Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Brave New Totalitarianism

Robert Kaplan has written a brilliant article that takes stock of the 20th century, observes where we are now, and extrapolates into the future, and it ain't pretty. He envisions new strains of totalitarianism.

 Kaplan is a student of the world, and he has traveled extensively in the lands he writes about. As for his prognostication skills, go read his 1994 essay, The Coming Anarchy.  In early 2001 he published a book of the same name to further developed this thesis... Just in time for 9/11.

I urge you to read the essay and then comment. If you don't like Kaplan because of some twisted ideological bent you have, shut up and go away. I don't want to hear it.  Below I excerpt some salient points from the essay...

What is our biggest fear?
"It is the threat of a utopian ideology in the hands of a formidable power. Because utopia is, in and of itself, the perfect political and spiritual arrangement, any measures to bring it about are morally justified, including totalitarianism and mass murder.


"Its primary attraction lies in what it does to the soul, and understanding that makes clear just how prone our own age is to a revival of utopian totalitarianism."
Society suffers...
"The entire illness stemmed from that need, that hunger for something all-embracing.” The problem was “too much of everything. Too many people, too many ideas, too many books, too many systems.” Who could cope?"
People long for a "simple catechism," now more than ever, as faith in God, man, institutions, and governments plummet.

"Freedom" leads to "the horror of Chaos"...
"For the 20th century was about bigness [...] But the 21st century is about smallness: the erosion of state power by postindustrial cyber and informational tools, tools that put power into the hands of stateless groups and lessen the domination of states. Thus, the horror of chaos has replaced the horror of totalitarianism."
Hollow Souls
"The soul itself, explains the contemporary Romanian philosopher Horia-Roman Patapievici, is being hollowed out because of the substitution of the inner imagination by technology: smartphones, intelligent toys, the array of electronics at malls. Technology, as Martin Heidegger understood, is devoid of intrinsic purpose, with mental anguish and confusion merely the result of its overuse. Thus, we desperately require meaning in our lives, which conventional politics obviously cannot satisfy"
Totalitarianism: “suicidal escape from this reality”
“What prepares men for totalitarian domination . . . is the fact that loneliness, once a borderline experience usually suffered in certain marginal social conditions like old age, has become an everyday experience of the evergrowing masses of our century.”
"People everywhere—in the West, in the Middle East, in Russia, in China—desperately need something to believe in, if only to alleviate their mental condition. They are dangerously ready for a new catechism..."
Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg won't save You
"The jet-age elites are of little help in translating or alleviating any of this. Cosmopolitan, increasingly denationalized, ever less bound to territory or parochial affinities [...] They can analyze everything while they believe in nothing, and have increasingly less loyalty to the countries whose passports they hold.
This deracination renders them wholly disconnected from the so-called unwashed masses, whose upheavals and yearnings for a new totality, a new catechism, in order to fill the emptiness and loneliness in their souls, regularly surprise and shock them."
His Conclusion:
"Globalization, as it intensifies, carries the potential to unleash utopian ideologies by diluting concrete, traditional bonds to territory and ethnicity, for in the partial void will come a heightened appeal to more abstract ideals, the very weapons of utopia."
What is your conclusion?

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