Man Against Himself: The Crux of American Decline
America’s stunning decline appears to many to be a sudden reversal of fortune. But this seemingly precipitous implosion is actually the result of a systematically planned demolition job carried out over the last century. And what appears to be an organic process of cultural decay is the fruit of ideological warfare waged by the left over many decades.
If one were to break up the aspects of human life into different spheres — the political, the economic, and the cultural — then we get a clearer view as to our strategy on the New Right to restore liberty and individual protections. A threat to Constitutionally limited government that many are not familiar with is cultural marxism, which will be briefly discussed in this essay.
Our civilization is thoroughly saturated with cultural marxism to the extent that we less conscious and introspective Americans are like fish that do not know they are wet. The moral content of nearly every cultural phenomenon is almost undeniably leftist, and its mode of expression is often designed to frustrate rational thought or defy analysis. This is a deliberate strategem of the left that plays on the obtuse linkages between aesthetics and morality. One aspect of this strategy that I have discussed before may be called “pop subversion.”
The technological advances in mass communications brought about greater empowerment of the individual to communicate with his fellow man. The information revolution stood poised to bring about the insights of The Enlightenment to all mankind, and thus to undermine the ideological bases of state power. But these technological innovations also provided powerful tools to the state, and its facilitators, the collectivists, to manipulate what they refer to as the ‘public sphere.’
One leftist mastermind who recognized the powerful possibilities of the new media was Antonio Gramsci. An Italian communist, Gramsci posited that in order for communism to be brought to the West, the culture would have to be infiltrated by a ‘long march’ through the institutions of information dissemination; first and foremost, the schools and universities, followed by news media, radio and music entertainment, film, and the courts.
The ideological subversion would be gradual, but would reinforce and complement the neomarxists’ erosion of the capitalist economic system, which they referred to as “the base.” Fundamental to transforming the culture was to lead men to interpret events and politics in the desired manner, so that the recreation of the economic conditions along class warfare lines, using such instruments as the Fabian socialist banking policy of intentional inflation, would lead to the popular support of socialism.
But in order to create, one must first destroy, to paraphrase Nietzsche. The ideological weapons of the left were to be found in the texts of various atheistic or state-worshiping philosophers. Hegel taught the triumph of the State, and the establishment of rule by the god of Reason. Marx taught class warfare, and material determinism of the kind that eviscerates the free will of the individual. Nietzsche laid the foundation for nihilistic moral and cultural relativism by eschewing men to get ‘beyond good and evil.’ Freud called religion the ‘opiate of the masses,’ and Gyorgy Lukacs sought ways to culturally destroy it. Heidegger taught that the essence of humanity was not life, but existence. Dewey prepared the way for the left’s educational agenda by stripping ideology out of discussion in the social sciences to be replaced by pragmatism. Sartre and Camus demoralized men’s creative and aspirational spirit through cultural promulgation that man was in existentialist crisis. Foucault imprisoned men’s minds by insisting that power relationships are inescapable. What emerges out of a survey of modern philosophy as offered by our universities is a uniformity of thought hostile to individual freedom. This set of philosophy can be referred to as anti-humanist in content, as it shuns the Christian-based humanism of the Renaissance that led to The Enlightenment.
Complementing the ideological indoctrination in our universities was to be the daily reinforcement of the news media, who falsely portrayed themselves as a consensus spontaneously and objectively reporting current events, before becoming more ideologically combative as they were challenged from below. The daily duplicity of the news media is relatively easy to analyze for the rational man. The medium invites analysis, and those who would do so are predominately the consumers of it. Since the overt leftism of the establishment news media is so noticeable, especially in relief to the alternative reportage of new media, most once-dominant outlets are being rejected. But has declining ratings caused these outlets to revise their editorial policies? On the contrary, many have doubled down and made even more manifest their fairly unpopular leftist ideology.
There is currently no more compelling illustration of the potential power of the information age than the spontaneous order of The Internet. While it is credited by the media as fostering “democratic” revolutions in the Middle East, what is glaring in the laudatory media narratives is the lack of what is necessary for a people to be free under a democratic political system. The lack of an individualistic ethos dooms these revolutions to tumultuous mob warfare and future tyrannies without further enlightenment. But that appears to be the motive of the “news” media.
What is more subsumed in the culture, and precisely because it is so omnipresent, are such cultural engines as music and film. The thumping, mind-numbing music, with the nearly ubiquitous emphasis on emotion over self-control, often even promoting self-destructive, violent behavior, reinforces a nihilistic live-in-the-moment mentality that undermines the civic qualities needed for people to take care of themselves. It is significant that music is taken seriously enough by Plato to devote an extended passage to in his Republic, and New Left guru Theodore Adorno was a music critic whose work influenced radio and mass communications after the 1930s.
Films provide powerful imagery to stoke the imagination of the audience on new potentialities in human relations. Directors such as the Soviet Sergei Eisenstein and the Nazi Leni Riefenstahl were extremely influential in winning over adherents to their respective parties’ political platforms. Today, nearly all those who work in Hollywood vote Democrat, and movies are regularly churned out for mass consumption for no other discernible purpose than to undermine morality and America’s ability to project force abroad. Many kinds of demoralizing films fail to deliver high revenue, as they offend the sensibilities of a lot of Americans, but they are pumped out nonetheless.
What appears on the surface to be purely an economic crisis of spending and debt is the culmination of the moral degradation and demoralization of Americans. Many men no longer have the self-pride and responsibility needed to govern themselves in a free society. Entitlement spending is largely a proxy for how much the citizenry refuses to take care of themselves, and have outsourced self-care to the government. The frightening economic indicators we read are the signs of a people who have ideologically and morally lost their way.
One visible manifestation of the left’s successful subversion of our nation’s ideology and morality, which led us to become one of the freest and most successful nations in the history of the world, can be seen in how present-day America constantly defeats itself. Those who are successful are condemned as “greedy,” as if their relative success came in an economic and social vacuum; we do not allow ourselves to drill for oil, even as our enemies do so off our coasts; we over-regulate and strangle our own economies, even as the government seeks to tax it more. Ayn Rand described such a self-sacrificial ethos under the apt rubric “altruism.”
On the deepest philosophical level, the left’s ideology defies existence, refuses to acknowledge that man’s nature is life, opposes the rational thought that brought civilization into being to being with, and destroys the very language that makes the transmission of ideas possible. Leftist philosophy is thus essentially not only anti-humanistic, but also anti-life and anti-reality. This ideology in its various expressions stands against wealth creation and self-improvement. It is thus a self-defeating ideology destructive of human happiness, personal excellence, and non-coincidentally, national greatness.
The foundation of human civilization is the individual; as the individual goes, so goes civilization. One cannot have a great civilization comprised of non-productive, irresponsible citizens, who become a burden upon their fellow man. In order to have freedom in society, each should be free to live in a self-reliant manner within the context of civil society and a free economy. He must not be free from reality itself, as prices and wages describe, but from human coercion. Humans cannot be economically free in the absolute sense of being free from work, but rather can only be free from enslavement to other men. In order for a human being to be able to distinguish between the two states, he must be politically free to experience life directly, its risks and rewards, as a guide to leading his own life. In order to rationally engage with reality, he must be ideologically free, that is to say, enlightened.
If the New Left is able to institute its ethos of anti-humanism into our culture without vibrant and principled opposition, clearly exposing the left’s totalitarian agenda, and enunciating the real world alternatives, man will be doomed to another dark age. Only this time it will be intentionally created and reinforced using the mass communications tools that brought the state to ultimate power, and entrenched by technological advances that civilization brought to fruition. The ultimate way to defeat the left is to edify civilization ideologically and morally.