LEFT VS. RIGHT: THE ILLUSION OF OPPOSITES
Analysis © 2007 - 2008 by G. Edward Griffin. Updated January 28
Would you rather be a Neoconservative or a Progressive? That is a trick question. The trick is in the fact that, although there may be differences between the rhetoric and short-term agendas of these groups, their long-term goals actually are the same. They may differ over how to fight a war in the Middle East but not over the right of the President to wage such a war empowered by the UN instead of Congress. They may differ over what kind of speech should be forbidden ("subversive" speech vs. "hate" speech, for example) but not over the right of the government to forbid it. They may differ over how fast to bankrupt the nation to provide benefits for its citizens but not over the assumption that providing benefits is what governments are supposed to do. They disagree over tactics, timing, and style, but not objectives. They fight for dominance within the New World Order, but they work together to build it. That is because both groups have embraced the underlying ideology of global collectivism.
The illusion of opposites has been a dominant part of the world's political landscape for over a century and it has been the primary reason for the advance of collectivism during that time. In the epic struggles of World War II, millions of patriotic citizens within the combatant nations passionately supported their leaders, believing they were defending against an evil empire. Russians fought for Communism; Germans fought for Nazism; Italians fought for Fascism. Yet, these were merely variants of the underlying ideology, called collectivism, that was common to them all.
Americans, of course, were horrified by such political doctrines and fought, instead, for Democracy. They did not realize that, while that word filled their heads with visions of freedom and justice for all, their leaders had another definition as they quietly converted the United States into a collectivist regime incredibly similar to the ones against which they fought. The contest was never about ideology. It was always about who would be the victor and who would be the vanquished; who would emerge from the war with world power; who would control the natural resources; who would create the new boundaries; who would judge and who would hang.
In our present era, there are few champions for Communism and practically none for Nazism or Fascism, but everyone claims to be a champion of Democracy. Neoconservatives and Progressives, alike, sprinkle their rhetoric with this
word like salt on a fresh baked potato. This is a clue that it has no meaningful definition. It is used as a political mantra to hypnotize the masses into a receptive state of mind. After all, anyone who speaks in defense of Democracy has got to be a good guy, right?
In today's debate, the illusion of opposites has become a myth of gigantic proportions. On one side - supposedly the Left side - we have Leftists, Communists, Socialists, Marxists, Neo Marxists, Leninists, Maoists, Liberals, Progressives, and (in The U.S.) Democrats. On the other side - supposedly the Right side - we have Rightists, Nazis, Neo Nazis, Fascists, Conservatives, Neoconservatives, Reactionaries, and (in the U.S.) Republicans.
Almost all modern political debate is framed by these words; yet, there is no one who can define what they mean except to their own satisfaction. There is no universally accepted understanding that will be accepted by advocates and critics alike. The possible exceptions are those that bear the names of authors, such as Marx, Lenin, and Mao, because it could be argued that they represent the views expressed in their writings. However, we are still left with the formidable task of accurately summarizing those views to everyone's satisfaction.
Social mores and religious beliefs sometimes divide along the Left-Right political axis. Those on the Left are more likely to embrace life styles that those on the Right would consider improper or even sinful. Those on the Right are more likely to be church-going members of an organized religion. But these are not definitive values, because there is a great deal of diversity on both sides. Republicans smoke pot. Democrats go to church. Social or religious values cannot be included in any meaningful definition of these groups.
Be that as it may, the degree to which there truly are definable qualities to these labels is the same degree to which we can understand that they are similar. For example, if there is any doubt of the similarity between the collectivism of Marx and the collectivism of Hitler, all one has to do is read Das Kapital, The Communist Manifesto, and Mein Kampf. The point is that, when the labels are peeled off and the underlying ideologies are examined, we come inexorably to the conclusion that every one of them is built upon the foundation of collectivism. We are expected to choose sides when, in reality, there is no substantial difference between them. Life under Communism vs. life under Nazism are not healthy choices. No matter which side we choose, we are on the side of collectivism. That is the trick.
What are the elements of collectivism that are common to all of these seemingly opposite forces? Collectivists on the so-called Left and Right agree that:
1. Rights are derived from the state;
2. The group is more important than the individual;
3. Coercion is the preferred method to bring about reform;
4. Laws should be applied differently to different classes;
5. Providing benefits (redistributing wealth) is the proper role of government.
These are the core principles held by collectivists in their quest to remold mankind to their hearts desire. The main disagreement among them is over how those principles should be applied. They do not realize that it's not the application of those principles, but the principles themselves that cause injustice, scarcity, and freedom's demise. History has already shown this truth in the form of despotism under Nazism (the so-called Right) and Communism (the so-called Left). It is sad that intelligent people with knowledge of this history still cling to the myth that they are opposites when it is so clear they are merely different manifestations of the same ideology.
MEET GEORGE LAKOFF
In 2006, the illusion of opposites was brilliantly performed in a book entitled Whose Freedom, by George Lakoff, an illusionist for the Democrat Party. Lakoff is a professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. His motivation for writing is revealed by his previous works. One was a political strategy entitled, Don’t Think of an Elephant! self-labeled as “the Essential Guide for Progressives”, which featured a foreword by former Democrat presidential candidate Howard Dean. The other was a video presentation entitled How Democrats and Progressives Can Win.
As we would expect, Lakoff says that the choice in America today is between Neoconservatives and Progressives. He, of course, is a self-styled Progressive, but nowhere does he define what that word means. Instead, he devotes the entire book to a spirited monologue describing how evil and ignorant neoconservatives are and how humanitarian and enlightened (and intelligent, too) progressives are. That's all we need to know. By the way, the Left-leaning collectivists also enjoy describing themselves as intellectuals, implying that anyone who does not accept their world view is stupid or anti-intellectual. That's just more of the psychological word games that Lakoff, as a linguist, knows so well.
Lakoff skillfully places the issue of freedom into the cracked mold of left/liberal/progressive vs. right/conservative/reactionary. As I have argued previously, these words are not definable and, worse, tend to hide the fact that advocates of both groups are united behind the political philosophy of collectivism. Lakoff, himself, advocates many features of collectivism in his books.
Both “Left and Right” are ready to sacrifice freedom for the furtherance of their agendas. Both camps are willing to grant freedom to those who accept their political and social mores but do not hesitate to withhold it from those who oppose them. Both camps are skilled at creating laws that convert dissidents into criminals. If today’s so-called progressives were to gain control of the government, they would be no different. They would justify oppression, not in the name of national security as the neoconservatives do, but in the name defending democracy and peace, as Communist regimes do.
Perhaps I am too quick to judge Lakoff as an illusionist, for that implies he is a willing agent of the enemies of freedom. It is entirely possible that he has not yet considered all the ramifications of this issue. It is possible that he has never heard individualism advocated and defended. Without that, he likely would consider it to be the creed of selfishness and ignorance. With that view, collectivism would be the only reasonable option, and he would have to choose between the Left and Right manifestations of it.
And so, to George Lakoff and all others who identify with any of the terms on the Left or Right, I invite you to climb to the next plateau of understanding. I am grateful that you care about the future. Error is better than apathy. Error can be corrected in time to change the outcome. Apathy is seldom corrected until it is too late.
For the author's deeper analysis of this issue, see
The Future Is Calling, Part One.