About a year ago I wrote in this space that the rise of Donald Trump was an expression of revolt against the bien-pensants, that class of individuals who know so much better than we do what is good for us. Trump’s election was the culmination of that revolt. The failure of the bien-pensants to understand the revolt, as marked by their continued attack on Trump for believing the way the hoi polloi do and (or at least) speaking their language, simply validates his message, and will likely lead to his renomination and quite possible re-election.
Having already justified the headline of this article, I’d like to explore the roots of the revolt, which go much deeper than the list of impositions in my original article (toilets, lights, nagging cars, etc.). Having ruminated on the question for the last year, I now believe that we can trace the hegemony of the bien-pensants all the way back to Plato, but I’m going to stop at the Big Three, the great frauds that most directly shape the thinking of the modern intelligentsia: Marx, Darwin, and Freud.
I proclaim no great knowledge of these three, and quite possibly in what I write I will distort their thinking and teachings, but I’m as superficially conversant with the Three Frauds as the next man, and what is important is not so much the details of their thinking as its impact on the policy debates of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Marx, then. From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs. No one who lives in the real world, where people work (rather than think) for a living, believes that this is a workable basis for public policy. Yet it is incontestably powerful in the political world and produces such counter-productive policies as welfare and the graduated income tax.
Marx remains powerful among the bien-pensants, especially on college campuses, where much indoctrination of the ruling class takes place. If you send your kids to a community college, they have an excellent chance of avoiding this indoctrination, but the elite schools are a death-trap.
A second fraud perpetrated by Marx is the inexorability of history, which downplays the significance of individual action, and teaches us that we are helpless pawns of History, which is working its way to its inevitable conclusion. The nature of that conclusion has changed over time, and no one quite knows where History is taking us at this moment, but wherever it is, we are just along for the ride, powerless passengers.
Freud the Fraud (the pun is irresistible) builds on this idea of powerlessness, bringing it down to the personal level. We are all shaped by events that took place before we were conscious of them, perhaps before we were even born. Within us is a subconscious that controls our actions, even contrary to our reason and will.
The implications of Freudianism are particularly powerful in law enforcement and penology, teaching us that we are not responsible for the murder we just committed. It was our subconscious, formed by our dreams, or our mothers, or our environment, or the Big Mac we just ate. Anything other than our autonomous decisions.
Most of us recognize guilt as a powerful actor in shaping us, as individuals, into responsible and dependable members of society. Freud instructs us that guilt is destructive, does not exist, and should be rejected in the interest of freeing us to be “what we really are.” A teaching more conducive to social chaos is hard to imagine. Luckily, most of us recognize it for the nonsense it is, but then, “most of us” don’t make policy.
And, finally, Darwin. Darwinism is a categorical rejection of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but the hoi polloi don’t need to know that to reject its implications. If we are the result of blind evolutionary forces operating (somehow – the details are always a little murky) on bits of matter, then (again) we are not responsible for ourselves or to each other. This teaching has implications for many of the same policies as Freudianism, but the rejection of Darwin can be seen most clearly, perhaps in the Climate Change debate (or whatever they are calling it this week).
Most of us believe that God created the world (few of us any longer believe that he did it in seven days) and that he created it for Mankind. We reject as unreasonable the idea that he would have created a world inadequate to the support of the numbers of humans being born into it, or a world so unstable that heating it (temporarily) by burning fossil fuels would destroy it.
Most of us look at the complexity of the human body, the impossibility of organisms like the tarantula hawk (or any butterfly, emerging from a cocoon spun by a larva of a totally different structure), and we impute Purpose to the universe. Darwin denies it.
Darwin also has implication for free will and personal responsibility. If we are the result of blind interactions of atoms and molecules, then we are not responsible for our actions. Mother Teresa and Ted Bundy, Genghis Khan and Christiaan Barnard, Jane Adams and the Marquis de Sade, each and all the result of chance, and no basis for weighing one better than another on a moral scale.
But we do judge, and in doing so we reject Darwin, and all the attempts to cram him down our throats.
It will occur to the careful reader that one thing the Three Frauds have in common is that they all reject religion. If it is not “the opiate of the masses,” it is part of that complex of guilt from which we must be freed, or impossible to reconcile with an understanding of the human being as the result of blind evolutionary forces. They are also useful in combating that most reactionary of social institutions, the family, on which the bien-pensants have waged war since Plato.