Alastair Crooke continues to explore the origins of concealed totalitarianism within European culture.
(Part One of these two articles traced the origins of this concealed totalitarianism within European culture. This second piece takes the story and its implications further)
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all that would be.
(Alfred Lord Tennyson)
The Birth of Tragedy (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1872) defined the twin leaves of human Nature – its polarity – as comprising the (supposedly) Apollonian virtues of reason and order being in violent psychic opposition to the (Dionysian) chaotic forces of unleashed, primal human energy (symbolised as fire).
In Nietzsche’s view (as well as for the Ancients), both poles were necessary for balance and harmony in human affairs. However, the secular erasure of transcendency, by which humankind could find meaning through uplift to a different level of ‘understanding’, simply punched the ‘on’ button to a conveyor-belt, ending in Tragedy.
The tragedy then – Nietzsche’s ‘vision of the world, and all that would be’ – was that Rationality, absent a Dionysian ‘undoing’ of its sharp destructive edge, would tend to capsize into a tool which can be used for the sake of chaos and barbarism, as much as order and civilisation.
He discerned that the seemingly triumphal march of European progress was heading for a cataclysmic fall. He feared an era of great wars, which – as he himself drifted into madness – may have come with the realisation that, like his illness, the madness that he diagnosed for the World was fated to run its course.
A nice diversion, but what on earth has this anecdote to do with the West today? Well, a lot really. Nietzsche was the son of a Pastor (a Protestant clergyman). He was a committed missionary for universal Utopia; but since for him ‘God was dead’, he became enmaddened and more frustrated as he strived to envision how a secular Redemption of mankind could be mounted. Eventually, it pushed him over the edge into madness. His is, in a way, the story of today’s unfolding Tragedy.
If the West’s ‘fall’ had its gestation in the totalitarian counter-culture of the French Revolution (see Part One), we saw its birth in the implosion of the Soviet Union. Simply, dialectic argument has a thesis and a counter-thesis which ultimately is expected to produce synthesis. So, with the Soviet Union’s implosion, the Western thesis defined in terms of its antithesis (the USSR) lost its rationale. Suddenly and dramatically, its antithesis evaporated!
And with western methodological thinking’s anchor gone, triumphalist élites took flight from reality, and in a succession of missionary attempts to remake the world in their image, embraced an ideology that purports to be exactly what it is not. Or, in other words, it both proclaims liberty and the individual, whilst concealing within its language, a totalitarianism inherited from the Jacobins and the Fabian movement (see my earlier piece, Part One).
The latter’s ‘shape of things to come’ (borrowed from H G Wells, 1933) and extended in the early 1900s, was to be ‘ultimate revolution’ – a last revolution amidst systemic collapse (‘last’, as everyone thereafter would be supposedly content within the controlled reality that shapes their caste). This was European nihilism collapsing toward more extreme ‘Bolshevik’-type scientific ‘reform of humanity’.
How did this eerie fantasy disgorge itself into contemporary American politics?
David Brooks, author of Bobos in Paradise, (himself a liberal New York Times columnist), argued that every once in a while, a revolutionary class comes into being which disrupts old structures. This new class, he avers, didn’t set out to be an élite, dominating class: It just happened. It initially was supposed to foster progressive values and economic growth. But instead, it grew like ‘topsy’ to birth resentment, alienation, and endless political dysfunction.
The Bourgeois Bohemians – or ‘bobos’ – were ‘Bohemian’ in the sense of coming from the narcissistic Woodstock generation; and were ‘bourgeois’ in the sense that – post Woodstock – this ‘liberal’ class later evolved into the mercantilist top echelons of cultural, corporate and Wall Street power paradigms).
Brooks admits that initially he had looked favourably on these (liberal) bobos. That, however, turned out to be one of the most naïve analysis he had written, he admits: “Whatever you want to call them, [the bobos] have coalesced into an insular, intermarrying Brahmin élite that dominates culture, media, education, and tech”.
This class, who were accreting enormous wealth and were congregating into America’s large metro areas also came to dominate left-wing parties around the world that were formerly vehicles for the working class. “We’ve pulled these parties further left on cultural issues (prizing cosmopolitanism and questions of identity), while watering down or reversing traditional Democratic positions on trade and unions. As ‘creative-class’ people enter left-leaning parties, working-class people tend to leave”. These polarising cultural and ideological differences, now precisely overlay economic differences.
If Republicans and Democrats talk as though they are living in different realities, it is because they are:
“I got a lot wrong about the bobos”, Brooks says. “I didn’t anticipate how aggressively we would move to assert our cultural dominance, the way we would seek to impose elite values through speech and thought codes. I underestimated the way the creative class would successfully raise barriers around itself to protect its economic privilege … And I underestimated our intolerance of ideological diversity. When you tell a large chunk of the country that their voices are not worth hearing, they are going to react badly—and they have”.
The bobos effectively are channelling H G Wells (1901):
“It has become apparent that whole masses of human population are, as a whole, inferior in their claim upon the future, to other masses, that they cannot be given opportunities or trusted with power as the superior peoples are trusted, that their characteristic weaknesses are contagious and detrimental to the civilizing fabric”.
Something changed around 2015-2016 – a reaction began. Was it the surprise election of Donald Trump? Trump was probably incidental. It was more likely the dramatic shift among American conservatives to a more liberty-oriented standing. Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns had a lot to do with this change among Republican voters. Conservatives and liberty minded independents were returning to their foundations of small government, constitutionalism, independent thought, meritocracy and decentralization. This represents the counter-pole.
It was at this point that the U.S. corporate world decided to go full bore ideological.
A prescient American cultural historian, Christopher Lasch, had foreseen this. He wrote a book – Revolt of the Élite – to describe how, already in 1994, he had ‘dipt into the future’. He saw a social revolution that would be pushed to the cusp by the radicalised children of the bourgeoisie. Their leaders would have almost nothing to say about poverty or unemployment. Their demands would be centred on utopian ideals: diversity and racial justice – ideals pursued with the fervour of an abstract, millenarian ideology.
One of Lasch’s key points of insistence was that future young American Marxisants would substitute culture war for class war. He added that an enlightened élite (as it thinks of itself), “does not deign to persuade the majority (‘Flyover’ America) … by means of rational public debate – but nonetheless, maintains the conceit of bearing a torch for human redemption. The new élites are contemptuous of the deplorables: A tribe that is technologically backward, politically reactionary, repressive in its sexual morality, middle-brow in its tastes, smug and complacent, dull and dowdy”, Lasch wrote.
This radicalism would be resisted, he predicted, but not by the upper reaches of society, or the leaders of Big Philanthropy or the Corporate Billionaires. These latter, somewhat counter-intuitively, would become its facilitators and financiers.
No surprise then that Big Philanthropy shares the aspirations of, and funds, today’s radicals. Big Philanthropy activities today bear no relation to philanthropic tradition. Rather, the commanding heights of American philanthropy today are revolutionary, occupied, as they are, by massive, well-heeled institutions that have nothing but contempt for that traditional idea of philanthropy.
Today, the belief (in the context of what is seen as failed Civil Rights and New Deal reforms), is that a revolutionary philanthropy should be deployed to “solve problems once and for all”. The ideal is to be manifest in an effort to bring about deep structural change within society, challenging what are seen to be the fundamental institutional injustices of the economic and political orders. This means shifting power once again, away from élites, ‘who were so often white and male’ and a part of society’s structural injustice – to putting Foundation wealth directly into the hands of those who have been systematically victimized.
This important ideological shift needs to be absorbed: Big Philanthropy, Big Tech and Big CEOs have been with the ‘woke’ and BLM militants, and are releasing “Big Funding” (some of these foundations have resources that eclipse those of smaller nation-states). There is a multiplier effect here too, as Big Philanthropy, Big Tech and Big Biotechnology act as an interconnected network system. They are at work building a (transhumanised) tech and AI-led future, led by a ‘multicultural aristocracy’ (i.e. ‘themselves’).
Part of this aggressive rotation in ‘top jobs’ can be attributed to the ESG movement (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) – a clear appendage or tool for globalist foundations like the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Economic Forum. It is also referred to as ‘stakeholder capitalism’ and ‘mission related investing’ – which effectively is just another term and methodology by which all human thinking and daily behaviour can be folded into both the like-minded units of a unitary state, and for directing how businesses should behave politically.
ESG, like Big Philanthropy, is about money: loans that are given out by top banks and foundations to companies that meet the guidelines of ‘stakeholder capitalism’. Companies must show that they are actively pursuing a business environment that prioritizes woke virtues and climate change restrictions. These loans are not an all-prevailing income source, but ESG loans are highly targeted; they are growing in size (for now); and they are very easy to get as long as a company is willing to preach the social justice gospel as loudly as possible.
The biomedical regime that emerged in the wake of the Covid pandemic too, rested on ESG-type moral imperative. Since the early days of the pandemic, the term ‘vulnerability’, ‘solidarity’, and ‘care’ were consolidated into this ESG type, ‘collective safety’.
The idea of vulnerability was nothing new. Formerly, it had been thought it was the working class that needed protection. But in line with Big Philanthropy ideology, it is identity groups, the racially marginalized and the sexually excluded who became ‘vulnerable subjects’. The narrative has been assimilated into the wider ‘sacrifice politics’ meme, whereby we are ready to sacrifice our freedoms for the lives of other people: [to] protect vulnerable groups, because that is our solidarity. Individual freedom ends, in other words, where collective freedom begins.
Work life has become a constant self-sacrifice, a “walk of shame”. Ever-more absurd efforts are demanded of workers to prove themselves worthy of even having a job. Mass self-flagellation sessions at workplaces, universities and schools – anti-racism workshops, LGBTQ language-policing, ‘climate-consciousness’ trainings, all imposed from above – have become firmly entrenched rituals. No wonder, then, that a recent Lancet study of 10,000 adolescents and young adults revealed that more than half felt “sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty” about climate change. In short, people are following Nietzsche, and quietly going mad.
The Establishment simply has no message for such voters in the face of coming hardship. The only vision for the future it can conjure up is Net Zero – a dystopian agenda that takes the sacrificial politics of austerity and financialisation of the world economy to new heights.
There is a film about a German anthropologist who travels to Columbia, Embrace of the Serpent, set in an earlier era. In it, the explorer is in search of a rare, but celebrated Amazonian healing plant. An earlier German explorer, looking for this vital plant, set off up the Amazon, but never returned.
In this true tale, the anthropologist meets a Shaman, who thinks he remembers the plants’ whereabouts. It is an arduous and perilous journey in a small canoe, made of skin, barely wide enough to sit.
The Shaman, whose only possessions are a loin cloth and paddle, asks why it is that Europeans ‘have so much baggage’. It is simpler without, he suggests. Initially, the question is brushed aside, as the anthropologist heaves, sweating and dragging suitcases and boxes up waterfalls, and down daily from the overnight bivouacs to the canoe. But the Shaman keeps at him; the canoe is not stable, he insists.
The German explorer then explains. Firstly, there are the diaries of his deceased predecessor’s earlier travels; he cannot lose those. Then there is his camera and photographs. Those are vital records of his journey. And his books, diaries and beloved gramophone player are equally precious.
The journey lengthens, the river swirls and progress becomes hard.
Then, one day, out of the blue, the Anthropologist throws one suitcase overboard. The Shaman grins. Then a pause; then another is tossed overboard. Then they all go overboard … and this time it is the European explorer who turns and grins with evident relief.
As times get harder, we will see the same: the ESG will be overboard (it is already beginning). Then the woke film industry will slip under water (it is fast happening). Next will go the mandatory Critical Race and equity lectures, and who knows… even the Covid disciplines will disappear under the eddies of fast flowing water.
And we all will grin, feeling a heavy weight lifted from our shoulders.