May 20, 2016

WHAT POST-COMMUNISM HATH WROUGHT: In the new issue of City Journal, Fred Siegel writes:

Shortly after the collapse of Communism, the Nobel-winning novelist Doris Lessing took to the pages of the New York Times to warn that “while we have seen the apparent death of Communism, ways of thinking that were either born under Communism or strengthened by Communism still govern our lives.” She had been a Communist in her youth, and from that experience she learned how the ideology “debased language and, with language, thought.” Lessing was more prescient than she knew. Even as Communist political correctness was thrown back on its heels for a time in the former Soviet empire, it was defying gravity in Europe and America. Indeed, in the United States, our constitutional republic based on limited government had already begun to give way to an expansive bureaucratic liberal regime built on court-constructed interest-group “rights.”

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Like Communism, the democratic culture of the present day “produces large numbers of lumpen-intellectuals.” There is no shortage of people who ecstatically become involved in tracking disloyalty and fostering a new orthodoxy in which accusation replaces argument. And as under Communism, America’s social-justice warriors, particularly on campuses, are relentlessly in search of “casual remarks taken as evidence of systematic failings.” Communism’s once never-ending fight to ferret out “capitalist roaders” has been succeeded in the voluntary soft Stalinism of academia by a never-ending fight against an increasingly elusive enemy.

In America, Legutko notes, young people have shifted from the “pursuit of happiness,” which required delayed satisfaction with a plan as to how to move forward, to the momentary pursuit of pleasure. Their pursuits, as with “hooking up” in college, have become increasingly episodic. The upshot, he believes, is that divorce and abortion have become the outstanding achievements of the new political/cultural system. And in this regard, Legutko notes wryly, “Communism was far ahead of the liberal West.”

Related:

Being a grinning fool who jumps up and down on a sofa proclaiming his passion for the world is not enough. Passion demands suffering. Freely accepted suffering. And the endurance of that freely accepted suffering until the end. If you cannot deal with that side of passion, you are not truly passionate. Of course, most people opt out of passion when they begin to suffer. It’s understandable, especially in our pleasure-pumped world. In fact, it’s perfectly reasonable; after all, reason is the nemesis of passion. Say your marriage has become dull or boring and efforts to bring the passion, the desire, and enthusiasm back have gone nowhere. Reason will tell you to call a divorce lawyer and find your happiness elsewhere whereas passion will demand you stay and endure. The same goes for writing or anything for that matter. Real passion starts where suffering starts. Be strong enough to endure and you will understand the meaning of passion. The mystery will be solved; the hidden truth, revealed.

—Mark Judge, quoting Francis Berger, in “We Don’t Need Grit. We Need a Better Understanding of Passion,” at Acculturated.

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