One of the pipe dreams the left tells us that, “if we could get rid of these conservatives, we’d have harmony and comity.” No where is that disproven more consistently than in California. We’ve seen the slugfest over single-payer healthcare and this is yet another example.
The thing the left forgot which engenders debacles such as this is the class struggle. For all of their talk about being the champions of the oppressed, liberals have forgotten about the importance of class differences. Gentrification, for all the improvement it can develop, runs up already high housing and other living costs, dispossessing people of limited means. It’s little wonder the current residents fight back.
This is what happens when the party of “the people” becomes the party of the elites. Perhaps this is why the Republicans made the inroads they did in California during the last election.
My dear Marcellinus: This work which I have begun makes good my promise to you. In it I am undertaking nothing less than the task of defending the glorious City of God against those who prefer their own gods to its Founder.
Flavius Marcellinus was a high official of the Western Roman Emperor Honorius. In 410–the year Alaric sacked Rome–he was given orders to suppress the Donatist churches in North Africa, which he proceeded to do. But the Donatists resorted to the old Late Roman trick of laying a charge of treason against Marcellinus and his brother, accusing them of supporting a separate rebellion. The Roman general Marinus, who had just put down the rebellion, put them on trial, secured a conviction, and had them executed just two short years after Augustine began the City of God. Honorius exonerated Marcellinus the following year, but by that time it was too late.
When it came to “what happens when careerism goes south,” Rome was never a walk in the park, but after Marcus Aurelius things really got bad. Careers of the great and incompetent alike ended in execution; Honorius, the weakest emperor at the most critical time, had his capable general Stilicho executed a few years earlier because he saw him as a rival. The informant system–with information true and false–was destructive or deadly for many Romans, carried out by such masters of the art as Paul the Chain. The river of blood continued after Rome fell apart, with Boethius writing his classic The Consolation of Philosophy while waiting execution, which came, after his fall. Gregory of Tours’ account of Gaul beginning its transition to France was likewise a river of blood of those who ended up on the wrong side of ruthless power-holders such as Fredegund.
Christians tend to consider the fall of Rome as a result of a decline in their sexual morality, but there’s no evidence that Rome’s sexual morals were worse in the late period than the earlier one. What was worse was what the French historian Ferdinand Lot referred to as the “corruption of the public spirit,” the decline of civic life and the communal idea that goes with it. The Roman system was patronage driven from top to bottom, but when it was working properly it meant that those who aspired created a clientele which benefited from them while they moved up. When the system broke down it was replace by an autocratic system where money and resources were forcibly pushed to the top to be dispensed to a bureaucracy which kept the power holders in place. This led to the onerous taxation system of which Lactantius was the most famous chronicler. Lactantius also noted that those who lived off of the tax system were more numerous than those who paid the taxes, and although that may have been an exaggeration there was definitely a retreat of the productive portion of the society, which in the end led to the system’s bankruptcy.
Protestants generally put down monasticism, but it represented an attempt to live in a more Christlike fashion in a world which made that very difficult. Is ours any better? To some extent it never has been, but in a world where laid, high or drunk is the battle cry of those at the top, and which is prepared to ignore blatant influence peddling and employ cancel culture (and also vindictive prosecution, as Marcellinus experienced) to enforce their idea, it’s time for American Christians to re-examine their naive belief in the lack of moral and personal hazard in moving up. That may seem like blowing retreat, but in blowing retreat Late Roman Christians laid the groundwork for the advance which transformed European civilization, and ultimately ours.
Today our left is making “little lists” of people to destroy. Our current game is to intimidate law firms from representing clients we don’t like; that’s a quick way to skew our justice system, and not in good ways. Most of those lists are those who might achieve high position; they don’t want the competition. Is it worth it to find yourself on one of those? There are times when we have to endure persecution for bearing the name of Christ, but if it’s for our careerist ambition, that puts things in a new light. It’s time for American Christians to stop being so reflexive about moving up, and to look at their eternal objectives more than their temporal ones. This empire, like Rome, will pass, and we need to take some lessons from those who responded to its decay.
The Democratic Party, unlike most of its left-of-center brethren in the developed world, has never been a true labor party, but it seems plausible that many voters view it as a party representing a state that never helps them, even as they, personally, practically beg for a large and powerful state that would step in to improve their lives.
The question Democrats now face is whether saying they will empower the state to improve people’s lives will actually work on anyone.
By background, I should be a leftie. I’m not. One major reason is that the American Left has always struck me as a group of people who are really good at starting movements, taking moralistic positions, and passing rules when they get into power. But they’re not builders. And, of course, they’re good at getting themselves good bureaucratic positions (from whence the rules come) but poor at really solving problems and moving things forward.
Need to reduce carbon in the atmosphere? Can’t bring themselves to embrace nuclear power even as a transitional phase because they’re afraid they’ll grow the suburbs, those bastions of phoniness. We’ve wasted at least twenty years of progress on this because their tush is in a wad on the subject. Need to address income inequality? So why has every President since Richard Nixon, Democrat and Republican, presided over growing income inequality and wealth distribution? And why do Democrats gleefully take the money of the plutocrats and then expect greater “social justice?” (They expected to win a few Senate races, and that didn’t happen either…)
But the biggest drain to the left’s claim to fame on “social justice” is their obsession with identity politics. How can they claim to be “Marxists” when they, in classic suburbanite fashion, hide in shame class differences and obsess over every identity difference they can amplify?
So are people finally figuring out the disconnect between rhetoric and action? Perhaps in a visceral way, but that visceral way may explain why the left cannot quite finish the job in the way they’ve always hoped to do.