Click Link: November Issue 2020
Totalitarian Incantations: Late Modernity’s Radical Manifestations
(November Issue 2020)
By E. Kyle Richey
Once pegged as special, a citizen, even if accepting sterilization, dropped out of history. He ceased, in effect, to be part of mankind. And yet persons here and there declined to migrate; that, even to those involved, constituted a perplexing irrationality. Logically, every regular should have emigrated already. Perhaps, deformed as it was, Earth remained familiar, to be clung to. Or possibly the nonemigrant imagined that the tent of dust would deplete itself finally. In any case thousands of individuals remained, most of them constellated in urban areas where they could physically see one another, take heart at their mutual presence. Those appeared to be the relatively sane ones. And, in dubious addition to them, occasional peculiar entities remained in the virtually abandoned suburbs. — Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
History is rift with zealous idealist demented by their cause, their purpose, their reason for existence however unrealistic or distorted or false. Now once again they have successfully seized power, but this time on a global scale at a point when society has become interdependent to a fault. Science and technology, religion and philosophy, higher education and the workforce are all being highjacked to obscure even the transience of life into barriers of opposition and final judgement. Today it is the far-left: Radical feminists, LGBTQ activists, Queer theorists, Postmodernist, and Critical Race Theorists who adumbrate context, meaning, and purpose for their Identity driven nomenclature under a quasi-socialism; a merging of corporate and state, the real deep state, in the name of their religion, social justice, in order to recreate what humanity thinks, says, and does.
It comes at an exasperating cost on humanity and it all comes from a well of desire to break free—the psyche. Late Modernity has spawned a permanent spirt of emancipation of postmodernism that deconstructs and liberates to the point that it is now inconceivable for the radicalized to not equate between the demands of liberation with that of an ensuing conflict between “good and evil” “us versus them” “they or them” attitude. They no longer recognize that their causes now enslave everyone including themselves. Blinded by identity Politics, a bubble within the brew of totalitarian reality, humanity is now caught within a perpetual state that modernity birthed and late modernity is only beginning to see its awakening after generations experienced it rather vicariously.
Benito Mussolini argued that Fascism was foremost a spiritual exercise of the will of man to rise up and overcome:
“Fascism sees in the world not only those superficial, material aspects in which man appears as an individual, standing by himself, self-centered, subject to natural law which instinctively urges him toward a life of selfish momentary pleasure; it see not only the individual but that nation and the country; individuals and generations bound together by a moral law, with common traditions and a mission which suppressing the instinct for life closed in a brief circle of pleasure, builds up a higher line, founded on duty, a life free from the limitations of time and space, in which the individual, by self-sacrifice, the renunciation of self-interest, by death itself, can achieve that purely spiritual existence in which his value as a man consists.” (Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions, 1932)
Third-way politics, most notably Fascism, was perturbed by a leftist communalism from communist and capitalistic individualism. For Mussolini the concept of the State could override both by making it—the State—the sole proprietor of Adoration and Judgement; King and God; Lord and Master. Heaven and Earth were now the sanctuary of the mighty State to preserve the corrupted foundation of the Homo-Sapien.
Leftist politics also looks to the State through means of socialism and communism in order to free the masses, as Karl Marx remarked “to develop in greater spiritual freedom, a people must break their bondage to their bodily needs – they must cease to be the slaves of the body. They must, above all, have time at their disposal for spiritual creative activity and spiritual enjoyment” (Wages of Labour). Redistribute wealth, turn the privately owned into public hands, erase race and class warfare through a great equalization, and provide material good and services from free healthcare to free housing.
Radicals all march to their own heavenly drum of a utopia never too far off away.
Conflict creates the enigma necessary to achieve this spiritual hunger within the inner belly of male and female. Vanquish thy enemy, achieve victory. Myth has an essential role regardless of ideological sway. Rene Girard argued that the innerness of mankind, the myths that bind us, are a making of the violent for which the sacred is conjured. Roger Scruton in his book, The Soul of the World, explains that for Girard “scapegoating is society’s way of re-creating “difference” and so restoring itself. By uniting against the scapegoat, people are released from their rivalries and reconciled” (p.19). Radical ideologies mimic religions through similar ritualization, creeds, works, and demands on society. Myth and fact are dizzyingly intertwined to contextualize an oppressed and the oppressor. David W. Shenk, author of Global Gods, argues that sometimes ideologies become the new gods including Marxism and Capitalism:
[M]arxism provided a program for the unification of the entire global community within one universal philosophy and political system. Its competitor has been capitalism, which also claims to be the ideal good capable of saving the global community from poverty. These dual ideologies and systems tended toward absolutism which gave them an aura of godlikeness as powerful as the ancient and unchallengeable Marduk of Babylon or the god-king, Pharaoh, of Egypt (p.34).
That duality of conflict is essential to understand. What I am arguing is that Modernity produced this perpetual state of conflict that has now morphed into a monster all together its own totalitarianism—a crony woke capitalism; neoliberalism; corporatism. The latest of spiritual awakenings intertwined to that of secularism and secularity; a projection of religion but the kind found within Fascism as described in an 1925 anonymous article published in a magazine for Italian fascist outside of Italy:
Reasoning does not communicate, emotion does. Reasoning convinces, it does not attract. Blood is stronger than syllogisms. Science claims to explain away miracles, but in the eyes of the crowd the miracle remains: it seduces and creates converts (Fascist Mysticism, Italian Fasci Abroad, Roger Griffin pp 54-55).
What socialism offers is a materialistic promise for a very material world. Conversely, capitalism offers materialistic hope. Hope is ethereal in nature, it requires great dedication. Promises though are tangible, they are material through in through. In an age that disavows Scripture, the material becomes ethereal. Ironically, socialism is more materialistic than capitalism because of its promises provide means and resources through goods and services. Nothing other than hope can be offered by capitalism. One must earn their land and fortunes. Crony capitalism however has distorted this hope as corporations and banks and private institutions run amok with government institutions. Corporations now utilize the State to their benefit on a globalist scale like never before in human history. What was once considered communal or sacred are blurred by the privatized and the secularized. Nothing is as it once was. Not even nature is safe. Nor is Capitalism. All that was once capitalist is increasingly untrustworthy due to an array of factors outside of its original intended design. Boundaries are continually being broken by technology, multinationals, global elites, and the beast we know as the Leviathan. Out of fear and misfortune the promises of socialism have never appeared better to billions of people starving for a promise of recognition and social justice.
After World War 1, the economist Ludwig von Mises sought to explain a deeply rooted problem within modernity, “the socialist idea dominates the modern spirit. The masses approve of it. It expresses the thoughts and feelings of all; it has set its seal upon our time” (Mises 1922, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, p. 15). Part of the modern spirit is the belief that the mighty individual deserves whatever it is they desire. This is Nietzsche “last man.” Modernity’s incantation of liberalism, capitalism, secularism, and socialism ultimately produced a society that sought the easy rather than the good life, the mundane instead of the truly spiritual and virtuous life; all the while demanding treasures once only belonging to kings, queens, and heroes. Nietzsche and C.S. Lewis share similar tones in their description over this last, much weaker human. “Men without chests” according to Lewis or “Hallowed chests” according to Nietzsche are descriptives of a culture lacking in virtue and honor, imagination and enterprise. It is the same side of the coin of greediness. Greed is not simply a capitalistic vice, but part of the DNA of mankind including the Marxist offshoot of Neo-marxism.
Admittedly much has occurred since Ludwig wrote those words, but wisdom has a way of redeeming itself through the actions of mankind. Take further Mises conception of Socialism:
According to the Marxist conception, one’s social condition determines one’s way of thought. His membership of a social class decides what views a writer will express. He is not able to grow out of his class or to free his thoughts from the prescriptions of his class interests. Thus the possibility of a general science which is valid for all men, whatever their class, is contested… Thus Marxism protects itself against all unwelcome criticism… Marx and Engels never tried to refute their opponents with argument. They insulted, ridiculed, derided, slandered, and traduced them, and in the use of these methods their followers are not less expert. Their polemic is directed never against the argument of the opponent, but always against his person. Few have been able to withstand such tactics (pp. 18-19).
This is equally true today of identity politics and postmodernism found in far-left minded groups and political organizations. Any form of opposition is pitted against being called sexist, racist, or diagnosed a Munchausen syndrome by proxy all of which seek to demean rather than provide substantive debate. Free speech has become hate speech by proxy of the groups feeling an inkling of disagreement. Words are being made meaningless; a girl is a boy as a boy is a girl and disagreeing means hate. Scales of privilege were formulated to weigh this new public morality. Higher education perfected these privilege scales of justice that now doctors must obey, students must profess, and corporations will enforce. Disobedience currently results in losing jobs and public humiliation. Yet if history is correct much worse will come. For now society will begin to be put under the restrictions of what I have titled as Progressive Pseudo Dominari of Terms, Ideas, and Practices: A Lexicon of Postmodern Irreality and Oppression. That long-winded title is partly to jest, yet sadly intentional concerning the dominari aspect. Ruling over mankind is a corporate culture mindset found in institutions of higher education, hospitals, governments, and businesses who have adopted these new set of rules. For now with little detail provided some of the terminology in which I am speaking of are cultural appropriation, microaggressions, gender pronouns, white fragility, inclusion, and diversity.
Out of this ill toward different viewpoints, the malaise of modernity created polarization. Unchecked polarization brewed the extremism now found in late modernity. Globalism under late modernity converged and diverged hundreds of belief systems creating a calamity of ideas. Unbeknownst or not, atheists and christians, liberals and conservatives, rich and poor are all finding themselves under a new umbrella concerning the ideas and practices of this age.
Take a look at the Cultural Marxist Movement of Black Lives Matter (now deleted) manifesto:
The Black Lives Matter Global Network is as powerful as it is because of our membership, our partners, our supporters, our staff, and you. Our continued commitment to liberation for all Black people means we are continuing the work of our ancestors and fighting for our collective freedom because it is our duty. Every day, we recommit to healing ourselves and each other, and to co-creating alongside comrades, allies, and family a culture where each person feels seen, heard, and supported. We acknowledge, respect, and celebrate differences and commonalities. We work vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people. We intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting. We are unapologetically Black in our positioning. In affirming that Black Lives Matter, we need not qualify our position. To love and desire freedom and justice for ourselves is a prerequisite for wanting the same for others. We see ourselves as part of the global Black family, and we are aware of the different ways we are impacted or privileged as Black people who exist in different parts of the world. We are guided by the fact that all Black lives matter, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status, or location. We make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead.
We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence. We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered. We practice empathy. We engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts. We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work. We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable. We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise). We cultivate an intergenerational and communal network free from ageism. We believe that all people, regardless of age, show up with the capacity to lead and learn (Black Lives Matter, What We Believe)
BLM, Mussolini, Karl Marx—they are not all the same by any means but they do all have this innate drive to exterminate the “enemy” at large that systemically oppresses their ability to engage fully all that life has in-store for their résistance à la révolution.
Late modernity symbolize’s the archetype of a tyrant. Disturbingly tyranny comes in many forms concerning the new coming age. Hence statism, corporatism, and globalism as actors to this effect. Each of these institutions push a similar agenda onto the masses. Employees, citizens, or subjects must use gender pronouns, check their microaggressions, and obey the golden rule of Inclusiveness, Diversity, and Equity! It is no wonder that Jordan Peterson, Stephen Hicks, and James Lindsey see links between Marxism and Postmodernism because the lines have all blurred. And soon we will all become nothing more than blank citizens awaiting an opportunity to be free, for the tent of dust to disappear once more.
The Convergence of the Progressive Telos
The Great Reset: A Peak Behind the Veil of the New Soft Authoritarianism
(November Issue 2020)
By Thomas Doane
The secular world has long held to a mythos, lasting well into the postmodern era with its disdain towards the existence of metanarratives, that humanity was progressing towards a bright and glorious future. If one were to ask the question to what direction was this progression heading, the answers over time evolved from the grand future of western civilization, being considered the highest ideal of modernity, to the idea of the fruits of progress being shared globally after the upheaval of the world wars. As the cold war ignited, the idea of progress shifted to that of a victory of liberalism over the forces of authoritarianism and after the fall of the Soviet Union, the path towards global progress could be resumed with total fanfare.
The world was forever changed in the intervening years of the great calamities of the twentieth century that bookended the hope of modernism and the scrutiny of postmodernism into the era of late modernity. The forensic approach towards the failings of last modernity fractured the direction of progress into the factions that sought to restore the grand vision of modernity and those who, due to its failings, looked to overhaul, if not start anew progress towards a hopeful future. Does that mean that each proceeding worldview builds upon the rubble of those which it seeks to replace or are they a mere repackaging of an older concept to market something grander in vision?
A great unveiling has been rapidly coalescing from widely disparate parts, each overly concerning to the survival of the liberal values long held as sacrosanct. These disparate parts, once visible only through fleeting glimpses through the veil, have rapidly come into focus, first as the turbulence of the rise of nationalism blew at the thin veneer that had long been the marketed version of what was to come. Either as a manifestation of the adage of never letting a crisis go to waste, or part of a labyrinthine enterprise to move forward a globalist agenda, The Great Reset.
What would have been dismissed merely a year ago as a sheer conspiracy theory, the Great Reset has been announced a proposal to “reset” the global economy, that mirrors the sweeping changes proposed by the Green New Deal . The plan proposes broadly socialist policies and reforms, calling for an end of private ownership and the usual call for equity, inclusion, and social justice as a measure to move the world forward into a glorious vision of the future. Now that the veil has been fully drawn open, the era of plausible deniability has passed.
To those who have been closely watching the leftist agenda over the last few decades, this may come as no surprise as the Great Reset follows the trajectory the progressives have long since been on. Before Covid-19, it looked as if the forces buttressing the rule of law in the west would be able to at least put up a fight in the halls of the legislatures and courts, the pandemic now seems to have been a carrier for something far more virulent than any pathogen. What we are seeing is the goal of the progressive left finally being exhibited for a tired and frightened world as an antidote for their malaise. We can only sit back and wait to see if the gaslighting and sloganeering of the left has been enough of a candy coating for the general populace to be able to swallow this large pill.
To those who have been at the front lines of the culture wars, this serves as no surprise as it has been the expressed position of the left for well over a century. We have seen the gradual infiltration of the halls of academia and the government and we have been warning of the consequences. Now that the veil has been lifted, we must now double our efforts to stem the tide of this grand leftist telos; slowly revealing the great marketing schemes used to promote this shift towards global socialism. The Great Reset will be the greatest threat faced in a millennia; the unholy marriage of socialism and globalism with the groomsmen of big tech and the bridesmaids of academia, once consummated, will be irreversible outside of divine intervention. Lenin must be smiling in his embalmed state; the rebranded Comintern has come to fruition.
“The Great Reset,” World Economic Forum, accessed October 31, 2020, https://www.weforum.org/great-reset/
Daniel Allott, “Introducing the ‘Great Reset,’ World Leaders’ Radical Plan to Transform the Economy,” Text, TheHill, June 25, 2020, https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/504499-introducing-the-great-reset-world-leaders-radical-plan-to
“BILLS-116hres109ih.Pdf,” accessed October 31, 2020, https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hres109/BILLS-116hres109ih.pdf
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Releases Green New Deal Outline,” NPR.org, accessed October 31, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2019/02/07/691997301/rep-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-releases-green-new-deal-outline
PostModernity: A Perpetual State of Modernity
What I am presenting here is my oversimplified Theory of Postmodernism and Modernity.
Postmodernism, a terminology that requires no introduction for my present discourse, is a philosophical movement that has rooted itself deeply into every spectrum of academic discipline from which it has transformed the actions and beliefs within institutions of power from governments to corporations around the globe. Postmodernity—is the argued period in which we live within a postmodern society versus that of Modernity (1500-?). I join Jacques Barzun’s timeframe found within his book, From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present (500 Years of Western Cultural Life). The Protestant Reformation changed the nature of power forever. Humanism and Protestantism shared a three-legged pedestal as Catholicism ruptured underneath the cataclysmic abrasion that has been festering decades prior to the Reformation. Modernity gains its preeminence from the idea that mankind with the use of science, reason, and technology can be improved at a nearly limitless potential. A product of thought that the Enlightenment took forth as their lamp for the future. While Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Zwingli believed that human nature was corrupt under the weight of sin that only Jesus Christ can redeem, it was their revolution that transferred the role of interpretation and potential over to the common. For good and for bad this set into motion our present state of late modernity—a perpetual state.
Perpetual State Theory
Simply put, I am arguing that postmodernism is a reflection of reality, not the actual source but a still water or a mirror that is reflecting the present state of the human mind. Modernity has not ceased to exist. Modernity has successfully entered into a warp state, a state of the hyper-real; hyper-individual; and hyper-sensitive. Postmodernism is the warp state of modernity. Modernity is a product of its own success which solidified four core essential elements of existence into the modern psyche: 1) Secularism; 2) Liberalism; 3) Socialism; and 4) Capitalism.
Out of this cycle, modernity was able to produce an unreal state of human existence outside the last five-thousand plus years of human civilization in only a short span of time. Capitalism slowly removed the old walls of government control and sustenance into a market state. Liberalism prides itself on the might of the individual. Socialism was and remains a reaction to both as it calls for community and regulation outside of a total free-market state. Lastly, secularism alone is not new, however, it gained popularity as cultures shifted from industry to post-industry and decadence. Science and technology play central roles in all four elements of modernity. Lastly, religion remains, almost as an antagonist, yet also a tool in the modern utilisation of puissance. Social justice, Critical Race Theories, Feminist movements, Gender studies are all examples of this layering of the Self as the quintessence of time and fortune.
Anti-liberty entities whether under the names of Fascism, Communism, Socialism, Maoism, or Totalitarianism; it changes nothing in that the present reality stands between two polars, a state of liberty or tyranny, liberalism or illiberalism. Social attitudes are now forced to conform under a perpetual state of flux. Late modernity has birthed neoliberalism, a merger between capitalism and liberalism, that can also include another ism—Corporatism.
Corporations are the High Churches of Modernity; the Cathedrals of yea or nay. Under a neoliberal market state the general public has great difficulty in explaining differences between private or public, real or fake, good or evil. Everything runs together into a stream of confusion at a speed that no single person can maintain without a collision, a collision of ideas and values and beliefs. This is now constantly happening as society is confronted with insurmountable conflicting differences; a wrecking of contradictions.
In a Secular Hyper-state, the only apparent resolution is a totalitarian reaction. Modernity cannot principally escape itself. There is nothing beyond Modernity except Pre-modernity. If liberalism and capitalism represent freedom then all other opposition is bound to represent oppression. Now that is not an absolute statement. There are “third-way” examples of communitarianism or another alternative of Theonomy that argue a way out of the cycle but truthfully they all fall prey to the dilemma of rights of the individual, liberty for all, and freedom without restraints (again not an absolute statement).
So what we are left with, I am arguing, is a discourse of conflicts: nature versus mankind; eat vegan or you are a horrible person; give up your religion; don’t tell me what to do; join the movement; hate speech… it all blends into an in-cohesive state, the perpetual state.
Slow & Steady: Winning The Race
If the hare had been racing an Alligator Snapping Turtle (pictured above) he would have been eaten with the turtle winning the race by default.
Jesting aside, a central purpose behind Truth In Focus (TIR) and Visual Philosophy (See This Month’s) is to be an aesthetic abruption to modernities fast-paced world. Mere Beauty In Truth unequivocally requires a sustainable consumption of information including knowledge growth.
Jean Baudrillard, a postmodernist and French philosopher, rightly estimated that mankind presently lives in a state of hyperreality:
“Postmodernity is said to be a culture of fragmentary sensations, eclectic nostalgia, disposable simulacra, and promiscuous superficiality, in which the traditionally valued qualities of depth, coherence, meaning, originality, and authenticity are evacuated or dissolved amid the random swirl of empty signals.”
“The media represents a world that is more real than reality that we can experience. People lose the ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy. They also begin to engage with the fantasy without realizing what it really is. They seek happiness and fulfilment through the simulacra of reality, e.g. media and avoid the contact/interaction with the real world.”
– Simulacra and Simulation (1987)
Granted I am not a postmodernist nor do I agree that we presently live in a post-modern age but Baudrillard description of what late modernity has produced remains a precise, accurate description. From Deep Fakes to Deep State what truth is and where truth exists appears unclear speaking from an outsiders perspective looking in at competing worldview’s, the nature of institutions, and the unprecedented mining of data. A clear definer of the age is that data and information are up for grabs to the highest and most powerful bidders. TRUTH IS AT STAKE.
Importing droves of information is antithetical in a period where information is overabundant. Arising from that debauchery a collision occurred resulting in hysteria. Men can be women, women can be men while no gender is claimed to exist (all false); people can “believe” whatever they want purportedly without risk (all a lie). Up, down, left, right nothing has meaning. Our universe is on life support receiving 24/7 blood transfusions while being told that your iron levels are normal, life is steady. Relative normality is avoidance from reality.
Therefore, we must recapture the truth. Reclaim reality.
Part of doing so is practicing a slower method of dissemination. To clearly think one must have the time to think. Of course slow is not always right. But hyperreality disfigures and fragments without repose. So let’s all be the snapping alligator turtle: Slow, Steady, and Ready for a Fight.
Virtue By Decree
Virtue may not seem an obvious topic to discuss in our post-American, post-Christian, post-Liberal, and post-Western state; virtue might even appear meaningless or useless to a people preparing for whatever wave of turmoil comes next or welcoming the awaited changes. But it is my hope to convince readers that virtue is of societal value (legally, politically, and economically) for those who desire goodness and faithfulness; honor and truth; respect and justice; law and peace. Virtue does not provide eternal salvation, only through Christ is that achieved (John 14:4; Romans 10:9; Matthew 28:16-20), but virtue is a valuable means and end for Christians and non-Christians, Conservatives and non-Conservatives alike.
Pastor and theologian Timothy Keller wrote an article promoting his recent book, How to Reach the West Again (2020), and in that article from The Gospel Coalition Keller wrote in his introduction:
We are entering a new era in which there is not only no social benefit to being Christian, but an actual social cost. In many places, culture is becoming increasingly hostile toward faith, and beliefs in God, truth, sin, and the afterlife are disappearing in more and more people. Now, culture is producing people for whom Christianity is not only offensive, but incomprehensible.– Keller (2020), How to Reach the West (Again)
As the world turns from material hopes and dreams toward material promises to escape the harshness of the world, the material world increasingly becomes the only means of escape for even the so-called spiritual. Unless pre-modern traditions and institutions of faith from the Monotheistic to the Polytheistic are central to a society, the DNA of its people, overtime societies forgo their “old ways” or their “old gods” for a new set of ways and a new set of gods. The gods never disappear as Christians understand that we are what we worship:
No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (Luke 16:13).
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things (Rom. 1: 21-23).
It is here where Christian’s receive the term, “Virtuous Pagan,” the claim of moral similarities found between cultures. Aquinas for example understood the distinction between charity for the sake of charity and the Christian distinction to be charitable as Christ was giving and kind and gracious. This is why even Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox can work with entirely different faiths on causes that are set on a common good. Our actions speak of our character, just as our words speak of our heart’s truest desires (Luke 6:45). What then does Modernity (1500-Present) have to say? How has late modernity (1945-Present) particularly spoken of human culture and society?
Judaeo-Christianity “never did defeat paganism,” said feminist scholar Camille Paglia to The Harvard Crimson. Strong words that are completely true. Paganism has never left and is likely the strongest and oldest human root of belief that pervades to this day after the departure from Eden. From God to gods whether pagan or secular, Islam or Hinduism; the faith and beliefs of humanity intertwine between myth and reality in the story of human life including in the moral quest of right and wrong; good and evil; virtuous and unvirtuous.
As I had written once before:
Christians nor Conservatives are strangers to cultural critique including of liberal society (e.g. Capitalism or Free Speech) and upholding standards beyond the relative values of the day. As the conservative thinker Russell Kirk explained, “The pure democrat is the practical atheist; ignoring the divine nature of law and the divine establishment of spiritual hierarchy” (The Conservative Mind, p. 137). A synergy exists between the two over their respect for God and a moral law.– Get Woke or Get Broke: When Reason Fails to Stand
That “synergy” comes together in the form of an understanding that God created the heavens and the earth; establishing a universal natural law, a set of moral laws that all mankind are to follow regardless of belief.
Virtue by Decree means a set of obligations weighted upon and against all institutions that hold power and authority over a people. And it represents a set of values expected from those institutions. Whether a society upholds any values is dependent upon the willing responsibility of that people. Christians and Conservatives understand that humanity is wholly incapable of always doing good and remaining good. Human nature is corrupt and fallible. Even enforced “common good” principles can quickly turn to evil. Nothing lasts forever. Nevertheless we are called to be a people of virtue and must strive for it.
Why then Virtue? Why this topic now?
As the dividing lines between private and public increasingly ceases due to immense political shifts caused by economic, technological and ecological influences, the Christian faith and Conservative institutions are forced again to reconsider what is true, beautiful, and just beyond the present times. This is a good things for us, though it poses serious consequences and sincere fears.
Neo-liberalism, beyond classical liberal theory of private property and free-markets, is a merging of Corporate and Government, Private and Public powers that have blurred the lines of authority and extinguished the human capacity to live beyond what I call, the Economic Gaze. Now the world worships the god of the Global Economy, a system entirely Too Big To Fail. Make no mistake, companies and governments are turning toward illiberal policies for their own survival. Those beliefs are antithetical to not only Christianity but nearly every conservative thinking or premodern believing faith, ideology, or philosophy; while classical liberalism has morphed beyond its original intent into the present neoliberal order making classical liberal ideology obsolete.
All of the known world is presently in a paradigm shift. From the jungles of the Amazon to the mountains of Nepal. Late Modernity is transforming the world and imprisoning it under an authoritarian mindset. Conflicts rise between countries striving for hegemony as citizens across the seven continents are under the weight of upholding a global economy and the unending, vastly scaling advancement of technology. Planet earth faces ecological consequences of water and food shortages, climate change, disease, and an alarming number of endangered species. Cultures are disappearing at a rapid pace losing whatever identity left. Nation-states are turning into relics as super-national unions continue forward despite setbacks such as Brexit. Although not over, 2020 marks the clear decay on the walls of crony capitalism, broken systems of government, fear politics, fake news, mass conspiracies, dangerous ideologies, and identity politics.
Therefore, I propose that Christendom and Conservative Thinkers must now begin to prepare for a better and brighter future should that future come. To begin a process of structuring what mankind has learned over the centuries, successes and failures, so as to reform or rebuild the crumbling globe before us.
Virtue by Decree is that vision.
Next Time: What Is Virtue?
Seven Virtues by Francesco Pesellino and Workshop
Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses by John William Waterhouse
Mob Rule, Mob Rules 2020: Part 2
(A Special Report Series)
(Link part 1)
Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul.– John Adams
Mob Mentality & The Era of Trump
In 2014 researchers Alan Fiske and Tage Rai published their book, Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships. Their main argument: Throughout history average people have committed violent acts by means of moral justifications. They call it virtuous violence theory. Fiske and Rai defined violence as an:
[A]ction in which the perpetrator regards inflicting pain, suffering, fear, distress, injury, maiming, disfigurement, or death as the intrinsic, necessary, or desirable means by the intended ends (p. 2).1
Furthermore the authors explain morality under two psychological relationships between the emotional and the evaluative state of mind:
When we posit that most violence is morally motivated, we mean that the person doing the violence subjectively feels that what she is doing is right: she believes that she should do the violence, and she is actually moved by moral emotions such as loyalty or outrage. As the same time, moral refers to the evaluation of action, attitudes, motives, and intentions with reference to an ideal model of how to relate (p. 5).2
Morality has a powerful influence over the decision-making of an individual. What he or she believes to be true or right holds inwardly and deeply an assurance that “they” are doing what is “right” for themselves, their families, their nation, their science, their truth, their gods. From human sacrifices to world wars societies have made moral justifications for violence throughout all human history. Nevertheless what is moral or immoral remains debatable. Philosophers have long debated the subjectiveness/objectiveness of emotive responses and their ties associated to morality.
Moving from morality to violence mental health professionals identify two forms of violent action, 1) instrumental and 2) reactive:
Instrumental violence refers to violence that is employed as a means to attain a subsidiary goal, and can be contrasted with reactive violence, which involves a response to a perceived threat or provocation.3
Responding to perceived threats considered detrimental to a group or a society was the very foundation of the War on Terror after 9/11; a foundation that continues to define even the most recent movements of Black Lives Matter or groups like the Alt-Right. Both feel a sense of loss and a moral obligation to regain that which has eroded, or been taken away, or obtain that which is necessary for their survival even if that requires violence.
Fundamentally when enough people feel threatened via an act of injustice, a loss of liberty, or a perceived attack against personal dignity, individuals tend to form into groups and construct movements which can lead to altercation and violence. Not all movements are violent, just as not all groups are dangerous, and not only groups commit acts of violence, but regardless of violent or nonviolent intentions, moral or immoral justifications, when like-minded individuals form into groups and movements, polarization is bound to occur for good and for bad.4 And “when groups move, they do so in large part because of the impact of information” (p. 22).5 The more shared and agreed upon the information, regardless of skew, people are moved into action.
Hence the power of conspiracy theories in the last eight years from Flat Earthers and far-right Birther groups to #SaveTheChildren, Pizzagate, and Wayfair sex trafficking conspiracies. After September 11, 2001 left-wing conspiracies floated around for a decade that 9/11 was a hoax orchestrated by Vice-President Dick Cheney, “a new pearl harbor.” Never-mind the mass volume of books arguing that the Bush Administration’s War In Iraq was part of a neoconservative ploy to take control of resources and claim position in the Middle East for a “New American Empire.” Such predispositions concerning information have lead people to take extremist stances and potentially even violent action. This is the mentality of the herd.
In a repetitional cascade, people think that they know what is right, or what is likely to be right, but they nonetheless go along with the crowd to maintain the good opinion of others (Pp, 95-96).6
On July 22, 2020 the CATO Institute published a national survey finding 62% of the American population believe they are being prevented from saying their real opinion due to a tumultuous political environment.7 That view was held by every ideological category except “staunch liberals” who by 58% believed that they could voice their opinion freely.8 As diverse public opinion grows more silent there is serious concern surrounding the harmful extent such silence will have on institutions to objectively uphold their responsibility to all citizens rather than being swayed by extremist tendencies.
NeuroImage, a scientific journal focusing on the brain, published an article titled, Reduced self-referential neural response during intergroup competition predicts competitor harm (2014). Researchers for that study asked the question, “Why do interactions become more hostile when social relations shift from “me versus you” to “us versus them?”9 Results from that study suggested “intergroup competition (above and beyond inter-personal competition) can reduce self-referential processing of moral information, enabling harmful behaviors towards members of a competitive group.”10 Essentially as peer-pressure increases, objective moral decision-making decreases. There is a mental tipping point where people give into a set of beliefs regardless of their original moral objections (e.g. burning down buildings or killing someone). Birds of a feather flock together takes a whole new meaning when subscribed to the effects of herd mentality:
Herding is a form of convergent social behaviour that can be broadly defined as the alignment of the thoughts or behaviours of individuals in a group (herd) through local interaction and without centralized coordination. We suggest that herding has a broad application, from intellectual fashion to mob violence; and that understanding herding is particularly pertinent in an increasingly interconnected world.11
Unless capable of withstanding mob madness, movements, groups and institutions are susceptible to extremist views. Colleges and Universities, hospitals, government agencies, and corporations are all susceptible to varying pressures as much as BLM and the alt-right.
People tend to fall prey to extremism where there are unmarked boundaries, a lack of checks and balances, no transparency, and are closed off from oppositional opinions including “inside” and “outside” the group. Overtime those actions turn toward a mindset of dehumanization, a process now being reclassified by researchers.
Dehumanization & Infrahumanization
Dehumanization is a process whereby people fail to view others as human beings. Instead, the others are perceived as nonhuman animals or objects, unworthy of the same moral treatment.12
President Donald J. Trump, an enigma, who has potentially set a new low standard for future leadership in the American political landscape—an all gloves off approach. Radical times have been met with radical responses. Fighting fire with fire. President Trump’s outrageous behavior polarizes even the most moderate into unmarked territories. Famous for over 11,000 tweets13, the President of the United States behavior is often belittling, combative, and dehumanizing.14
Modernity is covered in dehumanizing events including the mass genocides of Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, and of most recently Syria. Coalesced with infrahumanization, when an “in-group” believes they are more human than an “out-group”, as occurred during Segregation in the United States and Apartheid in South Africa. American Slavery was both in nature.
There are several studies important to highlight in relation to mob rule, mob rules. First, a study that included Tage S. Rai, co-author of Virtuous Violence (2014), that challenges past research concerning dehumanization by providing data that suggests instrumental violence is increased by dehumanization but not moral violence.15 Secondly, Tage Rai’s study aligns with multiple studies affirming that while dehumanization practices, such as propaganda used during Nazi Germany or Rwanda, may provide a means to violence such practices do not necessarily precede the road to violence:
In sum, whether in Germany during the Holocaust or Rwanda during the genocide, we still lack clear evidence that dehumanizing propaganda convinced ordinary civilians to change their minds about their neighbors and kill them… in any conflict, multiple mechanisms may be at play, motivations can change over time, and the same individual can vary their behaviors from killing to not killing and even saving during a genocide. It is therefore impossible to attribute any one motivation to why people kill, let alone to why the same individual kills over time, during a genocide.16
But the author warns:
Extreme perspectives can become normalized when dehumanization becomes central to political discourse.17
Thirdly, tensions tend to magnify as groups confront one another over past or present atrocities. In an experiment where an in-group was made aware of atrocities committed against an out-group researchers found that infrahumanization increased while simultaneously, though unrelated, collective guilt also caused an increase of infrahumanization towards the effected out-group.18
All groups are prone to violence, misinformation, and zealousness. Today’s toxic atmosphere is no different. Leaders, thinkers, and journalist are all culpable.
Americans need stable leadership at a time when tensions are peaking over Covid-19, identity politics, economic instability, and external threats from China and Russia. Leveling polarization and herd instincts is a priority the President can potentially help in. There are real fears felt by mass populations across the nation from black to white, middle class and poor, politically left and right. Inappropriate behavior by the President has only intensified rather than rectified polarized groups and movements. Addressing the hurt of American citizens may help pacify blistering wounds but it must be conducted in a fair manner.
The old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bone but words will never hurt me” works as a theoretical principle by which to justify the protections of hate speech, but it completely fails in the day to day lives of people who are hurt and enraged by the words spoken against them. There is a clear difference between having the right to speech versus knowing when to speak. Prudence can go a long way for this White House.
As one study called the President, Tweeter-in-Chief: A Content Analysis of President Trump’s Tweeting Habits (2017), Trump has in fact criticized more Republican than Democratic lawmakers.19 Though likely politically motivated according to another study that found four stylistic variations (conversational, campaigning, engaged, and advisory discourse) in the President’s tweeting patterns.20 Regrettably, President Trump has proven himself incapable of holding his tongue for long.
Not to focus entirely on Donald Trumps twitter habits as much as to demonstrate the mind of a controversial businessman turned President of a nation in the midst of a paradigm shift. Emperors, kings, queens, and lords have all been in similar shifts. While present history unfolds before us, the past speaks to us explaining possible outcomes. What awaits the U.S of A? Trump was elected out of fear and a spinning lack of control felt by middle class citizens whose jobs and way of life are changing for better or for worse in a globalized technocratic, scientific, and secular society.
The news media wrongfully portrays the President either as a bad character or the man of the people, a dictator set on doing evil in the world or an outsider fighting evil. Media bias only bolsters fake-news narratives regardless of political leanings. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and other major news networks are all active participates in disinformation and hate.21
Donald Trump is not Russia’s (Forever) President Vladimir Putin nor is he North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, however, the current President fits well within the rule and rules of mob tactics. Portrayed as a hero set on “draining the swamp” it became clear that the Washington outsider brought in his own muck. Now the world watches and waits for what will happen next.
God Help Us.
Coming Up: Part 3 — Trumphantism: Donald J. Trump and the Trump Administration
1Fiske, Alan. P., & Rai, Tage. S. Tage. (2014). Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships. Cambridge, UK. Cambridge University Press.
2 Ibid., 5.
3 Sears R.R., Maccoby E.E., & Levin H. Patterns of child rearing. Oxford: Row & Peterson; 1957.
4 Sunstein, Cass. (2009). Going to Extreme: How Like Minds Unite and Divide. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.
5 Ibid., 22.
6 Ibid., 95-96
7 Ekins, Emily. (2020, July 22). Poll: 62% of Americans Say They Have Political Views They’re Afraid to Share. Cato Institution. https://www.cato.org/publications/survey-reports/poll-62-americans-say-they-have-political-views-theyre-afraid-share
9 M. Cikara, A.C. Jenkins, N. Dufour, R. Saxe. Reduced self-referential neural response during intergroup competition predicts competitor harm, NeuroImage, Volume 96, 2014, Pages 36-43, ISSN 1053-8119, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.03.080. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811914002420)
11 Raafat, Ramsey M. et al. Herding in Humans.Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 13, Issue 10, 420 – 428. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2009.08.002. (https://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/fulltext/S1364-6613(09)00170-3?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1364661309001703%3Fshowall%3Dtrue)
12 Thyberg, J. (2019). Dehumanization in the brain. (Dissertation). Digitala Vetenskapliga Arkivet. http://his.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A1355126&dswid=-8480
13 Shear, Michael. D., Haberman, Maggie. Confessore, Nicholas., Karen Yourish., Larry Buchanan., & Keith Collins. (2019, 2 November). How Trump Reshaped the Presidency in Over 11,000 Tweets. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/02/us/politics/trump-twitter-presidency.html
14 Lang, Java. (2019, October 26). The 65 worst Trump tweets of the 2010s. The Week. https://theweek.com/articles/870368/65-worst-trump-tweets-2010s
15 Rai, T. S., Valdesolo, P., & Graham, J. (2017). Dehumanization increases instrumental violence, but not moral violence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(32), 8511–8516. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1705238114 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5559031/)
16 Luft, Aliza. (2019, May 21). Dehumanization and the Normalization of Violence: It’s Not What You Think. Social Science Research Council. https://items.ssrc.org/insights/dehumanization-and-the-normalization-of-violence-its-not-what-you-think/
18 Castano, E., & Giner-Sorolla, R. (2006). Not quite human: Infrahumanization in response to collective responsibility for intergroup killing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(5), 804–818. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.524 (https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0022-35184.108.40.2064)
19 Anderson, Bryan. Tweeter-in-Chief: A Content Analysis of President Trump’s Tweeting Habits, Vol. 8, 2017, No. 2, Pages 36-47. Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications. https://www.elon.edu/u/academics/communications/journal/wp-content/uploads/sites/153/2017/12/04_TwitterInChief_Anderson.pdf
20 Clarke I, Grieve J (2019) Stylistic variation on the Donald Trump Twitter account: A linguistic analysis of tweets posted between 2009 and 2018. PLoS ONE 14(9): e0222062. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0222062 (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0222062)
21 Hedges, Chris. (2019, Mat 27). The Mass Media Is Poisoning Us With Hate. Truthdig. https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-mass-media-is-poisoning-us-with-hate/