Friday, October 8, 2021

welcome to Orwell's world

The most frightening thing about the way the world has changed since the late 90s is not just how quickly it has happened but how mysteriously. Countries like Britain and Australia seemed to be perfectly normal fairly civilised countries. Now Britain is a totalitarian dystopia and Australia is well on the way to being one.

There was no violent revolution. No overthrow of the government. No military coup. But the results have been as dramatic as the changes that occurred in the past when the communists or the fascists took power.

Prime ministers have come and gone. Elections have been held. Such events no longer seem to have any significance. You cannot point to any of those prime ministers and say, “it was all his fault.” Under each new prime minister both countries have lurched further in the direction of totalitarianism. Whether Labour or the Tories have been in power, or in the case of Australia Labor or the LNP, has made no difference whatsoever. The process of creeping totalitarianism has continued, slowly but inexorably. It’s clear that elections no longer matter at all.

It’s clear that whoever is in charge it’s not our politicians and it’s not our elected governments. You really don’t need to be a crazed conspiracy theorist to have noticed that.

Liberalism has been abolished. The individual has never been less important, and has never had fewer rights. What matters is the state and the corporation. The individual exists to serve the state and the corporation.

Not only has the old liberal idea that people should by and large be allowed to make their own decisions been overturned. Today the individual does not even have the right to decide for himself what he can say, or even what he can think.

We now live in Orwell’s world. As in any totalitarian society social order is maintained by persuading the citizens to police themselves. We do this all the time. We constantly self-censor. You might not think that you do this, but we all do. If we meet a stranger we are very careful to avoid expressing opinions on controversial subjects. We are very careful in our choice of words. This is a key sign of a totalitarian society.

Superficially it appears that public opinion has been strongly in favour of the imposition of the new totalitarianism. Here we need to be just a little sceptical. Public opinion is what the public opinion pollsters tell us public opinion is. How many people these days actually respond to public opinion polls? How many people are prepared to give honest answers to polling questions? It’s likely that public opinion is much less favourable to the new totalitarianism than it appears to be, but what the public thinks no longer matters. What individuals think no longer matters. The state and large private corporations control public opinion. They tell us what our opinions are.

If we stubbornly insist on disagreeing with either the state or with the private corporations who rule society in conjunction with the state, our opinions are ignored. If we continue to be stubborn we are silenced. Dissent is not permitted. Individuals do not have the right to act for themselves, speak for themselves or think for themselves. If you try it on the internet you’ll be banned from social media, or (more likely) you will simply be shadow-banned. You’ll be silenced and you won’t even know it’s happened. In Britain you’ll probably be arrested.

And you don’t have to break any actual laws, because social order is now maintained by the state and by corporations to whom the law and legal rights are irrelevant. If you dissent in any way, even in a way that is technically quite legal, you will be silenced.

Liberalism didn’t fail. It was overthrown by a new ideology which for want of a better term we can call neo-fascism. Nothing matters but the state and the corporation. The individual is irrelevant. Individualism is now an anti-social act that will get you into deep trouble. We learn to obey the state and to obey its corporate partners.

1984 is already here but we pretend it isn’t that bad because the reality is too painful to face.

Friday, October 1, 2021

we are all neo-fascists now

When we dutifully troop off to the polling stations on election day we know in our hearts that we’re wasting our time. We’re going to get screwed and having the choice of being screwed by the Tweedledee Party or the Tweedledum Party isn’t much of a choice.

How did this happen? Was it simply some weird historical accident that all the major political parties ended up being pretty much the same? Some political theorists think thee’s an inevitable drift to the centre and that the major parties eventually all become centrist. But that hadn’t happened. There is nothing moderate or centrist about the major parties today. What we’ve seen is a drift towards extremism and totalitarianism.

Do political parties actually matter at all? Do political leaders like Biden and Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison have any real influence? Are they just puppets, with the same people always pulling the strings?

Right-wing conspiracy theorists explain all this by positing the existence of the Deep State, a sinister cabal of insiders and power-brokers who actually run the government. I’m always wary of disappearing down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole. I don’t think there’s a Deep State in the sense of an organised conspiracy or cabal. What I think has happened is that a lot of powerful interest groups have decided that they have major interest in common - they all want a docile rigidly controlled population. They have all, for very different reasons, come to the conclusion that totalitarianism is essential for the achievement of their very different goals.

Big business now has the economic system it wants. It’s a kind of neo-fascism with big business and big government working in partnership to advance the interests of big business and big government. They do not want any political debate at all on economic issues. That could lead to ordinary people asking some very awkward questions. Big business likes totalitarianism because they like the idea of being able to shut down debate on economic issues. They want political debate to be entirely focused on social and cultural issues, issues they don’t care about.

Economists and right-wing think tanks have ideological reasons for not wanting debate on economic issues so they’re cool with totalitarianism as well.

Journalists, academics and professional political activists are True Believers in various social causes and they want to be able to exercise rigid control over any debate on those issues. They don’t want debate. They just want to tell us what to do and how to think. Totalitarianism sounds very attractive to such people.

The military wants more money, to buy cool sexy new toys and to provide more career opportunities. They do not want any debate on whether military spending is a complete waste of money. They’re very happy with the idea of keeping people distracted by social/cultural issues so naturally they favour rigid social control.

Media magnates (including social media magnates) like the new totalitarianism because they are the ones who will get to do most of the enforcing. Under the new totalitarianism they get to be the Thought Police. And they love power.

The police like totalitarianism because they’re natural bullies.

The bureaucracy likes the new totalitarianism because it means more power for them.

Politicians like the new totalitarianism because (like the bureaucracy) they believe that people should be taught to do whatever the government tells them to do.

You don’t need an organised conspiracy. You just need a lot of powerful interest groups who all find that totalitarianism will be very much in their interests.

What can ordinary people do? The first thing they have to do is to understand that voting is entirely futile. It just gives the system a legitimacy it doesn’t deserve.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

a partial defence of liberalism

Perhaps I should have called this a partial, somewhat reluctant, somewhat tentative defence of liberalism but here goes.

I used to be very critical of liberalism but living in the current illiberal age I must admit I’m starting to feel a twinge of nostalgia for old school liberalism. I’m not mounting a defence of economic liberalism, which I despise. I’m talking about social liberalism.

I try not to see political ideologies in terms of right and wrong or good and bad. Ideologies either produce satisfactory or unsatisfactory results. Liberalism in the classic meaning of the world is an individualist ideology. People in general either prefer ideologies that put the individual first or ideologies that put society first. You can’t have both. In order to have a society which gives freedom to the individual society has to make a few sacrifices. In order to have a society which benefits society the individual has to make a few sacrifices. On the whole I think that if you choose an ideology that puts the individual first you’ll have a more pleasant and more civilised society but social conservatives will no doubt violently disagree.

I’m not really concerned with trying to prove that individualist ideologies are better than collectivist ideologies. I’m merely trying to point out that it is possible to defend liberalism. At a time when liberalism is not just on the defensive but pretty much on the ground having the daylights kicked out of it I think it’s worth asking ourselves if liberalism was really so bad.

The period from 1945 to around the late 90s was a kind of golden age of liberalism. Liberalism really did seem to be working. It didn’t please everybody (no political system pleases everybody) and it wasn’t perfect by any means (no political system is perfect or even close to perfect) but it did seem to be working.

In 1945 there were still a lot of restrictions on personal freedom. Many were legacies of the very illiberal control freak Progressive Era (which was to a large extent the Christian moral reformism of the 19th century given a more political gloss) but by the 50s mainstream liberal opinion was moving towards the view that generally speaking people should have as much personal freedom as possible. They could live as they chose. There were of course some constraints on this freedom. You could have freedom as long as your freedom didn’t interfere with anyone else’s freedom. And reality also imposed certain constraints. If you thought it would be really cool to be a superhero or a vampire you would have to be gently told that reality was not going to accomodate your fantasy.

During the half-century golden age of liberalism most people seemed to be reasonably content. Social conservative were very unhappy. Which is a bit odd since that era was actually a golden age for social conservatives. If you wanted to have a strictly monogamous marriage and you wanted to have lots of kids and go to church every Sunday nobody was going to tell you that you couldn’t do that. You could raise your kids the way you wanted to. You could send them to Christian schools. If you chose to take a fairy extreme position, such as believing that sex for any purpose other than procreation was sinful, you could live that way. You could live a very traditionalist socially conservative lifestyle and many people did.

What went wrong and why did liberalism collapse? I’m inclined to think it was technology. By the 21st century both governments and private corporations had the technology to keep us under constant surveillance. And social media proved to be an extraordinarily effective tool for imposing obedience. There had always been crazy extremists. Every political movement has its lunatic fringe. Social media allowed the lunatic fringe, small but highly motivated, to accumulate immense power. Totalitarianism happened because technology made it easy and neither governments nor private corporations could resist the temptations of totalitarianism.

There is more to be said on the subject of liberalism, especially regarding the way in which very illiberal ideological positions are being sold to us as liberal positions (the trans agenda being a spectacular example) but that will have to wait for my next post.

Monday, September 27, 2021

the war on liberalism

One of the interesting things about the political situation today, and it’s something that most people don’t seem to have noticed, is that we’re seeing a war on liberalism. Wokeism and Political Correctness and World War T are all-out frontal assaults on the fundamental assumptions of liberalism.

Wokeism is an attack on the time-honoured liberal position that race should not matter and that everyone should strive to be colour-blind. World War T is not only an attempt to erase women it is also an attempt to utterly destroy old school feminism. If there’s no such thing as a woman (and that’s the current dogma) then feminism cannot exist.

The Woke/PC crowd are also vehemently opposed to freedom of speech. They’re also very happy with the continued growth of the surveillance state. They like the idea of the government being able to track us and keep tabs on everything we do.

And, as we’ve seen recently, they also tend to be very much in favour of taking all sorts of civil liberties away from us. Free choice is seen as a hopelessly antiquated concept. People should do what the government tells them to do. People should also think the way the media giants and social media giants tell them to think.

There’s also an increasing interest in the idea of telling us what we should eat. We should eat soy burgers. They haven’t yet publicly floated the idea of banning meat but it’s on their agenda.

This might sound like old school totalitarianism but it’s actually a totally new variant. Although many older rightists are convinced that they’re dealing with a rebirth of communism nothing could be further from the truth. The Woke/PC crowd is funded by the corporate sector and they serve the interests of the corporate sector. This is not neo-communism but it is a form of neo-fascism.

Older social conservatives of course have no clue what is going on. They’re still fighting the ideological battles of 50, 60 or 70 years ago. Older liberals are terrified and bewildered. They don’t want to oppose the Woke/PC crowd because they think these people are liberals. They’re wrong. The Woke/PC crowd are not liberals. Older liberals do not want to oppose World War T because they think it’s a liberal cause. They’re wrong. It’s the most illiberal of causes. So they remain frightened and bewildered. And when an uber-liberal like J.K. Rowling can be accused of being a Nazi they’re right to be frightened.

How did all this happen? The fact is that there are many powerful groups with a vested interest in crushing dissent. Bureaucrats do not like dissent. Politicians do not like awkward questions being asked. The corporate sector would like us to do what we’re told. The social media outlets enjoy power. The police like to be obeyed and they dislike things such as legal rights. Liberalism is based on the idea that there should be limits on the power that people have other people. That is not a popular idea among politicians, bureaucrats, corporate CEOs, cops or social media moguls.

For all of these people liberalism has become a nuisance. They are more than happy to support anti-liberal ideologies, and they are doing so.

I probably should explain that in my recents posts I’m essentially tossing ideas about. If you don’t agree then feel free to chime in. I’m not arrogant enough to think I have all the answers.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

freedom or democracy

From the beginning of the 19th century to the early years of the 20th century democracy gradually established itself in the West. And something very interesting happened them. Democratically elected governments started to take away people’s freedoms.

Of course governments have always to some extent been in the business of social control, but democratic governments have gradually extended that social control to cover almost every aspect of life. Democratic governments are in the business of micro-managing our lives.

The depressing thing is that this happened because public opinion on the whole supported outrageous infringements on people’s freedoms.

It amuses me that social conservatives look back to the 1950s as a golden age of freedom. It wasn’t. It was an era of rigid forced social conformity. Personal freedom was strictly limited.

In fact of course that’s exactly why social conservatives are nostalgic for the 50s. They like the fact that the people of whom they disapproved had no freedoms. For social conservatives freedom means the freedom to conform rigidly to socially conservative norms.

All of these losses of freedom were justified on the grounds that it was for our own good. Things like gambling, prostitution, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, pornography, etc were wicked so they had to be either rigidly controlled by the government or banned by the government.

That’s still the social conservative argument, and the argument of social and moral reformers as well. The problem is that whether these things were desirable or undesirable government attempts to control these social problems always made matters worse. And of course they took away our basic human dignity, our right to decide how to live our own lives.

The results were invariably disastrous. All Prohibition achieved was to allow organised crime to grow to a scale that no-one had ever believed possible, and to allow the police, courts and government to become thoroughly corrupt. In every single case the attempts at government social control failed, organised crime grew more powerful and the police got more corrupt.

In a democratic society most of us accept that the government should treat us the way Nanny would treat naughty five-year-olds. We accept the principle that if we disobey Nanny we should get a belting. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we like the idea of Nanny giving other naughty children a belting but we’re not quite so enthusiastic about it when it’s our turn for a belting. But we still accept the idea that Nanny should be able to punish us if we’re disobedient, for our own good.

Today of course this democratic totalitarian mindset is as strong as ever, but it’s being applied in a manner that horrifies social conservatives who are regularly getting beaten by Nanny for being transphobic or racist.

Social problems will always exist. It’s tempting to think that they can be eliminated if only the government could pass enough laws and if only the courts could impose harsh enough sentences but they can’t be eliminated. But democratic societies are committed to the utopian belief that all social ills can be eliminated by passing laws.

Perhaps we need to realise that you can have freedom or you have democracy, but you cannot have both.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

the forever war against women

The Cultural Left has been bleating about a supposed war on women for quite a while now. They’re both right and wrong about this. There is a war on women going on, but it’s not being waged by the Religious Right. It’s being waged by an alliance of intersectional feminists and the LGBTwhatever lobby. And one thing needs to be clearly understood. These days the LGBTwhatever lobby is effectively the T lobby. They’re the ones calling the shots.

Social conservatives and conservative Christians are, as usual, utterly clueless about this. It always amuses me when these rightists start speculating about what’s coming next, after World War T. What they fail to understand is that World War T has only just begun. What we’ve seen so far have been preliminary skirmishes. The ultimate objective is to erase women.

The campaign to erase women is being conducted by men. Men in frocks. The existence of actual women is offensive to these men, for obvious reasons. They want to become women but they have difficulty in persuading anyone to regard them as women so they are naturally bitter and resentful towards actual women who have no difficulty being regarded as women. There are also those who claim to belong to any one of 117 different genders. No-one is going to take their claims seriously as long as most people continue to recognise the existence of actual women. These extreme members of the LGBTwhatever lobby face a huge problem as long as most people regard a woman as a human being who has two XX chromosomes and a vagina. They want us to consider a man with an X and a Y chromosome and a penis as a woman. Therefore it is necessary for them to push the line that having two XX chromosomes and a vagina is not what defines a woman.

Now I’m not arguing that a woman is defined solely by her vagina. But being born with two XX chromosomes and a vagina really is an absolutely crucial defining characteristic of a woman. If a man with a penis can be accepted as a woman then being a woman becomes meaningless. A woman’s entire experience of being a woman becomes meaningless.

And intersectional feminists are not merely enabling but actively supporting a misogynistic campaign to erase women.

It’s also, interestingly enough, a campaign (being conducted by men) to control women’s sexuality. If a woman does not need to have a vagina then the whole idea of women’s sexuality becomes meaningless.

It’s worth pointing out that Second Wave feminists back in the 70s were angry that women’s sexuality was (in their view) controlled by the patriarchy. But they did not want to give women control over their own sexuality - the feminists wanted to be the ones who controlled female sexuality, rather than the patriarchy. They did not want men telling women what to do. They wanted to be the ones who told women what to do. Today we have a situation in which men in frocks seek to be the ones controlling women’s sexuality, and the younger generations of feminists are A-OK with that.

Social conservatives and conservative Christians are incapable of offering any serious resistance on this issue because, let’s be honest, they also dislike the idea of allowing women to make their own choices.

World War T is a real war on women and it’s hardly even started. It will continue until women are erased completely.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

why reformers are always a menace

A recent post on A Political Refugee From The Global Village got me thinking abut the mediæval Catholic Church. The conventional view is that by the fifteenth century the mediæval Church was corrupt and morally lax and desperately in need of reform. But is that really true?

We only get the reformers’ side of the story, partly because they won and partly because they had good propagandists on their side (people like Erasmus).

The Church in the Middle Ages was undoubtedly corrupt. All human institutions are corrupt. Every system of government ever devised has ended up being corrupt. Until we can change human nature we will always have corruption. And the reformed churches (both the Protestant churches and the Counter-Reformation Catholic Church) have over the years been involved in some pretty shady financial dealings. They get away with it because no-one really wants to take the political risks involved in taking a really close look at the financial affairs of churches.

Some of the doctrines of the mediæval Catholic Church may have been a trifle dubious but most churches subscribe to at least some doctrines that are a trifle dubious. Scripture can be made to mean many things that the original authors certainly never intended and tradition teachings can be interpreted imaginatively.

Was the Church in the Middle Ages morally lax? Or was it simply realistic about the limits of human perfectibility? Priests certainly cohabited with women and popes and cardinals had mistresses but the Church didn’t worry too much about these things because while God is perfect (and some saints may go close to perfection) ordinary men and women are far from perfect. Ordinary men and women sometimes succumb to the temptations of the flesh because ordinary men and women are just human. If the local priest hasn’t been able to stick to celibacy and he’s shacked up with his female housekeeper, if the local bishop keeps a mistress, is that something to get all bent out of shape about? If some of the nuns in the local nunnery get up to a few sexual shenanigans with priests (or even with each other) is it the end of the world? The mediæval Church tended to take the view that it wasn’t the end of the world.

And maybe tolerating lapses in clerical celibacy is preferable to sending priests slowly mad trying to keep to vows of celibacy that are just too much for some imperfect human beings.

Maybe the mediæval Church was an imperfect institution that was also relatively humane and tolerant.

Reformers, whether they’re religious, political, economic, social or moral reformers, are always looking for institutions to reform. What they invariably end up doing is taking an imperfect institution that basically works and smashing it. It then gets replaced with a new institution which usually ends up being nastier and more oppressive than the old one.

To someone with a reformer mindset everything needs reforming but in fact the world is full of things that are better left alone.