Translated by G. A. Malvicini
We have already had the occasion to point to the illusoriness of the claim that modern man, in general, has achieved an autonomy and self-consciousness he previously lacked. This illusion can in part be explained by the fact that attention today is primarily directed towards external conditions, to the disappearance of certain material limits to the freedom of the individual — boundaries that were often not without a raison d’être, and which now have merely been replaced by others — while ignoring the matter of inner (mental and spiritual) autonomy, and everything that is necessary in order to acquire it and defend it.
From this latter point of view, there is really no reason at all to speak of progress; it would be more legitimate to speak once again of a regression, since a series of processes has made man today particularly vulnerable and passive with regard to a type of influences that could be called “subtle,” hidden, or subliminal, and that almost always are of a collective nature. This is inevitable in a “mass civilization” of the kind that more and more is being imposed everywhere the world, and it is a phenomenon that manifests itself on several different levels.
On the most trivial level, the role now played by advertisement and propaganda would be inconceivable without this passive opening up of the individual: an opening up which has either already taken place, or which can easily be achieved through specific techniques. We know that in America, as part of what is called MR (= motivational research), psychiatry and psychoanalysis have been enlisted by the advertising industry to provide guidance as to which “subtle” methods are the most effective in psychologically influencing the public. By applying leverage to the unconscious and primitive layers of the psyche, it is possible to elicit decisions and choices in a desired direction, or to arouse specific interests. The largest US companies have special departments for motivational research, and the fact that huge sums are spent on them must mean that these methods work, that their investments have yielded profits, and therefore, that the defenseless passivity we spoke of does in fact exist in a very great number of men and women.
It is instructive that all this has occurred in America, the country where, under the sign of democracy, man is claimed to have achieved the highest degree of freedom, emancipation, and self-consciousness. In fact, in this supposed “land of the free,” this so-called “free world,” invisible coercion and social control through the various forms of conformism and public opinion is often at least as great as the control exercised visibly and directly by the state in so-called totalitarian systems of the “unfree” world. To the extent that there is any difference, it may not be to the advantage of the so-called “free world,” since there, social and psychological control is not perceived as such, whereas in the latter case, it is directly felt, and is therefore more likely to elicit some form of resistance.
We spoke of advertising; but from advertising to political propaganda, there is only a short step. Hence, in America, there have been those who have noted with indignation that the techniques used in the presidential elections do not, structurally speaking, differ much from those used to foist a certain brand of soap or kitchen appliance on the public.
In this respect, as in so many others, America is only an extreme case. There, processes that are underway in other countries as well are simply more visible, and pushed to the point of absurdity. Indeed, one could say that the success of the ideologies and slogans that almost completely dominate today’s political and social life is solely dependent on the absence, in most individuals, of defenses that might bar access to the sub-intellectual, irrational and “physical” part of the psyche. If the threshold to this zone were guarded, it would automatically deprive of their efficacy the methods now applied on a vast scale by political and social agitators — methods used to rouse the masses and lead them in a certain direction, without depriving them of the illusion that they are guided solely by their own will and by their own true interests.
Moreover, in this climate, quasi-autonomous collective currents arise that have a subtle, invisible substrate with infective properties. This explains certain curious and unexpected effects of conformism. There are individuals who, in a given political and social system, agree to participate in it while simultaneously maintaining ideals and principles of a different, even opposite type. At a certain point these people sometimes find that their mentality has been changed; but in most cases, they are not even aware of the change.
This can also occur when a political system is adhered to for reasons that, in the beginning, were purely external, insincere, and opportunistic, driven by ulterior motives or tactical considerations. This kind of participation in fact places the individual in a kind of autonomous, collective psychic vortex; and if the individual lacks internal defenses, reinforced by vigilance and impersonal loyalty to a higher idea, in the long term it is difficult to avoid the danger of infection. This is usually not taken into consideration for the reason already mentioned: one remains within a superficial, external conception of the forces acting in a given society and in a given historical climate, and the dimension of depth — the “psychic” dimension — of these forces is ignored.
This is directly related to the ”charge” certain words or phrases are invested with and the contaminating effect they exert on anyone who nonetheless agrees to use them. Here, intellectual cowardice and spinelessness also plays a part. The climate in Italy at the time of this writing offers prime examples of this. We are referring to the whole terminology promoted by the forces of the Left, of democracy, Marxism, and communism, and accepted by others in the senses predefined by these same forces.
First of all, there is the word “democracy.” Stultification and passive inertia have reached the point where this word has become sacrosanct, assented to and repeated ad nauseam. Today there seems to be a kind of anxiousness about not promoting democracy and not declaring oneself to be, in one way or another, democratic. The surrender and retreat before the the enemy becomes obvious when, instead of absolutely refusing from the start to partake in this game, one excuses oneself with this or that qualification: “true” democracy, “national” democracy, “healthy” democracy, etc., thereby forgetting Goethe’s words: “From those spirits which you have summoned, you will free yourself with difficulty” — and oblivious to the fact that one now has been contaminated by one’s adversary.
Other fetishized words of the same kind, with the same hidden infective properties, are “socialism,” “work,” “the working class,” “sociality,” “social justice,” “the meaning of history,” and, on the other hand, “reaction,” “obscurantism,” “immobility,” etc. At a certain point, one may notice that one no longer has the courage to take a stand against these phrases; it comes to seem natural to use them, and regardless of any mental reservations of the men who do not completely belong to the front of global subversion, these words are just as effective in influencing those who use them, pushing them in the general direction of the ideologies to which these formulas properly belong, from which they originate and derive their meaning. It is enough to observe what is said and written today even in circles that do not at all belong to the left, circles that claim to be “oppositional,” to realize how much they have lent themselves to this insidious game, and to the gradual and unnoticed surrender that is its consequence.
We will limit ourselves to a couple of examples. With regard to “reaction,” we will not repeat what we have stated repeatedly on other occasions concerning the arrant claims of those who make the word “reaction” into a negative term, as if, while certain parties “act,” others should refrain from reacting, turn the other cheek like good Christians and say, “Well done, keep it up!” and allow legitimate self-defense to be labeled a ”provocation.” Biology and medicine teach us that when a tissue no longer “reacts” to a stimulus, it is considered dead or nearly dead. This, unfortunately, could as well be a diagnosis of the current situation.
We have already discussed the myth of “work” and the “worker” in a previous chapter. Another instance of stupid, passive acquiescence is the way the term “committed” is allowed to be monopolized by Leftist intellectuals. The implication is that anyone who is not a Leftist, is not “committed” as a writer, an intellectual or a man of action, i.e., that they are frivolous, superficial, irresolute, lacking in vigor, and with no real cause to defend. This logical implication appears to completely escape those who nonetheless accept the equating of the terms ”committed” and “Leftist.” Again, they allow themselves to be passively dragged along by the current. That the opposite is true, that only he is truly “committed” who defends precisely the higher ideals and transcendent ends that the the Leftist rabble (intellectual or otherwise) covers with contempt and disrepute, is hardly worth pointing out.
Other cases of retreat and intellectual cowardice ought to be pointed out regarding the so-called “meaning of history” (in the subversive sense). Naturally, the current that has prevailed in recent centuries is, unfortunately, the one highlighted by the progressive Left, but it must be interpreted differently. The general direction, the meaning of this historical current is one of collapse, of the gradual disintegration of every higher and legitimate order. With regard to the concrete course of history, the description of facts has to be separated from their evaluation. Intellectual surrender to the ideology of subversion occurs when one grants that which exists the character of something that should exist, of something good, thereby eliminating the moral justification of a reaction. The origin of this deviation lies in Hegelian historicism, with its well-known identification of the real with the rational. However, regardless of the degree to which it is still possible to divert the current historical process, and even if the process is irreversible, one should speak not of the meaning, but of the meaninglessness of history, and one should refuse categorically and absolutely to bow before this idol.
Unfortunately, today the example of surrender comes from a higher instance, which according to some is the highest positive spiritual authority in the West: from the Catholic Church. The Church, precisely by accepting the “meaning of history,” tries to bring itself up to date, to catch up with the times, to open itself up to the left. There are also Catholics who have stated that basically, true Christianity today is alive and active precisely in democratic, Marxist, and communist movements, hence the appearance of the so-called nuovi preti [new priests] and, coming from the highest authority, the formula of “dialogue” with the very forces and ideologies that Pope Pius IX had openly stigmatized and condemned in the Syllabus.
The modernist Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin had already paved the way for all of this by formulating a doctrine, now in the course of being rehabilitated by the Church, which could serve as a theoretical framework. Teilhard has transposed the Christian idea of a providential direction of the course of history into the terms of a progressive and linear evolutionism, including science, technology, and social achievements.
Naturally, one prefers to forget certain essential themes of the original Christian view of history and of times to come, a conception that is much less linear and has less of a happy end: given the fact that end times were spoken of in rather catastrophic, “apocalyptic,” terms, with the appearance of false prophets, the coming of the Antichrist, the terrible Last Judgment, the separation between the elect and the damned instead of the universal redemption, through “progress,” of a humanity that has become exclusively “earthly.” All these themes in early Christianity, deformations and mythologisations aside, fundamentally reflected some valid traditional teachings.
Alongside the sacrosanct “meaning of history,” the term “immobility” is now passively accepted in the negative sense it has been associated with. To defend one’s position is considered a sign of stagnation and “immobility,” while changing position, naturally in the sense of following the lead of one’s adversary, thereby granting him one’s tacit approval, is supposed to be a good thing. Disregarding its crudest aspect, this claim is also based on the myth of progress: almost as if any change, as such, necessarily meant something positive, an advance, a gain. Bruce Marshall has aptly written: “The so-called backward societies [we might say “immobile”] are those who have the good sense to stop when they reach their destination, while the progressive societies are those that are so blind that they pass it, rushing on madly.”
In a general sense, we can refer to what we have already stated, regarding a higher plane: that there is such a thing as ”stability,” which has nothing to do with immobility, and that one must absolutely oppose the identification of these two terms, is something that seems to occur to no-one today. In political struggle, “immobility” is yet another bugbear associated with “reaction.” Even men supposedly of the right have now accepted this jargon, trembling before such accusations. Moreover, should we be surprised if, as we have already stated, the Church itself is “changing,” no doubt fearing that otherwise, it will be uprooted and shattered by the current of history, and deluding itself that it can escape this possible fate through a policy of “openness”?
Let us take another example: “paternalism.” Here, too, we can take note of the acquiescence to the negative sense that term is invested with by the ideologies of subversion, while forgetting what it implies: the devaluation of the very concept of family worthy of the name. In fact, what is devalued is the very center of the family: the authority and the natural and positive function of the father. The solicitude and care of the father, affectionate, of course, but, when necessary, not without severity, protecting and conceding, on the basis of a personal relationship, with judiciousness and justice — all this is considered, transposed to the social plane, deplorable, intolerable, an offense to the dignity of the “working class.” The objective here is twofold: on one hand, to destroy the traditional ideal of the family, and on the other, to attack everything that in a normal society could have, and indeed once did have, a natural and organic, personalized and “human” character, as opposed to a state of latent civil war and a system of “claims,” which should finally be called by their true name: blackmail.
Regarding the docility in the face of new “trends” in language, one could refer, in passing, to a case that this time involves feminist “claims,” even if the particular domain here is rather banal. In Italy, it has become common to use masculine terms to refer to charges and professions, even when they are performed by women. Some people no longer dare say “avvocatessa” [the feminine form of avvocato, “lawyer”] instead of “avvocato” for a woman who exercises this profession, and the same goes for “dottore” [doctor], “ambasciatore” [ambassador], etc. Soon perhaps words like “maestra” [school mistress], “professoressa“ and “poetessa” should be removed from the vocabulary and deemed offensive to the dignity of women. The fact that this idiocy has consequences exactly opposite of those intended, seems to escape women themselves. The latter, indeed, do not realize that in claiming the masculine form of these designations, they do not attain equality with men (equality while remaining women), but the opposite, assimilation to man. It would be different if Italian had a neutral gender, in addition to masculine and feminine forms, and all those terms could be used in the neutral, rather than the feminine, form. Only then would it be possible to designate activities and professions, the male prerogative of which one wishes to dispute. But in this stupid new trend, people are unknowingly influenced by the English language, which lacks a feminine form for many professions and occupations, making it necessary to add the word “lady” to doctor, barrister, etc.; Italian, by contrast, almost always has a feminine form (dottoressa, avvocatessa, poetessa, etc.), and there is no apparent reason for failing to use it, except stupid democratic and egalitarian conformism.
In this case, the docility and acquiescence of most men must be emphasized. They should have ridiculed this new jargon, and the same goes for many other recent forms of ”progress.” As for those women who apparently are ashamed to be women, and want to make this distortion into a permanent modification of our language — in a normal society, they should be entrusted to specialists in diabolical hormonal manipulations, so that through adequate treatment, they could be transformed into exponents of the “third sex,” thus attaining the goal of their aspirations, on every level. Although, for the sake of justice, one might ask whether such treatment would not be appropriate also for men whenever the aforementioned docility is not so much caused by the subtle influences of the environment and unconscious processes that operate on the infra-intellectual part of the psyche of the common man, but instead are due to an inability to react and to demonstrate true virility through moral courage and lucid, resolute judgment.
Source: L’Arco e la Clava [The Bow and the Club] (Milan: Scheiwiller, 1968)