If we are to withstand the coming totalitarian regime, we will need resources that are not just political but beautiful. We must become reattuned to our past and look to a standard outside ourselves. Reclaiming beauty means acknowledging that there are good things that have come before us.
When the stock market becomes volatile, people begin to invest in gold and other stable options. Likewise, when the culture is tempted by totalitarianism, it’s time to invest in beautiful things—things like art, music, literature, and tradition. These need to be collected—not streamed. They must be tangible and, if possible, something we can participate in.
Totalitarianism seeks to capture the total populace by way of conquering the total person. By total person I mean everything that makes a person a person: laughing, fighting, singing, marrying, parenting, solving, creating, and worshiping. Totalitarianism conquers a person by limiting his experience of the world and thereby leading him to sneer, backstab, chant, divorce, propagandize, destroy, and mock.
The key method of totalitarianism in its conquest of people is conformity through centralization. It does this in several ways, but generally it does so by narrowing in on one idea such as the means of production or racism or eugenics, and extending that one idea into every area of life. Every act becomes, for example, an act of racism: adopting a black child, owning property, or even learning arithmetic. Or every act is a political act signifying the never-ending struggle between the oppressors and the oppressed. This includes anything from buying China-made products from Wal-Mart to writing a novel to traveling for vacation.
Totalitarianism, like cancer, which is the uncontrolled growth of cells in one area of the body, is simple and total. Once the idea reaches the top of major institutions, it becomes only a matter of time before everything that does not fit into the narrative is either censored or destroyed. As I said in the beginning of this essay, we are being tempted by different totalitarianisms on every side, and it won’t be long before one of them is king of the hill. In totalitarian regimes there is no art for art’s sake, only propaganda for the regime’s sake.
The response to COVID-19 has given way to increased centralization in two areas. First, in the government through unprecedented economic relief packages and one-party control of the three branches; second, in major corporations that remained open during the lockdowns as small businesses permanently closed down. Though power is being centralized in these two groups, it is unclear whether they oppose one another or are working toward the same cause. It is undeniable, however, that technologies such as social media and Big Data will be used to push whatever ideology (perhaps closely related ideologies) onto the public. In either case, a radical shifting of values and way of life is in process this very moment.