Human progress, especially in the area of social and political issues, is not and cannot, be linear.
It is like a car with no steering, lurching violently from side to side, leaving behind ugly tyre tracks and covering a lot more ground than is necessary but, ultimately, still progressing onward.
This, in crude terms, is Hegel’s dialectic, otherwise known as the Pendulum Theory. The progress of humanity is not decided by committee for maximal efficiency. Rather, it occurs as a result of societal shifts to either side. We react and overreact to past mistakes, shunting us from the left to the right and then back again.
This phenomenon explains the baffling resurgence we have seen in socialist and collectivist ideas among the young of today. They are reacting to what is perceived as a global shift to the right in recent decades in the form of the worldwide capitalist boom by espousing quite radical ideas of leftist economics.
The socialist ‘youth-quake’ was largely responsible for installing the most hardline Labour leader in recent memory and subsequently proceeding to rob the Tories of their parliamentary majority. Leftist rhetoric has crept back into public discourse thanks to the likes of Ash “I’m literally a communist, you idiot” Sarkar, and Owen Jones, who nurtures the rise of the hard left by fuelling fear of the far-right, pointing to measly gatherings of a few dozen drunken EDL “protesters” as though they are poised to seize control of the country in some inebriated street coup.
By exaggerating the threat of the far-right, the socialist commentariat can lull the pendulum towards the left. Young people — my peers — are embracing the left simply because it is seen as the opposite of the prevailing political ideology. That urge would be offset by the basic knowledge that communism consistently results in authoritarianism and mass starvation if it wasn’t for the deadly mix of arrogance and ignorance present in the self-involved political discourse of the young.
My generation has a penchant for throwing around words like “Nazi” as if they’re going out of fashion yet seems remarkably averse to a basic understanding of history which would illuminate the cataclysmically unwise nature of reviving socialism. Over one hundred million people met untimely demises in the twentieth century thanks to the destructive ideology of universal equality of outcome, resulting in the clichéd and farcical yet somehow widely accepted notion that communism “has never been tried”, as though its repeated failure in over forty countries around the world was pure coincidence.
The Soviet Union collapsed all the way back in 1989. That’s eleven years before I was born. I have no memory of what leftism looks like. I have little intention of dedicating my life to the study of political history. So, I might be forgiven for having little or no knowledge of what socialism looks like in action.
As a result, when I am presented with its ideals — fairness and equality — and that is contrasted with the world I see around me — in which bankers get million-pound bonuses while others starve on the streets — it is perhaps inevitable that I should buy into the naïve, idealistic philosophy of communitarianism and socialism, and therefore accept the rhetoric of radicalism and overthrowing the capitalist order.
After all, who could possibly disagree that pursuing the interests of “the many, not the few” is a benevolent thing to do?
The solution to this conundrum, as is true of almost everything, is education, in this case of the socio-political variety.
Assuming we can resist the ludicrous calls to simply ignore large chunks of history by “decolonising the curriculum”, then we might be able to wedge some knowledge and understanding of the way the world works into the young people of today.
Experience is the greatest teacher, but astounding self-righteousness leads to many refusing to fill up the gaping chasms in their own life experience with wisdom from those more knowledgeable, choosing instead to commit to blind ideology and stand firm with ultimately nonsensical first principles of total egalitarianism.
As many great minds have said over the years, those who cannot — or will not — learn from history are, indeed, doomed to repeat it.