The concept of the Year Zero is a perennial Left-wing political project. While the term is most famously used with regards to the official policy of Year Zero implemented by the Khmer Rouge, it was also used during the French Revolution in the creation of the French revolutionary calendar which listed Year Zero as the first year of the French Republic. This article will attempt to explore when the first Year Zero actually was, and chronicle some of the dates the Left has used often at the same time when attempting to describe the beginning of history.
Before that, let’s talk about why the Year Zero is so prominently used. In essence it’s an attempt by the Left to hide how radical their social reforms are by essentially excluding large portions of human history. The most notable example of this is gay marriage which is literally an idea conceived during the 1980s, and as far as I can determine was not a significant moral issue in any society prior to the postmodern age. This is an important point as stressed by Dennis Prager, that virtually every moral idea has always existed or has frequently come up throughout time. Issues such as the abolition of slavery, animal rights and women’s rights were discussed as far back as ancient Greece, and regardless of your opinion of them they can’t really be regarded as new ideas except to the degree in which they are implemented. That being said, let’s look at a couple examples of Year Zero shall we?
The following are examples of Year Zero which are not widely used, part two of the article will discuss the more commonly used examples of year zero, most of which are ironically enough used concurrently despite the obvious temporal contradiction.
0 AD: The Birth of Christ
I would be remiss in not discussing the actual year zero which is based on the birth of Jesus Christ. While I’m sure a lot of people would criticize this, and say that I am being unfair to the Left given that my religion also has a year zero, I have a few responses to this. Firstly, regardless of your views of Christianity, I think it’s a rather good point in time to divide history as it was around this time-period that Rome had completed its conquest of most of what would be her empire for the next 300 to 500 years. The great Hellenistic states had all been conquered or had collapsed, and many other classical empires such as the Persian, Egyptian and Carthaginian had all vanished.
In a real sense I see Rome is the beginning of a true Western identity, and the completion of the Roman Empire, which took place around this time, seems a good place to start a Western calendar. Also, since Christianity has been the dominant civilizational force in the West with the vast majority of modern Western nations being founded as explicitly Christian states, the Birth of Christ likewise seems to be a good time to start. Besides all of this, there is something to be said for the fact that this dating system is very old and it’s not a recent invention.
1454 AD: The Beginning of the Renaissance
While not use much any more for many early liberal thinkers, the Renaissance represented the beginning of secularization and humanism. It is also seen as a rebirth of Roman and Greek culture; liberalism has an interesting relationship with the cultures of antiquity as it simultaneously despises the patriarchal and militaristic nature of them, and is highly sympathetic to paganism as it is seen as anti-Christian. Thus, the Renaissance is viewed as part of the progressive view of history in which the fatalistic barbarism of the Middle Ages gave way to the seeds of modern enlightened liberalism.
1517 AD: The Protestant Reformation
This is frequently viewed as the beginning of history, particularly back during earlier forms of liberalism. Despite the fact that many Protestant states were far more puritanical and fanatical than the Catholic governments that preceded them, this is commonly seen as the beginning of Western liberalism in which the ascent of individualism and secularism became inevitable with the collapse of papal power. Despite the fact that Protestantism at least in the reformed denomination is more amenable to theocracy and totalitarian forms of government than traditional Catholicism, this is viewed by many liberals is the beginning of real historical progress.
Mid-1700’s AD: The Enlightenment
As we get closer to the present we find the acceptance of the various Year Zeros become more and more prominent. Many older liberals, particularly of the early 19th and 20th century, saw the Enlightenment is the birth of liberalism, and that the ideologies that emerged from it made inevitable the destruction of the old aristocracy, and the rise of liberal democracy and women’s rights. As always they ignore the fact that many thinkers from this period were strong supporters of absolute monarchy and viewed democracy with outright disdain.
1776 AD: The American Revolution
Despite its classical liberal character, the American Revolution is never used as Year Zero by the Left since conservatives idealize it and the Left wants to counter-signal.
1789 AD: The French Revolution
Now we are getting into the more commonly used ones. For whatever reason, the French Revolution is much beloved by the Left – all of the French revolutionary government was totalitarian in character, the people had much fewer rights and taxes were much higher particularly on the lower classes. It should be noted that various schemes of the Revolutionary Government such as introducing a 10 day week and abolishing religious holidays led to a massive decline of leisure time compared to what was enjoyed under the ancient regime. Regardless though the Left tends to have an extremely legalistic view of history. This can be seen in how they praise the constitutions of countries that have active genocides or astronomical crime rates because the piece of paper lists rights, such as a right to food and clean water, that the government has no real ability to deliver on. Probably the most notable example of this is the hysterical opposition to the apartheid South African government which ran the country with a high degree of competency, crime rates were low and economic opportunity including services such as healthcare was by far the best in sub-Saharan Africa. Today South Africa run by the ANC is considered far superior despite the fact that people are no longer even able to leave their homes or walk the streets because of one of the world’s highest crime rates. Still, the South African Constitution sounds nice and that matters more than the reality of the situation.
1848 AD: The Springtime of Nations
Despite being the largest revolutionary wave since the French Revolutionary wars, the Springtime of Nations is never used as most of the revolutions were nationalistic in character.