Tuesday on Twitter the trend #SocialismChecklist was trending. Naturally, I joined in the fun – my best contribution to the effort (13 retweets, 10 likes) was “1. 100 million political murders in 20th century. 2. Don’t learn history. 3. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. #SocialismChecklist”. But it was my 2nd most popular entry which got the most actual comments back:
1. Nazis aren’t socialist. 2. Why are they National Socialists, then? 3. Shut up! #SocialismChecklist
A bunch of our Progressive friends didn’t like that bit, at all – Nazis, of course, are of the right in the Progressive view. Nazi are just extreme rightists – and even a few on the conservative side of the aisle went along with this. I disagree most emphatically with that idea. There is, indeed, a left/right divide in politics but for one to really understand the divide, history has to be consulted.
Conservatism, if it is anything, is a program to conserve what one has – or at least conserve as much of it as one can, given the inevitability of change. Progressivism, if it is anything, is a program to fundamentally change what is into something else, regardless of the reasons for things being as they are. So, what is it that a Conservative wants to conserve and a Progressive wishes to change? Don’t look to closely at what is happening today – take a broader, longer view of the matter.
Over the course of many centuries a new civilization had been built up by the Christian religion on the ruins of the Greco-Roman world (in all this, I include Judaism – even though there has been much injustice visited upon Jews by Christians, the bottom line is that “Salvation is from the Jews”; John 4:22 – Cristian ideals are tightly tied to Judaism). Like all things done by humans, it had it’s great glories and it’s miserable failures but, by and large, people accepted the underlying premises as a given – a Triune God founded a religion in the person of Jesus (both God and man) which had a set of moral imperatives agreed to by everyone (even when they violated them). After the Protestant Reformation ran it’s course for a variety of reasons, many people started to call into question the basic premises of the civilization. The arguments against it were varied, but all of them struck home at some aspect of the Christian dogmas which had built and unified the civilization. There is a vast difference between a Luther questioning the authority of the Pope (while holding intact the entire Catholic dogma regarding who Christ was, and what he commanded in matters of morality) and a Robespierre with his denial of pretty much all Christian dogma in favor of an amorphous Supreme Being. It was, in fact, during the entirely mis-named “Enlightenment” of the 18th century that we saw the rise of “the left” – Progressivism, if you will – which was dedicated, in various guises, to completely re-working our Christian civilization into something different.
It is no surprise that Enlightenment philosophers often looked back to pre-Christian times for their inspiration. They liked Rome, Athens and even Sparta in comparison to the Christian civilization they lived in. Disbelieving in a personal God – disbelieving, fundamentally, in the concept that God became incarnate – they cast about for some different sort of society; one they felt would be built and sustained on allegedly rational lines, providing peace, justice and prosperity for all. While even in the 18th century the means of producing this society ran from laissez-faire Capitalism to full on Communism (Marx did not in any manner invent the idea, by the way), they were all united in a desire to tear down the Christian religion; break up or at least massively modify the idea of family; build up some sort of Super State to regulate the whole; cast aside any Christian morality which impeded the immediate implementation of their cherished ideals.
The left rose before the right, at least in the political sense. It was only when the civilization was under attack that people started to rise up in defense of it. Prior to the rise of the left, political arguments were over means to (at least allegedly) the same ends – after it, the argument was over what ends were desirable. The argument goes on to this day – and these days the right is losing the battle very badly. In fact, a strong argument can be made that Christian civilization is already transformed into something non-Christian. But let us not get mixed up over what the left and the right are trying to do – the right, if it is for anything sensible, is for a conserving (or, these days, a restoration of) Christian civilization; the left, if it is for anything sensible, is for completing the transformation of Christian civilization, to the point where Christian dogmas play no role in how we, as a people, live. The left/right divide is over whether a Christian civilization shall be, or shall there be a non-Christian civilization. If you want to take it more broadly, you can say it is between Judeo-Christian civilization and something that is not Judeo-Christian.
Our Progressive friends, in defense of their assertion that Hitler was of the right, love to point out that Hitler was born Catholic; that he was racist/nationalist; that he gloried in war…all of this is put forth as evidence that Hitler was on the right because Progressives believe that to be Christian is to be, to one degree or another, a nationalist/racist who wants to fight endless wars, in addition to being a greedy capitalist who wants to get rich and to heck with everyone else. But it is simply a misunderstanding. Hitler was born Catholic – indeed, confirmed in the Catholic faith when he was about 13 – but there is no evidence that Hitler practiced the Catholic faith as an adult while there is plenty in Hitler – in word and deed – indicating his deep hatred of Christianity as well as a desire to extirpate it.
Hitler was, indeed, a racist/nationalist, but racism/nationalism is un-Christian. Every person on Earth is welcome into the Church. Nationalism pre-supposes that one nation or people is inherently superior to another – no Christian can validly believe such a thing. Some nations do better, but that is because of the moral choices the people make, not because of something “good” or “bad” in their genetic make-up. To be a patriot is good for a Christian to be – to love one’s nation and to be willing to sacrifice life and fortune in service of a nation’s just causes is to act out in the world the part of a Christian. But Patriotism – love of one’s nation – must never be perverted into hating other nations.
War is something that Christians have engaged in, and a Christian does believe that a soldier who does his duty well in war is covered in glory. But all Christians have always felt that war, as a thing, was wrong – something to be avoided if at all possible; something which, if it must happen, has to be strictly controlled as to what you fight for, what you fight with, and how much force you can legitimately apply. It was only as our civilization was shedding Christianity that it sought pure utility of killing and decided that using maximum force against all regardless of age, sex or condition was legitimate war-making. People like Hitler believe that war is inherently good – that in fighting wars, men become better; that unless men conquer and enslave/exterminate their neighbors they will weaken and eventually die. There is nothing in Christian morality which even remotely supports what Hitler launched on September 1st, 1939.
Ultimately, Hitler was of the left as much as Marx was – though both men, if suddenly brought before us, would reject this in fury (just as both modern Nazis and Communists will reject it). But they are what they are – people entirely at war with the Christian civilization built up over centuries upon the ruins of the Greco-Roman world. Both Marx and Hitler despised Christianity. Both hated with a white-hot passion the customs and usages passed down from time out of mind. Both despised those who refused to immediately be conscripted into building their vision of the perfect world (as a for-instance, both Marx and Hitler had a monumental contempt for the Slavs on the periphery of the German world who stubbornly clung to their language, religion and lands in spite of the fact that, in the view of both Marx and Hitler, the Germans could do things much better than those backwards Slavs). Both believed in the absurd idea of “progress” – that History is an immutable thing steadily going along a certain course from worse to better. It was just that, for the two men, they believed in a slightly different way of getting to the desired end – an allegedly unified world of justice, peace and prosperity under one system (Marx was going to get it by having the proletariat kill all non-proletarians; Hitler was going to get it by having the Germans kill all non-Germans). Christians do believe in a world of peace and freedom – of fundamental human brotherhood…but it is a brotherhood of both German and Jew; Capitalist and Proletarian. No one has to die to realize the brotherhood of Man in Christian morality; quite in contrast to all of those who oppose the basic ideals of Christianity – the commonality between all of the various stripes of anti-Christian Progressivism is that some people have to go to the wall; that some people have to be destroyed (or, at least, forced to change their ways) in order to usher in the Millennium.
Don’t be put off by the fact that Marx was a Jew and Hitler hated Jews – if you sift the past a bit, you’ll see that among the major progenitors of what we know as Nazism and Communism (in terms of definite political movements rather than philosophical activity) were a Jew (Victor Adler) and a German nationalist (Georg Schonerer) who got together, briefly, in 1882 to craft the Linz Program…which was at war with the Austria they knew with it’s (in their view) tiresome, old Monarchy and worn-out Catholic religion. In an irony of fate, Adler’s successors in Austria were done in by Schonerer’s successor, Hitler…but as Adler’s successors died before Nazi firing squads, you could be sure that they were unified with their murderers in being against a restoration of the Hapsburg Monarchy which had kept under wraps both communism and racist nationalism. To a Progressive, the worst possible horror is a restoration of the civilization, in whole or in part, which was in place when Progressives first got rolling.
I know some Progressives who lurk around here will rise in fury against my assertion that the completion of their task means that Christians can’t live as Christians. I take them at their word that they don’t mean to eradicate Christianity (well, some do – but they are very forthright about it…most don’t, however, make such an assertion and likely honestly don’t think that is what they are about). But for Christians to live as Christians means that there will be certain areas of human life outside of the control of the Progressive civilization – specifically, the Church, the family, the individual conscience. If Progressivism allows Christians to be Christian then there will be a significant number of people who simply do not participate in Progressive civilization…and who, over time, may yet convert people of the Progressive civilization back to the Christian civilization…and thus restore what was before. Even if it is sincerely not intended, the full implementation of any type Progressive thought precludes anyone from engaging in Christian life and thought. And don’t try to dodge the issue by saying, “well, you can be Christian, but your Christian rules can’t be applied to society” – to be a Christian means to be under the command of God to go forth and make disciples of all the nations…we have to convert people, or we are failing in our Christian duty. We also must preach our faith – we are, of course, to mostly preach by example (St. Francis’ dictum: “preach the Gospel always; when necessary, use words”) but it would exactly be an assertion of Christian dogma in the public square which Progressives would find most offensive. It is small and pretty quiet so far, but already in the Western world preachers of Christianity are being called law-breakers for teaching Christian dogmas. If Progressivism continues to advance, this sort of thing will only become more pronounced.
And that, my friends, is what the fight is all about – will we be a Christian people, or will we not be? Progressives, of all stripes, hold that we will not be Christian. They do disagree heartily among themselves over the best means to the end, but the end is the same. Conservatives, if they really want to be Conservative, must desire the conserving of or (more often) the restoration of Christian civilization. If you say you are Conservative but don’t want to conserve/restore Judeo-Christian civilization, then you are really just another variety of Progressive – that you want lower taxes and a freer market than a different variety of Progressive doesn’t change the facts. The late Pim Fortuyn in Holland was a prime example of a Progressive who was mistaken for a conservative of sorts – but go down the list and see what you’ve got…a man in favor of gay marriage and laissez-faire. A Progressive from first to last. Fortuyn just recognized that the immediate threat to his Progressive civilization in Holland didn’t come from a Christianity barely a third of the Dutch subscribe to (and, even then, hardly any of those are willing to act upon their Christian faith) – it comes from the growing Muslim population very much determined to act upon their un-Progressive faith.
If you want to be an extreme rightist, then you’d better be looking for a Hapsburg to be Holy Roman Emperor. If you want to be a run-of-the-mill Conservative, then you have to support the ideals (the dogmas, really) of the civilization Progressives want to fundamentally transform. You can be atheist and be Conservative. You can be an advocate for same-sex marriage and be Conservative. As long as while you’re disbelieving in God and getting ready for the gay nuptials you assert, without question, that it is those who believe in God and aren’t heading to that wedding who sustain the civilization. The reason for this is that if you want the things of the civilization you like (unalienable rights, the inherent worth of the individual, etc.), then it is only a Judeo-Christian civilization which will provide these things for you. No other civilization really subscribes whole-heartedly to these things…and some of them despise the very concept of, say, people as individuals having immutable rights. In the broad sweep of human history, it was only when people had long been instructed in Christian dogma that they came to the understanding that the person has absolute rights against the desires of his fellow men and the commands of his government. This is not to say there isn’t right and beauty in other civilizations – there are; and there are things that every wise person can learn from how other civilizations do things. But this is a truth everyone had better grasp: the moral things about human rights we take for granted are taken for granted because Judeo-Christian theology asserts them. Take away that theology and you will not be able to sustain the things you take for granted.
It is a bit different in the United States – as a new nation created out of whole cloth on a particular date, to conserve the United States means to conserve the Declaration of Independence. This document, while it was deeply infused with a lot of Enlightenment (ie, Progressive) thought, is also, in a sense, a last echo of Christian civilization…because it proclaims that our rights are granted to us by God and are unalienable. This proclamation is, these days, very much irksome to Progressives – first in the acknowledgement of God, secondly in the assertion that people have an unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The problem here is that if we have these rights from God, then no law can justly infringe upon them. As all forms of Progressive thought require a re-working of all aspects of human activity, it is impossible for a Progressive to hold to the idea of an unalienable right. This is most starkly represented in Progressive support for abortion (a denial of the right to life), but also shows up in things like compulsory public education and irksome harassment of people who don’t want to send their kids to public schools.
The reason the right is losing the battle is because the right doesn’t know what it wants. It doesn’t know what it wants because the long-term effort of the Progressives to mask the past has been largely successful. It has been wisely said that the duty of Progressives is to go on making mistakes, while the duty of Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected. Social Security is a program degrading to the dignity of humanity. It is a Progressive thing – an assertion that the common people should not have independent means of caring for themselves. It is a program to make dependent upon a Ruling Class (needless to say, a Progressive Ruling Class) the great majority of the people. But, where is the Conservative effort to abolish this Progressive monstrosity? A truly Conservative answer to Social Security is an economic system which ensures that if you work hard and live frugally, by a certain point in your life you will have sufficient property to support yourself without recourse to any person, group or government. A check every month from Uncle Sam is a horrible replacement for independent wealth…a crumb from the Master’s table, and you’d better toe the line or you’ll be cut off! Think about it: if there were, today, even 50 million Americans who didn’t need to work for anyone and needed not a cent of government money and who were absolutely secure in their property, what would Progressives be able to do with such people? By what means could Progressives convince such people that they have to sign on to Progressivism, or at least toe the Progressive line in politics?
But it is hard for a Conservative to even imagine an world without Social Security. Equally hard is for a Conservative to imagine a world without large corporations or employee unions (both Progressive inventions, by the way). We can’t imagine such a world because we’ve been fed a line of nonsense about how our civilization developed. Just as we go along with Progressives in saying that “McCarthyism” is evil, we go along with Progressives in saying that “medieval” means, “dark, backwards, stupid”. But, those dark, backwards and stupid people of the Middle Ages built our civilization! Guys, our ancestors of the Middle Ages invented things like the chimney – might seem rather mundane, but even the Greeks and Romans never figured that one out (they just left a hole in the roof when they needed a place for fire inside a building). They cleared the land which is now known as Europe (most of it was untamed wilderness when the Roman Empire fell). They invented harbor cranes; horse shoes; oil paint; mechanical clocks; blast furnaces; got paper from China via Islam, but invented the first paper mill; stern-mounted rudders; movable type; buttons (you know, for buttoning up your shirt); magnets…these were not stupid people; nor ignorant people. They had to start with the ruins of the Greco-Roman world and endure about 5 centuries of successive barbarian and Muslim invasions so there is that “Dark Ages”, but these were people striving for the heights – and they reached them with the the Gothic flowering and the Renaissance. There never was a Catholic Church which was standing athwart Knowledge yelling, “stop!”. No Christian ever said we weren’t to learn about the world and apply what we learned to our lives. And it would have kept on going even if a few ill-educated nincompoops in the 18th century hadn’t happened along. But we tend to take it for granted that if we hadn’t broken the alleged shackles of Medieval Christianity, we never would have got ahead.
Now, this is not a plea to return to the status-quote 1700 – but if we want to win, we had better set firmly in our minds what we want. Do we want to conserve what we are (or, at least, were), or do we just want to conserve Progressivism and tinker around it’s edges? If we do that, we’re doomed – because it is a thing about Progressivism that whatever in it takes the most extreme line tends to advance the fastest. If we’re just setting out to make Social Security more sustainable then by the time we succeed at that (if we do) we’ll find that our Progressives have entirely annulled property rights in the name of fixing income inequality or some such nonsense.
Find your ideal – you must start with that. My ideal is a world of small government(s); small companies; property owners; free men and women (even if they’re doing things I think foolish…as a man of many follies, I’m not about to try and fix anyone else). A world of mercy, charity and justice and then a bit more mercy and charity. A world where what is right is defended, what is wrong is tolerated as long as it causes no harm to others. A world where if you believe I’m wrong you leave me alone (though I wouldn’t mind if you prayed that I obtain wisdom). I believe that Christians and Jews are most capable of living like that because their underlying morality supports that ideal (Christians and Jews agreeing on a God of love who values each person as an individual). I may be wrong. I may be stupid. But that is my ideal. I’ll never actually achieve my ideal – but that is what I’ll strive for and I’ll oppose anything which tends to work against small government(s); small companies; property owners; free men and women…and, of course, anything which works against the safe and open practice of the Judaism and Christianity which supports small government(s), etc. I’m a Conservative and I know what I’m trying to conserve (or restore). Because of this, I also know I’m losing – I’m hoping that more people who are on my side start to think about what they want. It would be nice – I’d like to start winning.