Note: I have a new post up behind the green door on the move Mr. Jones, which I recommend to those mulling over the current age. Learning about the realities of Soviet communism is a good palliative to those prone to optimism.
The Soviet Union, like all radical experiments, went through several phases in its roughly three generations of existence. The first phase, of course, was the revolution, in which the old order was toppled and a battle ensued to fill the void. This initial phase of revolution is always the one that attracts the most attention. This is when the great heroes of the revolution and the great villains of it are made. It is in this phase we get both Lenin and Stalin, hero and villain.
There is a phase that gets little attention and that is when the people come to terms with the irrationality of the world that has been created for them. One reason Stalin was able to send so many to their deaths or to labor camps is so many people kept thinking there was some rationality to the world being created. Some remained idealistic believers in the cause, while others became critics of the cause. They assumed the revolution would bring clarity and rationality when it brought only the opposite
In time, the people came to terms with this. The humor of the Soviet Union reflected the fact that one got along by accepting the irrational in the same way you accept that the grass is green or the sky is blue. You don’t think about it. The jokes were often about these daily contradictions and how the unfortunate were those who did not get the joke that was at the heart of those contradictions. In other words, the joke was always on the fool who was not cynical enough to anticipate the lie.
This is relevant in our current age as we may be past the revolutionary stage and into that time when the people adjust to the irrational. The legacy conservative media keeps pounding the drum about how “we’re lurching into socialism” when we have been a socialist society for generations now. There is no aspect of our economic life outside the grip of the now semi-permanent ruling class. Telling people otherwise is just part of the way the ruling class controls the population.
Of course, this reality is dawning on even the dullest people, so we are being told that the bad guys are planning a “radical revolution.” The truth is, that revolution is well past the planning stage. It has already happened. From top to bottom, despite party labels or rhetoric, the system is stacked with people committed to the great reordering of society into the egalitarian paradise. The expulsion of Trump from office like a foreign body is the proof that the organism of state is wholly alien now.
In other words, a revolution has occurred out of view from the rest of us and now we are seeing the revolutionaries step out of the shadows. This is not a lot different than how Stalin took control of the party and government. He quietly consolidated his hold on the party, while his rivals were thinking the revolution was still ongoing. By the time they realized what had happened, it was too late. This realization was probably penultimate thing that went through Trotsky’s head.
Now we are in the phase where we get used to the often-bizarre contradictions in the rules being imposed by the new rulers. Some are easy, like the fact that states have put mentally disturbed Jewish men in sundresses in charge of public health. These are ornamental positions, so putting a crazy person in the role allows the governor to display his piety at little cost. Until the Covid hysteria, no one had any reason to know their state had public health officials.
Other bits of the new normal have no explanation. For example, states are now telling people they cannot make noise in their home, as part of the alleged fight against the spread of Covid. In Europe, they are banning the sale of alcohol at certain times, claiming this is to fight Covid. Maybe they believe Covid hates loud noises and people get loud when they drink. It is insane, but it makes more sense than the official explanation, which is no explanation at all.
The lunacy of official policy will not always be humorous. The freedom loving Boris Johnson is now promoting a plan whereby Brits will be issued “freedom passes” if they comply with official edicts on Covid. For a long time, people threw around the word “Orwellian” to mean something they did not like. The English-speaking world is about to learn the real meaning of the term. Getting a freedom pass for doing exactly what the government has instructed is the very definition of Orwellian.
Another part of this phase where we come to terms with the madness of the situation is the acceptance of official silence. In a country with anything resembling an independent media, these officials would be asked to explain their polices. Boris Johnson would be asked about his Orwellian freedom pass scheme. Instead, the media is full of lectures about how we’re all in this together. You see, this is an opportunity to build back better, so you need to embrace this glorious opportunity.
Westerners have been trained for generations to think the media has an adversarial relationship with the government. This will change during this time. We will come to understand what the Soviet citizen understood. The official media is just that, official media promulgating the new lies. It’s value to the people is only in letting us know how to stay out of the camps and in providing a laugh at the absurdity of living in a society based on obvious lies. Everyone becomes a cynic.
That is something else we will learn. Pessimism is not the opposite of optimism. The man who is sure the end is near is really just another type of optimist. He believes that soon, his struggle will come to an end. The opposite of optimism is cynicism. Both the optimist and the pessimist are willing to accept the moral framework as stated. Their actions and understanding of the world are tightly bound by the orthodoxy. Both the optimist and the pessimist give up their agency to faith in the rules that govern them.
The cynic, in the context of an authoritarian society, accepts that there is no inherent logic in the system, other than to insulate those who prosper from their position. The cynic accepts that there is no truth in the system and the outcomes are random, based on the changing desires of the people you interact with in the system. The cynic knows there is no truth in a world of lies, other than his own acceptance of it. It is in this phase we are in now where we learn that you can never be cynical enough.
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