Wokeness, Wuhan, And The Weaponry Of Social Isolation
August 11, 2020
“Terror can rule absolutely only over men who are isolated against each other. . . .
Therefore, one of the primary concerns of all tyrannical government is to bring this isolation about.”
—Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
Social isolation has always been the primary weapon in the totalitarian arsenal. Tyrants know how to manipulate the primal human terror of isolation through threats of defamation, firings, and worse.
Pick a dictator, any dictator—Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Jim Jones (dictator of his own realm)—and you’ll find a common pattern of imposing aloneness and the terror of it on their prey. You can probably name more examples from the world stage as well as from smaller domains. They may vary in their methods and territories, but all use social pressure to live out the ancient principle of divide-and-conquer. As political philosopher Hannah Arendt noted, totalitarians must first get people isolated against one other in order to rule over them.
Tactics for grabbing power always involve some form of imposed isolation through social pressures: mob swarming, forced false confessions; struggle sessions; hostility towards family, religion, and history; snitch culture; censorship; constant propaganda; and more. “Cancel culture” is just a new term for an old custom of tyrants who use social pressures to go after the raw power they crave. Former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss aptly described cancel culture as social murder.
We should keep all of this in mind as we navigate the fallout of today’s leftist war on reality. Social murderers on Twitter will swarm and attack anyone who states sex distinctions are real, as author J.K. Rowling showed. The hit men of “white fragility” will tell you it’s racist to be colorblind in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Another example is The 1619 Project, whose author got a Pulitzer Prize for her blatant condemnation of America and Americans. It’s a narrative designed to isolate people by sowing rancor, guilt, and ignorance. If you don’t get on board, well, you’re a bigot.
Wuhan Virus Offers Cover to Make Isolation More Sadistic
And what of today’s backdrop of the Wuhan virus? We seem to be living ever more in a masked dystopia, even after the proverbial curve was flattened.
How much of the hype about this flu is really about public safety? How much is it about cultivating the social isolation that breeds distrust, division, and malaise, all to be exploited for political purposes? Should we really believe that blue city mayors and blue state governors, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, et al., are pushing the cataclysmic view of this flu only for our own safety?
Blatant double standards clarify that their hype is meant to continue our isolation, and is not for our own good. As far-left mayors and governors enforce social distancing for law-abiding citizens, they have pretty much smiled upon Antifa rioters as “peaceful protesters,” especially those who gather en masse for more than 60 nights in a row to provoke and attack federal officials protecting a federal court house in Portland.
Such officials are also content with forcing us apart from loved ones dying in the hospital, with prohibiting proper funerals for them while bigwigs get big funerals with no social distancing. At the recent funeral of Rep. John Lewis, former president Barack Obama even used angry rhetoric that isolates Americans further from one another.
Officials Resist Reopening to Keep Us Isolated
Most underhanded is the apparent intent to make social isolation a “new normal” with no end in sight. Did certain officials string us along from the very beginning to believe the shutdowns were temporary? Or did they realize along the way that this was just another crisis too good “to go to waste”? To be used to consolidate their power and rid themselves of political opponents, like, say, President Trump and his supporters?
What better way to do that than through a bait-and-switch approach that keeps us locked down indefinitely, economically strapped, and demoralized with closings and continued isolation? We were told that the initial 45 days of shutdowns in March and April were to prevent overwhelming hospitals with Wuhan virus patients. Most of us sucked it up and complied with good faith and good will and at massive social and economic cost.
No work, no school, no church, no outings, no weddings, no graduation ceremonies. Everyone in the entire nation—most excruciatingly, people living alone—was placed under virtual house arrest.
Normal Americans reasonably expected to start re-opening after so many weeks of successfully “flattening the curve” for health-care workers and hospitals that turned out not to be overburdened. All of that imposed isolation has had some deadly effects. For example, Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfeld stated on July 14, “We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than deaths from COVID.” Yet the masking and mandated isolation goes on.
6 Strategies to Enforce Isolation
Here’s a very short list of how certain officials and the media continue to push us further into social isolation and misery.
Unprecedented censorship of medical information. Tech oligarchs seem committed to keeping us ignorant—and thus isolated—from medical information they deem inexpedient. Google, Twitter, and Facebook have all censored reports from numerous board-certified physicians on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as a safe and effective treatment for the Wuhan virus in certain circumstances.
Why block Americans’ access to a second medical opinion? Well, it seems any good news on the virus front goes against the preferred narrative of certain power grabbers. Their stringent censorship will likely mean more deaths from the virus, with more loneliness, more deaths of despair.
The Mask Wars. Masks became a big thing after expert-in-chief Anthony Fauci did a 180 on his initial pronouncement that masks aren’t effective. Now he says you should wear goggles too. The media has scared and nudged busybodies to publicly accuse anyone who prefers to go maskless—even outdoors—of endangering the lives of others.
Masks also serve as an allegory for our times. Even if they are effective, mandatory face coverings put us all into a state of anonymity and isolation. They make real face-to-face conversations impossible.
Constant closures. Democrat officials seem to be enjoying extending the misery of closures indefinitely. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is intent on shutting down the Atilis Gym, even as its owners comply with all safety guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). A Federal Reserve representative recently called for another “hard shutdown” nationally.
Arlington County, Virginia recently announced a new rule: No groups of three or more people permitted on streets or sidewalks. And Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti announced he will shut off water and power to homes of people having parties.
No singing in church. Like the Grinch hoping to destroy Whoville, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a ban on singing and chanting in places of worship. Fauci agrees. Such bans verify that churches and worshippers have been disproportionately singled out for attacks by statist officials. To criminalize communal singing, an activity that promotes social cohesion, is another means of demoralizing people, and keeping them isolated.
Resistance to opening schools. As if to demonstrate the left’s narratives about virus dangers are just a political ruse, a Los Angeles teachers union recently announced they’d consider opening schools under two conditions: abolish charter schools and defund the police. And even though the CDC has guidelines for opening schools, Montgomery County, Maryland’s health officer forbade all private schools to open as long as public schools are closed.
Death of baseball. Race-baiting politics has now leapfrogged the NFL and NBA to pollute the formerly all-American sport called “baseball.” I know they stood up for the anthem on opening day at the Yankee-National game, but that was only after they bowed down to the mob with an odd form of unanimous kneeling.
The imagery of kneeling in sports cannot be separated from its symbolic disrespect for the American flag. We can’t help but feel isolated by losing yet another apolitical outlet for relaxation, fun, and friendship.
We Need to Build Immunity Against Social Pressure
Imposed social isolation is unnatural for human beings. It’s torture that makes us highly vulnerable to any social pressures that suggest some relief from it. Whatever their motives, today’s wannabe social controllers are clearly using the virus as a sort of obedience school where we can be conditioned through isolation to conform to their demands.
Many likely comply in hopes of being rewarded—maybe we’ll get to go for a walk someday if we’re good dogs. The irony is that mindless conformity creates even more isolation and even more vulnerability, even as we believe we’re escaping it through compliance.
But what if enough good people were immune to social pressure? Or resistant enough to it that they spread some immunity to others? Well, then, our power-mongering elites would be disarmed. Game over.
In this light, here’s a fascinating question to ponder: What exactly do they hate most about President Trump? Doubtless they hate him mostly because he seems immune to their social pressures.
That’s the bottom line. They can’t control him the way they do other Republican leaders who are so fearful of being called mean names. Worse for these power elites is that they can’t seem to isolate Trump’s supporters from him.
No matter what you think of Trump or his tweets, we should all meditate on the power of that sort of immunity from social pressures. We should find ways to develop it in ourselves. Because if tyrants had less ability to instill social isolation, they’d be less able to induce the fears that allow them to control people’s lives.
Copyright © 2020 The Federalist, a wholly independent division of FDRLST Media, All Rights Reserved.
How Politics Becomes Religion
(Image: rexandpan | us.fotolia.com)
Over the past few years, political rhetoric in many Western countries appears to have attained levels of hyperbole and hysteria that we haven’t seen for some time. One NPR commentator recently went so far as to describe Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the United States Supreme Court as “the end of the world as we know it.”
That type of language, I’d submit, should be reserved for truly catastrophic events like the Nazi attempt to wipe Jews off the face of the earth or the Communist Khmer Rouge’s slaughter of 2 million people in Cambodia. But the apocalyptic phraseology being employed today to describe, for instance, someone’s nomination to high judicial office or Britain’s decision to leave the European Union tells us something about how some people in the West treat politics. It has effectively become the focus of religious-like hopes. And when, as it inevitably must, politics fails to deliver on the fullest realization of such aspirations (and often not at all), it’s unsurprising that the resulting fury is expressed in terms akin to the Hebrew Prophets berating unfaithful kings of Israel and Judaea.
It’s easy to have disdain for politics and those who choose to enter that world. The popularity of expressions like “the Swamp” owes something to widespread awareness that political life is a source of self-aggrandizement for individuals of all political persuasions. Of course, self-enrichment through cronyism and political lobbying is as old as Rome itself. Occasionally, however, the sheer brazenness of it all provokes backlashes, invariably deserved.
Politics nevertheless remains the appropriate realm for societies to address some very important issues. These range from how we realize liberty and justice in societies composed of imperfect human beings, to determining which matters are the responsibility of government and which are not. Yet this is far removed from treating politics as something akin to a religious enterprise or imagining that a type of earthly heaven can be established through political activity. Such mindsets are bound to produce inflated expectations of politics and therefore, eventually, colossal disappointments and, in due course, the search for enemies to blame and destroy.
One instance of politics-becoming-religion is called “immanentizing the eschaton.” The expression first appears to have been used by the German philosopher Eric Voegelin to describe the outlook of those who believe that humans can bring about heaven-on-earth through their own efforts.
Marxism’s provision of an all-embracing explanation of history and its account of a perfect society’s ensuing emergence sometime in the future is perhaps the most advanced expression of this phenomenon. Being rooted in atheism and philosophical materialism, Marxism couldn’t help but propose a very this-worldly theory of human salvation and redemption. The religious-like character of Marxism is well-documented. But Marxism isn’t the only ideology with distinctly religious features. In his 1963 book Mill and Liberalism, the Cambridge political philosopher Maurice Cowling argued that John Stuart Mill’s liberalism amounted to the creation of a full-blown replacement for supernatural religion.
It isn’t hard to understand how such transformations occur. Humans appear wired to think about and engage religious questions. Even the convinced atheist has presumably inquired into whether the universe has transcendental origins and what this means for rightly ordering human choice and action. In short, the religious impulse with human beings seems indestructible. Hence, many who abandon their religion, or who have never known religious faith, find an outlet in political thought and activity for their natural inclination to search for the ultimate and satisfy their longing for a world that’s finally set to rights.
But secular-minded people aren’t the only people who fall into the trap of making politics their faith. Plenty of religious believers invest religious-like hopes in politics.
Consider, for instance, those Christian social justice activists who seem uninterested in, or even disdainful, of Christian doctrines that the Church regards as explaining the fullness of reality to man, but who endlessly insist that Christians must address any number of political questions in very specific ways. You can be fairly sure that a social justice activist’s faith has largely collapsed into politics when he plainly could care less about, say, the divinity of Jesus Christ or the integrity of the sacraments, but insists that you’re an unfaithful Christian because, for instance, you think minimum wage laws are counterproductive or that most foreign aid does more harm than good.
The point is when Christians try to absolutize what are largely prudential matters – or, conversely, attempt to “prudentialize” moral absolutes like the impermissibility of legalizing euthanasia – it’s usually an indication that some form of politics, whether conservative or liberal, center-right or center-left, has become their real religion. Before you know it, they look, sound, and are just another secular NGO.
Tendencies to absolutize politics have even taken on theological expression at different points of history. Some forms of liberation theology that gained traction in the late-1960s exemplified this. One reason why those liberation theologies which rely heavily upon Marxist analysis are irreconcilable with Church teaching is that they reduce the content of Christian faith to politics.
In a letter to his fellow Jesuits in 1980, the Jesuit General, Father Pedro Arrupe (hardly a knee-jerk reactionary) pointed out that Marxist analysis “as it is normally understood . . . implies in fact a concept of human history which contradicts the Christian view of humankind and society, and leads to strategies which threaten Christian values and attitudes.” To Arrupe’s mind, one such contradiction was how Marxist analysis led to the collapse of Christian belief and action into politics.
Quoting the Latin American Catholic bishops who gathered together at Puebla in Mexico in 1979, Arrupe noted “that theological reflection based on Marxist analysis runs the risk of leading to ‘the total politicization of Christian existence, the disintegration of the language of faith into that of the social sciences and the draining away of the transcendental dimension of Christian salvation’.” The very substance of Christian faith is thus replaced by an understanding of the world that, by definition, condenses Christian faith and morality to very secular forms of thought and action.
From that, it’s only a short step to abandoning even nominal adherence to Christian faith. As one priest wrote in a 2014 reflection on liberation theology’s impact upon Latin American Catholicism, “my students who are laypeople and clergy in Latin America give testimony to their experience in their parishes: wherever and whenever liberation theology has entered, people have lost their faith.”
We’re thus left with the question of how to help people understand what politics can and can’t do. It’s not that we should actively discourage citizens from regarding politics as a place to discuss and even pursue solutions to particular problems. The real issue is how we desacralize the realm of politics so that political debates aren’t invested with the fervor of something equivalent to a holy war that leads us into the wilderness of hyperbole or results in people demonizing each other.
In the case of those who have lost or never had religious faith, one way forward is to underscore something which should be obvious to everyone: that humans are, and always will be, imperfect. This truth — which is instantly confirmed by looking at our own lives and the lives of those around us — is often portrayed as a conservative insight into the human condition. It’s more accurately understood as a warning against utopianism. The non-believer who recognizes the folly of thinking and acting in a utopian manner is surely less likely to see politics as the route to a type of secular salvation.
As far as Christians are concerned, one way to make a similar point is to remind them of the Christian insight that neither the effects of original sin nor the freedom of people to sin can be eradicated from the human condition. Thanks to the Fall, we are stuck with the former, while the latter is a side-effect of God giving us the freedom to choose to the narrow path that leads life. If you grasp the full import of these truths, it’s improbable that you will regard politics as a vessel for establishing the Kingdom of God in all its fullness in the here-and-now.
This isn’t to suggest that the much-needed desacralization of politics is a counsel to complacency in the face of injustice and evil. Certainly, as Benedict XVI once wrote, “the formation of just structures is not directly the duty of the Church.” He immediately added, however, justice “belongs to the world of politics, the sphere of the autonomous use of reason.”
The apparent intractability of many problems isn’t therefore an excuse for political inertia or a basis for opposing any change whatsoever. Nor does it give us license, for instance, to shrug our shoulders when our Jewish neighbor is hauled off to a concentration camp, or to cease working to protect unborn humans and the disabled from being treated as sub-humans, or to write off the ongoing slaughter of Middle-Eastern and African Christians by jihadists as something which we can’t really do much about. That would be to abandon our concrete responsibilities to our fellow man as well as to demean human reason’s capacity to know and promote the good and minimize evil.
Understanding, however, that politics isn’t capable of fixing everything for eternity does help us recognize that, in this world, relative justice is the norm. The alternative is to imagine that we’re somehow capable of rendering the type of definitive justice that, Christianity teaches, will only be realized at the end of time when God renders judgment on all of us. And to think that way would be to commit the folly of imagining that we are God.
To suppose that a society of perfect freedom and justice can be created in this world through human efforts is thus the height of hubris. But the more such religious expectations seep into our politics, the more poisoned and frenetic, I’m afraid, we can safely assume our politics will become.
Liberty Alerts Aug 26, 2020