An Ides of March Reminder about the Coercive Nature of Socialism

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) Soviet dissident and author of The Gulag Archipelago.

As polls report higher numbers of millennials claiming to be socialist (they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about) and spiking membership for Democratic Socialists of America, let’s try to absorb these words of the late Russian human rights advocate and gulag survivor Alexander Solshenitsyn:

 “In different places over the years I have had to prove that socialism, which to many Western thinkers is a sort of kingdom of justice, was in fact full of coercion, of bureaucratic greed and corruption and avarice, and consistent within itself that socialism cannot be implemented without the aid of coercion.”

Refugees from socialism – Russians, Cubans, Vietnamese – all tell the same story.  Socialism is not what romantics in the West think it is.  The system is coercive, by its very nature.  Give it enough time and enough crises, and socialist states always morph into even more coercive communist states.

College campuses are infested today with a political correctness – and a tragic ignorance of history – that has students singing the praises of socialism, a system that promises free stuff and delivers scarcity.

A year ago — on the Ides of March — I published an essay in the Federalist that explored this phenomenon:  “Socialism’s Bloody History Shows Millennials Should Think Twice Before Supporting It.”  I zeroed in on the case of communist hero Nikolai Bukharin, who was executed in 1937, after the show trials of Soviet strongman Josef Stalin.  It’s a natural progression when a “vanguard” of the people is blindly entrusted with too much power. That’s socialism in a nutshell:  too much power in the hands of too few people.  If you mention this to any pro-Socialist millennial, they are sure to pull out the talking point that theirs is a different brand of socialism, akin to the sort we see in Scandinavian countries.  To them it means social harmony through things like bike-share programs, recycling, free education, and easy housing. I understand, I understand.  The problem is that such freebies are the bait of socialism which cannot help but invite the switch to coercive Borg government.  Which, in the end, means punishment of any dissent and the death of free expression. Forget “resistance” of any sort without Hell to pay.

Prisoners at work in a Soviet gulag camp in the 1930’s.

Here’s an excerpt from my piece, which I hope you’ll read in full:

Socialism and communism both involve ceding to the state control over the distribution of goods and services for the masses. This involves giving up individual rights, and giving the state a good measure of control over our personal lives. This road always leads to tyranny, no matter what you pave it with, and no matter what you name it.

Socialism requires a power clique—or, as Lenin put it, an elite “vanguard”—in order to pretend to function. This means going heavy on executive power and rubber-stamp light on the legislative. Socialism demands that we place blind trust in whoever takes the reins of power to distribute society’s goods and services. This tiny elite, by the way, typically enjoys enormous privileges and a much higher standard of living than the hoi polloi, simply by being a part of the elite “nomenklatura.”

Sure, this oligarchy claims to distribute in the name of “equality.” That’s typically the cover story. The historical fact is that the vanguard, the power clique, eventually takes control of everything that’s produced—medicine, education, housing, food, transportation, etc. Its members then bureaucratically ration out—as they see fit—the means of human survival. In the end, you’ve basically got an elite corps of mobsters with the power to decide which folks are more equal than others.

Maybe Ferris Bueller took a Day Off, but Real Education has taken Generations Off

When I see the great clip below of Ben Stein as a high school economics teacher — from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” — I’m very amused.  But at the same time, I  can’t help but feel saddened because I believe the scene also reflects the  intellectual theft committed by our education establishment over the past couple of generations.  The lecture in this classroom scene deals with the handling of the U.S. economy in the wake of the Great Depression. It’s another fascinating topic rendered irrelevant and boring by our factory methods of schooling, as well as by the effects of radical education reform.  The students neither know the answers nor care.  And their apathy is not something we can simply blame on a boring teacher.

I recall a feeling of annoyance — anger, actually — when I realized that so much classical education was basically withheld from me in my public high school.  Thanks to radical education reform, my high school did not offer the average student any year-long surveys or foundational courses in English and History. Instead, we got a new curriculum with a fractured menu from which we could pick from among many various 9-week classes.  Among the offerings were “American Drama” in which students could read a play or two by Lillian Hellman or Tennessee Williams; “Modern Poetry,” which mostly consisted of the lyrics of songs by Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and Simon & Garfunkel;  “Shakespearean Tragedy,” in which you could spend the academic quarter reading and studying nothing but Macbeth.  As far as History was concerned, students could choose from a menu in which they might study the Civil War for a quarter.  Or a new course called “Ecology.”  Or American Presidents. In the latter each student would simply pick one president to write a report about and then share it with the class.

Question: What’s wrong with this picture?  Answer:  It is devoid of context.  Instead of a continuum of foundational knowledge, students are offered fractured bits and pieces of out-of-context readings and discussions unattached to any greater body of knowledge.  A good survey course, on the other hand, will place historical events and people in context.  You’ll get the Big Picture instead of a few random and disconnected puzzle pieces.  A good English survey course will provide the entire spectrum and history of English literature.  By the time I got to college I realized that neither Chaucer nor Milton were even mentioned once in any of my English classes.  There were really only two ways to get a survey of history at my high school:  either you were selected for Advanced Placement or took the summer school class which crammed the entire academic year into six weeks. The former was not available to very many students, and the latter (which I opted for) was too compressed to retain much of anything.

This sort of experimental education laid the groundwork for the even more fractured education children are getting today, so much of it rife with political correctness.  And, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago at The Federalist, “Today’s Riot-Prone Mobs are a product of America’s Cult Like Education System.”

Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Group Think Has Got to Go!

Students at Stanford University voted last week on a ballot proposal to reinstate the study of Western Civilization.  Whatever the outcome of the vote — and the results have been delayed, ostensibly because of a senate election that was “too close to call” — the fact that this question is being entertained at all is astonishing.  It’s a bold move.  And a victory for independent thought.

I wrote about it in my recent Federalist article “Stanford Students Fight Campus Group Think.”   After the study of Western Civilization was trashed about 30 years ago, group think was able to put down deep roots on our college campuses.  Political correctness created new enemies of thinking in the form of “trigger warnings” and “micro-aggressions.”  I don’t think this is a coincidence.  No way.

When tyrants aim to erase collective memory — by hiding or destroying the literature, arts, and history that bind a civilization together — they aim to create the conditions for conformity of thought.  All totalitarians know this.  ISIS militants, for example, are making a big point of destroying ancient artifacts, as the video below shows.

Obviously, ISIS takes a more direct approach than the cultural Marxists in the West.  But the goals are the same:  cultivate ignorance, promote group think, and destroy independent thought. It’s all about obtaining raw power.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“. . .  learning about Western culture isn’t simply about undertaking a cohesive study of the history, philosophy, literature, and arts that have enormously influenced the world in which we all live. It is also about learning how to express ideas effectively, how to separate fact from propaganda through specific tools of learningdeveloped in the West. Taking those tools away—such as the Socratic method, civil discourse, and rules of order and civil debate—hinders clarity, independent thought, and the powers of observation. It makes students far less able to resist conformity and group think.”

Bookcase: Robert Nisbet’s “The Quest for Community”

If you are trying to make sense of the seismic changes going on all around us in society, sociologist Robert Nisbet tied it all together in his classic work “The Quest for Community.”   It’s not a light read, but it is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how to maintain a free society.  It’s a prescient work, and it helped me understand where so much of the alienation and eerieness of this current election cycle has come from:  the brokenness of civil society, the continuing dissolution of strong community ties.

I find it fascinating that Nisbet was writing about the breakdown of community and alienation back in 1953.  This was half a century before Robert Putnam wrote “Bowling Alone” and 60 years before Charles Murray examined the devastating effects of family breakdown on community in his 2012 work “Coming Apart.”

As the ties that bind people together fall away — family, church, civic societies and private associations– alienation and loneliness in society grow.  But Nisbet noted that as this happens, the strong human impulse for community would remain.  We would merely grope around for a substitute.  So as social brokenness grows, people turn to the government to replace those ties.

It’s so bleak to consider all of this, because it’s happening with ever greater speed before our very eyes.  Worse, too many people cannot comprehend the irony of it all:  dependence on the mass state only leads to even greater atomization of the individual.  Even greater alienation. Is there anything cuddle-worthy in the mass bureaucratic state? Absolutely nothing.  All it can deliver is even greater loneliness.

Here’s an excerpt from Nisbet’s Preface, dated December 1952:

“The real significance of the modern State is inseparable from its successive penetrations of man’s economic, religious, kinship, and local allegiances, and its revolutionary dislocations of established centers of function and authority.  These, I believe, are the penetrations and dislocations that form the most illuminating perspective for the twentieth-century’s obsessive quest for moral certainty and social community and that make so difficult present-day problems of freedom and democracy.”

And in the preface to the 1970 edition, Nisbet noted this about youth and apathy:

“It has become steadily clearer to me that alienation is one of the determining realities of the contemporary age. . . By alienation I mean the state of mind that can find a social order remote, incomprehensible, or fraudulent; beyond real hope or desire; inviting apathy, boredom, or even hostility.  The individual not only does not feel a part of the social order; he has lost interest in being a part of it.  For a constantly enlarging number of persons, including, significantly, young persons of high school and college age, this state of alienation has become profoundly influential in both behavior and thought.”

Wow.  And that was 45 years ago!  Think about the mass cluelessness all around us today.  Think about students’ utter lack of knowledge of history, of civics, of the humanities.  Consider the lack of connection they must be feeling as they grope about, trying on all sorts of personas whether it’s a new gender identity persona or the persona of “social justice warrior.”    The divorce culture has rendered more than half of all children in today’s America the wards of broken homes.  Sure, children can be resilient.  But they so often feel broken and alienated as a result of the disruption in their ties with parents.  It takes its toll. Pathologies abound while folks scramble to find safe haven in the State.

And here’s the catch:  at the same time that the state gives  free stuff to individuals, it takes away from the individual’s personal relationships and associations.  As those relationships continue to weaken, State power grows. Let’s not forget that our families, our institutions of faith, our civic and private associations have always served as buffer zones balancing the freedom of the individual against the power of the state.  We’ve no choice but to defend and rebuild them.

La Marseillaise and Defiance to Tyranny One Person at a Time

A while back, I posted a blog entry on the Marseillaise scene in the movie Casablanca.  I feel compelled to run this entry again as we contemplate yesterday’s terrorist attack on Paris.  Whenever we forget that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, we lose.  Let’s never forget that, as well as the fact that our little acts of resistance add up, even if they may seem in vain.  As Vaclav Havel pointed out in “The Power of the Powerless,” these acts of resistance have an illuminating effect. This is also very relevant as we contemplate the full frontal attacks on the First Amendment happening on college campuses these days.  Below is my post from February 28, 2014:

After entry of the US into WWII, Warner Brothers released the classic Casablanca (1942) starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  One scene in Casablanca offers a magnificent juxtaposition with the Bavarian pub scene from The Mortal Storm (1940) discussed in the last post.  The place is similar:  another restaurant– Rick’s Cafe Americain.  Also similar is a cast of Nazi officers, stirring up song (this one “Die Wacht am Rhein.”)   But the similarities end there, when one man, Victor Laszlo, tells the orchestra to play the “La Marseillaise.”  A thrilled and grateful clientele all rise spontaneously and triumphantly, drowning out the Nazis’ song.

Watch here:

If Laszlo hadn’t done what he did, what then?  Chances are everyone would just sit around sulking.  The Nazis would then stir up enough folks to sing along with them to the point that the Nazi narrative would seem the majority view.  Morale would continue to plummet.

It’s the little acts of resistance that add up to make the biggest difference.  These acts plant seeds in others, creating a cascade effect.  Sad to say, it’s the power mongers of the world who seem to know this better than the rest of us do.  That’s why they insist on our silence as a way station on their road to total control.  So let’s not hide our light.

Militant Atheists Target an Old World War I Memorial

The Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial, or “Peace Cross.”

One of the latest targets of militant atheists is the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial Cross pictured here.  In my latest Federalist article, I discuss the lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association that demands the removal of this monument which is also known as Peace Cross.  I wrote it in anticipation of Veterans Day and I hope many in the Washington, D.C. area will attend the wreath-laying there on Wednesday. You can read my article here:  Killing the Dead:  Atheists Attack World War I Memorial.

It’s been standing there — at the crossroads of Annapolis Road, Baltimore Ave, and Bladensburg Road just outside Washington, D.C. — for 90 years. Two mothers of fallen soldiers broke ground for it back in 1922.  On a bronze plaque at the base are the names of the 49 local soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.  The monument is massive, but its size accurately and appropriately reflects the feelings of people in the aftermath of a war that was unimaginably massive and tragic (total casualities — dead and wounded, both civilian and military — was about 38 million.)

There are two basic themes in my essay: the impact of World War I and the symbolism of crosses.  World War I was a cataclysmic event in human history that really set the course for so much of the violence of the 20th century, and the violence that continues to this day all over the world. And yet WWI is woefully neglected as a subject of study both in K12 public education and in higher education.  So more than ever, we ought to preserve and respect our memorials to World War I, not tear them down!  Second, the cross is basically a symbol of self-sacrifice.  It has been recognized as a symbol of sacrifice in war memorials for a very long time.

We honor the fallen because of their self-sacrifice. If you are able to grasp that reality, then you understand the need for an effective symbol to express it. More than anything else, the Bladensburg Peace Cross is a symbol of self-sacrifice in keeping with the enormity and the calamitous history of World War I. No other symbol so efficiently communicates self-sacrifice and suffering. No other symbol serves also to signify the hope that the dead did not die in vain, that they laid down their own lives so others would live in peace and freedom.

Understanding the history and the purpose of memorials is key here. If the plaintiffs thought this through in a meaningful and sincere way, they wouldn’t be doing mental gymnastics with the First Amendment’s establishment clause in order to tear down the 90-year-old Bladensburg Peace Cross.  Obviously, they have another agenda, which is to empty the public sphere of any and all religious imagery.   In the end, this is not just a war on religion.  It’s a war on history and memory.

 

My Daily Caller Interview with Ginni Thomas on PC Propaganda

You can watch my interview with Ginni Thomas at Daily Caller at this link:  “Political Correctness is a manipulative tool for Centralizing Power.

If I had one  key theme I hope listeners will come away with, it is this:  Our personal  relationships are the prime target of political correctness. Full control of one-on-one  relationships has always been the aim of tyrants, throughout history.  The outlets — media,academia and Hollywood — are basically just means for capturing the big prize of controlling personal relationships.  That is why we must not allow PC to silence us.

Here’s an excerpt of the text:

“If you push an agenda to centralize power, you need mass ignorance and effective propaganda.”

Morabito says political correctness provides “a semantic fog where manipulation can occur under the guise of being fair or non-discriminatory.”

She details three tactics of the manipulation she observes. These include being subtle enough that people are not aware of the manipulation, changing our language to achieve thought control and the leverage of social isolation being used to force conformity to the elite’s narratives.

As for those who dissent from the elite’s orthodoxy or narratives, Morabito praises their courage. She mentions three positive possibilities of people who have the courage to be politically incorrect against the dominant narratives in this culture.  First, such a neighbor or friend could embolden a like-minded person who is fearful, causing a positive “ripple effect.” Second, they could influence a “fence-sitter” by nudging deeper thinking, she says. And lastly, even if the listener disagrees and rejects your point of view, you may water down the stereotype or caricature made of those who hold core American principles.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” RIP, Yogi Berra

Rest in Peace, Yogi Berra.  From the day I launched this blog, I’ve kept a Yogi Berra quote permanently up on the right sidebar: “You can observe a lot by watching.”  I analyzed this “yogism” in my previous post: “A Yogi Berra Translation.”  But now that Yogi has passed from this world, I want to write a few words to honor him on this blog.  And post this video:

And this one:

Even if Yogi was not famous — and even if he was not a ball player —  his goodness and humor would have still made an enormous difference in the lives of those whose paths he crossed.  But luckily for the rest of us, he was a rare sort of celebrity.  Which means that we are all enriched by the memories he built for us not only in the ballpark, but through the strength of his unassuming and cheerful personality. And his loyalty to family and country:  He was married to his wife Carmen for 65 years; and he fought on D-Day at Normandy in WWII.

But it’s likely Yogi Berra will be remembered by most folks for those “yogisms,” his unique and pithy expressions that make us laugh and think a bit harder about life and language.  No doubt you’ve heard several, including:  “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  That rings so true these days, doesn’t it?  But perhaps that’s because: “It’s deja vu all over again.”  Here’s another beaut: “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

A few folks dismiss yogisms, and think Berra should be remembered primarily for his incredible record as catcher for the New York Yankees.  Well, if yogisms upstage his statistics, that’s not such a bad thing. Because Yogi was so much bigger than baseball.  Sure, his amazing stats will live on in the record books.  In fact I’ll bet his yogisms will actually help keep them alive in more conversations. But it is Yogi’s personality and his words that will have far greater staying power in real life all across America.  And on another level, that is the case for each and every one of us.  We may accomplish great things, but how we treat others and give of ourselves is what makes the biggest impact in the lives of others.

You can read my tribute published last Friday at The Federalist: “Yogisms: Essential to Yogi Berra’s Legacy.”  Here’s an excerpt:

Ultimately, good legacies are always about how people have touched others’ lives. Their accomplishments and skills are part of that picture, to be sure, but how someone connects with others—as in the case of Berra—is an even bigger piece of that picture.

In the same vein, I think for most our connection with Berra as a legend has to do more with how we relate to him as a human being through the power of his personality than through the power of his swing. That makes his legacy all the bigger and brighter.

 

 

 

 

 

My Interview with Professor Lopez: Bolshevism and the LGBT Lobby

Obedience to political correctness leads to total conformity of expression. Here communists in East Berlin promote Stalin’s cult of personality (1951)

In my recent interview with Professor Robert Oscar Lopez, we discuss parallels between the tactics and motives of the LGBT Lobby and the Bolsheviks in Russia a hundred years ago.  Please listen by clicking here.

The modus operandi of the LGBT lobby and the Bolsheviks are strikingly similar.  But that’s the case with every power-grabbing scheme.  A hundred years ago the Bolsheviks pretended to be the champion of the “workers.”  Likewise, today statists call themselves the champions of gays and transgenders.  It’s basically the same dynamic.  The LGBT Lobby serves ultimately to consolidate power in the hands of the elite few.  So what else do these movements have in common?

  • The abolition of the autonomous family as the ultimate goal.
  • Propaganda tactics that rely heavily on smear campaigns and cultivate the fear of becoming a non-person.
  • Conformity of expression through obedience to political correctness.
  • Replacement of free exchange of commerce and ideas with ironclad regulations and censorship
  • Nomenklatura — an elite clique in power — rules over all and directs a mammoth bureaucracy
  • The takeover of the media at the outset in order to control the narrative and silent dissenters

That’s just for starters.  And if the “Equality Act” is passed by Congress, you can bet that compliance will be enforced and dissent will be punished.  That’s a censorship act window-dressed as non-discrimination.  It has nothing to do with protecting any minority demographic.  The minority demographic — in this case gays, lesbians, transgenders — are simply being used as pawns.  Their grievances are being used as a pretext to consolidate all power into the hands of an elite mob.  This is very much in keeping with the pattern of the Bolsheviks who cherry-picked winners and losers once they took on the mantle of “vanguard” — or protector — of the workers.  The Bolshevik mob never cared about the working class, except as a useful propaganda tool in their bid to grab power.  In the Soviet Union, those deemed “counter-revolutionary” would be labelled as “enemies of the people.”  We see the same pattern today with the LGBT lobby.  And it will get much worse if the “Equality Act” goes into effect, giving the government the power to punish those it deems “anti-gay.”

So, at the end of the day, what have you got?  Answer:  a society ruled by elites, or a “nomenklatura.”  Your currency is political connections that you “earn” through compliance with the mob.  That’s how mammoth bureaucracies lock in power for their rulers.  Instead of a society based upon the free exchange of goods, services, and ideas, you end up with gatekeepers — all up and down the bureaucratic ladder — who make sure the only kind of currency in use is political compliance and connections. In this sort of power structure all totalitarian societies poison personal relationships.  They cultivate scarcity, which creates a nasty dog-eat-dog mentality.  They cultivate ignorance so that free thought is dimmed. It’s a divide-and-conquer scheme in which people become separated as never before. As history has proven time and again in such cases, it is submission — and not resistance — that is truly futile.

 

Abortion is about Separating Us All, Man, Woman, and Child

Ad for the Tinder App, which is basically for hooking up with sex partners who happen to be in the local area.   This sort of stupid is ultimately what abortion is for. Everybody loses.

I’d like to share an article I wrote a little while ago for the Federalist about my take on pro-abortion men:  Click here to read “Why Pro-Abortion Men are Anti-Woman.

Anyone who can see the reality of sex distinctions understands that women are more emotionally invested in pregnancy than men. So it is undeniable that women are the biggest losers in a society that promotes casual sex. So who are the prime “beneficiaries” of abortion on demand?  Women? Or the men who wish to use and then discard women?

Clearly, it’s the latter.  The dirty little secret is that it wasn’t really grassroots women activists who got abortion legalized, though they carried the sound bites.  A little history shows us that abortion on demand was really an operation from the top down. Establishment men were the ones who pushed hardest for it and made it happen.  Elitist men in the courts and legislatures made it happen.  Feminists? They basically ran cover for them right through the Roe v. Wade decision handed down by seven male Supreme Court justices in 1973.  Oh, sure, these men would couch it all in terms of “women’s rights” and hold themselves up as champions of women.  Very convenient.  Big of them. Easy too, because their feminist allies were their subservient enablers.

Another point is that women have always polled consistently more pro-life than men.  The margin may not be huge, but it’s a persistent gap.

In my article, I discuss a recent Vanity Fair piece that’s laid bare the wasteland of the hook-up culture spawned by our abortion culture.  Many defend hooking up by claiming: “This is 2015 and things have changed.” I can only respond: “This is a total throwback to ancient times. And nothing has changed.”  The Vanity Fair essay is hard to read with its descriptions of men and women using the Tinder app — which you can see in the ad above — obsessively looking for sex partners in the near vicinity.

But it was all so predictable:  jerk men taking advantage of women who are clearly looking for intimacy but pretend they are not.  The irony revealed by the Vanity Fair article is that the women hooking up don’t even enjoy the sex.  And the men are so steeped in competing with other men for conquests — through the “wonders” of phone app technology — that in their 20’s and 30’s they have an epidemic of erectile dysfunction.  It’s all so pointless and stupid, aside from being cruel and destructive.

“Abortion really makes you hate men,” is an apt quote from a college classmate after she told me about her abortion.  This clarified for me that abortion is like Total Warfare on personal relationships. It’s all about separating us from one another.  It severs the mother-child bond as well as the man woman bond.  (The father-child bond was the first casualty.)  The abortion mentality requires destructive coping mechanisms in which the women must emotionally separate themselves from the person of the child as well as from the father.

So much love has gone missing through the descent into our culture’s abortion mindset.  People have lost so much respect for life, for others, and for themselves.  Intimacy has become elusive for so many.  And happiness? So much of it gone, in the name of “choice.”