What have all dictators of the past had in common? The cult of knowledge, the control of a socieities knowledge base in the hands of experts. To do this dictators have always symobolically erased and burned the public face of knowledge: the great libraries where such knowledge was inscribed in external systems. Are we not undergoing such a purification rite in our time? We who have so much infoglut that no one but our machines can master the datasets of information and its complexity? And, only the masters of the machinic intelligeneces, the experts in technological systems: the algorithmic masters of complexity hold the keys to this world. And, as in all previous dictatorships the decay of learning, the erasure of culture and religion and mores and customs, traditions, and the memory of the past have been under dissolution for two centuries.
Like all Cults, Progressivism produces neither sustenance, peace, defense, nor philosophy, worthy of its name, yet it does provide one service, which service unites the group, and to which all other operations of the group are subservient: it provides the reassurance that although the actions of the world may neither be understood nor exploited, fear may be shared out and the stranded group may take comfort in its replacement by denial.
But for denial to replace fear it must be universal, and anyone suggesting notions contrary to those of the group must be shamed, killed, or otherwise silenced—these must be at the very least excoriated as evil. As it seeks the earasure of knowledge and tradition, a blank slate of culture and praxis it hopes to invent the new, a second modernity out of the thin air of nothingness. For, indeed, if the group knows neither law nor religion, nor technology, its only good (which is to say its only service) is solidarity. Individual initiative or investigation, thus, is destructive of the group’s essence, and so to them is evil.
Those things which previous tradition or observation revealed as absolutely good must, by this terrified group, be mocked: individualism and ambition called “greed,” development called “exploitation,” defense “war-mongering,” and use “despoliation.”
Inevitable global conflicts are indicted by this group as “nationalism”; strife is brought about by arrogance; and laws sufficiently strict to provide actual guidelines for behavior, “injustice.”
This new group of Progressives have and will continue, of course, like any group in history, create taboos and ceremonies of its own. But to ensure solidarity, (for the group, we remember, lives in fear for the fragility of its illusions), these new observances must absolutely repudiate the old; and the cult will indict these previous observances as, for example, paternalism, patriotism, racism, colonialism, xenophobia, and greed.
And it may indict religion as superstition. But man cannot live without religion, which is to say, without a method for dealing with cosmic mystery and those things ever beyond understanding; so the new religion will not be identified as such. It will be called Multiculturalism, Diversity, Social Justice, Environmentalism, Humanitarianism, and so on. These, individually and conjoined, assert their imperviousness to reason, and present themselves as the greatest good; but as they reject submission either to a superior unknowable essence (God), or to those operations of the universe capable of some understanding (science and self-government), their worship foretells a reversion to savagery.
The laws of the seasons, for example, have been studied since human beings first observed that the seasons changed. But the new man, who fears change above all things, has decided that the seasons are now changing in one direction only, toward oblivion, and that this change must be stopped. How may this incomprehensible and awful catastrophe be averted? Only through sacrifice. So the new group, which is the Left, is prepared and is in the process of sacrificing production, exploration, exploitation of natural resources, and an increasing standard of living upon the altar of something called “global warming.”
Regeneration Through Violence: Regeneration or Restoration?
Richard Slotkin’s 1973 book Regeneration Through Violence meticulously chronicles how the use of violence has been integral to the construction of a distinctly American mythogenesis. Slotkin argues, “In American mythogenesis the founding fathers were not those eighteenth-century gentlemen who composed a nation at Philadelphia. Rather, they were those who…tore violently a nation from implacable and opulent wilderness” (5). As a result, “Regeneration ultimately became the means of violence, and the myth of regeneration through violence became the structuring metaphor of the American experience” (5). In describing the evolution of the myth of regeneration through violence, Slotkin describes the hunter character as a type of hero whose “starting point is the commonday world, that part of reality which we know well and over which we have established our dominion and power” (551). Key to understanding the myth of the hunter is the fact that “the myth of the hunter…is one of self-renewal or self-creation through acts of violence” (556). Based on Slotkin’s formulation, the myth of the hunter continues to evolve throughout American society into the present day:
Set the statuesque figures and their piled trophies in motion through space and time, and a more familiar landscape emerges…the land and its people, its ‘dark’ people especially, economically exploited and wasted; the warfare between man and nature, between race and race, exalted as a kind of heroic ideal; the piles of wrecked and rusted cars, heaped like Tartar pyramids of death-cracked, weather-browned, rain-rotted skulls, to signify our passage through the land. (565)
Marx built his whole system of alienation upon this system and acknowledgement of violence at the heart of society. As Marx puts the latter: “An immediate consequence of the fact that man is estranged [alienated] from the product of his labour, from his life activity, from his species being is the estrangement of man from man. If a man is confronted by himself, he is confronted by the other man. What applies to man’s relation to his work, to the product of his labour and to himself, also holds of man’s relation to the other man, and to the other man’s labour and object of labour. In fact, the proposition that man’s species nature is estranged from him means that one man is estranged from the other, as each of them is from man’s essential nature” (77). Man, self-divided from himself, his labor, his life, and his essential nature is man in both nature and society: the man of violence, the predatory creature we all are in this world.
And, yet, Progressive mythology began in the political world of innocence, in Rousseau’s world of the innocent savage rather than in the world of savagery, war, and estrangement. Who will forget reading the opening of the Social Contract: “MAN is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. (1)” What freedom is this? If you found yourself alone in the middle of the jungle would you consider yourself free? Naked, alone, without others to support or defend you against the predators of the natural order stronger, faster, and more resilient than you how long would you last? If you used your intelligence to forge a weapon, to build shelter, to find food and develop a safe haven against the threat of external forces is this freedom?
Recently watching National Geographic special on a group of chimpanzees that were studied for many years I was struck that as the society expanded, grew, and ultimately became to populace for its sexual and survival needs to be met by the natural environment within which it dwelt it turned to violence, sacrifice, and war upon its own kind. The humans who saw this happen became terrified of this truth, saddened that such is the truth of social relations at the extremity of sex and survival. Yet, it was a truth they could not deny, only accept. And, they sought no explanations beyond what their eyes saw in front of them, no psychological or mythical or religious or other cause than that of the natural order of life in this cosmos as it is.
Speaking of the artificial orders and institutions humans have developed against this natural order of violence in the cosmos, Rousseau admitted to himself that “Nothing is more dangerous than the influence of private interests in public affairs, and the abuse of the laws by the government is a less evil than the corruption of the legislator, which is the inevitable sequel to a particular standpoint. (45-46).” How true? As we look upon our failing democracies in the world today what do we see? The power of special interests, corporations and their interests rule over legislature and government alike. Looking over the conditions Rousseau once thought would be needed for an actual democracy to come about one realizes just how great a fantasy it was and is:
First, a very small State, where the people can readily be got together and where each citizen can with ease know all the rest; secondly, great simplicity of manners, to prevent business from multiplying and raising thorny problems; next, a large measure of equality in rank and fortune, without which equality of rights and authority cannot long subsist; lastly, little or no luxury — for luxury either comes of riches or makes them necessary; it corrupts at once rich and poor, the rich by possession and the poor by covetousness; it sells the country to softness and vanity, and takes away from the State all its citizens, to make them slaves one to another, and one and all to public opinion. (460
Look around you, do you even know the person living in the apartment or home opposite yours, much less every citizen in this nation? Simplicity of manners, in our culture of a multiplicity of sub-cultures? Are you kidding me? Equality of rank and fortune? Where? Not here in America; that’s for sure. Little or no luxury? Under capitalism? Who is kidding who? Of course he’s right in the end, we’ve become a nation soft, vane, and enslaved to each other and public opinion; and, the poor and dispossessed of the earth do envy and covet the luxuries of our nation even to the point of seeking its destruction. But hey, that’s because we are and have not been a democracy, ever. People had the illusion of democracy because they believed their leaders, nothing more. And, yet, in the end Rousseau was no fool, he realized violence and war were at the core even of so called democracies:
It may be added that there is no government so subject to civil wars and intestine agitations as democratic or popular government, because there is none which has so strong and continual a tendency to change to another form, or which demands more vigilance and courage for its maintenance as it is. Under such a constitution above all, the citizen should arm himself… (46)
So even in Rousseau we see and understand a vision of evil, of violence, of war within the alien and alienated worlds of society how shall we ever learn to survive together on this congested planet. Will we like those chimps in the jungle forests begin in the end committing genocide and extermination upon our own kind in the end game of civilization? The Progressives would present you with a happy face, a utopian future full of hope, solidarity, and collective prosperity. They have no vision of evil, violence, or war except against all those who cannot be normalized or conformed or reeducated to live in their great fantasy and lie, their utopian world of artificial humans in an artificial world outside natural law and right. Instead ultimately they seek to destroy, enslave, or exclude any and all who do not agree with their mythology of hope. Caput. How do I know this? I was a member of the cult for a long while… no more.
Rousseau came up with another convenient myth: the General Will of the People. “WE have here two quite distinct moral persons, the government and the Sovereign, and in consequence two general wills, one general in relation to all the citizens, the other only for the members of the administration. Thus, although the government may regulate its internal policy as it pleases, it can never speak to the people save in the name of the Sovereign, that is, of the people itself, a fact which must not be forgotten. (The Social Contract (47).” The point here for Rousseau and all Progressives liberals that would follow him was to set up an abstract universal that could arbitrate and rule over humanity from the heights of the absent God. Formally, Rousseau argues that the law must be general in application and universal in scope. This notion of universalism hides under the rubric of rhetorical flourish the presumption of a monocultural project, the progressive worldview of the Enlightenment that sought its own sovereign and imperial tyranny over all former thought, tradition, and belief.
In The Social Contract Rousseau envisages three different types or levels of will as being in play. First, individuals all have private wills corresponding to their own selfish interests as natural individuals; second, each individual, insofar as he or she identifies with the collective as a whole and assumes the identity of citizen, wills the general will of that collective as his or her own, setting aside selfish interest in favor of a set of laws that allow all to coexist under conditions of equal freedom; third, and very problematically, a person can identify with the corporate will of a subset of the populace as a whole. The general will is therefore both a property of the collective and a result of its deliberations, and a property of the individual insofar as the individual identifies as a member of the collective. In a well-ordered society, there is no tension between private and general will, as individuals accept that both justice and their individual self-interest require their submission to a law which safeguards their freedom by protecting them from the private violence and personal domination that would otherwise hold sway. In practice, however, Rousseau believes that many societies will fail to have this well-ordered character.
Let’s go back to that first one: “individuals all have private wills corresponding to their own selfish interests as natural individuals”. Right here is where it all begins and ends for humans. The rest is mythology and abstract progressive hope and cult. No one has ever seen or surmised such a grandiose General Will, an invisible and collective entity constructed out of abstract thought, law, and collective deliberations in which anyone singular person could or would identify as a “member of the collective”. Fiction, lies, sweet dreams of a man who looked long into the inhumanity of man and sought escape from the clutches of the law of the jungle. All Progressives have sought just that: escape from the natural order of the cosmos, an artificial world and utopian realm beyond (transcendental) where they could live in an dream of collective harmony. An illusion, nothing more.
Our universe is neither universal nor are its laws grounded in human reason. Alone in the midst of a realm that is neither good nor evil, by beyond human categories of thought altogether we have sought to reduce it to our human frame to cope with it immensity and mystery. Some have sought by way of religion, myth, and the sacred; others for a couple hundred years by way of a new secular religion, myth of science, and the optimism of a political theology shaped to human desire. Now we are left with the end game of this Progressive Era that has produced neither hope nor a world of peace and universal harmony but rather a realm of delusion, illusion, fright, and nightmare in which competing tribes conjoin on a planetary scale to survive and thrive amidst a dwindling supply of resources. Progressive institutions have in the end produced war, strife, and enslavement of the world’s populations to a universal myth whose only actual production is: death, death universal. Maybe it’s time to look elsewhere? Some would revive the past traditions, but that is nostalgia for realms of violence that have in their time failed greatly as in ours progress has. No, maybe in the end the truth, the harsh truth of our impersonal and indifferent universe and its spontaneous order out of chaos and violence, a regeneration through violence of thought or flesh is what we are condemned too. Only time will tell…
As for freedom, maybe it begins in discerning our bondage to the dark rule of violence in the universe, of making distinctions that will not deny it but shape our thought by its dark energy and powers. Yet, in developing this strange distinction between ourselves and the universe we begin to stand against its power of violence over us and thereby begin constructing all-too-human relations to secure our survival and propagate our kind through time (history). Rather than denying the very core of violence and thereby producing it, maybe it is time to accept our lot in this universal game of existence and learn to cooperate with it own its terms rather than build fantastic utopian worlds outside its power. Most indigenous peoples of the world have existed within this realm of natural violence for millennia out of mind without resorting to the artificial worlds modern societies from the its agricultural origins began shaping. Obviously there can be no return to such paths as that now as those like the Luddites and others in that vain have sought. (I think of Derrick Jensen, etc.) For better or worse we are now hemmed in by the very technics we were at first conditioned by, even more so in our age of absolute artificial civilization in its electronic and global communications. No. It’s time to step back, take stock, and formulate a more reasonable plan of expansion off-world rather than closing ourselves off in a circle of depleting resources. Otherwise human civilization as all past civilizations have done will once again fail when it reaches environmental capacity beyond which the natural resources of land, water, and air are able to sustain it.
It was a nice dream as such dreams go – the Progressive cult of imaginary solutions, but as we can see for it to be possible you’d have to be artificial yourself, an automated creature or robot stripped of that dark and ugly thing we saw in that first level of being-in-the-world Rousseau so desperately sought to forget: that realm where like our cousins the chimpanzees we live by violence and desperation, love and hate in a natural world of affects and cunning. Of course this is what many fine Progressives are hoping for a new religion of immortality in human enhancement and transhumanist transcension of flesh into machine. But like all pipe dreams it is not humans that will transcend into anything, instead it’s allowing technology and technics to determine its own future, its own evolution, its own civilization without humans. Shall I continue? Another time, perhaps… and, yes, there is so much more to say. But this is a beginning, or re-beginning on how I woke up and left the Progressive Religion of Universalism. More will follow…
In my next post I’ll take up the notion of the rise and fall of civilizations, for in the end every civilization on this planet has gone through phases of growth, expansion, and then slow decline into obsolescence. There is no universal history, but there is the fact of looking at the past and seeing these processes at work in a material world where we can make those distinctions that define civilizations. Progressive ideology and civilization was premised itself on the organic metaphors of evolutionary theory of natural selection, adaptation, and improvement. In our own time the use of natural metaphors is giving way to artificial one’s that see instead a machinic civilization of technics and technology becoming autonomous through the power and capacity of artificial rather than natural selection. Is this to be tied with Progressive ideology or something else? We shall see where this leads… to do that we need to dig deeper into the underpinnings of Enlightenment and Modernity. If the truth be told the conditions that have destroyed all previous civilizations have been conditions produced by the growth and success of those civilizations itself, the very success of its internal capacities and powers were also the retroactive agents of its demise. One might say that instead of any sense of universal progress, rather there is a sense of universal decay, regression, and obsolescence in all civilizations. Rather than improvement, there is a sense of fragmentation and decline inherent in the very growth and expansion of a civilization as it expends energy and accumulates entropy and disaster as its end product.
Whether through environmental or social overreach in the end every civilization in history has succumbed to its ultimate product: death. Whether as in Rome it fell to the decadence of internal social relations allowing a more vigorous polity of barbarians to arise and destroy it from within, or as in the Mayan civilization through the depletion of water sources for planting due to climacteric changes in the environment. It is the very success of its technologies and technics that brought in Rome’s case the demise of the elites who through profits grew fat, soft, and dependent of foreign mercenaries who eventually overtook these decadent socialites. Or, as in Mayan civilization wherein the bloody sacrifices to the underworld rain gods by the elite priests and kings failed to produce the end result of a continued success of crops and rain so that the people finally sacrificed those very leaders. All have succumbed in one form or another to an excess and success in their overreach of environment or social relations.
Look around you at America today, what do you see? Overreach, decadence, a maximization of technics and technology on a global scale that is bound to an economy of fantasy, in which trillions of dollars in deficit spending based on nothing are spent like monopoly play money. It want and can’t last, and when the bottom of this imaginary economy of nothingness falls – and fall it will – then America in one day will be a power no more. What do you think will ensue? Who are the barbarians in our midst? The only thing that keeps it all going is lies, a tissue of lies, a fantasy world of Progressive ideology and religious beliefs in improvement, success, and the myth of American ingenuity. A game of games… but as we look back over the past two centuries and the fall of not one but of several European Empires we know where this is leading us… and if we don’t then we truly are stupid. One last thing: if you don’t know yet, then open your fucking eyes – both the liberal and conservative establishment in Washington, New York Wall-Street, and everywhere else where money resides – these are all Progressives – the duopoly that behind the stagecraft of political chairs plays the game for their masters, the Plutocracy of Oligarchs, Bankers, Corporations. The game is up, the farce as farce resides in Washington, and democracy is no longer: dead, caput…