In the twenty-first century, as society becomes ever more complex, so conservatism, born of a normalising instinct that evolved in small groups, goes into overdrive. Compliance becomes an acceptable goal. Then, Assimilation.
The political “centre”, a self-reinforcing coterie of sheltered and often awkward socially liberal elites, attempt to accommodate everything that has given them their advantages. This includes the very worst of capitalism.
The attempt to encompass all they know, to reconcile the oppressive with their socially liberal attitudes, they interpret as “realistic”. After all, living with these tensions is especially real to them.
Interventionism, being a political “reality” (or, behind the screen, a continuation from colonialism) is justified with falsehoods, from fabricated evidence to the rhetorical appropriation of Socialist principles. The centrists even begin to pander to the racism of the voters they have lost to the right, always convinced that triangulation keeps them on course between two sirens. As suits, they can look to the right and feel ethical, or to the left and feel “in touch with the public.”
They defend, or ignore, the indefensible. They justify atrocities as “pragmatism”. They have the contempt of the left for their lack of principles, their hypocrisy, their authoritarianism, and – ever more- their silence. The public hates them for their hypocrisy and their failures. They must fail after not too long, because the containment of capitalistic excess through appeasement is not achievable: They flatter themselves that they have influence through their alliances with the powerful and unscrupulous. It is they who are corrupted.
The lesser lights, at least, are aware that the centrist faction is both reactionary and at the mercy of bullies. They say to themselves that they are flexible, cognisant of political complexity, when in fact the constant turning of their heads ensures they allow the plight of the vulnerable to worsen in the long term.
“If only we still had power” they say, unaware that their self-interest and lack of integrity can justify anything and will always lead to rejection.
“I believe I did the right thing.” The narcissist’s excuse. As if faith and self-justification were morally relevant.
And for the pleasers, who will always find themselves in the centre with sore necks: deep down, they don’t want too much to change. To be a part of the heady club prevents them facing their awkwardness. The cowardice behind their complicity is hidden from them. They fit in, after a fashion. They even have a little power.
I see them as a grotesque magnification of tensions that of course we have to face on the left. How much are we ourselves prepared to let go of? Where and when we do need to step aside?