Why the West Is Falling Apart

A striking feature of socialist Europe is the proliferation of separatist movements. Growing numbers in Northern Ireland want to split from the UK and found a new nation called Ulster. Nationalists in Scotland also want to go it alone. Belgium’s Flemings (the Dutch) want independence and some Walloons (the French) have responded with a proposed state of their own (you cannot fire me, I quit!). Denmark’s Faroe Islands and Greenland both have independence movements. In France, there are separatist rumblings in Brittany, Corsica, and the Basque country. Catalonia has recently expressed its displeasure with being part of Spain. Germany’s Bavaria gets restless now and then. In fact, there are many such movements within most European countries, although not all of them must be taken seriously.

Map of separatist movements in Europe

A preoccupation with ethnicity, minorities, and differences erodes national identities based on what a people have in common. (Photo: public domain)

There is a significant trend in all of this: under the aegis of the left, Europe is returning (or trying to return) to its medieval past when the continent was a confused collection of tiny independent kingdoms. This fragmentation is an important characteristic of leftist thinking, one that also plays out at a lower level within all societies where the left holds sway.

Occupy Wall Street is a fine example of blaming someone else for your problems. (photo credit: public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Occupy Wall Street is one example of how the left divides society into minority groups, and then labels them good or bad for political purposes. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Socialists play a conscious game of manipulation designed to undermine the strong. Since they do not need any “help,” leftists display a marked distaste for strong people, often characterizing them as bullies, fascists, or Nazis. They are not overly fond of strong nation states either – hence the universal unpopularity of America among the left – preferring the local committee style of governance, the good old soviet. The socialist ploy is simple yet remarkably effective and works as a variant of the old “divide and conquer” philosophy. In this case, however, the objective is not to reunite the divided parts in an Empire (like Britain’s) or a powerful nation state (as when the present European countries were forged), but to keep them as distinctly separate units in a loosely organized, remarkably weak, “inclusivity.” The chaotic ineffective European Union is an excellent example.

The basic strategy is to relegate as many people as possible to the status of minority, preferably oppressed and / or victimized. Identifiable groups are singled out and reasons found for why they should see themselves as disadvantaged or even victims. Each of these reasons becomes a “social problem” that needs a campaign to raise awareness, an advocacy group, new government spending, and further national or regional legislation. All solutions are collectivist in nature. The “social problems” may be quite legitimate, but the divisive nature of the minority labelling process and the culture of victimhood that goes with it generate remarkably destructive attitudes.

So we learn that gays and lesbians are victims because straights are homophobic. The mentally handicapped suffer a lack of training and acceptance. The physically handicapped are impaired because society does not go far enough to provide access and special transportation. Immigrants do not have sufficient opportunities. Racial minorities are victims of racism. Ethnic minorities are victims of discrimination. Women are oppressed by men, underpaid for their work, and face a glass ceiling when it comes to promotion. The poor do not have enough cheap housing. Workers are exploited by the nasty (strong) capitalists and left vulnerable by inadequate labour legislation. Those with long-term disabilities do not have adequate access to physiotherapy and rehabilitation programs. The elderly have inadequate pensions and home care. Students face tuition fees that are too high and all education should be free anyway. Children are chronic victims of physical and sexual abuse and do not get enough protection. The mentally ill lack sufficient institutional facilities. And so on, and so on.

Once people have bought into this insidious sorting process, everyone sees himself or herself as a member of some beaten down, exploited, or neglected sub-class within the greater society, from which they then tend to withdraw their sense of solidarity. Those few who remain outside all of these categorizations are demonized as those who organize the exploiting, beating down, or neglecting, and in that way become just another beleaguered minority!

When this process is well advanced, what was once a strong cohesive society has degenerated into a seething pack of organized warring factions, all of whom are out to get the maximum possible benefits for themselves. Worse, all of these conscious “minorities” feel little loyalty to society as a whole. They see society as the vaguely defined group that allows them to be oppressed, victimized, or neglected, or as the group that actually does some of those dreadful things. Either way, society owes them plenty.

Those who are strong become enfeebled by this process, learning to see themselves as victims of one kind or another when they should view themselves as capable and competent individuals who are quite able to look after themselves, and who should look after themselves. People facing genuine problems acquire an aggressive sense of entitlement that ignores national financial realities and grows ugly when thwarted.

The left have done their work extremely well throughout the West. Europe’s multifarious separatist movements and national bankruptcies are just some of the more obvious results. Yet within divided Western societies, the growing dissension at the grassroots level may actually pose the greater danger to the continuance of nations.

Author: Thomas Cotterill

I am a manic-depressive made philosophical by my long struggle with the disruptive mood disorder, during which I spent sixteen years living as a forest hermit. I write philosophical essays, fantasy, and science fiction. My attempt to integrate creativity, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality imbues everything I write. You will find hundreds of related essays and articles on my blog. I live quietly in British Columbia's scenic Fraser Valley, a beautiful place in which to wax philosophical.

11 thoughts on “Why the West Is Falling Apart”

  1. Interesting, Thomas. I can only speak about the two separatist movements of which I have any significant knowledge – the Welsh nationalists on the one hand, and the Italian Northern League on the other – but I’m not convinced that these movements are due to anyone (on the left or the right) playing ‘a conscious game of manipulation’. I’d say that these movements are due to a genuine feeling in those regions that the central governnment is indifferent to or unaware of their particular concerns, interests, and problems. While the Welsh Nationalist party is indeed a centre-left party, separatist movements are not necessarily of the left: Italy’s Northern League is in fact politically on the right, and plays to a sense that the wealthy, industrialised north is being held back by the poor, agricultural south. (Whether or not they are correct in this belief is not for me to say!)

  2. You make some great points, Mari. It is true that not all separatist movements come from the left. However, in my experience they are usually a response to leftist policies of one kind or another. The Italian Northern League, for example, wants 75% of taxes collected there to remain in Lombardy. The concern is that the federal government is redistributing too much wealth from prosperous regions to those that are less well-off and damaging Lombardy in the process. The same concern drives the surge in separatist sentiment in the Catalonia region of Spain. Here in Canada, we had a separatist party emerge in the west when the federal government tried to rewrite the rules and grab a larger share of provincial oil and gas revenues. The liberal feds wanted to redistribute the captured funds in the east.

    The Welsh and Scottish nationalists are simply responding to the divisive leftist emphasis on minorities as it applies to ethnicity and local culture. They are therefore part of the fragmentation process I talk about in the post. The competing conservative idea of promoting a single national identity and broader social cohesion is contrary to socialist ideology. The left is always looking for differences rather than what we have in common. Hence, the multi-culturalism that is now so prevalent in the socialist West.

    The conscious game of manipulation plays out at the grassroots level of Western societies, and then works its way up to the national level. The sorting of societies into various kinds of minorities and the formation of advocacy groups (anti-poverty leagues, ethnic nationalist movements, women’s rights groups, illness and disability organizations, etc.) deliberately breaks down the social cohesion rejected by the left. Leftists quite correctly understand that national social unity stands in the way of the left gaining power.

    I am old enough to remember when much of this got started in Canada. The aim was quite definitely to influence the then conservative political parties to swing to the left. As a whole, Canadians would not vote for damaging spending levels and government interference in their lives, but as a gaggle of special interest groups, they would. It all worked like a charm. The conservative failure to understand leftist strategy is why the right lost this decisive political struggle.

  3. Lucinda, I am holding you personally responsible for the entire European debacle! LOL. I’m beginning to wonder if your novel, *That Scoundrel, Emile DuBois* isn’t a memory of one of your own rascally past lives.

  4. As a member of the newly formed eco-libertarian tendency within the socialist party usa, I don’t know where to begin, except to say that equating a giant undemocratic bureaucracy like the EU and nationalist/separatist movements with ‘socialism’ shows an total misunderstanding of what socialism is and how the EU works. The EU is an example of a highly centralized bureaucracy, albeit a chaotic and ineffective one and opposes any attempt to further decentralize it’s authority, so it’s a poor example of the confederation or cooperative commonwealth this article says leftists advocate.

    This confusion is arising because there is a lack of understanding about the role of bureaucracy and the state amongst socialists and right wingers alike. Early leftists opposed the state and bureaucracy. Overtime, social democrats and communists embraced the use of the state and bureaucracy to varying degrees of success and failure depending on your point of view. Many Trotskyists, Unionists, Syndicalists, and Anarchists have a different perspective about the state. Even Marx himself took a rather limited enthusiasm for using the state when he was actually in a position to do so in the Paris Commune, and supported more decentralized options such as collective or worker ownership of the means of production as opposed to state ownership. There is more nuisance to socialism and the use of the state apparatus in other words. Right wing governments are notorious in their use of the state to prop up economies, they generally are propping up highly stratified social systems, but they are not shy around the state at all.

    However, and this is the important part, all true socialists demand the abolition of capitalism, the monetary system (to be replaced by labor vouchers which could only be issued for labor, not profit, interest, rent etc), classes, AND the state. There are some effective examples of this in Spain with the Mondragon Cooperative and the Zapatistas in Mexico. True socialists oppose parliamentary democracy for direct democracy, so in that respect the remark of rule by committee is accurate. As someone who really values their freedom, I would much rather vote in direct elections for or against specific policies proposed by committees or referendum, than career politicians who say one thing and do another. I want to vote directly on the policies that effect my life, I am not content for a bureaucrat to do that for me. This author should really look into socialist writers outside the Marxist- Leninist/social democratic tradition if they want to understand social councilism and syndicalism

  5. Thanks for taking the time to make such a thought-provoking comment, Robert. Terminology is always an issue when discussing ideology so I will try to make my own usage more clear. I am writing for the average reader so I use words in their commonly accepted meanings rather than sticking to the more exact usage employed by ideologues.

    This means my definition of socialism is not as tight as the traditional one you describe, which many people today would equate with all out communism. I am using the word in its modern casual sense of a political ideology midway between communism and capitalism. This is the definition used by most Europeans and all Western European nations combine the democratic government, mixed economy, and nanny-state social programs that are associated with it. These countries describe themselves officially as “social democracies” and nearly all have dominant political parties with names such as Social Democratic Party of Germany, Socialist Party (France), and Labour Party (UK and the Netherlands). Eastern Europe, being less prosperous is playing catch up.

    The EU is an overarching structure founded by these social democratic states. Since it springs from the same socioeconomic assumptions, it is also a socialist organization. Excessive bureaucracy makes for large-scale inefficiencies, but does not change political orientation.

    The EU leadership does not like separatist movements because they realize the existence of the EU has inadvertently strengthened the separatist’s positions. Scotland, for example, could secede from the UK yet still be a member of the EU. Catalan could leave Spain yet shelter under the EU’s umbrella. The existence of the EU means these new small states would not have to go it alone in the world. One of the strongest arguments against separation has vanished. Not surprisingly, all of Europe’s major separatist groups are committed to the EU.

    The formation of these new states would not impair the EU in any significant way. They do not threaten the EU’s taste for centralization. The extra powers acquired by a newly independent state would come entirely at the expense of the nation from which it has seceded. In other words, the new state has achieved equal status with the larger state it has abandoned. For the EU, it would be no different from taking in a new member, something it does on a regular basis in the natural course of its expansion.

    I stand by what I have said about the left’s taste for loosely organized confederations. I have pointed out the benefits to Europe’s leftist-dominated separatist movements. They want independence yet plan to join the Union. Europe’s socialist nation states demonstrate their preference for a loose aggregation by resisting the push for centralization coming from Brussels. If the push persists, those states will reform the bureaucracy. The European parliament is the weakest in Europe and cannot stand against a revolt among member states.

  6. Blaming leftist policies for being “divisive” ignores the fact that inequality and division already exist. Leftist policies that use tax money from wealthy regions to fund projects in poorer regions are put into place to mitigate wealth disparity. The complaint that socialist policies are surreptitiously devised in order to create more division is tenuous at best; tangible EU policies like the ERDF, Cohesion Fund, and ESF have the explicit intent of creating a more unified Europe by leveling the playing field between poor and wealthy regions.

    I believe that the author (and others who share his opinion) only FEEL like socialist policies create more division because socialist policies force them to acknowledge their economic privilege. Socialist policies force you to become aware of division that already exists. People in poor regions are already painfully aware of the economic division between regions because of their daily hardships. (And when I speak of hardships, this is not emotional pandering or victimization; this is simply a reality.) Because hardships are reality, poor people don’t have the privilege of ignoring them. They are constantly reminded of them in daily life. You, however, do have the privilege of ignoring wealth inequality because everything is just fine in your own little circle.

    The funny thing about taxes is that they are an excellent attention grabber. So when taxes force you to acknowledge wealth disparity, and– even worse!– actually participate in remedying the situation, this is an inconvenience for you. Socialist policies are an easy scapegoat for what you call “divisiveness,” but what I call “resentment over inconvenience.”

    Once socialist policies are in place, you DO have the opportunity to allow these policies to create more division–but only if you so choose. You can choose to be bitter about the fact that you’re getting a tiny fraction less of your income every year. You can choose to blame people from poor regions by saying they are reliant on victimization.

    Or you can choose to acknowledge the complex social and historic factors that lead to poverty. You can choose to learn more about how people–real people– live in other areas. You can choose to contribute, without resentment, to projects that will improve the lives of people who are not as well off as you.

    It is entirely up to you to decide how you will respond to socialist policies. Because in reality, it’s not leftist policy that creates division; it’s you.

  7. Thanks for taking the time to comment Alex.

    Let me begin my reply by making my own socio-economic situation clear. You seem to think I am some sort of privileged fat-cat who resents anyone putting even a tiny dent in his champagne-and-caviar lifestyle. In reality, I am a manic-depressive who, in my younger days, spent 16 years living in a leaky tar-paper shack in the forest. Now I am a pensioner. I come from a working-class family and because of my background, I know how hard many people must work to pay their taxes. I also know how even small increases in taxation can create real problems. You seem to forget that, of necessity, not only the well-off pay taxes of one kind or another.

    Notice how you have divided people up into the “privileged” and the “historically” disadvantaged. Yet here I am breaking the mould: a scion of the working class and a staunch conservative. There are plenty of working-class conservatives, by the way. They happily vote for conservative political parties alongside those who are financially far better off. This cross-class, cross-cultural solidarity represents true social unity and cohesion based on a shared understanding of how the world actually works. The dividing here is done by leftists who insist on stressing the income disparities between various groups and then claiming that some sort of Robin Hood remedy is required. Anyone who objects is a scoundrel. I am reminded of an old saying among the citizens of the former Soviet Union—the ultimate paragon of social equality and societal engineering—that they would love to be poor in America. Your life should be what you make it, not what the government makes it. Standards of acceptable income and social status should be self-generated and not based on what some ideologue, on the left or the right, tells you.

    The real issue here is not class or culture or ideology: the issue is what actions work and what actions do not work; what policies produce the expected results and what policies fail to do so, or even engender the opposite of what was intended. The EU’s equalization transfers were aimed at promoting unity. In practice, they generate chronic regional resentment and even outright separatist movements. The left’s emphasis on local culture was intended to enhance social cohesion. In practice such policies (not surprisingly) only strengthen local social cohesion. Eventually, these excessively tight-knit communities decide they are different enough from the culture around them to warrant a separate state and an independent government. In short, equalization payments and an emphasis on local culture are long-standing social policies that demonstrably do not work. They are out-of-date and should be abandoned now that their negative results have been made clear. Only by chopping away the dead-wood can we see our way to finding new innovative ways of solving genuine social problems. Only by changing our world-view, our social paradigm, can we find solutions that move us all forward. Simply blaming people for having a bad attitude regarding taxation ignores the reality of human nature and denies legitimate objections while leaving outmoded destructive “solutions” in place. These socio-political dinosaurs actively block better policies that could be more-broadly acceptable and therefore more-workable. In point of fact, an unwillingness to accept the obvious limits of human behaviour, and a dogged refusal to recognize even catastrophic failure are prime drawbacks of the leftist ideology-heavy world-view.

    I should mention that Canada has had similar wealth equalization policies in place since the 1950s, but with transfers being more modest only the Trudeau-government’s potentially-massive oil-revenue grab raised violent objections. The goal in this country is to make sure the level of government services is the same from province to province; that and nothing more. Lately, though, there has been some grumbling.

    Consider some actual moral and ethical questions regarding equalization payments:

    In British Columbia we are on the Pacific basin’s Ring-of-Fire. Scientists tell us we are overdue for a 9.0 earthquake so we are upgrading the seismic resistance of the buildings in our public school system. Funds are limited, naturally, so progress with this incredibly-expensive work is slow. While we crawl along with this important project, the province is, every year, sending many hundreds of millions of dollars to other provinces that do not face this danger. The province of New Brunswick has oil and gas reserves, but refuses to exploit them because they do not like fracking. Instead of prospering from those potential oil and gas revenues they have banned fracking. This means they will continue to collect billions of dollars (1.5 billion in 2014 alone) from other provinces like British Columbia and Saskatchewan that do frack. On a smaller scale, a woman here in BC is entering her third year of waiting for elective knee surgery. Many other people are on waiting lists for one Medicare-funded medical procedure or another. Again, this goes on while we export all those dollars to other provinces. I am sure the good people in Catalonia and Lombardy are facing similar conundrums when they decide to back a separatist movement aimed at stopping the bleeding. Look closely, Alex, before you condemn.

    All we have to do is raise taxes and increase government spending, says the leftist. Here in BC we tried that under a previous leftist administration. Result: it took just six years to turn our once-prosperous province into a stagnating recipient of equalization payments!

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