Saturday, August 29, 2020
Starting in the late 60s the parties of the Left throughout the West abandoned left-wing politics. They embraced capitalism and they abandoned any thoughts of challenging capitalism. They adopted the economic policies of the Right. By the 90s the economic policies of the parties of the Left and the Right were effectively indistinguishable.
Politics came to an end. There have been no political debates for decades. Political debates used to be about things like whether certain industries should be nationalised, about how much protectionism was needed for industry, about the rôle of trade unions, about the degree of regulation of the banking sector that was needed and about whether government spending should be increased or decreased. Nobody debates such issues any more. Politics no longer exists.
This was a problem. If there’s no politics there’s no need for politicians. So a new kind of politics emerged. Politics was now about social issues which nobody in a sane society would regard as political issues.
When politics changed to being all about social and cultural issues the inevitable end result was that absolutely everything, except economics, became a political issue. What are the burning political issues today? Obviously the weather. Any opinion on the weather is now a political opinion. Medicine is a political issue. How you respond to an outbreak of disease has nothing to do with medicine or science and everything to do with politics. Science is all about politics. Marriage is a key political issue. Sex is a key political issue. Food is a political issue - if you eat meat you’re committing a political act and if you don’t eat meat you’re committing a political act. Obesity is a political issue. Race is a political issue. Popular culture is a political issue. Beauty is a political issue - if you compliment a woman on her looks you’re committing a political act and if you fail to compliment her on her looks you’re committing a political act. Fashion is political. Religion is no longer about religion, it’s a political issue.
Of course if something is a political issue that means the government should do something about it. The government should pass laws, and those laws should be enforced. If every opinion is a political opinion then it is up to those in charge (which means governments and large corporations) to ensure that everybody holds the correct opinion. If you believe that men and women are different you are a political dissident and your mistaken opinion must be corrected.
No-one realised it at the time but the inevitable result of the political revolution was always going to be totalitarianism. If every opinion is a political opinion then people’s opinions are no longer their own business. They are everybody’s business. And it is the duty of every citizen to hold the correct opinions. It is only right and proper that people holding incorrect opinions should be punished. Views on how the punishments should be carried out vary. In Britain the solution is to put people with wrong opinions in prison. The British police are now the Thought Police. In the United States the First Amendment makes that difficult but a solution has been found - large corporations take on the rôle of the Thought Police and people with wrong opinions are not imprisoned, they merely have their livelihoods taken away from them and their lives destroyed.
All of this is the result of the death of the Old Politics and its replacement by the New Politics. The result has been very satisfactory indeed from the point of view of politicians and the corporate sector.
The young have embraced the New Politics with enthusiasm. Young people are only too happy to act as volunteer auxiliary thought police. Enforcing the correct opinions gives them a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Never underestimate the appeal to the young of self-righteousness.
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
An idea that has become quite popular is that traditionalists should form small localised communities, largely self-sufficient and isolated from the rest of society. These would be like safe harbours in which traditionalists can pursue their lifestyle and practise their beefs sheltered from the storms of the outside world.
But as Mark points out, “Such communities won't survive the larger trends within society without clarity of principle, i.e. without firmly establishing an alternative ethos or ‘metanarrative’ that can be embedded within its culture.”
A point with which I heartily agree. My post today is largely an expanded version of a comment I left there.
One problem that is often overlooked is that that alternative ethos needs to be something that will attract genuine voluntary support from the members of such communities. The ethos has to be something that will engender genuine enthusiasm. It must capture people's imaginations. It cannot be imposed by force - this point cannot be emphasised too strongly. The members of those local communities have to want to embrace that ethos.
This applies particularly the young. If young people are not excited by it then they will abandon it. For a very long time young people have in fact done just that - they have voted with their feet and they have voted against traditional communities.
The Amish are a good example. They appear to be a success story but in fact a very large proportion of their children turn their backs on the Amish lifestyle, the Amish beliefs, the Amish ethos if you like. The only reason the Amish continue to increase in numbers is because they have such enormous numbers of children. You can afford to lose a third or even a half of each new generation if every couple has at least six kids. But how many traditionalist communities can sustain such birth rates in the long term?
And that alternative ethos also has to be something that enthuses women.
That's why liberalism has been so successful - it's something that is so very appealing to young people. To young people traditionalism seems boring and oppressive. To women traditionalism seems stifling. Somehow a way has to be found to change those perceptions.
The weakness of the "traditionalist local communities" concept is that I just do not think they will easily be able to offer a vision of society that is going to maintain the allegiance of the young, or the allegiance of women. And they will not be able to command the allegiance of the young and of women unless women and the young can be persuaded to offer that allegiance willingly and with enthusiasm.
All traditionalist societies in the modern world (including even Islamic communities) face this problem - a large proportion of their young people cannot wait to escape from such communities. They just cannot compete with the appeal of liberalism.
I think it needs to be accepted that you cannot recreate the past. You cannot go back to the way society was in the Middle Ages, or the 17th century, or the 19th century or even the 1950s. Too many irreversible changes have happened since those times. Urbanisation is an obvious example - traditionalism works for small rural communities but how is it going to work in an increasingly urbanised world? How is it going to adapt to the technological changes that we have seen? A traditionalist society that turns its back on technology is going to run into problems. How can traditionalism work in an age of mass education and mass media, and social media? Can traditionalism co-exist with capitalism? Or democracy?
There have also been social changes that are probably irreversible. Are people today, especially young people and women, going to accept a complete return to the Christian sexual morality of the past?
Traditional societies were and are heavily based on religion. Which means you need a religion that will command people’s enthusiasm. Is Christianity up to the job?
I’m not suggesting that traditionalists should give up. We can learn from the past and we can learn from traditional societies but we have to adapt traditionalist beliefs to a changed world. We have to take from traditionalism those things that will still work. And perhaps abandon those elements which clearly will not work.
It may sound perverse but perhaps we need a forward-looking traditionalism?
Sunday, August 23, 2020
The reason for this is simple. In a democracy everything eventually becomes political. Every opinion becomes a political opinion. Every aspect of life becomes a political issue. When something becomes a political issue people expect the government to do something about it. And governments doing something always ends up meaning governments passing more laws, introducing more regulations, establishing more statutory authorities, giving the police and the courts more powers. Our freedom to make our own decisions and to make up our own minds is further restricted.
There are plenty of examples. In the late 19th century many people, particularly in the U.S. and particularly Christians and feminists, were becoming more and more concerned about alcohol. Had it been merely a matter of people expressing their view that alcohol was a social problem and that maybe people should drink less it would have been no problem. But that’s not what happened. It became a political issue. The Progressives of the day latched onto it. There were demands that the government should do something about it. And the government did do something about it. The government introduced Prohibition. Whether you think alcohol is a good thing or a bad thing there’s no question that Prohibition was a disaster.
This was the first example of health becoming a political issue. There have been countless further examples since then. Today there are people who believe the government should ban sugar. There are people who see obesity as a political issue that the government should do something about. We are moving towards a situation in which people think it right and proper for governments to tell us what to eat, and how much we should eat. Democracy inevitably leads to a nanny state.
Sex became a political issue in the 19th century. This was another consequence of democracy. The Victorians may have been sexually repressed, they may have had severe views on the subject of sexual immorality, but at the beginning of the Victorian era there were surprisingly few actual laws dealing with sex. Sexual morality was seen as a matter that was best dealt with by churches, by communities, and by parents. As democracy advanced over the course of the 19th century sex became more and more a matter for government.
When motion pictures became popular the first thing governments did in democratic countries was to start censoring them. Even in the U.S. this happened. Despite the First Amendment numerous states established state censorship boards to censor movies. In a democracy censorship becomes a political issue and even when that country has a constitution that prevents censorship governments will find a way. In 1940 sixteen paintings by the famous Australian artist Norman Lindsay were seized and burnt by U.S. government officials.
Opinions have also become political issues. In the early 19th century when western countries such as Britain were most certainly not democratic there were lots of opinions that were not socially acceptable but nobody could prevent you from holding those opinions. Today, in our democratic world, holding the wrong opinions can destroy your life.
Ironically while democracies tend to become more and more totalitarian dictatorships seem to become progressively less oppressive over time. No matter what you think of communism it can’t be denied that the Soviet Union under Brezhnev was less oppressive that the Soviet Union under Lenin or Stalin. By the 1960s Francoist Spain was still authoritarian but it had become a relatively easy-going authoritarian state. It may be in the nature of dictatorships to become less totalitarian while it’s in the nature of democracies to become steadily more totalitarian.
Maybe you can have freedom or democracy but you can’t have both. Democracy may simply be incompatible with freedom.
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
“You have to accept the fact that part of the sizzle of sex comes from the danger of sex. You can be overpowered.” - Camille Paglia
“Feminism has become a catch-all vegetable drawer where bunches of clingy sob sisters can store their moldy neuroses. - Camille Paglia
“Television is actually closer to reality than anything in books. The madness of TV is the madness of human life. - Camille Paglia
“Leaving sex to the feminists is like letting your dog vacation at the taxidermist. - Camille Paglia
“Manhood coerced into sensitivity is no manhood at all. - Camille Paglia
“Men have sacrificed and crippled themselves physically and emotionally to feed, house, and protect women and children. None of their pain or achievement is registered in feminist rhetoric, which portrays men as oppressive and callous exploiters. - Camille Paglia
“In the real world, very smart people fail and mediocre people rise. Part of what makes people fail or succeed are skills that have nothing to do with IQ. Also, the idea that intelligence can be gauged by an IQ test is erroneous. - Camille Paglia
“If someone offends you by speech, you must learn to defend yourself by speech. - Camille Paglia
Monday, August 10, 2020
Propaganda and outright lying are part and parcel of the modern world. There never was a golden age in which politicians didn’t lie. There never was a golden age in which journalists were courageous advocates for the truth. From the beginnings of democracy politicians have lied. Mass media always was propaganda. Newspapers in the 19th century were as politically biased as mass media outlets of today.
What has changed is that politics has expanded to encompass the whole of life. The weather is a political issue. If you remark that yesterday was warm for this time of year you are making a political statement. Sex is political. Sexual attraction is political. If you remarks that a young woman has a nice figure you’re making a political statement (and you’re oppressing women). Marriage is political. If you’re unwise enough to reassure a young woman that one day she’ll find the right man to marry you’re making a political statement (and you’re being a heteronormative oppressor). If, God forbid, you make a remark about women giving birth you’re making a political statement (men can give birth too, bigot). Biology is political. Science is political. Medicine is political. Religion is political. Everything is political.
Which means there is more propaganda than ever before.
Most people understand this but most people are extremely reluctant to admit that their own side engages in propaganda. Liberals are convinced that propaganda is something that conservatives do and conservatives obsess over what they see as liberal propaganda in the media while being unwilling to admit that their side uses propaganda as well.
The far right obsesses over propaganda in the mainstream media while being unwilling to admit that the right-wing alternative media is all propaganda as well.
As far as COVID-19 is concerned just about everything that both the pro-lockdown and anti-lockdown factions say is little more than propaganda but neither side will admit it. The same goes for climate change. And immigration.
If the subject is Russia or China then again both the pro and con cases are almost entirely propaganda. It’s also safe to say that if Islam or the Catholic Church is being discussed the discussion will in fact be nothing more than both sides presenting their own propaganda.
The most important thing you have to keep always in mind is that your own side is lying to you as well. Your political enemies are certainly indulging in propaganda, but so are your political allies. If there’s an election in the offing you can certainly assume that the candidate you dislike will be lying, but the candidate you favour will be lying as well.
Since everything is now political it naturally follows that every story in the media will be a mixture of lies, distortions, exaggerations and misinformation. It makes no difference whether it’s a right-wing or a left-wing media outlet or whether it’s the mainstream media or the alternative media.
It’s depressing, but all you can is to cultivate a healthy scepticism. Whatever is being said you have to ask yourself whether the person saying it has a political agenda (which is almost certainly the case) and if so what that agenda is.
Sunday, August 9, 2020
It’s an article of faith for the modern Right that class no longer matters. Curiously enough that view is mostly shared by the modern Left (or at the least the entity that today calls itself the Left). That the Right and the Left agree that there is no class struggle any more is not surprising since the modern Left and Right share almost identical views on economic matters.
The idea that society is divided into the exploiters and the exploited still persists on the Left, but they insist that this no longer has anything to do with class. We’re told that society is no longer divided along class lines but along racial and ethnic lines. Whites are the exploiters and non-whites are the exploited. Feminists on the other hand insist that men are the exploiters and women the exploited. There’s also the newly fashionable idea the the exploiters are those who cling to outdated gender binary ideas (such as the notion that people are divided into men and women).
Another curiosity of the modern world is that the far Right to a large extent shares these views, the only difference being that they think it’s whites and men who are the exploited.
The truth of course is that class warfare is still with us, but the old-fashioned Marxist view of class really is outdated.
Michael Lind has come up with some theories that are interesting attempts to grapple with the new realities. His blog post The Double Horseshoe Theory of Class Politics is pleasingly brief and clear and it’s worth a read.