The European New Right Doesn't Get It Right: The Danger of Manichaean Historiography
Bravo, well said - it would seem that Sunic gets it.
Rather, the core problem is quite simply that this polemical manifesto, like so many similar ones, derives it plausibility and persuasive power from a very common type of bad historiography. A first objection concerns the “presentist” approach to history: you begin with what worries you in the contemporary situation and then start cherry-picking for its causes back into the past to create a narrative that, predictably, culminates in the very phenomena you were trying to "explain" in the first place. A second and even more serious objection, on which I will be concentrating, is that the entire enterprise is built upon an essentialist approach to historical writing grounded in a very common type of mental delusion (see below) but that can be used to great rhetorical effect and has tremendous potential for political propaganda. Let me emphasize right away that O’Meara is not alone in this regard. The same structural problem is basic to countless other grand narratives of modernity, with Hegel as the classic example.
Entities you can't see...
|John Gast, "American Progress" (1872)|
All of which might sound almost trivial. But it is not: the implications reach very far, much farther than we commonly recognize. One often hears the objection that pure and utter contingency “empties history of any meaning”, beause it implies that history is just a string of random events, “one damn thing after another”. I disagree. Grand narratives based on reification do not discover any true meaning in history. What they do is impute meanings on history, and while it is true that this can bestow a sense of purpose and personal fulfilment, the results can be utterly destructive too. Does this mean then that in fact there is no meaning or value to be found in the world? On the contrary! All it means is that if you look for it in “the historical process”, in some kind of political ideology or theology of salvation, then you’re looking in the wrong place. You find it in a meaningful life. And here, I think, lies the real tragedy of political ideologies, whether from the “Left” or from the “Right”. Although their very power and motivation comes from a deep and genuine concern with protecting important human values (how can we lead a meaningful life under conditions of modernity?), those who take it upon themselves to impose such values infailingly end up sacrificing real human beings on the altar of “the greater good”. In the end, they care more about ideas than they care about people.
In the words of Annie Dillard, we are all in the same boat (or rather, in her story it is an ice floe), on our way towards the Pole of Relative Inaccessibility. Let's face it: we shouldn't expect to arrive there anytime soon. It's total chaos on that floe, but we're all on it together. So while we're all there and have nowhere else to go, we’d better learn to get over ourselves and try treating our fellow-travelers the way we’d like to be treated ourselves. Listening to what they have to say would not be a bad beginning.