Monday, December 11, 2006

Treasuring the Myth of the Lost Cause

Ridicule of American southerners for the tendency to construct fantasy alternate histories in which their treasured social institutions somehow emerge intact from the contrary forces of natural law and human nature is both general and well-earned.

These Lost Cause fantasies, however pathetic, are at least grounded in some historical reality of the former existence of these institutions, however much they may have been idealised over time by their defenders and the distortions of third- and now fourth-hand recollections. How, then, are we to view the continuing alternative histories of the Left, both in the U.S. and around the world, of the socialist Brave New World which never was, both in the U.S. and around the world, but seemed so inevitable to them in years before the collapse of the Soviet Union?

A woman of my acquaintance has, for her entire adult life, been active in the formerly fashionable cause of the Spanish Refugee Aid Society (since absorbed into the International Rescue Committee), which has, since the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, been dedicated to the psychological and material support of the leftist and anarchist refugees fleeing Franco's victory. For the intervening 67 years, the society, under various names and sponsors, has supported these refugees without stint or reservation.

When I first learned of this activism in the early 1990's, I assumed that the society, must, by this point in history, be some sort of archival historical organisation, maintaining the records and the documents from that time; but in fact I was astonished to learn that the society still supported a significant number of now-senescent people who had been persistently unwilling or unable to integrate themselves not only into post-Franco Spain, but even into the various countries into which they had been settled in the 1940's. Sixty years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, the cumulative power of the 1930's Leftist fantasy, propaganda both earnest and cynical, and outright wishful thinking on partisans of that conflict was so great that they, virtually without question, maintained the total support of virtually anyone who had a bad word to say about Franco and claimed to have been in Spain between 1936 and 1939.

It is with this understanding of the power of myth that we must view the media treatment of the death of Augusto Pinochet yesterday. The ugly facts of the disintegration of Chilean society under Leftist agitation in the early 1970's barely enters into public consciousness in the considerations of his life. Allende's connivance with Leftist militias and disregard for the Chilean courts is carefully screened from recall in any discussion of Pinochet's career and motivations.

The empirical collapse of the leftist utopian project embodied in the fall of Allende did not in any way diminish the psychological commitment of most leftists to their presumption of the inevitable success of any experiment to remanufacture humanity and society into a form more amenable to Leftist programmes resulting in the eventual implementation of the Leftist utopia. As the fading pathos of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Spanish Refugee Aid Society and the dogged defenders of the Allende legend all demonstrate, good ideas do not triumph over such bad ideas, they merely survive them.

Among such bad ideas entangled with the historical legacy of Pinochet we must include the notion that the CIA, fantastically incompetent in all its interactions with Castro, somehow masterminded the coup against the collapsing Allende government which brought Pinochet to power. The Leftist imagination, like that of many Confederate sympathisers, cannot comprehend the historical failure of their project without resort to ever-increasingly complex and ridiculous conspiracy theories in which the U.S. or U.S. corporations are necessarily the prime mover. The self-contradiction of a nearly omnipotent American military-industrial-soft-drink-manufacturing complex effortlessly orchestrating the overthrow of Allende while simultaneously stumbling about blindly in Cuba and Vietnam is never examined.

Let us also make note of the non-judgmental or even apologetic editorial slant offered by most media outlets to the celebrations of Pinochet's death now underway in Leftist circles for later comparison with the treatment of the celebrations in Miami of Fidel Castro's death which must soon follow.

I am willing to wager that most media outlets will not have a similarly insouciant cast to their coverage of any celebration of the Leftist dictator's death.

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