Samir’s Selection 11/07/2016 (p.m.)

  • Do we even remember what hope looked like? Today, politics worldwide is being driven instead by anger, despair and resentment. And above all, nostalgia. “Make X Great Again” is the demagogic slogan of our time, and not just with the presidential candidacy of Donald J. Trump in the United States. What is political Islamism but the violent translation of a fantasy of return, in this case to an imagined era of religious purity and military might? Prime Minister Narenda Modi of India made his career by propagating Hindutva, a fanciful Hindu nationalism that extols Indian civilization before the arrival of Muslims. Far-right parties across Europe traffic in similar imagined pasts.

    We live in a reactionary age. Revolutionaries traffic in hope. They believe, and wish others to believe, that a radical break with the past is possible and that it will inaugurate a new era of human experience. Reactionaries believe that such a break has already occurred and has been disastrous. While to the untrained eye the river of time seems to flow as it always has, the reactionary sees the debris of paradise drifting past his eyes. The revolutionary sees the radiant future, and it electrifies him. The reactionary thinks of the past in all its splendor, and he, too, is electrified. He is, he thinks, the guardian of what actually happened, not the prophet of what might be. This explains the strangely exhilarating despair that courses through reactionary literature and political rhetoric, the palpable sense of mission. As the editors of the right-leaning magazine National Review put it in its very first issue, the mission is to stand “athwart history, yelling Stop.”

    … no party or movement across the political spectrum has offered a plausible vision of the future based on present realities, which change with increasing speed. To live a modern life anywhere in the world today, subject to perpetual social and technological transformations, is to experience the psychological equivalent of permanent revolution. Anxiety in the face of this process is now a universal experience, which is why reactionary ideas attract adherents around the world who share little except their sense of historical betrayal.

    tags: reaction politics protest anger despair disillusionment propaganda

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