Working carefully, methodically, diligently, he makes a tiny little capsule. It is hidden, safe, barely perceptible to his predators. Enclosing himself, he lays dormant, silent for about two weeks. Then, he emerges. Now with wings, now a creature of flight, a caterpillar has changed into a butterfly.
Or did he really change?
Parmenides of Elea, the most influential Greek philosopher before Socrates, would claim that no change took place at all. In poetic meter, under the conceit that he received this wisdom from a goddess, Parmenides wrote:
But how can what-is be hereafter? How can it come to be?
For if it came to be, it is not, not even if it is something going to be.
Thus coming-to-be has been extinguished and perishing cannot be investigated.
Nor is it divisible, since it is all alike,
and not at all more in any way, which would keep it from holding together,
or at all less, but it is all full of what-is.
Therefore it is all holding together; for what-is draws near to what-is.
But unchanging in the limits of great bonds
it is without starting or ceasing, since coming-to-be and perishing
have wandered very far away; and true trust drove them away.
Remaining the same and in the same and by itself it lies
and so remains there fixed; for mighty Necessity
holds it in bonds of a limit which holds it in on all sides.
The poetic writing may make the point somewhat difficult to apprehend, but Parmenides is saying that everything is in a state of “what-is,” in other words, that it is what it is. Therefore (propositionally), if it is going to change, the new thing that it is going to be is something that “is-not.” But if something “is-not,” then by definition it doesn’t exist, it isn’t real. As such, it can never come to be because what-is-not is a fantasy outside the realm of reality.
Or, to put it much more simply: there is no such thing as change, there is no such thing as something new, there is only what already exists.
On the surface, one might object that, clearly, we have many things Parmenides could not have imagined, things that “were-not” in his day but certainly are “what-is” in our own day: automobiles, refrigerators, televisions, etc. However, the Greek philosophers who followed Parmenides made similar observations and wrestled with Parmenides’ ideas. They observed that while something may appear to be new, it could also be described as a re-arranging of things that already existed.
Considered from this perspective, an automobile isn’t essentially something new, but is only a particular arrangement of already existing elements (metals and plastics) to perform a particular function. The example of the butterfly works in the same way. In all four stages of a butterfly’s life (egg, larva, pupa, adult), it is still a particular species from order Lepidoptera. There are particular arrangements and growths of its molecular and cellular structures at each stage, but the creature itself doesn’t fundamentally change. A butterfly is a butterfly, even in its larval stage.
The progressive project is a total rejection of Parmenides’ basic thesis. Progressives believe that through force of will and by stripping off the strictures of past culture and allegedly oppressive structures, they can mould and form human beings into something new. The growing transhumanism movement–primarily advanced by progressives–is explicitly attempting to guide and shape the evolution of homo sapiens into something different and new. The liberal-democratic form of government itself claims to be a new, bottom-up way of governance when compared with the old top-down rule of elites (nobility, etc.). Parmenides, however, would laugh at this ridiculous hubris.
What the right-wing recognizes is something far closer to Parmenides’ philosophy. The right wing sees that the basic nature of humans cannot be changed by humans themselves or by any earthly force beneath them. Certain aspects of human nature can be cultivated or destroyed, emphasized or repressed, but human nature itself cannot be changed. The implications of this go beyond the impact to a single human being and reverberate through human societies.
Responses to the disease (you know, that one) by many governments serve to highlight some of the basic propositions and ideas underpinning right-wing thought. Most human beings willingly submit themselves to rules and order. A strong, top-down elite can simply push aside such things as constitutions and legislation and impose its will upon a largely willing populace. In fact, it turns out there is no other kind of governance or rule other than top-down from a prime elite or an elite class. All claims to the establishment of a new liberal democratic system simply serve to obscure monarchical (e.g., North Korea, the USSR) or oligarchical (e.g., the USA) systems in which people are deluded with the fantasy that they have the ultimate power. Put another way, there is, in a sense, no such thing as progressive government, there is only government. Government can be good, honest, and seeking to serve its subjects, or government can be evil, deceptive, and seeking to serve only the predilections of its elites. However, all governments ultimately exercise top-down power because power itself derives from unchanging aspects of human nature.
Of course, as already mentioned, various different aspects of this unchanging human nature can be encouraged or discouraged, foregrounded or backgrounded. In some cases, this is a question of good versus evil. To encourage the darkness in people that would lead to a sadistic love of violence would be deeply evil. To encourage magnanimity, patience, love of family, and a concern for the well-being of others (that is, their true well-being, not necessarily their self-perceived well-being) is very good. In other cases, emphasizing or de-emphasizing particular aspects of human nature is a matter mostly of preference or aesthetic. Some cultures prefer a deeper connection to the tangible and the earthy. Other cultures prefer to express themselves in loftier or ethereal ways. Neither is fundamentally wrong and both contribute to the variety and joy of human cultures.
Part of what makes the progressive project so evil is its insistence that everyone is metamorphosed into the new creation they believe they are making. Metaphorically, you might say that instead of letting Rivendell be the home of Elves, Moria the home of Dwarves, and the Shire the home of Hobbits, the progressive project is like unto Sauron’s ambition–one ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them. The progressive project seeks the destruction of all the beautiful variety within the range of human nature to subsume it under a single dark and evil will. The “freedom” of the progressive is not the true freedom of mastering the darker aspects of human nature, but the “freedom” to indulge all the savagery of orcs.
Just as Sauron’s power was derived from the one ring–an artefact that makes its wearer invisible–progressives make their top-down power invisible through the deceptive “one ring” of liberal democracy. We must cast this ring into the hellfires from which it was forged.