What is a platypus? | On surviving the extinction of the Left
A story is told about Karl Marx's collaborator and friend Friedrich Engels, who, in his youth, as a good Hegelian Idealist, sure about the purposeful, rational evolution of nature and of the place of human reason in it, became indignant when reading about a platypus, which he supposed to be a fraud perpetrated by English taxidermists. For Engels, the platypus made no sense in natural history.
Later, Engels saw a living platypus at a British zoo and was chagrined. Like Marx a good materialist, and a thinker receptive to Darwin's theory of evolution, which dethroned a human-centered view of nature, Engels came to respect that "reason" in history, natural or otherwise, must not necessarily accord with present standards of human reason.
This is a parable we find salutary to understanding the condition of the Left today.
In light of the history of the present, we might ask, what right does the Left have to exist?
Every right -- as much as the platypus has, however difficult it might be to categorize!
We maintain that past and present history need not indicate the future. Past and present failures and losses on the Left should educate and warn, but not spellbind and enthrall us.
Hence, to free ourselves, we declare that the Left is dead. -- Or, more precisely, that we are all that is left of it.
This is less a statement of fact than of intent.
-- The intent that the Left should live, but the recognition that it can, only by overcoming itself. And we are that overcoming! . . .
- May 29, 2006
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