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Martin LeFevre: A New Foundation for the Left?

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

A New Foundation for the Left?

The Bush Administration was reported this past week to be positively “giddy” about the results of the election in France, what with Sarkozy indicating France would now be Washington's best friend in Europe. Bush and Sarkozy “had a very friendly chat,” said the new President’s chief of staff. Is France, like America, now dead?

Why else would a self-respecting country, which was so right about Iraq, kiss and make up with George W. Bush while the lame duck nincompoop is on the ropes at home? The incompetence of the Royal campaign doesn’t come close to explaining it. No, this is a cultural phenomenon, given how an unabashedly pro-American Sarkozy is proud to call himself, “Sarkozy the American.”

America is a hyperkinetic land where anti-depressants have become nearly as common as aspirin, where the vast majority of people hate their jobs and dream of escaping to some island where peoples’ smiles aren’t strained and their ‘niceness’ isn’t obligatory. Yet now even France prostrates itself before the Leviathan.

The newspaper Liberation summed up the mood on the Left in France: "It's tough, but that's the people's will. A Thatcher without petticoats? Get ready for it." More like a Bush without cowboy boots.

I take that back. A couple days before the election, Sarkozy dressed up like a cowboy and rode a horse named Universe around his own little Texas. "The French people ... have chosen to break with the ideas and habits of the past. I will thus rehabilitate work, authority, morality, respect, merit," he said on election night, waving his Bushite credentials with bravado.

For a clue to what is happening here, we have to look across the channel, to the agonizing last weeks of the Blair era. Tony Blair deserves kudos for seeing The Troubles through to a peaceful end in Ireland. But his legacy will be forever stained by the monumental blunder of scampering along behind Bush in the invasion of Iraq.

Historians will long ponder how a man of such keen political instincts could have made such a colossal mistake in judgment. The answer comes from an ironic source, Conservative leader David Cameron. He mocked Blair's team in parliament last week, calling it the "government of the living dead."

Now we have at least three governments of the living dead in the West: United States, United Kingdom, and France. In such lands, which side of the aisle holds power matters little.

The orthodox Left, which is in retreat almost everywhere except Venezuela, is as bankrupt of ideas as the Right is of heart. The Sarkozy election demonstrates that the stratagem of the global Right is working wonderfully.

Caring for the common good has become a tagline for children and the hopelessly naïve. In countless ways, we’re told that humans are immutably self-serving and avaricious, and that private enterprise is the path to unlimited wealth creation, which will eventually raise all boats.

Never mind that the gap between rich and poor is growing by leaps and bounds, or even that the seas are turning to shit. Unable to see an alternative, people are losing heart in every land, and becoming concerned only with themselves, thereby fulfilling the self-fulfilling prophecy of the Right.

“So long as a borderless world created by capitalism was a distant and unrealizable goal, it fascinated the Left; now, as it increasingly appears achievable, the Left has turned against it, insisting it is little more than a rapacious corporate scheme,” Lawrence F. Kaplan, editor of The New Republic, said.

The Left urgently needs to overhaul its philosophy and pour a new foundation. We need clarity quickly on two central issues: spirituality, and power. Too many progressives are still captivated by the decaying ideas of Marxism, which puts nothing above man and derides the religious impulse in human beings. We must also disabuse ourselves of the delusion that ‘if only my compatriots and I had power, we would really change things.’

I was in the Soviet Union as it started to crumble in January of 1990, and to my surprise was often asked by Russians if I was religious. “Religious without a religion” I would reply. The spiritual thread is still missing in progressive rhetoric. But it can be woven into a language and platform that inspires hope and communal action.

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- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: martinlefevre@sbcglobal.net. The author welcomes comments.

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