Saturday, June 11, 2016

Chronicles of Wasted Time

This seems like peak efficiency for me, so I pass it on to you.  Scott Alexander reviews Malcolm Muggeridge's Chronicles of Wasted Time so well that I don't feel much need to read it.  Looks great, too.  Glad I got it installed.

It's an excellent reminder of how deeply sympathetic much of the western intelligentsia was to communism, and their resistance to seeing the truth of it willful. If there is a rewriting of the history of the 20th C in favor of America:All Things Great, there has been an even more inaccurate account that can find nothing to praise in its mainstream culture, discovering heroes and heroines only in those who correct its errors (or think so).  But the rise and fall of communism, with the slaughter of at least 100,000,000 of its own people - never mind those it found to war with - is the dominant piece of history  in the 20th C.

Here's a nice quote Alexander extracts from Muggeridge, after he has not only seen through all of Stalinis, but found that he cannot convince anyone of what he has seen.
All this likewise indubitably belonged to history, and would have to be historically assessed; like the Murder of the Innocents, or the Black Death, or the Battle of Paschendaele. But there was something else; a monumental death-wish, an immense destructive force loosed in the world which was going to sweep over everything and everyone, laying them flat, burning, killing, obliterating, until nothing was left. Those German agronomes in their green uniform suits with feathers in their hats – they had their part to play. So had the paunchy Brown-Shirts, and the matronly blonde maidens painting swastikas on the windows of Jewish shops. So had the credulous armies of the just, listening open-mouthed to Intourist patter, or seeking reassurance from a boozy sandalled Wicksteed. Wise old Shaw, high-minded old Barbusse, the venerable Webbs, Gide the pure in heart and Picasso the impure, down to poor little teachers, crazed clergymen and millionaires, drivelling dons and very special correspondents like Duranty, all resolved, come what might, to believe anything, however preposterous, to overlook anything, however villainous, to approve anything, however obscurantist and brutally authoritarian, in order to be able to preserve intact the confident expectation that one of the most thorough-going, ruthless, and bloody tyrannies ever to exist on Earth could be relied on to champion human freedom, the brotherhood of man, and all the other good liberal causes to which they had dedicated their lives. All resolved, in other words, to abolish themselves and their world, the rest of us with it. Nor have I from that time ever had the faintest expectation that, in earthly terms, anything could be salvaged; that any earthly battle could be won or earthly solution found. It has all just been sleep-walking to the end of the night.


james said...

" Yes, he deserves the thanks of a grateful civilization for being a lone voice in the wilderness warning us about Stalin. But after that, as per his Wikipedia page, he was a lone voice in the wilderness warning us about contraception. After that, he became a lone voice in the wilderness warning us about marijuana. After that, he became a lone voice in the wilderness warning us about blasphemy in The Life Of Brian."

Hmm. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn't a psychological ailment but an actual sense of what was going on around him. Seems like there's been an "unexpected" side effect to widespread use of contraception--reproduction below replacement levels, for one. I've not seen Life of Brian (never got around to it, though the "splitter" scene is quite good), so I won't comment.

I wonder if the rise of utopian ideologies is somehow tied to a sense of the worthlessness of society. IIRC Hitler made a big deal of how decadent liberal democracy was, and the Communists then and now dislike pretty much everything about it.

Sam L. said...

Too well educated (indoctrinated) by the Communist and socialists.