Rightists, Conservatives And Imperialists

We badly need a new and better term for the non-liberal side in the American culture wars. There is nothing positively wrong with labelling them “the Right”, although this may imply a greater convergence of interests with moderate conservative parties in northern Europe than actually exists. Big business, militarism, xenophobia and sexual moralising are the four main elements of what Europeans traditionally attribute to “the Right”, but not since the last war have this quartet of values been taken to such extremes as by the current American rightists.

The appellation of “conservatives” is, however, wholly inappropriate, just as it was for Margaret Thatcher; they are not conserving a blessed thing, other than the fortunes of the rich. On the contrary, like Thatcher, both the neocons and the theocrats are radicals. The very word means tearing things up by the roots: in this case, the security of the middle classes, the secular state, the separation of powers, due process and international treaties.

That their forerunner Reagan pretended to be restoring an imagined golden age is merely a tool of the trade, one used by every “reformer”, right or left, not excluding Caesar Augustus and Karl Marx, since the world began. For example, the American past was not in reality so very religious; the Founding Fathers were Deists, not born-agains, and the dominance of rich and bullying religious organisations (other than the Catholic Church) is very recent. Theocratic movements did not really get under way until the Seventies, and not until the Nineties did the plutocracy decide to use the fundamentalists as their stormtroopers. In the same way, the idea that every self-respecting American ought to be packing a pistol for use against the bad guys on the mean streets – as opposed to a rifle for hunting or protection in the wilderness – is not an 18th-century tradition but a postwar innovation, driven by commercial interests.

Another option might be to attempt to empty the term “imperialist” of its communist-rhetoric overtones (running dogs, paper tigers and all that) and to employ it as a sober description of the neo-con programme, in much the same way that in the early 1900s the British were split between Imperialists and Little-Englanders. It was the second term that was derogatory, not the first. This parallel is by no means exact, in that the “Imperialism” of Joseph Chamberlain meant, not acquiring more territory, but welding the Dominions and colonies together into a trading block protected by tariffs (“Imperial Preference”); on the other hand it may remind us that G. K. Chesterton went one step further than Michael Moore and rooted for the outright military victory of the Boers and any other small nation that his country was proposing to step on.

Posted on November 23, 2011 at 11:36 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!, The Shadow In The West

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