The Return of the Primitive
In his introduction to The Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, the 1999 update of Ayn Rand's early 1970s anthology originally titled The New Left, Peter Schwartz, the editor of the new edition, wrote:
Primitive, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means: “Of or belonging to the first age, period or stage; pertaining to early times ...” With respect to human development, primitivism is a pre-rational stage. It is a stage in which man lives in fearful awe of a universe he cannot understand. The primitive man does not grasp the law of causality. He does not comprehend the fact that the world is governed by natural laws and that nature can be ruled by any man who discovers those laws. To a primitive, there is only a mysterious supernatural. Sunshine, darkness, rainfall, drought, the clap of thunder, the hooting of a spotted owl— all are inexplicable, portentous, and sacrosanct to him. To this non-conceptual mentality, man is metaphysically subordinate to nature, which is never to be commanded, only meekly obeyed.
This is the state of mind to which the environmentalists want us to revert.
If primitive man regards the world as unknowable, how does he decide what to believe and how to act? Since such knowledge is not innate, where does primitive man turn for guidance? To his tribe. It is membership in a collective that infuses such a person with his sole sense of identity. The tribe’s edicts thus become his unquestioned absolutes, and the tribe’s welfare becomes his fundamental value.
This is the state of mind to which the multiculturalists want us to revert. They hold that the basic unit of existence is the tribe, which they define by the crudest, most primitive, most anti-conceptual criteria (such as skin color). They consequently reject the view that the achievements of Western— i.e., individualistic— civilization represent a way of life superior to that of savage tribalism.
Both environmentalism and multiculturalism wish to destroy the values of a rational, industrial age. Both are scions of the New Left, zealously carrying on its campaign of sacrificing progress to primitivism.
In addition to the shocking Islamic terrorist attack yesterday in London, a troika of pop culture-related stories making the rounds today reminds us that reprimitivization is well on its way.
First up, "Movement to Normalize Pedophilia Finds Its Poster Girl," Stacy McCain writes in the American Spectator:
In January, Rush Limbaugh warned that there was “an effort under way to normalize pedophilia,” and was ridiculed by liberals (including CNN’s Soledad O’Brien) for saying so. But now liberals have joined a crusade that, if successful, would effectively legalize sex with 14-year-olds in Florida.
The case involves Kaitlyn Ashley Hunt, an 18-year-old in Sebastian, Florida, who was arrested in February after admitting that she had a lesbian affair with a 14-year high-school freshman. (Click here to read the affidavit in Hunt’s arrest.) It is a felony in Florida to have sex with 14-year-olds. Hunt was expelled from Sebastian High School — where she and the younger girl had sex in a restroom stall — and charged with two counts of “felony lewd and lascivious battery on a child.” The charges could put Hunt in prison for up to 15 years. Prosecutors have offered Hunt a plea bargain that would spare her jail time, but her supporters have organized an online crusade to have her let off scot-free — in effect, nullifying Florida’s law, which sets the age of consent at 16.
Using the slogan “Stop the Hate, Free Kate” (the Twitter hashtag is #FreeKate) this social-media campaign has attracted the support of liberals including Chris Hayes of MSNBC, Daily Kos, Think Progress and the gay-rights group Equality Florida. Undoubtedly, part of the appeal of the case is that Hunt is a petite attractive green-eyed blonde. One critic wondered on Twitter how long activists have “been waiting for a properly photogenic poster child of the correct gender to come along?”
Portraying Hunt as the victim of prejudice, her supporters claim she was only prosecuted because she is homosexual and because the parents of the unnamed 14-year-old are “bigoted religious zealots,” as Hunt’s mother said in a poorly written Facebook post. The apparent public-relations strategy was described by Matthew Philbin of Newsbusters: “If you can play the gay card, you immediately trigger knee-jerk support from the liberal media and homosexual activists anxious to topple any and all rules regarding sex.”
Meanwhile, giant cable television conglomerate Viacom must be especially proud of MTV today, as we'll discuss right after the page break.
At his blog today, Ace of Spades writes, "Trashy Former Pop Star Drinks Her Own Urine on MTV in Ratings Stunt":
If you had questions about whether Ke$ha was a classy lady-- questions that really ought not to persist, given that she really spells her name that way, "Ke$ha" -- consider them now resolved.
Some are using this provocation as a justification for renewing the calls for a-la-carte cable subscriptions. "Some" are, in this case, correct.
Anyone who now has cable pays for MTV. Cable companies negotiate a flat payment to a station for carrying it. MTV also collects revenues from advertising, but a major source of its revenue is the automatic "tax" MTV imposes on your cable bill every month. You have no way to avoid paying for MTV-- except for cancelling the service altogether.
Monopolies are generally not permitted to "bundle" services together. And local cable companies are usually monopolies, or, at best, have but one competitor-- and as all of them have instituted this bundling practice and will not stop the practice no matter how much the public clamors for it, the monopolies (or duopolies) at least appear to be in collusion on this point.
And finally, while Robert Redford's boyish shock of tousled hair and studio system hauteur hides a multitude of sins, his own primitivist mindset is lurking just under the surface, easily found:
Robert Redford today accused the US of losing its way in the years since the second world war. Speaking at the press conference for his new film All Is Lost at the Cannes film festival.
"Certain things have got lost," said Redford. "Our belief system had holes punched in it by scandals that occurred, whether it was Watergate, the quiz show scandal, or Iran-Contra; it's still going on…Beneath all the propaganda is a big grey area, another America that doesn't get any attention; I decided to make that the subject of my films."
Redford, now 76, also had critical words for the US's never-ending drive for economic and technological development, which he considers has been a damaging force.
"We are in a dire situation; the planet is speaking with a very loud voice. In the US we call it Manifest Destiny, where we keep pushing and developing, never mind what you destroy in your wake, whether its Native American culture or the natural environment.
"I've also seen the relentless pace of technological increase. It's getting faster and faster; and it fascinates me to ask: how long will it go on before it burns out."
The Khmer Rouge sought to start over at year zero, and to sort of create the kind of society that very civilized, humane greens write about as though it were an ideal. I mean, people who would never consider genocide*. But I argue that if you want to know what that would take, look at Cambodia: to empty the cities and turn everyone into peasants again. Even in a less developed country, let alone in someplace like the United States, that these sort of static utopian fantasies are just that.
Incidentally, that fawning profile of Redford appeared (but of course!) in the UK Guardian under the headline, "Robert Redford on America: 'Certain things have got lost.'" Well, that can happen when elderly Hollywood multimillionaires make films condoning terrorism, which are in turn approved by a former presidential aide, on the morning show that's aired nationwide on a TV network owned by the Disney Corporation:
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In his 2oo6 book Our Culture, What's Left Of It, Theodore Dalrymple wrote:
Having spent a considerable proportion of my professional career in Third World countries in which the implementation of abstract ideas and ideals has made bad situations incomparably worse, and the rest of my career among the very extensive British underclass, whose disastrous notions about how to live derive ultimately from the unrealistic, self-indulgent, and often fatuous ideas of social critics, I have come to regard intellectual and artistic life as being of incalculable practical importance and effect. John Maynard Keynes wrote, in a famous passage in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, that practical men might not have much time for theoretical considerations, but in fact the world is governed by little else than the outdated or defunct ideas of economists and social philosophers. I agree: except that I would now add novelists, playwrights, film directors, journalists, artists, and even pop singers. They are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, and we ought to pay close attention to what they say and how they say it.
Especially when the first thought is turn away from the daily horrors our pop culture seems to bring forth in ever-greater numbers.