The New Totalitarians

The progressives who will not rest until they have made a shambles of the world we would have preferred to live in.

The so-called “socialist revolution,” which the collapse of the Soviet Union and the implosion of the European welfare state should have soundly discredited by this time, is still running its course. This is the case not only in Latin America, where it seems to be embedded in the national psyche, but, despite recent electoral setbacks, in the United States as well. So counter-intuitive a phenomenon is partially explained by the lust for power among political strongmen and numinous redeemers who understand that socialism enables them to consolidate the power they crave in their own hands. But it also requires the backing of intellectuals and academics who naively believe that socialism opens the way to a juster and more equable society. History teaches that such a chimera is catastrophic in the application. It is generally embraced as an ideal by an intellectual class isolated from the lives of ordinary people and therefore immune or indifferent to reality.

Paul Johnson observes in a 1987 article, “The Heartless Lovers of Humankind,” a blueprint for his 1988 book Intellectuals, that instead of allowing their ideas to emerge from the people, “intellectuals reverse the process, deducing their ideas first from principle and then seeking to impose them on living men and women.” Insulated in their cerebral bunkers, they are “library socialists” in love with an idea, who regard human beings, whom they profess to cherish, as obstructions to the unfolding of their master plan.

Most of these theoretical prodigies, Johnson shows, live in the gated communities of the left and have little knowledge of the actual conditions under which people struggle, legislating down to the masses from their positions of authority and ostensible moral elevation. Eva Hoffman expands on this notion in her memoir, Lost in Translation, as the ability to think “privileged thoughts…thoughts that cost nothing and that weren’t produced by the labor of their own experience.” These princelings are, in effect, Lenin’s predatory “who” to his submissive “whom.” They permit no opposition to their supposedly enlightened diktats, which may go some way to accounting for one of the strangest political marriages of modern times, namely, the entente between  liberal-left cultural relativism and the Islamic theo-political imperative.

This curious affinity of the political and intellectual left for a rejuvenated Islam is by no means as paradoxical as it may initially seem. Authoritarians tend to get along when they have a common enemy. Like to like. And the common enemy is a free and open society built on enlightenment canons and the sanctity of the individual. A graphic illustration of such demagogic tendencies, much in the news these days, comes from the European Union and its unelected, de facto politburo, whose “Council Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia” of November 28, 2008 and recently passed into law allows for the extradition from one country to another of anyone deemed to have offended its prescriptions. It has also mandated a “European Gendarmerie Force” to carry out its decisions.

Thus halcyon Denmark’s article 266b of its penal code allows for the incrimination of outspoken citizens like MP Jesper Langballe for vigorously protesting Muslim honor killings and family rapes. As journalist Lars Hedegaard comments, “Under Danish jurisprudence it is immaterial whether a statement is true or untrue. All that is needed for a conviction is that somebody feels offended.” (Hedegaard as well is facing criminal prosecution for his remarks on honor killings.) Speaking truth must be censured in the faux Utopia in which giving offense is a cardinal sin. Canada, too, which seems to many a happy, analgesic country, has its Human Rights Commissions in which hearsay is admitted as evidence against anyone indicted under the nebulous rubric of “hate speech”—which in practice often means holding an honest discussion about worrisome social and political trends. The defendant, who is presumed guilty and must somehow prove his innocence, is severely restricted in summoning witnesses—as in pacific Holland, a fact to which Geert Wilders can attest—or in tabling supporting documentation. He must also defray his own legal expenses while the plaintiff—generally an offended imam or Muslim organization—is funded by the State (i.e., the taxpayer).

In such socially advanced societies, hell bent on an asymptotic quest for a Utopian terminus, the unvarnished truth must be silenced, no less than it is in the most ruthless and primitive backwaters—the modern version of the medieval torture of cutting out one’s tongue. According to Elizabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, the daughter of an Austrian diplomat who spent her formative years in Iran and is currently being prosecuted for “prejudicial incitement” against Islam by the Austrian government, people “are being systematically silenced.” Similarly, Austrian retiree “Helmut G” was recently arraigned and fined for merrily yodelling during a Muslim prayer session at a neigboring house, since his yodelling sounded like the call of the muezzin and disturbed the congregants. Singing must also be silenced.

And who are these silencers? They are the bearers of a totalitarian mindset, which Jean-François Revel in Last Exit To Utopia defines as consisting of three characteristics: “a voluntary ignorance of the facts; an ability to live with contradictions that refute its own principles; and a refusal to analyze the causes of failure.” They are the intellectual and political leaders of the Utopian army that is once again sweeping across the globe, “organized,” as Walter Russell Mead points out in a seminal essay, as “modern day versions of the medieval guilds” intent on exercising power while defending their prerogatives.

Indeed, they are eerily reminiscent of the Pleiadian starseeds who sense, as the ineffable Lia Shapiro writes in Comes The Awakening, that they have been “created of the Light” in order to “burst upon the scene and change the course of creation.” In their human incarnation, they view themselves as progressivists who have humanity’s best interests at heart. But as the effects of their incessant tampering in social and political affairs reveal, they are really irresponsible parasites devouring the body politic.

As for the vast majority, the common citizens and defrauded electorate, the entrepreneurs who create wealth, the artists free to work according to their individual talents and inspiration, the writers and journalists who wish to retain their independence, even the yodellers among us, it’s game over. For the regulatory state our social revisionists wish to engineer, to quote the summarizing words of Winston Churchill, promises nothing more than “the equal sharing of miseries.”

Perhaps the last word should go to the great political thinker Raymond Aron, who in his landmark The Opium of the Intellectuals insists that the intellectual must absolutely refuse “to surrender his soul to an abstract ideal of humanity, a tyrannical party, and an absurd scholasticism.” He must “doubt all the models and utopias” if he wishes to “abolish fanaticism.” For fanaticism is the real enemy. “We can admire the sombre grandeur of these armies of believers,” he allows, yet “such fanaticism is not for us.”

But fanaticism is the oxygen that our public intellectuals, left-wing academics and political elites breathe. They will write books, teach classes and pass laws accountable to none but themselves, secure in their self-election as far-sighted legislators and their assumption of a rarefied wisdom inaccessible to the common ruck of mankind. They are very dangerous people who will not rest until they have made a shambles of the world we would have preferred to live in. They are, quite simply, the bane of our existence.