Thursday, September 18, 2008
The Sorta Kinda Anti-Western Westerner: “Gnosticism Lite”
My previous essay on the phenomenon of the anti-Western Westerner concentrated on the more virulently and malignantly pathological type.
At various points in recent Western history this more extreme type infected the Body Politic with mass movements that caused enormous mayhem and misery—the French Revolution and its Napoleonic aftermath; the Communist Revolution of Russia and ensuing attempts to spread that “Revolution” globally; and the Nazi-Fascist nexus of Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito.
These represent the more dramatic and horrifying face of modern Gnostic Utopianism, but because of their aggressiveness and their grotesqueness, the surrounding Western polities, relatively healthier in noetic culture, coalesced to put a stop to them, mostly through sheer military force.
There has been another type of anti-Western Westerner, however, whose Gnostic-Utopian form is far less noxious, and whose subculture therefore has been able not only to survive, but in fact to become the dominant culture: Politically Correct Multi-Culturalism (PC MC).
PC MC has had to give up blatant power in order to become dominant and mainstream in a more insidious way. Its mainstream dominance, therefore, is paradoxical: it is simultaneously far less powerful than the power of a Gnostic-Utopian tyranny, such as under Stalin or Hitler; but on the other hand it permeates society far more broadly and deeply by virtue of a kind of atomized dispersion of sociopolitical gas, as it were, suffusing the atmospherics of society and culture. This is why the Soviet Union collapsed so easily: its Communist system had always been imposed too starkly and externally. The majority of the people had never really “converted”, had never really become true believers. And this is why PC MC is so difficult to disentangle and dismantle, because its subtle tendrils reach deeply into the psychic entrails of the hearts and minds of the majority of Westerners: the majority of Westerners are, in fact, true believers in PC MC. It is not imposed from without by force; it has taken over their very marrow, like a cancer.
A major part of the reason why PC MC is able to “convert” people so successfully—i.e., so deeply, and in such mass numbers—is that PC MC is not all bad. It mixes the good and the bad in such an incoherent and complex integration, that therefore, in effect, the bad becomes not only part of the good: the bad becomes good. Or, another way to look at it is that, in PC MC, the good is taken to such excess, and/or it is twisted to such an extent, that it becomes bad.
The bad and good of PC MC involves many different clusters of distinct issues. Let us take the one issue that most concerns this blog: Reverse Racism.
I. The Reverse Racism dogma of the PC MC paradigm has two complementary sides to it:
1) Romanticization of the Third World “Noble Savage”
2) Morbidly excessive self-criticism of Western civilization.
II. The good components of this dogma are not difficult to detect:
1) the virtue of a self-transcending interest in others outside one’s culture, and concomitant extension of ethical rights to others outside one's culture
2) the virtue of being open to self-criticism, by which one’s mistakes can be better uncovered, excessive arrogance and obsession with perfection is avoided, and true progress is made.
III. The bad components of the dogma develop out of taking these virtues to excess:
1) Other cultures become exempt from criticism, or worse yet, are even raised to superiority above one’s own culture, even though those other cultures contravene in various ways and degrees the virtues of one’s own culture which one otherwise supports and cherishes
2) One’s own culture is criticized to such excess it becomes denigration and vilification, incoherently juxtaposed to the continued retention of certain virtues that originate in one’s own culture or which at least can be argued to have been most maximally nourished and developed in one’s own culture compared with other cultures.
When we examine the features under III.1-2 more closely, we notice a remarkable pathology at work—a pathology borne of the necessity to twist facts and truth into incoherent knots in order to sustain the original irrational axioms. Perhaps the queerest incoherency arises from the fact that the sociopolitical culture that nourishes such a high degree of interest in the non-Western Other on the one hand, and concomitantly with that also nourishes such a high degree of self-criticism of the West paradoxically—yet clearly all the same—manifests a cultural strength and sophistication that is arguably superior to non-Western cultures. Thus, the Western Gnostic is trying to have it both ways, is trying to have his cake and eat it too.
This elementary incoherency requires a relative degree of existential alienation on the part of the Westerner. At the extreme end of the spectrum, the alienation tries to find the outlet of, let us say, sociopolitical escape from the West: Revolution. And this revolutionary escape may take either the form of anarchistic/nihilistic destruction for destruction’s sake (i.e., the revolutionary has no concrete plans for sociopolitical reconstruction after the Revolution is successful), or the form of a vision for the transfiguration of society after Revolution. This extreme alienation was manifested in the French Revolution of the 18th century and its Napoleonic aftermath, as well as the Communist Revolutions, German Nazism, and some of the various Fascist movements that wrought such havoc in the 20th century.
Less extreme are the Leftists and their varying degrees of “Socialism” short of Communist Revolution. A curious dynamic occurs when the pathology becomes less extreme. The more extreme Western Gnostic has the advantage of a more elegant logic and, coupled with that, a less torturous incoherency of action: his anti-Westernism need not become mired in the paradoxical incoherencies that arise from the continuation of the polar tension in his psyche (and in his concrete sociopolitical existence) between Westernism and anti-Westernism—at least insofar as he can plunge into his psychic, intellectual and sociopolitical act of expatriation from the West, through Revolution.
But the less extreme Western Gnostics do not have this advantage, for, to one degree or another, they maintain a Western connection, a Western identity, a Western dependency—that has to be upheld in an unavoidable contradiction with their antipathy to the West. Of course, we are not dealing here with the Westerner who wants to improve the West through constructive criticism. We are dealing with a pathology of excess that moves beyond constructive criticism, toward a darker and less coherent hatred, which is a self-hatred for the West of which the Westerner is a part, and at the same time shares the Gnostic pathos of a contemptus mundi, which is more or less a state of rebellion against the Cosmos, insofar as an individual’s sociopolitico-cultural “canopy” (in the sense of Peter Berger) is, or mediates, the Cosmos for that individual. For any given Westerner, the West is his Cosmos. Insofar as, and to the degree that, the Western man is anti-Western, then, he is also Gnostic.
As we have noted in previous essays, there is a spectrum of degrees of modern Gnosticism. To simplify that phenomenon for our purposes here, the spectrum may be boiled down to three phases or forms:
3) Politically Correct Multi-Culturalist.
The masses who are PC MC—the majority throughout the West—occupy a kind of psychological limbo in the paradoxical dynamic of Western anti-Westernism we have been analyzing—for of all pathologies to date in this regard, they indulge in the lowest degree of anti-Westernism. Thus, their self-contradiction is warmer and fuzzier, yet more convoluted in pretzel logic to the degree that they retain the pathological excess of Western self-criticism combined with its undetachable obverse, the Reverse-Racist romanticization of non-white non-Westerners. The logical convolutions of incoherency become acute when the PC MC defense of Islam and Muslims comes to relief.
An unavoidable concomitant to this incoherency is a degree of parasitism on the West. Parasitism is a component of all forms of Gnosticism, though the most extreme forms try their damndest to cut the cord of dependency on the Cosmos they loathe—most dramatically, as we have discussed above, through the act of violent Revolution and then the attempts at sociopolitical transformation after that. Even in those most extreme forms, of course, history has shown they cannot entirely free themselves of parasitism (e.g., the Communist elites living private lives of material luxury recreating the Capitalist system (or worse the feudal system prior to Capitalism) they are supposed to be utterly opposing). The PC MC majority in a sense is the least parasitic, insofar as it is the least anti-Western. But again, this is a casuistically contextual issue, not a general principle. When the case of the problem of an Islam Redivivus is considered, then the problem of the parasitism of the PC MC majority becomes augmented.
With regard to the pressing issue of protecting the West from the menace of Islam, individuals of the PC MC majority can only sustain their incoherencies through a combination of
a) a disingenuous suspension of the contradiction between Western dependency and the anti-Western subtext of their central beliefs, through the belief that their anti-Westernism is actually pro-Western in the sense of truly constructive or “patriotic” even though it is based in a watered down version of the more virulent anti-Westernism of Gnostic Utopianism;
b) an intellectually lazy and emotionally fortified ability to sustain logical contradictions and incoherencies;
c) an indoctrination in the interlocking axioms of the PC MC paradigm which employ indefinite suspension of logical contradictions as a central tactic.
The problem of the menace of Islam—precisely due to the fact that most Muslims are non-white non-Westerners—presents a major challenge to the PC MC mindset, since the PC MC paradigm hinges on the dogma of Reverse Racism.
If individuals beholden to the PC MC paradigm were to truly think through their position with regard to Islam, and not simply let the paradigm do their thinking for them, they would experience the dilemma of a choice that, in our time, has to be made by every Westerner: to stand for the West and its classical liberal values and therefore against Islam and against all Muslims who support Islam—or to stand against the West and support the Islamic invasion of the West.
In this case, there is no middle ground, even though PC MC offers the most seductive illusion of just such a middle ground.