Skip to comments.The Emptiness of the Right Side of History
Posted on 03/21/2014 5:46:46 AM PDT by Kaslin
The right side of history is bunk.
In domestic politics, people (mostly liberals) tend to say, "You're on the wrong side of history" about social issues that are breaking their way. It's a handy phrase, loosely translated as, "You're going to lose eventually, so why don't you give up now?"
Philosophically, the expression is abhorrent because of its "Marxist twang" (to borrow historian Robert Conquest's phrase). The idea that history moves in a predetermined, inexorable path amounts to a kind of Hallmark-card Hegelianism. Marx, who ripped off a lot of his shtick from the philosopher Hegel, popularized the idea that opposition to the inevitability of socialism was anti-intellectual and anti-scientific. The progression of history is scientifically knowable, quoth the Marxists, and so we need not listen to those who object to our program. Later, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and others would use this reasoning to justify murdering millions of inconvenient people. It was a "God is on our side" argument, minus God.
In fairness, I doubt Barack Obama and John Kerry have Marx or Hegel on the brain when they prattle on about the right and wrong sides of history. They more properly belong in what some call the "Whig school" of history, coined in 1931 by historian Herbert Butterfield. The Whiggish tendency in history says that the world progresses toward the inevitable victory of liberal democracy and social enlightenment. Again, I doubt Obama and Kerry have ever cracked the spine of Butterfield's book.
Still, this administration has used the "wrong side of history" phrase more than any I can remember. They particularly like to use it in foreign policy. In his first inaugural, Obama declared, "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." Ever since, whenever things haven't gone his way on the international scene -- i.e., on days that end with a "y" -- he or his spokespeople have wagged their fingers from the right side of history.
Lately, Obama and Kerry have been talking a lot about how Russian strongman Vladimir Putin is on the "wrong side of history." Before that, Obama announced that Putin was on the wrong side of history for supporting the Assad regime in Syria. He also said that Assad himself was on the wrong side of history. And so on.
Note the difference in usage? In domestic affairs, it's a sign of strength. But in foreign affairs, invoking history as an ally is a sign of weakness. On social issues like, say, gay marriage, it amounts to a kind of impatient bullying that you can afford when time is on your side; "Your defeat is inevitable, so let's hurry it up."
But in international affairs, it is an unmistakable sign of weakness. When the president tells Putin that he's on the wrong side of history, the upshot is: "You're winning right now and there's nothing I can (or am willing to) do to change that fact. But you know what? In the future, people will say you were wrong."
The phrase is utterly lacking in feck because it outsources the bulk of the punishment to an abstract future rather than the concrete here and now. But the fecklessness goes deeper than that because people like Putin and Assad either completely disagree about what the future holds, or they think they can change the future. And the people who try to bend the future to their benefit tend to be the sorts of people who believe they can.
Now, I don't think in the long run things look great for the tyrants and totalitarians either, but that's just a guess. As Yogi Berra said, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." Maybe there is a direction to history. But if there is, it doesn't move in anything like a straight line. It zigs and zags and U-turns all the time. And there's no telling how long any detour will last.
In the meantime, people can't eat the future judgment of history. They can't live decent, free lives because history might eventually work out for their grandkids or their great-great-great grandkids. In short, being on the right side of history in the long run counts for little when in the here and now the guy on the wrong side of history has his boot on your neck.
Good article. Thanks for posting.
Pretty much every statistic shows that Muslims will be the majority in France in 35 to 50 years.
I would like to ask a secularist if they feel they are on the wrong side of history to be against wearing burquas in the present.
Daniel Greenfield’s blog for Thursday, 3/20/14, pertains: http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/
This is a great article. I’m going to have to read that book he references. After I finish “David Crockett, His Life and Times” by John SC Abbott.
Poor, wretched, and stupid peoples, nations determined on your own misfortune and blind to your own good! You let yourselves be deprived before your own eyes of the best part of your revenues; your fields are plundered, your homes robbed, your family heirlooms taken away. You live in such a way that you cannot claim a single thing as your own; and it would seem that you consider yourselves lucky to be loaned your property, your families, and even your lives.
All this havoc, this misfortune, this ruin, descends upon you not from alien foes, but from the one enemy whom you yourselves render as powerful as he is, for whom you go bravely to war, for whose greatness you do not refuse to offer your own bodies unto death. He who thus domineers over you has only two eyes, only two hands, only one body, no more than is possessed by the least man among the infinite numbers dwelling in your cities; he has indeed nothing more than the power you confer upon him to destroy you. Where has he acquired enough eyes to spy on you, if you do not provide them yourselves? How can he have so many arms to beat you with, if he does not borrow them from you? The feet that trample down your cities, where does he get them if they are not your own? How does he have any power over you except through you? How would he dare assail you if he had no cooperation from you? What could he do to you if you yourselves did not connive with the thief who plunders you, if you were not accomplices of the murderer who kills you, if you were not traitors to yourselves?
You sow your crops in order that he may ravage them, you install and furnish your homes to give him goods to pillage; you rear your daughters that he may gratify his lust; you bring up your children in order that he may confer upon them the greatest privilege he knows to be led into his battles, to be delivered to butchery, to be made the servants of his greed and the instruments of his vengeance; you yield your bodies unto hard labor in order that he may indulge in his delights and wallow in his filthy pleasures; you weaken yourselves in order to make him the stronger and the mightier to hold you in check.
From all these indignities, such as the very beasts of the field would not endure, you can deliver yourselves if you try, not by taking action, but merely by willing to be free. Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.
Since French was a second language to most of the Founders, I would imagine they knew of this paper.
I wonder how long THEY would have tolerated the mechanizations of
Getting to those who do not think clearly for themselves, is the usual motive for trying to sell your beliefs by promoting a mystique as a substitute for rational analysis. Unfortunately, in certain circles (Academic in particular), those who prefer to embrace a silly mystique rather than logical analysis, have become increasingly the norm. Most of us see this as a "dumming down." The embracers, of course, see it as a new enlightenment.
Our job must be to turn the spotlight of reason on their "enlightenment," wherever it raises its absurdly ugly head.
The “right side of history” can be counted upon to be the Wrong Side of Morality.
If you think about it, it’s simply another leftist logical fallacy. It’s the “faith” that history will prove them correct. But “history” proved Hitler correct too, until the Soviets overran his position.
We can just as easily say that God pouring out His wrath on us in the future because of our depravity is more accurate than their idiocy. We have prophetic history from the Almighty God on our side which says it’s going to happen.
I guess Hannity, who uses the phrase constantly, is utterly lacking in feck.
Two people who overuse ‘feckless’ are John McCain and Michelle Malkin.