If you assign no value to the past, then the question hardly matters. Who really cares about the Western Canon, if the only aspect of literature that matters is its relevance to present day social problems? Such a literature by definition has no past or future. Only the throbbing political pulse of the present. What do the Dutch Masters matter if painting is merely a tool for challenging notions of color, order and space? What does the American Revolution matter if blacks did not have the right to vote? Why should anyone pay attention to the Magna Carta when it didn’t cover gay rights?
Change measures the past against the potential of the future as embodied in the strivings of the present and finds it wanting. It does not recognize that it emerges from the past and is defined by it, rather it is always fleeing the past, casting it off, tossing it aside and running breathlessly toward the future.
For those who want a single explanation for the Jewish liberal, it is to be noted that political liberalism is an aspect of the rejection of traditionalism. Those who break their ties with the past, escaping the shadows of what seems to be a dark past, to eat of the lotus of an idyllic future, are always running, afraid of what might be following behind them.
The left destroys its future by breaking with the past in search of the future. Like a fish out of the water or a tree with no roots, it perishes and becomes a meal for passing predators. It conceives of futures that have no link with the past and ruthlessly strives to implement them over piles of corpses. It fails to understand that the past is neither good or bad, but a mix of the two that has been tested and refined by struggle and conflict. The future will have both good and bad in it as well, but the more it breaks with the past, the more it will be untested and unrefined.
Change has both positive and negative aspects to it, which is why leaps of hope and change are dangerous. When you jump without looking, without understanding that there are sharp edges, then bad things are more likely to happen. If the right proceeds too cautiously into the future, blinded by a rosy vision of the past, the left rushes too heedlessly forward, mistaking darkness for light.
The left romanticizes chaos, while the right romanticizes order. But the left’s chaos necessitates a harsher order as the chaos it unleashes is managed with higher and higher levels of social authorities that enforce their perfect plan for change on the formless society bubbling under them. The right’s order allows for less authority because it depends on empowering organic social institutes and mores, rather than enforcing a detailed plan that goes against the grain.
The right’s organic order allows for freer societies because it stems from how people actually live. It is rooted in the past, rather than an ever-changing plan for the future. The left’s artificial order makes for societies that are fundamentally repressive, even when they allow for a limited degree of autonomy, because the hand of the planners is always on every man and woman.
Repressive societies on the right are bottom up, they represent the preferred order of the people, but while the left chants of the will of the people, their repressive societies represent only the master plan of an elite. The right builds such societies to foreclose change, the left builds its societies to implement change, but once that happens, their societies freeze, turn reactionary and fall apart as they no longer have any reason to exist, but to perpetuate the power of the elite.
The right sees positive change as organic, deriving from the inevitable trajectory of a civilization, the left sees positive change as revolutionary, the result of the dispossessed fighting the possessors until the former triumph and the latter yield. This view of history is dangerously childish and violent, but it has become our version of history and it demands that we constantly sacrifice ourselves on the altar of change for the sake of emerging groups of the dispossessed.
About the Author: Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.
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