When I was a kid, I always wondered why the people in the Soviet Union just put up with being ruled by the commies. Even discounting for the propaganda, the evidence was clear that Russia was remarkably poor, by the standards of the West, and that the Russian people knew it. There were too many stories from defectors about how Western goods were smuggled into the Iron Curtain countries. Even if the material stuff did not matter, the thuggery should have pushed people into revolt, but it never happened.
Later in life, I got to know an Iranian guy, who was in the US on some form of phony student visa. Iranians with some money would get their kids student visas in Europe and then they would come to the US. He had served in the Iranian army as a conscript during the Iran-Iraq War. He told me a story about how they cleared a minefield near Basra. They asked for volunteers from the Revolutionary Guard, who then ran through the field exploding the mines so the unit could follow them through the field.
Over the years, I have met other people who had lived in totalitarian countries or in the more fanatical Muslim ones. It seems they always have these sorts of stories. Most of the time they are not as colorful as the one my Persian friend told me, but they usually have the same sort of matter of factness to the telling of them. I always get the sense that the people telling the story don’t think these events are all that interesting, but its better than talking about the weather or what they had for lunch last week.
The question that always comes to my mind, is whether ideological societies produce an excess of fanatics or simply evolve to use them like a natural energy source. The Bolsheviks figured out quickly that communist economics were nonsense. There was no amount of tinkering to make it work, but the supply of true believers made it possible to keep the system running, long after the people in charge knew it was hopeless. Without the zealots, the Soviet system would have collapsed after Stalin died.
The same thing is true of the Iranian theocracy. The energy of the revolution kept it going through the difficult early years, but that energy is long gone. The students who sacked the American embassy are in their late fifties and early sixties now. Many died in the Iraq War. The regime itself long ago descended into petty corruption. Still, there are plenty of fanatics willing to spy on a neighbor, in the name of the revolution. Like the Soviets, the mullahs seem to be powered by an endless supply of zealots.
When I look at what’s happening with the latest round of gun grabbing in America, I wonder if we are simply overflowing with rogue fanatics, looking for a cause, or, is the cultural revolution creating them, like batteries to fuel their latest push to slam the cage door on us? When you see bizarre posts like this from old men of the revolution, slobbering over the children now running around promising more revolution, the causal relationship is not all that obvious. It’s a snake eating its tail.
Of course, these public events are not organic or spontaneous. Daniel Greenfield has tracked down the money and it is clear this latest spasm of gun grabbing is financed by the same radical ideologues behind the Womyn’s March last year. Still, are these people financing the new fanatics because they need them or are the fanatics just always there, ready to run into the nearest minefield? Maybe natural selection plays some role, where the rewards for zealotry slowly increases the supply each generation.
I wonder what people in Iran or maybe Russia think about this stuff. There are plenty of people in Eastern Europe, who lived through the Soviets, so they probably recognize these organized propaganda riots. Instead of the state marching the children off to reeducation camps to train for the next parade, the camps are sponsored by Global Mega Corp and the parade is financed by a sports team. Is the fact the system is run by corporate ideologues rather, than religious or political ideologues a big difference?
Theodore Dalrymple famously said that communist propaganda was intended to humiliate and degrade the people repeating it in public. That may be true and it may simply have been a byproduct. Similarly, ideological authoritarianism like we see in America and Iran, may not set out to create fanatics, but it is a natural result. The zealotry that animated the regime in the early stages, becomes its sole purpose. It lives to create a new generation of fanatics, who push aside the old ones and start the process all over again.
In this regard, radicalism is like a pathogen. If it kills the host too quickly, it can not spread to new hosts, but it must always spread to new hosts. This is why radicals, since the French Revolution, have obsessed over children. The sight of ridiculous twinks like David Hogg promising a revolutionary bloodbath fills the Boomer radicals with joy, as they know the disease has been transmitted to the next generation. The radical pathos lives on, even as it kills the host. Radicalism feeds on the cancer of zealotry, until it kills the host society.
That gets back to where we started. Most Americans know the people behind the weekend’s orchestrated proselytizing are crazy. Parading children out to lecture the adults is creepy and weird. The last ten years has been an endless freak show of degeneracy and depravity. Yet, the public goes along with it. Those who speak out against it are hurled into the void, and the so-called conservatives mutter about hypocrisy, but otherwise, the radical orgy of depravity staggers on undeterred. The nut-job army serves its purpose.