The Empty Promise of "Justice"
politics won't save us
The Great White Whale of lefty politics is “Justice” as the solution to “Injustice.” Whether the promise is to end the unjust rule of the feudal nobles, or absolute monarchs, or capitalists, or patriarchs, or slave-owners, or homophobes, or TERFs, or fossil-fuel producers, the refrain is the same: only give us political power and we will end the misery of the human condition.
Newt Gingrich is writing about this in his “American Despotism” series here and here. He writes that “The historic roots of this American despotism can be found in the French Revolution” and it continued with Leninism and Maoism and the ideas of the American Saul Alinsky, who inspired Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Says he:
The rule of law is steadily being replaced by a frightening new rule of power.
But I think that this problem is inherent in all political regimes. The politician and the political activist both see The Other as The Enemy. Because that is what politics is for: defending Us against the Enemy.
Was the Civil War the best way to end slavery in the United States? Probably not, but after the Democrats expanded slavery to Kansas and Nebraska with the Kansas—Nebraska Act, Americans opposed to slavery coalesced into the new Republican Party. And what does a new party do to unite all its supporters? Whatabout a nice little civil war to teach those Other guys a lesson?
Obviously a far better way to conduct politics is with an external war. Then you get to unite all Americans behind a common Narrative — enforced by appropriate censorship — as Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt so brilliantly proved in 1917 and 1941.
But notice what those wars did: they replaced the rule of law with the rule of power. The rule of law gets suspended during a war emergency.
Notice how that worked in the war on COVID, where the government censored critics of its science Narrative.
Notice how that works in the war on climate, where climate “deniers” get sent to the back of the bus.
Yes, it’s easy to blame Obama and Hillary Clinton and Saul Alinsky and the various wokies from sea to shining sea, but all government is a rule of power, and it collapses the meaning of human life down to a War on Something.
Yes, what is the meaning of “life, the universe, everything?”
Answer: we don’t know.
That’s a theme that the Zman takes up today.
The liberal project, dating from the late Middle Ages to the current year, is about using reason to answer these questions.
There must be an answer to the meaning of life: the “right answer.”
But then you get a chap like Gregory Clark with his The Son Also Rises. His science tells us that Mother Nature cares only about “fitness." Even though his work shows that it’s all in the genes, he wants us to know that he’s a good guy and believes in the correct politics.
If the scientist Gregory Clark shies away from the verdict of nature — fitness — then how do we determine moral questions? Up to now humans have done this with what we might call smoke and mirrors, with gods and with tradition and culture. But
The main role of the liberal project has been to remove what the liberals called superstition, [God,] as a possible answer. Secondarily, the project has removed past practice as an answer for why we live as we live.
But the result has been that the liberal project keeps imposing its will, its latest science, on the rest of us. And, in the opiinion of Newt Gingrich, with harsher and harsher initiatives. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we should stop thinking that next week we are going to discover the meaning of “life, the universe, everything” and implement it with politics.
Maybe we should just relax and let God do it. And meanwhile give a little respect to “traditions and customs.”
Then, maybe, we should get together from time to time, “all friendly like,” in the spirit of Jürgen Habermas. And in our shared “life-world” have a discussion and try to come to moral agreement.
The fact is that we do not know much about what lies beneath traditions and customs. In following traditions and customs we really do not know what is the point. Is a particular tradition an example of injustice? Or is it a life-saving way to survive and thrive? Many traditions and customs are encoded in our Jungian “archetypes” and “collective unconscious.” Does that make them right? For a previous age? For our time? For all time?
What we can begin to agree on is that politics is a very slender reed in which to hang all human wisdom and experience.