For a very long time, the radical conception of politics was the struggle between the radicals advancing society forward and reactionaries trying to block the way. In this formulation, the radicals push for reform and the reactionaries concoct an argument against it and the resulting struggle advances society forward. The result is imperfect, so the ideal solution from the radical perspective is to eliminate the reactionaries, who stand in the way of the project and the path of human destiny.
Strangely, the modern Right has also embraced this view. This was not always so, but the conservatism that evolved in the 20th century fully embraced its role as the dancing partner of radicalism. Bill Buckley made this clear when he said, “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” Note also the need do the yelling when others are not inclined to do any yelling.
Superficially, this was an effort to own the insult, a pose to signal indifference to the self-righteousness of the radicals. There’s a bit of self-dealing there, as it assumes a bravery on the part of conservatives that has never been observed in the field. At the core, however, is the acknowledgment that conservatism as Buckley and others imagined it in the 20th century could not exist without radicalism. Conservatism was just one prop on a set that was built to feature the radical agenda.
Of course, this is an entirely negative identity. There is no internal mechanism to define Buckley-style conservatism. In isolation, it is like a pathogen looking for a host. It can only be kept alive through artificial means. This reality means that Buckley-style conservatism could never defeat the radicals, as to do so would be to sign their own death certificate. In time, this evolved into a sort of battered wife syndrome, where they needed the radicals to win every fight in order to feel alive.
The thing is, the radicals were not entirely self-determined. If we assume the birth of radicalism was the French Revolution, what defined it at its conception was an opposition to the established order. Radicals opposed tradition and order, seeing those as superstitions and cowardice. The way forward was to abandon those things in pursuit of human destiny, so naturally the radical must always be opposed to convention and orthodoxy. The radical was born to be in opposition.
In the 20th century, as liberal democracy became the norm in the Anglosphere and the nations under its dominion, radicalism blossomed into its own negative identity. To be on the Left meant opposing normalcy. Whatever normal people were doing, the radicals had to oppose and try to wreck it. This is explicit today in the grievance studies rackets, where they endlessly go on about disrupting and overturning what they imagine to be their oppressors. It’s all about opposition to normal human relations.
Modern politics is a dynamic between two co-dependent worldviews that must oppose one other to exist. This dynamic between two entirely negative identities has come to define modern liberal democracy. The radicals search around for things they must oppose and the conservative are constantly examining the radicals for what it is they plan to oppose. Once some novelty is discovered, both sides feverishly engage in well-established dance that always ends in the same place.
Take, for example, the issue with Joe Biden. He has a long reputation for being a guy who gropes women, often in public. He seems to get off on it. He’s not a rapist or a sexual predator. He’s just a weirdo who likes to grope women. According to the current sensibilities of the Left, he should be torn to pieces and fed to the dogs. After all, women have come forward with specific complaints and his behavior. In the Kavanaugh hearings, they said we must believe all women.
Of course, the Left is not all that interested in this. The conservatives are up in arms at the alleged hypocrisy. How can they support the absurd claims about Kavanaugh, while ignoring the quite believable claims about Biden? Predictably, the conservatives are putting on their outrage faces and doing the self-righteous indignation act. Soon, they will be outraged that the Left is not shamed by their own hypocrisy. That’s always the next phase of these political dramas.
The thing is, the Left is not indifferent or ignorant to the obvious hypocrisy. They are energized by it. Seeing the conservative apoplexy is what makes them feel alive, because it means they have disrupted and subverted the status quo. Who they are, what makes them what they are, is entirely dependent on the outrage and anger of the people they oppose. When the conservatives put on their angry face and appear to be confused, the radicals have become self-actualized.
What may have happened over the generations is liberal hypocrisy has evolved into a form of caudal luring. The radicals naturally embrace hypocrisy as it lures in the conservative, causing them to act in a way that validates the radicals. Unlike a snake or shark that uses its tail to lure prey, the radicals are not hoping to destroy their opponent, but rather they are sustaining themselves. As an entirely negative identity, they need the outraged conservatives in order exist.
This dynamic between two co-dependent negative identities that has come to dominate liberal democracy may be at the root of the crisis in the West. With no positive vision of the future and the endless struggle between two political forces with no natural reason to exist, nihilism becomes the default. At some level, both sides feel the despair that must come from knowing the pointlessness of their existence. The result is a manic quest to plumb the depth of cultural despair.
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