Saturday, 14 May 2011

After The Cold War, The Culture War

John writes:

Life magazine has an interesting slideshow of different photographs comparing capitalist with “commie” architecture. While my general impression is that the differences between the two are not as large as some would have it, I found some photos to be rather interesting. For example, while Life was sure to show a picture of a modest wooden house from Siberia, where were the pictures of dilapidated housing or trailer parks that you might see in many areas of the United States?

However, what struck me the most was the contrast between tacky symbols of American consumerism such as a Wal-Mart store and the Mall of America, and the National Gallery of Armenia and the Yerevan Opera House, also in Armenia. While I admit the economic superiority of capitalism, I sometimes wonder if, culturally speaking, we are worse off under modern capitalism than the peoples of Eastern Europe were under communism. In 2009, Zsuzsanna Clark wrote an excellent article about the positive aspects of growing up in Communist Hungary, including the promotion of high culture by the government.

While I enjoy some of the sillier aspects of American popular culture, such as kitschy velvet paintings of Elvis Presley, contemporary American pop culture is now exceedingly vulgar. Reality television invites us to be mean-spirited and to take joy in the misery and embarrassment of others, and not in an innocuous, slapstick manner, but in a very cruel way. This cultural degradation likely has its most destructive impact on working-class and poor people, who are not only debased in our popular culture but debased by it.

While communism had a bloody and cruel history, including the often violent suppression of religion, there might be something that social conservatives can learn from the communist experiment. Social conservatives often rail against the vulgarity of modern popular culture but often seem to miss the fact that it is the business world that creates most of our junk culture, not the government.

Social conservatives can complain about Marxist professors and Hollywood liberals, but the fact is that businessmen such as Hugh Hefner were probably much more influential than Leftist academics when it came to spreading the Sexual Revolution among the masses. Social conservatives would do well to look to some of the better ideals of socialism and communism, such as spreading high culture among the masses, while socialists and communists would benefit from recognizing the important role that religion has played and can continue to play in the development of cultural excellence.

The decadent social libertinism of the 1960s did in fact set the scene for the extension of the same principles into the economic sphere, and thus their entrenchment by, in, through and as the decadent economic libertinism of the 1980s. Here in Britain, the same Oliver Smedley who bankrolled the union-busting, drugs-and-promiscuity-promoting criminality that was pirate radio, went on to bankroll the proto-Thatcherite Institute of Economic Affairs. You cannot believe in the "free" market unless you believe in unregulated drinking and gambling, and in legal access to drugs, prostitution and pornography. Hugh Heffner’s Playboy Foundation is a major financial backer of efforts to retain abortion on demand up to and including partial birth in the United States, and it funds "Catholics for a Free Choice", as that organisation’s own accounts make clear. More than shades of Alfred C Kinsey’s funding by organised vice.

Whereas Russia is now emerging from the gangster capitalism that has followed Communism ever since the events that John describes set the unhappy, unnecessary pattern. She once again recognises herself as pre-eminent among the Slavs in their mission as the age-old gatekeepers of our Biblical-Classical civilisation, whether against Islam, against Far Eastern domination, or now also against the godless, rootless, stupefied, promiscuous, usury-based, metrosexual, war-hungry pseudo-West that holds up Israel, Georgia and Taiwan as supposedly plucky and inspiring outposts.

Attempts to drag Russia into the pseudo-West were not only always doomed, although guaranteed to cause immense pain in being proved so, but they also failed to take account of the seeds of hope even within the Soviet system as such, notably the strong patriotism, and the very traditional system of education, in which teachers who were universally assumed to know more than their pupils stood in front of orderly rows of uniformed young charges and simply imparted their knowledge, with the result that, once the veneer of Marxist vocabulary was stripped away, that system’s products were often significantly better-educated than many of their Western contemporaries.

And just as pre-Communist Russia always remained the country’s true character, so very pre-Communist China remains the country’s true character. That character reveres tradition and ritual, upholds government by moral rather than physical force, affirms the Golden Rule, is Agrarian and Distributist, and has barely started an external war since China became China five thousand years ago. It is especially open to completion by, in, through and as classical Christianity. China has already moved from Maoism to the equal repressiveness of unbridled capitalism. The reassertion of her own culture is to be encouraged by every means of "soft" (in reality, truly hard) power, and the same is true of the wider Confucian world. But economic, or any other, dependence on a foreign power remains totally unacceptable.

The Friedman-courting Carter Administration, whence came Madeleine Albright and the late Richard Holbrooke, was particularly bad for abusing the noble cause of anti-Communism by emphasising Soviet human rights abuses while ignoring Chinese and Romanian ones. It even happily allowed the Chinese-backed Pol Pot to retain control of the Cambodian seat at the UN after Phnom Penh had fallen to the rival forces backed by Vietnam and therefore by the Soviet Union. Similar paw prints were also evident on Margaret Thatcher’s holding out for the Chinese-backed Robert Mugabe, for whom she arranged a knighthood, as if he would have been any better than the Soviet-backed Joshua Nkomo.

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