Even amongst her supporters, if that epithet be not too strong a word, the chief qualification for Hillary Clinton to become President of the United States appears to be an apathetic sense of inevitability; her very campaign the antithesis of the frothing mantra of unspecified “change” from eight years ago. As Donald Trump’s bombastic delivery and uncertain attitudes towards the fairer sex are fervently and self-righteously denounced by the ruling elite, the decades of corruption and illegality shadowing his rival are impassively dismissed as nothing more than “business as usual” in the governmental sphere. Thus, with a collective sigh from the Left, the bar is lowered, standards are ignored, and nothing unique, let alone better, is demanded of the political class. In the midst of such a demeaning malaise, one cannot help recalling T.S. Eliot’s prognostication as to how the world will end “not with a bang, but a whimper.” And yet perhaps there is a more cogent and populist means than modernist poetry to analyse this current political wasteland.
There is a scene in the film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the science fiction classic that sees a fire brigade called upon to incinerate books, in which the fire chief finds a copy of The Ethics of Aristotle and sneers contemptuously to his second-in-command: “The person who reads this must think they’re a cut above the rest.” Before setting fire to the book, the chief then proceeds to echo the refrain commonly heard from power structure representatives in dystopian fiction about a “new and better society” in which everyone is “made equal”.
The dwarfing of individual achievement by the blindness of an unthinking larger community was also made particularly manifest in the late 60s television masterpiece “The Prisoner”, wherein the opening credits to each episode featured a defiant Patrick McGoohan as “Number 6” thrusting his fist into the air and shouting “I am not a number! I am a free man!” But of course, the seminal work on the political nightmare of a government presuming best how to rule a cowed citizenry, one that gave to the sci-fi lexicon such eerily prophetic terms as “goodthink”, “thoughtcrime”, and the logic-defying equation “2 + 2 = 5”, remains George Orwell’s 1984.
Such presumed dystopian futures have now commingled into an actual dystopian present. One in which the most vocally liberal activists join in ignorant (or not-so-ignorant) collusion with the most power-mad globalist oligarchs the world has ever known. Artists and writers blindly accept the arbitrary filtering of accepted speech from hate speech, atheists and other secularists wilfully gloss over the theocratic endgame of fundamentalist Islam, and institutions of higher learning have waived their status as bastions of intellectual discourse to allow for the proliferation of “safe spaces”. Most recently, moreover, the champions of sexual liberation have joined forces with the ostensibly free press in shrill tones of Victorian prudishness to disgrace an independent nationalist, personally-flawed though he may be, and roll out the red carpet for his corrupted, compromised, and criminal trans-nationalist rival.
On the positive side, this dystopian present, like its fictitious counterparts, comes replete with its own protagonists, either quietly (or not-so-quietly) bucking the system. For every Guy Montag having second thoughts about his career as a government book-burner, there is a disgruntled university student skirting past trigger warnings to read Douglas Murray’s critiques of radical Islam in The Spectator. For every Number 6 looking to escape a village populated by grinning idiots of the political establishment, there’s a middle-class English woman at a dinner party whispering conspiratorially to a confidant about why she voted for Brexit. And for every Winston Smith hoping to preserve and cherish his individual memories against the grim backdrop of a communist bureaucracy, there is an artist of integrity content to sacrifice work, recognition, and the fellowship of his or her milieu if that’s the price to be paid for consistency, conviction, and truth.
The downside, however, is that, rarely, if at all, do these protagonists ever come away as the victors. Winston Smith is forced through psychological and physical torture to betray not only his lover, but what remains of his inner life as well. Number 6, though occasionally upturning the hierarchy, never succeeds with any permanency and only “escapes” the village once it becomes clear that it’s all been a construct of his mind. And Guy Montag, though reaching relative safety amongst the “book people” at the end of Fahrenheit 451, is nonetheless thwarted in his idealistic desire to demolish the anti-intellectual system from within.
Similarly, the freethinking university student is denounced by his peers as an “Islamophobe”, the woman at the dinner party speaks in hushed tones about the Brexit vote lest she be inflicted to a similar backlash, and the principled artist, aside from facing alienation and poverty, is branded by colleagues a “reactionary” or “contrarian” whenever astute accusations of hypocrisy hit a little too close to the bone. Each of these instances, of course, are mere samplings of the collective din that rises up, as if instinctually, to shout power down to truth whenever a globalist ideology is significantly called into question.
Boosted by both mainstream and social media, the resultant hyperbolic clamour against such rebels is akin to an onslaught of the humanoids in Invasion of the Body Snatchers or the brain-eating reanimated corpses of Night of the Living Dead. In an age of such rabidly emotional defence of the status quo, it’s nothing short of audacious to a rational-minded logician when these unthinking zombies vacillate between foaming at the mouth and demanding that political discourse be kept “civil”. Though such is the cognitive dissonance that earmarks this postmodern dystopia. Consider, for example, the episode of “The Prisoner” in which the ever-defiant Number 6 is forced to undergo corrective psychology after being labelled by the community as “unmutual”. Yet in lieu of the word “unmutual”, apply some of today’s ever-proliferating progressive alternatives: “racist”, “sexist”, “bigot”, “xenophobe”, “Islamophobe”, “homophobe”, or “transphobe”.
The success of this particular political strategy of progressive Newspeak is contingent on three important factors: Numbers, Timing, and Stupidity. Firstly, a brainwashed collective shouts the accusation, say, of sexism, which in turn is given amplification by a complicit media, all with the aim of creating a unidirectional cacophony so deafening that nothing of nuance – such as decades of intricate, Watergate-like scandal – can hope to be heard. As party members scream “traitor” at the telescreen images of Emmanuel Goldstein in 1984, so, too, can today’s progressives be counted on to parrot the epithets of “racist”, “sexist” or “Islamophobe” at the mere visage of Donald Trump. The result being that, just as Big Brother is never questioned, the hidden depths of Hillary Clinton remain safely unplumbed.
Secondly, the accusation must be presented before the opponent has a chance to do likewise. For example, it matters not if an accuser has a track record of defending a philanderer, much less a rapist, by threatening, bribing, slandering, or otherwise silencing the victims. As long as the accuser takes advantage of the constraints of linear time to present the accusation of sexism first, the opponent remains on the back foot and any defence by the accused conveniently becomes a media smokescreen benefiting the accuser. All of this, of course, is evocative of the coerced televised confessions in 1984, which were themselves redolent of the show trials of the late Soviet Union. It should be noted in this regard that no one on the progressive Left actually wanted an apology from Donald Trump for his remarks in a private conversation from eleven years ago. Being on the unfashionable side of the political spectrum means never having to say “sorry” since progressivism is a religion conveniently void of the doctrine of forgiveness. An apology, such as the one that Trump proffered, is nothing more than an excuse to more deeply brand him with the scarlet “S” for “Sexist”.
Lastly, and most importantly, none of the above would be possible were it not for the paradoxical stupidity of today’s intelligentsia, the ideological bedrock upon which this modern dystopia is constructed. Pseudo-academics, entertainers, artists, and their unquestioning acolytes both indulge in and promote a distinctive idiocy comprised of a stealth triad of political correctness, moral equivalence, and cultural relativism. Each of these aspects, it should be mentioned, of separate concern from merely lacking intelligence or even the aspiration towards intelligence – characteristics, it is smugly implied, indicative of the white working classes in America, devoid of the leisure time and financial resources to attend university, constituting a healthy majority of Trump’s political base, and grossly smeared by Clinton as a “basket of deplorables.” Along with the working classes of the Welsh valleys and the north of England – who recently voted to hand the United Kingdom back to itself – they remain perhaps the last demographic for which open contempt from the globalist elites is not only permitted, but encouraged. They are, in essence, the “proles” of 1984 on whom Winston pins his fading hopes of revolution.
No, here the focus is on a more furtive type of stupidity – a stupidity that thinks itself clever. As the fire chief of Fahrenheit 451 diligently rids the world of literature to prevent anyone conceiving of themselves as intellectually superior, as the villagers in “The Prisoner” are shed of their birth names to prevent anyone conceiving of themselves as unique, or as the party members in 1984 are cautioned to avoid thoughtcrime to prevent anyone conceiving of themselves as independent, the endgame of every dystopia, real or imagined, is to strip culture of all remnants of verticality. In place of the natural hierarchies of intelligent over stupid, moral over immoral, better over worse, there remains only a bland horizontality, appropriately suggestive of a once-beating pulse which has now become flat-lined.
Such a deadened landscape provides a progressive globalist the perfect springboard by which to rewrite the standards. As the communists did with private wealth, progressives envision conventional intelligence as inherently suspect. Therefore, intelligence in the sense of knowing more than others in a unique and independent way – i.e., thinking for oneself – is rendered obsolete. In place of what are jeered at as antiquated and oppressive Western standards lies a malleable, one-sided doctrine of politically-correct fairness. Therefore, in order to be “intelligent” in today’s academic climate, one need only refrain from saying or thinking this or that about these or those types of people. In so doing, progressives pride themselves on having an open mind, which they therefore equate with having an enriched mind. In this schemata, intelligence and morality are rendered synonymous. To be intelligent, one must simply be moral. And to be moral, one must simply have an open mind.
Until very recently, these attributes of morality and intelligence, though often evident within the same individual, were generally regarded as separate and distinct qualities. That is, it was not inconceivable for an intelligent person to be immoral or a moral person to be unintelligent. Yet here, these attributes are the convex and concave of the same bowl. One can be both intelligent and moral simply by echoing the party line. There is a parallel here, of course, to the enthusiasm Winston Smith’s co-workers share in 1984 for the latest edition of the Newspeak Dictionary which will make even fewer words necessary to convey ideas in the near-future. Similarly, in this example, the ideas behind intelligence and morality are collapsed into one catch-all term: political correctness.
Thus, political correctness is the first leg of the stealth triad propping up this postmodern academic backwardness. The second leg, meanwhile, is implied in the double-meaning of the term and is one that its disciples are not as unabashed about embracing, which is, of course, moral equivalence. Many practitioners of political correctness, though perfectly content, if not outright proud, at being labelled as such, often shirk at accusations of moral equivalence precisely because this term has not yet been rendered palatable to the extent that political correctness has. However, given that the progenitors of political correctness have succeeded in making fashionable a manner of speaking, thinking, and acting that is, by definition, overt obedience to a political diktat, such rhetorical transformation is only a matter of time. Regardless, as political correctness seeks to encompass both intelligence and morality, moral equivalence is an integral component which cannot be overlooked, since it speaks to the heart of how ethical hypocrisies are justified through the dissonance of this blinkered worldview.
Political correctness is a veritable geyser of unresolved and unresolvable hypocrisies. In order to justify the invariable disconnects and, in so doing, prolong the existence of itself as an ideology, various leaps in logic must needs take place, most of these affecting the realm of ethics. The Islamic terrorism of today, for example, is excused thanks to the Christian Crusades of a thousand years ago; a leap which makes use of the most cursory understanding of history as well as both a convenient ignorance of the passage of linear time and any subsequent enlightenments achieved by Western Civilisation along the way. The past is always present when the narrative is to be maintained. Or, as Orwell succinctly puts it in 1984, "He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past."
Not only time, but space as well, is flexible to such hindered minds. For instance, it has recently been evidenced that, when all police officers in the United States are conflated into one giant killer of black people, any killings of police officers by black people in the United States are deemed understandable at best and acts of revolution at worst. More relevant to the present political situation, though, is the selective discarding of ostensibly core progressive principles whenever political circumstances necessitate. Simply observe how easily the same promiscuousness that glossed over the transgressions of one womaniser morphs into the prudishness that nails another to the cross.
So the first two legs of this dystopian triad, political correctness and moral equivalence, are erected and maintained via ontological manipulations of time, space, and even principles, portending a progressive movement that is neither intellectual nor moral, despite professing to be both. To be clear in this regard, it is just as immoral in 1984 for O’Brien to force Winston to give the answer “5” to “2 + 2 =” as it is anti-intellectual.
Finally, as political correctness necessitates moral equivalence, the third leg of the triad is made manifest from the interplay of the two. In the wake of an ideological movement that coalesces intelligence and morality into one unit and, in so doing, negates the efficacy of both, it is no small effort to imagine a Guy Montag or a Number 6 or a Winston Smith asking, at least inwardly, what, therefore, is to become of culture? For the answer to this, one need only turn to their respective antagonists, the figureheads of these coming dystopias, who speak cryptically of a “new and better society” in which everyone is “made equal”.
To this effect, the goal of any equalising party, fortified by the stupidity of political correctness and the immorality of moral equivalence, is to erode all distinction between varying cultures by engaging in the nihilistic ideology of cultural relativism. As with conventional intelligence and morality, the cultural relativist regards conventional notions of cultures, imbued with inherent traditions and values, as suspect – most especially if such cultures have any track record of success on the global stage. The relativist, it must be understood, can only envision a culture as that culture stands in relation to others. If a successful one, the cynical presumption is that it must have achieved its wealth and status solely through surreptitious means, primarily by exploiting and pillaging the resources of other, less-successful cultures. In this understanding, the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights play no role in the shaping, respectively, of British and American exceptionalism, for the focus here is myopically and lopsidedly trained only on imperialism and conquest of indigenous populations. Conversely, if a culture is unsuccessful, it is presumed to be a helpless victim, any pre-existing poverty or degradation patently no fault of its own. The best example of this in present times is the ease with which theocratic totalitarianism is discarded as the reason for deprivation across the Islamic world. To rectify any perceived global transgressions, therefore, national characteristics pertaining to the more successful culture, such as traditions, history, or, in some cases, even borders, are misrepresented, ridiculed, and, ultimately, demonised. Such is the eschatology of the religion of progressivism, a mental endgame given corporeal effect through the governmental apparatus of globalism.
By way of stark contrast, consider in this regard that the natural world, in its most primal sense, is a tableau of unalterable inequality despite its status as a borderless entity. Furthermore, let it be argued that this very inequality accounts for the incontrovertible aesthetic pleasure of nature. One tree is taller than another, one river flows faster than the next, one mountain towers above all. The birds have domain of the skies and the fish of the seas, whilst the lion is the undisputed king of the jungle and the lamb the living symbol of unexcitable tranquillity. In theory, the natural universe bespeaks an unstable chaos, and yet, as anyone with eyes can see, adheres to an inexplicably perfect order in practice. It is only the unfortunate lot of postmodern humans, however, to be subjected by their fellow species to the stupefying and demoralising process of an unnatural and enforced equalisation wherein legitimate intellect, morality, and culture are seen as barriers to a sanctimonious and smug New World Order in which the synthetic desires of the community take precedence over the natural rights of the individual. Perhaps it was to highlight this discrepancy of the self-enslavement of the human world in relation to its natural counterpart that compelled Orwell to envision another chilling dystopian allegory in Animal Farm. But even in 1984, it is no literary accident that the freedom of Winston’s dream-world, his radiant antidote to a grey bureaucracy, is symbolised by what the beleaguered protagonist lyrically terms “The Golden Country”.
As in the “new societies” of dystopian fiction, the task of the relativist is to denigrate and therefore eliminate all meaningful distinctions that give colour to life in general and human nature in specific. The fire brigade of Fahrenheit 451 obliterates literature to shield mankind from intellectual advancement, the villagers in “The Prisoner” are given numbers instead of names to prevent uniqueness, and the childhood memories of Winston Smith – his last vestiges of inner individual freedom after resolving himself to outer communal slavery – are irredeemably quashed at the close of 1984. Similarly, political correctness degrades education and the arts, moral equivalence makes a mockery of human ethics, and cultural relativism demolishes the very concept of nationhood, all to pave the way for the globalist monoculture, the political manifestation of a backwards academic ideology. In so doing, they elevate the bad whilst demoting the good, for any equalising dystopia can only be envisioned as utopia by the stupid, immoral, and culturally clueless.
Moreover, it can only be sold to them by a globalist oligarchy that, in terms of intelligence, morality, and patriotism, expects as little from the citizenry they rule as their citizenry expects of them.
And this is the way the world ends. Not with Trump’s bang, but a whimper of Clinton’s voters.