And welcome to the Chronicle of Current Events! This column takes its name from the journal Soviet dissidents compiled and circulated in typescript on human rights violations in their country in the mid-20th century. Many of those brave Russians, who risked more than social ostracism for exercising freedom of speech, were humanists and scientists. Their Chronicle was more than a list: it became a platform for the discussion of the reasons for the crimes of Communism, for analysis of the workings and strategies of totalitarianism.
Some of the writers in the Russian Chronicle used noms de plume because they feared for their jobs and personal safety. Any sensible person writing his mind in America today must entertain the same concern. I will use the pseudonym Philalethes, which is Greek for one who loves the truth. This was the name adopted by the American alchemist who was Shakespeare’s model for Prospero, and it is one American Freemasons love.
The personal, Herbert Marcuse famously observed, is political; and in these essays I mean often to be personal— so it will not be too hard for any reader interested enough in such things to discern my identity. Despite the menacing character of the times that does not worry one too much: Oscar Wilde said he envied paranoids because they think people are really paying attention to them. Were a guardian of political correctness to ferret out my name, he would be paying me an unwilling compliment, for which one would allow oneself a titter of Schadenfreude, mit Schlag. And the Gestapo hates humor.
Why write a Chronicle now? In the 21st century there is a movement in America toward a left-fascist takeover. This is a very different country from the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, and many of the parameters are original. In those countries, well-organized political parties with clear chains of command and rules of discipline spearheaded the assault on human liberty. It looks more amorphous here and now, with more internalized self-censorship than terror imposed overtly from above. However, the effects, and much of the machinery, are the same; and we have the benefit of the previous experience of both Russia and Germany to help us fight back while there is time.
Totalitarian systems manipulate language. The purpose is to shape and control people’s thoughts and consequent behavior in the desired direction, through everything from propaganda and the captive media to the indoctrination of schoolchildren. “In the beginning was the Word,” begins the Gospel According to John. The beginning of fascism is the Lie.
We know the vocabularies of both the Bolsheviks (Socialists) and the Nazis (National Socialists). Today’s “social justice warriors” are concerned particularly with categorizing, separating, and prioritizing people according to the category of “race”. (I put race in quotation marks since there are neither “whites” nor “people of color”, only human beings, who are the children of Adam, whose heavenly Father is God.) In this respect particularly, though in many others also, they are more Nazis than Communists.
The Nazis regarded the world as a place of necessary and natural Darwinian conflict between superior and inferior races: the Aryan master race versus Jews, Blacks, and other subhumans. Anti-Semitism, the world’s most enduring and malleable form of hatred, was the core of their program.
Communism rejected any racial categorization of humans and postulated rather a ruthless economic struggle between social classes, in which the old Russian aristocracy were to be eliminated as “former people”; the prosperous peasantry liquidated as “kulaks”. American left-fascism also seeks to dismember meritocracy and destroy private property, through equality not of opportunity but of outcome.
I will use the nomenclature of German Nazism in particular, and Soviet jargon as well, to unmask the enemies of human liberty in America today. I do not perceive this as a parlor game, but as a strategy of war. It is important to know your enemy in order to fight him effectively; and it is just as important not to be deceived, confused, lulled into inaction by his propaganda.
A war can be won psychologically before the first shot is fired, sometimes even without firing a shot at all. When the cruiser Aurora bombarded the Winter Palace one frosty night in early November 1917, it was firing blanks. Hitler came to power through the ballot box, a suspicious fire in the Reichstag parliament building, and the manipulation of the elderly figurehead Hindenburg. The bullets, bombs, gas chambers, and crematoria only came later.
My technique is the essay. This is a French word meaning attempt or experiment; and the first and still unrivaled master of the genre is the 16th-century writer Michel de Montaigne. He was one of William Shakespeare’s favorite writers. The essay takes its reader on a learned but leisurely and roundabout excursion through its subjects, with many digressions and pauses. Though disciplined in thought, it draws no distinction between the personal and the scholarly, between books and experience. In this way it is both an expression of free thought and the ultimate literary activity of a free man, a free mind. It is by its nature writing that militates against totalitarianism, against the control of language and the regimentation of human thought and action.
Often, I will take a key term from the arsenal of Nazi nomenclature, such as Gleichschaltung (“co-ordination”) as a starting point, define its use and application in Germany, and then adduce examples of it in America here and now. But I will draw also upon a long lifetime of my own unusual personal experience.
Both sides of my family lost many souls in the Nazi Holocaust: I have experienced anti-Semitism in academia throughout my career and have lived and worked in Israel. That country, and its founding force Zionism (the national liberation movement of the Jewish people) has largely replaced the Jew as the target of the new form of anti-Semitism exemplified by the programs of Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and related movements. Just as anti-Semitism was at the core of German Nazism, it is central to the ideology of the social warriors today. I will discuss it very often.
Russian is my second language and I lived for fairly long periods in the Soviet Union. Through personal experience and the testimony of countless friends I know the Soviet system intimately. My father’s family were American Communists, so I know also how American liberal ideas and action, much of that extremely laudable, shaded also into mind-control and propaganda, into apologia for totalitarianism. As a humanist philologist, a scholar of Near Eastern languages, cultures, and religions, I will have many asides to offer, many reminiscences, as we walk through these essays together.
Michel de Montaigne was raised with the dead language of learning, Latin, as his native spoken tongue. This enabled him to manhandle the classics instead of citing them from a respectable distance, but it also made him an eccentric from the beginning. In his later years he was even more an outsider and a loner, though he maintained close friendships and had a kaleidoscopic experience of life under his belt. On his mother’s side he was probably descended from Spanish Jews exiled in 1492: like me, he belonged to a people who stand at the center of Western civilization but also at a lonely angle to it.
It is at times an unenviable predicament, but it has its value when one wants to look at the world from both inside and outside it, as a free individual advocating natural liberty and the God of the Ten Commandments, and, let’s say it, fighting against the powers of darkness. That is what I am going to do here in America in this year of grace, and I invite you to join me on the journey.
Every worthwhile undertaking must begin with a prayer to the Master of the Universe, our Father in Heaven, Creator of Heaven and Earth. Guide us, O Lord, to do Your will in wisdom, in charity, and in courage. Prosper our undertakings and guide us by Your light. Amen.
Categories: Chronicle of Current Events
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