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84. Oppression (II)

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

The body of the political right—representing its essence—is the solid middle of responsible people. The roots of the word responsibility lie in the Latin for “respond, answer to, promise in return”. Responsibility is intimately connected to the ability to make a promise, to make an agreement and keep it. The first promise a responsible person makes is to himself. “Tidy your bedroom,” suggested Jordan Peterson, surrogate dad to the millions, as the first step towards a responsible life. Peterson, being a suburban dad and not an Abrahamic patriarch, was suggesting—not commanding—this simple measure of making an agreement with oneself as a step towards an ordered, successful, and meaningful life. When we fulfil this agreement we begin to develop: the appointment kept at the gym; the French vocabulary studied every morning; the teeth brushed; and so on. Our ability to make these agreements internally is vital because humans are an extremely cooperative species. The person who can make and keep agreements with their own self can make and keep agreements with others; and hence they not only improve their own condition but also prosper through the reciprocal social links they build.

The person of integrity is someone with a high capacity to make and keep agreements with their own self and hence with others; they are trustworthy. In complex societies, it becomes difficult to establish whether or not a person is trustworthy at first sight; hence we have many symbolic shorthands to signal our trustworthiness. The person who goes to an interview to be a lawyer will wear a tie. This is a small gesture and it is not in itself enough to get the position, but the tie is a semiotic marker of trustworthiness. There are other—even more subtle—markers of integrity, ranging from accent to haircut.

The right is, therefore, very interested in maintaining an integral system of symbols. Bitcoin, for example, is an attempt to provide a responsible currency: a banknote is, after all, merely a promise to pay a given amount. The right suspects that many currencies today would not fulfil their promises; there is a lot of irresponsible money running about. The same concept extends to institutions such as marriage—breaking off an engagement used to be called “breach of promise”—national borders and even language itself. Every word is a token backed by a network of concepts; we trust that words refer to actual things, something established through regularity of use (the fulfilment of promise). It is the left that resorts to newspeak, debasing words so that there is no consistency in their application. If I cut up a page of writing it loses its meaning, since there is no consistency to it: the writing cannot deliver its promise, it is meaningless. Similarly, the destruction of a religion or race—promises kept across time, encoded in genes and scriptures—makes life meaningless.

The act of making an agreement implies discrimination, since we must exclude other activities to make the agreement; ultimately, we will exclude other people who prove to be unworthy of promise. This results in inequality; and since the ability to make promises is biologically determined, being a facet of intelligence, itself connected to the ability to delay gratification, the goods of society will stratify in an immutable way.

The left is, therefore, those people who wish to spoof responsibility and take advantage of people who are trusting by simulating or appropriating symbols of trustworthiness. Hence the journalist debases words, the poet conserves words; the faithless spouse debases marriage, the faithful spouse conserves it; the spy debases his country, the loyalist conserves it. The defector or promise-breaker specialises in dissimulation. While both left and right agree that society is plagued by parasites, neither agree about who the parasites are; and, indeed, since it is the left that specialises in spoofing responsibility, it will be the case that most people will be fooled; and so the responsible middle, boring as it is, is portrayed as demonic.


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