Socialism and Communism as Primitive

News: Commentary
by James Baresel  •  •  October 14, 2019   

Leftism has always been rooted in the desire for regression

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Among those in Rome to critique the agenda being promoted at the Amazon Synod is Jonas Marcolino Macuxí, who is a chief of the Amazonian region's Macuxi tribe and has castigated those who "are promoting the idea that the Indians who still live in a primitive way are very happy, living in paradise."

The reality, he says, is that "it's a very hard life" in which "people have insects all over their feet, bats in their homes."

The reason why some Amazon natives are taking part in the synod is, according to his account, because they have "been indoctrinated to remain in their primitive state" and are "completely dominated by Liberation Theology people who want to take advantage of them," people who are only interested in "liberating them from technology and other things that can promote their lives and take them away from barbarism" but whose theology "does not liberate people from sin."

Private property and contract make possible the variety of personality, the wealth, the leisure, and the fertility of invention that sustain civilization.

Such observations highlight the real-life impact of the primitive tribalism so touted by some advocates of the synod's agenda for ideological reasons, which have been so consistently critiqued by the defenders of Catholic orthodoxy. It is, however, all too easy to see support for primitive tribalism as merely another example of the leftist tendency to support almost anything other than the tradition of the Western world, or as grounded in Rousseau's romantic fiction of the "noble savage."

The truth, however, is that leftism always has been and always will be rooted in the desire for regression.

However "advanced" and "progressive" leftists think and claim themselves to be, however devoted to real or putative scientific and technological progress, the form of society to which they aspire reflects, in its most basic essentials, the most primitive forms known to man while rejecting the most essential elements of more sophisticated and more advanced forms of society.

More than half a century ago, Russell Kirk explained that it is conservatives who are, in a sense, the true progressives, the people who support progress towards more sophisticated social and economic structures rather than try to artificially recreate elements of man's more primitive state. As he explained:

In their early and barbarous state of society ... individual personality [is] manifested only in rudimentary form, property the possession of the group, subsistence, gratification of hopes, marriage, life itself wholly dependent upon the community. Progress consists of a release from this ... civilized people exist in a condition ... possessing several [meaning individually owned] property, and able to develop their individual talents.

Private property and contract make possible the variety of personality, the wealth, the leisure, and the fertility of invention that sustain civilization.

The socialist endeavors to deduce from these facts that the primitive economic arrangements of men ought to be humanity's present economic condition. ... But modernity in institutions is no proof of economic injustice; rather, it is presumptive of high development.

All the evidence bears out the truth of Kirk's argument. Yes, a "regulated market" of the sort endorsed (at the moral level) by the papal encyclicals and (at the scientific economic level) by Freiburg capitalism has consistently proven itself superior to the laissez-faire of libertarian capitalism.

But people living in societies with a market economy and inequality of wealth, societies with both moderately individualistic and moderately communitarian elements, have higher standards of living than those living either in primitive tribal societies or in developed societies under governments which seek to impose economic egalitarianism.

What can be perplexing and what is often misunderstood is just why, in light of the facts, so many people continue to embrace socialist ideology. Ignorance can certainly be part of it — so can greed; so can the attitude which sees "economic justice" primarily as relative rather than as objective, prioritizing the question of comparative standards of living (equal vs. unequal) above the question of objective standards of living (what proportion of the people have the necessities of life and what proportion have luxuries).

Another reason, however, is the fact that many people blindly embrace socialism because they are motivated not by intellectual considerations but by an emotional desire for the more communitarian existence of primitive tribal societies.

Such people cannot be persuaded by facts, magisterial teaching or any other form of objective evidence.

This aspect of the question was analyzed three years ago at a conference of doctors, psychologists and scientists held by the Cato Institute, the conclusions of which were summarized in The American Conservative. Unfortunately, the Cato Institute is too influenced by the ideology of the ethical egoist and atheist Ayn Rand for its work to be entirely trusted, but the broad idea addressed by the conference certainly has elements which are headed in the right direction.

Prioritization of an emotional desire for some form of "community experience" over what our intellects tell us is pervasive among leftist Catholics. It is an important factor in their willingness to tolerate adultery in cases where there is some form of "stable relationship," is partly behind the whole mantra of "inclusiveness" and it would seem to be the primary influence on the stridency with which some virtually insist that priests concelebrate Mass rather than celebrate in private.

The problem is that such people cannot be persuaded by facts, magisterial teaching or any other form of objective evidence.

Because of a disordered psychology in which such peoples' emotions (and the emotional desires which some would dignify as "needs") hold primacy over intellectual thought evidence which does not fit into their emotional predisposition will be dismissed out of hand or distorted beyond recognition — while those who rightly and healthily prioritize intellect over emotion will be criticized as rigid and (in precise opposition to reality) as those who are psychologically imbalanced.

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