Between Thought and Expression
That pregnant line pretty much encrapsulates the horror of totalitarianism, for what is the latter but a wall between thought and expression?
In the free world, between thought and expression lies exactly one lifetime. Or, the time of one's life consists in the expression of one's thought, precisely, i.e., the actualization of the soul's potential.
And even then, the time one is allotted couldn't possibly contain the expression, which is more or less "infinite." For example, had Mozart lived to 70 or 80 instead of 34, he would have no doubt continued transforming musical thought into sonic expression. It is not as if he -- or it -- would have run out. But he could have also lived to 200 or 300, and we could say the same thing.
Except that if such were the case, works of genius would be so common as to be completely disposable. A play by William Shakespeare would be as rare as a film by Adam Sandler, or a post by some logorrheic spiritual blogger.
There seems to be a cosmic sense of proportion guiding these matters, so that works of genius are accessible without being too common or too rare. To put it another way, in any aesthetic endeavor, 99% of what one encounters will be crap. But if the figure were less than that, we would soon have a glut of excellence, thereby deflating its value.
Back to this question of the nature of totalitarianism. Applied to Lou Reed's formula, we might say that between thought and expression lies a.... state. Or, authority, which is to say, raw power. Or sometimes the means of expression, say, literacy, or a printing press, or the internet. Any totalitarian system must control access to information. Just as it was a crime to teach a slave to read, free access to the internet is forbidden in the totAllahterrorist world.
Perhaps the most concise way of saying it is to reverse the terms: between thought and expression, a lifetime of lies.
This is indeed the peculiar thing about totalitarianism, and what distinguishes it from mere tyranny (or from contemporary authoritarian states).
Think of ancient Rome, for example. As far as they were concerned, you were free to think what you wanted, so long as it didn't threaten state power. There was no need for the tenured to come up with fancy ideologies to legitimize the lust for power, or to reach into the individual soul and try to control its very existence. No one was crucified for political incorrectness, nor were there any low-tech lynchings for having racially impermissible thoughts.
Therefore, one cannot say that a Stalin, a Hitler, a Castro, simply wanted "power." That they already had. For some reason, they also wanted to refashion man by controlling him from within. There was nothing logical about this, because if anything, it only made the regimes more fragile instead of more robust. After all, National Socialism lasted only a dozen years, the Soviet Union less than seventy (ironically, a "lifetime"). By closing off thought in this manner, there is no way for the soul to "let off steam." One either goes insane, numbs oneself (say, with drink), or becomes a rebel.
"The most totalitarian regime is the one where the penetration of the regime into the soul of the individual is complete." Taylor adds that "the people must be made to want what they are allowed to have or to behave as if they want what they have." Therefore, there is always a "pretend" element in totalitarianism, at least until one convinces oneself that the Lie is the Truth. One then lives in "an ideological universe of lies," but no longer recognizes it as such.
I should add that this can be a very subtle process, especially in the non-totalitarian west, where ideology, for the most part, isn't imposed, but rather, seduces and hypnotizes.
For what is ideology but a substitute reality, or anti-world? It is a pseudo reality, like scientism, or materialism, or leftism, something superimposed on the world. Eventually the world is no longer perceived at all. Either it is filtered through the ideology, or critical aspects of reality excluded by the ideology aren't even seen (say, the spiritual world).
I am reminded of a story about a visitor to Moscow who was standing in front of a large Orthodox cathedral. He looked down at the official government map in his hands, but the church was nowhere to be seen. It was forbidden by their ideology to exist.
That is a very ham-handed example of denying reality. But think of the multitude of realities that are forbidden to exist by political correctness. Ironically -- I guess -- there is nowhere in America where thought is more constrained than on a university campus. Between thought and expression lies... speech codes!
Any liberal democracy -- indeed, the very essence of liberalism -- is grounded in the opposite principle: that freedom of expression is the essence of our humanness. Between thought and expression is... everything. It is the potential space -- the transitional space -- where we spend most of our timelessness (assuming we are truly "alive" in the human sense).
One might say that between 〇 and (¶) lies not just a lifetime, but eternity, precisely. It is where we compose our lifetome.
Now, what is totalitarianism but a false absolute? If one's thinking is constrained by any absolute except the Absolute, then one is living under auto-totalitarian rule.
In fact, perhaps totalitarianism is "evoked" by the madness of relativism. Totalitarianism is a solution to a very real problem of modernity, that is, the sundering of a unified worldview into facts and values, quantities and qualities, vertical and horizontal. Totalitarianism "heals" that split -- or, more accurately, stitches the wound closed with barbed wire.
Since man was not made to exist in such an absurd and unintelligible world of absolute relativity -- and to the extent that he rejects the perennial wisdom that articulates the Absolute -- then he will be susceptible to the lure of the false absolute, i.e., the "totalitarian temptation."
This helps to explain the novel emergence of the political religions of the 20th century -- and why public enemy number one of any state religion is always real religion, whether one is talking about communism, Nazism, or the ACLU. If one has ever read a gimme letter from the ACLU, their immorality always comes clothed in a hysteric veneer of moral urgency and crisis -- the perpetual crisis of conservatives who don't want an intrusive state between thought and expression.
Reminds me of Himmler, who, in delivering his speeches to the elect, always did so in the heat of great "moral exhortation." With this kind of stark cosmic inversion, Taylor observes that "We are outside of the human realm..., as though standing before a negative transcendence" (emphasis mine).
This is the very definition of the demonic, in that "these acts were carried out in the name of a good, under the guise of a moral code." And this was a strict moral code. For example, one of the authors notes that German soldiers who routinely murdered Jews were punished if they were caught stealing cigarettes from the corpse.
(This brings to mind Taranto's column yesterday [last story], which stresses the importance of wearing a condom if you are going to have sex with an animal. This is precisely the kind of absurd morality that exists in a scientistic world of negative transcendence.)
As Himmler urged his men, "If we do not find this moral connection, which is the deepest and best connection because it is the most natural, we will never rise to the level necessary to defeat Christianity and to constitute this German Reich, which will be a blessing to the entire world.
"For thousands of years, it has been the duty of the blond race to rule the world and always to bring it happiness and civilization." Emphasis mine, because note the extreme irony of Germans depicting themselves as the chosen people who have the extreme burden of bringing happiness and civilization to the world.
And it was a burden for those poor Nazis. In another address, Himmler said that extermination of the Jews "for those who carry it out is the hardest and most difficult thing in the world." Nevertheless, "I think I can say that this was accomplished without our men or our officers suffering because of it in their hearts or in their souls. Even so, this was a real danger."
I think it is accurate to say that the underlying purpose of ideology is to render the wrong right and the lie truth. It magically allows the means to justify the ends, since the utopian goal is so beautiful.
While there is always a strong element of this in contemporary leftist statism and bureaucratic socialism, there is also the converse: the means justify the end.
What I mean by this is that leftists are not interested in the actual results of their policies. Rather, the policies are always self-justified by the good intentions behind them, for example, forcing banks to make loans to unqualified borrowers, which is at the epicenter of our current economic woes (that and the inevitable day of wreckening for European socialism, since you can toss out economic reality with a pitchforked tongue, but it always comes roaring back; and oddly enough, the burden is once again on the Germans).
To be continued...