Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Western Deformation: Progressively “Lite” over the centuries
The overall process of deformation in Western civilization spans an arc of time of over two millennia.
The most simplex presentation of the process notes five movements, each leading to the next:
Gnosticism → Schism → Utopianism → Leftism → PC MC.
The first movement was the most virulent and most pathological, but also the least sociopolitically influential. Each successive stage manifests a paradoxical dynamic: a relative decrease in pathology, combined with a relative increase in sociopolitical influence. This reflects a logical factor, in that as a rule, the more pathological a movement is, the less able will it be to hold mass appeal. As with all rules, of course, there are exceptions. Islam is the most monumental exception to this rule—but our analysis is dealing with the West, not non-Western movements. In the West, the exception are the totalitarian movements in the 20th century—though for obvious reasons they circumvented the paradox of decreasing virulence / increasing influence, by sheer violent force and murdering millions. This hardly vitiates the paradoxicality of the overarching process, but rather functions as an “exception that proves the rule”.
The process of movements described above requires more fleshing out, and this in turn will reveal more complexities to the historical development of the overall subject, Western deformation.
Phase One: Gnosticism (beginning approximately in the 4th century B.C. and lasting through permutations in various heresies and heterodox movements for another approximately 1,000 years).
Phase Two: The Great Schisms of the High Middle Ages—of faith and reason, realism and nominalism, religion and philosophy—culminating in the Protestant Reformation beginning in the 16th century, with roots at least a full century prior (basically serving to bring the underground movements of Phase One out into the open, in aggressive and increasingly public, powerful and more political confrontation with the mainstream orthodoxy).
Phase Three: Utopianism—from Enlightenment movements in the 18th century growing out of the late Renaissance, to the French Revolution, to the explosion of various movements throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century, representing a bewildering variety of experimentation in sociopolitical and pseudo-spiritual existence reflecting an increasing resistance to imperfect reality and a concomitant indulgence in what Voegelin has termed “Second Reality”, ranging from communalism; utopianism; founding of new sects and religions; obsessions with supernaturalism; fascination with the Orient and the “Noble Savage”; a cultivation of Art as either an aesthetic divertissement from reality or as a pseudo-salvation from reality into fantasy; increasing addictions to narcotics and stimulants as well as alcoholism; increasing indulgence in sexuality (contrary to the myth of “Victorianism”), particularly in eccentric and sometimes morbid experimentations; and the politicopathological development of socialism, proto-communism, anarchism, nihilism.
Phase Four: Fascist, Nationalist and Communist Supremacism (the grimly brutal concretization, in Communism, Fascism and Nazism, of certain major strands from all three previous phases.).
Phase Five: Leftism and the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.
Phase Six: The Mainstream Dominance of Politically Correct Multi-Culturalism (PC MC), approximately lasting from the 1960s to the present and as yet showing no signs of weakening.
Complexities inherent in the process of phases:
1) The first complexity to absorb is that there is considerable overlap from phase to phase, such that in some senses it can be said that the Gnosticism of phase one lingers on not only in its attenuated and percolated mutation in successive phases, but sometimes and in certain contexts in its own right. In certain massive ways, the outbursts of Communism and Nazism in the 20th century were a reassertion of a virulent Gnosticism in the framework of a modern political Utopianism. It would not be permissible, however, to read the process backwards—i.e., to anachronistically identify “Leftism”, for example, in the previous epoch of a prior phase.
2) Nor are all the phases equally bad. The Protestant Reformation, for example, was not uniformly bad, nor was its deformation on a par with the deformation in Gnosticism or in Utopianism. Nevertheless, it was a key part of the overall process in advancing the reconfiguration of the deformation in the overarching career of Western civilization.
3) Furthermore, there are other broad, related processes not explicitly noted in the description above. The most significant is the processes of “Modernity” and “Secularism”, as well as “Nationalism”. While in certain respects these processes partake of the process of deformation, I maintain it would be mistaken to identify them in and of themselves as phases of deformation. A more helpful way to regard Modernity and Secularism would be as representing the structural matrix in which deformation has evolved into the historical present, while Nationalism has been an extrapolation from that (increasingly in tension, in recent decades, with a more or less abstract “Globalism”).
4) As Western deformation has evolved over the past two millennia, this does not mean Western Civilization is regressing, or is necessarily in ominous crisis, or is doomed. In fact, it is continuing to progress in new and exciting and beneficent ways. Does this mean it is perfect and does not have serious flaws that need to be addressed? Of course not.
5) Finally, there is the curious feature of this overall process of what could be called progressive percolation and atomization. We alluded to this above when we wrote:
Each successive stage manifests a paradoxical dynamic: a relative decrease in pathology, combined with a relative increase in sociopolitical influence.
Since PC MC (Politically Correct Multi-Culturalism) is the last, or latest, phase in which we currently find ourselves in, it is also, according to the logic of this paradoxical dynamic, the least pathological yet the strongest in terms of sociopolitical influence.
PC MC has been able to achieve this sociopolitical dominance in democratic contexts not because of a dictatorship, not because of some sinister cabal pulling the strings behind the scenes, but because of the percolation and atomization of the pathology which began with Gnosticism over two millennia ago.
Another, simpler way to put all of this: Just as Utopianism represents “Gnosticism Lite”, and just as Leftism represents “Utopianism Lite”—so too does PC MC represent “Leftism Lite”. Indeed, it is only by virtue of being a “Lite” version of Leftism that PC MC has been able to successfully win over the hearts and minds of millions of otherwise Centrist and Right-oriented people in the West over the past half century. By so doing, as I have argued numerous times on this blog in previous essays, PC MC is continuing to successfully impede our rational analysis of the menace of Islam, and the rational actions that would flow from that rational analysis.