The dilemma of hypermodernity and problems of left/right (Part One)
By Mark Wegierski
The financial crisis which has overtaken America and the rest of the planet in the last several months, certainly strains the conventional views of what constitutes capitalism or socialism, or indeed conventional Right and Left. The U.S. government is at the point of extending close to a trillion dollars in aid to the banking and financial sectors, which to a large extent amounts to nationalization. One can’t even think what this type of system could be properly called – banker’s socialism, perhaps.
At the same time, the strictest competition continues to exist for small-businesses – who will not be receiving bail-outs in this increasingly difficult economic climate. Considerable numbers of persons in the private sector are expected to be losing their jobs – and without those sorts of golden parachutes available to the highest-ranking executives.
At the same time, there have been promises made in America of government-funded healthcare “for everyone” – which cannot seem to be a seriously possible undertaking in the face of a massive financial crisis and a federal deficit that can already be calculated to be reaching over a trillion dollars.
In the face of this conceptual confusion, it could be posited that the central conflict of our current-day period is not between nominal right and left, but between two contrasting visions. One of these could be termed hypermodernity -- the extension of various negative tendencies of the late modern world such as American imperialism, consumerism, antinomianism, and “political correctness.” Hypermodernity is the system of what has been called “the managerial-therapeutic regime” – a combination of soulless capitalism and the total administrative state. The alternative vision is so-called postmodernity – a term which is specially used here to denote a better synthesis of the old and the new – such as a return to heroism and “the erotic” sense of belonging, a more artistic and creative existence, and real ecology. There are elements of both the traditionalist Right and the ecological and alternative Left that participate in this type of postmodernity.
Unfortunately, there are a series of processes today by which the New Class (the worldwide corporate/media oligarchy centered in North America) tends to delegitimize certain concepts and programs, whether these are critiques emanating from an anti-consumptionist and consistently anti-capitalist left (typified by figures like Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, and Ivan Illich), or those associated with the pro-ecological and pro-cultural aspects of certain serious thought on the true right (typified by figures like G.K. Chesterton, Wendell Berry, and J.R.R. Tolkien). It is argued that the contribution of serious-minded forces, conventionally said to be on the right, can be a critical element in the struggle against hypermodernity. Therefore, the New Class propaganda and conditioning techniques, which act as "inhibitors" toward even the slightest consideration, of the most serious thought, when it is considered "right-wing", and therefore unacceptable, might well tip the ultimate balance in the struggle in favor of hypermodernity.
It can be pointed out, first of all, that one of the greatest propaganda weapons handed to the New Class -- which they have not hesitated to mercilessly use, over and over again, as the ultimate smear and scare-tactic -- has been the excrescence of Nazism in Germany. The historical ghost of Nazism has served to undermine and discredit much of the critique of late modernity today. Such forces that arise to challenge (or even mildly protest) the contemporary order of things, if they are in any sense seen to be "on the right" -- regardless of the honesty or possible perceptiveness of their positions -- are immediately taunted by the accusation of fascist (which emotively signifies something like "Nazi-camp-guard-and-baby-killer" -- the very worst thing one can be). Hitler's Nazis were certainly one of the most horrific political phenomena in human history. A wholehearted and visceral rejection of the theory and practice of Nazism (that is, of what Nazism actually was), at the most fundamental level, must be seen as a precondition for entry into serious intellectual and political debate today. The rejection of the practice of the mass programmatic murder and coercion carried out by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others of that ilk, should be seen as another precondition. Finally, a certain "openness" or genuine liberality -- as opposed to intellectual totalitarianism -- is needed, if there is going to be any real debate opened up today in the public-political arena. Although those who, for whatever reason, are seen to be "on the right" today, are almost invariably derided by many pejorative terms, the overwhelming majority of them remain convinced, in their own consciences and self-understandings, of their honesty, moderation, and ultimate humanity (in terms of a world-historical, not current-day North American spectrum), and they generally strongly resist, refuse, and refute various negative and snide characterizations directed at them.
One might well ask why there must be such an extensive vacuum on the spectrum (in Canada, for instance) between the generally publicly acceptable and prevalent liberal and left-liberal views, and the tiny neo-Nazi groupuscules, who have sometimes been credited with a much exaggerated power and influence by the mass media? Are there no basically decent Canadians, who could organize themselves in the direction (for example) of tempering Canada’s high immigration policies (Canada's immigration rate is twice as large per capita than that of the United States, and is likely to remain at a comparable level for many years to come). Even at the height of the alleged "boom" taking place in the late-1990s, Canada by some measures was still manifestly in the midst of a continuing economic crisis, with over a million persons unemployed, in a country with a total population of about (at that time) 30 million. It would be the height of myopia to assert -- as various government and academic pontificators, secure in their cushy positions, tell us to believe -- that burgeoning immigration numbers do not significantly increase Canada’s economic stresses and strains. The conventional view – that high immigration is Canada’s engine of economic growth – seems palpably absurd. It is certainly interesting that Canada’s highest-immigration province, Ontario, has now slipped into “have-not” status in regard to federal equalization payments (meaning that it now qualifies for equalization funding), whereas Newfoundland and Labrador (the perennial “have not” province) – which has had a long time outflow of population and near-zero immigration from abroad -- will not now be receiving federal equalization payments, as it has finally achieved success on its own.
It might also be pointed out that government reports of some years ago had uncovered all manner of grotesque fraud in the Province of Ontario's health-care and workplace injury-compensation systems to the tune of one-and-a-half billion dollars per year. The generous Canadian health-care system (envied by many Americans) is simply being run into the ground because of the refusal to enact even the slightest stringencies, public insurance payments, or small user-fees -- presumably out of a distaste for the tiniest modicum of social discipline or self-sacrifice. The result is that the system almost literally equalizes misery for all of its users – and hence the sacred principle of equality is preserved. And when the provincial Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty introduced a significant healthcare levy on middle to higher income earners in Ontario, the medical system appeared to have gulped down all the money with very little improvement in healthcare provision. Meanwhile, the Canadian media has typically whipped up public fury for weeks on end over such comparatively insignificant government expenditures as the sale of the ex-Prime Minister's personal furniture to the state, or about the ubiquitous jet-trips by government officials.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.