Book Review: The Family and the New Totalitarianism

 

I just finished the book, The Family and the New Totalitarianism (2019) by Michael D. O’Brien. The book was originally published 24 years ago as a compilation of various articles and speeches by the author, as a writer, editor, and speaker. As a father of six, he and his friends’ challenges were with the rapidly changing Canadian school system, as they began to incorporate more controversial teachings, such as the introduction of alternative lifestyles and sexual conduct to younger and younger children.

Political and social changes were influencing the content beyond the acceptable norms that most parents would consider appropriate, but they had little say over their children’s education. When they met with school authorities, they were met with indifference, and in some cases, hostility. This forced the O’Briens, as well as some of their friends, into homeschooling.

O’Brien however, cites many interesting references that go back decades, predicting the morally bankrupt, irresponsible culture we find ourselves in today. For example:

The state and society as well as the individual still accept humanitarian principles as a “matter of faith”. But where humanitarian principles are not involved, there is the same tendency to subordinate moral law and still more the higher truths of religious faith to social conformity and social convenience. Never the less, I do not think that even the secular humanitarian himself can regard the state of things as a satisfactory one. For the contemporary indifference to religion is accompanied by an indifference to many other things which are necessary to society. It is essentially a negative attitude which implies the absence of any deep moral conviction and of any effective social dynamics beyond the appeal to self-interest. It is a sort of spiritual vacuum, which can produce no cultural fruit whatever.

In this respect, it is inferior to Communism, which has a dynamic character, even though in the last resort, its dynamism is that desire for power which is embodied in the part dictatorships and the police state. And this is one of the greatest dangers that threaten the existence of Western culture, when the latter is identified with what we call “the democratic way of life”. It produces a society which is spiritual neutral and passive, and consequently, it affords an easy prey for any strong, aggressive revolutionary power, like Communism.

The Crisis of Western Education by Christopher Dawson, 1989.

Democratic socialism anyone? Further warnings from the past:

In other words, the human person will be increasingly perceived as a cell in a collective, needing not so much redemption by conversion, as re-education and rehabilitation. C.S. Lewis foresaw that programs of reform would be developed and managed by a new class which he called “The Conditioners”. They will be highly motivated, and in fact, see themselves as the producers of motivation. They will become more and more dangerous, as they are armed with the powers of an omni-potent state and an irresistible scientific technique. [The control of addictive social media and the politics behind them – my quote]

Their primary point of focus will be the reconstruction of human conscience: “They know how to produce conscience and decide what kind of conscience they will produce.” They themselves are outside, above, the dictates of the very conscience they produce, yet they consider themselves the “servants and guardians of humanity”.

The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis, 1955.

Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World Revisited (1958), said that the totalitarianism he had foreseen in 1931, was materializing in the Western world at a much faster rate than he had thought possible. He predicted a society in which the family, religion, language and art had been neutered and all conflicts eliminated by genetic engineering. He portrayed the perfect synthesis of technology and paganism, and predicted a society “painlessly regimented by a corps of highly trained social engineers”.

I have so many pages of this small volume dog-eared, but it’s many quotes eerily mirror our culture today. How did these past visionaries see this unfolding, when we, living in the midst of it, didn’t see it coming, felt powerless to confront these changes, or failed to see the profound implications of the re-definition of every element of society, from language to education, to gender, to race to targeting specific people (Christians, Jews, conservatives, even the pre-born) to be intimidated, ostracized and silenced within society by any means? I found myself researching his many references, forefathers of wisdom who predicted the re-engineering of our current society, as well as sympathizing with O’Brien’s personal experience as a frustrated parent and how he handled it.

This book is not just for parents, but anyone interested in looking through a broader lens of how we got here, and what we can do to take back control, and try to right the ship of freedom and democracy within our families, our country and in Western society as a whole.

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There are 12 comments.

  1. Richard Easton Member

    “The New Totalitarians” by Roland Huntford talks about similar trends in Swedish society from the 40s-60s.

    • #1
    • September 8, 2019, at 10:01 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. EHerring Coolidge

    Just finished The Idols of our Age: How the Religion of Humanity Subverts Christianity by Daniel Mahoney. There was an interesting point at the end, in an included article by Aurel Kolnai.

    ”What is most characteristic of the full-fledged irreligious mind is not its disbelief in the immortality of the soul but its loss of the desire for immortality:…”

    • #2
    • September 9, 2019, at 5:05 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  3. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    EHerring (View Comment):

    Just finished The Idols of our Age: How the Religion of Humanity Subverts Christianity by Daniel Mahoney. There was an interesting point at the end, in an included article by Aurel Kolnai.

    ”What is most characteristic of the full-fledged irreligious mind is not its disbelief in the immortality of the soul but its loss of the desire for immortality:…”

    I have this book and have read parts of it. His writing is very intense and I sometimes had a hard time understanding some of his points, but it’s theme is the same – did you like it?

    • #3
    • September 9, 2019, at 5:29 AM PDT
    • Like
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Excellent post, FSC. And very disheartening. How did we miss the signs? I think many of us get caught up in the issues of the day, and have difficulty stepping back and reflecting where we are and how we got here. Now what do we do?

    • #4
    • September 9, 2019, at 6:27 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Excellent post, FSC. And very disheartening. How did we miss the signs? I think many of us get caught up in the issues of the day, and have difficulty stepping back and reflecting where we are and how we got here. Now what do we do?

    I hear you – I hope we can shed some light on these issues, like with the post you did recently on transgenderism and children. As O’Brien experienced, it’s difficult, but doing nothing isn’t an option. Getting parents and even consumers to push back could be a start?

    • #5
    • September 9, 2019, at 7:07 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Henry Castaigne Member

    Humans need G-d or they become even more crazy and foolish than they already are.

    • #6
    • September 9, 2019, at 11:22 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. James Gawron Thatcher

    FSC,

    The old thirties totalitarianism is a threat through schools and politics. However, at this same moment, our freedom is dangerously threatened in another dimension.

    We can no longer afford to let this go forward unchallenged. This is why I’m not really concerned if Josh Hawley isn’t perfectly maximizing the libertarian free market. It’s time to challenge this kind of extortion. Of course, I think maximizing the free market is always important but that only can function under a proper rule of law. Our basic rights must be respected or it all collapses.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #7
    • September 9, 2019, at 12:59 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. EHerring Coolidge

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):

    Just finished The Idols of our Age: How the Religion of Humanity Subverts Christianity by Daniel Mahoney. There was an interesting point at the end, in an included article by Aurel Kolnai.

    ”What is most characteristic of the full-fledged irreligious mind is not its disbelief in the immortality of the soul but its loss of the desire for immortality:…”

    I have this book and have read parts of it. His writing is very intense and I sometimes had a hard time understanding some of his points, but it’s theme is the same – did you like it?

    Yes. I underlined what caught my eye then went back and copied down quotable passages and ideas in a composition book to study. Then I thought of examples in the real world. I concentrated on several ideas, humanitarianism, telling good from evil, faux virtue, moral compass, and why these secularists are choosing not reproduce.

    • #8
    • September 9, 2019, at 1:11 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. James Gawron Thatcher

    FSC,

    I know that most conservatives and libertarians consider anti-trust a blunt instrument that has been overused to adverse effect and so do I. However, when you feel like the tiger is at the front door, you stop worrying just how blunt the instrument is and are happy that you’ve got something that the tiger might fear.

    Google faces a new antitrust probe by 50 attorneys general

    Fifty attorneys general are joining an investigation into Google over possible antitrust violations, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the initiative’s leader, announced Monday.

    The news confirms reports last week about the bipartisan investigation into Google’s practices. The probe includes attorneys general from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. California and Alabama are not involved in the probe, Paxton said at a press conference.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #9
    • September 9, 2019, at 1:56 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    FSC,

    I know that most conservatives and libertarians consider anti-trust a blunt instrument that has been overused to adverse effect and so do I. However, when you feel like the tiger is at the front door, you stop worrying just how blunt the instrument is and are happy that you’ve got something that the tiger might fear.

    Google faces a new antitrust probe by 50 attorneys general

    Fifty attorneys general are joining an investigation into Google over possible antitrust violations, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the initiative’s leader, announced Monday.

    The news confirms reports last week about the bipartisan investigation into Google’s practices. The probe includes attorneys general from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. California and Alabama are not involved in the probe, Paxton said at a press conference.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Jim – they all do this – look in to Google’s practices – so did the Europeans. I think Trump even demanded an explanation and summoned a rep to the WH. They get fined, pay the fine and move on. On Levin’s show last night, he said most people know basicly what goes on in most major companies in our country. You can’t say the same about Google – no one knows what is going on in Google, their business practices, including Alphabet, etc. They are a spider web.

    • #10
    • September 9, 2019, at 5:15 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. James Gawron Thatcher

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    FSC,

    I know that most conservatives and libertarians consider anti-trust a blunt instrument that has been overused to adverse effect and so do I. However, when you feel like the tiger is at the front door, you stop worrying just how blunt the instrument is and are happy that you’ve got something that the tiger might fear.

    Google faces a new antitrust probe by 50 attorneys general

    Fifty attorneys general are joining an investigation into Google over possible antitrust violations, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the initiative’s leader, announced Monday.

    The news confirms reports last week about the bipartisan investigation into Google’s practices. The probe includes attorneys general from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. California and Alabama are not involved in the probe, Paxton said at a press conference.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Jim – they all do this – look in to Google’s practices – so did the Europeans. I think Trump even demanded an explanation and summoned a rep to the WH. They get fined, pay the fine and move on. On Levin’s show last night, he said most people know basicly what goes on in most major companies in our country. You can’t say the same about Google – no one knows what is going on in Google, their business practices, including Alphabet, etc. They are a spider web.

    FSC,

    Listen closely all the way through and you will discover that Dr. Epstein knows exactly what Google is doing and can prove it. This kind of testing can be easily replicated. A non-profit let’s call it “Platform Watch” could be set up to do this exact experiment, again and again, to pin down tech.

    If pressure was really built up from the outside then I suspect there would be whistleblowers on the inside. Big Tech is going to get caught. If they don’t stop they will be broken up by anti-Trust. Whether this increases competitiveness doesn’t matter. They must be stopped as a proven threat to democracy.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #11
    • September 9, 2019, at 6:21 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    Jim’s comment above speaks to my topic in that the major drivers of the so-called “freedom of speech” of social media are controlling content, suppressing certain topics and opinions and elevating others. Of course this will be a problem as well in the upcoming election, but the influence that social media has on children’s minds, especially young teens, is driving these changes within our culture. Is this not totalitarianism without the dictator? What do families do?

    • #12
    • September 10, 2019, at 6:06 AM PDT
    • 1 like