The Cult of Negativity and the Paradox of Progress
People walk past a building that was reduced to rubble after being burned during recent rioting following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 28, 2020. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)VIEWPOINTS
The Cult of Negativity and the Paradox of Progress
Mark Hendrickson CONTRIBUTOR Epoch times
One of the self-evident and oft-stated goals of the anarchists, revolutionaries, and tag-along hoodlums tearing down statues and destroying innocent small businesses is to cancel American moral and cultural values and ultimately overthrow our current constitutional order.
These violent characters are seething with hatred for their own country. Such hatred constitutes an existential threat. Abraham Lincoln once said that the greatest danger to the survival of the American republic would be from within—that no foreign power could defeat us, but we could “die by suicide.” (Lyceum address, 1838)
Hatred for America
The enemies of our country undoubtedly are thrilled to see so many Americans—especially younger ones—expressing such hatred for our country and people. And what do these arrogant, self-righteous thugs (at least the ones with half a brain) want in place of our rights-based constitutional republic?
Political scientists can debate the semantics of fascism, socialism, and communism, but it’s plain that their goal is to obliterate individual liberty and free enterprise and replace them with a tyrannical central plan that would reduce us all to cogs in a heartless machine.
Indeed, hatred and tyranny go hand in hand. Lenin once told the commissars of education in the Soviet Union, “We must teach our children to hate. Hatred is the basis of communism.”
As we can see, many Americans have learned to hate their country. How did this come about? In a nutshell, the cultural Marxists’ “long march” infiltrating American institutions—schools, universities, media, publishing, entertainment, professional societies, etc., as advocated by such Marxists as Gramsci and Marcuse—has corrupted those institutions, turned their orientation from freedom to oppression, and brought forth poisonous fruit.
(As an aside, if you have time, you should watch The Epoch Times’ Jan Jekielek’s illuminating interview with James Lindsay and learn about the sheer malevolence of the hard-left cultural Marxists—how they want and need you to be unhappy. Yes, discontent is the staple of their sinister mental diet. Hatred is nourished by discontentment and negativity.)
What a truly remarkable development: Millions of Americans hate their own country—a country to which, in spite of its historical imperfections, millions of immigrants flooded so that they could be freer and have more economic opportunity than in their native lands; a country in which citizens can wake up knowing that they are free to pursue whatever goal they cherish without having to worry about food, shelter, and other basic needs.
Cult of Negativity
Why do today’s violent insurrectionists believe the United States is so contemptible, so deserving of being hated? In a word: negativity. Our Marxist-infected institutions have become an echo chamber of grievances and complaints, magnifying every fault and shortcoming while assiduously ignoring our manifold positive accomplishments.
Young Americans in many colleges have been immersed in a barrage of anti-American criticism devoid of balance and enabled by a deliberate obfuscation of historical context. That leaves them incapable of understanding crucial facts, such as that, while Thomas Jefferson did own slaves, his articulation and promotion of the ideals of individual rights and freedom helped to push the world from its benighted, slavery-plagued past into a more enlightened and just (though still far from ideal) world today.
To give just one example of today’s widespread ignorance, consider the propaganda offensive asserting that American wealth is attributable to slavery. As can be seen in the chart of the growth of U.S. prosperity since 1790 at MeasuringWealth.com (U.S. Real GDP per capita 1790 to 2019), our country’s prosperity really took off after slavery was abolished.
It’s not my purpose here to whitewash the past or deny that it was full of cruelties and injustices. For endless millennia until less than two centuries ago, the masses of people were poor, various forms of bondage were widespread, and life was, in the memorable phrase of Thomas Hobbes, “poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
Paradox of Progress and Prosperity
Study of the past can be very depressing. But the key factor we should consider is: What are the trends today? Here, there’s abundant cause for optimism.
Over the course of the last century, and with accelerating rapidity since the 1970s, more people have been living longer and freer and at higher standards of living than ever before. Those trends are global, although economic progress has been especially pronounced in the United States (see above-mentioned chart).
And yet, there exists a perplexing paradox—one that first came to my attention several decades ago when I read F.A. Hayek’s 1954 book “Capitalism and the Historians.” In it, the French philosopher Bertrand de Jouvenel noted a counterintuitive phenomenon: As capitalist production made each generation of people more prosperous in the 19th and 20th centuries, the hatred for capitalists and capitalism increased. This trend has continued in the decades since then, culminating today in the stunning spectacle of more Americans enjoying unprecedented prosperity, and yet many are seriously considering voting for a socialist agenda to replace the capitalist goose that laid our golden eggs (an irony I wrote about in January). I call this “the paradox of prosperity.”
Apparently, however, the paradox of dissatisfaction with prosperity extends to areas beyond economics, too. You might call it “the paradox of progress.” The more progress we have made over the last 50 years—in ameliorating poverty, pollution, racism, war, etc.—the more intense domestic hatred for our country has become.
It seems perverse, but the more that things have improved, the angrier people have become with the system. (Did you see the Democratic National Convention?) The great sin of our current system seems to be that conditions, though better, are not perfect.
Virus of Hate
The fact that so many vital trends are positive doesn’t seem to matter to the people inhabiting the echo chamber of negativity—the political progressives, socialists, fascists, and anarchists in government, the media, academia, etc. They want to tear down the system that has enabled all these massive improvements and replace it with an economic system of proven wealth-destroying and freedom-sapping capabilities: socialism.
Once again, some historical perspective would be helpful. How soon we have forgotten how people around the world voted with their feet to flee from socialism and toward freedom—whether it was East Germans risking death at the Berlin Wall in order to live in democratic, capitalistic West Germany, or Chinese people trying to escape the communist mainland to live in free and capitalist Hong Kong, or Koreans escaping the communist North to go to the capitalist South.
Today, our country is being ravaged by the virus of hate—a virus far more lethal than the CCP virus. Hate breeds prejudice, intolerance, injustice, violence, madness, and destruction. Those infected with the virus of hate don’t comprehend that violent revolution will not accelerate progress, but derail it. Antifa, anarchists, and other members of the cult of negativity are, to put it charitably, in a state of ignorance if they believe that their methods will lead to a better world.
There is no easy cure for the awful virus of hatred, its deformed offspring—the cult of negativity—and its bizarre byproduct—the paradox of prosperity—but surely those of us who love our country can’t stand by passively. We must openly defend our country’s ideals and speak the truths to the errors and lies with which so many brainwashed radicals have been misled.
These truths include: 1) However imperfect, the United States compares favorably to other countries (people around the world attest that they still believe in the American dream by wanting to immigrate here); 2) We Americans have demonstrated a considerable capacity for national self-improvement; 3) The vast majority of Americans want, and are willing to work together, to attain a fuller realization of our countries noble and righteous ideals.
Mark Hendrickson, an economist, recently retired from the faculty of Grove City College, where he remains a fellow for economic and social policy at the Institute for Faith and Freedom.