The Importance of Gaetano Mosca

A great book opens one’s eyes to processes that one may have missed had one not read it. Likewise, its power lies in activating one’s own abilities of thought to see more clearly what others may not notice at all or merely glimpse as a blur in the fog.

Few books I have read are better guides and eye-openers about how to think structurally, historically, and comparatively about politics generally, and the major crises of our time, crises that have largely been induced by a ruling class that has globalist ambitions, than Gaetano Mosca’s Ruling Class. Reading it can also help one be better attuned to the political fluxions that draw us toward the break-down of politics as the means for staving off those terrible forces of human destruction and rejuvenation—war and revolution, which are the inevitable consequences of a failure to adequately maintain and cultivate the powers of peace.

The ruling class of the West, which forms the core of a globalist elite, draws us into an external war—that remains at this stage a proxy war—and (most conspicuously so in the United States and Europe) a civil war that is playing itself out politically and institutionally and has already destroyed the very possibility of a common political culture.

1. Canonical and Great Books

Some books found peoples and nations; some assist in the founding of institutions; some open pathways for new types of orienting of human beings and help us forge a new reality; some provide the language and thought patterns of an epoch; some books are prophetic; and some provide the wherewithal that best defines the problem of an age. The most influential of these great books are canonical. And in spite of the ideological attack upon the canon which was part and parcel of a sweeping attempt to accommodate Western institutions to the knowledge and intellectual capacities of poorly-educated and under-read undergraduates and graduate students, canonical books exist because our world would simply not be the same were they to not have existed. This was also why it was commonly assumed amongst professors, teachers, and the professional classes that every educated person should acquaint himself with certain books at some point in his life-time.

The canon also reflects the problems of the ages and the most significant of attempted solutions—which is why it is so diverse, if I may be permitted to use a word that has become an ideological truncheon in the arsenal of managerial and progressive moral absolutes. A canonical work might not be error free, or it may be fraught with problems (Marx’s Communist Manifesto or Capital or Rousseau’s Èmile and Social Contract are obvious examples), or just simply defiant of traditional ethical appeals (Machiavelli’s Prince). Nor does the canon contain a collection of like-minded sentiments or responses to the human condition. And the idea that it is simply the point of view of white men makes no sense, given the shoddiness of the category—are people from what is now the Middle East, Northern Pakistan and Central Asia white?—or the authors of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Koran, the Analects, the Tao Te Ching, and the Bhagavad Gita, which all are canonical works?

Then there are books which, though lesser known, if read attentively, can change how you see the world forever. They may not be canonical, but they express profound insights which, if remembered, would help us greatly in making sense of our world. I consider the writings of J.G. Hamann and Herder, of Franz Rosenzweig and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy to be good examples of these kind of books. In the case of both pairs of thinkers, they were contemporaries of much more influential and famous philosophers—viz., the former were contemporaries of Kant, the latter of Heidegger. But whereas Kant and Heidegger remain essential to the philosophical tradition and hence to the curriculum of Philosophy (at least to that curriculum that breathes outside of the straightjacket of Analytic Philosophy), if one has attentively read Hamann et. al., then one can quickly identify a range of egregious deficiencies in the philosophies and legacies of Kant and Heidegger, and his ‘68 progeny.

Then there are books that were ignored at the time of their publication; or having made a strong impression upon a discipline or the public have faded from view, only to undergo a revival because they have been (re)discovered by later generations who see that they address something of profound importance about their lives and times. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, for example, were “stillborn” only to be reborn; while Mises’s Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, took on a new life when the Soviet Union was collapsing.

Explosive times, invariably, call out for the most thoughtful and inventive of people to make sense of them. And great books are inevitably forged out of the explosive fall out; the materials and problems of times in great crisis. Though, we should note, that human beings are crisis producing creatures—which is why those who believe in progress invariably are forced to temper their enthusiasm when their own circumstances and age go to hell.

But let us first address the tumult of our time, which is the reason I suggest Gaetano Mosca’s Ruling Class is a must read.

2. Global Leadership Aspirations versus those Non-Compliant Critics from the “Led-ship”

We are living in a period of civil wars in the West being played out in its institutions, as the ruling political class, and the various interests it represents and deploys for its objectives, overturns (in large part by redefining the character and roles of all) traditional social institutions. It is a civil war that is rather typical of all civil wars—a ruling class furnishes the world in a way that suits its interests; but such furnishing requires great sacrifice from those whose lives are an important part of this new furnishing. And the proposed purpose, the changing circumstances, and the new future being made, do not fit well with the interests (the ways of being in the world) of those who are required to get in step with the dictates of the ruling class.

The civil war of our time, in other words, is the struggle over whether the future will be dictated by a globalist elite and those who (often unwittingly) work on their behalf, or by those who oppose the goals and means of that elite, and the sacrifices that are required to achieve it. On the one side stand those who believe they are striving for human progress, and that progress involves greater “emancipation,” “safety,” “diversity and inclusion,” and “equity.” Yet, as their critics point out, they are creating a world which is far less equitable, safe or free. They are contributing to a divide between the immensely rich, the highly paid leaders, and administrators, celebrities, elite athletes, and all those who are employed to do their bidding by supervising and instructing everyone in what to think and say, on the one hand, and the rest.

The rest are those who are meant to make up the great “led-ship,” who are to do the bidding the various leaders, the “representatives” of sustainability, global justice, world health—and pretty much anything else said leaders can think of—and thus the “rest” find themselves increasingly beholden to leaders. Irrespective of their intentions, the more vocal opponents of this ruling elite can see that they are aiding and abetting corporate technocratic globalism, and its accompanying suppliers of governance (administrative states beholden to larger global administrative powers, such as the EU, and the UN), knowledge (from big tech/media and its fact-checkers to the requirement that scientific research be funded by state-corporately authorized research institutions and bodies which comply with consensuses that are manufactured within various professional associations, again complying with corporate and state requirements, and standardized curricula crafted around ostensibly universal rights), health (Big Pharma, and WHO, medical associations, and boards), and safety (the Industrial Military Complex and international military alliances whose very existence requires manufacturing wars, which may never be won, but which help ensure a continuous resource stream from tax-payers to arms manufacturers, bureaucrats and the military so that a global standing military reserve will never cease to exist).

What to those who embrace this globalist order and its rulers and minions is a more caring, safe and compassionate, environmentally sustainable world order, is to others but mindlessness and mental enslavement, infantile indulgence, and the suppression of the more traditional institutions and roles, which have provided people with a sense of the fit between themselves and the kind of freedom that was worked out over multiple generations in the numerous spheres of sociality. Whereas supporters of globalism can be found everywhere—though, the further away one gets from the West, such supporters exist in ever smaller numbers—the opponents of this global elite do not form a natural alliance: being a traditional Muslim, Jew, or Christian does not mean that the common ground—one’s traditional faith—is very common or solid as a base for an alliance. Conflict and wars are the inevitable accompaniments of traditional life-ways. But the delusion of the globalist elites is that under their direction there will be perpetual peace.

Again, critics of the globalist elite (which take NATO as its military shield) will point out that what is happening is not that war as an existential feature of human existence has ceased, or even diminished, but the grounds for its existence have shifted, and the beneficiaries for its existence have assumed the authority of being the planetary peace-providers.

If nature abhors a vacuum, then the nature of our global administrative, financial, communication systems have created a vacuum that has been filled by a globalist ruling class—a Superclass, as David Rothkopf, who served in the Clinton administration, formulated it in his book of that name. (Rothkopf, who is not at all hostile to this elite, makes the case that while membership is relatively mobile, it numbers around six thousand people at any given time). In filling that vacuum, the global elite have required that the world adopts itself to their interests, which are the interests that support their authority. But, again, their interests, simply do not suit the overwhelming number of people who live on planet earth, and do not feel that this superclass is of any benefit to them—critics of the superclass go further and see it as a class whose ambition wildly outstrips its competence, and is thus a destructive force, far greater than what nature and our other social formations would generate.

The globalist ruling class inaugurates another fundamental break with tradition—and at the danger of repeating myself—the modus operandi of the globalist elite is its break with all real traditions, involving a kind of substitution racket, like fake gold being passed off as real gold. This particular break is that previously whereas power formations which move beyond those of outright enslavement or tyranny are historically formed symbiotically, so that a sacrificial order is established—no serious sacrifice is required of the globalist elite themselves: they can pay others to enforce others to make the sacrifices that are intrinsic to social reproduction (notably sacrifices of the independence of mind to the ruling ideas, the sacrifice of one’s faith to the higher absolutes of globalist/corporatist/progressivist ideology, and sacrifice of one’s relative economic well-being).

For all its aspirations, though, Globalism Inc. remains largely politically ineffective outside of the West, and the great geo-political non-Western globalist alternative to Western globalism, China, is one that far more carefully attends to bringing along the ruled with its ruling class—which is not to say that on certain divisive issues it will not do what ruling classes always do, i.e., brutally enforce its authority. The way it has managed to cement its authority by avoiding a civil war is to ensure its adherence to traditions in a way that makes it something of a mirror image of the West. But, to repeat, there is no natural allegiance between the traditionalism of the Chinese and those in the West, who find greater solace in their traditions than in the new elite counterfeit fabrications. To question these fabrications in the West as counterfeit, based upon (collective self-)delusions and/or deception, is now to be a “right-wing extremist,” and to question any of the ticket items that are advanced through these fabrications, and to even speak of a globalist elite is to be a dupe of a conspiracy theory, which is to say that those making a play to be the global ruling class smother resistance by ideological indoctrination, accompanied by social, economic and political enforcement.

The primary reason that the West has been the leader of the globalist agenda, from its social alliances, to policy, to ideology is because the West has been created through wars and revolutions, and the relative success of its institutions, prior to breeding a class determined to destroy them, has been the incorporation of a dynamic which enables adapting to its changing technological and socio-economic circumstances. In the West, it is not the case that those who wish to preserve their traditional way of life are wishing to leap back to pre-modern times, as, for example, has been the case in much of the Islamic world’s response to modernization. Thus, for example, in the United States, those who are most outspoken against the progressive direction of their country identify themselves as “patriots,” i.e., as defenders of the American revolution and the principles it founded and which have evolved in its wake.

Today, the ruling class in the United States has largely embraced switching the founding of the United States from the date marking the independence of a colony from a foreign oppressive power it defeated in a civil war by declaring “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” to a date which takes its founding as an act of enslavement, and its perpetuity as one of a trail of injustices that must now be rectified by those who will lead its people (who no longer are merely the citizens and their children) via the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, the media, the classroom, and wherever else people may assemble, speak, or reflect.

Of course, there are still some people who belong to the political class who are on the “wrong side of history,” the side that identifies in the United States with the founding fathers, who are appalled that the new ruling class works in tandem with the youth of the nation and its educators to overturn institutions, tear-down statues, change the names of military bases, schools and other buildings and, rewrite their history books and school curricula, so that the men who founded the United States may have their status removed and their personage shamed, and the more diverse, and the tolerant ruling class who represent the truth of power and an emancipated future may live in safety, free from the “moral odium” of their forebears. The civil war that is taking place is one which exists because the ruling class has changed. It has gone globalist, become “virtuous,” and got “woke.”

There is, I believe, no better book for making sense of what is now transpiring than Gaetano Mosca’s Ruling Class.

3. Mosca Elements of Political Science and Their Importance for Understanding the Affinities Between Totalitarian Ruling Classes

Apart from its providing a number of key elements to help make sense of the times we are living through in the West, I came to the conclusion, right at the end of my academic career, after picking the book up again for the first time in nearly fifty years (when I had been too young and stupid to realize what gold it was) that Mosca’s Ruling Class is, along with Aristotle’s Politics and Thucydides’ Peloponnesian Wars, probably the best foundational text for studying Political Science that has ever been written. (For all its greatness, I would not say that Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope is a foundational text for studying Political Science)

The Italian title of The Ruling Class (when literally translated) is Elements of Political Science, the first edition of which appeared in Italy in 1896; the English translation of the revised edition of 1923 appeared in 1939. The English title is perhaps a more catching one, and it does capture the content of the book. But I think it regrettable that in an age where Political Science is little more now than a disciplinary name rather than a genuine academic discipline that this book is rarely read by those who study Politics. Today, as would be evident to anyone who simply read the titles of papers presented at the American Political Science Association, with the possible exception of rational choice theory (which I think is irredeemably flawed by its inattention to culture and history), most who teach Political Science are morally committed political partisans who have little or no interest in exploring their role within the ruling class. Or indeed thinking outside of the two-dimensional model and its intersectional variant, which would make them and their chosen groups oppressed members of a society they wish to transform, instead of being paid employees (mostly of) the state whose task it is to educate and socially prepare the next generation for reproducing the kind of society that its “leaders”—its ruling class—deem as desirable.

As the Italian title suggests, in dealing with elements of a science of politics Mosca’s book is one that cuts across cultures, which is to say it is a structural examination, a study of the laws that lead to rulership and its class-based nature. Though the structures and laws examined by Mosca are analyzed in their historical genesis and mutations, which is to say Mosca’s study is also an historical study, as it must be given that history provides the condition of our circumstances, just as our response to circumstances also make history. Thus, it examines the changing conditions which give birth to the different social needs and opportunities for different types and classes, and hence the different priorities of governance and those who form the political class of a time and people. It is also comparativist in its approach. In his “Introduction” to the Ruling Class, Arthur Livingstone provided a good summation of Mosca’s method:

He will of course take the facts about society from any source or method that can supply them, only so they are facts—from economics, from anthropology, from psychology, or any similar science. He does explicitly reject for the political-social field any absolute exclusive acceptance of climatic or north-and-south theories, anthropological theories based on the observation of primitive societies (the question of size is important), the economic interpretation of history (it is too unilateral), doctrines of racial superiorities and inferiorities (many different race theories have had their moments of splendor), and evolutionary theories (they fail to account for the rhythmical movement of human progress—biological evolution would require continuous improvement.

The book opens with Mosca showing the inadequacy of most competing approaches to Political Science, noting that various claims to Political Science “are still, little more than philosophical, theological or rational justifications of certain types of political organization which have for centuries, played and in some cases are still playing, a significant role in human history.” Then, it proceeds to lay down the foundational fact upon which there can be political life, as well as a science of it:

Among the constant facts and tendencies that are to be found in all political organisms, one is so obvious that it is apparent to the most casual eye. In all societies—from societies that are very meagerly developed and have barely attained the dawnings of civilization, down to the most advanced and powerful societies—two classes of people appear—a class that rules and a class that is ruled. The first class, always the less numerous, performs all political functions, monopolizes power and enjoys the advantages that power brings, whereas the second, the more numerous class, is directed and controlled by the first; in a manner that is now more or less legal, now more or less arbitrary and violent, and supplies the first, in appearance at least, with material means of subsistence and with the instrumentalities that are essential to the vitality of the political organism.

Mosca then notes that “in every political organism there is one individual who is chief among the leaders of the ruling class as a whole,” but that person may not hold supreme power according to law. No head of state can rule without the support “of a numerous class to enforce respect for his orders and to have them carried out.” Indeed, it is because of the need for competing and potentially conflicting forces to be coordinated, so that peace between them reign, that a figure symbolizing unity and bearing ultimate sovereignty can act as a mediator between them. That is, it is sovereignty which is a consequence not a precondition of a larger class of “interested” parties; but once established its success depends upon a fit between the sovereign’s interests and that powerful class that commands and coordinates subordinate powers. Of course, that power is originally martial—and the Ruling Class is particularly attentive to the importance of the changing nature of armies in the transformation of ruling classes.

Mosca also notes that just as states require a unity of ends and agreeable means between the sovereign and the most powerful class which girds its authority, there is also a need to draw from the “masses” a group to facilitate and enforce the functions of the rulers. As he puts it:

and granting that he can make one individual, or indeed many individuals, in the ruling class feel the weight of his power, he certainly cannot be at odds with the class as a whole or do away with it. Even if that were possible, he would at once be forced to create another class, without the support of which action on his part would be completely paralysed. On the other hand, granting that the discontent of the masses might succeed in deposing a ruling class, inevitably, as we shall later show, there would have to be another organized minority within the masses themselves to discharge the functions of a ruling class. Otherwise all organization, and the whole social structure, would be destroyed.

…the real superiority of the concept of the ruling, or political, class lies in the fact that the varying structure of ruling classes has a preponderant importance in determining the political type, and also the level of civilization, of the different peoples.

In the chapter “Principles and Tendencies in Ruling Classes,” Mosca notes that it is the middle-class that generally supplied the personnel for the bureaucracy; that it is the moral level of the bureaucracy that signifies the moral level of the ruling class; and that the members of the bureaucracy tend to “believe in their own infallibility,” and are “loath to accept criticisms and suggestion from persons who are not of their calling.” With the expansion of the state into ever more areas of what were once considered private domains of life, and the expansion of those who work with the state, combined with those who are not of the bureaucracy generally but who are affiliated to a party and/ or committed to a political program and work in the corporate and private sector to achieve the kind of state they desire, this combination of moral assuredness and hostility to criticism threatens to generate the kind of opposition that typically leads to the overthrow of a ruling class. Just as the partitions between private and public spheres, the market and state have been pushed aside, thus indicating the death of old fashioned liberal democracy, the bureaucracy no longer has either the aspiration or pretence of being non-partisan. Its members now almost totally represent the program of the “liberal (anti-democratic) progressive.”

The totalitarian trinity of people, party, and leader(ship) has been a complete success in the United States, while most other nations still play by two party rules when it comes to the parliament, but administrations, service providers, school and university curricula, legislation regarding sexuality, policies for multiculturalism, advancement of identity politics and minorities, hate speech etc. are systematically progressive and utterly globalist. And when even it comes to the parliament, as the example of Boris Johnson and BREXIT illustrates, today there are all manner of serpentine ways that political rulers may slip from defender of the nation and its mores to employee of Globalist Inc. Ultimately the most ambitious and most driven members of a ruling class have little regard for older rules of etiquette precisely because of their own sense of moral conviction, and the ability they have to appoint and reward those who share their convictions.

The greater part of the Ruling Class is an historical analysis of the varying ruling class structures and the historical and social conditions that have given rise to them. Apart from any comparisons between Mosca and his contemporaries, who also were developing an elite theory of politics, which I touch upon below, the idea of a ruling class is most commonly associated with Marxism. But the difference between the Marxian deployment of the term to advance its own political program, and Mosca’s analysis, is two-fold—and it is this difference which I think enables us to see why Marxism is ideology, while Mosca’s work a contribution to Political Science.

First, the Marxists promise a future where there will be no ruling class. But that future could only be realized if there were a unity of purpose and such a vast coalition of interests that politics, rulership, class, and divisions between people would have ceased to exist. Thus, Marx’s claim that communism would eliminate the division of labour whist providing material abundance of a sort so that all could live according to their ability and needs. This is a unity that simply has never existed for any protracted period of time, and could only exist were different social interests eliminated—but they are generated out of the division of labour—and it is the division of labour that is the sine qua non of large-scale production, not the desire of someone to dabble in one or other form of creative productivity as it suits him.

Marx simply could not demonstrate how the elimination of the division of labour could defy everything known about economic production and create more abundance than it did when groups existed on such a small scale that what division of labour existed (such as between the sexes and the ages) was negligible. Which brings us to the second point: the Marxist future, irrespective of Marx’s own inability to see what he was doing, is nothing more than a verbal conjuration. In that sense it is the perfect means for those whose primary “skill” is rhetoric. The link between oratory, sophistry (the use of education for the advancement of one’s political power), demagoguery, and tyranny was critically observed by Plato; and that link has only become more intense within the displacement of the old ruling class by one in which verbal prowess and rationalization is fundamental to political legitimation.

Marxism is but one means by which a class, trafficking in words and ideas and persuading people to follow the objectives they lay down, and the means they authorize to achieve those objectives, has come to rule. Of course, that class needs resources; and the most common means available to it are: theft (a means used by the Bolsheviks for a relatively short while, and a means which the United States and, with the European Union, set to follow, are using in their proxy war against Russia), taxes, and donations to political parties.

Marxism did not die with the end of the Soviet-style central planning. In the West, it has survived in its non-Leninist incarnation, as an intrinsic ideological component of the Humanities curricula of elite Western universities. It has survived because it is an ideology whose endgame irreality is of no relevance to its success as an ideological way of oversimplifying reality for an aspirational ruling class keen to find a path to professional careers providing them with the power to build the world around its leadership. The particular interests of those who identify with any one of the radical variants that have come out of Marxist critique is to rule and thus decide how resources are to be deployed for which purposes by which people. This is ideologically passed off as achieving an absolute good – universal emancipation.

Marx himself appealed to a future of spontaneous universal cooperation based upon the complete mutuality of interests of the species (once the bourgeoisie were eliminated). But the impossibility of having large scale productivity and consumption growth without a market and capital investment, and of having political direction without a ruling party and state has meant that Marxism, and its various academically refined spawn, is but one piece of the ideological puzzle justifying the actuality of a ruling class that deploys a combination of value imposition, technocracy—its inevitability and spread being well noted in another very important book, James Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution—and financial control. It is achieved by a completely politicised social, pedagogical, and economic alignment or coordination of human action- what the Nazis call Gleichschaltung, which in turn requires suppressing any resistance whether of thought or deed. In so far as the process is ideological – the result of thinking built around political ideational alignments—this ruling class is far more attuned to the dangers of thoughts and words than were any inquisitors or contemporary mullahs.

In sum, while Mosca sees the ruling class as the inevitable accompaniment of all large-scale social organization, Marxism passes off the notion of the ruling class, and indeed politics itself, as but a transitory phase of social existence, whilst creating a rhetorical smokescreen for the rise of a political class that, if successful, claims to speak on behalf of universal interest and thus, if successful, should be able hold its power into perpetuity.

Typically, when Mosca’s work is raised, it is grouped along with other theorists of political elites, most notably Roberto Michels and Wilfried Pareto. Unlike Michels who had been a Marxist before becoming an anarcho-syndicalist and supporter of Il Duce, and Pareto, whose support of Mussolini was brief (Pareto died in 1923) and something of an ill-fit, given the liberal nature of his economic thought, Mosca was a liberal, but not one who was oblivious to its failures and shortcoming, and the threats posed to it by fascism—he wrestles with the problems of representative government in the book’s final chapter.

Although there was some dispute between Pareto and Mosca over who should get the prize for being the first to focus upon political elites as forming the basis of political science, the more important contrast within the elite theorists is between Mosca and Michels.

Michels’s study of the social democratic movement had led him to the observation that oligarchy was the inevitable type of all political organization; and his support for Mussolini expressed his willingness not only to embrace the fact of the inevitability of elite authority, but to endorse a political ideology in which elite power was openly factored into the political program and party.

Ironically, today, while fascism is the pejorative hurled about to discredit anyone who objects to the ticket items of globalist progressivism and corporatism, the globalist program and agenda is built around the unquestionable moral and political authority of cultural and global “leaders” who are increasingly schooled in leadership programs. The preoccupation with leadership today reaches from culture to industry to universities to politics. A jarring example of how central leadership is to politics today was to be seen in an election poster I saw nailed up all over the place in Australia’s recent election. When the poster is translated into German my point needs little further comment: ”Australien braucht einen Füherer, keinen Lügner.”

People in liberal democracies so frequently and blithely speak of politics in terms of the need for political leadership that they seem completely ignorant of the fact that unlike fascist, or communist states, in liberal democracies the most important role of the government (at least in peace time) was not to lead but to provide the conditions so that people might peaceably lead their own lives as best they saw fit.

Michels, like our present globalists, is rather typical of a certain kind of mentality that begins with abstractions and ideals about what political power may achieve if expressing the popular will, but which, in dealing with the actual requirements of maintaining political power, readily either abandons its more democratic rhetoric or simply twists it haphazardly so that it can get on with the business of directing who does what. The business of deciding who must do what—and along with this, who gets what from whom, and deciding what occurs to them, if they won’t do it, is the end of politics; and thus, a task that befalls every ruling class.

Moreover, for all the idolatry surrounding politics today, as if it is the means for solving all our problems, the state, though impossible to do without, is a blunt means (its powers are force, persuasion, and bureaucracy) of orchestrating human action. The problem with totalitarian forms of government is not that their political class makes political decisions, but the expansive combination of the range of decisions and components of life that become absorbed under their political reach and authority, and the intolerance shown towards those who question its authority.

Apart from the idolatry of progressive ideas, and leadership, the use of the state and corporations to ensconce a technocratic elite doing the ideological bidding of a globalist ruling class that demands unity in peacetime, of the sort that in a traditional liberal democratic society would only be required in wartime, is indicative of the totalitarian nature of the modern globalist project. Hence too it must control what can be said, and the best way to control that is to indoctrinate children into the values and narratives that the ruling class holds as absolute.

Also, all distinction between war and peace is being destroyed in Western democracies—we are being attacked by a never-ending series of threats requiring militant response, from the destruction of the planet due to anthropogenically induced climate change, to viruses and infectious diseases that can only be stopped if we all follow the leadership provided by pharmaceutical companies and state authorized medical “advisors,” and the numerous others who have been authorised to identify the correct information and “facts” on any topic warranting totally unified militant action.

Thus, there can never be a time when the ruling class takes a step back from its leadership role. Now we have the impending threat of an actual war—just yesterday General Milley advised the graduating class of West Point of the “increasing risk of global war.” There is, indeed, an impending threat, though the question is not only why, but whether the alliance of Western powers is actually less rather than more totalitarian than the global powers it opposes.

The great challenge of modern liberal-democracy is to maintain a political culture in which the social tensions are fecund enough to make social adaptations of a sort that prevent the political body from succumbing to either traditional ossification or progressivist delusions of governance becoming a mere shell concealing implacable wills. It is an irony that the ruling classes supporting fascism and globalism respectively positioned themselves in antithetical ideological terms with respect to the past and future—whilst both were captured by the internal dialectic of their political means: the fascists presented themselves as Rome reborn, but their emergence and the forces they mustered were all extremely modern. The globalists, on the other hand, appeal to a future free from oppression (a utopia); but they can only achieve this by the old-style means of enforced unity; what Friedrich von Hayek saw as the limited power flow of an order of taxis, which is typical of military and bureaucracy.

The Marxist tradition had gone along with the Saint-Simonian formulation that the future would be free of politics; and in its place there would simply be the administration of things. That tradition had a longer pedigree in utopian writing generally, though Rabelais’ depiction of the Abbey of Thélème had identified the nub of a tradition that runs through Rousseau, and the various socialist writers like de Mably through Saint-Simon and (in spite of their polemics against utopians) Marx and Engels: that nub was political unity. As in the Abbey of Thélème, there would be no leaders because everyone wanted the same thing and everyone did exactly what was required at the time of its requiting.

Both fascism and Marxism were born out of this faith in unity—though in the case of fascism the unity (people, state, party) required at its theoretical foundation an all-knowing, caring leader. In the case of communism, the cult of the personality was not something that was forged theoretically but developed out of necessity, as a party that had seized power in a coup, and defended it in a civil war, was faced with conflicting decisions about what to do about the food supply—should it be collectivized immediately, or allowed to operate through market inducements?—and workers who did not like the labour conditions required of them by those who had promised such liberation and now were shipping people off to prison camps.

Whether fascist or communist, these two modern responses to future-building not only required a mass that complied with what its ruling class dictated, but a mass which was ideologically committed to that ruling class and hence indoctrinated in supporting all its choices. The real difference between liberal democratic regimes and fascist and communist ones had nothing to do with abstract theories—which were, of course, prevalent enough—but with how openly one might grumble about the ruling class. One might say that the grumbling made little difference; but taking away someone’s right to grumble involves deploying state and corporate resources to that end – and hence job opportunities – it also only fuels the grumbling and discontent. Which is also partly why the levels of social discontent in so much of the Western world is so high.

The ruling class of today’s Western democracies now has no compunction in doing what the fascists, and Marxists before them did: and ultimately that is because it is the same kind of people demanding the same objective—that their will be done on earth as it is in the heaven of their ideas.

Reading Mosca will not help anyone prevent this; but reading him does help one place what is happening now in a larger, historical perspective, whilst also providing one with a healthy dose of scepticism, so that one does not fail to note that the primary interest of a ruling class is the preservation of its right to rule. In and of itself that is understandable; but the matter of whether they are doing a good enough job in facilitating the interests of the ruled is something else. And a ruling class that must control information-flows is one that has shown that it no longer cares about the interests of those they rule—which is always the beginning of their own demise.


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen books.


Featured image: “New Gods, Old Monsters,” by David Whitlam; painted 2020.

Overcoming Idols: A Conversation with Wayne Cristaudo

In this episode of More Christ, Wayne Cristaudo discusses his criticism of the roles of pride and abstraction in the modern world; how our proclivity to succumb to idolatry is at the root of what he calls ‘idea-ism’ and ideology; the primacy of contingent encounters and the Holy Spirit in his own life; and the thinkers he loves.

More Christ is a channel created by Mark Connolly, which is devoted to dialogue about the world, the cosmos, and how the Christian life and the surprises of the Spirit lead to the flourishing of life. The show’s thematics are Christian, its reach universal.



Featured image: “Phoenix,” Aberdeen Bestiary, 12th century.

Democracy and Psychotic Vocabulary

In the study of human language, the oldest and most fundamental distinction is between sign, meaning and referent. A sign is a sign, visual, sound or any other that indicates an idea, an intention, and represents it in the mental sphere. A meaning is a set of signs that expresses the subjective intention contained in the sign. Referent is the object, the thing, the element of the real world—objective or subjective—to which the meaning, and therefore also the sign, refers. If a subject knows by heart the definition of “cow,” but, when we show him a cow, he can’t distinguish it from an armadillo, a matchbox or an atomic reactor, the sign he used corresponds only to a meaning, a subjective intention, but to no element of reality.

In political discussion, and in journalistic language in general, the use of meaning without referents is a self-hypnotic habit by which the sender of the message persuades himself and his audience that he is saying something when he is saying absolutely nothing.

Whether he does this out of ignorance or malice is indifferent—for malice is nothing more than feigned or planned ignorance.

One of the most characteristic examples is the current, omnipresent and obsessive use of the expression “democratic institutions.” This is understood to mean the entities and institutions founded on laws and constitutions that institute the representative system, as well as the rule of law that controls it. It is understood that this expression defines a thing called “democracy,” differentiating it from dictatorial, tyrannical or authoritarian regimes, where rulers who represent only themselves do as they please and are subject to no law whatsoever. In Brazil, the defenders of “democratic institutions” present themselves as protectors of freedom and of the people, in opposition to the supporters of a “military dictatorship,” represented, it is said, by the current president of the republic, his sons, friends and supporters.

So far, everything is very clear, but with this conversation we don’t leave the realm of verbal meanings. We don’t touch the referent. If we now look for the entities of reality that ordinary language associates with these terms, we find them nowhere. First of all, the supporters of the “dictatorship” that they also call “military intervention” or even “constitutional military intervention” do exist; but they are rare and have not the slightest influence over the mass of the president’s supporters, who present themselves as a mass firmly resolved to fight for their own objectives, supporting the president, to be sure, but without receiving from him even an instruction or a word of an order, let alone a voice of command.

This means that when they present themselves as defenders of “democracy” against the danger of “military authoritarianism,” the supporters of “democratic institutions” pretend to fight an imaginary enemy in order not to have to declare which real enemy they are fighting and wish to destroy. This enemy is not any “dictatorship,” but the popular mass, the populist indignation that occupies the streets and wishes to impose its sovereign will on the political, journalistic and university minority of “defenders of democracy,” as well as on the eventual apostles of the “dictatorship.”

But democracy, unless I am mistaken, is not defined by the presence of such or such “institutions,” but by being “the government of the people, by the people, and for the people;” that is, the government in which the institutions, whatever they may be, are under the control of the people and not the people under their control.

When they turn against the masses of the people in the name of “democratic institutions,” the advocates of the latter are simply reversing the meaning of democracy, making it the absolute empire of “institutions” under which the people have and can have no power and no means of action. No wonder that, on his release from jail, the highest apostle of “democratic institutions” and sworn enemy of “fascist authoritarianism,” Mr. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, finds no popular support and seeks instead the support of the military class, the personification of “dictatorship.”

The language of Brazilian public debates is a set of psychotic inversions in which each speaker tries to deceive himself in order to better deceive others.


Olavo de Carvalho (1947-2022) was a Brazilian philosopher who lived in the United States. His books cover a wide array of topics, including Aristotle, Descartes, Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Christian philosophy. For his work, he was honored with the Grand Cross of the Rio Branco Order, Brazil’s highest award, by President Jair Bolsonaro. His most recent book in English is Machiavelli or the Demonic Confusion.


Featured image: “Skat Players,” by Otto Dix; painted in 1920.

What Political Commitment for Christians?

The political commitment of Christians in our liberal democracies is not at all obvious, so much so that these democracies oppose the teachings of the Church on many subjects.

Let us first bring to mind the context. Christians cannot be indifferent to politics, understood as a form of higher charity. But in our societies, Christianity is now in the minority and rejected as a public reference. It has therefore become difficult to have an influence by explicitly claiming it. And yet Christians cannot blend anonymously into society. Indeed, they cannot avoid speaking up and becoming visible, if an issue at hand is directly religious. But even if it is a matter of natural law, and when it is unknown to society (marriage for all), Christians are quickly identified as such. The old dilemma is therefore not very helpful—one will always act “as a Christian,” obviously, but also in each case “inasmuch a Christian” without exclusion a priori.

Does the Magisterium give a clear answer as to the directions to take? The principles (the Social Doctrine of the Church) are solid. But the political position has varied considerably—at first hostile to political modernity (19th century), it then oscillated, at least until the Second World War, between restating the principles and a de facto accommodation. Then it tried Christian democracy, which seemed a convenient and promising compromise, but which finally failed, leading to the present position. If it can be summarized, the Doctrine seems to recommend democracy and human rights, like the rest of society—but (at least for John Paul II and Benedict XVI) with an underlying understanding that is quite different from the prevailing one, and more than a little nuanced between the popes. In any case, it is not disrespectful to say that the impact over time has been and remains inconclusive. The only clear case of success, that of John Paul II in the East, was no ordinary political struggle.

It should be remembered, moreover, that the Magisterium exercises its full authority only on faith and morals (the moral foundations), not on decisions of political prudence. The light it sheds is therefore very important, but it leaves open various possibilities, while remaining faithful to the principles. This does not mean that magisterial teaching should be neglected—far from it. But it is not a ready-made manual. This fact is often forgotten when positions taken here and there in the Church are taken without caution. Conversely, it is difficult in practice to claim to be a Catholic in politics while going against this or that expression of the Church of the moment, even if one remains within the legitimate margin of autonomy. For example, a party claiming to be Catholic but restrictive on migrants would probably be criticized in an uncomfortable way.

What References in the Past?

Do we have references in the past? Less than we think. The era of Christianity was too different. Christian democracy did not survive and was a flash in the pan—in a way correlated with the illusion, common at the time, that there was a misunderstanding with the modern world, which just had to be dispelled. But what has emerged is that, as the popes of the nineteenth century perceived (despite their errors and blunders), there are elements of strong and structural opposition between this world and the Christian. In the end, the model of the first Christians seems more inspiring. It is true that there was no democratic political struggle in the Roman Empire, but the dilemma was already known—not to deny the society in which one lives and its elements of legitimacy, while recognizing points of irreducible opposition. And within this framework, the positions could be diverse. Thus, the question of the Roman army—some thought that it was out of the question to fight in it; others made the opposite choice, without denying their faith.

This does not tell us what choices should be made concretely. All the more so since the Christian world is divided politically, with, to simplify things, a basic polarization between “conservatives” and “progressives.” The former are more numerous and transmit the faith better; but the latter, although weakened, hold more levers. That said, the Catholic spectrum thus drawn does not merge with the political spectrum in society, as it is significantly more skewed to the right. The “progressive” Christian is very rarely on the extreme left: he or she will be an ecologist or a Socialist Party member, but often LREM or even LR, like the majority of practicing Catholics. The “conservative” Christian is readily classified by the system as being on the right, or even on the extreme right.

These oppositions also seem irreducible; first of all, of course, on questions of morality and society. In theory, the Doctrine gives clear-cut answers. But not everyone adheres to them (contraception); and the question of what is possible remains open; and thereafter, the division is often sharp (marriage for all). Then there are the migrants. The disagreement between Christians is very bitter here, with the current pope having moreover committed himself radically to one side. Less harsh, but nevertheless clear, is the opposition on Europe and more broadly on the national question. Finally, in the vast field of economic and social issues, including ecology, there is a very wide range of opinions, with considerable differences. This simple reminder shows that it is not possible to unite under one banner the positions in question, whether explicitly Christian or not.

In such a context, frustrations are inevitable on both sides; and not only because the Magisterium seems to support some over others. The “progressive” side suffers from the retreat of this current compared to the 1970s and 1980s. Above all, since the opposition between the dominant spirit of our societies and the Christian faith is denied or relativized, we end up in the wake of the former; and, in practice, the political action we carry out is confused with that of the left or the center. Moreover, the committed progressive is troubled by the right-wing vote of the majority of Catholics, as well as by the insistence of the “conservatives” in regards to matters societal, which is much more visible and the only one associated by the public with Christianity.

Finally, there is difficulty with a magisterial doctrine that remains traditional (despite certain declarations). Hence the temptation of an exacerbated ethic of conviction, notable on the subject of migrants—but there again without any political effect of its own.

The malaise is no less real on the “conservative” side. This may be because of the fact that they are out of step with the hierarchy—not so much on principles as on certain declarations, such as on migrants—but even more so because of frustration over the poor results obtained, for example in societal struggles. This is because we are opposed to the heavy tendencies of society, the relativist paradigm that dominates it. Moreover, on this side also Christian discourse is in the minority, although less than on the left.

The balance sheet therefore does not appear to be encouraging. One can recognize an ardent obligation as a Christian, but in practice it is difficult to implement it in a way that can be identified in Christian terms; the dispersion of efforts is considerable; and the political field does not immediately appear to be fruitful for the Christian who wants to act explicitly as such. But it would be wrong to leave it at that. First of all, of course, what makes an action good or bad is not primarily the result obtained—which for the most part depends on God. It is not up to us to carry the future of humanity on our shoulders; this does not prevent us from doing what we have to do, where we are and where we can; and if possible, intelligently. Doing good around us, including in political matters, is always possible, and obtaining real results, and by making explicit how this manifests our Christian faith whenever possible or pertinent.
Another thing is the manifestation of Christianity in society and in history. Let’s look at its lessons—how many cases of collective successes are there that are the fruit of Christian action, consciously and in principle? I am, for example, one of those who admire Christianity in spite of its defects and limitations; but it was never defined as an objective to be reached; it was given in its time. It will be the same in the future.


Pierre de Lauzun, a graduate of the Ecole Polytechnique and a graduate of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, has worked in banking and finance and has published, among other things, Philosophie de la foi, La finance peut-elle être au service de l’homme? and Finance: un regard chrétien. This article appears through the kind courtesy of La Nef.


Featured image: “Christ Before Pilate,” Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, 6th century.

Catholicism and Democracy: The Misunderstanding

Positioning the Problem

If there is a dilemma that remains unresolved, it is that of the relationship of Catholicism to liberal democracy. This dilemma is based on two fundamental factors. While, for many centuries, Catholicism has developed its attachment to the concept of the person, liberal democracy is intrinsically linked to the philosophical concept of the individual. Moreover, upstream of this divergence are two concepts that are opposite in nature. The Catholic one is rooted in the political philosophy of Aristotle, according to which man is a social animal, a postulate taken up by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. The liberal one is based on the idea that men (individuals) do not live politically at first, but in a state of nature and war with each or against each (Hobbes), or in a positive state of nature but destined to degrade (Locke); hence the need to establish a contract between individuals in order to access political life. In other words, whereas in the first case, political life is immediately qualified positively; in the second it is qualified positively only by necessity.

This is what Pope Leo XIII opposed at the end of the nineteenth century and what the Second Vatican Council continues to oppose. But the political teaching of the Roman Magisterium has evolved nonetheless. This is what I would like to examine, by first restating some of the major points of the encyclical Immortale Dei (on the Christian constitution of states) and then restating those of Gaudium et spes (the Church in the Modern World) of the Second Vatican Council. Yet from one to the other of these two teachings of the Roman Magisterium, the historical misunderstanding of what democracy means persists.

The Encyclical Immortale Dei (1885): A Response to Liberal Democracy

In the context of the publication of Immortale Dei, four major facts should be brought to mind. Leo XIII was the first pope who never had a temporal state; he was grappling with the Kulturkampf in Germany and with the secularization of school education in France. Finally, the encyclical is contemporary with the rise of socialism. This is why the political teaching of Leo XIII was completed in 1891 by his social teaching; these two doctrinal bodies being the two legs without which the Catholic Church could not walk in the modern world, which was less and less favorable to it at the end of the 19th century. Five aspects of Leo XIII’s thinking in the encyclical Immortale Dei are evident. All of them oppose the fundamental principles of liberal democracy, by recourse to the political philosophy of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, according to which man, a naturally political animal, seeks the common good with his fellow human beings.

But this naturalistic principle had to be complemented by New Testament teaching that all political power comes from God, regardless of the form of the regime. This is the central problem. The modern (liberal) world, anxious for its autonomy from any religious foundation, was turning away from God, the theological and political principle that had organized Christian Europe for centuries. The result for Leo XIII was the need for public worship and the opposition to religious freedom. Leo XIII rejected it because it would lead to the collapse of public worship, which can only be given to the one true God and thanks to which the solid and necessary unity of the political order is guaranteed. There is no legitimate authority without the support of truth, and no viable society without it; but there is also no public worship without recognition of the true God, of whom the Church is the depository through its spiritual leaders, the pope being the head.

The same is true of freedom. The Christian order, which comes from God, does not dispute its relevance, but it is not valid unto itself, being an “element of perfection for man,” which “must be applied to what is true and what is good.” Finally, the representative system of liberal democracy is at most evoked, and in a negative way with the explicit fear that it generates “the right to riot” because of its correlative link with freedom of opinion. Much more important for Leo XIII was the political status accorded to “the people” who have “their greater or lesser share in government,” which share is “not only a benefit, but a duty for citizens.” However, nothing is said about the concrete procedure by which the people take “their share in government.” This matter of democracy in magisterial teaching came back on the agenda at the Second Vatican Council with Gaudium et spes. This raises the question—did the Second Vatican Council embrace liberal democracy, or does it not rather propose a Catholic understanding of democracy?

Gaudium et spes: A Liberal or a Catholic Conception of Democracy?

In the wake of the last world war and the two totalitarian regimes of the Nazis and the Soviets, the Roman Magisterium has undoubtedly evolved; but it has not abandoned its fundamental concepts, especially those of the search for the common good and the political authority required to achieve it. What has changed is that the correlation between the common good and political authority combines the “free will” of citizens to choose their leaders with the traditional idea that “the political community and public authority have their foundation in human nature and through it are subject to an order fixed by God.”

It should be noted, then, that from Leo XIII to Vatican II, there is great continuity in magisterial teaching. It is, however, within this tradition that Gaudium et spes accredits the principle of democracy as the legal functioning of the political community, something that Leo XIII could not accept in such a clear-cut manner. Nevertheless, just as Leo XIII did not want to rally French Catholics to the Republic for philosophical and theological reasons, Vatican II did not advocate rallying to liberal democracy for the same reasons. The Church is therefore faithful to her vision of man in society, especially since the reception of the thought of Thomas Aquinas, while reconsidering it in the light of the norms of liberal democracy. The latter is acceptable, provided that it is rooted in an order of nature that is in every respect opposed to the modern conception of nature of the 17th and 18th centuries.

In other words, Vatican II gives itself the theoretical instruments to think about a Catholic conception of democracy, while accepting in a practical way the achievements of liberalism (freedom of association, of assembly, etc.). Let us also note the conciliation of a Catholic conception of democracy with liberal achievements. This is explicitly demonstrated by the “guarantee of human rights” and the rejection of “all political forms… which impede civil or religious liberty;” or the idea that a political authority which contravenes the common good, “citizens” must “defend their rights… respecting the limits set by the natural law and the law of the Gospel.” This Catholic conception of democracy is corroborated by the defense of religious liberty. Whereas Leo XIII conceded only the tolerance of religions, Gaudium et spes calls for “the right to express personal opinions and to profess one’s religion in private and in public.” It is perhaps this reconciliation that gives the false impression that democracy as defended in Gaudium et spes is basically the Catholic version of liberal democracy. Hence the continuation of the historical misunderstanding that has been simmering since the end of the Council and which is now coming to light through recent societal developments.

Liberal democracy and the Catholic understanding of democracy: a historical misunderstanding that is still relevant today

With Gaudium et spes, the Second Vatican Council undeniably made a great leap forward in allowing Catholics to have their own conception of democracy, not thought of as a counter-society, but as a means of acclimatizing liberal democracy to Catholic culture and vice versa. But what could have been a beautiful symphony did not achieve its goal. Either Catholics secularized themselves into the liberal democratic mold by adopting the rhetoric of humanistic values. Or they sought a self-referential Catholic anchor that looks more like a Christian neo-democracy than a Catholic conception of democracy. Yet it is this ambition that must be pursued so that Catholics can spearhead a revitalized conception of democracy which needs it most.


Father Bernard Bourdin o.p. published, with Philippe Iribarne, La nation, une ressource d’avenir. The nation, a point of balance between the universal and the rooted. This article appears through the generosity of La Nef.


Featured image: “Procession in church,” by Guillaume van Strydonck; painted ca. 1900.

Georges Dumézil: Discovery of the Indo-European Mind

Georges Dumézil was born on March 4, 1898. Associated with the Class of Letters (of the Royal Academy of Science, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium) since May 5, 1958, where he presented two very learned papers, one on July 3, 1961, the other on January 11, 1965. The Academy also published one of his studies.

In his brief eulogy to Georges Dumézil on November 3, 1986, announcing the death of the French scholar, André Molitor, at the time vice-director of the Class, described the deceased in the following way: “He was in France, and one can say in the world, one of the leading figures in the humanities today… His work led him to search for, and then to progressively decipher, what we may call a ‘key to understanding’ the Indo-European societies of old, which is expressed both in their structures and in their great fundamental myths.” Please allow me to elaborate somewhat on these very accurate and very compact sentences.

If we disregard his activity—however important—as a linguist (especially in the field of Caucasian languages and Quechua), Georges Dumézil was essentially a specialist in Indo-European studies, and we can compare his work mutatis mutandis with that of the pioneers of comparative grammar. These great scholars of the nineteenth century, we remember, had succeeded not only in demonstrating the indisputable kinship of what were called “Indo-European languages” but also in finding certain characteristics of the mother language, this hypothetical language from which all the others had come by transformation and which was called “Indo-European.”

If we want to schematize – with all that schematization has of outrageousness – we will say that Georges Dumézil prolonged, by widening it, the work of comparative grammar. He set out to discover, no longer the language as the great linguists of the last century had done, but the thought, the mental universe of the Indo-Europeans. To do this, he studied and compared the culture of the various ancient peoples descended from the Indo-Europeans, and in particular the privileged manifestations of these cultures, namely the religions, the mythologies and the literatures. This research concerned Nordic societies as well as ancient Rome, the Indo-Iranian world as well as the Caucasus; it was carried out on texts as different (to take a few examples) as the Vedic hymns, the Mahabarata, the Iranian Avesta, the Scandinavian Eddas, the Irish mythological cycle, the Ossetian Nartean epic, or the account of Titus Livius on royal Rome. And the scholar—this deserves to be emphasized—always worked first hand on the texts he used; in other words, he knew (that is, read and deciphered) a good thirty languages.

His method was the comparative method. But where his unfortunate predecessors (for there had already been unsuccessful attempts in the 19th century in the field of comparative mythology) compared proper names, isolated details, relatively minimal facts that only a superficial examination would allow one to believe to be similar, Dumézil attacked, in order to compare them, facts that were homologous in depth, that is to say, different perhaps at first sight, but between which, once these differences had been criticized and analyzed, identical patterns appeared.

For Dumézil was a structuralist. In his work, the comparisons always concerned structured sets of the same meaning, never isolated details. He showed, for example, that it is the same myth, or in any case the same story, Indo-European, that is found at work in four different societies: in Rome (the war and the alliance between the Romans and the Sabines, which, in its origins, founded founded Roman society); in Scandinavia (the fight and the fusion between the Aesir gods and the Vanes gods which, in the Scandinavian mythology, founded the first divine society); in Ireland (the war that led to the fusion of the Túatha Dé Danann and the Fomore during the second battle of Mag Tured, and which, in the Irish mythological cycle, opens the history of Ireland); in India (the conflict, then the close association, of the superior gods and the Nāsatya in Vedic mythology). Four stories, profoundly different in their external presentation, and yet homologous in that they have the same meaning and that they are articulated around the same fundamental notions. In reality, they are illustrations, variously updated, of the same original scheme which showed how our distant ancestors represented (we are in the domain of imaginary representation) the definitive constitution of a viable society.

Thus, by means of the comparison of structured sets, significant as sets, and borrowed from civilizations that are all Indo-European, certainly, but sometimes very distant in time and space, Dumézil sought to find, to bring to light, certain aspects of the Indo-European mentality or imaginary, aspects that had—should we say?—completely escaped his predecessors.

Thus, the Indo-Europeans had not only transmitted their language to their descendants; they had also transmitted ideas to them—at times a particular framework of analysis, let us say a certain vision of the world (the famous “ideology of the three functions”), sometimes specific conceptions (on the night and diurnal light, on the conduct of the warrior, on marriage), even at times narrative or epic patterns, “fragments of literature” in some way. This is indeed the fundamental contribution of Dumézil—to have shown that, in the Indo-European societies of old, the Indo-European heritage was not limited to language, that it also included ideas, representations, narrative schemes; and that it was possible to find them.

There is no question here of entering further into the maze for details of Dumézil’s work—the fruit of more than sixty years of patient and fruitful work, it includes several hundred articles and some sixty books, from Le crime des Lemniennes and Le festin d’immortalité, both published in 1924, to Entretiens avec Didier Éribon, published in 1987, that is to say, one year after his death.

An immense work that took place on the fringes of the French university proper, like that of Claude Lévi-Strauss—a similarity that Pierre Bourdieu underlines in his Homo academicus. Marginal is a characteristic of Dumézil’s career. Let us recall some of the major milestones.

He was demobilized in 1918—he was twenty years old at the time—and remained a high school teacher for only six months, living on various means before taking up a series of posts abroad, which enabled him to learn languages and to become acquainted with different cultures.

First, he was a French lecturer at the University of Warsaw. He did not enjoy it, but, as Claude Lévi-Strauss noted, it was a “good opportunity for him to learn Polish and Russian.” Then Turkey, where in 1925, Georges Dumézil was giving a course in the history of religions at the University of Istanbul. “Mustapha Kemal,” observed the same Lévi-Strauss, “had been told that in France, this kind of teaching had served the struggle against clericalism, and he wanted to try the remedy on his Muslim compatriots. Thanks to him and to [Dumézil], the Faculty of Letters of Istanbul was, for five years, the only one in the world where any degree included a compulsory examination in the history of religions.”

It was during this stay that Dumézil discovered the Caucasians of Turkey and the USSR, in particular the Ossetians, the last descendants of the Scythians, whose language and culture he would save.

He left Turkey in 1931 for Sweden, as a lecturer in French at the University of Upsala. For two years, he resumed his “Indo-European project through Swedish, Old Scandinavian and the folklore of Northern Europe.”

Finally, he returned to France, but remained still outside the “canonical” university: first to the École Pratique des Hautes Études from 1933l then in 1948 to the Collège de France, where he taught for 20 years until his retirement in 1968, as the holder of what would eventually be called the “Chair of Indo-European Civilization.”

His work was only slowly recognized, encountering, perhaps even more in France than abroad, the opposition, the hostility even, of certain solidly established figures. It was the Scandinavian scholars (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian) who first accepted his work with warmth, shortly after 1945. The dissemination of his work remained for a long time limited to a narrow circle of specialists, not always benevolent, and sometimes a little outdated. Dumézil had to fight bitterly, even polemically (we will talk about this later), to get his ideas across. But gradually his influence widened. As early as 1968, Pierre Nora regularly included his books in the prestigious “Bibliothèque des sciences humaines,” thus putting his work before the eyes of the general educated public. “What readership I do have,” said Dumézil, “I owe to Gallimard and to this collection.” But Gallimard was not the only one; Payot and Flammarion also published his works in collections for the “educated general public.”

Official honors followed: the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, then the Académie Française, where he was received in 1979, along with that other outsider who was also his friend, Claude Lévi-Strauss. International recognition also came to him, in the form of numerous invitations for courses or conferences. In the United States, we can mention the University of Chicago, where his friend Mircea Eliade invited him, the University of California in Los Angeles, the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton; in Belgium, the University of Brussels and the University of Liège.

After scientific recognition, came the supreme recognition of our time—that which comes from the media. In 1984, Pierre Dumayet met Dumézil for more than an hour for the program “D’Homme à Homme,” which he presented on TF1. But this was only the beginning. 1986 became the “Dumézil year.” Every self-respecting weekly wanted an interview with the scholar (Magazine littéraire, April 1986; Le Point, June 1986, Le Vif-L’express, September 1986). But the apotheosis was the special broadcast of Apostrophes that Bernard Pivot devoted to Dumézil, on July 18, 1986, a few months before his death. But Dumézil was not beguiled by this media hype: “Half a century ago, who would have thought of asking Meillet, Sylvain Lévi, for a public presentation of their discoveries on a music-hall stage? With television, we are there, and well beyond.”

In any case, Bernard Pivot went to interview him at his home, at 82 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs in Paris, an apartment that was, it was said, a “cathedral of books.” The meeting was memorable, and our colleague André Molitor evoked it in this very room, on November 3, 1986: “Those of us who recently saw on television this 88-year-old man explain his work, with simplicity, were struck and conquered by his strong personality.”

And it is true: the image that the scientist gave was endearing; his simplicity, his reserve, his authority, his conviction, the clarity of his presentation, the art with which he was able to convey a particularly difficult subject, all this was impressive and demanded admiration. In fact, practically until his death, he preserved a lucidity and a vigor of spirit.

And then there were those precious interviews with Didier Éribon, which also date from the last months of his life (between February and July 1986). Dumézil, for the very first time, discovered himself in public with simplicity and lucidity, evoking less perhaps his work than his life and his personal path, speaking very freely about his teachers, his friends, his literary and philosophical tastes, his political temptations of youth, life, religion, death.

He died a few months later, on October 11, 1986, at 88 years of age, after having left behind him an immense, innovative, disturbing work, a work also which one is easily characterized as fluid, because it does not present anything fixed; and it is also what sometimes made its access difficult. In fact, as the creator of a new discipline in the field of Indo-European studies, Dumézil had to develop his own method, and when one innovates, trial and error are inevitable. His approach and his thinking were progressively clarified and corrected from one study to the next; and the critics, who eagerly to followed his work, were often behind this evolution. The fact, moreover, that he himself disavowed what he had written up to 1938 on the grounds of a methodological flaw, dismayed some who preferred to “wait and see.”

I will not say anything here about the political recuperations that some people, in particular in the French New Right, have tried to make of Dumézil’s theories, recuperations that have nothing to do with scientific research, and which have at times contributed to the visceral and passionate rejection of his theses.

In any case, this grandiose work is that of a discreet and modest scholar, even if his polemic was bitter, formidable, and full of a ferocious spirit. He had to fight constantly, almost until the end, to have his ideas recognized: “I spent my time,” he said, “polemicizing, but only because I was attacked. One can count on the fingers of one hand the offensives that I myself have initiated against someone, without him having first opened hostilities.” Dumézil felt that he had nothing to impose on anyone; that he had no right to do so. “I am not,” he said, “a master of thought.” This was true in the scientific field, where he systematically refused to have disciples, to direct works; it was also true in political matters. He admitted to a brief “political temptation” for Action Française at the end of the First World War, but the figure of the committed intellectual, so common in the French tradition, was absolutely foreign to him: “I even feel,” he confided to his interlocutor, “a kind of repulsion for people who hold this role.”

It is because deep down, this enthusiast, author of a work as fascinating as it is impressive, this polemicist who fought ceaselessly to have the importance of his discoveries recognized, this master who unquestionably transformed the field of Indo-European studies, was a skeptic. Someone once compared him to a rationalist of the Enlightenment: “You flatter me,” he replied. “I would have liked to be a man of the eighteenth century, but with the feeling that these great minds did not have, for the ephemeral, for the inaccessible.” He became a Freemason in a workshop of the Grand Lodge shortly after his return from Sweden (in 1933), and declared more than 50 years later: “I am still a Freemason; initiation is like baptism, irreversible. But I am in sleep, as they say.” He was agnostic: “Of this self, what will remain after my death, does not worry me. Most probably, nothing will remain of it.”

But perhaps the best example of his “detachment” is his attitude towards his work and the fate it would have after his death. He provides for us an extraordinary lesson.

In fact, when Jean Mistler presented him with his academician’s sword in 1979, Dumézil gave an address, in which he emphasized the relative and provisional character of his work: “I know, because it is a law without exception. I know that this work, in fifty, perhaps in twenty, in ten years, will only be of historical interest; that it will be, by putting things at their worst, ruined, by putting things at their best—which is my hope—pruned, re-trimmed, transformed.” He took up the same idea seven years later in his Entretiens avec Didier Éribon: “Believe me, I have a very strong feeling of the incomplete, relative character of my results. I seem to be modest, but it’s true; I think so deeply. The results of our teachers were also relative and provisional—but where would we be without them?”

And Entretiens avec Didier Éribon ends in the following way.

Éribon: “One day, you told me: if I am wrong, my life has no meaning.”

Dumézil: “My scientific life, yes. But even that is not true: even if I am wrong; it will have had a function; it will have amused me. In any case, today it is too late to do it again. I can no longer escape it. Supposing I am totally wrong, my Indo-Europeans will be like Riemann’s and Lobachevsky’s geometries: constructions outside the real. This is already not so bad. It will mean changing me from one shelf to another in the libraries: I will pass into the ‘novels’ section.”

He was sincere in his expression—full of his usual humor—of the provisional and imperfect character of his work. And yet, his influence, in all sectors of Indo-European studies, is considerable today, and we can say, paraphrasing slightly the words of André Molitor, that his work, long disputed, still sometimes discussed, has now acquired the right to be cited.

And I will leave it to Claude Lévi-Strauss to conclude by welcoming Georges Dumézil under the dome of the Quai Conti: “In your person, Sir, we salute a master of more than encyclopedic knowledge, whose genius was able to establish, between fields that were apparently very distant from one another, and that had until then remained the jealously guarded preserve of specialists, connections that upset everything we thought we knew about the distant past, and which also opened up entirely new perspectives on what you call ‘the dynamics of the human mind.'”


Jacques Poucet is a Belgian philologist, who specializes in ancient Rome. He is Professor Emeritus of the Université catholique de Louvain. [This article was [The original version was published in the Bulletin de la Classe des Lettres et des Sciences Morales et Politiques (6e série, t. 3, 1992) of the Royal Academy of Science, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium].


Featured image: Georges Dumezil at his office, August 29, 1984.

Antoine Arjakovsky: An Ecumenical Metaphysics

Antoine Arjakovsky directs the Politics and Religion Department at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris. He is also Director Emeritus of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies at the Ukrainian Catholic University.

His research focuses in particular on Russian religious philosophy (Bulgakov, Berdyaev, Shestov), as well as on issues of the theology of politics, such as democracy, justice and fraternity (Votez Fraternité ! Trente propositions pour une société plus juste [Vote Fraternity! Thirty Propositions for a more Just Society]). He has just published Éssai de métaphysique œcuménique [Essay on Ecumenical Metaphysics]. in which he analyzes our troubled times and, above all, proposes a new epistemology based on ecumenical science.

This conversation comes through the kind courtesy of PHILITT. [Translated from the French by N. Dass]


PHILITT (PL): In the introduction to your book, you begin by making an observation. Contrary to those who say that our world is going well, and that the impression of the contrary is only a distortion effect, proper to a Western consciousness that has always been haunted by the idea of decadence, you affirm that, on the contrary, our societies are facing a “poly-crisis.”

Antoine Arjakovsky (AA): Yes, but it is not to be a great prophet to note this. You just have to look at the many reports of the United Nations or the IPCC on this subject. For example, the latest Oxfam report published in January 2022 explains that the health pandemic has considerably increased social inequalities in France and in the world. The top five wealthiest people in France have doubled their wealth since the beginning of the pandemic. They by themselves own as much as the poorest 40% in France. Since March 2020, the world counts a new billionaire every 26 hours, while at the same time 160 million people have fallen into poverty.

Antoine ArjakovskyDR.

Everything that formed a coherent whole in the 1990s has disintegrated in less than twenty years. There is, of course, the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis, with the dramatic consequences that we know about, with the coronavirus pandemic. But there is also the crisis of international relations, the rise of social violence, etc. Some consider that these crises have always existed, that there has always been war, violence and injustice. But the truth is that these inequalities and the devastation of forests and oceans have taken on proportions unknown in the past. Add to this the progression, at the speed of a galloping horse, of the postmodern paradigm within most political or media elites—that is to say, of a worldview according to which there is no truth but only interpretations—then you understand why this poly-crisis is deep, long-lasting and, to put it bluntly, quite worrying.

PL: One could use the come-back that this triple economic, ecological and philosophical crisis is purely conjunctural, linked to certain contemporary mutations of the market, of technology and of ways of thinking, and that the system will eventually resolve it.

AA: The current poly-crisis has deep causes, which have to do with the fact that postmodern thinking deprives man of the spiritual energy that would allow him to truly act on the world. Indeed, in such thinking, only the individual can have sufficient resources to survive and transform a world characterized by its power relations, its senselessness and its violence. But this obviously is not the case. On the contrary, we can see that this conception renders man completely powerless. It is time to recover the elementary truth that budgets are moral documents. This is the guarantee that new public policies are possible in order to build not, according to the vision of the Moderns, a sovereign and all-powerful State, but, in a more spiritual way, a State at the service of fraternity.

PL: If I follow you, since the crisis originated in a worldview and epistemology that is both utilitarian and individualistic, its solution can only be to return to a more spiritual epistemology.

AA: Alongside the postmodern paradigm, there is another crystallization of consciousness, which can be called spiritual, that was carried into the 20th century by very different thinkers such as Nicholas Berdyaev and Kate Raworth, Victor Frankl and Karol Wojtyla (later John Paul II). This challenged not only the classical and modern worldview but also its postmodern conception.

I will take here only the example of the realization of the Austrian and Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. On October 19, 1944, he was deported to Auschwitz by the Nazis. On his return from deportation, he gave a famous lecture in Vienna in which he explained that modern psychoanalysis failed to understand the world because of a faulty epistemology:

“Having an atomistic, energetic and mechanistic concept of Man, psychoanalysis sees him in the last analysis as the automaton of a psychic apparatus. And it is precisely there that the existential analysis intervenes. It opposes a different concept of man to the psychoanalytical concept. It does not focus on the automaton of a psychic apparatus but rather on the autonomy of spiritual existence. ‘Spiritual’ is used here without any religious connotation, of course, but rather simply to indicate that we are dealing with a specifically human phenomenon, unlike the phenomena we share with other animals. In other words, the spiritual is what is human in man.”

This shift in consciousness from a postmodern conception to a spiritual worldview has occurred in an often discrete way in just about every discipline in the 20th and 21st centuries. Today agnostic philosophers, such as Dany Robert Dufour for example, do not hesitate to trace manifestations of the spirit in the life of the world back to the metaphysical and theological figure of the Trinity. Here is the conclusion of one of his recent conferences at the Collège des Bernardins: “I am an atheist betting on a new ecumenism (convivialism) and invoking the Trinity to ward off the devil.”

PL: This new spiritual worldview must, according to you, be developed in what you call an “ecumenical metaphysics.” However, this term seems at first sight to be difficult to understand. In fact, the term “metaphysics” does not have a very good press today, and since Kant it has been associated with the idea of an outdated or even misguided philosophy.

AA: It is urgent to get out of the current schizophrenia of the university which consists in separating the two spheres of belief and rationality. Kant himself, in The Conflict of Faculties, was opposed to such a division. He, the philosopher of pure reason, explained at the end of his life that he was also a Lutheran believer who would like to be able to converse with theologians. The misfortune was that in his time theological rationality was entirely dependent on political power. Today, we are no longer in that situation. On the contrary, we can see how much theological rationality and philosophical rationality have to say to each other in the same way that the Catholic faith has understood that it could be enriched by contact with the Protestant and Orthodox faith. Hence the interest for me to think today about the bases of an ecumenical metaphysics capable of thinking together the universal and the personal, but also the real world and the spiritual world.

In reality, ecumenical metaphysics is a global vision of the world that seeks to understand all reality and to participate in it. Here the term “ecumenical” is understood as the Kingdom of God that comes to earth whenever human beings actualize divine justice. This conception of universality becomes personal and communal. It also breaks down the ancient representation of space-time. History is neither cyclical nor a long empty corridor. It has a vertical meaning, one might say. The kingdom of God on earth is fullness in spirit and truth. This is why I explain in my book that Wilhelm Visser’t Hooft was right when he explained in his book The Meaning of Ecumenical that there is a somewhat forgotten meaning to the term “ecumenical—that of a universality that gives access to reality in a meta-confessional, meta-religious and meta-convictional way. From the Christian point of view, this can be perfectly justified by the fact that Christ himself announced to his disciples: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32). But, of course, this personal sense of universality must also be understood in its sapiential dimension, its dimension of wisdom.

PL: You have said on many occasions that this ecumenical metaphysics must be “sapiential,” but also “personalist.”

AA: For Aristotle, metaphysics had to be katholou; that is to say, it had to be capable of taking the whole thing. Metaphysics, when it rediscovers its spiritual sources, in a sapiential and personalist way, becomes fully ecumenical. It is a question of holding together in its entirety God, the world and the human being as a thinker. This is why it is necessary to understand the individual in his infinite dignity as a person, both microcosm and macrocosm. It is also a question of rediscovering the intuitions of figures as different as the author of the Book of Proverbs, of Rumi, of Paracelsus or of Shankara in order to grasp the being in all its sapiential depth, which is at the same time unobjectifiable yet nonetheless describable. This leads to a non-dual understanding of the world, as in the Eastern religions but also in the great Western mystics.

This metaphysics, because it poses a tension between the created and the uncreated world, makes it possible to reconcile four major understandings of truth in the history of philosophy: truth as correspondence between the thing and the intellect (Aristotle); truth as fidelity to a promise (Augustine); truth as coherence between what one says and what one does (Rescher); and finally truth as consensus between the members of a community (Peirce). This existential and “in tension” conception of truth is opposed in this sense to the voluntarist vision of truth, dominant today, which conceives it only as that which functions in relation to what is (Bacon); that is to say in a technocentric way, which leads to the transhumanist utopia, as Franck Damour has shown well.

PL: This ecumenical metaphysics appears to be a culmination of your work, in particular that of Russian religious philosophers, such as Berdyaev, Bulgakov or Chestov, whom you quote extensively in your book.

AA: The Russian religious thinkers of the 20th century, such as Nicolai Berdyaev, Sergei Bulgakov or Lev Shestov were among the first to understand that it was possible to understand the universal as a personal and symbolic reality. These thinkers knew German thought very well, from Kant to Marx. They understood with Nietzsche that the modern metaphysics that separated the domain of “why” (which was reserved for special metaphysics) from the domain of “how” (which was reserved for general metaphysics) was absurd. They recognized with Heidegger that Western rationalist thought had enclosed being in objectifying concepts, and that it was henceforth a question of recovering all the depth and all the freedom of it.

For the Russian religious thinkers, although they did not always go to the end of their intuitions, it is appropriate to associate the logic of the subject as Person (Berdyaev), the logic of the verb as Wisdom (Bulgakov), and finally the logic of the predicate as self-consciousness (Shestov). This post-idealist and post-phenomenological worldview has the great merit of renewing metaphysics, as soon as one grasps the complementarity between these thoughts, as I try to show in my book.

Thus, for example, Shestov showed how rational thought was, since Aristotle, based on the principles of identity, non-contradiction and the excluded third. This meant that all reality was equal to itself, that one could not say one thing and its opposite and that there was no third term that was both A and non-A. Rational binary thought, based on these principles, relied on the adequacy between the thing and the intellect to understand the world. And it defined “proof” as the explanation of a phenomenon by its universalizable repetition.

But this is a vision of the world which the different religious traditions, from the East and the West, say is a form of naivety with respect to the non-dual organization of reality. Man, who has however an infinite dignity, must in this rationalist conception submit to the order and to the appearance that the phenomena want to give of themselves. It is, according to Shestov, a form of passivity which leads to fatalism or to war. This form of thinking leads to a priori judgments which force to understand all reality as an abstract and uniform thing. It consequently denies to think truth as the fruit of a personal experience.


Featured image: “The Last Supper,” by the Master of the Amsterdam Death of the Virgin; painted ca. 1485-1500.

Getting Past Post-Truth

The first condition for human sociability to exist lies in the truthfulness of language, itself judged by reality: if everything is a trick, man becomes for man at least a fox, if not a wolf. It is more difficult than ever to take the word of those in positions of power or political influence. “Lying is frowned upon; yet it is a key element in the political game. A reflection on the lie is essential for those who want to know the political game… It is a weapon that one must know how to use intelligently—or else one will be excluded from the game” (Pierre Lenain, Le mensonge politique [Political Lying]. This author, while François Mitterrand was President of the Republic, was saying out loud what everyone else was thinking. What would he write today?)

Moreover, what we know about what is happening in the world comes to us almost exclusively through the media; that is, through a mode of knowledge by testimony, which is only valid if the witness is credible. But in the present conditions, it is difficult to discern the true from the false, except by carrying out real investigations to try to understand certain facts, which endeavor is given only to a small number endowed with aptitudes and time, and sometimes without guarantee of ever being able to succeed.

The massive deculturation brought about by the subversion of teaching methods, the loss of elementary common sense, the socially dominant impact of the philosophies of doubt and deconstruction, the ideological manipulation of history, the mimicry of artificial processes of information processing, the nominalism that transforms words into conventional signs with mutable meaning, all contribute to increasing disarray. The result is the emergence of a mass skepticism that makes people indifferent to the idea of truth. The neologism “post-truth” expresses this state of affairs. One could say that post-truth is the counterpart of practical atheism, which has simply ceased to ask the question of God and has even made it impossible to understand that such a question could be of any interest.

It is not surprising that post-truth can be established where liberalism dominates, since it associates, in the name of freedom of thought, the reduction of truth to opinion, and its philosophical theorization claiming it is impossible to go beyond the knowledge of phenomena alone. All this without forgetting that we are under the reign of juridical positivism, which authorizes to transform, from one day to the next, by means of legal constraint, a version of the facts or a historical conclusion into “narratives,” in conformity with the usefulness that the latest possessors of power find there.

Recent events have illustrated this massive expansion of post-truth, whether it be the pandemic or all the declarations, political justifications, influence-games and contradictions that have constantly accompanied it, in France and elsewhere. The American election episode has added grist to the same mill. These are very significant facts of a change of scale in the order of the ordinary lie, a change that one perceives as brutal, although it has been established progressively, and for a long time; brutal and thus highly disruptive of a relationship to the world in conformity with the nature of things.

We will address here only a few aspects of the problem, first by taking advantage of a very systematic study of Western military and diplomatic interventions in the last decade, and then by paying attention to conspiracism (or conspiracy) as the double result of a spontaneous and clumsy reaction to lies and as an argument recovered to better spread them.

****

Swiss colonel Jacques Baud, an expert in terrorism and asymmetric warfare [type of conflict between conventional forces and armed gangs], has had the opportunity to intervene in various theaters of “peacekeeping” operations under the aegis of the UN. From this experience and from his practice of intelligence, he has written a book, recently published, entitled Gouverner par les fake news [Governing by Fake News]. It is a meticulous work, based on abundant documentation, much of which is directly accessible online, which allows one to verify the author’s claims and greatly reinforces his credibility.

Jacques Baud is very hard on the political, military and diplomatic personnel with whom he was in contact for many years. He begins his work by questioning, successively, the power usurped by a bureaucracy pursuing only its own interests—the deep state, in the initial and limited sense of this expression—the “weakness of the higher echelons of command,” judged to be devoid of intelligence in the presence of adversaries who do not fit into their categories, and their “cowardice when it comes to advising the political echelon, based on the facts, and an almost total absence of a sense of responsibility.”

Diplomats, he writes, may be more educated, but they are also more corrupt, and equally incapable of understanding asymmetric phenomena. This statement probably reflects a certain bitterness, following numerous unfortunate experiences; however, it should be taken into consideration carefully, at least as an indicator of a general trend. Jacques Baud goes so far as to state a judgment that leaves one speechless: “[W]ith simulacra of strategy, which are only an erratic sequence of tactical actions, we seek solutions to our perceptions, and not to the reality on the ground.” These criticisms are extended to the media complex, which is supposed to enlighten the world, but which is caught between deliberate lies in the service of undisclosed interests, suggested by ad hoc agencies, and laziness or overreach in the face of the complexity of situations, often leading to the use of experts invested by the same agencies.

The author, who has personally experienced the distressing effect of such behaviors, limits his ambition to raise a “reasonable doubt” about the information that is abundantly delivered to us. Reasonable, because, he writes, and on this point we can only follow his lead, “the information is there, available, provided that we take the trouble to look for it.” In other words, it is through a patient effort of research and analysis that we can hope to extricate ourselves from the jungle into which the arrival of the post-truth era has plunged us.

The book is articulated in twelve substantially contemporary case studies, from Afghanistan to Venezuela, through Iran, terrorist organizations, Syria, the Ukrainian crisis, North Korea, Sudan, and the cyberattacks attributed to Russia. Each time, we go into detail about the way Western actors have dealt with the situations, whether in terms of identifying the data or responding to them; knowing that this treatment generally results in acts of war with very heavy human consequences, provoking reactions of extreme violence, massive population displacements, or at least maintaining the unhealthy climate of a powder keg close to an explosion. One assessment of the war in Iraq can be used as a basic rule in this regard: “Built on lies, the war in Iraq is a disaster. Not only is it criminal, but it has been conducted in a stupid way from the beginning.”

The starting point for diplomatic and military action, in all the situations mentioned, is always, as it should be, information on the threat, real or imaginary, to which one is preparing to respond. There are two obstacles that make this artificial. On the one hand—and it is bad faith that comes into play—self-interest, greed and rivalry determine the objective of an intervention and lead to the falsification of the reasons supposed to justify it. The “coup” of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction is emblematic; but it has often been repeated thereafter, illustrating the saying, “he who wants to drown his dog accuses it of having rabies.” In this hypothesis, agents of influence and the media deploy all the arsenal of their sophistry to fabricate false testimonies made to measure. Jacques Baud often insists on the role played by certain television programs in the staging of biased presentations of situations, among others the program C à vous, under the direction of Patrick Cohen, on France 5.

Sometimes the subterfuge is not even hidden. For example, this recommendation by one of the many American think-tanks, the Brookings Institution, gives this advice for policy towards Iran: “It would be much better if the United States invoked an Iranian provocation to justify air strikes before launching them. Obviously, the more outrageous, lethal and unprovoked the Iranian action, the better for the United States. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to induce Iran to carry out such a provocation without the rest of the world detecting the scheme, which would undermine it. (One method that might be successful would be to revive efforts at clandestine regime-change in the hope that Tehran would retaliate overtly, or even indirectly, which could then be described as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression” (Kenneth M. Pollack et al., Which Path to Persia? Options for a new American strategy toward Iran, cited by Baud, p. 68).

Examples of reasoning of this sort abound in Jacques Baud’s book, which, let us keep in mind, is entitled, Governing by Fake News; in other words, by the editing of fake news and provocations (false attacks, falsified expert reports intended to prove, for example, the massive use of toxic gas by Bashar al-Assad against the population of the Ghouta plain, in the immediate vicinity of Damascus, at the heart of one of the most elaborate storytelling of that period, etc.).

Of course, such methods are not new. But since the Ems Dispatch, the role of the media has grown enormously; it is now essential, and all the more useful—of course, the rapid downgrading of information helps—and the “fake-news” launched at one moment can easily be changed into its opposite sometime later. This role is obviously linked to the need to direct public opinion, both in so-called democratic countries and in other regions that react differently, such as the Arab countries.

We are thus reminded of the functioning of the media, where the agents of influence amalgamate, who are ever attentive to imposing their version and discrediting any other interpretation and who are never confused by the final revelation of their untruths. On this point, Baud again quotes Patrick Cohen, in relation to Syria, referring in April 2018 to “revisionists who question the reality of the chemical attack attributed to Assad when everything showed that it emanated from jihadists (cf. 216ff). It is worth noting that in this particular game, the State of Israel is often involved, although not exclusively or uniquely. “Benjamin Netanyahu exploits the servility of some Western journalists, while former Mossad directors, such as Ephraim Halevy, warn against this overdramatization. In fact, our traditional media tends to become propaganda organs, just like Pravda in the Soviet Union.”

If the manipulation is blatant and dominant, it is still necessary to specify the reason why it succeeds, and also to note that it can be held in check under certain conditions. And, in fact, the two aspects are one and the same. The exponential development of falsifications has as its best ally the weakness of the majority of those who create and transmit them. “Let us therefore begin by discarding all the facts, for they do not touch upon the matter.” The method posed by Rousseau in the Introduction to the Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men seems to be widely shared. Jacques Baud, for example, explains how a series of violent Islamic movements, though distinct in origin and possibly antagonistic, have been brought together under the single stamp of al-Qaeda—a generic Arabic term meaning “base” and used by a number of distinct groups. The simplification is convenient; and it also gives the impression of a single movement growing like a hydra around the world, constantly reborn, despite the announcement of the elimination of one or another of its major leaders.

****

To this form of reductionist laziness is added ignorance about the area, and in particular of concrete cultural data. It seems that the Christians of the East, especially in Syria and Iraq, have had to pay the price of this lack of culture. The demonization of al-Assad and the invention of the concept of democratic opposition to his regime are the result of this constructed blindness, even if this opposition is composed of rival jihadist groups that commit crimes against the population. But after all, isn’t this blindness made to facilitate changes, of course, according to the overall evaluation of the interests pursued? Jacques Baud takes, among others, the example of Ukraine, a country in which a nationalist political movement including neo-Nazis (Svoboda and Pravyi Sektor) remains, a fact carefully ignored or minimized by moral witnesses such as Bernard-Henri Lévy, whose soothing words Baud quotes (p. 294). However, Baud asserts, the Ukrainian population as a whole is much less Russophobic than this minority that is militarily helped by the West to maintain a climate of war in the East. This is only one case among many others.

The conclusions of Jacques Baud’s book introduce us to one of the most obvious perverse effects of the situations he describes in great detail—post-truth generates skepticism, conspiracism, and in turn the latter feeds its double, anti-conspiracism, which finds in it an argument for better acceptance of falsified data. [A poll conducted in 2019 showed that “for 29% of French people ‘it is acceptable to distort information to protect the interests of the state’… In other words, a significant part of the population accepts that the truth is hidden from them” (395-396)].

The world is then divided into two camps, those who believe without thinking, or pretend to believe the assertions of governments, the media and other anti-conspiracy activists, and those who practice a generalized doubt against any somewhat official information. “It would be wrong to believe that fake news masks a will” (393). The sentence, to be taken literally, contradicts many of the demonstrations present in the rest of Jacques Baud’s work, starting with its title. But one can agree, especially by thinking of the way in which the crisis of the coronavirus was and remains “managed,” with the sentence that follows: “In fact it is the opposite—we act without understanding the situation or in haste, and then, in order to hide the errors of governance, we invoke fake news.”

The tendency to understand and explain events in a summary way or in the form of a system is old, as well as the fact of caricaturing it to better deny the part of truth. To take an example, among the clichés often repeated in connection with critical analyses of the French Revolution, one of the most constant consists in ridiculing the explanations of Abbot Augustin Barruel. Whatever reservations one may have about the value of the interpretations he drew from his documentation, as to the role of the Bavarian Illuminati sect and of Freemasonry in general, and which still remain debatable, that is, worthy of being critically scrutinized rather than dismissed as the work of a maniac.

But Barruel’s work still serves as a useful foil. One of the current organs of denunciation of fake news, Conspiracy Watch, posted on the subject, in 2019, the article of an historian, tempered in expression but denying any value, not only to the work of the former Jesuit, but also to that of Augustin Cochin (who was opposed to Barruel’s theses) and his recent disciples, the historians Fred Schrader, François Furet, Reinhart Koselleck. The author of this rebuttal, who described the Masonic origin of the trilogy “liberty, equality, fraternity” as a “myth,” denied the part played by what he calls “the Order” in triggering the revolutionary process. Relying on the easy criticism of Barruel’s interpretive model, this historian then amalgamated with the latter the authors of the most serious works, and finally disqualified the whole—a method frequently followed in the refutation of conspiracism.

The contributors to Conspiracy Watch regularly labor to establish the falsity of all sorts of current doxa-resistant discourse. It is interesting to read the “About-Us” of this small political pedagogy organization. First of all, the initiative is posed as a response to the irruption of the new means of communication, for the moment poorly or not controlled: “The Internet has totally disrupted our access to knowledge and information.” The statement suggests the idea that previously the control of information was easier, and also that this mode of circumventing ideological censorship had not been foreseen.

The first major investigation conducted by this organization and its powerful associate, the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, dates from late 2017, which is quite recent. “Stimulating minds in search of global and definitive explanations, at times claiming rationalism and the Enlightenment, going so far as to pass off their beliefs as critical thinking and to endow themselves with a veneer of respectability, many of these ‘conspiracy theories’ compete with the so-called ‘official’ theses. In the eyes of many, some of these theses manage to impose themselves as ‘alternative’ truths. Hence the development of this online news service devoted entirely to information on the conspiracy phenomenon, Holocaust denial and their current manifestations.” What “negationism” are we talking about in this case?

The list of proposed publications deal with the growing fear about the effects of vaccines, the thesis of the “great replacement” of the original population by mass immigration, the loss of confidence in the reliability of elections, etc. We are far from the sole denial of the gas chambers. The negationism in question would thus be a form, if not of contestation, at least of disbelief towards any expression of the dominant discourse considered a priori as threatening and manipulative. Let us note that the term conspiracism in itself carries a negative judgment about its object, which it only needs to illustrate without further demonstration. In this respect, the current health crisis provides grist for the mill for the militants of the recovery of good thinking

The fight against conspiracy is now the subject of columns in the press, of special programs on television, and benefits from public-institutional support in France and from the European Union. {The European Commission runs a propaganda office called “Fighting disinformation,” which mixes basic advice, such as “beware of people online claiming to have found a ‘miracle cure,'” with a clear defense of the EU “line,” mainly focused on vaccines). In all cases, it is a preventive action intended to prevent any form of disagreement, identified as active disinformation, or even counter-attacks.

Just recently (November 2020) a widely viewed and discussed documentary, Hold up: retour sur un chaos (Hold up: Return to Chaos), about Covid-19 and the policies followed to deal with it, has overexcited all the parties concerned. The film mixes factual elements, interviews with personalities of recognized competence and questionable or purely hypothetical elements, on which the agencies fighting against deviance rely to reject the whole. The methods of investigation about the risks of recuperation by sects, or of prevention of Islamist “radicalization,” are thus taken up in an attempt to muzzle criticism of the policy concerning the health crisis. The following comments were made: “How did you react when your daughter, mother, brother or friend started to put forward explanations about the pandemic that turned into conspiracies? Does this relative respect the safety measures all the same? Do all your discussions revolve around this topic? Has your relationship been affected? Have you been able to maintain a dialogue, and how? Beyond this private relationship, are you concerned about sharing conspiracy theories about the pandemic?”

Such is the climate, very contradictory from the epistemological point of view, since on the one hand the very idea of truth tends to disappear, and on the other hand the fight against (true or false) false information is becoming more and more demanding. It is not difficult to see this as power propaganda, in the same way as the obligation to adhere to vintage versions of certain historical facts.

Giorgio Agamben wrote on this subject on July 10, 2020: “In the controversies of the health emergency, two infamous words appeared, which obviously had the sole purpose of discrediting those who, in the face of the fear that had paralyzed minds, still held to their view: ‘negationist’ and ‘conspiracy’…. As always in history, there are men and organizations that pursue their legitimate or illicit objectives and try by all means to achieve them, and it is important that those who want to understand what is happening know about them and take them into account. To speak, therefore, of conspiracy adds nothing to the reality of the facts. But to call conspirators those who seek to know historical events for what they are is simply vile.”

In Gouverner par les fake news, Jacques Baud indicates that in the United States, the FBI seeks to detect individuals at risk. “Deviant elements, alternative political thinking or belief in conspiracy theories are considered manifestations of mental disorder, and therefore potentially of terrorist radicalization” (392). Such preventive action may be justified, since psychotics can indeed act on their obsessions. But the problem of disbelief in the official version of events, and that of adherence to simplistic substitute versions—an old-fashioned habit that has fed so many café discussions—is quite different, stemming above all from a lack of culture and verbal prudence. And it is dishonest to confuse this clumsy and morally dubious reaction with a mental pathology.

Very significantly, the denunciation of conspiracism ignores serious studies on the subject, which can be much more nuanced. “In any case, it seems delicate to fight conspiracy theories by claiming to be ‘the’ scientific truth, as the organizations claiming to fight against fake news perhaps do a little too naively… as if the truth were an objectifiable fact that can be ‘verified’ once and for all. We are witnessing an astonishing hardening of the rationalist posture, to say the least: the scientific statement becomes not only objectified, but prescriptive and normative.”

The author of this judgment, Julien Cueille, immediately concluded that the conspiracists have “good reason to argue that such a ‘reason’ comes from a very impure source, since it immediately mixes theoretical considerations and political interests.” The same author provides numerous analyses of existential reaction behaviors to the way of life imposed by the current de-socialization and the form of slavery called corporate management. For him, the hasty and simplistic interpretation, even aberrant of the events can translate a reaction of rejection towards the inhuman character of the imposed way of life and to the conscience of being manipulated. It is a social symptom drawn up in front of the hypocrisy of a reputedly democratic regime which is in reality a manipulative oligarchy. He also points out the existence of professional liars in the ranks of scientific experts who attest to untruths on behalf of this or that multinational, either by order or by sycophancy, which should invite anti-conspiracy to be more humble—if that were possible.

****

From all of the above, we can at least conclude that post-truth is a current reality, the result of a historical evolution that has seen ideological propaganda, now drowned in a daily life that Zygmunt Bauman has described as “liquid.” The term applies well now, when all political decency seems to be disappearing, leaving almost nothing of the trappings with which the formalism of democratic rules and the once fashionable “transparency” were adorned. This atmosphere is conducive to all kinds of manipulation. These manipulations can be on a down-to-earth level, that of in-culture, of carelessness in the treatment of business, of a real and shameless competition between those who aspire to reach the oligarchy, and of an unvarnished greed.

These manipulations can also be attributed to much larger forces seeking to impose their hegemony on a global scale. But in any case, the disappearance of “hard” ideologies and the expansion of post-truth appear under two concomitant features—one is the great difficulty of identifying the places of power, the exact intentions of those who occupy them, the true nature of events whose protagonists and beneficiaries are barely known—the other is, in such a context, the fact that this general blurring of knowledge of the world in which we live constitutes a very effective form of control over the masses, because of the effects of anguish and stupefaction that it produces.

Post-truth is thus special in that it not only conceals reality, but also dissuades from trying to apprehend it. In a way, when Leviathan is nowhere, it is everywhere.


Bernard Dumont publishes the influential revue, Catholica, through whose kind courtesy we are able to bring you this article. Translation from the French by N. Dass.


Featured image: fable of the tortoise and the scorpion, illustration to the Anwar-I-Suhaili, 1847.

Prime Facts, Closed Minds and the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

1.

  • “Climate change” can only be overcome if we stop using fossil fuels and develop green energy. Anyone who disagrees is a climate denier or climate sceptic—and a conspiracy theorist;
  • Racism in the Western world is systemic and can only be overcome when all white people acknowledging they are racists and privileged. Anyone who disagrees is a racist;
  • Muslims are victims of imperialism and racism. Anyone who criticizes Islam is an Islamophobe;
  • One has the right to choose one’s gender because gender is a social construct. Anyone who disagrees is a transphobe;
  • Vaccines ensure the survival of the species. Anyone who questions any vaccine is a science denier—and a conspiracy theorist;
  • Anyone who disagrees with government-approved “science” about Covid-19 is a science denier—and a conspiracy theorist;
  • Russia is guilty of an unprovoked invasion of the Ukraine. Anyone who disputes this is an enemy of the “Ukrainian people” and a Putin stooge;
  • Anyone who believes in the inviolability of free speech and universal access to social media platforms is an advocate of haters, misinformation, disinformation and oppression—and conspiracy theorists;
  • Donald Trump was a president for white supremacists and was a Russian plant. Anyone who disagrees is an enemy of democracy;
  • Anyone who thinks the US election of 2020 was shrouded in an array of electoral improprieties and should be subjected to a thorough independent audit is an enemy of democracy—and a conspiracy theorist;
  • Anyone who thinks that the riot of January 6, 2021 was not an insurrection is an enemy of democracy—and a conspiracy theorist follower of Q Anon;
  • Anyone who thinks there is a distinction between migrants and “illegal” entrants who enter the United States through the Southern border is a racist;
  • Anyone who disputes any of the above is not to be trusted and may rightfully be denounced, de-platformed, and deprived of his livelihood—and is most probably the dupe of some conspiracy theory.

Those who think the above claims are false do so because they detect a general fallacy lurking within each of the claims, whether it be a fallacy to do with the nature of science, the nature of racism, the nature of nature, the nature of authority, the nature of international diplomacy, the nature of emancipation/freedom or equality, or the nature of speech and information. Irrespective of the larger fallacies at play, the problem with the above claims is that there is at least one fundamental or prime fact that each claim is simply not attending to. And anyone who disputes the claims above will almost invariably draw attention to facts which are of such fundamental importance to the broader topic at hand that, if true, the claim collapses.

It is also conspicuous that in a world so complex in terms of the systemic modalities of world-making, reality-participation and formation (reality is not simply a block of “there-ness,” but something “happening” through every breath and deed that anyone living makes at each and every moment), that such issues from the climate to the most intimate of our existential features may be reduced to an ethico-political position which is so definitive, so absolute, that it can brook no dissent. Each one of these issues now comes with a truth status that must be locked in—anyone who publicly objects to anyone of them is spreading misinformation or disinformation. For the survival of the planet, the securement of world peace, democracy, an international world order it is required that everyone must subscribe to the ticket of truths on the list, as well as any others that those who decide which truths must be locked down identify. As with the truths themselves the Western political and ruling class has increasingly come to defend the necessity of the closed mind as the sine qua non of the values to be instantiated. The reductive and simplistic nature of the truths also allow for that class to easily train and deploy compliant truth educators, enforcers, informers, and persecutors.

Although the list forms a “ticket”, some will think it perfectly reasonable, to think that a commitment to one of the claims above does not require commitment to all. And yet, what is very conspicuous is that the same techniques of truth validation, and dissent suppression apply to any item on the ticket. Further, by agreeing with any one item on the ticket one will find oneself forming an alliance with and thereby adding further authority and power to the party that one might wish to oppose on every other item on the ticket.

Thus, it is with the Russia-Ukraine war many people who are vehemently opposed to the corporatist liberal progressive technocratic view on life find themselves marching lock-step with that same globalist ruling political class and its “leadership” who seek total conformity of speech, thought, and “best practice” to create a world of inclusivity, diversity, equity, appropriate pronouns and boundless wealth for a tiny percent of the world’s population. It does not matter which foot-soldiers are fighting on which mental fronts, so long as each front is attended to so that independence of soul, mind and action can be replaced by mental and spiritual conformity that complies with the various agreed upon bullet points of value and policy that have been identified by the leaders of the international order, which is to say Western “democracies.”

Many people with whom I broadly concur with about the destruction of the best values that the West has discovered and institutionally cultivated do not see the Russia- Ukraine war as but one more ticket item. But, nevertheless, what they do is give credibility to the same sources of information that have proven to be untruthful and unreliable on all the other ticket items. They are, in other words, unwitting foot-soldiers for the same vested interests of big-tech-media owners, big-pharma, the arms industry, big energy, global finance, big government, etc., who are dictating the way the world must be.

For the remainder of this essay, I want to use the example of the Russian-Ukraine war to focus upon one extremely common personal shortcoming that I think has contributed to the Western intelligentsia becoming the foot-soldiers and enablers of an elite who are creating and presiding over an increasingly soulless, mindless and totally conformist society: this is the tendency for people to confuse what they think they know with what they do know. Never has the importance of true and reliable information played such a decisive role in how people go about their daily lives. Thus, too never have people been so dependent upon the ability, integrity, and accuracy of those who identify and provide information about the processes and events transpiring within the world. Never has philosophy, as the means by which we may better organize our information as well as assess the method for excavating or accessing and combining information, been so importance to the whole of society as it is today in which all our life-systems have become ideational concatenations. And as ideational concatenations, one erroneous idea may suffice to collapse all that we think of as certain and valuable.

The price paid for building our world upon ideas is the precariousness of that world precisely because it only takes one mistaken idea to be uncovered for catastrophic consequences to ensue for all the stakeholders of that particular concatenation. No wonder that people are so dogmatic, so defensive, so hostile to those who may jeopardise an ideational order which gives them purpose, status, and economic security. Woke ideas are easy to dismiss and satirise, but what is not easy to dismiss are the stakeholders whose lives and livelihoods depend upon the narratives they instantiate and, understandably, aggressively defend as if their very lives depended upon them – which they do. The triumph of idea-ism means that there are numerous classes of ideas-brokers whose economic and personal interests are completely dependent upon those ideas which they have built their careers and interests upon. The quality of the society as a whole, though, will depend upon the quality of ideas that have triumphed. Assuming that a generation is 25-30 years, and that it is with the American and French revolutions that we see a birth of a new (i.e., modern) world, the socio-political contestation and developments which are definitive of modernity are a mere eight or so generations – though liberal progressivism of the sort that has now become the dominant ideology of the West, has only been dominant for one generation. In other words, the ideas that have formed modernity and have developed within modernity have barely been tried and tested.

The totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century, and the ideology that drives the United States now illustrate that whatever the achievements of modernity, securing perpetual peace is not one of them, even though that was the dream of those philosophers whose ideas played such a decisive role in helping form the mindset, goals, and concepts of legitimation of the modern. Though the Enlightenment dream of a new world was meant to be universal, vast portions of the globe live within premodern values, relationships, and priorities alongside modern technologies. Although they usually invoke a crude kind of cultural relativism -as the means for attacking more traditional Western values and bestowing their moral benediction on the Other to demonstrate their virtuous largess—most modern professionals have neither any genuine interest nor understanding of the how, why or what of peoples who live outside of the supposed halcyon of modern ideational systems of social re-production and value. Irrespective of that, we moderns simply have not had the time to really know what we are doing because the truth of any idea about how the world is to be made is not merely in the logical congruence it enjoys with other ideas that we esteem, but in the way it is lived out – only the living out of ideas, in and over time, shows us what they really contain, as opposed to what we want or believe them to contain. Believing that we can will what we wish by dreaming up ideas is far easier than living them out successfully – ask any coach of any team in any competitive sport.

Given the ever-increasing gap between what we will and we do, what we want to be the case and what we actually know to be the case, never has the Socratic foundation stone of philosophy proper (as opposed to speculative conjectures) been so necessary: that foundation stone is the simple confession of one’s own ignorance, and the importance of establishing whether those who claim to have knowledge, know what they are talking about.

In the specific case of the Russia-Ukraine war, I see that people whose thoughtfulness and social and political observations I generally admire have swiftly accepted very poor evidence to reach conclusions that they identify so strongly with that they are now contributing to locking down one more mental front on behalf of the globalizing elite who are supporting all endeavours to completely control speech and thought in service to their leadership and plans for the future.

2.

The conversations and sense of self-esteem and identity of the professional classes in the West are strongly bound up with the ideas they hold about how the world is, how it should be, and how it can be improved. Educated, professional people like to socialize and converse with other people who are well educated and able to converse about the topics of major urgency of the moment. Those topics range from the workings of nature to the nature of human beings to geopolitics to psychology to economics and society to aesthetics and much else beside. The problem all face is that because of the complexity of the world, gathering knowledge about all the topics that they wish to address when gathered in conversation is time consuming—and most professionals, once their work and relationships and entertainment and recreational activities (which, to be sure, does include reading and watching the news) does not leave a lot of time left for digging more deeply into a topic.

The ability to participate and contribute to conversational gatherings by demonstrating one’s knowledge of all the important issues of the day is an unwritten social rule. Given the array of topics and the complexity of the world, the pressure to know “all sorts of stuff” does not change the fact that there is no short cut if one is serious about being well informed about so many of the urgent issues of our time. It takes considerable time to be able to learn which type of information is genuinely relevant to the topic. Because none of us can know everything, listening to experts is important. But anyone who has spent time developing expertise in a field knows that experts commonly disagree. And only someone who knows next to nothing about the history of science or the history of ideas, or the history of disciplines such as economics, or history thinks that one will be well informed by simply accepting a consensus among experts at any given time. To be well informed on any topic means that one must have some way of distinguishing between different experts making contrary claims.

Thus, it is that anyone wanting to be well informed should be well versed in the requisite methods of organizing different kinds of information, and hence able to identify which experts are more likely to be making the more accurate claims about an issue. One also needs a reasonably sophisticated grasp of the various theoretical alternatives that are part of the given field in which the topic for discussion occurs. This involves both the time taken to gather contingent knowledge (the appropriate facts), and sufficient philosophical ability and training to be able to identify the potential fallacies that might lead to oversimplifications, false generalizations, and false conclusions.

People with a college education, which is to say the overwhelming majority of professionals, might well assume that they have been trained in such a manner that they are better equipped than those who lack that education to address the topics that become the most urgent civic issue of the day. The fact is, though, that a college degree does not deliver that anymore: and that would be amply evident were a random sample of college educated people asked to answer even very basic questions of history, philosophy, geography, world politics or economics. Ideology has swiftly come to fill the void that has been created by the pedagogical decline in the gathering of contingent knowledge—something that also required a great deal of rote learning, of the sort, thanks to modern education theory, that rarely exists anymore, in one’s mentally formative years.

Of course, the displacement of contingent knowledge by ideational and ideological knowledge which basically requires students imbibe some a priori principles which they then apply to any information that they deem to be relevant to the topic at hand. Thus, for example, someone trained in applying a set of ideas about race or gender to everything that might be considered important might claim that knowledge of a scientific or mathematical theory that has been discovered by a white male is of no important to them, nor to anyone else who has the same identity as them; as if women or black people live beyond the laws of physics, or economics.
This is not only silly, but also damaging to students who are brainwashed into thinking that laws about reality can safely be ignored, and that ignoring such laws will enable them to have a better future. Yet the fact that such claims in the Western world are taken seriously by those who are responsible for education policy and administration and have impacted upon all levels of education is indicative of the crisis in which ideology displaces contingent knowledge.

Further, in premodern societies testimonies, stories, rituals and the like were the currency of social inclusion, today it is ideology, i.e., the acceptance of certain a priori—and unassailable—prime principles which dictate how facts are to be assessed. This is the reverse order of how genuine knowledge develops. Which is why such an approach to world-making is one that proceeds by way of the defiance rather than the understanding of the real. But learning a priori principles can be done very quickly. Likewise, it gives people, whose livelihoods, sense of spiritual purpose and self- and group-worth depend upon knowing about the world and how to improve it, a great means for saving time. Time-saving and space compression are fundamental features of modern life, which dictate our contemporary dependency upon technology, and the direction that technology takes. But it also extends to human beings and their learning, and while it is marvelous to do and know things without much effort, most of us need time to do or know anything well. And there is simply no getting around that. Our contemporary attempt to bypass the requisite time needed to gather and organise information by means of internet search engines indicates the problem of such a bypass: we are easily exposed to, and hence overwhelmed by information, we have not been trained in interpreting and do not really understand, and hence do not know how to act in conjunction with.

The same kind of simplification that applies to ideology displacing contingent knowledge is replicated in the world of cyber information by ideologues (people committed to believing that they know what matters on all important topics) identifying which information (based upon the a priori ideas of those doing the truth-monitoring) is true knowledge and which is false knowledge. Thus the paradox of living in an age where there is more information at any time in the history of the world, while there is also an attempt to control and funnel information – hence to drastically limit information – about all matter of things on a scale only anticipated by the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. It seems that the real story of progress is that mental independence and an individual’s knowledge exist in inverse proportion to the amount of knowledge that has been discovered but is identified as too ideologically dangerous to become part of public disputation. Though the next challenge of our intellectually and morally stunted elite is to ensure that the only knowledge to be uncovered and disseminated is that which conforms to what they deem to be worthy of knowing, and hence worthy of paying people to find, teach, and defend at all costs.

Given the combination of the nature of and role played by the professional classes in the modern Western world, the fact that class membership requires being conversant with a range of ideas on all sorts of topics—”talking points”—that serve as the social glue, the complexity of the world, and the limited knowledge that even the extremely well educated person in a specific field might have, it is very understandable why the professional classes are so dependent upon the various forms of media not only providing information upon the vast array of topics which they need to be conversant with if they are to be considered people worth associating with, but also upon the “talking points” or “formulae” that represent a particular “take’ on a topic. For it is not only being conversant on the topic that matters within a group, in which no one actually knows very much about the topic other than what they have picked up from the media, but it is even more important to be able to know what the “answer” is to any given issue—e.g., eliminate coal, teach critical race theory, allow choice over women’s bodies, etc.

Given the pressures that are part and parcel of group membership and acceptance, it should be no surprise that members of the professional classes are not only largely in agreement with each other and with the media and public figures who provide the various “takes” on the topics of the day, but members of these classes see all major issues as political in nature, and they identify almost completely with the sum of political positions which they feel passionately identifies what kind of person they are. It is also not surprising that members of our professional classes have next to no desire to explore arguments that might undermine their convictions.

Likewise, when encountering someone who may have spent many years studying topics that they have come to feel strongly about based upon very cursory “information” they are not open to absorbing new information, nor considering alternative interpretative approaches which may cast that information in a different light. To expose people’s lack of information and lack of knowledge is akin to showing that because they know next to nothing, they are nothing. I am reminded of this constantly on social occasions where my more than fifty years of studying and teaching Political Science is not considered of any importance whatever if I dare to raise questions that might destabilize the strongly shared consensus and conviction of the latest issue to consume the media and the minds of my friends.

The exact same behaviour I detect in my circle of friends is identical to the behaviour I witness among intellectual colleagues. People who are specialized in areas such as English Literature, or subjects having little to do with Political Science, seem to know all that one needs to know about any political issue of the day—and as in my personal circle, they too repeat what they have picked up from their diet of news. The more adroit amongst them may scour the web, but only for those sites that share their political point of view. Their thinking is the thinking of closed mindedness—it is not that thinking does not occur; rather, their thoughts are locked in, and they share socio-political consensuses among the like-minded, and thus never face being challenged. Their thinking is on auto-pilot—they have a phrase, and explanation, a put-down for anyone who has the temerity to see things differently.

The academic work-place mostly consists of the like-minded; and the chances of getting tenure for anyone who does not go along with the consensus is increasingly zero. So, the academic work place is the last place of meeting someone who might upturn the consensus. Closed minds are vaults, and all but impossible to open. The academy is no longer the place in which one typically may access the best that has ever been thought, but rather it is the place where the prejudices and myopia of the professional classes are manufactured, and where anyone who deviates from the consensus of what ideas are to be manufactured, distributed and monitored is to be excluded.

Thus too it is symptomatic of the great globalist elite transformation that has dictated the purpose of authority, the role of knowledge in shoring up authority, and the nature of what constitutes knowledge, and to which purpose it is to be put how university administration has moved from its role of enabling the academic pursuits of teaching and learning to be unencumbered by incidental administrative tasks that are required for the day to day necessities of institutional activity to articulating, planning and managing the core values and types of knowledge which are disseminated by academic employees.

The universities and schools of the West provide the academic foot-soldiers for the administrators of global knowledge and leadership. The university administrators, like CEOs of private companies and the governments and senior appointees of the public or civil service are all implicated in advancing the same ideas that form the conversational talking-points in dinner parties, bars and restaurants wherever modern professionals gather to bond and demonstrate that they have the knowledge that illustrate that they belong to the group who knows how the world works and how it can be improved. It is the greatest Ponzi scheme that has ever existed, and trying to trace its creators to this or that secret society misses the point that it exists because all sorts of people identify with it. Unfortunately, though, like all Ponzi schemes the lack of something genuinely good ever coming from it is intrinsic to its nature and the deception at its base.

In this case, though, the deception is not even known to those who stand most to gain from it. That might be disputable, and one might make a pretty compelling case for the likes of Bill Gates, George Soros, the Rothschilds, Jeff Bezos etc. knowing what they are doing, but while they may know how they may make personal gain, I cannot see how even they will not eventually be caught up in fallouts they have not calculated for. And that is the problem with all calculative thinking when applied to the human story. To the extent that Globalism inc. has fueled fires of what may be a protracted and global period of war I find it difficult to envisage that they and/or their lineage will come out of the catastrophe unscathed.

3.

If Descartes’s formula “I think therefore I am” is the founding principle of the modern metaphysical journey of the world and self-making, a journey in which comfort and longevity are the ends of life, and mastery over nature the means, then my experience has taught me that “I am what I think” is the belated corollary of the professional classes who are living in what Descartes had merely dreamt of.

Descartes, of course, was the original metaphysician of that project, which would come to be known as the Enlightenment—in no small part due to Descartes’ elevation of the natural light of reason as the source that enabled one to follow that method of analysis and synthesis (breaking down things into their simplest parts and reassembling on the basis of their causal connections); for it was that method which he said would lead us to become lords and masters of nature.

Although Descartes himself shied away from spelling out the social and political implications of that project, they were quickly spelled out by others who, in spite of their metaphysical differences, were also committed to breaking down experience into its constitutive mechanisms—most notably Hobbes, Spinoza and Locke—and refabricating the natural and political world according to the clarity of their ideas.

The problem with following the path of ideas was espied by that canny Scott, philosopher, and minister, Thomas Reid. He realized that the “way of ideas” (a formulation provided by Locke about the path of the enhancement of our understanding of the world) was a reductionist approach to reality that oversimplified the nature of reality and even the nature of science—Reid was every bit a Newtonian as Immanuel Kant, who can rightly be identified as the last great philosopher of the Enlightenment. But unlike Kant, Reid looked to language and social environment and circumstance, rather than philosophical ideas and principles that had been philosophically honed by someone who created abstract thought cathedrals, as providing us with vital information for making decisions about our lives.

Elsewhere I have written a rather turgid tome on what I call philosophical “idea-ism” (sic.), but here I want to speak of ideas in the more commonsensical way that is consistent with Reid’s commonsense philosophy, and the more ordinary language sense of an “idea.” And, in so far as I am curious about why people who are not mere ideologues, people who are normally sceptical (in a good way) and thoughtful about the way the world is and why it is the way it is now—now embrace claims that are not true.

Most of us, most of the time, act in the world the way we do because of our induction into its pathways and possibilities, and the capacities and the feelings we have in our participation in it and with it. Most of the time our practical engagements provide the horizon of possibilities and potentials we engage with (Martin Heidegger developed an entire philosophy around what philosophers had largely ignored because of an undue emphasis upon reflection and consciousness in our being in, and making of, the world).

However, when we converse about the state of the world, reflection is indeed important, though it invariably brings with it a horizon of tacit/unconsciously accepted commitments, appeals and consensuses—and the question of the quality of reflection is bound up with the quality of the evidence we have in making our judgments and claims. Vico had observed that philosophy was a way of thinking whose seeds were originally institutionally instantiated by practices that had evolved in the assembly/“law court.”

Once we seek to think about the world as such, we rarely retain the theoretical disposition—a disposition that, as the original Greek term theoria indicates, has also the vantage point gained by a seating arrangement which enables us to see the whole of an action, as opposed to the limited line of sight which the actor himself has at his disposal. Life, though, is neither a court of law nor a play, and our reflective disposition is rarely of such a quality that we see “clear and distinct ideas” (the way and desiderata) for the natural light of reason building its new world.

What constitutes the relevant ideas for a narrative will very much depend upon what kind of claims, and hence what kind of narrative one is making. Kant famously took the traditional philosophical trinity of the good, the true and the beautiful and made a powerful case for distinguishing between different kinds of judgment claims—experiential, moral and aesthetic—on the basis of their distinct underlying (a priori) preconditions. Though G.W.F. Hegel would swiftly expose some of the problems with Kant’s artificial application of too strict a severance between the three. Hegel also rightly emphasized that ultimately what we know about anything at all is both a social and historical, and institutional process, commencing with the language we use to depict and communicate, so that we may explore further into potentials and hidden layers of processes and aspects of the logos of phenomena and its spirit.

Nevertheless, it is true that if we are dealing with an event, it would be a mistake to construe the various kinds of judgments we deploy in dealing with its different aspects and our responses to it, as if they were identical to how we might appraise phenomena of the type required for natural science claims (as would be appropriate for claims about the future of the climate). When it comes to political and social facts or matters, we are speaking of facts, albeit facts in which intentionality and an accompanying horizon of background circumstances and characteristics—themselves facts of a sort—are absolutely intrinsic to the facts themselves. That is, we are dealing with a situation in which the meaning really matters. And hence we have to take into account that facts are never stand-alone items, but aspects of larger meaning-providing fact-blocks.

Unfortunately, many commentators, including academic ones, who see themselves as gatekeepers of meaning, believe that the “philosophy” they use to depict the meaning of an event itself provides an express route to knowing all the essential facts of any phenomenon that falls within their area of “expertise.” In this way they let philosophy do the work that only contingent knowledge, and attention to the kinds of (methodical) questions that need to be posed to the phenomena can satisfactorily do. Indeed, acting thus, they substitute their own ideas and pseudo-reality for the reality they are supposed to be clarifying. Their ideas may be clearer and more distinct than a more contingent-based analysis would provide, thanks to their deployment of certain moral ideas and classifiers identifying who is right or wrong, guilty or innocent, but it is ultimately not doing anything other than misleading people about the nature of the event. And it is also shoring up the status of the commentator who ostensibly has identified who is virtuous and who is guilty—clambering on board of the good ship “Leadership.”

In the case of the Ukraine war, there is no end to commentators who vie to identify the innocent and the guilty— though the answer is simple because it has been predetermined: Putin/ Russia: guilty; Zelensky/ Ukraine: innocent.

But let us pause upon facts as such before addressing the specific facts that are germane to the terrible event taking place in Ukraine now. For at the moment, Western media and political leaders have dictated which ideas matter when it comes to discussing the war—thus RT news has been vanished from YouTube, while news outlets scream out Putin’s malevolence and guilt, Russia’s cruelty, (non-ethnically Rus) Ukrainian bravery, Russian false flags, Zelensky’s honorableness, etc.

The prime facts upon which subsequent facts informing us about an event are mounted are rarely obvious to most people’s “knowledge” of world historic events—were that not the case historians would shut up shop, and not persist in endlessly trying to find one more prime fact that “sets the record straight.” Having limited knowledge about the facts of an event is inevitable, but it is also the limitation of the facts that we are aware of that make it very easy to jump to conclusions about the causes and moral nature of an event in which we identify with people we recognize as being more like our good selves.

Concomitantly, our limited knowledge is typically the result of ignorance of prime or foundational facts. That ignorance may simply be due to the obscure nature of a prime fact- and the obscurity may itself be due to simply not looking closely enough into the details of a situation and paying attention to the weight of a particular deed. But prime facts may also be shrouded in secrecy and lies as well as ignorance. Othello is possibly the greatest literary example of the tragic nature of believing a lie. There are so many recent examples of the deliberate concealment of or false fabrication of facts that have political importance one hardly knows where to begin: but Iraq’s possession of mass destruction is one of them which will forever be a reminder of the nature not only of the incompetence but dishonesty of the United States government and military in the post-Cold War period.

Another prime fact that is pertinent to United States and Russian diplomacy, and to why Russia has very good grounds not to trust the United States, is the support that the United States had given to Chechen jihadists, thus fueling the Chechen war and terrorist acts against Russia. In that case, the prime fact of CIA involvement in the war was simply concealed from, rather than lied about to the Western public.

The concealment of military support for jihadists and Al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups against the Assad government by the United States is also relevant to why the Syrian government has forged stronger ties with Russia, and why, yet again Russia cannot ignore the fact that the United States is deliberately fueling jihadist forces destabilizing governments with closer geopolitical interests and ties to Russia.

The recent attempted coup in Kazakhstan, and, almost simultaneous attempt to assassinate the subsequently ousted Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan are also facts that most supporters of the United States in its proxy war with Russia are ignorant of, or simply do not see as relevant in condemning Russia’s decision to secure its own strategic interest—as if no other governments other than those the United States support have legitimate strategic interests. The seemingly haphazard application of moral principles is invariably the result of people thinking that their interest is the interest of humanity or the public at large. Such hubris is the inevitable accompaniment of people identifying with what they think they know, whilst not bothering to dig deeper into prime facts that once uncovered may leave them in the mud where they think only those beneath them morally flounder.

Every “whodunnit” or thriller with a twist is based upon the concealment of a foundational fact which provides the key for discerning what information one has picked up matters. For me, the greatest literary whodunnit is Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. Everything points to Dmitri Karamazov killing his father—indeed so cleverly does Dostoevsky draw the picture of Dmitri’s guilt that he counts on no reader thinking that any reasonable person could have the slightest doubt of Dmitri’s guilt (without at least being pulled by Dostoevsky’s subtle depiction of Dmitri as a man with all the motive and capacity to kill his father, but with some concealed characteristic within himself, a mere memory of kindness from his childhood, a memory that almost everyone but the most astute men of spirit, would simply not lend any importance to, that would draw him back from the deed).

Thus too, Dostoevsky spends an interminable amount of time in the depiction of Dmitri’s trial, repeating all the essential points, so that no reader might miss the point. But, of course, Dmitri was not guilty. One all important-fact was unknown, and it only belatedly comes light. But as it does so, all the other facts that had indicated the guilt of a man evaporate into nothingness.

In Notes from the Underground, Dostoevsky had used the form of the novel to argue the case that human beings are not reasonable creatures. In the Brothers Karamazov, he developed the point that our reason easily leads us astray, because we commonly base our judgments on facts mounted upon other facts which we are unaware of and whose relevance we ignore.

It is the people who are most accustomed to using their powers of reasoning about the way of the world, who are most likely to succumb to the temptation of mounting facts upon non-foundational facts, after making an initial but wrong decision about which facts should provide the basic foundation—but more often these are only associations upon associations (for association-making is the bread-and-butter of the intellectual).
If ordinary professionals feel compelled to repeat what they have been informed about by journalists, or professors who repeat to journalists the ideas that have been fed to them by journalists (with a dash of intellectual sauce to add a special authoritativeness to whatever is being said), then intellectuals as a class invariably feel compelled (I know I am guilty as charged) to write about what they think they know.

Increasingly our intellectuals are indistinguishable from journalists—and their credo might well be, “I Am What Someone Says I Should Think.” Indeed, were that not the case, then the academy as a whole would not be the breeding ground of intellectual conformity and compliance with the vision and mission statements provided by Global Inc.

4.

Everywhere I turn today, I am confronted by people who are absolutely certain that they understand the purpose and reason behind the war in Ukraine—Putin’s personality meets the Russian soul in the first step of Russia’s conquest of the world, an ambition motivated by the “fact” that one of the richest men in the world and his rich friends can have even more wealth and power—maniacal laughter, stage right. This kind of sounds like Hitler’s modus operandi (though funnily enough I don’t think I have ever heard people say that Hitler did it for the money—and, come to think of it, they don’t say that about old Uncle Joe, either—so Putin must be even worse than those two!).

But I hear people in my “educated” social circle say this without any hint of doubt that they may be talking nonsense—and yet, I cannot open a newspaper, or turn on the news without hearing the same thing. If it is an academic saying it, it is said with a little more preening pomposity and affectation, and usually filmed with a towering bookcase as a background, lending the formidable weight of “learning” to a prejudice based upon a failure to ask the right questions.

And yet, how dare anyone raise the matter of prime or foundational facts amidst the relentless images of suffering? What monster could not accept “our” diagnosis, and hence the legitimacy of training troops way back before the event, and supplying weapons, and potentially destroying the economy and livelihoods of millions of those evil Russians, who are guilty of having Putin as their president and not having the guts to overthrow him? Of course, most of the people on the news, at the universities and at my dinner parties, if they were Russian, would be walking straight into the Kremlin to sort it out with mad bad Vlad. Boy, they just wanted to assassinate Don, but Vlad is going to get a real pasting before they are ready to finish him off.

With respect to those images from Ukraine coming out on mainstream media—I assume some, perhaps most, must be real. Though I note this: in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the US government tried its best to prevent any images coming out of the war that would show the invading forces in a bad light (though the aerial fireworks of the first Iraq war remain indelibly imprinted on my brain). But with the (Western) Ukrainians, there seems to be a camera to capture every bit of inhumanity perpetrated by the Russians.

And in the West, every image we receive of the war is constructed to confirm that one side is guilty of barbarism and inhumanity, while the other is ever brave and decent and good. I can only ask, is one really using one’s intelligence if one believes that one side in this conflict always acts humanely and wisely and nobly, and the other not? Is one using one’s intelligence if one is satisfied with the explanation that Russia has risked so many lives, and so much of the nation’s wealth without provocation?

I think the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were disasters in every which way, but I would not for the life of me think that anyone who traced their origin purely on the basis of George Bush Jr’s psychotic personality, or money grabbing by him and his mates, or US evil imperialism were doing much of a job as an international relations analyst.

The US had its reasons—they may have been bad reasons, which I think was the case, but they had them. But for the most part Western media simply refuses to take Russia’s reason for the invasion seriously. In part, that is because to do so would require actually heeding facts in which the entire rationale for what is a de facto US/NATO led proxy war—one which involves all manner of support, asset seizure, sanctions, censorship etc. without any actual declaration of war – would collapse. But the entire purpose of the bombardment of images of suffering by non-ethnically Russian Ukrainians seems to be to ensure that people feel so firmly convinced of Russia’s evil, that they do not have minds sufficiently open to investigate other facts.

If, however, one took the time to watch Patrick Lancaster’s reports from the Donbas one would have to accept the fact that exactly kind of horror is being inflicted upon Ukrainians, who are Russian first language speakers, and this has been the case for eight years, and it had received only the scantest attention from Western media. But the tacit moral a priorism that triggers the Western mind is one which that makes it obscene or callous to compare evil with evil. The evil is all Russia’s, or more pointedly Putin’s. But such moral framing as effective as it is as propaganda, and as effective as it is for dictating how people in conversation or in a public forum should speak or respond about the event is simply a displacement that is based upon a closed Western media intent on keeping the minds of people in the West closed.

Because the minds of the media audience in the West have already been shaped and largely made up prior to the war about who the goodies and baddies are, that there is no need for Western media outlets to apply even basic techniques of authentication to witness claims, “sets” within the theater of war, or footage they receive about the war. For some of the footage from the war on the Ukrainian side is purely fabricated; and I recommend Gonzalo Lira’s analysis of the footage of the Bucha massacre [which has been banned by Youtube but is available here and here]. Lira is one of a couple of independent Western journalists who has been reporting the war from inside Ukraine. There may well be Russian fabricated images as well, but not being able to trust main stream reporters to do an impartial job of analysis means I simply have no way of knowing anymore when these reporters are telling the truth. There are also examples of real images where the identity of the perpetrators has been changed to fit the required narrative of Ukrainian bravery versus Russian brutality. But to know that one would have to start looking at people who demonstrate the fakery of the images, or the real perpetrators of a war crime.

When it comes to war crimes, it is supposedly perfectly reasonable and hence not a violation of the Geneva Convention for Ukrainian citizens to be compelled to bear arms in the conflict. But let’s not talk about Ukrainian war crimes; “fact-checkers” quickly establish that all those who have been let out of prison and given arms or groups, rounded up to fight, are “volunteers.”

Once upon a time journalists for major news outlets used to question stories that smelled funny—but those days are long gone, and the academic commentariat are only too happy to slot such “fact-checked” facts into their factually-based narrations about Putin’s guilt. What matters is how many repeat the same narrative. The modus operandi of the fabrication of “truth” was established long before this war. But now it is treasonous to ask questions about the role of the United States in this proxy war in which Western Ukrainians are but cannon fodder. That the West simultaneously reports upon the massive number of Ukrainian refugees whilst also reporting on the bravery of Ukrainians fighting to the death for their freedom is suggestive of misinformation (a lie) concerning the degree of Ukrainian national unity which is simply not there. Another concealed prime fact is that Ukraine has been in a civil war for eight years. It has largely been covered over by the lie that the Maidan was something hailed by almost all Ukrainians who were so fed up with the pro-Russian President Yanukovych that they spontaneously took to the street to vent their anger. Yes, there was a large opposition – just as there is large opposition to any regime in any Western democracy. But the mechanisms of democracy count for nothing in the Western media any more once their corporate owners and their employees agree about overthrowing a democratically elected government.

There are also lies by omission – and one big whopper by omission is the general failure of the Western media and politicians to bother mentioning the widespread corruption of the Ukrainian political class from its post-Soviet origin to Zelensky himself. There was also the failure to mention the role of the United States, and anti-Putin oligarchs and their interest in providing resources for the Maidan. And, of course, the violence of ultra-nationalist, ethnic militias (the neo-Nazis) against (Russo-)Ukrainians, and the extent of the leverage and institutional power they represent (something that is not uncovered if one solely focuses upon their negligible parliamentary representation, which is only indicative of outright public support, which is not the issue at all).

There is also the failure to seriously examine the case for such an overwhelming number of Russo-Ukrainians in Crimea to seek and vote for independence – we are meant to believe it is merely an “invasion” by Russia. Similarly, I don’t know anyone personally who knows why the overwhelming majority of people in Donetsk and Luhansk want to be autonomous regions, and why they are so desperate to be protected from government and militia forces attacking them. Then there is the failure to examine the prime facts involved in the Minsk Agreements—see Jacques Braud for more details (here and here).

There has, in sum, been an enormous amount of prime fact concealment if not outright fabrication in the war. And I find it somewhat incredulous that people who do not bother with such prime facts think their opinion on the war is anything more than prejudice and worth paying any attention to. But that, as I said earlier, is the problem with the Western know-all mentality which is but a thought cathedral of a priorisms or sheer ideology.

The combination of outright censorship, denunciation and moral belittlement of journalists who introduce information that is said to be “enemy propaganda” means that most people I know and read are completely ignorant of these alternative sources. That is to say there is plenty of information and plenty of points of view which are well and truly hidden from the general public’s ken.

It is also the case that well-educated people, when it comes to Russia and Vladimir Putin, are now perfectly happy to trust the same journalists who have regularly propagated a great litany of falsehoods (from misinformation to disinformation to mere mangling of information to destruction of people’s livelihoods and reputations). Why such trust in the case of Ukraine?

I can only answer that they are happy with what they think they know. They shouldn’t be, but they are. When I say they shouldn’t be, allow me to be theological for a moment. Those of us within the ideas-professions have been called upon to profess the truth as we know it. But in so far as we are weak vessels with little intelligence, our professional calling also requires us to be aware of our ignorance. Such a concession is our saving grace, for it also means that our knowledge will always be partial, and we will invariably err. Hence while we are called upon to explore and investigate and present our findings it is essential if we are to do our jobs right to present our information as provisional. Far from being leaders and know-alls in the discovery and dissemination of information, we must labour humbly trying to understand more and communicating what little we know in the manner of a participant in a collective and ongoing dialogue.

Academics and intellectuals, in other words, are akin to the jurors of the trial of Dmitri Karamazov; we are in the position of trying to make sense of the evidence before us; but if evidence, i.e., a prime fact heretofore hidden is uncovered which makes the rest of the evidence collapse, then we should be resolute in following the truth and being grateful that we have been rescued from a great error. We move from error to error constantly. On those rare occasions we stumble upon some really important truths that matter are moments more due to God’s grace, or, for those who wish to free themselves from all talk of gods, sheer good fortune, than our ability.
Sadly, though, my experience of those who work in service to ideas forget their higher duty to the higher power which places ideas in their proper context within life. Thus, my observation that academics and academically trained professionals are amongst the least likely people I have ever met to admit they are wrong and to change their mind.

Again, observed from my experience as university student and professor, the overwhelming majority of people who teach and study the Humanities at the universities have made up their minds on all important socially and politically essential issues by the time they have turned twenty (usually earlier). There are those who have a crisis of confidence in their ideological leanings, and turn the other way; but they are rare enough.

Much rarer, and I am grateful to a set of circumstances that allowed me to fall into this group, there are those who come to break not only with an ideological position but an attachment to the kind of abstractions that form the woof and warp of academic work which forces one to be more resolute in focus in trying to understand human experience, rather than a philosophy or theory.

The Humanities part of the academy is largely held together by ideologically or ideationally like-minded groups: whether liberal, Marxist, feminists, post-structuralists, critical race theorists, post-colonialists, or, the far more marginal groups like the Straussians, Girardians, etc. matters little, because such group-membership involves a betrayal of one’s calling, which is to follow truth wherever it might lead, and to stand up and profess that truth. That is a lonely path; and it is not a way to secure prestigious publishers, or tenure, or friends within the profession and who can help you get ahead.

The one benefit of academia is that you can reach the best and brightest of students who are hungry for the same thing you are and who will tarry a while with you as you follow your path. Apart from some students, I have met very few solitary travelers on their search to have a better picture about the ways and whys of the world and humanity. And the ones I have met are rarely working within a university.

The fact that few tread this path may well be why my academic friends are so willing to think they know what they don’t know and to accept as facts reportage that lacks credibility. I might be wrong about this; it may just be laziness, or pride, a willingness to show their academic friends that though they cannot agree on some things they are not such monsters that they would disagree on something as important as the global climate catastrophe, or the invasion of the world by an ex-KGB agent.

What is indisputable is that, for my part, if there were compelling proof, I would gladly accept the truth that the war in Ukraine is due to unprovoked aggression by Russia; that it is but the first domino of a grand plan by Russia and China; and that the United States, Europe and other Western countries are within their rights to fight a proxy war against Russia, and to seize Russian assets and reconfigure the world’s financial system in order to win this war, because it will not only stop World War III from starting, but also preserve the free world.

But there is no longer a free world to preserve, nor any compelling proof to convince me of that position– and if proof there be, it is certainly not to be found in lurid biographies that merely repeat the unsubstantiated stories that Putin’s many enemies have routinely provided to the press (see John Helmer’s blogs for more information regarding some of the more well-known ones). Moreover, those who denounce Russia’s invasion invariably do what I find morally and intellectually repellant: they must absolve the West and NATO and the Zelensky government, and Ukrainian oligarchs, and Russian anti-Putin oligarchs in exile, and Western oligarchs with ambitions to own Syrian and Russian oil, and the representatives of Globalist Inc. who have taken it upon themselves to define who and what the international order is and how we all must live and accept as truth what they say is the “truth.”

At the very least any compelling argument justifying the West’s proxy war against Russia would require disproving—that the US and NATO have had a long-term plan to bring regime change to Russia; that the Maidan was part of that strategy; that the lie about official Russian interference in the US election of 2016 was a lie; that successive Ukrainian governments since the Maidan have been responsible for the persecution and mass slaughter of Russian first-language speaking Ukrainians, and the bombing and shelling of their homes and villages; that various players, from the President and his son, and other members (in both political sides) of the American government have had financial interests that have contributed to the corrupt nature of the Ukrainian government, and exacerbated conflict in Ukraine; that the Ukrainian government had not been aggressively building up its troops to finally “take back” the Donbas before Russia’s invasion; that Russia’s strategic objective is not the complete destruction of Ukraine, but demilitarization and de-Nazification. On this last point, it would also be nice for anyone arguing the West’s case against Russia to at least have a rudimentary understanding of military theory so that they might have some basic understanding of the tactics of Russia’s military operation.

They might also take the time to investigate whether President Zelensky has truly sought to broker peace with Russia, and show that he is not beholden to Ukrainian and anti-Putin-Russian oligarchs, and ethnic militias. At the moment he is screaming that Russia is going to start a nuclear war if the West does not stop him. Really? Why would Putin not just do what the US did to Baghdad? (See the above point regarding Russia’s tactics.) And such a person might also demonstrate how the United States has brought peace and prosperity to any region that it destabilizes, especially since the end of the Cold War. Recently, I saw an interview with Tony Blair by a journalist working for the Economist—for Blair Iraq is a success story. Some claims are so bereft of any connection to reality that to even bother to engage with them leaves one as covered in mud as if one were wrestling with a pig. But Blair is also symptomatic of a wide-spread cast-of-mind, in the West that is as woefully misinformed about Putin and Russia, as it is unmoved by facts about the basics of international diplomacy and the scale of mass murder and the sheer social wreckage that the United States has created in its attempt to fabricate and then lead a unipolar world into a new world order.

Apart from Jacques Baud, see his two articles in this magazine (here and here), who really knows what he is talking about when it comes to Ukraine and NATO and the War, and the blogs and writings of John Helmer, I strongly recommend tuning to Alex Thomson—or any of the other podcasts and figures in my article of last month.

When I see academic friends of mine convincingly refute the insights of such people who really know what they are talking about, I will gladly change my mind. In the meantime, I only wish that those whose livelihoods have been in the groves of the institution founded by Plato would follow in the way of his teacher and founder of philosophy proper—by starting from the position of knowing that they don’t know, instead of identifying with and repeating and expanding upon what someone else says who also does not know (or worse, prefers to conceal).

The men of light hoped for too much of human beings, and claimed too much about what they know and could know. In doing that they contributed to previously unimagined evils – most notably the sheer scale of technologies of destruction that science enables, and the totalitarian ideologies which legitimate mass killing.

I have all manner of reservations about the writings of Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno (The Authoritarian Personality is truly abysmal)—especially their ignorance about economics and international relations, and a reliance upon Marx that they think offers them a cloud-like vantage point from which they are able to break down the social world into the two dominant social types, viz., oppressor and oppressed. In doing this, they also helped prepare numerous foot-soldiers for Globalism Inc.—which is, inter alia, the perfect firm for employing the saviours of the oppressed, so that a great new technocratic tier of wealth and status will exist purely to ensure that oppression will never occur again: life will be sheer pleasure and complete virtue, at least for those who decide who may live, reproduce, be employed, and speak on the topics, which they, as funders and directors of the “science” and the “good,” deem permissible. All we will have to do to not be oppressed is give our hearts, minds and souls over to those who will think for us, and lead us.

But I do concur with them that the Enlightenment carries its antithesis within its development, and the best we can do against the totalising global corporatist administration reality of our times is speak out against the mental closure rapidly befalling the West. Refusing to accept the lies about the war in the Ukraine is the least someone can do who would like our political class to become skilled in the creation of peace, rather than continue in the bungles of war and the spreading of international chaos that comes from incompetence, and the same lack of basic human decency that has created the same moral chaos that exists today in pretty well every Western nation. No, that does not mean I think China and Russia do not have their own problems—but unlike us, their leaders did not have the social-economic- capital supplied by multiple generations who fought for and achieved great liberty which is now being squandered in reckless geopolitical adventurism and the domestic suppression of freedom, for the sake of vapid abstractions, divisive identities, and infantile and self-indulgent priorities and values. When someone can show me that going to war with Russia might somehow solve these problems, I might take them seriously. For now, though, I see the refrain that Putin and Russia are simply evil as but one more symptom of the West’s loss of mind.


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen books.


Featured image: “The End of the War,” by Géza Faragó; painted in 1918.

Do Russians like Putin?

The following data is provided by the Levada Center, an independent Russian organization that is anything but “Putinist.” It is so little so that it is even included in the list of independent analysis centers in Europe, published by Freedom House.

The data from these polls represents yet another confirmation that the West’s political and military strategy against Russia (a strategy that even penalizes Russian writers, artists and sportsmen) is not only leading to a barbarization of the political and social life of the West itself, but is also acting as a kind of terrible political and economic boomerang—it produces the opposite effects of what is desired by the promoters of such a strategy.

These are the results of the March 2022 Levada Center polls:

  • Compared to February, the President’s approval rating rose from 71% to 83%. The approval for his government rose from 55% to 70%. The Prime Minister’s rose from 60% to 71%. United Russia’s [Putin’s political party] rose from 39% to 54%.
  • 69% of Russians (52% in February) think the country is heading in the right direction, while those who think otherwise have dropped from 38% to 22%.
  • After Putin (44% trust-rate), the most popular politicians (at 15%) are Sergei Shoigu, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Mikhail Mishustin and Sergey Lavrov.
  • 64% of Russians (43% of young people) follow the Ukrainian conflict with interest.
  • 81% (71% of young people) support the military operation; 14% are against it.
  • Specifically, 89% of those who approve of Putin’s policies are in favor of the military operation, while 32% among them disapprove of it.
  • Those who disapprove are either against war and killing civilians (43%), or interfering in another state (19%).
  • Those who approve of the military operation support the need to protect the population of the Donbass (43%), the need to prevent attacks on Russia (25%), the need to denazify Ukraine (21%), the need to discourage NATO (14%).
  • The dominant feelings are national pride (51%), fear (31%), shock (12%). Among young people fear, depression and shock prevail.
  • Condemnation of the war by other countries is explained by obedience to the United States (36%), misinformation in the Western media (29%), prejudice against Russia (27%), violation of international law by Russia (16%), fear of a Russian invasion (15%), and outrage at Russian actions (12%). Among young people, the last three options prevail.
  • 53% of Russians (40% of Muscovites) are not worried about sanctions.
  • 69% do not feel any problems because of the sanctions.
  • 58% (72% of young people, 80% of those on Telegram) have heard about the anti-war protests, but 32% believe that the protesters are paid.

This analysis appears courtesy of El Manifesto.