Leftism: A Radical Faith
Much of the political history of the extended twentieth century is that of massive extinctions of citizenries by their dictatorial governments. Take the engineered mass starvations, torture chambers, firing squads, and gulags of Lenin and Stalin; Nazi gas chambers; Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge killing fields; the genocides of Mao's "Great Leap Forward"; and the tyrannical North Korean Sung dynasty, and one will find that over one hundred million people have been slaughtered.
Systematically murdering millions to create an imagined earthly Eden is clearly irrational. In this sense, leftist ideology has the look of a religious inquisition.
In his introduction to Eric Voegelin's The New Science of Politics (1), Dante Germino neatly captured Voegelin's thesis of the left as an atheistic "religion":
[M[odern Gnosticism has been dedicated to the hubristic attempt to overcome the anxieties and uncertainties of human life by building a terrestrial paradise. However well-intentioned, even the 'moderate proponents of the 'progressive' program bear a heavy responsibility for the disasters of humanity.
Others have alluded to this secular religious characterization of leftist ideology:
- "Consider the millions of people who were killed by Stalin and Mao: although these tyrants paid lip service to rationality, communism was little more than a political religion." (2)
- "Marxism ... was a religious atheism, a secular religion that proposed to build utopia only to open the gates of hell[.]" (3)
- "The ability of the intellectual Left to survive the catastrophe of its Communist attachments derives from its essentially religious nature[.]" (4)
Fischer (5) put it this way:
[T]otalitarianism represents the twentieth-century version of traditional religiosity; it is in many ways the secular equivalent of the religious life. Unless this crucial point is captured, the quintessential nature of totalitarianism will elude us.
This "totalitarian religiosity" continues as a secular, politico-centric faith, disdainful of theistic beliefs and contemptuous of those who subscribe to them. It is a faith that, in its historical manifestations, has birthed the murderous tyrannies of the extended twentieth century -- tyrannies that have marched under left-wing banners of Marxism, Communism, and National Socialism, or, more generally and descriptively, Coercive Collectivism.
For the past eighty-plus years, America has been heading toward such an elitist tyranny in accordance with such socio-political contrivances as "New Deals," "Great Societies," "Fundamental Transformations," and the steady, piecemeal abrogation of the Constitution. We have not yet reached the "Heil Hitler" or "Hail Stalin" state, but we're getting closer with the hope-and-change nihilism of Critical Theory and arbitrary Postmodernist relativisms (e.g., "situational ethics").
It is asserted here that this coercive faith has the character of an endemic narcissism. It is an arrogant faith led, and largely populated, by a relentlessly aggressive, power-obsessed political class dedicated to imposing an egalitarian minimalism ("social justice") on the world.
While the classic definition of narcissism focuses on the individual, collective narcissism asserts that one can have a similar excessively high opinion of a group, and that group can function as a narcissistic entity.
In the broadest terms, this narcissistic entity is America's left-wing political establishment and the purveyor of an authoritarian collectivist faith. It is a faith largely populated by those in the high-visibility, look-at-me intellectual professions of politics, the arts, teaching, journalism, and various political foundations. All are professions inordinately able to shape the public mind both short- and long-term. As such, it is a propaganda-intensive collective that includes the left-biased "news" media and the TV and film industries.
It is further asserted that the operating ethic of this narcissistic confederacy runs from feel-good, busybody, liberal condescension (we know what's best for everyone) to the arrogance of the more radical ("progressive") wing, for whom the ends justify the means. Implicitly, such an ethic reflects an overriding need for power and control, which, along with lying, is a trait characteristic of pathological narcissism.
- Pathological lying is one of the hallmark characteristics of [the] narcissist, who does it out of a need to manipulate and maintain control.
- The narcissistic personality disorder trait of ... lying [self-exempts] the narcissist from [being] responsible or accountable for questionable actions.
But for the Postmodernist left, lying is so integral to the furtherance of its authoritarian, revolutionary agenda that the word has effectively been deleted from the descriptive lexicon of leftist behaviors. As Bill Clinton once explained, "[i]t depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." For the political right, however, no such "leniencies" are tolerated, and so has arisen the left's notorious double-standard.
One thinks of Benghazi, the IRS scandal, ObamaCare, and the multiple "gate" scandals of the Clinton years -- two of which, Chinagate and Filegate, were quite likely impeachable offenses.
Narcissists have such an elevated sense of self-worth that they value themselves as inherently better than others, when in reality they have a fragile self-esteem, cannot handle criticism and will often try to compensate for this inner fragility by belittling or disparaging others in an attempt to validate their own self-worth.
One example, of many, is the unjust and absolutely vile personal smears that have been, and continue to be, leveled at Sarah Palin and her family -- narcissistic shamelessness defined. Such vitriol can only be the expression of a visceral hatred held by the activist left for conservatives who oppose the left's de facto nullifications of America's Constitutionally-established liberties.
It is a hatred fed to captive student audiences in university-classroom indoctrinating centers. It is a nihilistic hatred that shows-up in the activist left's episodic window-smashing, car-burning, look-at-us "street theatre."
But hate and fear are the obverse sides of the same psychological coin.
Arguably, the fear side of this coin is the transcendent fear of the so-called Human Condition, which plagues us all at some level of consciousness -- a fear of our eventual non-being coupled with the relentless uncertainties of life itself. Or, in the bumper-strip vernacular, "Life is hard; then you die."
[H]undreds of published academic papers have shown that worrying about death [influences] everything from our prejudices and voting patterns ... [to how] people deal with death by upholding worldviews that are larger and longer-lasting than themselves, and opposing anyone or anything that violates these 'cultural anxiety buffers'.
Many on the right find solace and guidance through the sensed presence of a transcendent Intelligence at the root of things and structure their lives accordingly. The secular-narcissistic left dismisses this outlook as fanciful nonsense while working relentlessly to establish its own fanciful nonsense of fabricating a homogenous earthly Eden out of highly disparate human material.
"[T]o the religious gnostic, reality is a delusion, a creation of false consciousness. The religious revolutionary believes humanity creates its own reality."(6)
"[I]n the arrogant ambition to transform human nature and remake the world . . . lies the true ancestry of the revolutionary Left." (7)
It's that "arrogant ambition" that defines the pathological narcissist and those who lust for leadership and the power and adulation that go with it.
One source put it this way:
- [N]arcissists are thought to seek leadership positions specifically to garner power that enables them to 'structure an external world' that supports their grandiose needs and visions.
- What [characterizes] these [narcissistic leaders] ... is that ultimately, their leadership is driven by their own personal egotistical needs for power and admiration rather than by an empathic concern for the constituents they lead.
- [N]arcissists are just the type of leader to falter over time. Not only does their narcissism fuel their poor decision-making, but their [acquired] power ... fuels their narcissism, driving a downward spiral into poor leadership.
[T]he enemy [of a free society] is not ideology, but [a] pathology [in which] ... psychopathological mechanisms such as repression, projection, and deliberate misinformation serve to maintain the mass narcissism of a system literally based on mendacity.
America's antiquated, fraud-prone electoral system, crafted in a more honest era, is too easily corrupted by any monied, charismatic (8), power-lusting personality intent on fundamentally transforming America. Tons of money; media hype; and an obsolete, haphazard, easily evadable vetting process leave the door readily ajar for those with revolutionary ambitions.
The great tragedies of history occur when men or women with extreme or deviant personality traits rise to a position of great power from whence they can do great damage.
1. Voegelin, Eric, The New Science of Politics, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1987, vii
2. Harris, Sam, The End of Faith, Norton, NY, 2004, 74
3. Anderson, Brian, Democratic Capitalism and its Discontents, ISI Books, Wilmington, DE, 2007, 21
4. Horowitz, David, The Politics of Bad Faith, The Free Press, NY, 1998, 15
5. Fischer, Klaus P., Nazi Germany: A New History, Continuum, 1996, 17
6. Horowitz, Ibid., 124
7. Horowitz, Ibid., 133
8. Oakes, Len, Prophetic Charisma, Syracuse Univ. Press, 1997