A Total Mess Calls for a Total Solution
Likewise, intellectuals overwhelmingly supported FDR, and by and large continue to champion his nasty combination of hostility to business, high taxes, big government, heavy-handed social engineering, and income redistribution (even when a program ends up being an income transfer to the wealthy).
Now, believe it or not, I want to be as fair as possible to the left. I am not just trying to engage in polemics, or amuse my readers with the usual two-minutes hoot.
In fact, we can even leave other people out of it, since I can inquire of myself: why on earth did you, Bob, believe all that crap? I was once an intellectual, if by intellectual we mean a person who spends most of his time thinking about stupid ideas that sound good but don't work in practice, especially where human beings are concerned.
So, just how did I get involved in that racket, and how did I extricate myself? In one sense, it isn't difficult to explain. I spent most of my 20s immersed in the world of the tenured, pursuing my BA, MA, and Ph.D. licenses to steal.
But I was never a passive sort of person who was satisfied to simply take the knowledge I was given and use it to furnish my mind for the rest of my life. Rather, I really wanted to understand -- you know, the usual adolescent stuff such as why is the world so f-ing f-ed up, and who the f- can we blame?
Obviously the MSM couldn't be trusted. Back then I would have regarded them as just shallow bimbos as opposed to deceitful and agenda-driven bimbos, although I probably would have also agreed with the proposition that they are all large corporations who don't print or broadcast anything that clashes with their corporate interests (I remember reading Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent with hearty approval).
And conservatism was a priori out of the question. Not only had I had no exposure to conservative philosophy (certainly not in any coherent sense, just maliciously distorted or disunderstood fragments), but would have no sooner turned to it than I would have joined the Nazi Party of America.
Conservatism wasn't just intrinsically false, but plainly malevolent. To say nothing of uncool. Conveniently, I could maintain this fiction because I didn't know any conservatives. Or, if I did, I didn't know about it. Like any other sanctimonious liberal, I truly assumed that liberalism was just common sense and common decency.
Therefore, since I wanted to penetrate beneath the surface, I eventually turned to the usual leftist suspects such as Chomsky, Zinn, the Nation, and all the rest, assuming this was the way any rational and educated person should proceed. So I was among the "seduced" spoken of in The Great Lie, and no one is more seducible than the secular intellectual, for reasons we will get into, if not today, then as we proceed.
One question this collection grapples with is what exactly is totalitarianism? Is it even an "ism," or is it just a tactic? Is it actually a new phenomenon, or just a new name for tyranny? Is it something that human beings gravitate toward, or is it only imposed from the top-down and outside-in? How can two such vastly different cultures -- Russia and Germany -- end in this final common pathway of totalitarianism? And was it an inevitable result of the ideology, or did it have more to do with the men, e.g., Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, et al?
As alluded to in yesterday's post, we shouldn't think of liberal democracy and totalitarianism as opposites, but as situated along a continuum -- or perhaps even like the yin-yang symbol, so there is always a little grain of totalitarianism in the best democracy, and vice versa.
Here is how Vaclav Havel characterized it: "[I]n the end, is not the grayness and the emptiness of life in the post-totalitarian world [he was speaking of 1970s Czechoslovakia under the Soviet boot heel] only an inflated caricature of modern life in general? And do we not stand... as a kind of warning to the West, revealing its own latent tendencies?" After all, if human beings can immerse themselves in the Lie and "be alienated from themselves," it is "only because there is something in them to alienate."
Conversely, if -- as assumed by modern scientism and the philosophical left -- there is no essential self to be alienated, then what's the problem with a massive state engaging in social engineering in order to create its utopian version of a "better" human? Why not?
Furthermore, for the left in general and totalitarianism in particular, there is no intrinsic authority and no moral absolutes, because no God. There is no pre-political truth. As the left teaches us, "the personal is the political," so there is truly no escape from political -- or politicized -- thought and action.
What this ultimately implies is that there is really no individual (much less a free one), which, in a stroke, eliminates the first principle of our liberal Founders.
This would explain how and why self-styled "progressivism" always involves a regression to a pre-individual and collective state of being.
In this context, Taylor notes that communism, fascism, and National Socialism can all be thought of as "a rebellion against this separation, as a project to reintegrate people into a social whole where they find community, duty, and a higher purpose. To the extent that liberal democracy fails to provide these goods, the totalitarian temptation will not disappear."
Meaning that it can never disappear so long as human beings attempt to draw ultimate meaning from politics and/or economics. Nevertheless, this pseudo-religious quest is transparently what the OWSers are all about. The other day, Taranto linked to some representative examples, such as this florid bit of political schlock by a Max Berger:
"The rapid growth of the occupations, the broad public support for the movement, and the incredible amount of media attention it has garnered suggest that we as a people recognize the need to revolutionize our political system and our economy.
"The occupy movement is still in its infancy, but... it has already reawakened the radical imagination, especially for members of my generation by tapping into our surprisingly deep wells of sincerity and authenticity. The unbranded space of the occupation provides the canvas upon which we paint the outlines of our imagined future. In it, we are reminded us [sic] that we all depend upon each other for happiness and survival. In it, we are not consumers or clients; we are citizens in a consensual community that empowers each of us. In it, we are compelled to truly listen to each other..."
And buddy, you must have a heart of stone if that deep well of sincere authenticity doesn't make you laugh out loud.