Sunday, November 8, 2015

Theorizing 2 + 2 = 5: psychology, sociology, political science, etc.

From 1984 by George Orwell:

From an interview with Theodore Dalrymple, author of Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses.
Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to. 
A question arises. What sort of people are the functionaries who distribute this "propaganda"?  From the same interview, Dalrymple advances a description that agrees with scenes Nabakov presents in his dystopian novel Bend Sinister:
FP: You mention how 19th century French aristocrat, the Marquis de Custine, made several profound observations on how border guards in Russia wasted his time pushing their weight around in stupid and pointless ways, and that this is connected to the powerlessness that humans live under authoritarianism. Tell us a bit more of how this dynamic works in Russia.

Dalrymple: With regard to Russia, I am not an expert, but I have an interest in the country. I believe that it is necessary to study 19th century Russian history to understand the modern world. I suspect that the characteristic of Russian authoritarianism precedes the Soviet era (if you read Custine, you will be astonished by how much of what he observed prefigured the Soviet era, which of course multiplied the tendencies a thousand times).

I suppose that people who feel little control over their own lives or destinies can obtain a slight sense of agency by interfering in the lives of others, in tiny ways. I have noticed that many of the men who are violently dictatorial at home often count for little once they pass their own threshold. They are the Stalins of their own home.

Incidentally, Custine called Nicholas I an 'eagle and insect.' I think this is a brilliant characterisation of dictators which aspire world power but who also need to enter into the tiniest and most intimate details of their citizens' existence.

1 comment:

Antony Trepniak said...

"Political correctness" is a symptom of the Left's defeat. It provides a job for washed-up academics and allows middle-class students to feel that they are being rebellious without actually challenging the status quo. Anyone who focuses their energies on attacking Germaine Greer is not exactly a threat to Neoliberalism. These 'issues' exist in another world to those who are really at the sharp end of society, but aren't exotic or appealing.