Individualists often struggle to understand what drives someone on the left to cede personal power over his own life to the state. The counter-intuitive answer is that he feels impotent to change his own life and insignificant in the big scheme of things. He believe that by becoming something larger than himself, he becomes more significant and an agent of momentous change.
The man of the left is a creature of his own feelings of insignificance and impotence. The death of God in the 19th century, as Nietzsche adjudged, deprived many of a special relationship with an imagined, omnipotent advocate who was intimately invested in the fate of the believer. For the practicing Christian, one is at the center of the universe when psychically basking in God’s presence; selflessness is a way of becoming one with all, and therefore, a part of something all-important.
When atheism became normalized among the Western intelligentsia, an irreconcilable rift between the elites and the masses was breached. No longer were public intellectuals driven by a shared mission of serving God by serving the people, high culture became the enemy of mass culture, and animus was fostered in an increasingly cloistered cadre of elites, whose collectively valued ideas found less currency in what was perceived as the vulgar mass market.
Capitalism came to be perceived as a barrier to social change, instead of an economically dynamic mechanism for productive activities. Intellectuals turned to the state to incrementally seize control of educational institutions, simultaneously infiltrating schools and colleges, embedding curricula hostile to capitalism and Christianity, eroding American exceptionalism and the ethos of freedom. The collective drive to socially engineer a brave new world and to save humanity from itself gave a hermetical zeal to the intellectual caste, who bonded ever closer together and secularly translated religious values while erecting the man-god State.
Through Marxian dialectics, a syncretist form of Christian socialism took hold in America’s Progressive Era, producing perhaps its finest exemplar in the mind of Reinhold Niebuhr, who was called by current president Barack Obama “one of his favorite philosophers.” The grinding process of reality intermixed with unreality was a destructive means to break down the engine of Industrial Capitalism. The illuminati would recreate man in their preferred image; this necessarily entailed corroding those values that made people resistant to reformation: individualism, religious dogmatism, self-interested pursuit of wealth and upward mobility.
Those who fell under the spell of the ruling elites’ nouveau bible Das Kapital became convinced that to avoid becoming ground into fodder by industrial forces, becoming but an insignificant cog in the state machine, then banding together with fellow travelers and forming one collective blok would be necessary. Little would they conceive that instead of presenting the proverbial monkey wrench in the works, they would be morally liquified into oil, and used to lubricate the state machinery.
In their existential plight to avoid becoming insignificant, leftists bonded together to comprise a modern revivalist mission animated by an insignificant morality, an anarchist nihilism that ironically only empowers the state. It is principle and more specifically, right principle, that has allowed man to resist tyrannical totalitarianism. Principle is not in and of itself extreme; it is a matter of the principle’s character that determines whether or not it is extreme.
Individualism and freedom are themselves moderating principles, teaching men tolerance of other men’s ideas. Moderation does not result from a moral free-for-all where the mob rules, and whatever the mob wants, the mob gets. It’s no coincidence that this confusion of democracy and civility is having disastrous consequences; at home with our now-defunct Occupy movement protesters, and throughout the Middle East. The left’s feeling of insignificance is leading to more collectivism, and more calls for state empowerment by erroneously relating it to democratic empowerment.
The left’s preoccupation with income inequality is unintentionally leading to power inequality; as the statists gain more power to redistribute wealth, the individual is losing power to run his own life. Self-reliance means one has the power to change his own life if he doesn’t like something about it, and that healthy instinct drives many Americans. But the left doesn’t feel empowered enough to take responsibility of his own life because there is always a “system” to blame for his condition; namely, the capitalist system.
This is the ultimate dodge, and a tragedy in and of itself; for when someone becomes slavishly beholden to socialism, or radical environmentalism, or any other collectivist mass movement, he metaphysically, and sometimes physically, loses his life. And what was the significance of that life that he lived?