There is a chilling certainty about it, an arrogance from the dogmas of Marxism and fascism, seeing history as a ‘project’. Those who use the term see themselves as progressive and enlightened. There is a threatening edge to it, as if history itself is a war to be won.
Conservatives don’t usually use this terminology, it always seems to be the demented utopian left, the justice warriors, the racial obsessives (black and white), the Islamists and their apologists, who forget the numerous attacks and bombings, and are more worried about ‘islamophobia’. Don’t be on the wrong side of history, they say, wagging their fingers at those whose children and loved ones keep getting maimed. it’s not progressive to criticise a religion that pretends it is peaceful, but also says it shall have the last word.
I suspect a lot of people in government and the public sector are believers in history as a progressive project; it’s why many of them became civil servants. Remember in the late nineties when Blairites wanted to rub the right’s nose in diversity? What was the aim? Diversity for its own sake?
Look at the mess that has created, not especially for the right, but for all in the UK, creating more division and economic inequality, as well as stretching services beyond capacity. Are these architects of unhappiness and cultural anxiety on the right side of history?
This arrogance and self-delusion is not just the preserve of the left. Political philosopher Francis Fukuyama declared there would be an ‘end’ to history, its finale being a world of liberal democracy, global trade, Disney animation, MTV and McDonalds in every land. He wrote about this in 1992 at the end of the cold war. It was probably a lot easier to believe back then, as America became the world police. However, It took less than a decade for his theory to be proven false, with the rise of Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks, and the more recent rise of China.
This worldview still seems to be prominent in the western world; there is still little acknowledgement of pluralism; the world of liberal democracy and globalised neo-liberal economics must win out. Transnational organisations like the UN, WTO and EU are the inevitable future. this is why the managerial elite of the west and their sycophants in the media were so outraged by Brexit and Trump. The most unhinged reactions were from the supposedly enlightened; barristers, academics, politicians, peers, senior civil servants, authors, artists and scientists. Their progressive project had been sabotaged. ‘They didn’t know they what they were voting for’ is as insufferable as telling people they’re on ‘the wrong side of history’.
There is no great surprise that Fukuyama’s work drew on Marxism and Hegel, seeing history as ‘progressive’. It is pure dogma and wishful thinking, not based on a realistic view of human history; humans are too chaotic and mercurial to be effectively modelled, marshalled and shunted into a single system that progresses along and can predict some end point. It’s the same sort of ‘rationalist’ thinking that asserts there should be universal human rights.
Good luck applying that in the real world.
Greater geniuses than Marx and Hegel (namely John von Neumann) have created theories and strategies such as Game theory to try to anticipate human behaviour, mainly in the economic sphere, but have had the wisdom to not try to turn that into a long-term forecasts related to history.
Both Bertrand Russell and later Jacob Bronowski, both champions of empiricism, labelled Hegel a con artist, and it was Jacob Bronowski, while filming his series The Ascent of Man, who cautioned against certainty, for the march of ‘progress’ guided by pure dogma leads to the horrors of not only the Holocaust, but of the Soviet gulag and the Terror of the French Revolution. Note that none of these horrors were motivated by a belief in God, but the belief in political projects and the supremacy of ideology over others without ever testing them.
Bronowski famously quoted Cromwell, ‘I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you might be mistaken’.
I wonder how many people who accuse others of being on the wrong side of history, and believe they are on the right side, ever wonder if they might have been mistaken.
Nominated by Cuntamus Prime.