Violence and the civilized society: Conformity and dissidence in different societies (Part Eight)
By Mark Wegierski
(Initial drafts of this essay date back to 1988. – author's note)
There are also the obvious facts that the Inquisition, the burning of witches, and the Thirty Years War (often done in the name of the most zealous religious spirit) were simply ghastly. And who can forget the fact that Joan of Arc herself was burned by the Inquisition, which was acting on orders from the English. One gets the impression that an enormous twisting of the Christian message had occurred, in order to allow such atrocities. One obvious indictment of these measures -- apart from their viciousness and cruelty -- is their manifest failure to achieve their professed goal of the maintenance of traditional society. They were just the sort of acts that seem to have forever inflamed an entire civilization (and especially its intellectual leaders) against traditional religion. It should also be remembered that the witch-burnings did not occur uniformly across Europe – they were concentrated mostly in Germany, while being very infrequent, for example, in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Contrary to Burnham's idea, it is liberals who may more often be seen as masters of politics, whereas conservatives are often rather inept. It must be said here, however, that liberalism itself, which professes tolerance, peace, and love, has always seemed to be able to call up the use of violence when it was needed most (e.g., to "digest" large groups of traditionalist resistance). In the twentieth century, Leninist regimes have proved to be a boon to liberalism. The Leninist regimes were somehow able to "digest" traditional societies (such as Russia, China, and those of East-Central Europe) that would have clearly long remained traditionally-oriented by democratic choice. By the time "liberal freedoms" had come to East-Central Europe and Russia, traditionalist leaderships (notably the nationalist intelligentsias) had been virtually annihilated. It has also been mostly forgotten today, that the comparatively brief but extremely savage period of Nazism in Europe also proved highly deadly to many of the East-Central European nationalist intelligentsias, notably the Polish.
While the typical "liberal freedoms" are certainly to be appreciated by those who enjoy them, some might cynically argue that liberals do not usually permit the operation of such freedoms at any point where their regimes are going through periods of truly serious challenge or such earlier defining struggles as the English Civil War, the French Revolution, or the American Civil War.
Some might indeed argue that "liberal freedoms" almost never occur coterminously with a period or a country where a significant challenge to liberalism from traditionalist or conservative opponents, can be mounted.
America also embraced "illiberal" policies during the war with Nazi Germany, but in that case, the Nazis were so clearly evil, that militant measures were eminently justifiable. However, it can be seen today, that the anti-conservative, anti-traditionalist revolutionary surge that began in America mostly in the 1960s – which certainly sometimes expresses itself in "illiberal" rhetoric and methods -- shows no sign of abating.
Nevertheless, it can now be seen that in late modernity, with the so-called managerial-therapeutic regime in place, the population can be effectively controlled through mass-media, mass-education, and consumerism. The result could be called "soft-totalitarianism". In such a situation, there is actually little need to ostentatiously crack down on "liberal freedoms" to keep the system in place.
"Soft-totalitarianism" poses a virtually insoluble dilemma, as far as current-day traditionalist dissent goes. With so many avenues of communication to families and society blocked, traditionalists (of which ever fewer seem to remain) are at a loss of what to do. Any kind of turning to violence by some more extreme persons can be instantaneously pejoritized and harnessed as a motor to further intensify the managerial-therapeutic regime. Since "soft-totalitarianism" (ostensibly at least) does not practice violence, it is difficult for resisters to generate the same kind of dynamic of sympathy for dissidence as operated in the former East Bloc. Indeed, any meaningful, conscious opposition to the prevalent system – or, sometimes, just some form of "political incorrectness" that some prominent person may stumble into -- is frequently pejoritized by accusations of "racism", "sexism", etc. – which rarely result in generating any sympathy for the accused. Indeed, the accused are frequently written off, by most of the general public – and sometimes even by their own family-members and friends -- as justifiably censured "hate-mongers." And such accusations can indeed have very concrete, highly negative repercussions on the lives of those who are so accused. These tactics of accusation are today so politically effective, that a prominent group of liberal journalists explicitly – and not just implicitly -- embraced them, as part of their campaign to get Obama elected in 2008.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.