Under what sort of a tyranny do we live?

It certainly feels like tyranny of the particularly nasty, totalitarian sort when one’s employer, bank, professional society, and cultural centers are all sending out political manifestos on the need for “equity” and the villainy of “whiteness”, in eerie unanimity with all journalists and government officials, with these bodies promising to punish dissent in their respective spheres. However, it is not tyranny as we are used to thinking of it. It is not that a single central authority has seized all power and dissolved the intermediary institutions. The centralization is rather of a spiritual sort; there are still a plurality of institutions, but they are all controlled by people with the same beliefs, sympathies, and (anti-)culture. One could say that all power is with the government, media, large corporations, and academia, but stated like that, it hardly sounds anomalous, hardly more than the statement that the powerful are powerful. The feeling of oppression comes from the sense that these elite are all part of a single cabal. Yet, the fact that there is some degree of consensus among a society’s elite is also hardly anomalous or sinister in itself. Every society has a consensus; every society recognizes some beliefs as beyond the pale.

There is a certain belief, which one might call “procedural liberalism”, that the amount of constraint in a society is independent of how widely it chafes on the desires and beliefs of the populace; a society that punishes all communists is equally restrictive whether that society is 1% communist or 50% communist. However, my feeling of freedom certainly depends on the match, or lack thereof, between society’s constraints and my desires or principles. This is a point Zippy sometimes made in the context of critiquing the presumed normative force of freedom. However, the feeling of freedom, in the sense that the large majority do not have their beliefs being proscribed, is itself a major social fact, and one that has changed dramatically in a couple of years. In the case where proscribed beliefs are shared by nearly half of the population, and where these forbidden beliefs were considered acceptable only a few short years ago, one may doubt that their prohibition represents some sort of organic communal consensus.

The rapidity of escalation is particularly terrifying. I can remember how, as recently as 2019, there were nonpolitical entities, whose missions were simply orthogonal to the totalitarian demands of social justice: sports clubs devoted to fun, scientific collaborations devoted to research, businesses (small ones, anyway) devoted to profit. They did not have to declare themselves anti-racist, vilify their white predecessors, and threaten to punish their members for insufficient progressiveness. As late as 2015 there were controversial topics, subjects on which disagreement with the Left was socially disfavored but not institutionally punished. Today, it seems there are no topics on which a multitude of opinions are tolerated and no non-political institutions. As for the future, the only change we can imagine, the one almost certain to come, is ever more rigorous enforcement. No one imagines a future loosening of ideological constraints. To the extent we think about the future at all, it is to prepare for the next turn of the screw.

Tyranny is bad, but what comes next is worse. The next generation, mindlessly compliant to the only belief system it has ever been exposed to, will experience no sense of oppression, any more than Winston Smith did once he learned to love Big Brother. Given time, a forced consensus becomes real, as has often happened in the past. The official belief system will no longer be a tyrannical imposition, no longer a mismatch for any significant fraction of the populace, but it will still be false and wicked.

6 thoughts on “Under what sort of a tyranny do we live?

  1. You capture the ‘feels like’ aspect of things very well, and the recent experience of rapid acceleration.

    However, I think you analysis is of a generic socio-political kind which ignores the reality of spiritual war. In other words, you describe all this in terms of social institutions and their interactions, population statistics etc; as if the specific motivation and content of ideas was secondary. This analysis is therefore partial and distorted, and misleads by leaving out the main thing.

    I would say that the ‘eerie unanimity’ (great phrase!) of all institutions is a spiritual phenomenon – not to be explained in terms of socio-politics; it is the unanimity of those who have allied with the side of Satan and against God – a unanimity in opposition to ‘The Good’.

    The unanimity seems eerie if we try to model its operations in terms of systems and communications – because these seem inadequate, and seem not to have changed all that much.

    But the unanimity comes from a mass apostasy, a mass of individuals who have come to (been brought to) a spiritual crux where they had to choose God, or against God (the choice appearing in various guises, but perhaps most commonly the choice of truth or lie, honesty or expediency) – and where almost all have chosen to ally against God.

    This is why it is increasingly difficult for ‘us’ to find *anyone* with whom to have an honest and deep conversation – because almost-everybody is nowadays (and increasingly actively) on the side of evil; and we are no longer conversing with full Men but with mere servants, slaves and dupes; whose values are inverted and who too-often regard sneaking and self-interested treachery as a high virtue.

    When we get that ‘eerie’ feeling, we are discerning the presence of spiritual evil: evil motivation and evil thinking. What makes it so difficult is that the feeling is so common, almost universal – and is just as evident in the Christian churches as elsewhere (because this same evil is just as present, among the leadership); so we get a panicky feeling of isolation with nowhere to turn.

    This is the horrible reality of the situation here and now for serious Christians; and to deny this reality is (pretty much) to join-wth the side of evil – because denying reality is the hallmark of the devil.

  2. One recalls Lord Acton’s critique of the Declaration of the Rights of Man & the Citizen

    “They thought that when men were safe from the force above them, they required no saving from the influence around them. Opinion finds its own level, and a man yields easily and not unkindly to what surrounds him daily. Pressure from equals is not to be confounded with persecution by superiors. It is right that the majority, by degrees, should absorb the minority.” (Lectures on the French Revolution)

    I am sceptical about sudden changes in public opinion. In most societies or institutions, social pressure to conform is strong and people tend to be reluctant to voice any doubts or misgivings they may have; outward conformity often masks private dissent and this reticence, in turn, contributes to and reinforces the social pressure to conform. Thus, there can appear to be widespread popular support for options that would be defeated in a secret ballot. This is known in the jargon as “preference falsification.”

    When circumstances combine to relax that pressure, it can initiate a “preference cascade,” as dissenters realise they are not singular in their views and more and more people feel free to express their previously unvoiced dissent. Now, fear changes sides. Not only are opponents of the status quo emboldened to speak out, but genuine supporters of it start pretending that they support the change, too.

    This theory of Kuran’s is a useful tool (to be employed with caution, of course) for analysing what appear on the surface to be sudden and dramatic shifts in public opinion.

  3. In my experience the shibboleths of the New Religion are most often encountered in institutional pronouncements. There are some very impressionable people who bring this lingo into the conversation at a dinner party. There are also some zealots. But the oppressive weight for me is the institutional voice. As you say, institutions founded for other purposes are very easily infected, but there is also a very large propaganda of pseudo-organizations that spread this doctrine on the internet. I get daily email announcements from progressive outfits with pretentious names and (I’d guess) two volunteers on staff. I’ve often thought how easy it would be to make the Orthosphere look like a respectable think tank on the internet. We could call it the Bonald Institute and write press releases instead of blog posts.

    But you are right to say that the principle of ‘fake it until you make it” will establish the New Religion in the end. I recently attended a wedding, and at the reception sat next to a couple of young women who are studying architecture. Both were on fire to make architecture all about politics, and their politics was the politics you would expect in young women who study architecture. They were working on an internship to build an upscale shopping district, but politics told them this upscale shopping district must be made accessible to winos and hooligans, so the upscale shopping district will fail. Their belief that all of this is right was invincible.

  4. Might this present situation be the normal flow of things. Perhaps this idea of Democracy is already dead and we are passing into the next phase. One must ask themselves whether one wants to live in a social structure that unifies and focuses on a purpose or in chaos. Democracy brings chaos as I think we can readily see now. So the question to my mind is what do we expect from the state. Is it something that pursues the “objective ” best for its citizenry or is it something that simply tries to protect the right of those within to do and say anything they wish.

    I am not so sure anymore that I consider the previous forms of rights to be adequate. Perhaps the state is rising as a result of the failures there. The current problem as I see it is not that the state is taking power over the people but that the people running the state currently are the lowest of persons. These persons have no outside reference to truth other then their personal whims and thus we are passing thru an age very disconcerting because it is no more then a pursuit of personal wealth and power and does not propose anything beyond those outcomes. What we need is a true aristocracy what we have are just hobos inhabiting nice homes. I also think that we ought to consider that it has been our previous freedoms which have brought us to this place. The freedom of speech we exalt has been the downfall of the country when put in the hands of lesser minds.

  5. Pingback: 28 September 2021 – Dark Brightness

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