Thinking of where our society is going today, and how it compares to past totalitarian regimes, reminded me of the educational film Despotism. It’s a bit dated, but the concepts are pretty applicable for any place and time.
A study on despotism
The relative degree of freedom in society (the film shows a sliding scale of democracy to despotism as a proxy for this) isn’t dependent only on the overt political system. Other factors matter, such as concentration of wealth and land, shared social respect, and rule by consent of the governed. Does this sound a bit liberal? Actually, the film also mentioned centralization of power, ideological bias in education, and media control. As it says:
A community rates low on an information scale when the press, radio, and other channels of communication are controlled by only a few people and when citizens have to accept what they are told. In communities of this kind, despotism stands a good chance.
Very prescient! The only items missing are thought control and domestic spying, but I can’t fault a seventy year old film for not anticipating political correctness and things like the Carnivore program or Total Information Awareness.
So we have some disturbing trends in today’s society:
- Concentration of wealth and land: The middle class is shrinking; giving us increasingly a society of “haves” and “have-nots”. Rural society is going from traditional family farms to corporate agribusiness.
- Shared social respect: radical feminism, racial quotas, and political correctness – need I say more?
- Rule by consent of the governed: Partisan politics is a hotly-contested struggle. So is professional wrestling!
- Centralization of power: Think of the overreaching federal government in the USA, and the Eurocrats abroad.
- Ideological imbalance in education: If you’ve been to college, or seen some of the trends in public schools, this should be instructive.
- Media control: Half a dozen corporate mega-conglomerates own 90% of the information outlets in the USA; I suspect it’s little different in many other Western countries.
Thus, lately we’re inching dangerously close to soft despotism. Many will say, “Things aren’t really so bad. I can afford groceries and cable TV, so who cares?” The problem with soft despotism (besides being despotic) is that it very easily can turn into hardcore despotism. We shouldn’t let ourselves be distracted by bread and circuses.
Far-reaching ideologies are nothing new; Communism, the French Revolution, theocracies, and even some monarchies featured this (for example, Henry VIII and Ivan the Terrible). However, the term totalitarianism was first applied to Italian Fascism, so let’s go to the source. Mussolini had the following to say about it:
Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal, will of man as a historic entity. It is opposed to classical liberalism which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual. And if liberty is to he the attribute of living men and not of abstract dummies invented by individualistic liberalism, then Fascism stands for liberty, and for the only liberty worth having, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian, and the Fascist State – a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values – interprets, develops, and potentates the whole life of a people.
Surely this won’t win points among the libertarian crowd, the modern successors to classical liberalism. Even so, the above certainly doesn’t imply recklessness or destructive social engineering. You can’t say that for recent world “leaders” who have been hell-bent on pushing globalism and multiculturalism against the will of the public! My verdict is that limited government certainly has its virtues – in no small part because this limits the damage from irresponsible bureaucrats and politicians. Well, at least that’s how it’s supposed to work! Anyway, back to Mussolini:
Monarchical absolutism is of the past, and so is ecclesiolatry. Dead and done for are feudal privileges and the division of society into closed, uncommunicating castes. Neither has the Fascist conception of authority anything in common with that of a police ridden State.
Far from crushing the individual, the Fascist State multiplies his energies, just as in a regiment a soldier is not diminished but multiplied by the number of his fellow soldiers. The Fascist State organizes the nation, but it leaves the individual adequate elbow room. It has curtailed useless or harmful liberties while preserving those which are essential.
Fascism respects the God of ascetics, saints, and heroes, and it also respects God as conceived by the ingenuous and primitive heart of the people, the God to whom their prayers are raised.
How do liberal democratic countries compare?
What does today’s society – steeped in Frankfurt School cultural Marxism, and ruled by leftists with a controlled opposition of neocons – offer us?
- Increasing economic disparity
- The decline of traditional values
- Hostility toward religion
- The coarsening of society with an “anything goes” climate
- The discouragement of sex roles and the blurring of gender lines
- Alternative lifestyles are not merely tolerated, but encouraged and beyond criticism
- Radical feminism leading to mistrust and friction between the sexes
- Destruction of families from high divorce rates
- Increasing illegitimacy and a falling native birth rate
- Entertainment as news and propaganda as entertainment
- Indoctrination in education
- Political correctness stifling free expression
- Open borders and multiculturalism leading to a population replacement policy (in the USA, Ted Kennedy’s 1965 immigration act, and in Europe the Coudenhove-Kalergi Plan)
- Government encroachment and domestic spying
This overreaching into every aspect of our lives is certainly totalitarian, and it’s pretty shabby compared to the old-fashioned Italian variety! Further, all this tampering is destructive. When grandiose Communist projects like the Great Leap Forward and the Virgin Lands Campaign turned into disasters, the leaders eventually had to admit they were wrong. Our elites won’t even do that much; when their social experiments fail, they double down on them.
So where is the Brave New World Order headed? The far future result of this might be a global omnipotent government of the ultra-wealthy regarding the peasants as disposable economic units. Everyone around the world will all look the same, perhaps even be fairly androgynous. The diverse cultures will be forgotten and replaced by pop music, hamburgers, and television. Some people think this is progress.
The future is what we make it. If we don’t like the way things are headed, then we must take whatever lawful means we can to stop the madness. The time to act is now.