We’re publishing an original essay this morning by Dr. James Alexander, a Politics Professor at Bilkent University in Turkey, elaborating on the theme of a recent article by Dr. Will Jones on how three moral crusades are increasingly being used to control our lives by people in authority: the crusade against Covid, the crusade against climate change and the crusade against ‘social injustice’, as defined by the woke. (Will calls this the “unholy trinity”.) Dr. Alexander says that, together, these three causes have led to a kind of nice totalitarianism – that is, a massive escalation in social and state control carried out in the name of protecting people. This makes it hard to push back against because, after all, who doesn’t want to protect the elderly from a deadly disease, or save the planet, or make historically marginalised groups feel included and secure? Here’s an extract from Professor Alexander’s piece:
In form it is TOTALITARIAN. That is to say, it is a secular religion: it is flowing into the fissures in the rock of our civilisation as Christianity has receded. One could even say that it is the sand and water which is finally fracking out the last residues of Christianity. Our civilisation is increasingly coming to resemble historic Chinese civilisation. In the press, China is the geopolitical enemy. But now chinoiserie is the enemy within. This is no exaggeration. I think the last century and a half has seen a great change in the structure of society. We have seen the rise of an elite which is not clerical – Oxford and Cambridge were highly clerical until the late nineteenth century – but secular. Moreover, we have seen a system of secular education emerge that is far more extensive than anyone could have imagined in the nineteenth century. In the 1880s a few thousand men went to Oxford and Cambridge every year. Now, since 2020 or so, half of those who leave school – boys and girls – go to university. Half of the population has a higher education. But since most of this half of the population is actually unsuited to academic education (which is no fault of theirs), we do not have a nation of Aristotles and Einsteins. The old liberal distinction between education and indoctrination has been obliterated. So we have instead a nation of Stakhanovs and Pecksniffs. Bartleby the scrivener now says, “I would prefer to”, because he knows why – he’s had a higher education, you see. The sense of entitlement this creates in this half of the population is only matched by the instinct of compliance it creates. What we have seen emerge in the last 60 years is a vast Mandarin class. Half the population is now willing to join an entitled and likely very inefficient guild of administratively-minded, state-ideologised and corporately-smoothed functionaries and professionals.
But there is a twist, and the twist is that even though this is the case – and though it is very Chinese in form – the content is not what we are familiar with from our studies of totalitarianism at GCSE and A Level. The classic totalitarian regimes were, of course, fascist or communist: they had a singular, monolithic ideology, one which emphasised uniformity. This is the opposite of our totalitarianism. Our totalitarianism is liberal: it is not singular, not monolithic, because it does not emphasise uniformity, but diversity: indeed, it celebrates diversity.
It celebrates diversity in every respect but one. Every sort of diversity – of preference, of association, of lifestyle, of utterance, of fashion, of taste, of belief, of sexuality – is permitted except diversity of opinion about the sacred causes of COVID, CLIMATE and WOKERY. The first two have special status, despite being uniformitarian, because they are matters of ‘science’ and are sanctified by statistical visions of the coming secular apocalypse. One cannot disagree about those. If one disagrees with the first then one is a ‘covidiot’ or part of the ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ or ‘ignorant’. If one disagrees with the second then one is a ‘climate denier’, a ‘conspiracy theorist’ or ‘complacent’. Either way, one is a cause of death. If one disagrees with WOKERY then one is – and this is the most toxic and the most feared – ‘deplorable’, ‘racist’, ‘patriarchal’, ‘transphobic’ and so on. When I say that we cannot have diversity of opinion about diversity, what I mean is that there is a monotonous singularity operating within the system which requires everyone to approve of diversity. It is not possible to express a diverse point of view about this. As is often said, all forms of diversity are acceptable except diversity of political opinion. This is because there is an overwhelming need to make it impossible for traditional uniformitarian ideologies to proselytise: there has to be what we could call a ‘single lock’ which prevents anyone defending anything like a traditional religious position on anything – unless, of course, it is a minority position and thus tolerated under the extension of indulgence to the marginal and oppressed (no matter what contradictions result from this – contradictions such as wokeists defending religious fanaticism).
The twist means that what we have here is NICE TOTALITARIANISM. We have totalitarianism in our state ideology of political correctness which was first glimpsed in the innocent 1990s but has become intensified since around 2010: as mass higher education has coincided with post-industrial work practices and the rise of social mediation by technological means. But this totalitarianism is nice exactly because it has taken the form in the West of the ‘unholy trinity’ or ‘devil’s fork’ of the three great progressive themes of COVID, CLIMATE and WOKERY.
Nice totalitarianism is actually, of course, nasty. It is interventionist, insolent, insinuating, invasive. One of its superheroes is the now famous Captain Hindsight; but he has been joined by his colleagues in the Build Back Better Universe: Modelling-Man, Nurse Prevention and General Censorship. Politicians talk about Zero Covid and Zero Carbon and are likely soon to be talking about Zero Bias (if that is a sufficiently strong term for the combination of zero prejudice, zero privilege and zero hate). Such rhetoric is, as Will Jones has already observed, a rhetoric of absolute justification for an endless, infinite and miscellaneous set of projects. Such rhetoric is sustainable (which means indestructible), alas, because the causes to which it is devoted are unachievable: yet it is imperative that we adopt these causes because they are opposed to hate and death. They enable our rulers to perpetuate a wholly novel form of totalitarian rule, which is armoured by the fact it is for so many reasons nice and is thus hard to argue with in our current abject moral state. We are being outfoxed by the latest Machiavellians.
If anyone else would like to write something about the unholy trinity, send it to email@example.com.