The Devil’s Pitchfork: Seeking the Origin of Our Present Troubles

The progressivist campaign to destroy America is three-pronged, the tines of the devil’s pitchfork, namely: de-individuation, de-historicizing, and what I’m tempted to call pre-eminent domain (the power of the state to take more than one’s physical property). In other words, it is a war against three intimately related phenomena: self-governing personhood, historical memory, and the possession of property, whether intellectual or private property as understood by John Locke.1 Thus our ideas are no longer our own but state-injected bromides, history has been co-opted in the service of a political fantasy, and ownership is the prerogative of the state.

It is clear that the entire sensibility of the age, and certainly of the coming era, has changed dramatically, not only as the result of the onslaught of lethal political and cultural viruses like democratic socialism, “social justice,” postmodern relativism and radical feminism, but of the “Information Revolution” and its carrier, the Internet, in particular the social media platforms run by a cabal of corporate oligarchs. The ideological trifecta appears to be irresistible:

·       The contours of the reflective and stable self, as mediated in the family and local communities, are disintegrating by the day. As I’ve written previously, the individual, in the classic sense of a coherent center of cognitive awareness and moral responsibility, actuated by the conviction of individual responsibility for self, family, and nation, has become the relic of a vanishing tradition. The inclination is to identify with presumably benevolent but actually savage abstractions. In today’s ‘enlightened’ world, the pastoral fantasy -- aka socialism -- a dead idea embalmed with the illusion of vitality, has once again assumed massive and destructive proportions. The thinking, self-aware, common-sense individual is its prey, persuaded or coerced to surrender his autonomy to the false comfort of an all-embracing collectivism that spares him the anxiety of choice and risk.

·       Genuine scholarship is almost extinct and historical memory seems to malinger in a condition of permanent lockdown. There are many ways to abolish history: toppling and defacing cultural monuments (as we see happening today); re-writing the historical record (Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States2 or the New York Times’ 1619 Project, for example); and replacing the faculty of intellectual curiosity regarding origins -- the historical imagination -- with rote-learned slogans and dogmatic teachings, the program of modern education from kindergarten to graduate school. What we are observing is a chronosectomy in progress.

·       And what we own, our very property, is no longer ours: personal incomes are punitively taxed and redistributed to marginal, welfarist and non-productive elements of society without evaluation of need and merit, as well as earmarked for wasteful and frivolous projects associated, for example, with the global warming fraud; communally owned public spaces have been commandeered by state-approved mobs and rioters; businesses and the livelihoods they provide have been destroyed; portions of cities have been ceded to anarchist and terrorist factions; parents who object to sex re-assignment surgery for their children can have their parental authority vacated, be placed under a gag order, and be served with an injunction threatening prosecution for family violence if they interfere; and homes can be broken into at will, whether by looters or SWAT teams.

The leftist rot has burrowed so deep into the timbers of the nation that it is moot whether it can ever be pumiced clean. The minions of the left --  unhinged academics, ignorant politicians, radical feminists, “social justice” warriors, global warmists, Deep State operatives, the Democrat party and similar political organizations throughout the West, media fifth columnists, the various agents of institutional culture, left-wing sans culottes, union syndicalists and metrotextual intellectuals -- contend for a millenarian utopia of uniform contentment and enforced equality, oblivious of that resonant Yogism: “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.” The real world of inevitable differences in talent, drive, intelligence, character, and accomplishment is given short shrift, to everyone’s imminent cost.

Where did all this come from? A starting-point is always elusive -- one recalls the lone provocative idea of deconstructionist Jacques Derrida, namely, that origins always recede. Was the Revolutionary War a blunder that has come to haunt a nation of immature colonists? Did the Founding Fathers sow an abstract and hypocritical ideal into the fabric of the Republic? Was slavery an original sin for which there is no redemption? Were these the origins of America’s cultural malaise? We may as well return to the singularity at the Big Bang or to the Garden of Eden and the first bite of the apple -- as revived in a computer company logo. All such explanations are, to be candid, utter nonsense. They are mere hypotheses, unmoored theories, with no basis in empirical fact. One recalls another pertinent Yogism: “In theory, there is no difference between practice and theory. In practice, there is.

We can say that the early communist John Dewey’s theories of child-centered (or whole child) “progressivist education” exerted a salient bearing on the infantilization of American pedagogy -- “snowflake” psychology is a distant relative of this academic heresy. A more immediate cause can be found in the rigorously leftist Frankfurt School (aka the Institute for Social Research), a collection of émigrés from Nazi Germany -- Max Horkheimer, Theodore Adorno, Erich Fromm3 and Herbert Marcuse among the most significant -- who by their presence and/or writings infiltrated the echelons of higher education and eventually came to dominate its curriculum. The hordes of ignorant, lifelong-indebted, disposable epigones rioting in the streets are the legacy of these socialist ideologues.

One of the core concerns of these scholars was the rise of “mass culture.” They believed that the underlying reality of American life and mores was intrinsically fascist and could only be saved if the hoi polloi were guided by a wise and highly educated elite embracing the neo-Marxist maxim of Antonio Gramsci and Rudi Dutschke -- the “long march through the institutions.” The subversion of free-market dynamics, democratic processes and the Judeo-Christian framework of Western civilization was understood as obligatory. In the course of time they took over the education establishment, their influence spreading to the media, the entertainment industry, the corporations, and what Angelo Codevilla calls the political Ruling Class and Donald Trump calls “the Swamp.” There is not the slightest doubt that the soil for revolution was richly fumetted in the post-WW II university.

The graduates of the ideologically contaminated universities of the sixties, seventies and eighties became professors carrying the torch of so-called “Critical Theory,” including feminism, critical race theory, critical pedagogy and post-colonial critique, all seeking to deconstruct the concepts of truth, reason, merit and scientific objectivity and to destabilize the norms and usages of traditional society in the name of “liberation from slavery.” As noted, the students and riffraff we see wreaking havoc in our cities today, burning, looting, maiming and even killing, are the grandchildren of the revisionist doctrines of the leftist universities, the cultural arsonists of our day. They are precisely those who have suffered the demonic triple immolation -- the thrust of the devil’s trident -- having been despoiled of responsible and conscientious individuality, scoured of historical memory, and their most intimate property, their minds, seized by the left as society’s droid-like settlers of account, as righteous criminals given license to destroy what they do not understand.

I regret to say -- for I will be asked -- that I have no solution to offer for the devastation we have brought upon ourselves, or what amounts to the same thing, the solution I would propose, and have proposed in previous writings, would be unacceptable to many people, including conservatives. I have argued that if America -- and the West -- is to survive its own craven and misconceived prudence, it has no option but to attack the left and all its institutional manifestations root and branch, whether through legislation, executive action or, should there be no choice, martial initiatives. There are historical precedents for determined responses to national subversion. To mention only three: Lincoln in 1861, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who abolished the Ottoman Empire in 1922, and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau of my own country who put down a violent and murderous insurrectionary movement in 1970.

Selwyn Duke argues persuasively that it is far too late to rescue the Republic, and that the only answer to the coming calamity is nullification after the country dissolves -- that is, what Thomas Jefferson called the “rightful remedy” to Federal overreach, which in practice amounts to secession. Or is the battle still winnable, for a truce or an armistice is clearly impossible. Dinesh D’Souza concludes his recent The United States of Socialism by reminding us that the left “has unleashed their fury against us, just as they did a century and a half ago at Fort Sumter. Let’s unleash out fury against them,” he urges, “as Lincoln did in response to Fort Sumter…  it is time for us to put on our battle fatigues.”

Whatever strategy or initiative we adopt, we need to remember that demurral has its price, which is why, absent decisive action, it looks like the left will eventually triumph and why we may one day find ourselves living in a politically laundered version of CHAZ/CHOP, skewered by the devil’s trident.

--------------------------------

1It is a grave mistake to type Locke as unsympathetic to working people or as some kind of proto-capitalist. He argues, for example, that everyone has a legitimate entitlement “to so much out of another’s plenty, as will keep him from extreme want, where he has no means to subsist otherwise.” He was no socialist, obviously, but a proponent of enlightened democratic rule.

2Mary Grabar has demolished Zinn’s grossly dishonest and malignant screed in her recent Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America.

3Fromm eventually broke with the School.

Graphic credit: Needpix

--------------------------------

David Solway’s latest book is Notes from a Derelict Culture, Black House Publishing, 2019, London. A CD of his original songs, Partial to Cain, appeared in 2019. 

The progressivist campaign to destroy America is three-pronged, the tines of the devil’s pitchfork, namely: de-individuation, de-historicizing, and what I’m tempted to call pre-eminent domain (the power of the state to take more than one’s physical property). In other words, it is a war against three intimately related phenomena: self-governing personhood, historical memory, and the possession of property, whether intellectual or private property as understood by John Locke.1 Thus our ideas are no longer our own but state-injected bromides, history has been co-opted in the service of a political fantasy, and ownership is the prerogative of the state.

It is clear that the entire sensibility of the age, and certainly of the coming era, has changed dramatically, not only as the result of the onslaught of lethal political and cultural viruses like democratic socialism, “social justice,” postmodern relativism and radical feminism, but of the “Information Revolution” and its carrier, the Internet, in particular the social media platforms run by a cabal of corporate oligarchs. The ideological trifecta appears to be irresistible:

·       The contours of the reflective and stable self, as mediated in the family and local communities, are disintegrating by the day. As I’ve written previously, the individual, in the classic sense of a coherent center of cognitive awareness and moral responsibility, actuated by the conviction of individual responsibility for self, family, and nation, has become the relic of a vanishing tradition. The inclination is to identify with presumably benevolent but actually savage abstractions. In today’s ‘enlightened’ world, the pastoral fantasy -- aka socialism -- a dead idea embalmed with the illusion of vitality, has once again assumed massive and destructive proportions. The thinking, self-aware, common-sense individual is its prey, persuaded or coerced to surrender his autonomy to the false comfort of an all-embracing collectivism that spares him the anxiety of choice and risk.

·       Genuine scholarship is almost extinct and historical memory seems to malinger in a condition of permanent lockdown. There are many ways to abolish history: toppling and defacing cultural monuments (as we see happening today); re-writing the historical record (Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States2 or the New York Times’ 1619 Project, for example); and replacing the faculty of intellectual curiosity regarding origins -- the historical imagination -- with rote-learned slogans and dogmatic teachings, the program of modern education from kindergarten to graduate school. What we are observing is a chronosectomy in progress.

·       And what we own, our very property, is no longer ours: personal incomes are punitively taxed and redistributed to marginal, welfarist and non-productive elements of society without evaluation of need and merit, as well as earmarked for wasteful and frivolous projects associated, for example, with the global warming fraud; communally owned public spaces have been commandeered by state-approved mobs and rioters; businesses and the livelihoods they provide have been destroyed; portions of cities have been ceded to anarchist and terrorist factions; parents who object to sex re-assignment surgery for their children can have their parental authority vacated, be placed under a gag order, and be served with an injunction threatening prosecution for family violence if they interfere; and homes can be broken into at will, whether by looters or SWAT teams.

The leftist rot has burrowed so deep into the timbers of the nation that it is moot whether it can ever be pumiced clean. The minions of the left --  unhinged academics, ignorant politicians, radical feminists, “social justice” warriors, global warmists, Deep State operatives, the Democrat party and similar political organizations throughout the West, media fifth columnists, the various agents of institutional culture, left-wing sans culottes, union syndicalists and metrotextual intellectuals -- contend for a millenarian utopia of uniform contentment and enforced equality, oblivious of that resonant Yogism: “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.” The real world of inevitable differences in talent, drive, intelligence, character, and accomplishment is given short shrift, to everyone’s imminent cost.

Where did all this come from? A starting-point is always elusive -- one recalls the lone provocative idea of deconstructionist Jacques Derrida, namely, that origins always recede. Was the Revolutionary War a blunder that has come to haunt a nation of immature colonists? Did the Founding Fathers sow an abstract and hypocritical ideal into the fabric of the Republic? Was slavery an original sin for which there is no redemption? Were these the origins of America’s cultural malaise? We may as well return to the singularity at the Big Bang or to the Garden of Eden and the first bite of the apple -- as revived in a computer company logo. All such explanations are, to be candid, utter nonsense. They are mere hypotheses, unmoored theories, with no basis in empirical fact. One recalls another pertinent Yogism: “In theory, there is no difference between practice and theory. In practice, there is.

We can say that the early communist John Dewey’s theories of child-centered (or whole child) “progressivist education” exerted a salient bearing on the infantilization of American pedagogy -- “snowflake” psychology is a distant relative of this academic heresy. A more immediate cause can be found in the rigorously leftist Frankfurt School (aka the Institute for Social Research), a collection of émigrés from Nazi Germany -- Max Horkheimer, Theodore Adorno, Erich Fromm3 and Herbert Marcuse among the most significant -- who by their presence and/or writings infiltrated the echelons of higher education and eventually came to dominate its curriculum. The hordes of ignorant, lifelong-indebted, disposable epigones rioting in the streets are the legacy of these socialist ideologues.

One of the core concerns of these scholars was the rise of “mass culture.” They believed that the underlying reality of American life and mores was intrinsically fascist and could only be saved if the hoi polloi were guided by a wise and highly educated elite embracing the neo-Marxist maxim of Antonio Gramsci and Rudi Dutschke -- the “long march through the institutions.” The subversion of free-market dynamics, democratic processes and the Judeo-Christian framework of Western civilization was understood as obligatory. In the course of time they took over the education establishment, their influence spreading to the media, the entertainment industry, the corporations, and what Angelo Codevilla calls the political Ruling Class and Donald Trump calls “the Swamp.” There is not the slightest doubt that the soil for revolution was richly fumetted in the post-WW II university.

The graduates of the ideologically contaminated universities of the sixties, seventies and eighties became professors carrying the torch of so-called “Critical Theory,” including feminism, critical race theory, critical pedagogy and post-colonial critique, all seeking to deconstruct the concepts of truth, reason, merit and scientific objectivity and to destabilize the norms and usages of traditional society in the name of “liberation from slavery.” As noted, the students and riffraff we see wreaking havoc in our cities today, burning, looting, maiming and even killing, are the grandchildren of the revisionist doctrines of the leftist universities, the cultural arsonists of our day. They are precisely those who have suffered the demonic triple immolation -- the thrust of the devil’s trident -- having been despoiled of responsible and conscientious individuality, scoured of historical memory, and their most intimate property, their minds, seized by the left as society’s droid-like settlers of account, as righteous criminals given license to destroy what they do not understand.

I regret to say -- for I will be asked -- that I have no solution to offer for the devastation we have brought upon ourselves, or what amounts to the same thing, the solution I would propose, and have proposed in previous writings, would be unacceptable to many people, including conservatives. I have argued that if America -- and the West -- is to survive its own craven and misconceived prudence, it has no option but to attack the left and all its institutional manifestations root and branch, whether through legislation, executive action or, should there be no choice, martial initiatives. There are historical precedents for determined responses to national subversion. To mention only three: Lincoln in 1861, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who abolished the Ottoman Empire in 1922, and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau of my own country who put down a violent and murderous insurrectionary movement in 1970.

Selwyn Duke argues persuasively that it is far too late to rescue the Republic, and that the only answer to the coming calamity is nullification after the country dissolves -- that is, what Thomas Jefferson called the “rightful remedy” to Federal overreach, which in practice amounts to secession. Or is the battle still winnable, for a truce or an armistice is clearly impossible. Dinesh D’Souza concludes his recent The United States of Socialism by reminding us that the left “has unleashed their fury against us, just as they did a century and a half ago at Fort Sumter. Let’s unleash out fury against them,” he urges, “as Lincoln did in response to Fort Sumter…  it is time for us to put on our battle fatigues.”

Whatever strategy or initiative we adopt, we need to remember that demurral has its price, which is why, absent decisive action, it looks like the left will eventually triumph and why we may one day find ourselves living in a politically laundered version of CHAZ/CHOP, skewered by the devil’s trident.

--------------------------------

1It is a grave mistake to type Locke as unsympathetic to working people or as some kind of proto-capitalist. He argues, for example, that everyone has a legitimate entitlement “to so much out of another’s plenty, as will keep him from extreme want, where he has no means to subsist otherwise.” He was no socialist, obviously, but a proponent of enlightened democratic rule.

2Mary Grabar has demolished Zinn’s grossly dishonest and malignant screed in her recent Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America.

3Fromm eventually broke with the School.

Graphic credit: Needpix

--------------------------------

David Solway’s latest book is Notes from a Derelict Culture, Black House Publishing, 2019, London. A CD of his original songs, Partial to Cain, appeared in 2019.