Persons whose perspective extends far and deep into an undemonized
past are those who can best assess the extent of current-day society's
near-dystopic nature. Explored below are some of the salient aspects
of life in many Western societies in this period of "late modernity."
News and Information
The electronic media, as well as the print media (including most mass-circulation
newspapers, newsmagazines, and popular books), create a realm of
almost-impermeable virtual reality, in which no serious ground is
offered for viewpoints antedating, say, 1965. Everything "before
the Sixties" appears to be consigned to a cauldron of darkness.
The electronic, film, and print media create a "carnival culture" centered
on violence, vulgar sex, and cheap thrills, and rank sentimentalism.
This new culture — expressed primarily through the Hollywood, rock
and rap music, sports, fashion, "art," and pornography worlds
— results in the atrophy of both genuine high-culture and authentic
The "new economy" is heavily media-driven and based on the
artificial stimulation of consumer demand leading to commodity-fetishism.
At the same time, huge layoffs, particularly in the private sector
— often driven by cheap immigrant labor and outsourcing — affect
the core of the workforce.
It is possible that the corporate sphere of economic rationalism
and the cultural sphere of antinomian pop culture together constitute
a tightly interlocking grid, two extremities that feed off of each
other at the expense of a rooted ideational center. As the eminent
Canadian traditionalist philosopher George Parkin Grant has written, "...
[T]he directors of General Motors and the followers of Professor [Herbert}
Marcuse sail down the same river in different boats."
Family life is falling apart, nearly half of marriages end in divorce,
abortion is rampant, and traditional gender roles and the maintenance
of family-discipline are under relentless assault. The birth rate
has fallen below replacement levels, there is a burgeoning "culture
of death," and increasingly aging societies are challenged by
nations with far greater vitality.
The political context is moving toward a situation where the managerial-therapeutic
regime attempts to force its re-educative, "therapeutic" projects
onto the majority "victimizers," while showering the official
leaderships of recognized, victimological minorities with jobs and
Additionally, well-organized, special-interest group cadres are richly
endowed with resources from both public and private sources to propagandize
for their causes and keep up the pressure for social change — which
can only go in one direction.
Part of the attempt to encourage "therapeutic" tendencies
(because the resulting social frictions have to be mediated by the
regime) involves the encouragement of massive, dissimilar immigration.
The new immigrants provide business with a source of cheap labor and
tend to give their votes to parties most supportive of the managerial-therapeutic
regime. There is now no serious effort to control a country's borders
against illegal immigration.
One also sees the vast realm of education, from daycare to universities,
brought under the ideological hegemony of therapeutic experts and strategies.
Most of the books produced by academic publishing houses in the humanities
and social sciences tend toward a stridently politically correct and
The prevalent mode of political governance becomes juridical legalism,
amounting to what critics have termed "judicial usurpation." Unabashedly
progressive-minded judges rewrite the laws as they see fit, guided
by a rights-dogmatism that deliberately sets aside humanity's longstanding
social and historical experience.
The tendency begins to emerge in the justice system — especially
in some of the Canadian jurisdictions — where real crime is to a large
extent no longer effectively punished, as criminals are often seen
as "victims of society" who must be given special consideration.
As a result, a secure, quiet life becomes ever more difficult, especially
in the big cities.
At the same time, new categories of what are effectively political
crimes are created outside of normal judicial tradition, for example,
by the human rights commissions in Canada. Indeed, a situation emerges
where the definition of what constitutes "hate," "hate
speech," or implied "discrimination" is progressively
widened to include virtually any kind of meaningful dissent against
the prevalent regime.
What could be called "Goldsteinism" was described in George
Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The continual evocation of a bogeyman
becomes the main approach to dealing with alternative viewpoints. As
Orwell wrote: "The more the Party is powerful, the less it will
be tolerant: the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism.
Goldstein and his heresies will live forever. Every day, at every moment,
they will be defeated, discredited, ridiculed, spat upon — and yet
they will always survive."
The result of these combined tendencies is effectively the creation
of a new, largely nonviolent, but nevertheless thoroughgoing, "sub
rosa social totalitarianism" — based mostly on normative and
utilitarian, rather than coercive, controls. It is the unchecked
reign of "political correctness" with no real countervailing
social forces or institutions. Managerial, consumptionist capitalism
and therapeutic left-liberalism lock together to exclude alternative
Today, people in a country like Canada can go through their whole
lives without reading, seeing, or hearing any viewpoint antedating
1965 or so seriously presented and argued for. Those persons who have
somehow emerged with alternative viewpoints are given very little scope
for their expression. They are rarely given access to "mainstream," "recognized" forums,
no matter how subtly they frame their arguments. If they should ever
reach the point of intelligent self-consciousness, their journalistic,
academic, or political ascent is frequently stymied.
So how can persons of differing social and political outlooks possibly
hope to make an impact, when they are to a large extent confined to
private conversations? Their opponents can trumpet their ideologies
daily in a million public school textbooks or hundreds of university
lecture halls, and nightly across a million television screens.
Although some have placed hope in the Internet as a vehicle for alternative
views, a few resisting websites usually lack what is considered to
be significant authority in society. It is debatable whether they can
ever grow to constitute a basis for obtaining real power, income, or
infrastructural weight in society. It should also be remembered that
the Internet arose after more than three to four decades of intensive
media and educational saturation.
What all this amounts to is a massive, world-historical crisis for
many Western societies, a huge world-historical impasse. It is far
easier to describe the problems than to conceive of possible solutions
and how they might be effected in the real world. Acknowledging the
grave nature of the aforementioned crises may be the first positive
step that can be taken.
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Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer, social critic, and historical
researcher and is published in major Canadian newspapers, as well as
in U.S. scholarly journals such as Humanitas,
Review of Metaphysics, and Telos, and in U.S. magazines such as Chronicles
and The World & I. His writing has also appeared in Polish, British, and German publications.
See author's bio and other articles.
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