Saturday 9 October 2010

A comment on the secular right movement


In terms of tactics for success - the Christian right believes that there can be no real social recovery (or progress) without a Christian, supernaturalist basis - and therefore that the secular right is doomed to fail.

I think this is correct, and that the secular right is focused on alliance-building (between those on the right with diverse perspectives) almost precisely because it has no real, long-term prospect of building an effective political alliance on the basis of enlightened utilitarian self-interest (which is the underpinning moral basis of the secular right).


Enlightened utilitarian self-interest has - over the past few hundred years - turned-out to be a pitifully weak motivation - easily surpassed by feel-good secular moralism (from the left) and religious (but not necessarily or usually Christian) zeal from the right.

And of course, the secular right is continually subject to schisms and fragmentation - as under pressure it degenerates from utilitarianism to selfishness, and from enlightened self-interest to short-termist grabbing-what-you-can-while-you-have-the-chance.

(This attitude - sometimes in the form 'if you can't beat them, then join them' - is a very common motivation expressed in the comments on secular right sites - and which underlies the secular right's immoral interest in the subject of 'Game' - which is the self-serving title self-given by those who try to devise algorithms describing how to deceive women into supplying sex without strings.)


The secular right is, roughly, merely a collection of individuals who participate in the movement only to the extent that they find it amusing.

When the chips are down, and sanctions are looming, the individuals who constitute the secular right they will very seldom sacrifice themselves or their gratification to the well-being of the movement.

Indeed, many would regard the idea of self-sacrifice for the 'common good' as exactly the kind of social manipulation which they themselves are too smart to fall for. They regard themselves as being astute enough to see through that kind of imposed delusion.


At bottom, and with few exceptions, the secular right is made up of individuals who will only stay aboard the political movement for as long as it benefits them or makes them happier.

They are not driven by a sense of duty (which is common on the left), and only very few by a sense of vocation (which is the preserve of those who live by transcendental values). 

And this is precisely why the secular right cannot (and therefore will not) thrive as a political movement.

(Adapted from a comment sent to Mangan's Miscellany - )


xlbrl said...

De Tocqueville might wish to differentiate between the parts of the secular right.

"Equality of conditions persuades men to conceive an instinctive disbelief in the supernatural and a very lofty, often exaggerated, conception of human reason. Human opinions form only an intellectual dust which swirls in every direction, unable to settle or find stability.
Whatever happens, you will never come across true exercise of power among men, except by the free agreement of their wills; only patriotism or religion can carry, over a long period, the whole body of citizens toward the same goal."

By this I might take him to include Randians, for example, as intellectual dust, but include agnostic patriots as reliable partners in civilization.

Bruce Charlton said...

@xlbrl - I agree that patriotism/ nationalism is a stong unifying force (on a par with religion) - as was amply demonstrated in the 19th and 20th centuries.

But I think that history also shows that patriotism/ nationalism is not very enduring (just a generation or two) - and for several decades it has looked very much as if the age of nationalism is now past.

Certainly patriotism/ nationalism seems strikingly weak now in the West, and to grow weaker with ever passing year.

Indeed, nowadays anti-patriotism and the favouring of 'others' over one's own country is the most usual ethic among the Western ruling classes.

Orwell saw this coming 80 years ago, with his essay Inside the Whale.

xlbrl said...

I neglected to include a final opinion of de Tocqueville. "I doubt whether man can ever support at the same time complete religious independence and entire political freedom and am drawn to the thought that if a man is without faith, he must serve someone and if he is free, he must believe."

Wasn't Orwell and atheist? Considering his general opinions and attitudes, his early death may have left quite the uncompleted legacy.

I'll look up the Whale.

Bruce Charlton said...

@xlbrl - Yes, Orwell was an atheist.

He was an unmatched observer - but his positive political ideas have proved to be ineffectual. Indeed, he didn't really live long enough to allow him to sort out his own views - having spent his life up to about 1938 (Spanish civil war) en-meshed in illusion.