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There Is Only One ‘Ideology’ To Be Resisted: Authoritarianism
Mrs Rodin and I recently watched a documentary on Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale amongst other novels. She is a fascinating character. Toward the end, both of us were put off by her focus on her fear of conservative authoritarianism. Not because she feared conservative authoritarianism, but because she seemed to be blind to progressive authoritarianism.
As Mrs Rodin noted: When you examined her work and her statements she had statements about not seeing yourself (as a woman) to be a victim; she adapted to her role as a mother — restricting her writing to when she wasn’t caring for the children — without expecting her author husband to pick up the slack; and she took on a caretaker responsibility, apparently without complaint, when her husband developed dementia. In other words, she defined herself as an individual and did not make doctrinaire decisions in how she lived her life.
In fairness, the documentary was made during the Trump Administration, so I wondered whether Covid and events in Canada under Justin Trudeau, or what’s going on with WEF, has given her any concern about progressive authoritarianism. Sadly, it doesn’t appear so. She is firmly in support of climate alarmism, and while she certainly supports the women’s protests in Iran and author freedom as well, she doesn’t seem to appreciate that “Gilead” — Atwood’s fictional dystopia — can be arrived at through multiple routes.
Atwood is a Canadian. And it is startling to see such a proponent of “liberty” not involving herself in marches opposing Trudeau’s “Gilead” — the arrest of the preacher during the pandemic, the Emergencies Act shutting down of credit and banking to wrong thinkers, the banning of protest, the continuing health emergency rules. She was happy to do so in America during the Trump administration.
The reason why Atwood and many people who see themselves as progressives are blind to progressive authoritarianism is the same reason why people who see themselves as conservatives are blind to conservative authoritarianism: we focus too much on the path and not the destination. The authoritarian impulse exists and it is agnostic about the pathway. Who among us has not at one or another time secretly (or not so secretly) wished that we could extend our personal control and order things to our (righteous) preferences? If we can see that in ourselves, we know it exists in others.
And it is this impulse that can be exploited through ideology in service to someone else’s more powerful drive for authoritarian control. And that is what we must fight, whether it is “our” team or “their” team. We can disagree mightily about this or that policy, so long as we can agree that we will not succumb to authoritarianism in support of our policy preferences.
But it appears that only the “losing” side at any given time is ever sensitive to authoritarianism; the “winning” side seems to revel in how they are getting their way without giving any thought to how authoritarianism will eventually grind them down. If we are to save ourselves, it is not through forcing our will on anyone; it is through acceptance of suboptimal outcomes (from our perspective) that maximize individual liberty.
When your neighbor paints their house an outrageous color, rejoice in their freedom to do so, or look for new neighbors. Don’t turn the country into a massive homeowner’s association thinking that the rules will always reflect your tastes. For any homeowner’s association left unchecked will surely, at some point, become a gulag.Published in General
I more or less share this viewpoint and I see nothing dangerous here since I never expect a lot of followers. I would feel good if we had a lot of these types in our youngest cohort of voters but I sense we have a lot of indoctrinated non-thinkers.
An authoritarian is one who wishes political power at the extreme. A totalitarian wishes political power over that and everything else at the extreme. Freedom of speech is ultimately about freedom of conscience, which the totalitarian opposes. The authoritarian may tolerate your thinking things against the state, so long as you don’t act on them in a way that threatens his power. You can keep your religion so long as it stays within the walls of your church or synagogue once a week. A totalitarian isn’t even that tolerant.
And he can tell you’re a racist because you’re white.
And that’s your point, isn’t it? I’m inclined to agree.
That is, I do believe leftism is more likely to lead to authoritarianism or totalitarianism because of its assumptions, namely that utopia can be achieved if only we vested all power in the hands of the right (that is, left) people. Another way of describing utopia is as “heaven on earth,” or “the Beloved Community” or even the Garden of Eden, as in: “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the ga-a-a-arden…” Leftism is more likely to be or become a substitute for religion—the state becomes the object of veneration and locus of spiritual value—while those on the right are more likely (ironically) to keep church and state separate.
If the far-left’s basic idea, taken to the extreme, is “the government provides and thus controls everything” and the far right’s is “the government provides and controls nothing,” the latter is certainly more cognizant of, and committed to, the freedom of the individual. In theory.
Given that corruption is more common than ideological consistency, the left will be corrupted (hence the plaintive cry, re: Communism “but it’s never been tried!”): Its government, formed of humans not of angels, will soak up all the wealth in the form of taxes but then provide mostly for the well-connected elites rather than for the people.
The Right is likewise corruptible, for instance when crony capitalism is claimed to be the free market kind. In that scenario—surprise!— well-connected elites are provided for and ordinary people are not.
One can end up in precisely the same place, in other words, because the few ruling over and exploiting the many is pretty much the human default mode.
What I worry about is not that conservatives will become conservative-authoritarian but that they could slide into authoritarianism and thus cease to be truly conservative.
Except, I don’t think we’ll have the opportunity to go there, because the Left is already well on the way to returning us to a state of nature (might makes right).
If by “libertarian” one means some one who supports a limited role for government involvement in the lives of its citizens, I think this ideology would appeal to a large majority of adults.
Take alcohol, just as an example.
I don’t drink alcohol because I don’t like the taste and also I would prefer to be as sober as possible. I also know that many people have had their lives destroyed by alcohol, including my next door neighbor who was married with 3 children. He stopped working for at least 14 years and just watched TV in his garage all day while drinking beer. He killed himself last year.
Also, I know of one woman who got hit by a drunk driver when she was 19 years old and has been confined to a wheelchair ever since.
So, given the harms that alcohol can do, why do I not support making the consumption, sale and possession of alcohol illegal?
My answer could be construed as libertarian. The act of someone drinking some alcoholic beverage doesn’t directly hurt anyone except for the person taking the drink. Of course if this person drinks alcohol and then gets in his car and kills or hurts someone, obviously I think that person should be punished, but not for the drinking of the alcohol itself.
In any case, I think the free society is a society based on at least some libertarian principles.
The fact that if you mow your lawn on a Sunday, you won’t be stoned to death for violating “The Lord’s Day,” could be construed as being based on the libertarian principle that each person is allowed to decide for himself what is sinful and what is not.
Direct harmful actions such as murder and theft are still prohibited.
I have many positions that I share with libertarians but I make the choice to volunteer to live as a law-abiding citizen under an existing set of laws established by the local, state and United States government, not all of which I agree with and some I will or would vote to change given that opportunity. I bet there are others like me.
Prayer used to be part of a school’s day but then churches funded and provided the education. Government took over education and squeezed religion out. The consequences have been disastrous. There is now a backlash with the growth of private schools returning to the tradition education model. As these grow and become available, they will gain many of the home school kids while school choice vouchers will make them more accessible to the poor and lower middle class. As graduates increase from these secondary schools, so will the demand for higher education based on the classical foundation.
I usually don’t describe myself as a libertarian because I think to do so creates more confusion than clarification.
If I say, “I am a libertarian,” someone might respond, “Well, then you must be for open borders” or “You must think it’s okay for 7 year olds to shoot heroin into their veins.”
Those aren’t my views.
RDS has more power to control education at the state than he would have at the federal level.
I am a strong supporter of school choice and home schooling.
Isn’t it funny how we were able to buy what we needed despite “blue laws.”
Seems like a design flaw.
It’s interesting how in a non-religious nation like Germany, stores do close down.
In the United States, supposedly the more religious country compared to most of Europe, stores are open 7 days a week and seemingly all hours of the day.
The best way to create conservative authoritarianism is to awake it as a necessary pushback against lefty authoritarianism or to make it acceptable as the lefties have done.
The terms reflect the degree to which your government lords over you. Neither are what our founding documents reflect.
I miss the German way. Stores even closed down most Saturday afternoons except for the one long Saturday a month. Weekends were more peaceful.
C.S. Lewis courtesy of PowerLine:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
When I was growing up in Georgia almost everyone was Christian Protestant and retail stores were closed on Sunday and many were closed Wednesday afternoon and Saturday afternoon. By the sixties this was no longer the case.
It was accepted in some places and approved by some of the people. A lot of German Lutherans left Germany in the 1840s to get away from a state-sponsored amalgamation of denominations, so weren’t too hot on the idea. I don’t think Catholics were, either. Six of my eight years of elementary school (mostly in the 1950s) were in rural public schools in the midwest, and there was no public prayer that I remember at all, nor was there any hint of it. I’m pretty sure I would have noticed, as my parents were kind of sensitive on the topic. They sort of did see the motivation behind the loss of prayer in public school as a sympton of the increasing rot in our country, but they did not really want it in public school. They didn’t rail against it, but they weren’t very comfortable with it.
In fact, Dad was once asked to do the pastor part at a high school baccalaureate, which did include a prayer in a public school. (Maybe more than once, but I only remember one time.) He did it in order not to ruffle feathers unnecessarily, but was not comfortable with it. When it came to my own high school graduation my parents told me it was my choice whether or not to attend. I didn’t.
If I remember correctly, as far as the Katrina catastophe of early autumn 2005, about the only thing that FEMA really put energy into was confiscating the guns of people whose homes had remained untouched by the flooding in that area.
Oh, and FEMA also stopped US citizens who on their own or with church or civic groups, had organized convoys of vehicles bringing food, water and other needed supplies from their getting anywhere near the city of New Orleans.
Interesting analysis. But I am using the following:
Of course the persistence of authoritarianism is best assured when thought is under control, not just conduct.
Stores were closed and workers had more family time.
We always started the day with a generic prayer. I graduated HS in 1971. Anyone who would complain over generic prayers is a whiner.
Wow. I never heard of retail stores closing on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Closing on Sunday, though, was almost universal.
Oh, one thing that was honored a lot in the communities where I lived was meatless Fridays. I didn’t have school lunches until high school, but even where Catholics were not so prevalent, we usually had fish on Friday. (I attended three different high schools.)
Some of that is the difference between Catholics and Protestants. We had prayer meetings on Wednesday evening and Saturday afternoon was a time for some booze.
That would be us. Whiners are the people who made America great.
I don’t know about that but they did a great job making America Godless.
I only made it through season 1 and found it very off-putting. It wasn’t hard to notice that what was being projected onto the Christian authoritarians was exactly what has happened in real life under religious-people-who-are-not-Christians.
I brought it up to Tim Rutten, at one time of the LA Times, who had read and reviewed the novel and watched a lot more than me. His reply was: don’t you think for one minute that the “religious right” wouldn’t put the boot on the neck of all, if only they were able.
Why aren’t they able? I asked. They’re the friggen majority.
I was never inspired to watch more, or to read the book. Tim Rutten, RIP.
I support drinking on airplanes.
“Totalitarian” has the word “total” in it.