With the help of a fine novel from 2011, The Slog analyses the tragically low awareness of how the Destruction of Truth and humanity is an inevitable outcome when ideological technocracy takes over from free speech democracy.
A recently acquired (but good in every sense of the word) friend lent me a novel three weeks ago. I confess to having never heard of it beforehand, probably because it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and I rarely read anything so honoured.
The book is Snow Drops, a philosophical thriller about Wild West Russia towards the end of the 21st century Naughties.
It was written by A D Miller, the former Economist correspondent in that sad country. He has since gone on to write several other books (about which I know nothing) but I feel the need to write about this, his debut novel published in 2011, because for me it forms part of an enlightening, instructive and altogether essential literary and filmic antidote to the perverted agitprop demonising Russia in so many Western media organisations today.
The body of story-telling Snow Drops deservedly joins is that one devoted to the subject of what happens when a totalitarian ideology first attracts a population, then enslaves it, and finally (once it falls) leaves a legacy. Others in the same genre include – in many ways – the works of Milan Kundera (The incredible lightness of Being) and the brilliant Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck movie of 2006, Das Leben der Anderen. The first was set in post Dubcek Czechoslovakia, and the second in the DDR (Communist East German Republic).
I would also include Julian Barnes’ docunovel about Shostakovitch (The Noise of Time) as an equally depressing and illuminating record of how the Russian composer, despite everything, somehow managed to evade the Gulags of the USSR.
What they all have in common is the underlying themes of, first of all, the insistence of the ideological régime in making all citizens complicit in betrayal….not just of facts, but also of each other; and second, how that leads (either before or after the Gotterdammerung) to an obscene moral vacuum among the surviving citizens.
In all four cases, we see how otherwise potentially good individuals turn bad, and then post-rationalise their casual depravity along the lines of “it is what it is”. The atmosphere of this drift into uncaring exploitation is I think most chillingly described and defined by Andrew Miller….a process he uses with zero didacticism as a stark contrast to the supposedly high aims of the Useful Idiots who first of all swept Lenin to power, and then bowed their heads as the inevitable monster Stalin was created.
There are several lessons in all of it for our own contemporary dupes. Both Angela Merkel and Donald Tusk are classic examples of those who changed sides or took over. So too are the Hungarian men and women who form the mendacious opposition to Viktor Orban. The Spanish leader Rajoy was a ruthless Hoenniker. Guy Verhofstadt is (particularly in his ambitions for Africa) a Kruschev in the making. Emmanuel Macron seems determined (via his Acte XXIV) to crush the Mensheviks in his midst while presenting himself as The Great Helmsman….aka Josef Stalin, the Man of Steel. And what better parallel could we have for the shameful treatment of Hungary in 1956 than the ECB/EC/FiskalUnion vassalisation allowed by shameless turncoat Alexis Tsipras in Greece?
The bottom line of Miller’s dénouement in particular is that, in the final analysis, a “micro” betrayal by a trusted individual is even more horrific than one inflicted upon an entire citizenry….perhaps because the former is perpetrated by an unhuman belief system, whereas the latter is the result of a curate’s egg rendered rotten to the core – and seemingly without remorse – by the abject failure of that same ideology.
We have two inhuman ideas before us right now: a revival in dubious collectivism, and a growing hegemony represented by bloc-headed globalist neoliberalism. Both are based on the same twisted ideals, lies, bending of facts, purges of naysayers and empirical denialism that good historians have both recognised and censured for centuries. Both are based on an insatiable greed for power, and a megalomania intent on dooming Homo sapiens to the role of serf and – who knows, one day? – even food.
People often ask me why I am such a fan of Jeremy Bentham – these days very much an obscure, long-dead philosopher and (to my mind) much neglected thinker. The answer is twofold: first, his starting point was the human individual as a creative and yet methodical mind ready to test the best ways available of maximising every person’s potential; and the second is his firm rejection of unaccountable power based on suppressed information. He saw communitarian creativity as the antidote to diabolic machines. Today, his fears and aspirations are as important as they ever were.
Beyond that, the unfortunate collision of splintered media overload and the daily destruction of Truth are the main things threatening the original inspiration of The Slog: to help protect fragile creativity from streamrollered process. The major power blocs oppose innovation and reward protection: they talk gaily of free trade, but in private spit on the idea of community self-sufficiency. Their aim is to control everything that might represent The Resistance.
In 2019, it doesn’t matter whether the issue is Brexit, Climate Change, Monetary Theory, radical feminism, neoliberal economics, terrorism, growing surveillance, a gang-raped Rule of Law, Islam, anti-Semitism, geopolitical energy access, electronic money, cyber-war, population control or any of the many other massive problems we have created in these, our ninety seconds of geological time on Earth. Every last policy with the ghost of a chance of enactment is motivated primarily by the irrational élites’ lust for hegemenous power – an irrational and compulsive obsession found among roughly 3% of us – and the further 8-10% of dehumanised lackeys needed to Do The Necessary.
The coattail Uriahs have always been there…..working the guillotine, shooting the dissidents, running the Gulags, gassing the Jews, manipulating the Aspergers victims and assassinating everyone with any hope of a better vision for individual humanity on a troubled planet.
A D Miller’s debut novel was and is a comparison (unconscious or otherwise) between two sets of cultural values: those of the villain Raskalnikov in Crime & Punishment, and those of the post-Soviet lost souls in Snow Drops. The former was tortured by guilt, and the latter can torture without guilt. I commend this book to all. It hasn’t dated, because its message is timeless.