The Captive Mind and America’s Resegregation

The Captive Mind and America’s Resegregation

Idol smashing and cancel culture are part of a broad ideological project to dominate society.

A worker in New York cleans up a vandalized statue of President George Washington on June 29.

PHOTO: JASON SZENES/SHUTTERSTOCK

Czesław Miłosz, a future Nobel Prize-winning poet who had just defected from Poland, began work in 1951 on a book called “The Captive Mind.” Even as Stalinist totalitarianism tightened its grip on Eastern Europe, many Western European intellectuals lauded the brave new world of Soviet communism as a model for overcoming “bourgeois forces,” which in their view had caused World War II. Living in Paris, Miłosz wrote his book, which was published in 1953, to warn the West of what happens to the human mind and soul in a totalitarian system.

Miłosz knew from experience, having lived through the Communist takeover, how totalitarianism strips men and women of their liberty, transforming them into “affirmative cogs” in service of the state and obliterating what had taken centuries of Western political development to achieve. Totalitarianism not only enslaved people physically but crippled their spirit. It did so by replacing ordinary human language, in which words signify things in the outside world, with ideologically sanctioned language, in which words signify the dominant party’s ever-changing ideas of what is and is not true.

Since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, nationwide protests, which quickly turned to riots, have been hijacked by the neo-Marxist left, morphing into an all-out assault on American cities and institutions. This assault is underpinned by an audacious attempt to rewrite history that turns specific past events into weapons not only to overpower political opponents but also to recast all of American history as a litany of racial transgressions.

The radicals have turned race into a lens through which to view the country’s history, and not simply because they are obsessed with race. They have done so because it allows them to identify and separate those groups that deserve affirmation, in their view, and those that do not. What is taking place is the resegregation of America, the endpoint of which will be the rejection of everything the civil-rights movement stood for.

What is driving the radical protesters and rioters—who are enabled and manipulated by the “digital intelligentsia” in the press and an expanding segment of the political and business classes—is contempt for the freedom of anyone who fails to comport with their image of a just society. In authoritarian systems those in power seek to proscribe certain forms of political speech and social activity. Totalitarians claim unconditional authority to reach deep into each person’s conscience. They prescribe an interpretation of the world and dictate the language with which citizens are permitted to express that interpretation. Authoritarian regimes leave largely untouched the private civic sphere of human activity; totalitarians destroy traditional value systems and reorder the culture. That is why they are harder to overthrow.

The ill-named progressivism that has inspired shrill demands to dismantle police forces and destroy statues is only a small manifestation of a massive project aimed at the re-education of the American population. The goal of this project is to negate the story of the American republic and replace it with a tale anchored exclusively in race categories and narratives of oppression. The nature of this exercise, with its sledgehammer rhetoric that obliterates complexities in favor of one-dimensional “correct” interpretations, is as close to Marxist agitprop as one can get.

Why do American elites, who might be expected to favor preserving the nation that has elevated them, support the effort to dismantle it? Their thinking seems to be that the radicals destroying monuments and issuing wholesale denunciations of America’s past are wreaking destruction on ordinary Americans and their history, not on the elites and their ideology. Today’s elites as a rule do not believe they have any obligation to serve the public, only to rule it, and so they express little or no disapproval of college students toppling statues on federal land or looters raiding supermarkets. To criticize them would open elites to the charges of “populism” and “racism.”

Yet the elites are playing a dangerous game. Such “canceling”—of historical and living figures alike—increasingly mirrors what happened under communism in the Soviet bloc, where the accusation of being out of step with the party was enough to end one’s career and nullify one’s reputation.

This is about more than statues and history. Those who control the symbols of political discourse can dominate the culture and control the collective consciousness. If you doubt this, ask yourself why there has been so little backlash from ordinary, nonelite Americans. Our sense of self has been progressively deconstructed. We feel in our bones the wrongness of the violence being visited on the nation but lack the language to speak against it.

The resegregation of American society is fundamentally undemocratic and un-American. It envisions a social hierarchy based on DNA. It is also incompatible with individual freedom and constitutional government. Hence the drive to overhaul the U.S. Constitution, rewrite textbooks, and restructure museums by race and sex quotas.

Democracy cannot survive in a society in which winners and losers are adjudicated arbitrarily according to criteria beyond individual control. Any society built around the principle of skin color will become a caste system in which accident, not merit, will allocate value and benefit. Civil society will be buried once and for all.

The current radical trends carry the seeds of violence unseen in the U.S. since the Civil War. The activists ascendant in American cities insist on the dominance of their ideological precepts, brooking no alternative. Such absolutism forces Americans away from the realm of political compromise into one of unrelenting axiology, with one side claiming a monopoly on virtue and decency while the other is expected to accept its status as perpetually evil, and thus assume a permanent penitent stance for all its real and imagined misdeeds across history.

Only when the state creates a space for an unbiased debate over history can a discussion truly take place unhindered by ideology and dogma. Only then can a society move toward a consensus on a shared understanding of its past and how its collective memory should be shaped. The U.S. is roiled by spasms of violence and intolerance today because government at all levels—public education systems, states that allow universities to promulgate speech codes and “safe spaces,” court decisions that define constitutionally protected speech as, in effect, everything but political speech—has abdicated its duty to protect the public space. Children are rampaging through the cities because the adults have left the room.

America is in the throes of a destructive ideological experiment, subjected to a sweeping and increasingly state-sanctioned reordering of its collective memory, with the increasingly totalitarian left given free rein to dominate public discourse. Miłosz, who died in 2004, would see an American mind bloated by a steady diet of identity politics and group grievance served up by ideologues in schools nationwide. These ideologues have nearly succeeded in remaking our politics and culture; they are reinforced by a media in thrall to groupthink, by credentialed bureaucrats, and by politicians shaped in the monochrome factories of intellectual uniformity that are America’s institutions of higher learning.

American society is faced with a stark binary choice. Either we push back against the unrelenting assault of the neo-Marxist narrative, or we yield to the totalitarian impulse now in full view in our politics. It is no longer enough to wait for the next election, or to pin our hopes on a “silent majority” that will eventually stop the madness. There may be no such majority. If there is, its members may no longer be able to articulate what they see unfolding around them. It is hard to call things by their proper names in a society whose elites insist on calling looters and arsonists “protesters,” national monuments “symbols of racism,” and the victims of looting and arson the beneficiaries of “white privilege.” The challenge is massive, but it starts with the simple act of calling things by their proper names.

Mr. Michta is dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

 

9 thoughts on “The Captive Mind and America’s Resegregation

  1. Oh Brian, George Washington was a tiny slave owner, 30 or so, compared to Jefferson. John Adams, (maybe a relative of mine?) managed to farm without slaves.
    George’s 17 page will dealt with what he would do with his salves and 10s of thousand of acres of land. Many slaves are buried on his plantation.He was one of the kinder slave owners.
    Is this mentioned in school books?
    Great Britain was not the first in the slave trade, but when they did , they became # 1. Many fortunes were made.
    “All men are created equal” said Jefferson, except the black race was not legal persons, they were property. Such was the rule of law. A “necessary evil” some say, to build the USA.
    And the Red Man, so named after the Nfld Beothic, who were not actually red, were worse treated in America than the black race, by genocide. American sport team is called Red Skins. Beothic sculls recently came back to Nfld from Scotland.
    Yesterday in Nlfd Premier Ball says he will name 4 bridges in Labrador after Innu leaders. Surely this will right all the wrongs of our ancestors of 5 centuries!

    Washington and many other statues should not be damaged or destroyed, but belong in a museum like other historical important men, but of flawed character.
    Even Trump is worthy of being a museum piece.
    The British composer of Amazing Grace hymn was a slave trader, believed to have raped black women slaves. Guess he later felt remorse.
    Knowing history is not Marxist. It is about truth , the whole truth.
    He who calls himself The DIGGER, can verify if what I way is truth or not. You preach truth on the Princling ethics problems on the WE Charity. Good job there, so expose the character of Washington and others of the slave owners.
    Winston Adams Logy Bay NL

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      • The REDS are coming, really?
        Even Governor Cumo of NY, is very kind to the over 100 billionaires there and to banks with low tax rates, and these billionaires have much increased their billions during the the Covid crisis, an amazing feat, while small business struggle. Even those billionaires donate to the Governor.
        Not many statues of Lenin being erected in the US of A . And China, not doing bad for billionaires. How Red are they?
        The REDS are coming because a few hoodlums are among the protesters?
        Our William Coaker was considered a communist by some, but as the Depression set in, Coaker himself said Nfld needed a Mussolini.
        Churchill said there was only one thing worst than Communism : Fascism. The bigger risk is Fascism, me thinks, Brian.
        Take it you like John Lewis, just buried? Trump was not fond of him.
        Good to see you support peaceful protest, and acknowledge racism is well established as fact.
        Winston Adams

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  2. Little Winston Adams is no naive and triggered that he manages to completely miss the point of the article. Yes, there were slave owners in the US and U.K., just like in most of the world for thousands of years (hint: the Pyramids, the Great Wall and nearly all monuments in the world, before the 19th Century were built by slaves). Some countries still have large amounts of their populations trapped in slavery (Sudan only began to criminalize it, on paper, in 2006 – Mali and Mauritania still have more than 12%of population trapped in slavery – and so on).

    Yet, in the West, for the first time in thousands of years, movements appeared to forbid and outlaw slavery. Washington and Jefferson deserve credit for that! They created a system that gradually improved the human condition like never before in history. This is what the racists pushing identity politics hate and what they don’t want the American public to realize and acknowledge, so that the same American public would be easier to rule and enslave.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Señor Peckford;

    I read this article, The Captive Mind and America’s Resegregation, with great interest and was immediately faced with the burning and obvious question, “To What End is the Mission of BLM”?

    I’m neither willing nor, without promoting great intellectual dishonesty, prepared to, for a nanosecond, conclude that the violent protesting, rioting, looting, vandalism and defacing of property, murdering of people, cancel culture, identity politics, racism and Systemic Racism charges of those engaged in BLM is the result of a genuine desire to “fix” what is now clearly a pseudo racism mantra of illusion and delusion. This absurdity was clearly on display when a black congresswoman accused Bill Barr of Systemic Racism because he never had a black lawyer, as part of his “ group,” at the recent Barr hearing.

    These BLM “protesting” folks cannot, by any measure, be genuinely concerned about black lives. Why have you reached such a conclusion, you may ask. Well, it’s because of rational thought and clearly seeing where the bear ________ in the woods, so to speak.

    Anyone engaged in BLM cannot and should not be taken serious, believed nor given an iota of credence, if the following doesn’t take greater priority on their list of black lives issues:

    A) the numbers of murders of black people by black people is surely a greater concern;
    B) the numbers of blacks who die from opioid overdoses everyday is surely a greater concern;
    C) the number of black teenage pregnancies every year is surely a greater concern;
    D) the number of blacks who are dependent on the welfare system year after year after year is surely a greater concern;
    E) the numbers of black men who impregnate women and than desert their pregnant partner and child immediately thereafter is surely a greater concern;
    F) the number of black children that are really not succeeding in the Education System is surely a greater concern;
    G) the number of blacks who live in fear and will not leave their houses at night is surely a greater concern, etc., etc., etc.!!!

    Again, considering all these obvious and “fixable” challenges, why is the mission of BLM determined by a number of leaders who are avowed Marxists. Jeez, why would you say such a thing. Because of the following quote: “

    “Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors said in a newly surfaced video from 2015 that she and her fellow organizers are “trained Marxists” – making clear their movement’s ideological foundation, according to a report.

    Cullors, 36, was the protégé of Eric Mann, former agitator of the Weather Underground domestic terror organization, and spent years absorbing the Marxist-Leninist ideology that shaped her worldview.

    “The first thing, I think, is that we actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia in particular are trained organizers,” she said, referring to BLM co-founder Alicia Garza.

    “We are trained Marxists. We are super-versed on, sort of, ideological theories. And I think that what we really tried to do is build a movement that could be utilized by many, many black folk,” Cullors added in the interview with Jared Ball of The Real News Network.”— end of quote.

    Again, I believe it is not a stretch, when considering the BLM leaders’ stated views, to conclude that the BLM Mission is really not really about black lives but a major ideological attempt to rip the USA apart and ensure it is reconstituted into the ideology views of the leaders of BLM.

    This being the obvious conclusion, what in this article, The Captive Mind and America’s Resegregation, affirms a need for greater focus on BLM “political” mission versus honest concern for racism. What specifically do I see that worries me (note I have borrowed from the article in a number of places to affirm its validity in my response).

    1. The Fascist and totalitarian tactics of BLM strips men and women of their liberty and this is certainly a strategic and tactical move of BLM;

    2. Absolutely, BLM participants are transformed into “affirmative cogs” and often automatons in the service of the BLM and Mission objective(s), that is, the obliterating what has taken centuries of Western political development to achieve.

    3. BLM is obviously supportive of replacing ordinary human language, in which words signify things in the outside world, with ideologically sanctioned language, in which words signify the BLM ever-changing ideas of what is and is not true, what is acceptable or not.

    4. BLM is, indeed, the neo-Marxist left on steroids, and promotes and sanctions an all-out assault on American cities and institutions. Their objective is not the smoothing of the societal core but its destruction and elimination— make no mistake.

    5. BLM is attempting to rewrite history that turns specific past events into weapons not only to overpower political opponents but also to recast all of American history as a litany of racial transgressions. Guilt is their major tactic supported by censorship, shaming, threats, violence, distortion of reality and you owe me for the “sins” of your distant ancestors— period.

    6. BLM have done and are separating peoples into specific categories because it allows them to identify and separate those groups that deserve affirmation, in their view, and those that do not.

    7. BLM claim unconditional authority to reach deep into each person’s conscience. They prescribe an interpretation of the world and dictate the language with which citizens are permitted to express that interpretation. This is affirmed daily by their direct and indirect censorship efforts.

    8. They demand dismantling police forces and destroy statues but such is only a small manifestation of a massive project aimed at the re-education of the American population. This is akin to a Goebbel’s propaganda war and the brownshirts are waiting patiently in the alleyways.

    How has BLM been able to achieve such momentum? They are:

    1. Supported by leftists politicians who are denying the reality that we see on our TV screens every night.

    2. Supported by the MSM who have now deserted the principles of journalism and are more like propaganda machines than news outlets .

    3. Supported by the entire Education System (K-12, Colleges and Universities). The System has forgotten its real mission and mandate and are now very engaged in the indoctrination of our youth. Our institutions of higher learning are often sowing the seeds of violent behaviour and some of the professors are ringleaders of System overthrow.

    4. Courts have now often become political entities and have forgotten that Lady Justice should and must be blind to have any credibility and longevity.

    5. Many American leaders feel no or minimal obligation towards to those whom they serve. They have tremendous fear of “personal loss,” if they are seen to stand on principle and are counted. It is a phenomenal display of cowardice and short-sightedness.

    It is a classic case of calling and demanding the EMTs put their lives on the line to rescue you, after intentionally shooting oneself in the foot. They, many who are intellectually bereft and unprincipled, have bought into and are complicit in selling the absurdity that the historical realities can be and should be rewritten to appease the particular DNA being exposed to such triggering and acute sensitivities.

    In essence, the most free and accepting nation (USA) on the planet is alleged guilty of unforgivable transgressions from 100s of years ago and no amount of good it has done for all Americans, and the world for that matter, can be part of this transgressions balance sheet.

    Americans must now, it is said, accept the destruction of their Constitution, rewrite history, accept that Systemic Racism is rampant, “colour” every action, accept discrimination against non-black DNA because such is necessary, required, needed and justified. Yes, folks, Americans are by their acquiescence and silence supporting the future foundational elements of a truly race based caste system society— an affront to every relevant principle in the USA Constitution.

    Americans now have a choice, are they going to sit by and watch the children on the streets, adult in age but not behaviour, ruin and destroy that which is sacred to Americans or will Americans stand and say enough?

    Will Americans have the intestinal fortitude to face the biggest threat to Democracy in most of their lifetime or will they let others lay waste to that which the majority of Americans treasure?

    Will Americans cower in fear and let their short-term interest overrule their common sense or will they reach, with great conviction, across the ever growing political and societal divide and do what is necessary but unpleasant?

    All should be acutely aware, Americans’ choices lessen tremendously with the passage of time. Sadly, the destructive and fragmenting momentum gains daily and once enough “destructive critical mass and force,” is attained; Americans will be incapable of containing such—- of that I’m certain, history is full of appeasement gestures that have seldom, if ever, worked.

    Food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. BLM has nothing creative to add to the social discourse on race relations.
    It is the fascist phenomenon that Mr Adams despairs of.

    Like

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