The right is convinced that politics (and economics) are downstream from culture. But the right is winning on the economic front, while losing on the cultural front. The left maintains that the economic base of society in the final instance determines its cultural (and political) superstructure. ("It's the economy, stupid!") But the left is winning on the cultural front, while losing on the economic front.
In other words, both sides see themselves as losing in the way that matters to them. Both sides see themselves as winning only in a superficial and ultimately even counterproductive way, while losing on the front that is fundamental and primary.
How can this be true? Why aren’t both sides winning on the issues that truly matter to them, especially since the opposing side doesn’t really care about those issues? Why aren’t we living in an egalitarian society in which class and other forms of inequality have been abolished, which is at the same time a society that stays loyal to transcendent, perennial, eternal, metaphysical truths, ancient wisdom that is passed on, learned and lived by every new generation? Why instead do we live in a society of massive inequality, where nothing is sacred and nothing has any meaning?
What’s especially vexing about this is that both sides are proved wrong by their very success. According to the left, you can’t transform culture without transforming the economic base that sustains it. But the left has changed the culture without changing the economic base. Similarly, if politics is downstream from culture, as the right says, then since they lost the culture war, capitalism should have fallen like a domino. But the capitalist class system goes on, more powerful than ever. It is as if each side, through neglect and apathy, has won what the other side desperately covets and expends an enormous amount of energy fighting for. What gives?
Two answers, which contradict each other a bit: First: it’s not true. At least, not completely. In both cases, the picture of society they present is not a neutral, objective reflection of the facts on the ground, but propaganda churned out by people with a missionary complex, trying to convert everyone to their cause. Both sides, having reflexively learned to manipulate us and endlessly pull on our heartstrings, love to portray themselves as a benighted and oppressed minority in a world that does nothing but repress them. But this is not only a performance for potential converts. They have to work extra hard to convince themselves that they are powerless, because through this bad faith fetishism they get to fatalistically absolve themselves of the responsibility of fixing what’s broken.
Answer #2: it is true. It's all true. It is as bad as both sides say. But it’s all a symptom of the collapse of civilization, which cannot be avoided any more than the second law of thermodynamics can be revoked.
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