Monday, October 3, 2016

When Simple Honesty Was Called Courage

In the late 1950's Soviet poet Eugene Evtushenko said, “People someday will marvel at our time when simple honesty was called courage.”
James H. Billington, a cultural historian and author, in 1966, of The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, commenting on the cultural thaw under Khrushchev, after the long tyranny of Stalin, noted the opening of the Soviets to Western technologies, but observed, “The scientific and technological emphases that the Soviet leaders have built into their educational system and cultural exchange proposals have led some Western observers to fear for a ‘new illiteracy,’ whereby people are successfully taught to read and even to perform difficult technical tasks without ever learning to think critically.”
He also notes that marriage was a part of the renewed interest in Orthodox Christianity at the time; a sign he found to be a signifier of hope of renewal in the then culturally stagnant USSR.  “The growing appeal of church marriages has forced the regime to set up its own grotesque ‘marriage palaces’ designed to provide all the material accouterments of a church (music, flowers, and solemn decor) for the approved civil ceremonies of the atheistic state.”
Earlier this year, Vladimir Putin, the current president of Russia, noted that “Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values.  Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan.  This is the path to degradation.”  The current Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill (Cyril), has said, “The general political direction of the [Western political] elite bears, without doubt, an anti-Christian and anti-religious character.  We have been through an epoch of atheism, and we know what it is to live without God.  We want to shout to the whole world, ‘Stop!’”.   My how things can change in 70 years (a biblical evil generation).  Today, our country is the one where just being honest takes courage because of the dominance of a political ideology.  Our country is the one where we have taught anything and everything in the educational system except how to think critically.  It is here that marriage will soon be purely a state institution as the church is forced to elect between its faith and participation in the state’s system.
In the 1950's Paul M. Linebarger wrote a textbook for use in training the next generation of American propagandists (i.e., intelligence officers engaged in propaganda operations or “psychological warfare – yes, Virginia, in America).  In that text, he noted the difference between opinion and ideology.  Differences of opinion can exist so long as there is agreement on basic shared values.  Problems arise when difference of opinion become calcified in ideology.  As he describes, “If our difference of opinion is so inclusive that we can agree on nothing political, our differences have gone from mere opinion into the depths of ideology.  Here the institutional framework is affected....Freedom cannot be accorded to persons outside the ideological pale.  If an antagonist is not going to respect your freedom of speech, your property, and your personal safety, then you are not obliged to respect his....”  When one ideology comes to control the mechanisms of power, the speech, property, etc., of those who disagree are oppressed.  In this country, the statists have arrived at that position of cultural and political dominance, whether they be left or right.  On both sides, they want to deny freedom to the other.  Currently the left statists appear to be in control and their positivist, materialist, atheistic position is to be imposed on all regardless of personal opinion. (By this criticism I in no way mean to imply that a right-statist system would be better.  It would not be.)  As in the Soviet Union of the mid-Twentieth Century, conformity is exacted by a system of rewards and punishments.
Linebarger also lays out the fundamental mechanism of enforcement to be used by a newly established ideology, a mechanism that has been ruthlessly implemented here, but modeled on Muslim and Communist tested practice: “If immediate wholesale conversion would require military operations that were too extensive or severe, the same result can be effected by toleration of the objectionable faith, combined with the issuance of genuine privileges to the new preferred faith.  The conquered people are left in the private, humble enjoyment of their old beliefs and folkways; but all participation in public life, whether political, cultural or economic, is conditioned on acceptance of the new faith.  In this manner, all uprising members of the society will move in a few generations over to the new faith in the process of becoming rich, powerful, or learned; what is left of the old faith will be a gutter superstition, possessing neither power nor majesty....If Christians, or democrats, or progressives – whatever free men may be called – are put in a position of underprivilege and shame for their beliefs, and if the door is left open to voluntary conversion, so that anyone who wants to can come over to the winning side, the winning side will sooner or later convert almost everyone who is capable of making trouble.” As part of this process, Lineberger notes that in this situation, “Education and propaganda merge into everlasting indoctrination.”  Note Lineberger’s method is designed to reduce “free men” “whatever [they] may be called” to underprivilege and shame for their beliefs.  Welcome to modern America, the land of the indoctrinated and home of the happy consumer, as designed by your friendly, trained, educators, media commentators, and trained and equipped propaganda artists.
I started this with an observation from a Soviet poet of the upsidedown times in which he found himself, a time like unto ours here in 2015 America.  So, it is only appropriate to end this with another quote, this time from a Soviet novelist, Vladimir Dudintsev, who saw that renewal was possible, even in the pall of post-Stalinist Russia: “Once a man has started to think, he cannot be denied his freedom.”
Sapere aude.

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