Dalrymple interprets David Miliband’s latest crusade, and by extension, those of all such “modern political mediocrities”:
The duller and less interesting our politicians become, and the less religious faith there is in the general population, the more political saviours we seem to have. Such saviours don’t want just to improve things a little, in some minor but definite way, they want to play the salvationist hero, that is to say all or nothing… The interviewer did not ask Mr Miliband how and why he lighted upon the fish of the world as the object of his salvationist urgings rather than, say, the stickleback of his local pond. The need to save is primary, the object of salvation secondary. I suppose it has to do with a deep inner emptiness that can [be] filled only by an equally vast ambition.
In his 2007 book “Liberal Fascism” Jonah Goldberg made the (to me) impressive and impressively-documented case that early 20th century American Progressivism was a contemporary and sibling of other such ‘totalizing’ approaches to government as Marxism-Leninism, Mussolini’s Fascism, and Hitler’s National Socialism. They all are ‘totalitarian’ in the sense that they all seek the government’s total control over all aspects of a nation-society-culture’s life and the lives of its Citizens.
And they all believe that their elites/cadres have t-h-e solution.
And that there is no other power or authority that deserves to have the hegemony they demand. Including the Church (representing a Multi-Planar Reality that includes not just this-dimension but a higher dimension). Thus, using Musso’s pithy bit: Nothing outside the State, nothing against the State, nothing above the State.
Further, that such approaches consistently require ‘emergencies’ and ‘crises’ in order to continue: such (created, if necessary) urgencies a) justify the engorgement of their power and simultaneously b) distract the en-cattled Citzens from critically examining what is being done by their trail-bosses.
Thus such necessarily secularist approaches to governance can allow no alternative source of Ultimate Meaning for their Citizenries. Combining the role of a government and a religion/church, these approaches have willy-nilly made organized religion their rival; to be subordinated – as in so much Liberal Protestantism in the past century and more – or eradicated.
Miliband, it seems to me, wants to try to ‘baptize’ what cannot be baptized. Just as American Democrats (later joined by Republicans) since the late 1960s and early 1970s tried to ‘baptize’ much (artfully disguised) Marxism-Leninism in the service of catering to the demands of their new electoral demographic ‘Identities’, Miliband wants Christianity to try and baptize that toxic M-L brew as well.
It’s been tried with Marx-y so-called Liberation Theology, which insists that you can’t really ‘do theology’ with the oppressed unless you first liberate them from socio-political oppression. And the American Social Gospel movement tried to square the circle by enlisting itself in the great Progressive crusade (cracking up finally but hardly unpredictably on the shocking rock of Prohibition, where dewey-eyed Social Gospellers and gimlet-eyed temperance-minded church-ladies found themselves in bed with the Prohibition-birthed organized crime bosses in trying to prevent its repeal).
So the American political bosses (since Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, only Harding and Coolidge have not been Progressives, of a Left or Right valence), committed to a Mono-planar and secularist Flattened human existence, must discredit their ‘rival’ and spin that ‘rival’ as baaad, and must achieve that goal by any means necessary. And to replace what the Church offers in terms of Ultimate Meaning, they must offer – as they always have in the West – lots of goodies and cash.
But the Abundance that David M. Potter believed in 1955 to actually enable American Democracy (rather than the conventionally-envisioned other way around) is now going and almost gone. What happens to Democracy and Ultimate Meaning when the great Oz-like government machine runs out of bennies and cash to distribute? Both Democracy and Ultimate Meaning will be gone, and there will be nothing left to soothe the addled herds those governments have created (mutated) in lieu of humanly and civic-ly competent Citizens.
Those herds, agitated by the loss of their bennies (which had become their only source of ‘meaning’ in life), will race around like globs of fat on a hot skillet until they fizzle-out; or perhaps congeal into a real (not just a metaphorical) revolution.
The Church will be around for that. And she will help humans see it through.
Excellent comment. Jonah Goldberg’s book is spectacular, and his arguments are supported by such a volume of evidence as to be undeniable. (On two instances, I have had great fun telling left-wing friends about the lifelong Italian socialist intellectual who served as editor-in-chief of the official newspaper of the Italian Sociailst Party and then went on to invent fascism. The truly fun part comes when I tell them his name.) In particular, I liked Goldberg’s definition of fascism as “the state as religion” and as a combination, philosophically, of Nietzsche’s will to power and William James’s will to believe. There is certainly something to this idea of a displacement (of religious belief) effect.