America In Chains, Part II

In my opening contribution to this series, I made more than one sweeping claim that would be challenged by most Americans who are living today, especially by those who fancy themselves “Conservatives” or “Christians” or even “Christian Rightwingers.”  I have known a fair number of rightwing extremists, Neopagans, and Integralists in Europe and North America, and I have even spoken with such infamous characters as “Wilmot Robertson” and William Pierce, whom the equally infamous Southern Poverty Law Center has described as “America’s most important Neo-Nazi for some three decades.”  

For the most part, the political extremists I have known on Left and Right were irredeemably optimistic and hopelessly naive.  If only we could go back to the 1950’s—or 1850’s or 1250’s or the green paradise of Eden, when man and beast lived in harmony—and if only we would accept their one-size-fits-all ideology, we could suppress the Old Adam and live in perpetual peace and joy.

For over three decades I have been hearing well-meaning American Conservatives talk confidently about the future.  

Most Americans are good-hearted, but they don’t know what their true interests are.  Businessmen fail to realize that in subsidizing Planned Parenthood or the ACLU they are undercutting their own position and making it impossible for their own children and grandchildren to lead good lives.  The problem is the government, the problem is the ruling elite, the problem is immigrants or blacks, the problem is Jews and secular humanists, the problem is cultural Marxists.  If we can just expose the lies of the (fill in the blanks), real people will see the light, and it will be morning again in America, blah blah blah blah.

Among the more childish fantasies of the American Right is their obsession with Cultural Marxism.  They quote Gramsci as if his second-rate and derivative writings were Holy Writ, and they boldly prophesy that once they have slain the beast of Cultural Marxism we can all get together in an orgy of American Greatness.  Presumably the theme song at the celebration will be Kumbaya.  

I lived through the Sixties and please believe me when I say that the Leftie Folk Singers, hippies, SDSers, and Yippies I met were not half so naive as American Greatness Conservatives.  Were Marx and Lenin really behind the plot to emasculate males and masculinize females?  Did Stalin destroy serious music, as good old democratic America has done?  Was it in Communist Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and Yugoslavia, where universities deliberately destroyed all serious study of literature and philosophy and devised programs to turn all young students into cretins?  Anyone who has had an extended conversation with Russian or Communist block intellectuals who grew up under communism knows they are far better educated than most of their American counterparts.  As I recall, the father of deconstructionism, Paul de Man, was in fact a Belgian right-winger before WW II put an end to his national socialist aspirations.

Making America Great Again is a nice political slogan, and like most political slogans it is a delusion.  We cannot restore the world of the 1950s or even of the 1990s.  Although I have labored from time to time to clarify the meaning of Fascism and strip it of all the pejorative associations fastened to Mussolini by the Left, I am not a Fascist, and even if I harbored such a delusion, I hope I should be aware that the ideological politics of “national greatness” is exactly the wrong course for Western nations to pursue at this time.  Greatness means bigness, big government and big capitalism (as opposed to free enterprise) and big imperialism, all of which are the curse of nations and an important cause of the dystopian nightmare our country has turned into.

“If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem,” as panhandling Black Panthers used to scream at me when I refused to give them money to “feed the children.”  (Feed their habits, more likely!) And, you cannot be part of the solution, if you fail to understand what the problem is.  

So let us begin, not like Rousseau in his  Discourse on Inequality, by setting aside the facts, but by taking a closer look at the phenomena we are going to try to understand:  The subjugation of peoples.  As in any logical investigation, we’ll begin by narrowing our subject, making distinctions, and issuing the necessary caveat that we are depicting in broad brush strokes a set of complicated phenomena on a very large canvas.  

No case of subjugation will involve all the categories of repression I shall be outlining, and some very large distinctions have to be made between different types of subjugation, and let us not forget that in any period of history only a small minority of people—either among the ruling class or the ruled—are consciously aware of what they are doing.  But then a shark, when a bleeding man falls into the tank, does not analyze the water, conclude the red stuff is blood, and map out a plan of attack.  They just do what comes naturally.  As Max Beerbohm once observed, you can not turn a sheep into a man by standing it on its hind legs, but you can make a crowd of men into a flock of sheep.  All they need is the right shepherd, and, setting aside geniuses like Alexander, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon, few of the great oppressors had the intelligence or the will to act from a game plan of their own devising.

One last caveat.  It will be necessary to set aside some of our wholesome prejudices that bias us in favor of our own people and traditions.  In describing Anglo-Saxons and American Indians as subjugated peoples, I am far from condemning our ancestors who did the subjugating.  Nonetheless, we cannot form a useful judgement if we begin by blinding ourselves to facts.  The history of the human race is an uninterrupted record of invasions, conquests, and subjugations.  The Children of Israel were held in bondage by the Egyptians, and when they broke free they invaded, conquered, and subjugated the peoples of Canaan, before they were themselves conquered by Assyrians, Babylonians, Macedonians, and Romans, and, two thousand years later they proceeded once again to subjugate Palestinian Christians and Muslims.  How we evaluate this history will depend in part on which side we imagine ourselves to be on, but we cannot ignore the reality.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

4 Responses

  1. Allen Wilson says:

    Yes, bigness is a recipe for long tern failure. In turning away from the West and joining organizations like BRICS, the global south is making the same mistake once made by the West itself. No on ever learns.

    The subjugation of peoples will be an interesting topic indeed.

  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I’ve failed to look at the Forum for several weeks, and imagine my surprise today, when I found Allen Wilson’s excellent post about life in a foreign country. It rather proves my contention in Part I that there is a growing feeling in America that we are living in an occupied territory. AW’s comment deserves posting on the main page, which, if I have his permission, I shall do.

  3. Allen Wilson says:

    By all means, go ahead and do so.

  4. Hee Haw says:

    I am glad Dr. Fleming is discussing this topic, and I know battling my own delusions isn’t fun but the only way forward in a truthful or effective way. I don’t believe in multiculturalism or that Diversity is our strength but I have to accept the fact that I live in a world antagonistic to the traditional culture of my ancestors that I cannot change but can only be the man of my own home. It will be interesting to see how Dr. Fleming develops this series and how he presents a way forward in a progressive society that we really no true communion or agreement with.