|18th St Washington DC 2021/6|
This piece by Umair Haque, “The New Dark Age and Death of Freedom” caught my eye this morning, and it varies a lit from his apparent confidence in communism. This time, he puts together China’s techno-dystopian communism with Putinism. Trumpism in America, and Modi’s “religious supremacism”.
The majority of people don’t want freedom now, because most of them get left too far behind, in debt, and in a world that doesn’t seem to have any meaning if “anything goes”.
At least old hierarchal feudal systems gave people context and meaning as to where they were, and even relative “power” if they could fit in socially in the right place.
I want to connect this piece to George Packer’s “4 Americas”, discussed on the Book Review blog June 8.
But I would put Packer’s “Smart America” with “Free America”. In fact, it’s “Real America” and “Just America” who can’t make it in individualistic culture, especially “Just”.
And there is something disingenuous that happens at this intersection of “Smart” and “free”. The “smart people” (and that includes me, as I see myself) want the “freedom” to use their personal lives as a way to project values onto others, because that helps them “get it up”. The values (the things that turn them on) give their lives an importance that particularly makes morally controlled marital sex life, within the family, attractive and meaningful. The religious right is best known for this (but that’s “Real” America). But then the gay male community, back before Internet times (even as it dealt with the AIDS crisis) also often expressed upwardly affiliative values that you might call “body fascism”, a strange copy of part of sexual fundamentalism. There was something exciting about seeing the rest of the world judged by “your” standards, but you needed a certain freedom (and privacy) to achieve this. This all upended with the Internet.
The demands, particularly of “Just America”, seems to be that “Smart America” particularly give up its individuality and meritocratic judgmentalism, learn to live with communal consciousness, and find point in lifting up those who, as individuals, are not well thought of now. That’s very hard and even insulting when presented as a “demand”, often these days cloaked in a group level as a concept like “allyship”. But, the Left’s demands say, you should be OK with accepting personal humiliation in the context of belonging to an oppressed group. No one is immune.