Monday, December 12, 2016

Repairable regression

Said to be a scene in Norway, storm wind blowing pedestrians backwards.

Professor Corey Robin has come back to blogging first time since the election, with a stirring rant against "the politics of fear" as practiced by some on the left:
Once again, we have that sense those of us who insist that the horribles of the world should not and cannot have the last word, are somehow naifs, with our silly faith in the Enlightenment, in politics, in the possibility that we can change these things, that politics can be about something else, something better. I find that sensibility deeply conservative (not in my sense of the word but in the more conventional sense), and I resist it with every fiber of my being.
This corresponds to something I've been complaining about for a couple of years, though I don't think I'd characterize it in quite the same way, not a question of fear as much as of declinism, of the sense that it's all getting inexorably worse (unless the Revolution comes, as it plainly won't), on the part of what I like to call the Eeyore Caucus, as I wrote in January 2015, not coincidentally name-checking Robin:
The larger dudebro narrative is one that likes to think of itself as left (or "left-libertarian"), or at any rate hip and dynamic (like Newt Gingrich and Rand Paul), but it is essentially conservative in Corey Robin's sense. It starts from a standpoint of personal resentment and loss on the part of a community born to real, if modest, privilege, the mostly white young beneficiaries of the dotcom revolution, who see things getting steadily further away from their expectations, a tale of continuous degeneration and decay.
It's conservative because it's a lament of hopelessness and it rejects every effort to do something about the situation: "You'll only make it worse". And because it's completely focused on my problems, my dudebro healthcare needs as opposed to those of the great working class and poor community, my privacy as opposed to the political freedom of the underserved.
Of course two years ago the debate was about the counterrevolutionary Obama administration, and its evil hegemonic plans, which is why I was so exasperated; because to me the aims of the Obama administration weren't in fact counterrevolutionary, and it was so clear the left could have accomplished more by working with it than by denouncing it as fascist from every soapbox. We saw an experimental demonstration of what I had in mind during the presidential campaign, in the different effects of those of the left on the one hand who decided to try to influence Clinton (like Senators Warren and Sanders and Representative Ellison) or get along with her (like Professor Chomsky) and succeeded in creating a truly exciting party program (too bad the drama-driven media discourse and its Russian abettors stopped people from finding out about it), and those on the other hand who just couldn't do it and chose instead to join Breitbart News and the Russians and the rogue FBI agents in spreading anti-Clinton lies, and who helped (in a very modest way, I won't pretend they were a significant factor outside my Twitter feed) to get Donald J. Trump elected.

Now, in contrast, we are entering bad times, the worst outlook for progressive ideas I'm sure of my lifetime, and we need to resist, not accommodate, but the principle is the same: we need to be seeing the coming development as a historical error, a repairable regression, not an irreversible social entropy, the inevitable destruction of the society we love into Hobbesian war.

Anti-Trump true conservatives do the latter more or less automatically, because they really are standing athwart history screaming, as the saying goes:

—but those who like to think of themselves as progressive shouldn't allow themselves to be so easily discouraged. If we want to stand athwart history (great views up there!), we should be shouting, "Stop going backwards, you idiots!"

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