By Vince Dhimos
Thus the old radical school of the Enlightenment had not died out. It not only survived, it acquired more force than ever, despite the removal of the abuses that had prompted the movement in the first place. This was one of the many examples of movements that outlived their raison d’être but continued to exist on sheer inertia and stubbornness.
In 1917 and thereafter, the movement to establish a Soviet Union instead of a renewed and dynamic Russia was led by the Bolsheviks, who were imbued with the ideals of the more radical Enlightenment. As such, once in power, they immediately set about eliminating all older Russian ideas, and history came to see a variation on the theme of the French revolution. Most of these leaders secretly hated Russia, as described here, and wanted a modern European system to replace all old institutions and popular beliefs and behaviors. Thus, at variance with accepted anti-Russian propaganda, the Soviet Union was in no way a product of Russianness. In fact it was due to all things Russian being suppressed.
The Chinese under Mao took this radical Enlightenment idea still further and, again, while focusing on punishing transgressors rather than solving problems, it aimed to destroy the Chinese culture. The Cultural Revolution was in fact a movement to eliminate all of Chinese culture and thought, even smashing precious antiques, and extirpating the wisdom of ancient philosophers like Confucius from the Chinese psyche. As a result they lost a generation that could have been dedicated to education, science and research. Though imbued with Enlightenment ideals, Mao knew nothing about science, which is why his method of collecting metal for industry, by melting down pots and utensils, including antique ones, failed colossally. He discovered late what ancient Chinese metallurgists had always known, namely, that many different kinds of metals when melted together form a useless malleable or brittle material with virtually no strength. The result of his grand experiment wound up on the slag heap.
However, besides a lack of scientific knowledge, what the leaders were missing in their dealings with the people was the old Confucian ideal of harmony. The favorite tactic for keeping people in line was to stir up people with a hysteria against “capitalist running dogs” and former landlords or wealthy people. People were dehumanized, induced to manufacture all kinds of false charges and rat out their friends, neighbors and family members to deflect suspicions from themselves. It was a rein of terror akin to the black-white hysteria that sometimes causes American streets to boil. The accused were generally taken out with a sign around their neck indicating their supposed crime and then beaten by a disorderly crowed, even killed at times. (Further reading here on the Cultural Revolution). But after Mao’s death, the next generation of leaders realized that they had thrown out the baby with the bath and they dusted off the old banned books about Confucius, studying them diligently but without publicising this or admitting that the party policies had changed (they did not intend to sully Mao’s memory).
You may have read about Xi’s response to Trump as they sat over cake at Mar-a-Lago and Trump informed Xi that he had just fired 59 Tomahawks at Khan Sheikhoun. Now Assad is a close ally of China, which has had ties to Syria for decades. In fact, China has plans to rebuild Syria (as shown in our translation of an unusually candid report here). Thus Trump’s obtuse words must have hurt Xi to the quick. But far from confrontational, Xi’s response to Trump was Confucian and harmonious.
According to Trump in a media interview. Xi said:
‘Anybody that uses gases’ —you could almost say or anything else — but ‘anybody that was so brutal and uses gases to do that to young children and babies, it’s okay.’ He was okay with it.”
I suspect even Confucius would have choked at this insincere response. (It reminded me of Will Smith as Hancock, who was advised by a psychologist to compliment his coworkers by saying “good work” after they carried out an assignment, and then proceeded to say this even when it was he who had done the job). Xi’s government later expressed bitter criticism of the Tomahawk attack in its state-owned media.
Both China and Russia seek harmonious relations even with the most difficult partners. This is the wave of the future and it is the result of the East learning from their earlier mistakes and the mistakes of the West, notably the total rejection of all past thought and behavior. China has turned back to Confucius and Russia has turned back to Christ. The result is the same.
Nietzsche, an old school radical philosopher who, while he criticized the Enlightenment, was focused on shocking people with an across the board rejection of the past, including past wisdom. He made no attempt to be conciliatory. As he wrote, he was a suffering soul confined to his bed, with advanced syphilis, which eventually killed him. Being hopelessly ideology bound, he had apparently rejected the notion that promiscuous sex can be harmful, thinking this taboo to be an outmoded Christian idea rather than the universal truth that it was. Despite years of agony that would have caused others to regret their dissipated past, he had learned nothing from his own mistakes, and many of his readers – worshippers really — are attempting to duplicate his failed experiment.
The West today is imbued with that malignant spirit. Thus, we find swaths of American society, for example, where anyone advocating for traditional marriage can be ostracized or worse, verbally – or even physically — assaulted, or even lose their job (as reported here); a person entering certain parts of their downtown can be beaten for belonging to the wrong race, as described here; and criminals or gang members of a certain national origin will never be arrested because they are assigned to a victim group. The old notion of law and order, decency and politeness has collapsed. The West is now closer to the ideals of perpetual revolution than even Mao’s China and unlike China, where the insanity finally ended with Mao’s death, there is no promise of a respite because the movement is led not by one person but by a faceless mob.
In stark contrast to the ideology-bound West, the East has moved beyond and is now easily winning the war of ideas by focusing on common sense and doing the will of the people. It turns out that the wisdom of the past is still as valid today as it was then. But these countries are also completely focused on science, as both Enlightenment schools were.
Ironically, the one world power that unabashedly lays claim to a Christian foundation for its public policies is, in terms of science, head and shoulders above the US, which abhors Christianity and still clings to the absurd notion that Christianity is incompatible with science. Emblematic of this situation is the fact that the radically secular US is obliged to purchase rocket engines from the openly Christian Russia.