There can be no real personal freedom while living in a culture of hysteria.
The United States seems particularly prone to episodes of moral panic and group hysteria. A century ago, D. H. Lawrence scoffed at this country’s self-image:
The land of the free! This the land of the free! Why, if I say anything that displeases them, the free mob will lynch me, and that’s my freedom. Free! Why I have never been in any country where the individual has such an abject fear of his fellow countrymen. Because, as I say, they are free to lynch him the moment he shows he is not one of them.
Today, just look at the culture of political correctness and identity politics in academia. Words, ideas, even gestures are aggressively policed. Every small comment is subject to hostile examination for the slightest hint of improper attitude. Professors who even mildly and politely disagree with certain policies may be mobbed by screaming students and literally chased off campus.
And just look at the crusade to cleanse the entire country of any and all symbols of the Confederacy. ESPN removed a sportscaster named Robert Lee, even though he’s Asian-American and looks it. There is now controversy over the team mascot for the University of Southern California, a white horse named Traveler. Robert E. Lee’s horse was gray and named Traveller (with two l’s), but that’s too close.
And then look at the truly hysterical reaction to anyone protesting against the removal of Confederate statues. Small numbers of protesters are met with huge screaming counter-protests often outnumbering them 100 to 1. A tiny rally in Boston in favor of free speech—organized apparently by libertarians, conservatives, and Trump supporters—and which attracted maybe several dozen brave souls, was met with a counter rally of 40,000(!) which drowned them out with shouts of “Nazi scum!” How glorious.
CJ Hopkins has a searing piece in Counterpunch which I highly recommend. He sees all this craziness as manufactured hysteria. “Manufactured” as in “a darn good way to keep people at one another’s throats over all sorts of idiot nonsense while the ruling class continues to fuck everybody and everything without interference.” You know, that kind of manufactured.
Hopkins points out that the left today pretty much has been reduced to identity politics. Stuff like obsessing over gender-neutral pronouns or whether transgender people get to pilot killer drones for the military. Or “micro-aggressions”: does that raised eyebrow reveal a closet racist? Or anything whatsoever but what the left it fundamentally about: ending human domination and exploitation. You know, basic stuff like class, capitalism, imperialism.
What’s left of the left in this country—nothing much, just the pseudo-left—is just fine with imperial wars (where’s the antiwar movement?) and no longer objects to capitalism (what would replace it?). Instead, it devotes it’s fierce revolutionary passion to beating up Trump supporters and shouting down conservative speakers.
The utter and complete withering away of the left—here in the good old USA, of course, but in Europe as well, where it was once a force to be reckoned with—is just the prolonged fallout from the demise of communism. After all, it was communism that actually created socialist societies, genuine working alternatives to capitalism, across a third of the earth, and defended them against unbelievable odds. Societies that liberated and inspired millions.
But the dismantling of the Soviet Union—and the turn to the capitalist road in China and elsewhere—removed this inspiration and example and opened the sluice gates to a resurgent capitalism. Capitalism now reigns supreme, both materially and ideologically. The left has shriveled.
As long as the left remains cowed and defeated, it will have nothing better to do with itself than to spin one crazy hysteria after another. The only way for the left to recover its life and purpose is to once again embrace socialism. Real socialism.
You know, communism.
- Evergreen College professor harassed, slandered as racist for opposing “exclusion day” on campus
- ESPN removes Robert Lee from calling Virginia game in Charlottesville due to his name
- Traveler, USC’s mascot, comes under scrutiny for having a name similar to Robert E. Lee’s horse
- The United States of Manufactured Hysteria