Life in the Fully Politicized Society (rerun)

(The politicization of American society has increased markedly since I wrote this post in May of 2014.  Sports, for example, is now politicized–see what happens when a culture loses its last neutral ground?–along with everything from shopping to education. The sway of ‘progressive’ orthodoxy continues to extend its sway over all aspect of American life.)

Many will remember Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech, in which she said:

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed….You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eight years from now, you will have to be engaged.

Victor Davis Hanson notes that she also said:

We are going to have to change our conversation; we’re going to have to change our traditions, our history; we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation.

…which is, of course, entirely consistent with the assertion made by Barack Obama himself, shortly before his first inauguration:  “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

It should be clear by now that all aspects of American life and society are rapidly becoming politicized. Obama has greatly accelerated this movement, but he didn’t initiate it.  The “progressive” political movement, which now controls the Democratic Party, has for a long time been driving the politicization of anything and everything.  The assertion “the personal is political” originated in the late 1960s…and, if the personal is political, then everything is political.

Some people, of course, like the politicization of everything–for some individuals, indeed, their lives would be meaningless without it. In his important memoir of growing up in Germany between the wars, Sebastian Haffnernoted divergent reactions from people when the political and economic situation stabilized (temporarily, as we now know) during the Stresemann chancellorship:

The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness.

But this return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.


To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.

I’m afraid we have quite a few people in America today who like having “the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions.”  But for most people, especially for creative and emotionally-healthy people, the politicization of everything leads to a dreary and airless existence.


In her novel We the Living, based partly on her personal experiences in the early Soviet Union (which is probably why it is, IMO, the best of her books from a literary standpoint), Ayn Rand paints a vivid picture of what day-to-day life in the politicized society is like.  Her heroine, Kira Argounova, is a strong anti-Communist, but absent other options has found a job (which she got through intervention of a Communist friend) in something called “The House of the Peasant,” which is dedicated to “a closer understanding between workers and peasants,” under the slogan “The Clamping of CIty and Village,” celebrated with posters bearing slogans like “Comrades, strengthen the Clamping!”

Kira’s boss at the House of the Peasant is an older woman “thin, gray-haired, military and in strict sympathy with the Soviet Government; her chief aim in life was to give constant evidence of how strict that sympathy was, even though she had graduated from a women’s college…”  But the boss lives in fear of “a tall girl with a long nose and a leather jacket, who was a Party member and could make Comrade Bitiuk shudder at her slightest whim, and knew it…”  All the office staff members also live in fear of the Wall Newspaper, which carries criticisms of individual workers both for their personal behavior as well as their work performance:

Comrade Nadia Chernova is wearing silk stockings. Time to be reminded that such flaunting of luxury is un-proletarian, Comrade Chernova…Comrade E Ovsov indulges in too much talk when asked about business. This leads to a waste of valuable time…We hear that Comrade Kira Argounova is lacking in social spirit. The time is past, Comrade Argounova, for arrogant bourgeois attitudes.

After reading this last, Kira “stood very still and heard her heart beating. No one dared to ignore the mighty pointing finger of the Wall Newspaper…No one could save those branded as “anti-social element,” not even (Kira’s Communist friend) Andrei Taganov…At her desk, she watched the others in the room, wondering who had reported her to the Wall Newspaper…”

All workers in the office are expected to be member of the Marxist Club (ie, to be “engaged,” as Michelle Obama would put it), which meets after hours and for attendance at which the workers are not paid. The club met twice a week: one member read a thesis he had prepared and the others discussed it.  When it is Kira’s turn, she reads her thesis on “Marxism and Leninism,” which she has copied, barely changing the words, from the “ABC of Communism,” a book whose study is compulsory in every school in the country.

She knew that all her listeners had read it, that they had also read her thesis, time and time again, in every editorial of every newspaper for the last six years. They sat around her, hunched, legs stretched out limply, shivering in their overcoats. They knew she was there for the same reason they were.  The girl in the leather jacket presided, yawning once in a while.

After mandatory discussion (“Kira knew that she had to argue and defend her thesis; she knew that the consumptive young man had to argue to show his activity; she knew that he was no more interested in the discussion than she was, that his blue eyelids were weary with sleeplessness, that he clasped his thin hands nervously, not daring to glance at his wristwatch…”), the meeting finally comes to a close. “We shall thank Comrade Argounova for her valuable work,” said the chairman. “Our next meeting will be devoted to a thesis by Comrade Leskov on ‘Marxism and Collectivism.’”

If this sort of thing sounds like a lot of fun to you, then you should be applauding the increased politicization of America.  Of course, to a certain type of person–the type represented above by the girl in the leather jacket–such a society is something to look forward to.

The endpoint of such a society can be found in the words of the Nazi judge Roland Freisler, who, in sentencing Christoph Probst to death, sneered at his defense: “He is a “nonpolitical man” — hence no man at all!”…the implication being that manhood and humanity are only to be found via participation in (approved) political activity. This is the ultimate development of the “the personal is political” line.

The politicization of American life has originated very largely in the universities–indeed, what has happened in these institutions has been a leading indicator for what is happening in the larger society.  For just one of thousands of examples, see this post about the indoctrination conducted by the University of Delaware as part of its “Residence Life” program. See also the notes of one of UD’s designated indoctrinators about his or her interview with a young woman who was showing more independence and spirit than is apparently desired by that institution. The degree of bureaucratic intrusiveness in this conversation could have come right out the the “House of the Peasant” in the above-referenced novel.

I’ve been reading David Mamet’s book about the  film industry, Bambi vs. Godzilla. He mentions his 1992 play Oleanna, which he describes as “a rather straightforward classical tragedy” which “drove people berserk.”  The play involved a girl who made an accusation of rape against a male professor, said accusation being either questionable or outright false.

The play’s first audience a group of undergraduates from Brown. They came to a dress rehearsal. The play ended and I asked the folks what they thought.  “Don’t you think it’s politically questionable,” said one, “to have the girl make a false accusation of rape?”

(I guess it was even more politically questionable for Shakespeare to have Lady Macbeth plotting murder.) Mamet describes his own reaction to the reaction of the Brown students:

I, in my ignorance, was stunned. I didn’t realize that it was my job to be politically acceptable.  I’d always thought society employed me to be dramatic; further, I wondered what force had so perverted the young that they would think that increasing the political enfranchisement of a group rendered a member of that group incapable of error–in effect, rendered her other than huan.

For if the subject of art is not our maculate, fragile, and often pathetic humanity, what is the point of the exercise?

But, of course, in the fully politicized society the role of art is the same as the role of science or education or car-building or grocery-shopping….to promote the interests of the dominant or ascendant power structure.

Note that the incident David Mamet describes happened way back in 1992.  We are now in our second or third generation of university administrators and professors who have grown up in a highly politicized climate and take it as the normal way for human beings to live. It was inevitable that this toxic orientation would seep out into the larger society and increasingly dominate it, and now it has.

9/20/16:  see also the bitter wastes of politicized America  and my ‘theme’ post with multiple links on the nature of politicized societies.

21 thoughts on “Life in the Fully Politicized Society (rerun)”

  1. And the demonstration of political fealty to the narrative are even seeping into amusement like professional sports, with the NFL appearing to turn an approving eye on football players and half-time performers demonstrating solidarity with the Black Lives Matter crowd.

    In the long run, I think this may be Dixie-Chicking the NFL out of an audience for their games, both live and televised.

  2. I have not watched any NFL game, including the super bowl for 3 years now. They lost me when Goodell turned rabid PC.

  3. Understanding is the key. If you understand socialists, and the crap, which doesn’t ever work that they trowel out, then you already understand why they fail, every time. They over reach, and they cannot help themselves. One lie, has to be followed with many more, in order for the first one to work. But the first lie, followed by many more, still doesn’t work, and so, a new lie is told, wrapped around a kernel of some half-truth. Imagine a few million bureaucrats of a socialist govt., all telling the same and the new lies, all the time. They lie to each other, and they lie to everyone they come in contact with, all the time. Pretty soon, no one has one iota of respect for anyone else, but they do respect unbridled-by-truth power. Power becomes all that matters, until the actual power of the truth emerges, destroying the tower of lies that were built with the blood of the people in the way of the socialists. And socialism will always be noted for the bloodshed, the bloodshed it produces to convince the survivors to swallow the lies, and the bloodshed it takes to destroy it, and the liars it produced. It is absolute garbage. But why is it so popular? Because some individuals are enthralled with the idea of telling everyone else what to do, and that power over others lives is the most intoxicating thing in the world to them. Socialists are serial killers on steroids.

  4. This seems to me yet another of the consequences of communism – where criticizing others’ intentions silences them and smearing individuals is rote. Since the thirties, even conservatives have often acted as if the vision was idealistic (well it is ideological and perhaps idealistic if you don’t consider human dignity nor human life as important as a plan). But a habit of ignoring the consequences, of not facing the bad outcomes, of not looking for the root causes of those consequences but thinking they were a bad man in a bad place and not a system, led to history books written by Zinn and education classes with textbooks from Ayers and journalism schools that shouted McCarthy rather than treason.

    Though perhaps, as many say here, it is privileging words over the world – the world is messy and human dignity can be respected but is various and not easily put into categories. I think I’ve said before one of my husband’s beliefs is that he couldn’t buy into post-modernism, post-colonialism, or the other criticisms of his contemporaries because he grew up on a farm and reality was at the end of his shovel (or in his very early youth, behind and in front of that plow and later tractor). We remove ourselves from the physical world at our own peril. And I’m beginning to fear that one of the greatest of the consequences of a combination of cell phones and unemployment will be a generation even more disconnected from the real one.

    My daughter is in her early thirties and was discussing a glitch in the program at her work with the IT people. An applicant had gotten two answers in terms of benefits – a difference between $25,000 and $35,000. The IT people were amazed that the customer relations people could take apart the two conclusions and see where the problem was – that they could add up the group within the 10,000. You must have used a calculator, they said. Not being able to do simple math in our heads or estimate makes for a very gullible mind. Getting easy answers may prove to be not all it is cracked up to be.

  5. Ginny…”The IT people were amazed that the customer relations people could take apart the two conclusions and see where the problem was – that they could add up the group within the 10,000.”

    I’m curious: what *kind* of IT people were these? programmers? managers? first-level support people?

    “Not being able to do simple math in our heads or estimate makes for a very gullible mind. Getting easy answers may prove to be not all it is cracked up to be”….a recent article in Flying Magazine talked about the importance of ‘TLAR’ skills…TLAR meaning ‘that looks about right.’ The article notes that “pilots who lack (TLAR skills) are like painters who can only paint by number. They may look like good artists, but without the numbers they are helpless.”

    The obsessions with Big Data in business is likely to lead to an erosion of TLAR skills.

  6. “This seems to me yet another of the consequences of communism ”

    What we are seeing in colleges and in Hollywood is communism without the economics.

    The political left has stopped worrying about whether communism or socialism works. It doesn’t matter.

    They’ve figured out it’s about power.

  7. “They’ve figured out it’s about power.”

    Yeah, no more scientific socialism. Nowadays among leftists it’s about power for the power-hungry minority or fashion for the foolish/clueless majority. But after a decade or two the fashion appeal starts to dry up.

  8. what happens when a culture loses its last neutral ground?

    Nothing. When the last neutral ground disappears, it means one side has won: its beliefs, its rituals, its standards are now the norm and everyone is expected to obey. Surely the pagan felt the same when the world became Christian.

  9. Politicized describes the final cultural transformation of the West from its Greek, Roman, Christian past, the final abandonment of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and the adoption of Socialist politics, morality, science (in the sense of “knowledge” or “ways of knowing” rather than the Enlightenment definition), religion, assumptions, language, folkways, and culture.

    Are you glad to have lived at a time when the old world expires and the new world is born? What heights shall our successors reach when their culture is firmly based on racial (also called national) socialism, class socialism (communism), feminism, homosexuality, and strict hierarchy of nobility (protected classes)?

    You will never be free to live in the old ways again.

    To quasi-quote a Hollywood movie: Tomorrow belong to them. (They are the people they have been waiting for.)

  10. If this sort of thing sounds like a lot of fun to you, then you should be applauding the increased politicization of America.

    Sound like a tame version of America’s college campuses, studies departments, diversity seminars, white privilege conferences, etc. In other words, its too late to volunteer to applaud: the applause is compulsory, you racist-sexist-fascist-homophobe-cisgendered hater.

    The USA failed to defeat communism during the 1920, failed to resist communism during the 1930s and 1940s, failed again to defeat communism during the 1950s, believing that the virtue of liberty was apparent to all and forgetting the tree of liberty needed watering from time to time. And so America was ashamed to have persecuted communists and to have executed the Rosenbergs, when to survive required much more.

    Socialism in all its guises more closely matches human nature than Western civilization. Not in man’s need for transcendence and truth, but in man’s desire for cruelty and brutality, for the license to indulge without restraint in hatred and in unrefined animal pleasures. Centuries of socialism must now pass until people tire of their evils, until this new civilization is tarnished and corrupted, until this new civilization reeks of despair—only then will the ideals of the West be recovered.

  11. I think there is not enough attention being paid to what happened in North Carolina last night.

    We had another shooting of an armed black man by a black cop. A riot followed which quickly moved onto I 85, a major north-south artery through North Carolina.

    The police were not looking for the man. Apparently, he went into his car and came out shooting when he saw the cops. They were there to serve a warrant on another man.

    The member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department that was involved in the shooting has been identified as Officer Brentley Vinson. As is standard procedure with any officer involved shooting, Vinson has been placed on paid administrative leave. Vinson has been employed with the CMPD since July 21, 2014 and is currently assigned to the Metro Division.

    The man fatally shot was identified as Keith Lamont Scott. His family has been notified of his death. Both the officer and the dead man were identified by police as African-American.

    Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers were at the complex about 4 p.m. looking for a suspect with an outstanding warrant when they encountered the person – not the suspect they were looking for – inside a car, the department said in a statement.

    The person exited the car with a gun, and then got back in, the statement said. When officers approached the car, the person got out of the car with the gun again.

    At that point, officers considered the person a threat and fired their weapons. Police Chief Kerr Putney told reporters at the scene that at least one officer shot the person.

    Body cameras and dashboard cameras were present but the rioters did not wait for any evidence.

    A female truck driver was trapped on the Interstate and her truck looted and burned. She was interviewed by phone on TV while the rioters destroyed her truck.

    This is what November 9 may look like if Trump wins. There seems to be some direction of these rioters from outside. They moved onto an Interstate quickly to block traffic. Today’s commute into Charlotte may be effected. Interstate commerce may also be affected. This may be a plan.

  12. It’s not over in Charlotte.

    Sixteen police officers were injured Tuesday night in a series of clashes, and there were reports early Wednesday of motorists on Interstate 85 being hurt and their vehicles damaged when protesters threw rocks, bottles and traffic cones off interstate overpasses onto traffic below.

    Keith Lamont Scott is shown at right in this photo from a page set up for his family.
    Keith Lamont Scott is shown at right in this photo from a page set up for his family. GoFundMe. com –
    At least 16 police officers were injured during the clashes, including one who was hit in the face with a rock. Most of the injuries were minor, officials said.

    Mayor Jennifer Roberts sent out a message on Twitter early Wednesday, noting: “I will continue to work with our manager and (police) chief…We are reaching out to community to ask for calm.”

    Roberts said in a press conference Wednesday morning that she had been in contact with the state governor’s office, the White House and the NAACP and said the city was going to work to get out information as quickly as possible, while also dispelling rumors.

    Charlotte is a deep blue city and might be a candidate for Baltimore treatment.

  13. Charlotte is a deep blue city and might be a candidate for Baltimore treatment.

    If Baltimore treatment is the fruitless prosecution of the police force… And the ‘allow them room to riot’ (more or less), then I am glad I live nowhere near there.

    As far as I am concerned, recourse outside the law should be treated as the lawlessness that it is. The excuse of ‘racialism’ by the police is handy, and over-used. The excuse of racism by the legal system is also just as handy, and likely even more over-used.
    My thoughts are: Break the law, pay the penalty. Excusing mis-behavior only encourages more of it. That which is rewarded you will get more of.
    My suggestion: Make it rain. People unprepared for rain will become uncomfortable and tend to disperse. The old ‘firehose’ treatment of the Bull Connor days is not appropriate, but raining should work, at least once.
    “Do the crime, do the time, no excuses.”

  14. ErisGuy….I think we have a fighting change. People are starting to realize what a ridiculous scam much of higher education has become. There is much more recognition of media bias and dishonesty.

    But a Hillary Clinton presidency would knock these trends back…more blood for the educational vampire, more self-congratulations from a victorious media seeing itself as a kingmaker.

    After 4 years of a HC presidency, especially if coupled with Democrat gains in the Congress, our chances of recovery would IMO be much worse than they are today.

  15. I’m wondering if the victims of the riot will be able to get in on that spectacular lawsuit filed recently in Dallas. To see those names listed brought me no small amount of joy. This latest outrage falls on the heels of Sadeeq Khan’s warning that we “should get used to riots and terrorism”. He, an associate and counsel to notorious racist, anti-Semite and rabble-rouser, Louis Farrakhan.

    No NFL watching here either. After last seasons deflation hoax, the firing of Craig James, Tebow, NCAA union shakedown etc., I really wasn’t paying much attention. I’m glad to see it’s having an effect.

  16. About “TLAR skills” reminds me about learning to use a slide rule.

    When using a Slide Rule, you had to check for Order of Magnitude reasonableness lost on most people today. Yes calculators and Excel is fast and precise, but there is no check for reasonableness. Something important has been lost. A feel for the numbers has been lost.

  17. Steve Korn:

    About “TLAR skills” reminds me about learning to use a slide rule. When using a Slide Rule, you had to check for Order of Magnitude reasonableness lost on most people today. Yes calculators and Excel is fast and precise, but there is no check for reasonableness. Something important has been lost. A feel for the numbers has been lost.

    That depends. I began with a slide rule, but switched to a calculator my sophomore year in college. I always wrote out equations in exponential notations before punching them out on a calculator. which enabled me to come up with an estimate [TLAR], including to what power of 10, before calculating.

    In any event, estimation is a very important skill to have.

  18. The very early 70’s were a time of relaxation from the politicization of the late 60’s We young ones were BORED by the calm and normalcy when it returned.

    Plus, the popular music went from acid rock to disco as a double whammy.

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