ideologies of revenge and the usefulness of fear

There was an interesting comment (by commenter Beckow) on a recent discussion on Stalin at Unz Review. The gist of it was that ideologies like Bolshevism, Maoism, national socialism and even populist fascism were revenge ideologies. The existence of such ideologies forced the ruling classes to share the wealth, at least to a limited degree. It was necessary to give the population as a whole the idea that they were going to share in the benefits of industrialism and capitalism.

When those revenge ideologies collapsed it was no longer necessary to maintain the pretence that everyone was going to get their share. Our elites are now following their natural inclinations. Capitalism is reverting to the robber baron model of the 19th century.

It seems to me that this is a very important insight. It also fits in with a belief that I have held for quite a while, that it is absolutely necessary for alternative political systems to exist. It doesn’t matter if those alternative political systems are not very efficient. It doesn’t even matter if they are not very pleasant. What matters is that they should exist.

And in our modern world it is increasingly the case that these alternatives have been shut down or neutralised or in various ways eliminated as viable possibilities. That has frightening implications, and we can see those implications when we look at the behaviour of our current elites.

Our elites are confident that there is no longer any danger that their power can be threatened in any way. There was a time when they were concerned about the possibility of too much inequality of wealth and income. They feared that this might lead to an upsurge of support for left-wing ideologies. Eventually it might lead to communist (or fascist or populist) revolution. But those left-wing ideologies no longer exist. There is no longer a political left. There are still parties and political organisations that claim to be leftist but what they all have in common is a total lack of actual leftist belief.

Identity politics is not left-wing. It is a right-wing ideology. Its purpose is to maintain the power of the elites.

Modern leftists are not going to lead a communist revolution. They are not under any circumstances going to round up capitalists and bankers and line them up against a wall and shoot them. They’re not going to do that because modern leftists are on the payroll of the capitalists and bankers.

And that’s the problem. The fact is that the only thing that will persuade capitalists to moderate their natural greed is fear. The only thing that will persuade the ruling class to behave with at least a modicum of decency is fear. In the days when alternative ideologies such as Bolshevism existed the capitalists and the ruling classes were always aware that if they behaved with too much arrogance and viciousness there was a very real chance that one day they really would be lined up against a wall and shot.

It’s actually a very good thing for elites to live in fear. It’s healthy. Kings always lived in fear. They knew that if they lost the support of the people they would be deposed and that generally meant being killed. They had a strong incentive not to rule like tyrants. Up until a few decades ago western elites lived in fear. They knew what had happened to earlier elites that had failed to deliver at least a degree of fairness and hope. They knew the fate of those earlier elites in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, etc.

It is always a good thing for elites to have such things in the back of their minds. When the elites no longer fear the people you have tyranny. That’s why it’s a good thing to have Bolsheviks around. Their existence has a most salutary effect on the elites.

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the Culture of Mockery

One of the things that has fatally weakened western civilisation has been the Culture of Mockery. This has been particularly the case in Britain.

Take a look at British popular culture over the past half century. It’s nothing but a sustained campaign of mockery of traditional Britain. Back in the 60s we thought this was being done by the counter-culture – by bold avant-garde nonconformists attacking the Establishment. But it wasn’t. It was the Establishment doing the mocking. Tearing down everything that ordinary Britons cared about.

The British people still haven’t figured out that it’s their own Establishment that hates them. The political, cultural, financial, bureaucratic Establishment. The hilariously misnamed Conservative Party. Even the Church of England, which has nothing but contempt for actual Christianity. Even the Monarchy, which has stood by and cheerfully watched while the country was trashed, occasionally rewarding the worst traitors with a knighthood or a peerage.

It’s not the global left that has destroyed Britain – it’s the British Establishment.

Never underestimate the absolute loathing that people like Theresa May have for everything Britain once stood for.

Of course the Culture of Mockery has undermined all western societies, but it has assumed a particularly virulent form in Britain. The British elite has waged a continuous and all too successful war on Britishness.

From Bauhaus to Our House

Tom Wolfe’s delightfully savage 1981 account of the rise of modern architecture, From Bauhaus to Our House, remains as relevant today as ever. Most of all it provides a fascinating insight into the bizarre and disturbing ways in which cultural elites work.

The roots of the horror that is modernist architecture go back to the early years of the 20th century, a time when the worlds of art, literature and music were all beginning to embrace the cult of modernism. In architecture things really got going when Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus. 
Of course no-one actually wanted the bleak, depressing and ugly architecture promoted by the Bauhaus. The only clients these architects got were socialist governments wanting to build housing for the workers. The workers, naturally, were not asked how they felt about having to live in these architectural horrors.
Modernist architecture got its big break when suddenly these European architects, people like Gropius and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, arrived in the United States as refugees in the 30s. As Wolfe puts out, they were welcomed like great white gods who had consented to come down to earth and dwell among mortals. American architectural schools were falling over themselves to employ these godlike beings and young American architects eagerly abandoned any thought of trying to create distinctively American architecture in favour of a slavish colonial devotion to whatever the Europeans told them was the latest thing.
The result of all this was the abomination that became known as the International Style. Boxes. Boxes of glass, steel and concrete. 
The Bauhaus had been a kind of arty compound, cut off from the real world. The emphasis, as with modernist painting, was on theory. It was not necessary for the Bauhaus architects to have the buildings they designed actually built. Buildings that only ever existed on paper were just as good as real buildings. This emphasis on theory was something they brought to America with them. Getting academic posts was what counted. Once the modernists dominated the schools they could ensure that the International Style became the only approved style. It was the new orthodoxy and it was to be enforced.
An exclusive focus on theory was of course the hallmark of modernism in every field.
The horrors of modernism are of course mostly avoidable but architecture is kind of hard to avoid. People could not be forced to enjoy modernist paintings or modernist music but they could be forced to live and work in the soul-destroying boxes of modernist architecture.
Having done a brilliantly effective hatchet job on the modernists Wolfe then turns his attention to the post-modernists and proceeds to savage them as well, and rightly so.
In politics there is no weapon quite so devastating as ridicule and Wolfe is the master when it comes to wielding that particular sword. He’s in top form here. From Bauhaus to Our House is a very very funny book. Not just amusing but laugh-out-loud funny. But it’s not just funny, it offers extremely perceptive and important insights into the ways in which political and cultural elites operate. Wolfe understood right from the start just how vital cultural and artistic battles are.

to control society first control the culture

A commenter at Oz Conservative recently stated, “Liberals can only mount their progressive tyranny on non-liberals through the power of the state.” I’m not sure I agree with this, not completely anyway.
The current dominant ideology, a combination of globalism and liberalism, has gained its ascendancy mostly through gaining control of the culture. This process began early in the 20th century. By the 1960s liberal leftists were firmly in control of the worlds of art and literature. They controlled Hollywood, and most of the world of entertainment. They controlled most of the news media. They controlled the universities. They had thoroughly infiltrated most of the churches. They were well on the way to controlling the culture. Their cultural control is now total.
In most cases they did not advance their agenda through direct political means. They did not control the power of the state. They have certainly been able to force the state to enforce their agenda but this has been a fairly recent thing. In every case the coercive power of the state has only been used to compel obedience to cultural changes that have already taken place.
Homosexuality had already been culturally normalised before legislation was passed to make homosexual acts legal. Marriage had already been undermined before divorce laws were relaxed to the point of making marriage nothing more than a temporary sexual arrangement. Feminists had already gained acceptance of most of their program before feminism started to be legally enforced by the state.
The use of the judiciary to accelerate the rate of social change is a recent phenomenon and it has only been made possible by liberal domination of the culture (both high culture and popular culture). 
Liberals haven’t actually needed the power of the state to push their agenda. Nor have they needed to win election victories. As long as their control of the culture remains total they can rest assured that the power of the state can and will be used to reinforce their victories. Those victories are however always won by cultural battles, not political battles. Politics is downstream of culture.
It logically follows that liberalism cannot be defeated by conventional political means. Liberalism can only be defeated by wresting control of the culture away from them. That can only be achieved by a more powerful, more attractive, more dynamic, cultural force. At this point in time such a cultural force does not exist. Until it does liberalism will remain in the driver’s seat.

the crisis of Late Democracy

You will often hear people talk about the age of Late Capitalism. These people are almost always those who identify as being on the left but they do have a point. Capitalism has mutated. The capitalism of today bears little resemblance to the capitalism of the age of Henry Ford.
What has been less noticed is that we now live in the age of Late Democracy. Democracy of course was always a sham. The purpose of democratic institutions is to thwart the will of the people. What has changed, and it has changed dramatically over the past twenty years,  is that the mask has been dropped. In the past great effort was put into maintaining the pretense that democracy expressed the will of the people. This is no longer felt to be necessary.
Political leaders like Tony Blair, David Cameron, Barack Obama, François Hollande, Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau and Malcolm Turnbull do not even pretend to care about what the voters want or think. 
The media no longer makes any attempt to hide the fact that it manipulates elections. Members of the real elite, the international finance elite, openly buy and sell politicians. Bureaucrats and judges openly despise ordinary people and openly defy the will of the people.
The contempt for ordinary people is palpable. And it is venomous. And it is openly expressed.
The question is whether this is sustainable in the long term. Governments have always felt the need for some sort of legitimacy. This was true even in the days when kings ruled rather than serving as figureheads. A king would think twice before taking any action that he knew would be repugnant to his people. A king reigned by the Grace of God but it was clearly understood that he was in a real sense the servant of his people. If he lost the confidence of the people he could be, and often was, deposed. Such a king no longer had any legitimacy and thus could no longer claim to rule by the Grace of God.
Even dictators usually only survive for as long as they serve the interests of the nation and the people. Like kings they can be, and often are, deposed.
We now have a new situation in which we are ruled by an elite whose claim to legitimacy is increasingly sketchy. Rule by a class which openly expresses its contempt for the people is also new.
Of course our current elites have much greater power in their hands than any king or dictator. Their control over the media is total and the power of the media is unprecedented in history. They control education. They control the police and the military. They control the “intelligence communities” which are now quite blatantly employed for the purpose of social control. They also control the economy. If you oppose them they can destroy your livelihood. They can destroy your family. They can also simply have you locked up and they are increasingly willing to do so.
In spite of all this power held by the elites the situation is inherently unstable. It can only continue as long as the elites remain united, and history shows that there is no guarantee that this will continue indefinitely. There are always groups that are on the margins of the elite and they would be happy to be on the inside, and in order to achieve this they will quite cheerfully displace existing members of the elites. New groups arise that want their share of the action and again they’re happy to take the place of existing elite groups.
The continuance of this situation also depends on the ability of the elites to navigate crises, and crises are by their nature impossible to predict.
Ruling classes also become, in time, decadent.
A ruling class without legitimacy is in a poor position to weather such storms, both internal and external. Whether or not our current ruling class can do so remains to be seen.

lies, damned lies and thruthiness

We have always taken it for granted that there are certain groups for whom lying is natural and habitual. No sane person has ever expected politicians, lawyers or journalists to tell the truth.
Today we have a situation in which many groups that we used to regard as being relatively trustworthy are now also habitual liars. Scientists, school teachers, historians, clergymen, even doctors are now quite likely to lie to us. Not all the time of course, but often enough to represent an enormous sea change in western society. If half the scientists lie to us half the time then that means that we have to assume that scientists are people who cannot be trusted.
There is of course a difference between outright conscious lying and merely repeating falsehoods. In some cases the people repeating falsehoods actually believe their own lies. Sometimes they know that what they’re saying is untrue but they’re too scared not to go along with the lies. I don’t think that many doctors deliberately lie but I am sure that they’re aware that there are certain things that it’s better for them not to question – it’s best to stick to the party line so you don’t get into trouble. I think that very few clergymen deliberately lie – I really think most of them believe it when they tell us that diversity is good for us and that homosexuality is A-OK. In the case of historians and other academics I think it’s a mixture – some believe their own nonsense and some are lying trough their teeth to protect their nice comfy positions in academia.
It doesn’t make much difference in practice. It still means that we now live in a world in which the safe assumption is that we’re probably being lied to most of the time.
We don’t just have fake news. We have fake science. We have fake medicine. We have fake religion. We have fake history. If everything is fake where do we find truth? Does it even exist? Or do we just settle for truthiness?
This is of course an ideal situation for the elites. It doesn’t matter too much to them if we don’t really believe the Narrative that they push. If lies are everywhere and truth cannot be distinguished from lies then we have little choice but to believe the Narrative. Or maybe not believe, but accept it even while knowing that that it is false. Anyone who has read his Orwell knows that from the point of view of the elites being able to force us to believe something that we know is a lie is even better than having us actually believe. It demoralises us even further.

the city vs country front of the culture war

One aspect of the culture wars that is often misunderstood and underestimated is the city vs rural antipathy. More particularly, the venomous hatred that city people nurse towards country people. Anyone who isn’t a city-dweller is assumed to be a moronic knuckle-dragging yokel and a hateful bigot.
This seems to be much more extreme in the United States than anywhere else. American city-dwellers really seem to hate and fear rural folk. The contempt of US coastal elites for the denizens of “flyover country” is well known. It’s partly class hatred but it seems to be more than that. There seems to be an extraordinary irrational fear at work.
This is not one of those things that suddenly emerged in the 1960s. In the US at least it goes back much further. Just as an example I watched a 1944 movie called Together Again a few weeks earlier. On the surface it was a harmless screwball comedy. At least that’s how it starts out. As you keep watching you discover that the nice people of the idyllic little small town which is the film’s setting are not nice people after all. They are actually hateful bigots. And the reason they’re hateful bigots is that they’re small-town folk, and being a hateful bigot is what small-town folk do. Here’s my full review of the movie in question.
So is it natural for city-dwellers to hate rural people? Or is to something that has been fostered by the cultural elites? The cultural elites have been liberal and/or leftist for a very long time, at least a century (particularly in the US). Rural people tend to be more in touch with traditional ways of life and more in sympathy with traditional values. It’s not really surprising that the cultural elites hated them. I think it’s fair to say it’s been a deliberate campaign to portray country people as stupid and dangerous.
It’s one of those things you don’t notice very much at first but when you do become aware of it you start seeing it all over the place in popular culture and especially American popular culture.