The range of mainstream opinion has never been narrower–just consider the wild diversity of ideas getting major attention one hundred years ago. The Overton window hasn’t just shifted Left; it has narrowed. Even the Left used to be more daring. One would think people would be gratified to see their ideology established, but in fact writers still insist on posing as radicals. Who would agree to the statement “I support the ideological status quo”?
Ages of ideological consensus tend to be ones where people focus on “corruption”. After all, what else is left for the parties to argue about than who will be more conscientious? (One wonders, was the Church really more corrupt in the Renaissance than in the fourth century, or was it just that there were no more Arians to worry about?) Yet today’s rhetoric is not one aimed at personal corruption, but at a society organized around evil principles.
Billionaires, newspaper editorialists, and tenured professors agree that they are daring rebels, just like President Obama. And they’ll happily expose to ostracism and unemployment anyone they catch defending the racist, sexist power structure.
Believing in conspiracy theories like the Elders of Zion is the mark of a personal nut. And yet, believing in a hidden system that controls government, business, and media is our age’s great mark of sophistication. The conspiracy must not be conscious; it must be an emergent phenomenon. Neoreactionaries have given us the word “Cathedral”, but commentators on the Left believe in the nefarious system no less strongly: the capitalist, globalist world order, the patriarchy, etc.
Government, business, academia, mass media–they work together so seamlessly. They’re in cahoots! Who can doubt it? That such ideologically different observers experience the same horror is interesting, though. Isn’t it a good thing for the different parts of society to cooperate?
All laws are bent to this cooperation in a most marvelous way. Freedom of association was originally designed specifically to keep civil society independent of the state. It doesn’t extend to discrimination against protected classes, and to avoid discriminating against protected classes one must have a welcoming work environment, which means dissidents like “racists” must be fired or re-educated. Yet the racist cannot complain that his employer is penalizing him for violating the state’s dogmas; by freedom of association, the employer can fire, demote, or re-educate whomever he wants. The state has, as it were, released the heretic to the private arm for punishment, and the private arm is happy to punish heretics. Notice as well how neither party needs feel responsible for the racist’s persecution, although they both relish it.
The point of democracy was to remove the alienation of authority. No more separation of ruler and subject. The polis belongs to everybody, and everybody is responsible for it. There’s no one to point to and say “He’s in charge. He’s responsible.” Today, this promise of democracy is fulfilled to an even greater degree through bureaucracy. We are ruled by rules, and no one in particular is responsible for these rules. This obviously hasn’t worked for curing alienation.
Authority is visible power, responsible power (in the sense that there is a clear person in charge who is to blame), the agency of the state made manifest, made one will among many. Eliminate authority, and power must remain, but it must be invisible, which means it must be irresponsible.
The power behind the throne always sounds like a sinister thing. There’s no reason it must be exercised in a sinister way, but the subjects of a hidden power will not feel respected.
The alienation democracy came to abolish was the distinction between ruler and subject. Modern man is alienated by his failure to be commanded. What he really finds wicked are not his orders, but how he is controlled by incentives rather than addressed as a full moral subject.
After 9/11, President Bush encouraged people to go shopping, and some were angry about it for years afterward. Most people do believe that shopping helps the economy, but they wanted to have sacrifices demanded of them.
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