Ur-Leftism; the Metaphysics of Speech
By Karl X Brown
Supposing that error has no rights—what then?
This phrase strikes the modern ear with a medieval ring that is rarely heard among the ecclesiastical ranks today, much less in the forum of modern political discourse—that is the Marketplace of Ideas, the place for ‘having a dialogue,’ where the best-fitting theories should theoretically rise by dint of the wisdom of the crowd. In spite of these democratic notions, however, every man in his heart of hearts surely believes in this terse and unyielding maxim of truth. And if we recognize a concept of truth that is independent of subjective experience as such, we spontaneously recognize a baseline of morality, for if truth does not presuppose morality then truth is meaningless, and we have no arguments to make.
Now there are many people among us who disagree with this opening gambit, if for no other reason than the fact that to pronounce objective truth is to be a dissident in this system. No less, to hold to an intellectual position is one thing, and to live by it is another, and thus one can judge what man believes by how he acts. Accordingly, one can surmise how reality is constructed by what must be the case if anything is to work at all. There can be no concept of justice, for one thing, if the preceding paragraph is indeed false.
From the perspective of liberty, in which the individual is to be free from imposition, reality is ultimately a conjecture. Indeed reality is as private as man’s relationship, if any, with God. This all follows logically, applying to both physical and metaphysical reality. This solipsism, more or less, is unfortunate because there is yet so much to learn, and in spite of the modernist’s protesting of truth, the world consists of equal parts freedom and necessity. It is hard for the modern mind to conceive that beauty and morality could have their grounding in the objective, but if we conceive of music, we can see that this is true. In music, meter and tone is to melody what truth and morality are to expression. In any creative act, the free will of a conscious subject is presupposed just the same as certain bounds and restrictions, both of which are prerequisite for intelligibility. As René Guénon wrote, the symbolism of the cross speaks to this mutual indwelling—the fabric of reality thereby consists of the weaving of the vertical, which corresponds to the permanent essences of things, with the horizontal, which represents the material substratum of all things in the world.
The modern world in its obsession with quantity and the material can find no place for the qualitative. From the perspective of traditional metaphysics, liberty is a concept that cannot stand on its own any more than truth can; either one perforce requires a larger metaphysical framework in order to make sense. In any case, the nature of today’s dispute boils down to truth versus opinion, and this represents the gulf between the powerful and the oppressed, each standing opposite in a vacuum where communication is by nature impossible.
The aversion to truth, however, is not exclusively leftist. The modern man of the right will often insist that a thing is ‘true’ but disregard the moral implication that gives it substance and force. It seems that the assumption here is that it is too leftist, or perhaps even too feminine, to deal in morality. Or perhaps on some level this is an instinctive aversion to the old Christian moral majority that failed us. Now in fairness, those Reaganite Boomers were the first victims of generational social engineering, essentially treated as subjects in a petri dish, handed reagents in the form of feminism, LSD, John Lennon, and Crisco among many other things. But nevertheless, after they had razed this good land and salted the earth, leaving the next generations culturally and economically impotent, they mostly admit to no mistakes but instead ‘revel in their abandon’ as Tom Petty once sang. They do lean conservative, but ‘conservatism’ for them has come to be defined by economics tout court. There is nothing unique about this generation, however. No one is immune to such manipulation.
The Boomers as well as modernist right wingers serve as a good example for the point that follows here, because it is this very tendency to isolate one’s highest values that is the essence of Ur-Leftism, which is not a political leaning but an ingrained mindset. It is characterized by rebellion, relativism, and pragmatism; an obsession with power and authority in place of the true and the good; a preoccupation with negative rights and critique in place of positive content. This is the rightful categorization for all first and second position ideologies: liberals, conservatives, libertarians, socialists, communists, Jacobins, Girondins, anarcho-whatevers and so forth. If this is objectionable, we need only ask where a meaningful line can be drawn between ‘right’ and ‘left’ if all available roads lead to globalism?
The leftist sensibility stands no nearer to metaphysics; it mirrors that of the modernist right, but it consists of a high degree of moral certainty without a necessary relationship to truth or knowledge. Thus it merely focuses on a different area of being. From the leftist perspective, many things are self-evidently ‘wrong,’ but it is seldom clear why. This philosophy-of-feels also marks the language of politics and media, where moral principles are asserted as slogans, and dissent is met with either exclusion or punishment. Historically speaking, this incoherence was most consciously realized, perhaps, in Leninism, a utopian program that forthrightly admitted the need to stamp out any opposition. The communist critique is well understood by now, but it bears repeating that if there is any objective cause for equity and justice in this world, it is certainly negated by the inhumanity of this system.
What we see in the discourse today is the budding of a similar morality known as ‘humanism,’ an attempt at a secular religion—the kind of post-Christian adaptation that Nietzsche railed against some 150 years ago. There is a distinctly Bolshevik strain that is evident in the mass censorship and moral panics of today, especially among the younger generation, which is the least religious one so far. Beneath the talk of equity and human rights, humanism when taken to its logical conclusions is every bit as misanthropic as Marxism, for in either religion, man is not so much redeemable as disposable; man is peripheral to the forces of history and not intimately linked to metaphysical reality. The strangest phenomenon of humanism is seen in the area of empathy, whereby things (e.g. the environment) and animals (e.g. pets and livestock) garner more empathy than most humans do (illegal immigrants excepted).
Marxism today represents a position of critique and nothing more. In political terms, the communist ideology is no more relevant or realistic than fascism. Outmoded political theories, however, serve an important function for the oligarchic class by virtue of the fact that they corral people into ideological corners and thereby undermine the popular will that is the ‘heart of democracy.’ Now because any derivation of Marxism is so destructive to morality it is certainly false, and in spite of this fact it is perfectly legal to promote Marxist ideas in classrooms. More than legal, it is a sacred tenet of classical liberalism to allow untruth. Thus, there can be no conservative argument for liberty as a tenable first principle, that is if conservatism as a political orientation is to have any relation to its root word.
“From the perspective of liberty, in which the individual is to be free from imposition, reality is ultimately a conjecture.”
The Western mind has long been intrigued by the idea of world peace. Once industry had come into full swing and the movement of capital had become more efficient, political thought expanded its horizon. Perhaps as early as the late eighteenth century, the concept that we now call globalism was already in the tea leaves. Among Revolutionary thinkers like Karl Marx and F.A. Hayek we can see surface-level economic disagreements that are unified by a materialist principle. It is known to physics and philosophy that identity has no meaning as a physical concept. Because materialism is anti-metaphysical, it cannot effectively deal with aspects of identity such as the human soul, ethnic groups, and cultural tradition—things that cannot be quantified but are so near to our experience and intuition. All of these are impediments to the state’s values, which in any strain of Ur-Leftism must supersede those of any of its citizens.
In spite of all the energy spent on the debate over ‘individualism’ and ‘collectivism,’ it is a case of much ado about nothing: either the individual or the collective dissolves into the infinite plurality set forth by the materialist presupposition. Thus over time, distinctions of all kinds become nebulous and problematic to the system. Today this phenomenon is clearly observed on the progressive left, which in general cannot comprehend basic aspects of human genetics and anatomy, and loves to play around with language because the meaning of words is another imposition. Although the small-government advocates persist in their support of ‘classical liberal values,’ Ur-Leftism must gradually expand its locus of control to every aspect of civic and private life. The only forms of liberty that are secure are those that sever the individual from notions of identity. These include gender roles, family ties, culture, traditions, and religious dogmas. The fact is, we could scarcely conceive of an environment in which we are less free and less aware of the nature and degree of our enslavement; and it is precisely the lack of honesty that marks out liberalism from the rest in terms of effectiveness in reaching its aim of totalitarianism.
We have traded the single tyrant for a thousand oligarchs, and countless bureaucrats handed golden parachutes after ruining nations. In such a kingdom of the Antichrist, Christianity is hate speech and truth is fascism. Although man is a born theist, man in liberal society is outwardly and formally atheistic, and necessarily so, else liberalism fails. The Revolutionary course of the West abandoned the tradition of the confessional state and set out to impose truth on the world by force of will and Reason. In doing so, the West has become markedly atheistic, especially in urban areas. In terms of average wealth and technology, we have seen advancement. We are more ‘literate’ than ever, but the average person is merely well-schooled, and thus very opinionated—grafted into politics for want of anything better to do, but not literate in a meaningful sense. Reality in modernity is a fully private phenomenon, each man the lone witness to his own flickering reel of images with his choice of corn-syrup-sweetened beverage. The effects of this turn tell the tale of the past few centuries, which is bloody and bittersweet, and led directly to the world that we now inhabit. That is Clown World, which we might define as the nascent stage of anarcho-tyranny leading to the technocratic slave state; the world where old churches ‘fraught with meaning’ are burned down accidentally, or not so accidentally, and replaced with more steel-and-glass monuments to humanism.
Thus we have to recognize, firstly, that free speech is myth, and secondly that free speech is fundamentally leftist, despite that it is currently the desideratum of the right. In terms of politics, free speech is essential at the moment, but in terms of political philosophy it is the primary reason that we are now ruled by philistines, liars, and morons. The problem with liberty is that it is a negative position: that is to say, ‘Don’t tread on me.’ This way of thinking still informs the modern right, which has a seemingly inexhaustible well of things that they do not like, but at present lack positive content and coherence.
A romantic strain is present in the right, and the right-wing critiques of capitalism are more incisive than anything heretofore pronounced from the other side of the tennis court, but people need something to fight for, not just against. Liberalism offers only a paycheck and the occasional burst of dopamine. Because of this, liberalism will fail, and perhaps sooner than we think. There will be heavy lifting to do. And if this philosophizing should be seen as trivial, we need only recognize that without any institutional power one has nothing to lean on except truth and the strength of his convictions. That is real faith, the source of zeal and vigor—the way to move mounds of earth.
Karl X Brown
is a romantic: a reactionary, reacting irrationally to rationality. He is a lifelong Chicagoan and Northwestern alum; an essayist from the perspective of transcendental realism, classical metaphysics, Orthodox theology, and most of all, the absurd.