The mainstream media are celebrating the coup d’état in Egypt, reporting breathlessly from the wild celebrations in Cairo as the military announces that the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi is no longer in power. The sudden enthusiasm, however, is not the product of any animosity towards the Muslim Brotherhood, nor–for most–an embrace of dictatorship, but rather a distinctly leftist love of insurrection.
A quote from novelist Norman Rush’s epic novel of American intellectual life and foreign policy, Mating:
Socialism is the continuation of the romantic movement by any means necessary…
You can see why! Socialists, especially young socialists, love the idea of revolution. Every circle of sociology majors and bookstore clerks wants to call itself the Revolutionary Party of the Left or the Party of the Revolutionary Left or the Left Revolutionary Party of the People–anything so long as revolution is in the title. We can understand this. Everything we want in a society is what we find brought out in people in the moment of insurrection. Spontaneity! Spontaneous hierarchy! Self-sacrifice! Staying awake all night! Working until we drop! Audacity! Camaraderie! The carnival behind the barricades…What a great moment! This is the moment the true socialist worships and thinks will be incarnated in the society on the morning after.
They thought the same in February 2011. Yet true to their leftist nature, they are making the same mistake again.
What is missing from U.S. coverage of events in Egypt is any sense of history–and, perhaps, a Burkean conservatism that realizes the folly of destroying institutions. The Muslim Brotherhood destroyed them, and now the military has destroyed them, too. This is a revolution in the French mould, not the American one–and while the departure of Morsi is much to be excited about, the way it happened ought to give greater pause.