noble individualism vs wicked collectivism and other conservative myths

If civilisation is going to be saved we’re going to have to confront the problem of individualism versus collectivism. It comes down to this – doing the things that need to be done is going to infringe on what some people consider to be their individual rights. The needs of society may have to take precedence over the needs of individuals.

Most self-described conservatives will have apoplexy just thinking about this. The idea of the wickedness of collectivism is pretty ingrained in the mindset of mainstream conservatives. It’s amazing how many conservatives still worry about commies under the bed.

This is why salvation, if it comes, is probably not going to come from those who see themselves as being on the Right. They have great difficulty thinking rationally about this.

Why exactly is collectivism so scary? It’s actually perfectly normal for humans to have a collectivist outlook. Rugged individualism sounds cool but in a state of nature rugged individuals end up as dead individuals. A degree of coöperation is needed for survival.

Collectivism does not necessarily mean statism. The problem we have these days is that the institutions that used to function as focuses of coöperation are either decayed or compromised (churches being an obvious example).

I’ve been engaged in a debate elsewhere on the subjects of education and the Woman Question. My view on education is that we have too much of it and it’s killing us. Education is a good thing in moderation but in excess it’s extremely harmful. Most higher education is both unnecessary and actively harmful. The difficulty is that people have been persuaded to see education as a right. They have even been persuaded to see university education as a right. For the good of society it would be highly desirable to slash education spending and close down most universities. In fact if civilisation is to survive this will be essential.

This would be extremely beneficial to society but it means that a lot of people would have to give up their “right” to education. Classical liberals and most conservatives will see that as a dreadful infringement on individual liberties but my view is that the needs of society trump the rights of the individual. If society does not survive then none of us survive.

Other necessary steps are going to infringe on women’s “rights” but again I think society’s needs are more important. Higher education for women should obviously be abolished and married women should be strongly discouraged from remaining in the workforce. We are facing demographic extinction and the link between higher levels of female education and declining birth rates is too well-known to require elaboration.

Individual rights are all well and good but if we really are, as I believe, facing an existential crisis then maybe individual rights will have to be regarded as luxuries we can no longer afford.

Advertisements

the unpredictable future and its possibilities

One thing that predictions about the future have in common is that they’re always wrong. That’s because we know nothing at all about the future but we know a lot about the present. Therefore we assume the future will be just like the present, only more so.

The problem is that sometimes the future turns out to be nothing at all like the present. That’s because unexpected spectacular events occur that change everything. A good example is the First World War. It’s not that the war itself was unexpected. What was not anticipated was that this would be a new type of war and that its political, economic, social and psychological results would be unprecedented. European civilisation as it has existed up to 1914 ceased to exist and a new civilisation took its place. And all the rules had changed.

The Bolshevik Revolution had a similar effect. There had been successful revolutions before. The idea of a socialist revolution had been around for many years. But the cataclysmic nature of the Bolshevik Revolution was not anticipated.

The combination of these two events ushered in a world that nobody in 1913 could possibly have anticipated.

The thing about unexpected events is that we call them unexpected events because they’re unexpected. By their very nature they cannot be predicted.

This has relevance to the situation in which our society finds itself today, and it has enormous relevance for anyone who believes that the way things have been going for a half century or so simply cannot continue, that some kind of drastic change is inevitable and necessary.

If we view the future as something that will be just like the present, only more so, then our options for effecting change are extremely limited. In fact our only real option is to try to work within the existing “democratic” framework and given that our enemies have an absolute stranglehold on the media (both the old media and social media) and on the education system the odds are very much stacked against us. And our only viable strategy would appear to be to try to slow down the pace of social destruction – fighting defensive battles that so far have invariably ended in retreats which quickly become full-scale routs. And it has to be said that if the future really is going to be pretty much like the present then our chances of success are very very poor.

But as we’ve seen the future is often entirely different from what we were expecting. And this is not something rare. Game-changing events on the scale of the First World War are not very frequent but less spectacular examples occur quite frequently. Such events are often unpleasant. When history springs a surprise on us it’s not very often a pleasant surprise. But such events are always opportunities. They can create entirely new possibilities. Fascism did not even exist before 1914 but the First World and the Bolshevik Revolution created the possibility for such a movement and Mussolini grabbed the opportunity with both hands and gained control of Italy in a bloodless revolution. In 1914 the Bolsheviks were irrelevant and Lenin seemed destined to die in exile, just another forgotten failed revolutionary. The First World War changed the game and by 1917, under the new rules, Lenin had won the game.

So defensive strategies, just trying to hold the line against the tidal wave of the Poz, are futile. If even if tomorrow is going to be pretty much like today those strategies don’t work anyway. And if the future holds unexpected surprises and opportunities then such defeatist strategies are nothing but a hindrance. It’s better to aim at achieving something real and worthwhile, a genuine restoration of sanity and normality. At least it’s inspiring to have such objectives and if and when an opportunity does arise, if the rules of the game do get changed, it’s a good idea to be prepared to take full advantage of the opportunity.

socially conservative arguments shock conservatives

One thing I’ve been noticing lately is that if you make a genuine socially conservative argument then most self-identified conservatives will be shocked and upset. Our society has gone so far down the liberal rabbit-hole that most conservatives have long since abandoned actual conservatism and adopted liberalism.

As an example, try making a socially conservative argument on the subject of parental authority. My view is that young people are inherently foolish, impulsive and irresponsible. They’re supposed to be. That’s what young people do. That’s why, in a sane society, parents have a high degree of authority over their children. And when I say children I mean anyone under the age of 21. The idea that an 18-year-old is a mature adult capable of taking responsibility is pure fantasy.

And it is ludicrous to think that a young person is capable of making a responsible decision on the subject of marriage. They will choose a prospective spouse on the basis of lust or, even worse, emotion. Which is why I argued recently (in another place) for arranged marriages. I’m not talking about forced marriages. I’m talking about a return to practices that were quite common in the West in the past (certainly in mediaeval times but to a certain extent such practices survived until recent times). Young people would be encouraged to marry someone chosen by their parents as a suitable partner. They were not compelled to marry the person. If they chose not to their parents could always look for another suitable candidate.

At the very least it was still assumed until quite recently that parents should have the right to veto an obviously unsuitable match.

It’s basically common sense. Marriage is a serious business and choosing a husband or wife requires calm judgment. Young people are very poor at calm judgment. Parents can be assumed to have better judgment based on greater experience of life so if they are involved in such decisions the decisions are less likely to turn out disastrously.

Common sense perhaps, but make that argument and so-called conservatives will start getting very nervous.

growth and why it’s not a good thing

We’re thinking vaguely about moving house. Where we live now used to be on the extreme semi-rural fringe of Sydney. Now it’s just another commuter suburb. The problem is that the infrastructure hasn’t kept pace with the population growth and the traffic is now nightmarish. It’s no longer a quiet peaceful sleepy place. Now it’s noise, bustle, chaos.

All this is ultimately fuelled by the Australian government’s insane immigration policies. Incredibly high population growth is pushing city people further and further out.

The problem is, if we do move where do we go? If we go a bit further out then within five years or so the endless suburban sprawl will have caught up with us again. Moving right out into the actual countryside, the real rural Australia, isn’t really an option. Rural communities are mostly dead or dying, sunk in an endless cycle of despair. Which again is largely the result of misguided and vicious government policies.

Of course many right-wingers see the incredibly high rate of population growth as a wonderful thing. Population growth must be a good thing because it propels economic growth, and everyone knows that economic growth is always a good thing. I’m afraid I don’t share these views. I don’t think economic growth is particularly wonderful. Mostly it’s illusory anyway. It might be terrific for the corporate sector but I can’t see that it makes life any better for most ordinary people. In any case in Australia our economic growth is based to a large extent on an insane real estate bubble which has brought no actual benefits to ordinary people. In fact it’s made housing completely unaffordable unless you’re a wealthy overseas investor.

There are also the environmental arguments. Now don’t panic, I haven’t become a convert to the global warming cult. Global warming is a scam. But there are other environmental concerns that do have some validity. What mostly concerns me is the human environment. I’m worried by the social and moral unhealthiness of urban life and the psychological deadening of living entirely in artificial overcrowded overstressed urban environments.

Fetishising economic growth is popular among self-described conservatives but endless economic growth is not really a conservative value. It’s certainly not my idea of a conservative value.

television dystopias – The Guardians (1971)

The Guardians is a dystopian political thriller series made by London Weekend Television which went to air in Britain in 1971. It has never been screened since. It was also screened in Australia but as far as I know has never been seen in the U.S.

Back in the 60s neo-nazis and fascists were immensely popular as villains in both British and U.S. television – writers seemed to be convinced that there was a neo-nazi under every bed. They were usually presented as ridiculous cartoonish villains and the subject was mostly treated in a mocking way.

The Guardians was quite different. This series took itself very seriously indeed. It also refused to trivialise the subject by creating cartoonish villains. It dealt with the subject in a relatively subtle and even nuanced way. This is rather sophisticated political television.

The first episode raises more questions than it answers. That’s not a criticism. The intention (I assume) is to show us firstly the surface appearances of Britain as it is being transformed into a police state. We see the Guardians in action. They are obviously some kind of paramilitary political police, although whether they are actually under the effective control of the government remains doubtful. We are introduced to the Prime Minister Sir Timothy Hobson. He seems to be well-meaning but ineffectual. He’s the sort of man who likes to think he is willing to stand up for principles, as long as he doesn’t actually have to do so. We discover that real power is in the hands of a shadowy figure known as The General. We have no idea as to his identity or the means by which he has come to wield power over the government. Norman appears to be the man who transmits The General’s orders to the Cabinet. We see news broadcasts running in the background and it is obvious that there has been a lengthy period of strikes and civil unrest. We already have reason to be suspicious of this – is this genuine civil unrest or is it manufactured by the government or by The General?

We also meet a number of other characters. Tom Weston is a keen and ambitious member of the Guardians. While he’s happy to kick heads in the line of duty he’s actually a jovial sort of fellow and seems devoted to his wife Clare. Clare has been suffering from headaches and has been seeing a top government psychiatrist, Dr Benedict. There’s some interesting sparring between these two – Dr Benedict thinks Clare may be spying on him, Clare thinks Dr Benedict may be spying on her, Dr Benedict speculates that he has been called in because someone is taking an interest in Tom Weston.

Tom Weston is in charge of recruiting and training and he finds himself forced to accept a very upper-class recruit named Peter Lee. Tom Weston thinks that Peter Lee may not be at all what he seems to be and we’re inclined to agree with him. Is Lee a communist subversive? An agent of The General? An agent placed in the Guardians by some other group?

So all in all the opening episode establishes a definite mood of paranoia and conspiracy. It’s a promising opening.

As the series progresses some weaknesses do start to appear. The great danger facing a program dealing with politics is that it will succumb to the temptations of preachiness and speechifying. At times The Guardians succumbs to those temptations in a truly disastrous manner. The worst example is probably when the prime minister is dining with his old friend Sir Francis Wainwright who is now the head of the EBC (obviously a thinly disguised version of the BBC). The speeches start immediately and they go and on and on. The prime minister puts the case for the government’s increasingly authoritarian rule while the EBC chief puts forward the liberal argument for no censorship. It’s fairly obvious that we’re meant to accept Wainwright’s feelgood arguments but you have to give this program credit for at least putting forward the case for authoritarianism. And, surprisingly, the prime minister makes his case with passion and conviction. The problem is that it’s all done in such an unbelievably clumsy manner. It’s two characters sitting in a London club and talking and talking and talking.

Just as it seems that the series has self-destructed with excessive talkiness it suddenly comes to life again and becomes truly fascinating with some wonderfully devious power plays for the highest stakes of all.

One aspect of this series that does seem dated is that the imposition of a police state is seen as being a response to a crisis caused to a large extent by waves of strikes. Of course back in the early 70s strikes really were perceived as a major threat to the social order. It’s a fascinating look at the things the Left was paranoid about in 1971, and they were certainly terrified that strikes would be used as a justification for repression.

There is of course a resistance movement. Although they do not seem to be particularly efficient some interesting points are made about the right approach to take if you’re trying to overthrow the government, the key being to provoke the government into overreacting with excessively repressive measure which (in theory) will result in increasing opposition to the regime. This was in fact pretty much the theory behind the activities of urban terrorist groups like the Baader-Meinhof Gang. In the series it is believed that such a strategy will work since Sir Timothy Hobson firmly believes that even an undemocratic government ultimately relies on the consent of the governed.

The series focuses partly on this resistance movement and partly on the power struggles within the government.

One problem this series faced was that in 1971 Dixon of Dock Green was still on television. The idea of British policemen behaving like uniformed thugs seemed too silly even to contemplate. The idea of a British government setting up a paramilitary political police force and suspending long-cherished legal rights seemed like a joke. Today of course it all sounds chillingly plausible. In 1971 it sounded a bit far-fetched.

There’s some stuff about brainwashing, this being another major obsession of that time period. And there’s a considerable emphasis on the problems of crime, both ordinary crime and political crimes, and on effective and ineffective methods of dealing with these problems. This of course was a major obsession at that time – 1971 was also the year in which Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was released.

There is an assumption here that a fascist dictatorship is going to exploit nationalism in order to gain legitimacy. The government of Sir Timothy Hobson has adopted the slogan of Britain Great Again!

It’s also interesting that Hobson’s government is not portrayed as being all that totalitarian. In fact it’s rather less totalitarian than Theresa May’s government today. The series portrays an authoritarian rather than a totalitarian society. It appears to be a society in which, as long as you’re not openly a communist or openly opposing the government then the government pretty much leaves you alone. It appears to be a government than is not all that interested in controlling people’s thoughts and opinions on every conceivable subject.

As the series progresses we also see the resistance movement resorting to methods that are just as morally reprehensible as anything done by the government. As the series progresses we find that things get more complex. There is opposition to the government, not from ordinary people but from organised groups. These groups do not agree on tactics and they most certainly do not agree on ultimate objectives. In fact these opposition groups loathe each other more than they loathe the government.

Also interesting is the fact that Hobson’s government did not gain power as the result of a coup. They were democratically elected, by a landslide majority. It was more a case of an elected government carrying out a coup after being elected. It’s also worth noting that there isn’t a great deal (other than a certain hostility to unions) to indicate that this is a right-wing rather than a left-wing dictatorship. There’s very little mention of economic policy. And of course this was 1971, when political correctness as we know it was still virtually non-existent.

The Guardians has some very real strengths. It doesn’t rely on characters who are simplistic heroes or villains and while it’s very obvious that the series takes a firmly antagonistic view of Hobson’s fascist government it is prepared to accept that his government did come to power in response to a genuine crisis and it is prepared to grudgingly admit that a case can be made for a kind of benevolent authoritarianism (which is the kind of regime that Hobson believes he can bring about). Hobson is a man who sincerely believes he is doing the right thing. And while he might be deluding himself and he might in fact be doing the wrong thing the resistance movement is in many ways every bit as bad. This is a series that starts out giving the impression that it’s going to be propaganda but it ends up being surprisingly nuanced and intelligent.

The weaknesses are perhaps not entirely avoidable if you’re going to try to address serious political issues – there are a lot of speeches. This means that we do at least know exactly what the various characters stand for but it can make for some very stodgy television.

I have to admit that I ended up feeling more sympathy for the prime minister than for the resistance. Even the Guardians with their repressive measures seemed preferable to the chaotic violence of the resistance. The makers of this series really do seem to be cynical about both left-wing and right-wing extremists but what’s really intriguing is that they seem to be even more contemptuous of both left-wing and right-wing moderates.

The Guardians is one of the more fascinating attempts at making a dystopian political thriller. It has its flaws and it can get very talky but it’s intelligent and thought-provoking and  exceptionally complex. Although it was promoted as such it is most definitely not just an exercise in leftist anti-fascist paranoia. It’s an exploration of the conflicts between freedom and stability, authority and chaos, obedience and responsibility, duty and loyalty, liberty and order. It does not try to persuade us that there are easy answers. I suspect that’s why it was never repeated – in the 70s, with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, a TV show dealing in a nuanced way with questions of terrorism and political repression was not going to be viewed sympathetically.

The Guardians has been released on DVD in the UK by Network. It is well worth a look.

France after the Liberation, an orgy of revenge?

Ron Unz has been posting some interesting articles on historical revisionism lately. Historical revisionism always gets my attention.

Of course revisionist historians have to be approached with caution since they usually have an axe to grind, but on the other hand the mainstream historians pushing the orthodox line usually have axes to grind as well. That’s the thing about history – everybody has an axe to grind. Everybody has an agenda. Not surprising, since as Orwell tells us, who controls the past controls the future. History is and always has been propaganda. As Napoleon put it, history is a set of lies agreed upon.

One of the most interesting of Ron Unz’s posts, Post-War France and Post-War Germany, deals with France under the Vichy regime and France after the Liberation. The idea that after the Liberation of France up to 80,000 people, or possibly even as many as 105,000, were summarily executed as collaborators is rather disturbing. It’s even more disturbing that a very large number may have been executed by the communists in the Resistance, for the crime of being anti-communist.

The whole subject of the Resistance is one that the defenders of the orthodox line would prefer to avoid. There is no doubt that most of those who claimed to have fought for the Resistance actually joined after the Liberation. By the late 40s it seemed that every single Frenchman claimed to have been a brave Resistance fighter.

In fact most of the these wartime resistance movements that were so enthusiastically supported by Churchill were dominated by communists who were more interested in strengthening their position in the post-war world than in actually doing anything useful to win the war. What they mostly achieved was to provoke retaliations that led to the deaths of countless innocent people, whilst contributing very little to winning the war. Churchill may in this case have been merely deluded in believing that these groups were more useful than they actually were but it’s also pretty clear that he wasn’t especially bothered by the deaths of so many innocent civilians in the resulting reprisals. Just as he was quite unconcerned by the deaths of civilians (including French civilians) in British bombing raids.

Of course these are still very emotional subjects that most people would prefer not to think about. The orthodox historical account, the accepted narrative, is very comforting and inspiring. And it has to be admitted that revisionist historians are sometimes wrong. They do sometimes attract people who are candidates for tinfoil hats. But the revisionists are not always wrong.

religion and politics don’t need to make sense

In my previous post I made the point that conservatives see politics as something that is open to debate while liberals see their own political beliefs as religious dogma that is not subject to debate. This is of course hardly original or startling although there are still conservatives who have failed to notice such an obvious fact.

There is something much more interesting that follows from this. Religion does not need to make sense. It is a matter of faith. You do not enter into debate on the subject. Rational argument is irrelevant to religious belief. It naturally follows that the same rule applies to any political ideology that functions as a substitute religion. Debate cannot be permitted.

What must be understood is that it’s not that liberals are unwilling to enter into political debate. They cannot do so. To do so would be to admit that their faith is subject to doubt. It would mean admitting that heretics might be right and the orthodox might be wrong.

The history of the decline of Christianity in the West provides compelling evidence that liberals are, from their point of view, quite correct in rejecting the possibility of discussion. They have a faith and they are satisfied with it. It gives them a reason to live, it gives them a feeling of moral superiority and it gives them a warm fuzzy emotional buzz. From their point of view their political religion works perfectly. The fact that it might make no sense at all and that it might all collapse like a house of cards if subjected to rational argument does not matter because they have no intention of allowing that to happen.

Conservatives just don’t get this. They still insist on assuming that politics is something that can be discussed and debated rationally. They still insist on thinking that political ideologies have to be logical and have to make sense.

This is why conservatism has failed. They can come up with impressive rational arguments in favour of their own economic and social policies but people don’t respond to rational arguments. People don’t decide how to vote based on rational arguments. They make such decisions based on emotions. If voting for a particular party makes them feel morally superior they will do so. If voting for a particular party gives them an emotional rush they will do so.

People do not vote based on a rational assessment of their own interests. There is nothing remotely rational about voting behaviour.

People do not choose their political beliefs by weighing up evidence. They choose the political beliefs that will make them feel good.

People need to feel that their lives have meaning. Choosing a political belief that is emotionally satisfying and that feels morally right helps to give a person the feeling that their life does have meaning and purpose.

Liberalism can only de fought and defeated by an opposing ideology that works the same way – an ideology that appeals to the emotions, that makes a person feel that they are fighting for something good and worthwhile, that feels morally right and that gives meaning to the life of those who believe in it.