‘Soft-totalitarianism’ and the need for a new political lexicon
Ivan Starrymist, January 2021
And by these extreme differences of colour, it was intended to point out and shew to the white man, that there is a sinful blackness in his own nature, which he can no more change, than the external blackness which he sees in another can be rendered otherwise; and it likewise holds out to the black man, that the sinful blackness of his own nature is such, that he can no more alter, than the outward appearance of his colour can be brought to that of another. And this is imported by it, that there is an inherent evil in every man, contrary to that which his good; and that all men are like Ethiopians (even God’s elect) in a state of nature and unregeneracy, they are black with original sin, and spotted with actual transgression, which they cannot reverse. But to this truth, asserted of blackness, I must add another glorious one. All thanks and eternal praise be to God! His infinite wisdom and goodness has found out a way of renovation, and has opened a fountain through the blood of Jesus, for sin and for uncleanness, wherein all the stains and blackest dyes of sin and pollution can be washes away for ever, and the darkest sinner be made to shine as the as the brightest angel in heaven. Quobna Ottobah Cugoano
The term ‘soft-totalitarianism’ has appeared recently and the difficulty of defining it was discussed by Niall Gooch in Unherd. Like most commentators, he considers it a left wing or progressive tendency. It is generally associated and even synonymous with those other recent additions to the political lexicon: ‘identity politics’ and ‘wokeism’, also considered left wing tendencies. Yet even the term ‘left wing’, like socialism, is difficult to define. From its earliest use in 1832 by Pierre Leroux through Saint-Simone and Robert Owen’s use shortly after, its interpretations were already plural. Some even claim a proto-socialism existed in various ancient philosophies and Marx, virulently critical of religion, called his philosophy ‘scientific socialism’, as opposed to utopian socialism, which would be better termed religious socialism in our own age. More than half a century before New Labour championed business many traditional socialists considered the welfare state society a compromise between socialism and capitalism, a demotivating palliative to quell the passion of the proletariat taking over the means of production.
The biggest problem of our age is the lack of a suitable political lexicon. But if socialism means anything, it is surely the support of labour over capital; of the working classes over the bourgeoisie. If the term ‘left-wing’ is synonymous with socialism, what then are progressivism, identity politics, wokeism and soft-totalitarianism? Are they the same? Are they left-wing?
The answer to the third question is no. However they are defined, they do not support labour over capital. According to Paul Embery amongst others, the left now despises the working class. Black Lives Matter founders may call themselves Marxists, but they are not promoting a vision of dialectical materialism. The EU is white, elitist, capitalist and expansionist, yet it is beloved of the so-called left. The left hardly noticed let alone cared about the thousands of working class girls who fell victim to grooming gangs. And of course, President Elect Joe Biden’s Democrats, some way to the right of the British Conservative Party, are the first choice of Wall Street and the multibillion-dollar Californian tech industry.
The answer to the second question is that the first three are the same, while soft-totalitarianism is a political expression, a symptom. Wokeism is corporate driven and capitalistic. Its sponsors include Unilever owned Ben and Jerry’s, which criticised the UK’s migrant policies despite treating its own migrant and developing world workers poorly; Sainsbury’s and Gillette with their much criticised virtue signalling; Dow Chemical Company, “whose legacy includes making napalm during the Vietnam War and much of the plastic waste polluting the world’s oceans today—is also, somewhat improbably, woke” and the censorious big tech billionaires who helped raise a record amount for Biden’s election campaign, far more than Trump was able to raise. Wokeism is corporate driven, capitalist and elitist.
The privileged elite at Oberlin College fork out $75,000 a year in the expectation that they will find social justice causes to fight, writes Jonathan Kay, in his well named article ‘Workers vs. Wokeness at Smith College: Campus Social Justice as a Luxury Good’. The University of Michigan with over 100 full-time diversity related administrative officers and the false accusations of racism against blue collar workers at Smith College in Massachusetts are also described by Kay, as is Cambridge University, where porters have been shamed by privileged academics and students.
The elite class’s claim to the moral high ground starts before university. In private schools like Brighton College in the UK, which will allow males to wear a blouse and skirt and girls to swear a shirt and trousers to cater to dysphoric or transgender pupils, wokesim is arguably more pronounced than in state schools. Environmentalist Carrie Symonds, graduate of Godolphin and Latymer private school, is claimed to have influenced Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s environmentalist policies. The theory of White Guilt (and its sister term ‘post-colonial guilt’) offers an explanation as to why the British elite are in the vanguard of the wokeist movement, after all, they have benefitted most from the wealth accrued through colonialism.
Shelby Steele’s theory of White Guilt is one of the most important social theories of recent decades. It describes how salvation is sought for the sins of the past that have enriched Western elites. But Steele exposes this desire for salvation as superficial as what is really prized is the appearance of righteousness as a means of gaining moral authority. Moral authority is required to be trusted and an elite requires trust to rule, unless it is prepared to rule through power alone. Hence, the elite need to present themselves as moral superiors and wokifying elite educational establishments is a gratifying means to this end, the superficiality of which springs from the core of wokeism.
At the end of WWII, the right was morally discredited and elites were easily denounced as fascist by a left which began to substitute intellectual argument with claims to moral superiority. The ruse worked and the elites are now subscribing to a new ruse of usurping the left’s moral position by passing themselves off as the new left. This explains the schism within the British Labour Party where the ‘red wall’, the traditional working class of the left, abandoned a bewildered Jeremy Corbyn in favour of a Conservative Party promising to leave the EU. To the disoriented New Labourites, the traditional working class were, like the Cambridge porters, motivated to leave the EU by racism and thus morally inferior. Losing to them further enraged the sense of indignation felt by the elitists in a familiar expression of hostility.
Contemporary progressive activism, writes Niall Gooch, “is extremely hostile to the normal business of politics: the consideration of empirical findings about what the world is really like, the recognition of trade-offs, and the necessity of compromise between competing interests. To approach politics with a religious sensibility is dangerous, because it leaves no room for the obvious reality that in political deliberation we must pay attention to people’s differing conceptions of what is good and important in life.” After obtaining the salvation Steele describes, progressives, as Thomas Sowell might say, then ‘anoint’ themselves with the holy office of moral authority.
It is no coincidence that, according to James Morris (1968), although profit was the main motivation behind Empire:
… common among British imperialists of diverse kinds, [was the belief] that a spiritual destiny had called the British to their pre-eminence – that they were a chosen people, divinely different, endowed with special gifts, but entrusted with special duties, too. Admiral Fisher thought, only half in jest, that they were the Lost Tribes. Henly thought their country was the ‘chosen daughter of the Lord’ –
There’s the menace of the Word
In the Song on your bugles blown
Kipling thought God had hidden the frontier territories of the Empire ‘till He judged His people ready’. Providence, Destiny, Judgement – all these were basic to the vocabulary of the New Imperialism: when the Queen went to her Jubilee service at St Paul’s the Daily Mail announced in a sacramental cross-head that the mother of the Empire had gone to do homage to the One Being ‘MORE MAJESTIC THAN SHE’.
Likewise, wokeist, being capitalists, are primarily motivated by profit and status, but they are also motivated by a religious zeal. And environmentalism is the moral justification for a new imperialism. Eton educated Boris Johnson has recently announced a “jet zero” goal of a commercial transatlantic flight producing no carbon emissions by 2025. Whether or not this is a gimmick as the Guardian claims, it is far easier for the service economy of the UK to reduce emissions than for developing countries. ‘The Biden plan for a clean energy revolution and environmental justice’, as its name suggests is a neo-imperialist anointment of the USA as the dispenser of global justice. This clandestine counter to China’s growing influence “will not allow other nations, including China, to game the system by becoming destination economies for polluters, undermining our climate efforts and exploiting American workers and businesses”.
Biden’s plan also aims to make “future bilateral U.S.-China agreements on carbon mitigation – like the 2014 agreement that paved the way for the Paris accord – contingent on China eliminating unjustified export subsidies for coal and other high-emissions technologies and making verifiable progress in reducing the carbon footprint of projects connected to the Belt and Road Initiative.” This bilateral plan between two superpowers may not seem neo-imperialistic to all and there will be many who support curbs on China’s power whilst in principle opposing the neo-imperialism. But those ‘unjustified export subsidies’ go to developing countries upon which Biden’s U.S. will impose provisos that they use funds from international financial institutions for climate-friendly development in exchange for debt relief. Fully industrialised America will also impose “carbon adjustment fees or quotas on carbon-intensive goods from countries that are failing to meet their climate and environmental obligations.”
Biden’s policies look to speed up what has already begun, as Michael Shellenberger explains: “Environmentalists insist that developing nations adopt renewable energy sources, enhance energy efficiency, and adopt a low-energy lifestyle—even though no poor nation can develop without high levels of energy consumption. So while the Norwegian government produces natural gas in Mozambique and Tanzania, it is simultaneously participating in a European push to prevent those same countries from building their own natural gas power plants. Climate extremists also have successfully pressured the World Bank and other financial institutions to reduce financing for poor countries seeking to expand their energy production.”
The assertion of moral superiority of those climate extremists and their self-anointment as guardians of the world resembles religion in a deeper sense. Sada Mire’s Divine Fertility: The Continuity in Transformation of an Ideology of Sacred Kinship in Northeast Africa argues that, contrary to the prevailing view of circumcision as an act inflicted on women “and a confirmation of negative ideas about men’s behaviour in a patriarchal society”, it is in fact “an act that reaches beyond human beings to touch the divine as well as the human … in the sacrifice of human flesh and pain to appease the divine.” Circumcision “(male or female) was originally an act that took place between the human and sacred, or divine, and that it was not something that happened between one human being and another – or between female and male, as the FGM (female genital mutilation) debate largely argues.”
Mire’s discussion (including insights from a number of other scholars) describes the connection between the human and the sacred as held amongst the tribal elders, especially the men. But “not only for the personal qualities of wisdom and restraint which they have developed, but because they are at the same time the repository of morality and right conduct, and to this extent their status is analogous to God’s” (Martin, cited in Mire). Another scholar, Trimingham, uses the term ‘spiritual descendants’ to denote how spiritual power is passed on and Mire continues: “Only the right lineage blood will ensure that God blesses the people. This blessing comes from God via the ancestors in a blessed sacred bloodline. I argue that the idea of ‘noble’ clans is constructed in such a way as to paint others as ungodly. This idea has sanctioned the rise of a centralised power ruling by a sacred power and dominating others whose religiosity and morals are often in doubt. Somali minority clans are subjected to such prejudice and, often, discrimination and racism, all of which support the perceived Somali notion of a sacred, and hence blessed, bloodline.”
The anointment of the tribal elders and the prejudice against outsiders are commonalities of religions generally. Amongst other purposes a religion serves to demark ‘our’ people from others; to create a group identity binding its adherents against ‘them’; to demonise them as morally ‘in doubt’; to rightfully establish superiority by being more divine, closer and more analogous to God.
In the new Western, socialist derived religion of wokeism, the ritual of FGM as a means of ensuring the fertility and continued survival of the tribe has been reinterpreted from “a deep-rooted belief in a blessed and righteous blood” into a political act to subdue women. Likewise, all acts, that discriminate between the sexes, including historical acts, are deemed wicked and must be overcome by the anointed. Anyone who questions this holy narrative is branded sexist and misogynist in a binary categorisation that demonises the other as morally discredited.
Of course, in the West, it isn’t only the left that are disturbed by FGM. But then feminism isn’t only left wing. Countess Markievicz, nee Gore-Booth, may have been the first woman elected to the Westminster Parliament but she did so after becoming a member of the nobility. As she refused to take her seat, Viscountess Astor, a member of the Conservative Party for Plymouth Sutton became the first woman to do so. Add to this the split within the Pankhurst family over support for the First World War and even the obvious socialist influence over National Socialism, and it’s clear that defining a political lexicon has never been simple. But, historically, the left was identifiable by its support for labour over capital, if not always for a complete proletarian revolution. With its descendent, this is no longer the case. The left also tended to stand against Western imperialism (though not always). Nowadays, it is one of the major drivers of it.
Like sexism, racism has become a cause of the new left as it seeks out racists to demonise and cast as the ungodly other. But racism is rarely, if ever, defined and never are its causes defined. It is simply an unforgiveable sin. Although there are many causes of racism at the individual level, often, though not always economic and sometimes the result of personal experience, the prevalent form of racism is a consequence of slavery, as Eric Williams writes: “Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery. Unfree labor in the New World was brown, white, black, and yellow; Catholic, Protestant and pagan” (7:2018) and continues, “White servitude was the historic base upon which the Negro slavery was constructed. The felon-drivers in the plantations became without effort slave-drivers. “In significant numbers,” writes Professor Phillips, “the Africans were latecomers fitted into a system already developed … Here, then, is the origin of Negro slavery. The reason was economic, not racial; it had to do not with the color of the laborer, but the cheapness of the labor (19:2018).” Racism became the justification of the economic phenomenon of slavery. Slavery then condemned Africans as inferior, morally as well as otherwise. Whites were morally superior, having found Christ, and blacks were the primitive other, further from the true religion. That was the excuse.
History, like a coiling helix has reversed this and racists are now the other, morally inferior. But the purpose is the same: to form an elite that can claim the mantle of moral superiority through anti-racism, rather than through racism. To maintain this exalted position decades after the civil rights movement, after the Obama era, in a time when racial discrimination is illegal, socially unacceptable and all but the most virulent and psychologically disturbed racists keep a low profile to avoid censure and professional destruction, racists are sought after and racist incidents possess a high premium for their denunciation value. When 500 white supremacists, 0.00015 percent of the American population, held a rally Charlottesville, it was one of the biggest news stories of the year.
Shelby Steele has described the lack of victimisation of blacks as “an elephant in the room”. Steele “grew up black in segregated America, where it was hard to find an open door. It's harder now for young blacks to find a closed one.” Coleman Hughes has called the premise of the Black Lives Matter movement, “that racist cops are killing unarmed black people”, false based on a study by Roland Fryer Junior into the statistical information on deaths resulting from police shootings.
Similarly, feminism requires sexism to exist and accordingly manufacturers its outcasts as with the destruction of Sir Tim Hunt’s career for telling a joke. Hunt was hung out to dry by institutions more concerned with PR and afraid of appearing outside the orthodoxy rather than advocating for a Nobel prize winner who has supported the European Research Council’s work around gender equality that they did not even ask for his version of events.
This is a feature of soft-totalitarianism. As with totalitarianism generally, discussion of contentious topics is dangerous and the institutions that sacked or forced Hunt to resign were afraid for themselves. Steele (502:1990) sums this up brilliantly:
In this sense, the fear for the self that is buried in all guilt pressure toward selfishness. It can lead us to put our own need for innocence above our concern for the problem that made us feel guilt in the first place. But this fear for the self does not only inspire selfishness; it also becomes a pressure to escape the guilt-inducing situation. When selfishness and escapism are at work, we are no longer interested in the source of our guilt and, therefore, no longer concerned with an authentic redemption from it. Then we only want the look of redemption, the gesture of concern that will give us the appearance of innocence and escape from the situation.
Punishment for the sins of racism or sexism meted out to the likes of Hunt have raised the fear of accusations of racism and sexism to a level where even attempting to define the terms is impossible. Racism and sexism exist, the inability to discuss and clarify the terms means problems cannot be defined and solutions are supressed by the quest for power and status through accusations and pronouncements of moral superiority. Intrinsic to both the problem of racism and the problem of sexism are power and status. Williams’ view of racism as the justification of slavery orientates our understanding and today the power relations derived from this are very significant. Once racial slavery was justified, racism became a cultural default that has spiralled down the ages, resulting in our time, paradoxically, with the Western elites who most benefited from slavery and colonialism, scrambling to benefit most from anti-racism; as well as feminism, environmentalism, and all the other issues that proclaim the moral authority of the neo-imperialism.
This paradox has evolved slowly and for economic reasons more than humanitarian. Overproduction of sugar “in 1807 demanded abolition; overproduction in 1833 demanded emancipation”, wrote Williams (152:2018). “Between 1824 and 1829 the imports of Cuban and Brazilian [Britain’s economic rivals] sugar into Hamburg increased by ten per cent while those into Prussia doubled; Cuban sugar imported by Russia increased by fifty per cent and Brazilian by twenty-five per cent in the same period. To the [British] capitalists this was intolerable.” Nonetheless, as the slave-free Victorian era of British Colonialism began, Britain could define itself as morally superior to those nations still economically dependent on the institution of slavery to compete in the marketplace.
But Britain’s economic superiority would never have arisen had the country not competed with Portugal and Spain through the use of slavery. And though Britain was content with the vast profits from its Asian Empire, Spain had not been. Had the Spanish Armada not been defeated in 1588 when the Iberian powers were already enslaving Africans to work in the New World, presenting Britain with the opportunity to grow into an empire, the island would have become a Spanish colony.
This history raises some considerations for a more profound understanding of racism, including the psychology of global status, of social status and the legacy of legally imposed positions of status upon certain races. There are no definitive theories available on these topics but the discussion is crucial to understand racism and it is the discussion that is prevented by the soft-totalitarianism. Nonetheless, a theory exists, presented here:
Competition between the European powers ensured that all were obliged to participate in the slave trade. For similar reasons the African tribes were obliged to sell their rivals. The argument here is that this obligation was fear driven more than profit driven. To protect themselves from their rivals, states and tribes enriched themselves through slavery, raising their status against their rivals. The Ashanti tribe rose to become the highest status tribe in West Africa and Britain the highest status nation in the world through this means of protecting themselves from suffering the fate they were inflicting upon others. If we don’t do it to them, they will do it to us.
In this conundrum we see the importance of status over wealth. Although the two are intrinsically and correlatively linked they are quantifiably different. Status exists only in relation to others while wealth exists in and of itself (relative only to the sum of energy in universe). Ezra Klein (54:2020) describes an experiment by Henry Tajfel in the 1970s in which participants were divided into ‘meaningless’ groups according to arbitrary criteria. There was no scarcity driving the participants’ decisions and when put in the position of having to “choose between maximizing the amount of money everyone received and maximizing how much more their group got, even if it meant their group got less in total. The latter proved the more popular option … they preferred to give their group less so long as it meant the gap between what they got and what the out-group got was bigger … Far from the money being the prime motivator, “it is the winning that seems more important to them,” wrote Tajfel.
Status is a greater motivator than wealth. Conquer or be conquered is the main motivator of both war and slavery. Ironically, the abolishment of slavery was motivated by Britain’s fear of losing status to competitors, for, although humanitarianism played its part: “The very vested interests which had been built up by the slave system now turned and destroyed that system. [Although] The humanitarians, in attacking the system in its weakest and most indefensible spot, spoke a language that the masses could understand. They could never have succeeded a hundred years before when every important capitalist interest was on the side of the colonial system” (Williams, 136:2020). Thus, as Mire describes how a religious group defines outsiders as morally in doubt, so Britain first defined its slave profiting competitors, who eventually were obliged to follow until first slavery and then racism became universally considered immoral.
When Toussaint L’Ouverture led the slave revolt in Haiti (1791-1804), France’s reputation and status suffered a blow. The forces pressuring for abolition came from within states and within their colonies. Citizens may accept low-status positions if they are protected within the society. But they will not trust a ruler who enslaves them or whom they fear may enslave them; slavery being a position of ‘non-status’, outside and unprotected by the law. A critical mass of citizenry without trust for the rulers is unstable for society. As Williams (201) informs us that:
Contrary to popular and even learned belief, however, as the political crisis deepened in Britain [regarding the slave industry], the most dynamic and powerful social force in the colonies was the slave himself. This aspect of the West Indian problem has been studiously ignored, as if the slaves, when they became instruments of production, passed for men only in the catalogue. The planter looked upon slavery as eternal, ordained by God, and went to great lengths to justify it by scriptural quotations. There was no reason why the slave should think the same. He took the same scriptures and adapted them to his own purposes. To coercion and punishment he responded with indolence, sabotage and revolt. Most of the time he merely was as idle as possible. That was his usual form of resistance – passive. The docility of the Negro slave is a myth. The Maroons of Jamaica and the Bush Negroes of British Guiana were runaway slaves who had extracted treaties from the British Government and lived independently in their mountain fastnesses or jungle retreats. They were standing examples to the slaves of the British West Indies of one road to freedom. The successful slave revolt in Saint Domingue was a landmark in the history of slavery in the New World, and after 1804, when the independent republic of Haiti was established, every white slave-owner, in Jamaica, Cuba or Texas, lived in dread of another Toussaint L’Ouverture. It is inconceivable a priori that the economic dislocation and the vast agitations which shook millions in Britain could have passed without effect on the slaves themselves and the relation of the planters to the slaves. Pressure on the sugar planter from the capitalists in Britain was aggravated by pressure from the slaves in the colonies. In communities like the West Indies, as the governor of Barbados wrote, “the public mind is every tremblingly alive to the dangers of insurrection.
Not nearly as stupid as his master thought him and later historians have pictured him, the slave was alert to his surroundings and keenly interested in discussions about his fate. “Nothing,” wrote the governor of British Guiana in 1830, “can be more keenly observant than the slaves are of all that affects their interests.
And although the Trinidad planter who called it “a most unjust and oppressive invasion of property” (ibid:199) “to insist on a nine-hour day for full-grown slaves in the West Indies, while the English factory owner could exact twelve hours’ labor from children in a heated and sickly atmosphere”, was unlikely to have been empathising with the children, slavery was eventually deemed immoral by the Western empires once was self-interest motivated its outlawing.
In the early days of slavery, when Africans were less known to Europeans, Africans could handily be depicted as lesser, distant and inferior. Two hundred years later the interplay of rising familiarity with Africans and the empathy felt by citizens, including impoverished workers in Britain, ended the “public toleration of slavery” (Cugoano, 78:1999). Europeans were able to see themselves reflected in Africans. The ability of Africans to read, write, to laugh and cry, to do mathematics and all the things that demark a human from an animal became undeniable. Thus, those who were prepared to enslave African humans would be prepared to enslave Europeans, if the conditions arose to make it profitable or required the cancelling of status of citizens. The European rulers, afraid that their own citizens would not accept their rule, set about demonstrating to them their morality by outlawing slavery. This was in fact a demonstration that a new social contract had emerged in which no human would be enslaved and its purpose was to assure low-status Europeans that neither they nor anyone else would be enslaved.
Abolitionists tapped into the change in public sentiment. James Stephens was constantly “spurring on Wilberforce to greater and more public efforts instead of the policy of memorials and interviews with ministers. The only thing to check colonial crimes was to “blazon them to the English public, and arm ourselves with public indignation”” (Williams:180). Outlawing slavery came about as the result of a lengthy process. Abolitionists may well have been motivated to campaign for the end of slavery by compassion and respect for human life, and certainly by religious feeling. But to support the abolition of slavery also provided the opportunity to demonstrate a higher morality for the purposes of individual salvation as well as to the public; or to ‘virtue signal’ in the modern phrase, which was useful for gaining political credibility and status amongst the citizenry for the reasons discussed. “Coleridge had been awarded the Browne Gold Medal at Cambridge for an ode on slavery and had abstained from sugar. But in 1811 he sneered at the “philanthropy-trade,” accused Wilberforce of caring only for his own soul” (Ibid. 195).
Politics and morals in the abstract make no sense. We find the British statesmen and publicists defending slavery today, abusing slavery tomorrow, defending slavery the day after. Today they are imperialist, the next day anti-imperialist, and equally pro-imperialist a generation after. And always with the same vehemence. The defence or attack is always on the high moral or political plane. The thing defended or attacked is always something that you can touch and see, to be measured in pounds sterling or pounds avoirdupois, in dollars and cents, yards, feet and inches. This is not a crime. It is a fact. It is understandable at the time. But historians, writing a hundred years after, have no excuse for continuing to wrap the real interests in confusion. Even the great mass movements, and the anti-slavery mass movement was one of the greatest of these, show a curious affinity with the rise and development of new interests and the necessity of the destruction of the old.
William Wilberforce, no doubt genuinely motivated by Christian compassion, “was familiar with all that went on in the hold of a slave ship but ignored what went on at the bottom of a mineshaft. He supported the Corn Laws, was a member of the secret committee which investigated and repressed working class discontent in 1817, opposed feminine anti-slavery associations, and thought the First Reform Bill too radical” (ibid 182).
This ‘righteous opportunism’ can be seen prolifically today in so-called anti-racist movements. Again, there are many who are motivated by a repulsion of racism and a religious or religious-like sense of compassion and respect for human beings. But the opportunity to gain political credibility and status has overwhelmed genuine anti-racism and become the main purpose of most of today’s anti-racist movements.
The fight for social status is the most determined and aggressive fight of all; more determined, even, than the fight for wealth, for although they are closely related, of the two, social status affords more security through the legal framework of society. This explains the motivations of contemporary anti-racist movements and the aggressive, violent determination we are seeing today.
The psychological condition that obliged rivals to compete economically by enslaving others remains today and this cycle of fear and wickedness rolls on through history, through the progress of the technological conversion of energy and matter to serve our needs, first amongst which is protection from others. We know that we are capable of enslaving and causing grievous harm to others and we are capable of empathy. It is the fear of the evil we know ourselves to be capable of that we then recognise in others, not profit and the increase of wealth, that drives us to commit these crimes out of fear that others will commit such crimes against us. Fear maintained the slave industry, not profit, and fear ended it. Fear drives totalitarianism; totalitarianism is the response to this fear.
Totalitarianism demands adherence to a narrative, essentially a religious narrative. Out of fear of the narratives of rivals, the group (whether religious, tribal or national) is forced to conform to the proscribed identity of the narrative. The soft-totalitarianism of the new ‘leftist’ identity politics most fears the self, the wickedness that history has shown the individual is capable of. Rather than confront this to form a narrative that accepts human wickedness as real and it attempts to understand it, wokeism presents a binary narrative of good people versus bad people. Where good people must rise in status and bad people: racists; misogynists; environmental sinners, must be punished and their status destroyed. Status is the goal. Status provides security and protection from others within the tribe or nation as much as from outside. And to attain and maintain status moral authority is required. To accept human wickedness as universal would implicate the individual, admit no moral authority, no protection from the wickedness of others and no salvation.
Perfect salvation is a religious matter. There are no perfect solutions to social problems. But there are better solutions than those on offer currently. Before they can be considered though, a suitable political lexicon for our age is needed, without which, it isn’t even possible to discuss the problems. The soft-totalitarianism of identity politics does not come from a left-wing politics aiming to raise the status of the working classes. It comes from fear of the other and fear of the self, shielded by an aggressive righteousness determined to prevent discussion. To term it left wing or socialist is to indulge the proponents of a neo-imperialistic capitalism in the belief that they are supporting the downtrodden victims of ruthless profiteering; that they are the champions of the meek. Yet for many conservatives and champions of capitalism, to admit this will be to criticise their own ideology.
The old ideologies and their lexicons need stripping away, along with their indulgences. Recognising the old ideologies as expressions in a historical period of the interplay of the universal traits of collectivism and individualism is the beginning. Courage is needed to acknowledge that humanity is collectively responsible for its history, that the universal traits of individualism and collectivism are within us all and need more understanding and discussion, through which a new a better-defined terminology of a new political language can rise.
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