the capitalist world-order, and who will naturally be overjoyed to put their faith in those who promise them a quick fix to their poverty and an end to their suffering.
“Thus, in the coming century, those who are advocates of capitalism may well find themselves confronted with ‘a myth gap.’ Those who, like Chavez, Morales, and Castro, are preaching the old time religion of socialism may well be able to tap into something deeper and more primordial than mere reason and argument, while those who advocate the more rational path of capitalism may find that they have few listeners among those they most need to reach -- namely, the People. Worse, in a populist democracy, the People have historically demonstrated a knack of picking as their leaders those know the best and most efficient way to by-pass their reason -- demagogues who can reach deep down to their primordial and, alas, often utterly irrational instincts. This, after all, has been the genius of every great populist leader of the past, as it is proving to be the genius of those populist leaders who are now springing up around the world, from Bolivia to Iran.”
Lee’s insight here is so profound that it is well worth pondering. It explains so much, and yet, gives us no guidance for how to solve the problem. This will presumably be Dr. Sanity’s job, as she continues her piece.
Let’s look at some of Harris’ premises:
--Capitalism is the only rational alternative left to mankind.
--What human beings ought to do and what they actually do are often two quite different things (which is at the heart of both psychoanalysis [i.e., unconscious motivations] and religion [i.e., the conscience]).
--Socialism partakes of a pre-logical unconscious, mythological power, which is the real reason it cannot die. A beautiful and appealing idea is no match for an unpleasant truth we wish to deny.
--You cannot eradicate religion with mere reason.
--Socialism has an innate mythological/emotional appeal that capitalism lacks.
The disturbing conclusion suggested by Harris is that capitalism, not socialism, is doomed if it cannot somehow bridge the “myth gap” between it and socialism.
As an aside, let me point out that for many months I had been inexplicably waking up at 4:00 or 4:30AM, allowing me to complete my posts before having to get ready for work in the morning. For whatever reason, that hasn’t been happening in the last few weeks. Instead, I’ve been sleeping until around 6:00, leaving much less time to devote to my posts.
Being that my body is the senior partner in our little enterprise, I always defer to its wishes. Back when I was in high school I didn’t have many goals, but one of them was to never, ever, under any circumstances, use an alarm clock. Amazingly, this dream has largely come true for me. If my body is not interested in blogging at the moment, I’m not going to force the issue.
So I'm almost out of time. To cut to the chase, I believe that Harris is on to an absolutely critical idea. It reminds me of how confused the modern world has become about sexuality. Men and women are clearly built very differently--cognitively, emotionally, even spiritually. To me, this is an utterly banal observation. But that is not what is taught in our institutes of higher learning. Rather, they teach the superstitious and mythological nonsense that men and women are identical. As such, this inevitably leads to misunderstanding and frustration.
So in order to change reality, we must first accept reality for what it is, whether we are talking about sexuality or about economics. And if, in the deep structure of our soul, we have very powerful socialistic motivations, then that is something we had better take very seriously, or else it is going to come back and bite us, just as we are going to run into relationship problems if we do not appreciate the differences between men and women.
Well, that’s all the time I have for this morning. I hope to flesh out my ideas about this dilemma in the next couple of days, if the flesh is willing. However, it appears that Dr. Sanity is being drawn into the orbit of the identical mental attractor I am, in which case my own efforts may be unnecessary. Like mankind, I can just remain asleep.