Trembling, or Troubling, Identity?

There are books that one hopes for or expects like certain boxing matches or a medieval chivalry tournament. We know that a fatal reckoning and a confrontation between opposing powers will take place, but also that at the end of the fight the darkest essence of the fight will be delivered to us as if by extra. The latest book of the philosopher Paul Audi, Troublante identité is one of those.

The denunciation of identity-based passions or struggles—whether on the part of the internationalist or alter-globalist left, cosmopolitan and progressive liberalism or the republican and universalist right—is certainly part of the obligatory obstacle course for a broad spectrum of the Western intelligentsia, on campuses on both sides of the Atlantic. Since the end of history announced by Fukuyama and his disciples in 1992 was constantly postponed indefinitely, an explanation had to be found, and still has to be found. Hence the persistence or revival of national, religious, ethnic, social or sexual identities is often summoned to the dock by our Kantian or liberal clerics to explain the postponement of the Sunday parousia that should have been that of the great reconciliation of globalized consciousness.

Usually, this kind of rhetorical exercise ends up as a kind of parody bullfighting without a kill: the muleta is painstakingly drawn up in front of the bullfighting monsters of the collective identity, but the matador’s sword never finds a firm enough place to end the fight.

Most of the time, progressivism is content to consider the narratives, representations or passions of identity as pathological illnesses caused by the harshness of global capitalism, the archaic wickedness of violent and radical beings, or by some confusing perversion of a misguided and vengeful cultural Marxism. Let’s suppress capitalism and/or Marxism, and the identity impulses, evanescent reflections of all the historical frustrations felt by the alienated souls or peoples, will disappear like the shadows of the Platonic cave in front of the sun of Truth.

Condemned to be Free

Paul Audi’s work is more interesting because it is at the same time more ambitious, more intimate, more original, more complex and more honest. Instead of reciting in a traditional way all the republican, liberal or revolutionary catechisms, in the name of which the ceremony of exorcism of the identity-demon whose tracking is required will be pronounced, the learned exegete of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Romain Gary or Thomas Bernhard (his three favorite authors, with Sartre and Lacan, which will be discussed later) prefers to start from his own personal experience: that of a young, uprooted Lebanese exile who arrived in France at the age of eleven, at the beginning of the civil war, in 1975, son of a famous and wealthy Greek-Catholic banker from the Land of the Cedars (Raymond Audi), naturalized French from adolescence, and who, out of love for his adopted country and hatred for his country of origin, tried to break all ties with any kind of filial allegiance or identity, whatever they may have been.

What is interesting (sometimes also exasperating, but one has to play the game) is precisely this bias assumed by the author, after all not very different from that of Montaigne or his favorite classical authors, to try to think through and fight the hold of national or religious identities—the others are of little interest to him, truth be told, from his own biography, from his own intimate discomforts, from his most personal or most obviously idiosyncratic recurrent anxieties, and from the painful and improbable fight he claims to have led for half a century, at the risk of psychic collapse, against the hold of his two separate, almost contradictory identities, the Lebanese and the French.

Strongly inspired by the philosophical work of Jean-Paul Sartre, in particular the famous and brilliant psychological analyses of sado-masochism and self-hatred deployed in L’Être et le Néant, but also in Les Mots or the critical essays on Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Flaubert and Genet, Paul Audi places from the outset the question of identity at the crossroads of two human experiences that he deems to be complementary and inseparable: those of self-love and shame, the morbid antechamber of self-hatred.

The Syndrome of the Naturalized

These psychological experiences can affect almost everyone; but according to him in a particularly painful and ferocious way those torn between two distinct cultural and historical worlds, one of which comes from an ashamed and forever twilight family past (Lebanon, he says, ancient Phoenicia, became in the twentieth century the “Finicie,” the artificial, bloody and clan-nation which never stops agonizing and sacrificing its sons), and the other one (the republican, Hugo’s or Gaullist France) from a literary, personal and phantasmatic mythology, elaborated since the first narratives of the Levantine childhood.

This is what he calls the “syndrome of the naturalized;” this uneasiness of the soul that strikes any allogeneous citizen, fearing that he will never be sufficiently assimilated in the eyes of his new compatriots, fearing therefore to be brought back in spite of himself under the effect of the glance of the others in the confinement of ancestral identity that he wanted to flee at all costs (Arab, Lebanese, Catholic uniate, great bourgeois).

In a rather evocative passage, Audi compares himself to Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes, when he understands, in front of the ruins of the Statue of Liberty abandoned on the banks of what was once the Hudson River, that it is indeed his own race, and not that of the cruel apes, which is responsible for the disaster present before his eyes since the end of his space travel. All his life, Audi claims to have felt the feeling of despair and shame of Pierre Boulle’s hero each time the past of his family or his native country managed to destroy the self-respect and the self-esteem that he thought he had consolidated by the virtue of his French, academic and secular “baptism.”

A great reader of Jacques Lacan (one understands why: nothing of what concerns foreclosure is foreign to him), Paul Audi attempts a coup de force, like a deserting janissary, left alone to attack the fortress of the sultan.

The national, religious, historical or social identities according to him can crystallize only under the auspices of the two first poles of the Lacanian topic: the big A and the small a object, the Symbolic and the Imaginary, the Other of the Ideal of the Ego built by the unconscious from the Name of the Father, or the symbolic assemblies which result from it and the other image, linked to the promise of enjoyment, which draws in the mirror of the soul the narcissistic and fatal projection of the ideal Ego.

To Be or to Become

As Ulysses in the Mediterranean goes from Charybdis to Scylla, the zealot of identity is condemned to be tossed between these two competing hells that are the labyrinth of the symbolic narratives (national, feudal or genealogical) and the phantasmatic point-reflection, mentally manufactured by a childish subject cut off from reality, drunk with a delirious and potentially devastating self-love, which prepares as many future catastrophes by determining in an irrevocable way at the same time what he is and what he is not. When the two referents of otherness, the symbolic and the imaginary, collide, then the worst becomes possible, and the criminogenic and self-destructive struggle to the death begins.

This is what Audi believes the parallel histories of the Lebanese nation and the European nations of the last two centuries verify. The man of identity is a potential murderer, compulsive or amnesiac, who can only pay his debt to life by destroying it and amputating himself.

This is where the argument goes up a notch and unfolds the occult, almost metaphysical knot that lies in the dialectical arsenal of all the opponents of identity—according to them, as for Paul Audi, the Franco-Lebanese Melchite and apostate, men only have a choice between two options: to be or to become.

To be is to want to remain the same as our masters or our ancestors were; to become is necessarily to become another than what we are or what others (and especially our own) expect us to be.

As science distinguishes between what is continuous and what is discrete (the singularity of deviant forms that will modify the course of a natural substratum), the philosopher of otherness and becoming posits that any form of creative singularity must be conquered, sometimes at the risk of the loss of reason or life, against any substantial particularity and the desire to perpetuate what was.

Only way not to die to oneself—to welcome in oneself another than what one is.

Death at the End of the Flight?

It is by wanting to no longer resemble oneself, and thus to no longer resemble the father, that one will succeed in eliminating the threatening shadows of big A and small a, of self-hatred or of the Sartrean hell of hostile or persecuting others, in order to be able to finally penetrate to the heart of a real that will otherwise always refuse to be grasped.

At the political level, it is by becoming a migrant that the sedentary will escape the curse of his forefathers; and it is by becoming sedentary that the migrant will free himself from his wanderings while saving the indigenous people who welcome him from their own identity demons.

The best illustration of this alchemy, for Paul Audi, is the character played by Alain Delon in Joseph Losey’s cinematic masterpiece Monsieur Klein (co-written with Costa-Gavras, another French-speaking exile and fighter of identity and national passions).

Everyone knows the story of this confusing and moving collector of Jewish goods during the Occupation who, confused with a mysterious Jewish namesake whom he never managed to find, preferred to be deported to Auschwitz rather than let this obsessive Other escape forever, capable, at the end of an indifferent or futile life, of freeing him from himself.

It is only regrettable, one might object, that instead of being reborn to life, Monsieur Klein (the one played by Delon, not his faceless double) finds death at the end of his quest. This is a high price to pay, even for the escape from a guilty identity.

Moses is Not the Pharaoh

In reality, the main merit of Paul Audi’s book is also its limit, or the most radical objection to his theses—as he himself admits, in the trying struggle he has waged all his life against the grueling waltz of his two contradictory identities, he has almost ruined on several occasions the very conditions of self-acceptance and thus of the pursuit of a subjective and family life. To want to become other than what one is, is to run the risk of going mad, or of making the whole world a stranger to what one has become (which is a bit of the same thing).

To welcome the stranger into oneself is to bet that the radical oblivion of the past (Audi has gone so far as to forget the Arabic language itself, and the slightest vivid memory of his Lebanese childhood) will constitute a sufficient foundation for building a perennial future. It is to dislocate the very core of one’s native life in exchange for a promise of happiness or ethical dignity that remains an even riskier gamble than those of Pascal or Nietzsche.

At the end of the book, Audi disappoints a little by attempting to take a sideroad, inspired by the writings of Emmanuel Levinas, in the direction of Jewish identity, the only identity in his eyes that fails to become one because it is inscribed against the background of a Law transcending the vicissitudes of History, in the direction of a messianic ideal deemed to commit the future of all men, whoever they are and wherever they come from.

This red herring, supposed to tell the concrete reality of the human condition, does not really convince us. And, in any case, even admitting that Jewish identity is of a different essence from that of all other national or religious identities (which remains to be proved), not everyone, by definition, can become a Jew, even in a roundabout or allegorical way.

Moses did not welcome Pharaoh per se before leaving for the Promised Land; he fled from him by letting him and his army be swallowed up in the Red Sea. If I expect from the stranger the extra soul that historical and carnal roots do not provide or threaten, then the very oblivion of my name and face will condemn me to expect from the winds of the desert a salvation that in the end I may never be able to obtain.

Fabrice Moracchini is a literary assistant for the cultural program Le Jean-Edern’s Club on Paris Première. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s in literature and philosophy. This article appears courtesy of Revue éléments.

The Politics Of Structure

I have always found structural engineering fascinating, though I’m a consumer of the results, not a producer like Roma Agrawal. No doubt the life of a structural engineer is number crunching, not glamour. But the result is something useful to mankind, and even sometimes beautiful, so it must be satisfying for an engineer to see what he creates. Both facets of the engineering life come through in Agrawal’s book, Built, an upbeat look at engineering through the lens of her career, though the book is marred by some ideologically driven fictions.

Agrawal is based in London, but grew up in India, and spent a few years in her childhood in New York. This has given her a breadth of vision that informs her book. Her claim to fame, if she makes one, is that she worked as part of the team that did the engineering for the Shard, a London landmark completed in 2012, which is still the tallest building in the United Kingdom. Built weaves together engineering principles well explained to the layman, Agrawal’s personal experiences, and examples of implementation of engineering, all to create an interesting, readable package. You may like it more if your interests run to How It’s Made rather than Jane Austen, but you’d have to be pretty dull yourself to find it totally uninteresting.

We cover ancient times and modern times. We cover construction and collapse. We cover solutions for earthquake zones and for tall buildings in wind. We cover bricks and concrete, steel and glass. We cover force and torsion, underground and aboveground, bridges and tunnels.

The book offers a judicious combination of history and science, and comparing and contrasting along both axes. Scattered throughout are many very well-done drawings (apparently done by the author), along with some black-and-white photographs, which are unfortunately mostly terrible, since you can’t see the details that are being highlighted.

The piece I found most interesting was on the stabilization of the Cathedral of the Assumption in Mexico City, built by the conquistadors on the site of a leveled Aztec human sacrifice pyramid, using stones from the destroyed temple of the Aztec god of war Huitzilopochtli (that’s awesome). Mexico City’s soil is a soup, since much of it was formed by dumping dirt into the lake on which the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, was built.

The Spanish were perfectly well aware of the engineering challenges, and cleverly built a raft foundation, with an overlaying raised foundation floor designed to sink. But it sank unevenly, so four hundred years later, one corner was eight feet higher than the other. Basically, this was like fixing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, on a far grander scale.

The solution was digging large cylindrical access shafts down through the foundation, thirty-two of them, and then digging at right angles 1,500 holes, removing the dirt in a pattern calculated to gradually lower the high points. The work was finished in 1998, but the system remains in place, covered up, so it can be reactivated if future problems (carefully monitored by lasers) show up.

To her credit, Agrawal does not spend any relevant time in the text trying to make political points about women in engineering. That’s not how the book is sold, however—the blurb in the book is full of cant about “underrepresented groups such as women” and Agrawal’s supposed “tireless efforts” on their behalf.

There are very good, indisputable, and insurmountable reasons both why there are few women in science and engineering, and why the top accomplishments in those fields are almost always those of men.

But aside from that, two sections of this book shows how falsehoods become embedded in the public consciousness, because they are useful lies to advance an ideological agenda, in this case a tale of supposed oppression of women (and implicit denial of the real reasons why there are few women in science and engineering).

This type of ideologically-driven falsehood spreads like an oil slick because nobody dares to contradict such untruths, knowing if they speak truth they will be attacked without mercy as sexist, racist, and so forth. As a result, more and more lies become embedded in the public mind as truth.

The most egregious example in recent years is the fantasy that Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer, which you hear everywhere, even though it’s equivalent in truth to saying she was the first Egyptian pharaoh. But there are many, many, others, being piled up to the sky.

In Built, we can observe the creation of such a new myth from whole cloth, and the extension of another. Marc Brunel and his son, the famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel, built the Thames Tunnel in the early nineteenth century, a fantastic engineering marvel using many techniques created by the father-son team. Agrawal describes their accomplishments in great detail.

But then we are treated to this parenthetical: “Sophia, [Marc] Brunel’s elder daughter, was nicknamed ‘Brunel in petticoats’ by the industrialist Lord Armstrong because Marc Brunel, unconventionally, taught his daughter about engineering. When they were children, Sophia showed more aptitude than her brother [Isambard] in all things mathematical and technical—and in engineering—but it was her misfortune to be born at a time when women had no such career possibilities. She is the great engineer we never had.”

Now, this sounded interesting, but also forced and reaching. No source was offered, so I went looking. Sophia appears to be totally obscure; she doesn’t even have a Wikipedia squib about her, much less a biography. (Her mother, also Sophia, gets considerably more mention).

No mention other than one noting her existence is made in the Wikipedia article about Marc Brunel, or the one of Isambard Brunel, and you can be certain that if it were commonly held that Sophia was a proto-feminist genius/martyr she would have a large section devoted to her in both articles, as well as her own article.

However, I did manage to find the phrase attributed to Lord Armstrong, “Brunel in petticoats.” It comes from a 1937 biography of the father and son, by Celia Noble, and is quoted in Angus Buchanan’s 2003 biography of Isambard, where the context is clear. Namely, that Sophia “understood her father’s and brother’s plans.” No mention is made of her aptitude, much less her superior aptitude, or her supposed education, in either book, and Buchanan is somewhat mystified about the claim, since Armstrong only knew Sophia when she was in middle age. Buchanan makes no other mention of Sophia in his lengthy book.

The logical next question is whether some other source fills in the gap. The only relevant mention online of the phrase “Brunel in petticoats,” out of a total of ten results in Google (including two to this book), is a pamphlet from the Brunel Museum, which looks like an intern wrote it, and which attributes the quote, without sourcing, to Lord North. Nothing is said about aptitude or training. I could find no other mention of any such thing, or any mention of the younger Sophia Brunel at all, anywhere, other than of her existence in the context of her father and brother. I ordered two books on the Brunel family, along with what could be found on Google Books, and found nothing inside any them.

What appears to have happened is that Agrawal heard an urban legend circulated among female engineers, told to each other to further the myth of persecuted talent, probably based on the Armstrong quote taken out of context, and on her own initiative embellished it with falsehoods that sounded good.

But I can assure you, that in ten years we will frequently, in the engineering context, hear as fact that Marc Brunel and Isambard Brunel were decent engineers, if toxically masculine, but the real hero was their oppressed daughter and sister, who would have been certain to spin straw into gold, if the patriarchy had not put its boot on her.

Probably new falsehoods will be added: I predict one will be that much of Isambard’s work was actually done by Sophia. Any academic or engineer who points out none of this is true will find his career immediately over. Thus, as in Communist societies, are lies woven into the fabric of reality.

Once might be an accident, but twice is a pattern. We can prove definitively that Agrawal modifies the truth by examining her discussion of the Brooklyn Bridge. She discusses the Bridge, built by Washington Roebling, at length. The giant supporting towers were built using caissons, excavated reinforced holes, held under high air pressure.

As a result, the men doing the work, including Roebling, got “caisson disease”—i.e., the bends. Since her husband was debilitated, Emily took over as the frontman, dealing with the press, politicians, and the investors, shielding her husband from having to have direct contact, and acting as his intermediary and, to a degree, project manager. Such a central role is not uncommon for strong women married to strong men, even when they are not debilitated; it is true that behind every great man is usually a great woman.

But Agrawal strongly implies, and clearly believes, that Emily replaced Washington entirely. “With unwavering focus, she started to study complex mathematics and material engineering, learning about steel strength, cable analysis and construction; calculating catenary curves, and gaining a thorough grasp of the technical aspects of the project.” She concludes that everyone knew that Emily was really doing the engineering, from such evidence as occasional addressing of letters to her instead of her husband.

We are meant to conclude this is another example of a woman whose true contributions have been ignored; the bridge did not demonstrate the power of man, as contemporaneous speeches said, but “the power of woman.” She “excelled and triumphed” “even [though] she was not a qualified engineer.” In some, accurate sources (not specified) “she is highlighted as the true force behind the project. In other sources, there is absolutely no mention of her at all.”

Most of what Agrawal says about Emily Roebling is obviously cribbed from David McCullough, in his comprehensive 2012 edition of The Great Bridge (the only book on the topic listed in the bibliography, and all the other facts Agrawal adduces are taken directly from there). But McCullough directly contradicts Agrawal. It is evident, reading the source, that Agrawal deliberately distorted the truth.

What McCullough actually says is that while Emily Roebling necessarily acquired “a thorough grasp of the engineering involved,” as she needed in order to speak competently to her various audiences she expertly juggled, “She did not, however, secretly take over as engineer of the bridge, as some accounts suggest and as was the gossip at the time.”

“Some accounts,” of course, mean modern ideological distortions like Agrawal, which embellishes the truth nearly beyond recognition. Still, again, I am sure that any mention you hear of this topic in the future, or any future history of the bridge itself, will embed a fictional treatment of Emily Roebling, even more embellished, and thus will another folktale turn into historical fact.

Why should we care? Aren’t these tales just nice, feel-good stories that make everyone happy? Don’t I need to prove I’m not a misogynist? (No, I don’t.) We should care because it is a corruption of reality, and there is far too much corruption of reality in the modern world. Sex differences, their immutability and their very existence, are regularly denied as equivalent to believing in the Little People, only with supposedly worse consequences.

A toxic blend of demands for emancipation from fictitious oppression, past and present, with the modern Left vision of all human relations as power relations, means that we are force fed lies, day and night.

The goal is not just the destruction of reality, but the inversion of the masculine and feminine, with women adopting masculine traits, and men becoming unnecessary, often buffoons, such that the feminine traits are lost entirely. (This pattern of propaganda is ubiquitous in modern movies, as Jonathan Pageau has shown, from the recent Star Wars movies to Incredibles 2).

Destroying those who would destroy human flourishing, that is, those pushing these ideological lies (of which those about sex differences are only one manifestation) begins with declaring that Reality Is, and shattering our enemies is made possible by forging an axe from that Reality. Like Truth, Reality will always out, but let’s help it along. Live not by lies, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said.

Aside from false history, we are treated by Agrawal to occasional carping about how women are treated differently in her profession. Here more unreality crops up. “I’ve heard stories from other women in the industry about how they’ve been (illegally) asked in job interviews when they plan to get married and have children.” Illegally, perhaps, but totally rationally. The reality is that women, far more than men, choose to leave their careers, or not achieve maximum competence in them, in order to have children.

They always have, and they always will. That’s a good thing, as it happens, and wholly natural given the biological differences between men and women. A society that deludes itself into thinking that men and women should both share equally in providing and caregiving is a society going nowhere but down. (Along these same lines, I increasingly think that some men, such as those with families, should be formally privileged over women by employers and society in certain jobs).

That doesn’t mean women shouldn’t work in some circumstances, but the baseline assumption should be that men should be, whenever possible, the main providers for a family, both because it is economically rational for companies, and, far more importantly, probably critical to a decent society. But that is a longer discussion.)

For example, in my former profession, law, you often hear whining that while a majority of new associate hires are women, relatively few big firm partners are, and this is necessarily attributed to some kind of discrimination, though what that is nobody can seem to determine, or bothers to guess. In fact, it is men who are massively discriminated against at law firms. Law firms are slaveringly desperate to keep female lawyers, both because of their own ideology and because of (illegal) demands placed on them by woke corporate clients.

No law firm would ever criticize, much less discipline, or (horrors!) fire, a woman for failings that would instantly get a male associate instantly bounced. For the same reason, law firms offer many months of paid leave to pregnant associates, hoping they will return when they have a child, sweetening the pot by promising reduced work loads and no movement off the partner track (that is, illegally discriminating against those who produce more, mostly men, by shifting the competition in favor of women). In the majority, perhaps the great majority, of cases, the woman takes the money, has the child, and says sayonara.

The exceptions are women who need the money, and a handful of women who really like the job (which is rare—almost nobody, male or female, really likes the job, so certainly the woman’s choice to leave is wholly rational). But that professional firms should ignore these truths is asking them to stick their head in the sand—again, with the denials of reality. We should not permit it.

Oh, none of this means you shouldn’t read this book. But forewarned is forearmed; don’t let the lies sink into your brain.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The photo shows, “La Danse” by Jean Dupas, a drawing from the 1920s.

The Death Of True Manliness

Just as it is difficult to gain a true perspective of the size of a mountain when one is actually on the mountain, so it is difficult to understand how revolutionary a change is when in the midst of the revolution.

And we are today in the midst of a great revolution, a dramatic shift in the way we understand human nature. That is, our culture in the West is changing the way it understands gender. This change is all-encompassing, and expresses itself in such large movements such as feminism, gay rights, and now transgender rights.

The change is not a matter of refining or tinkering with past approaches. Past approaches are not so much moderately altered as completely overthrown. The revolution regarding gender is radical and vociferous, and like all devout revolutionaries, its advocates are taking no prisoners, which accounts for much of the rhetoric and verbal violence in America’s culture wars.

If the Lord tarries, historians hundreds of years hence will look back on the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries as the time when the West waged war on the way its ancestors understood gender differences from time immemorial. Those reading sociology will speak of a fundamental paradigm shift. Those reading Screwtape will wonder if the revolution was not the result of far-reaching decisions taken by “our father below”.

The ancient approach saw gender as a divine gift. Judeo-Christian texts spoke of our gendered existence with its resultant differing roles as ordained by God at creation: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27).

Islam inherited this understanding of gender, and even the pagans who did not read Scripture of any kind understood maleness and femaleness as basic and stable categories. That is why they privileged legal marriage above unregulated sexuality. Certain pagans (Greeks for example; the Romans were slower to follow) had no problems with pederasty, but they still insisted on heterosexual marriage as the foundation for a stable society.

As far as everyone until the mid to late twentieth century was concerned, you were born either male or female, and certain rare anatomical or other medical anomalies aside, that set you on the path of life and provided you with specific roles and responsibilities.

Men were to behave in a certain way, as were women. To be sure, the prescribed behaviours contained a fair degree of latitude—“tom boy” behaviour, for example, was still acceptable for girls, and men could knit if they wanted to—but the basic path was fairly clear, even if it was wide. And this was not confined to the Judeo-Christian or the Islamic traditions. As C.S. Lewis illustrated in his book The Abolition of Man, these norms could be found in all cultures. He termed this “the Tao”, and recognized it as the universal practice of mankind.

The revolution in the West began in the 1960s, with what was then called “Women’s Lib”. Women’s Lib found cultural acceptance because much of it seemed to be simple common sense, and because the Suffragette movement demanding for women the right to vote had partly prepared the way for it.

Though not introducing radical or harmful change in the basic understanding of gender roles, Women’s Lib prepared people to regard change as essentially a good and much-needed thing, and this openness to change would continue to govern basic attitudes when more far-reaching changes were proposed.

Women’s Lib also drew heavily upon the language of racial civil rights, and presented itself in terms of an analogous struggle. The emphasis here is upon the word “struggle”, since the movement used the tactics of protest (famously with its symbolic bra-burning and its marches), and its labelling of its opponents as enemies of enlightenment and progress. The seeds of a future culture war may thus be traced to this early predilection for protest.

Despite the use of angry denunciation of perceived oppression and inflammatory rhetoric that increasingly characterized the diverse feminist movement, the radical changes first appeared with the gay rights movement. Here too we observe a progression. What began with a simple act of decriminalization continued with a demand for social acceptance of an alternative lifestyle as if it were as valid as traditional marriage.

Thus, first came demands for social acceptance and non-discrimination, then came a demand for the provision of legal civil unions between homosexuals, and then a demand for providing legal marriage for them. Inherent in these demands was the assertion that maleness and femaleness were not all-encompassing roles, but simply anatomical realities which did not bring with them any societal roles or norms.

Thus, one could be born anatomically male but still seek sexual union (socially legitimized through marriage) with another male—or, with both males and females. Anatomy had been definitively sundered from gender role and its accompanying sexual “preference”. Indeed, the very language used—“sexual preference”—presupposes that one gender could be preferred as easily as another.

Formerly, men did not just “prefer” women, but were ordained to this choice, if not by internal sexual desire for women over men, then at least by divine law. Now one could “prefer” male to female as easily and legitimately as one could prefer chocolate to vanilla.

The next step was to sunder anatomy not just from gender role but from gender identity. In this move to legitimize transgenderism, it was asserted that one could be born anatomically male and yet still “be” a woman. There was no objective way to tell if a person “was” a male or a female.

All now depended upon a person’s subjective feelings and which gender one “identified with”. And throughout this long progression of change, its advocates continued to employ the rhetoric of civil rights, indignantly denouncing their opponents as bigots and cultural Neanderthals. The culture wars were now raging loudly. In the din, the voice of the historic Christian Faith, replete with both inviolable standards and subtle nuanced distinctions, was usually shouted down.

Thus those who identify as gay or transgender now occupy the role of noble victim in constant danger of harm, while those who oppose the new revolution occupy the role of dangerous cultural criminals, whose bigoted opposition to the new revolution threatens very lives of those in the LGBQT community. Those assigning these roles are often driven by a self-righteousness that takes no prisoners and justifies any amount of hatred, anger, and bullying.

The revolution is poised to continue, driven as it is by its own interior logic. If physical anatomy counts for nothing, then it counts for nothing. If the will (or preference) is sovereign, then it is sovereign. That includes not just the gender of the sexual partner, but also the number of partners. Or the age of the partners.

Paedophilia (or “minor attraction” as it calls itself) is currently beyond the pale of general acceptability, but the landscape of the debate and its borders are shifting quickly. No one living in 1950 could have foreseen the current situation. It is therefore possible that the presently radical call for the acceptance of “minor attraction” will one day become mainstream. Where the revolution will end is anyone’s guess. I myself believe that the end is not yet in sight.

The question remains: what is the problem with the revolution? Who is it hurting? Granted that the gender revolution (or “gender confusion”, depending upon point of view) overturns the way humanity has regarded itself since the beginning, why it that wrong? Much could be said, but a single reply will have to suffice. In the new paradigm offered us, what was once regarded as “true manhood” is labelled toxic in some places, and is fast becoming extinct.

What does it mean to be a “real” man? True manhood involves more than simple sexual “preferences” or the question of who takes out the garbage. It involves primordial self-defining symbolism and emotions springing from the deepest hidden levels.

To be a real man is to relate to those weaker—notably women and children—with gallantry, protection, and self-sacrifice. (Christians will note that this is how Christ, as a real Man, related to His bride, the Church.) We note this in a thousand ways: the man proposes the woman on bended knee, (not vice-versa), and in situations of danger, the man defends the woman even at the cost of his life. And this last example applies not just to the man’s own wife, but to any woman, precisely because she is a woman. Womanhood was considered as sacred per se.

This could be observed in the investigations following the sinking of the Titanic: witnesses were emphatic that some lifeboats contained only women and children, the men sacrificing themselves to save them. Doing anything less—taking a space in a lifeboat that could have been taken by a woman or a child—would have violated their manhood. Manhood and masculinity, increasingly derided as toxic by definition, included both the symbolism and actions of gallantry. A true man was a knight.

It is true of course that acts of bravery and self-sacrifice can be and are done by women and children, and of course by homosexuals and transgenders. Anyone can become brave. But that is just the point: since bravery and self-sacrifice are no longer part of what it means to be a man, one does such heroic acts only if one is a hero.

But heroism is not common (which is why it is applauded when found). One may or may not feel oneself called to heroism and bravery. But in the old paradigm a man sacrificed himself not because he felt called to extraordinary heroism, but simply because he was a man. The gender role he inherited by virtue of his anatomy contained within it the moral imperative of sacrificing himself, if need be, for women and children.

It is just this protection that real men once offered that is so desperately needed now. We now rely upon “public education” (i.e. propaganda) and the stigma attached to being politically incorrect to motivate people to gallantry, self-sacrifice, and bravery.

We can see how well this is working (or not working), by how dangerous the nights remain for women and other vulnerable people. The cry of those trying to educate the public is to “take back the night”. More helpful perhaps would be sustained reflection upon how the night was lost in the first place.

Father Lawrence serves as pastor of St. Herman’s Orthodox Church in Langley, BC. He is also author of the Orthodox Bible Companion Series along with a number of other publications.

The photo shows, “Les batteurs de pieux,” by Maximilien Luce, painted ca., 1902 to 1905.

War In Two Works

“They were afraid of dying, but they were even more afraid to show it.” This sentence encapsulates the contradictory posture that war imposes on human beings, and this contradiction leads to the recognition that war itself is an absurd act, bereft of any meaning, and existing solely for its own sake.

Thus, war can only invoke and provoke a bleak vision, and an absurdist response, which forms the basis of both Fernando Arrabal’s “Picnic on the Battlefield,” and Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” In fact, both these works explore the theme of war as an absurd act, in which meaning of any sort cannot possibly exist.

Arrabal’s Picnic on the Battlefield explores this absurdity to the fullest by working on a premise that is both laughable and grotesque. First, there is the improbable appearance of Zapo’s parents on the battlefield, who have come out to have a picnic with their son.

War for them is nothing more than some field outing that their son is on, and they have decided to join him. When the reality of war is brought home to the parents, Monsieur Tépan asks: “But why are you enemies?”

Suddenly, through the shared suffering (the bomb attack), there is some sort of realization that Zepo is a mirror image of his own son Zapo; there is no difference between them.

But this realization is quickly swallowed up Madame Tépan’s remark: “Your father is the only whose capable of thinking such ideas; don’t forget he’s a former student of the Ecole Normale and a philatelist.”

This remark reinforces the absurdist view that there cannot be such realizations in war – there is only the enemy which one must try to kill. In war, there is only kill-or-be-killed.

This is why Madame Tépan’s remark is so efficient at cutting away any meaning that one may seek to give to war – for war is entirely a meaningless act. Thus, the absurdity is heightened by the fact that the play ends with the death of the four characters who have suddenly hit upon the idea of ending the war by refusing to fight.

Instead they dance (a life-affirming act); and it is exactly at this point – a point in which they have achieved a semblance of meaning and harmony that war intervenes and they killed. War can only be an absurd nightmare, from which few escape.

This sense of absurdity continues in Tim O’Brien’s story, “The Things They Carried,” in that it too describes the nightmarish quality of war, in which to kill is a normal act, and the days in which does not kill are abnormal. Only death has true meaning in war: “The guy’s dead…which seemed profound – the guy’s dead…” And death brings no final meaning, no moral, as Sanders asks, but finds none: “Yeah well…I don’t see no moral.”

Cross and his men live in a landscape of nothingness, and when they die, it is an even greater, vaster nothingness. All the soldiers are entirely cut off from all meaning – their sole purpose is to survive. It is a realization that Cross comes to at the end of the end of the story.

War is no place for idealism. Martha is not a virgin, nor does she love him; she just offers him a semblance of an imagined world outside Vietnam. But like everything else around Cross, she is nothing more than a daydream – perhaps she is part of the nightmare.

Cross comes to this realization, but he is not moved by it. He notes that it is sad – but he has the work of surviving to do; he cannot wallow in self-pity: “He was realistic about it. There was that new hardness in his stomach.”

Thus, it is not the soldiers who will change the environment around them, but the environment that changes the soldiers, for they are “trying to fight and survive in the human waste that surrounds them…[and] they are themselves human waste.”

For Arrabal war is grotesque and meaningless and exists only to perpetuate destruction and annihilation. Likewise, O’Brien also writes about the absurdity of war, where humanity itself is continually denied, and where there is no room for life and love – only the will to survive, and the will to kill: “He would shut down the daydreams. This was not Mount Sebastian, it was another world where there were no pretty poems or midterm exams, a place where men died because of carelessness or stupidity.”


The photo shows, “Gassed,” by John Singer Sargent, painted in 1919.

Failed Cultures

Culture, firstly, is human community that ensures that life is pursued well. A successful culture readily seeks to enact social policies that guarantee to some degree that people are happy and satisfied. And an individual who inhabits a successful culture carries out actions that benefit him or her, and his or her society at large.

It would be simple to wax philosophical and begin an analysis of the organic nature of culture, with the tools readily available, such as Social Darwinism.

But such analyses are contentious and misleading, because they concern themselves simply with an examination of how cultures come into being and sustain themselves – they do not make value judgments. We need to make value judgments.

Therefore, our approach must be different, and we need newer tools. If we stay within the confines of traditional arguments, such as materialism, we are bound to lose our focus and end up justifying or critiquing one mode of production over another.

Such a methodology would yield little of value. And we do indeed need to speak again of values and virtues – because the chief goal of all cultures is to produce a virtuous person, that is, a person who holds the ideal of human worth (and all its implications – truthfulness, generosity and self-control) to be uppermost in all activity and endeavor.

But how do we recognize a failed culture? Here are the characteristics of all failed cultures that exist in the world today.

First, power does not reside with the middle class, but with the privileged elite.

Second, the system of government is not constitutional – in other words, we are dealing with dictatorships, with strong men, backed up by the loyalty of the army.

Third, civilians have no control over the military – rather, they are terrorized by it.

Fourth, religion and political ideology control all modes of thought, with the resulting denial of intellectual and individual freedoms.

Fifth, criticism of the government or rulers does not exist, and if such criticism does raise its head – it is immediately met with immense violence (often far greater in proportion to the criticism), until there is once again the silence of enforced consent.

Sixth, civilians live not in contentment and ease, but in a state of perpetual anxiety – not knowing what will happen next, since they have no control over the mechanisms of power (elections, for example).

Seventh, the poor classes are little better than slaves, who have no recourse to bettering their lot.

Eighth, the education system is merely an instrument of state or religious propaganda.

Ninth, private property is in the hands of the few, while the many are dispossessed.

Tenth, there is no trust and hence there is systemic corruption.

In this way, failed cultures consistently produce failed states, which can yield nothing but misery for those unfortunate enough to live in such spheres of cultural, social, and political devastation.


The photo shows, “”Duel on the Kulikovo Field,” by Avilov Mikhail, painted in 1943.

The Populist Revolt

Most honest postmortems of Trump’s election are by Democrats focusing on what they missed.   Usually, they are either narrow exercises in vote counting or more holistic attempts to understand Trump voters.  In the latter group are Joan Williams’s White Working Class and Ken Stern’s Republican Like Me.

The common thread in these is discovery, a dawning realization that there are people out there with legitimate, even compelling, reasons to vote for Trump. Republicans, on the other hand, haven’t engaged much in postmortems.  They have engaged in recriminations, or a facile triumphalism, but few seem to have analyzed Trump’s election in a focused, professional, way.  The Great Revolt fills that gap.

There’s nothing truly startling in this book, but it’s still interesting.  The authors’ core point is that Trump’s election is not a fluke; whatever his faults may be, they do not outweigh his good points in the view of a wide variety of voters, including groups of people who, on the surface, have little in common with each other and seem like they shouldn’t like Trump.

Moreover, most of these people were previously reliably Democratic voters.  To analyze this and to demonstrate their thesis, Salena Zito (a journalist) and Brad Todd (a Republican pollster and consultant) conducted detailed opinion surveys, and then let people talk for themselves to supplement and exemplify the aggregate results, using individuals, meant as archetypes, from ten very different counties in five different swing states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan).

Zito and Todd break the Trump voters they examine into seven groups, each with specific demographic characteristics.  “Red-Blooded and Blue-Collared” are those who “had worked a blue-collar, hourly wage, or physical labor job after the age of twenty-one, and had experienced a job loss in the last seven years either personally or in their immediate families.”  “Girl Gun Power” are women under forty-five who owns guns for self-defense.  “Rough Rebounders” are those who have overcome significant obstacles (and thus resonate with Trump’s story).  “Rotary Reliables” are Chamber of Commerce Republicans—but with a twist, that they are from smaller towns, and therefore are surrounded by, and socialize with, conservatives and the working class, thus appreciating their concerns, similar to the way that such Republicans in bigger towns and cities are surrounded by liberals and therefore function as liberals.

That is to say, these Rotary Reliables are diverse and inclusive, more so than their Republican counterparts in the cities.  “King Cyrus Christians” are religious believers who are willing to overlook Trump’s dissolute personal life, as the Jews took advantage of the heathen Cyrus the Great’s release of the Jews from Babylonian captivity.

(While I don’t understand why some evangelicals, like Franklin Graham, fawn over Trump, other than to be close to power, it is perfectly understandable, given that Hillary was the Right Hand of Satan, that devout Christians would vote for Trump, since, to coin a phrase, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”).

“Silent Suburban Moms” are upper-middle class women somewhat turned off by Trump’s boorishness, and fearful of the hatred directed at them if they openly support Trump, but who support Trump nonetheless.  Collectively, I am not sure that these really constitute the “populist coalition” of the subtitle, but they have more in common than just supporting Trump, and more in common than a casual observer might think.

In particular, in all these groups the same three specific issues keep cropping up (along with some other issues that are more or less important to specific groups).  Given the significant differences across these sets of people, this consistency is surprising.

These three issues are who controls the Supreme Court, gun rights, and, most interestingly, the habit Obama had of apologizing, purportedly on behalf of the United States.  (As all such studies find, and utterly contrary to the view of progressives, racial issues almost never crop up, and illegal immigrants less than you would expect.)  The first two have a straightforward analysis—Democrats have for decades tried to evade democratic rule by using the Supreme Court as a leftist super-legislature, and Republican voters are well aware of that.

Gun rights require even less discussion—in fact, in the past few months, driven mad by anti-Trump frenzy, prominent Democrats have begun openly declaring what they always lied about in the past, but which has always been true—that yes, they want to take away every single gun normal Americans own.

But I would not have thought the constant apologizing was so important, and so disturbing, to voters.  These people are not wrong about Obama’s habit of apologizing.

He began his term by apologizing to the entire Muslim world and then in nearly every (or perhaps every) foreign speech he made ensured that his speechwriters worked in some form of abasement for supposed past misdeeds of the United States.  Usually those misdeeds were left a little vague, such that the listeners were expected to fill in the specifics of their own particular grievance, so as to maximize the breadth and perceived impact of the apology.  The substance or rationale of these apologies, though, doesn’t really interest me.  Rather, I am curious why the voters were so upset.

It seems to me that apologies can vary on two basic axes—by whom, and to whom.  On the former axis, they can be made by the wrongdoer (Class A), or on his behalf by a legitimate representative (Class A’).  Or they can be made by a successor in interest, who did not participate in the original wrong but has a material link to that person (Class B).

On the latter axis, apologies can be made to people who are wronged (Class 1), or to their successors in interest (Class 2).  (I put into Class 2 also those who have only suffered a lesser, derivative wrong, but those could be a third class, if you wanted to complicate the analysis.)

Most people across the political spectrum would agree, I think, that apologies by Class A or Class A’ to Class 1 are unexceptional and some combination of desirable and necessary (or rather, they are unexceptional in the West, infused with Christian values—in a place like China, very different rules apply, which we will ignore here).  Apologies by Class A to Class 2 seem less required and desirable.

This is because the person wronged is the person who is “owed” the apology and is able to forgive—someone who has not suffered a wrong has neither the same right nor ability to forgive, and by the same token, is less deserving of an apology.

Even less required or desirable is an apology from Class B to Class 1, since personal responsibility only attaches to a wrongdoer.  Least appropriate of all is an apology from Class B to Class 2, where all parties involved have no actual connection to the wrong at issue.

I think what rubbed the people in this book the wrong way is that all of Obama’s apologies were in that last and least deserving category (or, arguably, were in a fifth category, of a supposed Class B person apologizing for something done earlier that was not a wrong at all).

Obama was not a Class A’ representative, although he may have viewed himself that way, because he was not representing any actual wrongdoers, either because the actual wrongdoers are dead, or because no wrong was committed at all.  And naturally, Obama never apologized for something he did—only for wrongs done by elements of the United States government, or elements of our ruling class (and sometimes even for elements of other governments and ruling classes).

Even if we assume that these wrongs were actual wrongs, and were as bad as Obama said, it is evident from what they say that the voters profiled in this book were viscerally outraged both by the stupidity of any “Class B to Class 2” apology, which necessarily humiliates the United States for no good reason.

They also were angered by the knowledge that Obama in no way blamed the recipients of the apologies, much less himself, or his cronies, or progressives, or any of their predecessors in interest, for anything.  Instead, all blame was to attach to a subset of current day Americans, who had done nothing at all to anybody—namely, the voters profiled in this book.

Hillary Clinton was more explicit on this point, but nobody was fooled that Obama didn’t think the same way—he was just smoother.  So maybe that this theme keeps cropping up as an element of Trump’s support isn’t all that surprising after all.

One claim by the authors rings false, though.  They say that Facebook, not the New York Times, “now drives the national conversation with the horsepower of its search traffic and algorithms.”

But it is the NYT, with a junior role played by a handful of media outlets equally totally under the control of leftists, that sets both what is considered to be news and what the agenda behind that selection is.  Anything not fitting the agenda is not considered to be news among the ruling classes and therefore is ignored and functionally suppressed; “it’s just Fox News.”

This indirect censorship is extremely powerful, and Facebook does not overcome it, even if it used to allow alternative new sources to rise to the top of its news feed.  And, since the election, Facebook has gotten in line, changing  its news feed from showing what people are actually choosing to view, to forcing down on people only approved outlets (that is, the NYT and its cronies), along with using leftist “fact checkers” such as Snopes and Politifact as cover for direct censorship.

Moreover, they (and Twitter, etc.) are moving, just in time for the 2018 election, to further censor “hate speech,” defined as conservative speech.  So, between a combination of Facebook not setting the agenda itself, but rather taking direction from the Left, and actively cooperating in driving the news coverage to favor the Left, nothing has changed at all.

In fact, contrary to conservatives’ hopes of the early 2000s, the NYT has much more power to set what is news and what is the agenda, since almost all alternative media enterprises of any public standing and reputation, that did not feel obliged to always toe the line, are out of business or a shadow of their former selves.

That said, again and again the people in this book say that they have completely tuned out of the news, because it is so obviously unhinged leftist propaganda.  This suggests that the impact of the NYT’s death grip on curating the news may be less than the Left hopes, or the Right fears.

Tied to this is another fact that comes up time and again—many of the interviewees self-censor on social media, afraid of the hatred directed at them by their “friends” for the political views, a problem never faced by their political opposites, who preen themselves on their alignment with the selected news they are shown and regard pouring malice on those who disagree with leftist views as a holy cause.

But when one group grows silent, they do not thereby agree more, and they are more likely just becoming submarine voters, which is the authors’ point.  True, some voters may still be soaking in the propaganda, unwilling or unable to cut the cancer out of their lives, but my guess is that nearly all have tuned out the vast majority of it.

I certainly have, even though I subscribe to the NYT—for years, now decades, I used to just ignore the editorial pages, but now I ignore all articles that are not completely unrelated to politics (an ever-shrinking group), since any article even tangentially involving politics is indistinguishable from the op-ed page.

So what does this mean for the immediate future?  Nearly all of the counties profiled voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, and then swung hard to Trump in 2016.  The authors note that this is an unstable situation—the voters could easily swing back.

In many instances, their voting for Trump was a combination of Trump’s stands and an explicit feeling that the Democrats left them, not the reverse.  (We are constantly showered with claims by supposed former Republicans that their party left them, but the media never suggests the same process is equally possible for Democrats.)

If the Republicans nominated some Chamber of Commerce blob like Jeb Bush, or even a zombie Reaganite like Ted Cruz, and the Democrats nominated someone not a shrill, hateful, decaying crone or an elderly Communist, or dialed back their obsessive focus on the politics of identity and grievance in favor of acknowledging the concerns of the people interviewed in this book, I bet that’s exactly what would happen.

Still, Zito and Todd believe that the more likely outcome is that the Trump coalition holds together, and that neither party has fully grasped this likelihood.  (On a related note, the reason that progressives want to get rid of the electoral college is precisely to avoid this outcome, by making it unnecessary for national politicians to capture any votes outside urban areas).
Naturally, this book has been ignored by the liberal media, which suggests a continuing failure to grasp this obstacle to leftist dominance.

But the core social problems that make these counties suffer are not going away anytime soon.  Unemployment might be addressed by a different economic policy, but that is unlikely to happen with the levers of economic power being held by globalists, and even if we changed our policies, it is not likely that the 1950s will come again.

And this is true not just because it’s impossible to go back—in addition, the social fabric of these counties is utterly destroyed, although the voters don’t seem to want to realize that.  The biggest single problem is opiates, followed by a breakdown in families and the same atomization of society found everywhere.

Even if $30/hour jobs returned, these problems would persist.  This suggests that to the extent voters hope Trump will make a dent in their social problems, they are likely to be disappointed.  Yes, he will protect their guns and their religious liberty; he will issue no apologies; and he will stick his finger in the eye of the liberal media.

But is that enough?  Probably to keep their votes for a while.  In the end, the question is whether substantive change is required for these voters to be happy, or merely fighting on their behalf.  We’ll find out soon enough.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The photo shows, “La fiumana [Stream of People]” by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, painted ca. 1895-1896.

Émile Durkheim And Progress

Emile Durkheim’s sociological views depend upon the concept of progress, in that society evolves, or moves through, various phases; and this he readily sees when he begins to examine the idea of labor within society.

Thus, he finds that traditional division of labor evolved into a simple division of labor, and then into a more complex division of labor. This organic view of society implies that the various components that comprise any given society not only structure this society, but also have well defined functions.

Therefore, society is not merely a composite of individuals; it is in fact an entity unto itself which influences and determines individuals by way of social currents and social norms.

Although these influences are the result of human endeavor, nevertheless they are not linked with individual will. This, in short, is Durkheim’s sociological project.

Given this co-dependent, but not co-determined, relationship between society and the individual, Durkheim seeks to locate a sociological explanation for social structures as well as individual endeavor.

One of the structures that he seeks to explain is the economic life of a society. Within it, he locates the role and purpose of labor, which determines the specific functions of economic life. Thus, for him, the crucial point can be found in the division of labor, which he tells us determines new paradigms of social cohesion and correlations.

One of these correlations is structure of the regulation of contracts. He tells us “the contract is not sufficient by itself, but is only possible because of the regulation of contracts, which is of social origins.”

This is an important statement in that it houses Durkheim’s notion of what is actually meant by “regulation” of contracts. In order to understand this, we need to first examine Durkheim’s notion of the contract, and then its regulation.

Since society determines and is determined by the individual, Durkheim recognizes that it is equality that binds individuals to their functions within society, and consequently cohere these functions into a greater whole.

Thus, contracts are a necessary development of the division of labor, since they precisely articulate a consensus, or collective thought. And therefore, the division between rich and poor is the result of unjust contracts. However, as labor is divided, social doctrine weakens, and the gap between rich and poor becomes insupportable, and individuals begin to crate contracts that will make

relationships evenhanded. Certainly, there is a need for contracts in society, since they structure social life, and if no contracts existed, individuals would take abuse and misuse each other. Consequently, what Durkheim means by “regulation” of contracts is the implementation of liberty and equality within society.

Therefore, regulation is the establishment of social order, wherein economic and legal contracts become amenable and practical. In effect, regulation is the agreement between individuals within the context of society.

The idea of regulation stems, for Durkheim, from his notion of social systems, which are exemplified by mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity. Durkheim tells us: “This gives rise to a solidarity sui generis which, deriving from resemblances, binds the individual directly to society. … It does not consist merely in a general, indeterminate attachment of the individual to the group, but is also one that concerts their detailed action….They produce everywhere the same effects. Consequently, whenever they are brought into play all wills spontaneously move as one in the same direction.”

Thus, mechanical solidarity incorporates the collective consciousness, wherein collective ends are pursued, especially common responses to flaunting of regulations. Here, the individual is dependent on collective or common consciousness. The purpose of this solidarity, which comprises efforts that encompass common values, common beliefs, and those experiences that permit individuals to cooperate and function successfully.

While mechanical solidarity heavily regulates activities and social relationships within society, there is also the development of a great flexibility that guarantees individual freedom, development, change, and the growth of personality.

Durkheim observes: “Whereas other solidarity implies that individuals resemble one another, the latter assumes that they are different from one another. The former type is only possible in so far as the individual personality is absorbed into the collective personality; the latter is only possible if each one has a sphere of action that is peculiarly our own; and consequently a personality….Indeed, on the one hand, each one of us depends more intimately upon society the more the labor is divided up, and on the other, the activity of each one of us is correspondingly more specialized, the more personal it is….Society becomes more effective in moving in concert, at the same time as each of its elements has more movements that are peculiarly its own. This solidarity resembles that observed in the higher animals. In fact each organ has its own special characteristics and autonomy, yet the greater the unity of the organism, the more marked the individualization of the parts is more marked. Using this analogy, we propose to call ‘organic’ the solidarity that is due to the division of labor.”

Now, it is organic solidarity that shared principles and expectations are embodied, such as the law and the market.

The importance of regulation of contracts can be seen in various ways.

First, they restore the situation to where it was before the offense occurred, that it, to its original state.

Second, this process guarantees that society is present in the form of the law, and the legal system derives its authority from society. Thus, society intervenes and ensures that the dispute rises beyond the individual.

Third, rules and laws are set forth in a general manner, which are then regulated. Fourth, and most importantly, the individual is “condemned to submit” to the law, and is not punished as such.

Progress, then, determines the individual’s regulation in society. It s here that modern liberalism finds much of its impetus.


The photo shows, “The Assembly of the Six Counties,” by Charles Alexander Smith, painted in 1891.

Stalin Wasn’t Alone

Do dictators ever stand alone? A dictator is defined as a one who has total power over country, but is that even possible? Can one man ever have total control of a nation, even if he wields, say, Stalin’s iron fist?

When we think of Stalin’s USSR, we tend to imagine a totalitarian world that resembles Orwell’s 1984. At the head of the state is Stalin. Directly below him is a hierarchy of mindless henchmen. And of course, below them is the constantly terrorized multitude which is under constant watch by the regime. This narrative is a myth of history.

This narrative completely deprives anybody any agency besides Stalin. Like many myths of history, it is an oversimplification which meets a political agenda. The truth is far more complicated.

I am not doubting the brutality of the Stalinist Regime. The historiography on the Stalinist era is riddled with horrors (often down-played by contemporary leftists). There was the mass famine created during collectivization in the Ukraine that killed at least 3.3 million people.

Mass paranoia and accusations swept across the land in the Great Purges of the 1930s. After show trials in kangaroo courts, the accused would be evicted from their homes and exiled to Siberian Gulags, if lucky – and immediately shot, if not.

None of these horrors are in doubt. There is a lot of bloodshed and violence to be accounted for, but was it all done at the behest of one man alone?

There is a lot of bloodshed and violence to be accounted for, but was it all done at the behest of one man alone?

Stalinism went beyond Stalin. The historiography shows that large portion of the population was more than willing to participate in Stalinism. There is a lesson to be learned here, if we wish to fight the dictatorships of the present.

Collectivization was big task. Such economic reform was the push to get citizens of the USSR to nationalize their possessions, farmland, and estates into a single collective.  Many Ukrainians refused to yield to be part of collective farms.

In fact, “activists” and others aided the state in the forced collectivization of the countryside.

Hundreds of devoted communists came down from the cities to terrorize the peasantry.

These “progressives” were aided by peasants who believed in the creation of the collective farms for political and personal gain. Those under Stalin acted on their own initiative in this very anarchic part of Ukrainian history.

Collectivization couldn’t have happened without the mass support of communists on the ground.

Where did these communist supporters, the communards, come from? Before Stalin even took power, there was a massive push by students to form collectives and inspire workers and peasants to do the same. The seeds of communism were grassroots before they blossomed into atrocities.

The Great Purge is another example of a Soviet catastrophe that transcends Stalin’s “total” power, fueled by an active engagement of the population.

Starting with Stalin eliminating right-wingers in his inner circle, the purge spirals off into a nationwide frenzy.

Colleague purged colleague, co-worker purged co-worker, and neighbour purged neighbour in a chaotic slew of accusations.

People on the ground had much to gain from participating in the witch-hunt, including wealth, power, and fame. Worst of all, many believed that purging those around them was an act of patriotism.

The blood of these victims is shared by the citizens of the USSR.

If we say that Stalin had all the power, then we deprive the accusers and activists of any agency. And if the accusers had no agency over their actions, then how can they share in the guilt of these heinous deeds?

If Stalin was a totalitarian (meaning that he wielded total power), then we deprive the citizenry of the Soviet Union any agency. The fact is, the Soviet citizenry hosted Stalinism, or at least participated in it.

How could they be guilt-free from the atrocities of the Stalinist regime? To believe so would be an injustice to victims of famine who died in collectivization, and the victims silenced and exiled by the purge.

Well then what is Stalin’s dictatorship? If it’s not total power, then what is it? Stalinism was the true enemy of the people, not Stalin himself. Dictatorship is the control of information. It is the

manipulation of minds though coercion and deceit. Dictatorship is a belief, not a person. Insomuch as people use force, they are believers in dictatorship. Insomuch as people pollute the air with their own dishonesty, they are believers in dictatorship. It’s not Stalin you have to worry about, it’s the Stalinists.

The historiography reveals a great sense of belief in Stalinism amongst the people. Diaries reveal how a great deal of their authors were “progressives” who were repulsed by “backwards” conservatives.

Sons of kulaks (nebulous term for farmers who were deemed unprogressive) would join the State in the witch-hunt against their own kinsmen, so that they could fit in to the new social order by doing away with the old.

The citizenry constantly engaged with the state to settle personal problems, from marriage advice to bad blood between friends (these were all former functions of the Russian Orthodox Church). Stalinism was, in fact, a secular theocracy, full of ardent believers.

There are some lessons to be learned from understanding the nature of dictatorship. When you hear about a dictator on the news, don’t assume that his people are all plotting against him. Shockingly, the opposite is more likely to be true. Also, most professors and students at universities aren’t against the dictatorship of their nation either, they’re just rebels without a clue.

Most importantly, when your neighbours start charging each other with meaningless accusations, know that a purge is knocking at the door. And if you survive the witch-hunts, console yourself with the knowledge that the madness can’t last forever, not if we take a stand.

We must continually counter tyranny, with the greater assertion of our freedom.


The photo shows, “The Glorification of Stalin,” or “Stalin Among the Workers,” by Yuri Kugach, painted ca. 1950.

Aristotle On The Soul And The Body

The idea of man as a political animal, and the relationship of the soul as the first actuality of the body is fully explored by Aristotle in his Politics. In order to understand this entire construct, it is important to bear in mind the larger theme behind these two interrelated ideas is that of the “polis” or the political community.

The particular characteristic of the political community, or polis, is that it is the community that includes all other human communities, while itself being included by none.

Because of its all-inclusiveness, the polis includes or assimilates within its own end or purpose the end or purpose of every form of community. Therefore, by polis is meant an entirely different and radical relationship of the political community to human society.

However, it is important to see that whatever the unity attributed to society, it is not the kind of unity that gives its identity to the polis. For the unity of the polis is like that of the human organism, in that it is the result of a capacity for deliberate rational purpose.

It is at the very beginning of the Politics that Aristotle lays bare his definition of the “polis.” The elements of this definition may be described as follows. First, there is this syllogism: every polis is a community; every community aims at some good; therefore every polis aim at some good.

The minor premise is itself the conclusion of an implied syllogism: every community is constituted by common action; every action aims at some good; therefore every community aims at some good.

To understand the definition of the polis we must then grasp with utmost surety the meaning and the implications of this definition that has been laid bare, namely, that every action aims or intends some good.

This proposition applies, in Aristotle’s entire doctrine of the whole, to all motion in the universe. However, for our purposes, we shall only concentrate on that part of it which refers to voluntary human action, which is realm of the first actuality.

Aristotle tells us that every human agent acts voluntarily only as he intends something that, in so far as it is a motive for him to act, appears to him to be something good. It is this good quality that describes the soul. Consequently, all human action derives from desire for something that moves to action by its appearance of desirability or goodness.

Desire implies a sense of deficiency in the human agent; that which is desired appears to the agent as capable of overcoming the sense of deficiency. As such, it appears to him as good, and becomes thereby the motive for voluntary action.

Now Aristotle maintains that there is one thing which stands in relation to all the activities of human life, as the target stands to the activity of the archer. It is the mark toward which everything we do is ultimately directed, and only as we can see that mark (or as we are directed by those who do see it), can our lives be said to have direction.

If there were no absolutely final cause of human action, then everything would be desired for the sake of something else and there would be no term or end of human desire. Therefore, there must be a final attainable end to all human action.

It is this end result of (of a desired goal) that links us to Aristotle’s observation that man is a political animal. The complete and self-sufficient community, a community that embraces all other communities but is embraced by none, corresponds exactly to the idea of happiness: the human good that embraces and includes within itself as an element of its own definition all other goods, but is itself included in the definition of no other good.

Happiness is the term of all human action, and is implicit as the final term of every human action. The polis is the term of all human communities, and is the external, organized expression of the unity that governs or ought to govern the totality of human actions in all their diversity.

Propaganda: A Brief Guide

“Propaganda” is a term often heard and used, but also often misunderstood and therefore misused.

A systematic and detailed explanation is found in the work of the French philosopher Jacques Ellul, who precisely lays out the nature and even the variety of propaganda, in his book, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes.

First of all, Ellul gives a broad definition to propaganda, by referring to it as “an enterprise for perverting the significance of events”

In other words, facts when they are written down are rigorously interpreted according to a group’s (or government’s) ideas about its history and its future.

Then, Ellul proceeds to lay out a precise system of categories through which propaganda functions.

These groupings are four in number, namely, political and sociological propaganda, agitation and integration propaganda, vertical and horizontal propaganda, and finally, rational and irrational propaganda.

Political propaganda involves various methods of influence, used by a group (government), to achieve precise goals.

Ellul calls sociological propaganda “persuasion from within,” since it is always expressed by an individual who has thoroughly integrated the political and cultural values and ideologies of his society and who then uses such ideologies to make value judgements which he feels are entirely natural.

Agitation propaganda, as the term suggests, is aggressive and seeks immediate results, aiming to overthrow a government or the traditional order of things.

As such, it is always subversive and antagonistic, and is often used by groups or governments, since its focus is to break down “psychological barriers of habit, belief and judgement.”

Integration propaganda, on the other hand, is “patient,” seeking to stabilize social behavior, and its aim is to produce conformity.

Vertical propaganda flows from the top down, usually from a leader who seeks to influence all those below.

Ellul defines horizontal propaganda as emanating from “inside the group (and not from the top), where in principle, all individuals are equal and there is no leader.”

Rational propaganda is aimed at the intellect, and relies on facts, statistics and economic ideas – however, its aim is to produce irrationality in the individual.

On the opposite end is irrational propaganda which seeks to evoke emotional, fearful or passionate responses.

And it is here that Orwell’s observation makes perfect sense – that “all propaganda is lies, even when one is telling the truth.”



The photo shows, The Green Sofa, by Sir John Lavery, painted in 1893.