Monday, February 23, 2009

Left! Right! Left!

Last week, The Crunchy Con had a post up titled New Right: the new New Left? In which he highlighted:
Fascinating observation by Patrick Deneen, on an emerging minority voice on the marginal Right that's taking up the critical stance toward the American narrative espoused half a century ago by the New Left.
When I read those words, I immediately thought of another American Narrative that touched on a similar phenomenon of left/right confusion. Admittedly, it is a narrative that uses the muddled state of affairs to a different end than Dreher & Deneen.

Check out the following passages from Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 (Peter Pinguid is a soldier celebrated as the first casualty of the Cold War by a society named in his honor, Oedipa is the book's heroine, Metzger her companion, and Fallopian is an evangelizing member of the Peter Pinguid Society):
"Peter Pinguid was really our first casualty. Not the fanatic our more left-leaning friends over in the Birch Society chose to martyrize."

"Was the Commodore killed, then?" asked Oedipa.

Much worse, to Fallopian's mind. After the confrontation, appalled at what had to be some military alliance between abolitionist Russia (Nicholas having freed the serfs in 1861) and a Union that paid lipservice to abolition while it kept its own industrial laborers in a kind of wage-slavery, Peter Pinguid stayed in his cabin for weeks, brooding.

"But that sounds," objected Metzger, "like he was against industrial capitalism. Wouldn't that disqualify him as any kind of anti-Communist figure?"

"You think like a Bircher," Fallopian said. "Good guys and bad guys. You never get to any of the underlying truth. Sure he was against industrial capitalism. So are we. Didn't it lead, inevitably, to Marxism? Underneath, both are part of the same creeping horror."
And later in the book, Metzger once again engages Fallopian on his economic philosophy:
Metzger...wanted to argue. "You're so right-wing you're left-wing," he protested. "How can you be against a corporation that wants a worker to waive his patent rights. That sounds like the surplus value theory to me, fella, and you sound like a Marxist."
While I am not sure that Pynchon has anything to offer the Right (or the Left for that matter), I do believe these episodes have a point aside from their comedic value: Some of the most interesting political and philosophical discussions occur within parties or movements, rather than between them.

Here's the link to Lot 49 over at the Google Book Search in case you want to check it out!

No comments: