The second part of this article is too meta, I had to look up some references and names.
But it’s too profound, nonetheless.
Democratic nomenclature doesn’t necessarily resemble socialist nomenclature of Brezhnev times, thoroughly described and rejected. The factory directors who became district party leaders – we all knew that nomenclature but that’s not what we’re talking about today. These are not textbook capitalists, exploiters of the working class – the way they are critiqued from the left. New democratic nomenclature only marginally represents the interest of the right, this ideology is not inherently right-wing. What’s important is that so-called left-wing views are represented in this new nomenclature together with the right-wing, and left-wing language is present in this new ideology as an ornament. Hannah Arendt does not contradict Ayn Rand, but sort of embellishes her; these two dames represent the new ideology with equal passion. Modern ideology – and this is important – is built with the use of so-called left discourse; it is based on the understanding of avant-garde that was carried by left-wing thinkers, it operates with notions of radical art; it has its own, non-classical, non-categorical philosophy; it has its own non-conservative values system. To accept this ideology as a whole – which is the only way to grasp this concept: Deyneka and Simonov can’t be separated from the brief history of Communist Party (of Bolsheviks) – one can be convinced that it is not a classical conservative doctrine. The values system of the new ideology is served by avant-garde, objectless art, leftist curators; and, technically left-wing Slavoj Zizek contributes for this new ideology in no less than technically right-wing Cheney and Rumsfeld: they are all in service of the new doctrine. The class system of the new order, created by the democratic markets, this new democratic nomenclature is a class of freedom lovers, proponents of personal freedom for all. The fact that its representatives turn out to be feudalists does not negate their progressive views – they believe in freedom and personal development. They don’t want to subjugate anybody, they just can’t do anything about it. Today the ideology of democratic nomenclature presents the most progressive teachings. The citizens got convinced that the presence of the rich feudalists symbolizes their own freedoms; many believed this, thousands of journalists prove this state of affairs every day. And the feudalists themselves believe that they sow goodwill.
Churchill’s mantra “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others”; the teachings of Popper about “open society and its enemies”; writings on totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt; ontology of guilt, described by Heidegger and ontology of work described by Ayn Rand, philosophy of Andy Warhol and modern day art – all of this converges in a unifying study, in a no less convincing collection of textbooks than the writings of the founders of Communist Party. Try to single out and criticize some of the doctrine’s ideas, let’s say, try to raise doubt about the significance of Andy Warhol – and you will be refuted, with Hannah Arendt’s book as evidence, that he symbolizes freedom. Try to doubt the Arendt’s definition of totalitarianism and Popper will explain to you that the seeds of oppression are easily recognizable in closed societies. To be suspected of totalitarianism today is very easy: there are entire series of proven definitions; there’s an ontology of totalitarianism described by Arendt and Popper – where the worldwide totalitarianism is overcome by the search of an “open society”. And the scale of such definitions, the degree of the “banality of evil” impresses, and also arms: anyone can be suspected.
Today, anyone arguing against a dictatorship is thoroughly armed – he knows most of the basic premises of the “new brief history”. A standard street corner argument consists of juxtaposing dictatorship and democracy; citizens are being convinced that there’s only a choice between totalitarianism and democracy, that there’s no third way. A foolproof argument: “Do you want to live in North Korea?” or “Take democracy – nothing better is out there”. Or a citation from Popper: even Plato built societal obligations between the members of a community, and then it led to Gulag, you see. Or the quote from Hannah Arendt about the banality of evil: You see how easy it is for totalitarianism to take root. And then recipes from Ayn Rand: it’s not about the equality of the outcome; it’s about personal initiative and success. It’s all logical and easily understandable. Everything was logical for Lenin and Brezhnev; everything was smooth for Jefferson and Tocqueville ; but that logic, the logic of a social state, whether capitalist or socialist is irrelevant – it’s too outdated.
So today, in the new values system, confused citizens are looking for answers in the existing textbooks and can’t find it; is there really something better than democracy? Constitutional monarchy? Anarchy? Communism? It seems there’s nothing out there better than democracy. And markets are the engines of progress. Now we understand why Abramovich has a yacht and the barbarians get bombed.
A Strategy of Chaos.
No polemicist can see that this argument is taking place in two logical dimensions: in the values system of the new ideology one can raise an issue of North Korea; but in a traditional historical logic – it’s an absurd question. Historically, there’s no choice between totalitarianism and democracy; it only happens on the pages of Popper and Arendt. Historically, the real choice is much more complicated. Even such abominable formations like Nazi Germany were not homogenous; what can then be said about less evil ones. If one is asked: “Do you want to live in North Korea?” he can answer: “No, I want to live in Florence of Lorenzo Medici period, and not later. The peak of Florence was short, but I would like to live in this exact state”.
If one thinks about the ideals of the freedom of personal development then these ideals were formulated by aesthetics and philosophy of Renaissance – and any new Western ideology is referencing them, more or less. The most significant periods of Western history – Italian Renaissance and German Principalities of XVIII century, brief periods of confederate coexistence of independent states – created art, philosophy and morals of Western civilization; all social utopias conceived later were based on these little oases of utopia. Modern democratic nomenclature, even though it’s not directly familiar with the works of Lorenzo Valla or Goethe or their contemporaries, indirectly references them – there are no other influences in Western culture. What’s important is that the golden era of civilization is not even described in terms of “totalitarianism” or “democracy”. What did Florence have – monarchy? Well, yes, monarchy too. Republic? And Republic too. What was the political order in the three hundred principalities of Germany, where that entire Western philosophy originated? Feudalism? Monarchy? Democracy? All of this is much more complex: the history of live societies is being composed of thousands of factors, the complexity of which needs to be understood. There’s no an anonymous artist from the Baroque era, but there’s Rembrandt; there’s no post-impressionist – but there’s Van Gogh. Germany of the Goethe era came to an end, Florence of Lorenzo era too – both were replaced by universal, straightened plans of development; under a common path diversity was deemed out of place. The fact the ideologues still think of Kant and Goethe and Michelangelo and Pico Mirandola – those whose idea of a free will served as a basis for democratic thought – has to remind us that there’s no direct answer to the “North Korea” argument.
When modern society scholars offer the idea that there’s one unifying civilization that is moving from barbarianism towards progress and there are common democratic principles for all, at this moment a permanent war is declared.
On a geopolitical exchange a permanent volatility is required: what is more prevalent in today’s society – democracy or totalitarianism? Try to answer that a country’s culture is more complex that the offered dichotomy “totalitarianism-democracy” allows: no one will accept such an answer today.
The first victim of such a simplicity is the very idea of democracy itself. Conceived as a form of regulation of a specific society, democracy combined with the limitless free market has been transformed; it lost its original characteristics. We live in strange times, where there are many who are scared of the word “democracy”. It is impossible to bring a hundred cultures to the common denominator, but it very easy to start a worldwide fire. War today is the only order, the only desirable status quo for the democratic nomenclature. As such, the desirable result of war is not surrender of the enemy, but a continuous animosity.
The history of any country is an individual dramatic phenomenon, a combination of art, geography, climate, national character, traditions and customs, trade and religion; but the problem of a current day is that an idiosyncratic society is not needed. This is where modern ideology commits a simple but logical mistake: the citizens of a country are being told: you are so sovereign, so distinctive, why do you even need a state if every one of you is an individual. Why do you need a home if every one of you can have a bank account? “State as a corporation” has lost its meaning – in the presence of more successful real corporations.
The process of globalization of liberal economy is being accompanied by the disintegration of countries into tribes, and tribes into warring clans. No one is going to rebuilt what was destroyed. To rebuild a country a specific plan is needed, at the very least some agreement among the population. But such agreement and planning are main enemies in the modern world. And, what’ even more important, no such country, distinct from all other countries, is needed. And such obsolescence is not the result of evil Bush or because Obama is a hostage of a military-industrial complex. The reason for this uselessness is the same as the reason all avant-garde artists from all countries are alike, that Moscow conceptualism is no different from American conceptualism. There’s a grey, homogenous world of market before us, don’t try to question its logic – you will be stomped to the ground.
World leader’s summits in the times of crisis stun a naïve observer: the world is falling apart, a serious plan of rescue must be conceived – but there’s no plan. The leaders of the world confirm: we have no plan, we wanted to take bonuses away from bankers, but bankers objected. Planning is an alien concept to the modern world in principle, no one is even making an attempt to contrast the budgets of oligarchs to the amounts necessary to merely feed the hungry. This absence of strategy defines today’s strategy, even when it comes to war. Creating chaos is a strategy. Local chaos can be hidden in world chaos. Civilized countries are proud of the fact that they don’t fight: they bomb from afar and then let the locals sort it out. On the surface it looks like irresponsible. But pointed strikes on certain objects complete the task – bombing must turn the country into an unmanageable state. The whole must be destroyed. And then chaos reigns.
The verbal fight between anti-globalists and globalists follows this absurd scenario: “You became a modern day empire!” – “We became an empire? Please! We don’t want to dominate anybody, we merely give chance to others to become free!”
Surely, this is not an empire and not even “new style empire”, as philosopher Negri contends. This is a limitless democracy. And both Arendt and Cheney scenarios, as it turns out, do not contradict each other.
War without the guilty.
The rule of chaos saved democracy. But even this is not the problem: many talk about the saving chaos, there’s even an expression – “managed chaos”. Everyone is used to this expression, no one is scared anymore. Chaos bears fairness – this ideological mantra made us forget that chaos bears titans. What is described in mythology is a logical historical process. And titans don’t know fairness. Liberal market chose the world civil war as a world management system – this was selected as an existence with risks, but as it is believed, other existence is not possible, not profitable. “Down with dictatorship!” – with this phrase people were tossed into the world’s fire, to burn in the name of free markets – as no one can have a quiet life in the fire, and who needs quiet life anyway?
People are being led to believe that their main right is the right to a civil war, to “take as much freedom as they can carry”. This monstrous slogan that once thundered from a high Russian tribune, rules the world. Crowds recite that they want changes, but no one in that crowd will ever tell you what kind of changes they want. They just accepted the idea that world needs permanent rotation; that the world is in a permanent anxious state, like a drug addict needing a daily fix. More, more, more – rock the state, rock the boat. If you don’t want to rock the boat then you support tyranny, the regime’s guard. There are things more important than stability and peace! Today’s war is the only world’s order, the only desirable for the democratic nomenclature state of affairs.
Do you know what world do you want to build after the war? No, no one knows that. Such question is as inappropriate as a question “Do you know how to paint?” addressed to a modern day avant-garde artist. Why know how to paint if it’s not needed? Today everyone agrees that painting is not important in modern day art. Therefore peace is not important either.
Orwell predicted that the new order will come up with slogan “War is Peace”. And that’s what happened.
What we’re talking about is perpetual civil war, where there’s no guilty party. War originates through undetectable forces and in order to stop it it’s not enough to just listen to both sides in the UN, to define America as the world police. Even more silly is to critique the West as profit-seeking. Western countries are the first ones to become hostages of their democratic idea, a noble idea, for which many people gave their lives for, and which deteriorates before our very eyes. To stop that war it is necessary to rid ourselves from this new ideology, from the ideology of Ayn Rand and the “second avant-garde” fakes, from faith in progress and markets. What we need is not simply to reject the economic bubbles, but to pierce the most prominent, the most frightening bubble of all – ideological. Until the West comes back to categorical philosophy and understands that Andy Warhol is categorically worse than Rembrandt – there will be no peace.
2 thoughts on “Democracy in Flames (Part II)”
Fascinating. There is a lot to think about here. The motif of the civil war at multiple levels – state vs. state, clan vs. clan, individual vs. individual – is powerful, and reminded me of this great article about the link between Rand and the new cult of “disruption” in Silicon Valley.
A representative quote:
“I’m actually embarrassed that it took me until then to make the connection, particularly given I used to host the startup competition at a technology conference called “TechCrunch Disrupt.” The original Silicon Valley meaning of a disruptive company was one that used its small size to shake up a bigger industry or bloated competitor. Increasingly, though, the conference stage was filled with brash, Millennial entrepreneurs vowing to “Disrupt” real-world laws and regulations in the same way that me stealing your dog is Disrupting the idea of pet ownership. On more than one occasion a judge would ask an entrepreneur “Is this legal?” to which the reply would inevitably come: “Not yet.” The audience would laugh and applaud. What chutzpah! So Disruptive!
The truth is, what Silicon Valley still calls “Disruption” has evolved into something very sinister indeed. Or perhaps “evolved” is the wrong word: The underlying ideology — that all government intervention is bad, that the free market is the only protection the public needs, and that if weaker people get trampled underfoot in the process then, well, fuck ‘em — increasingly recalls one that has been around for decades. Almost seven decades in fact, since Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” first put her on the radar of every spoiled trust fund brat looking for an excuse to embrace his or her inner asshole…”
The only part that left me scratching my head was the idea that Arendt is a complement to Rand. I get how the historical developments are so large as to make individual political figures irrelevant (which to my mind makes the alleged 2 party system even more of a charade than it already is), but those are two very specific figures, so it would be helpful to understand the dimensions of their complementarity.
But that’s a minor point. I can see why this writer drew your attention. Thank you for the translation.
Re: Arendt and Rand. I thought that what he was saying is that they’re both two sides of the same coin.
As for the disruption/destruction, it’s so easy and fun and feels as some kind of brilliant breakthrough. Unlike those boring planners who want to plan and draft and build. The author makes this point very craftly through talking about modern day art – who needs to know anything about drawing or painting? Just take a spray paint, go outside and you’re an artist!