“Are Americans really stupid?” The question is one of hope and despair; and begins chapter 2 of Czeslaw Milosz’ non-fictional book The Captive Mind. Its meaning is like that of the opening question from Ayn Rand’s trailblazing novel Atlas Shrugged: “Who is John Galt?” But in this case the question is a real one, asked by a man living in post-World War II communist Warsaw. The book is the seminal account of the self-delusion suffered by Stalinist intellectuals in Poland. Their job was to indoctrinate the masses to the glory of Mother Russia.
As described by Milosz, this New Faith was sold as “the trireme of the totalitarian state, speeding ahead with outspread oars, appearing indomitable.” And what a great metaphor: crews of rowers of synchronized mind and body, propelling the fleet toward their collective goal as directed by the command crew. And it was the Eastern intellectuals who became the pipers of the trireme’s deck crew. Their socialist realism propoganda set the ship’s harmonic rhythm, and painted the vision of their collectively earned peace and prosperity.
Decadence And Despair In The West.
They were also searching the horizon for something from the West. Being on the upper deck of the ship, they were allowed a vantage point from which to access information. What they sought was a signal from the Western intelligentsia that would offer hope, offer an understanding about the evils of the “great Stalinist epoch,” and that the West would act accordingly. But because of the filters imposed on their vision by the bureaucrats of the Center, they could only report decadence and despair from the West. And since they couldn’t understand a culture without the distinct social classes of “intelligentsia” and “people”, as in the East, America seemed to be a stupid society.
Silent Stalinist Sympathizers.
But to philosopher Ayn Rand, Western intellectuals did exist, and they were silent. In sympathy with Stalinist ideals, they had turned their backs on the romantic achievements of the Age of Reason. They had failed to project a school of philosophical thought that championed individualism over collectivism, capitalism over socialism, and freedom over submission. Despite the end of the brutal war in Europe and the total defeat of totalitarianism, the flickering light of Stalin’s New Faith was being kept lit in America. Western intellectuals were quietly taking command and reconstructing our institutions of media, education, and government. Instead of needing to be part of the next big thing like in the East, they were going to own it, and lead us to a socialist utopia in such a way that we would enjoy the ride.
The Left Is Better At Branding Than The Right.
All our tour guides needed was better public relations. Communism was replaced with liberalism and progressivism: Branding! The Method of shackling intellectuals and state violence was replaced with egalitarianism: Core Values! When asked the difference between communism and socialism, Ayn Rand responded communism is slavery by force, socialism by vote. In order to acquire power through voting booths the old political ideology was renamed Social Democracy: Marketing Campaign! And Pricing? Forget about it. The call to action became social justice: Differentiation!
The Mirage Of Social Justice.
But isn’t all justice social? Can anyone agree on what it is? Even the name of this movement sounds stupid. Perhaps social justice intellectuals are not intellectuals at all. According to economist Friedrich Hayek, their ideas reveal an “absence of responsibility for practical affairs.” To overcome this, language had to change to control what people say and think; and be reinforced with the emotional tug of guilt and envy. Freedom now means freedom from want, equality means equality of outcomes, and progress means political correctness. That’s how today’s social justice warriors have been taught to think. Allowing themselves to be so easily mobilized to march and carry stupid slogans is evidence of their self-delusion.
Jordan Peterson’s Take.
Psychiatry professor Jordan Peterson condemns the teaching of equity, diversity, inclusion, white privilege, and systemic racism. It is not education, it is nothing but postmodern indoctrination, and it’s an insidious movement. Psychiatrist Carl Jung opines, “It requires no art to become stupid; the whole art lies in extracting wisdom from stupidity.” In other words, bestow the parrots of postmodernism with certificates of membership in the new Enlightenment! As such, Milosz’ indictment of the servile intellectual rings as true as ever: “his chief characteristic is his fear of thinking for himself.” In 1950’s Stalinist Europe it was fear of spies, prison camps, and firing squads. Today it is fear of public ridicule and social ostracization if you don’t submit or you think for yourself.
Let’s Choose Individual Values.
Welcome to post-modernism and the resentment it sows. But life is too precious to let that seethe and fester. We have a choice, become captive to the envy and guilt our elites are selling, or expose the man behind the curtain and reclaim ownership of our lives. We can let the collective consciousness of society shape our ideas, or we can win the future as individuals armed with reason, pursuing our values, and ready to defend the right of anyone else to do the same.