Standardization of Emotional And Intellectual Life As A Totalitarian Feature

Totalitarian psychological and behavioral energies don’t disappear in a formally democratic system. Amidst democratic structure of social relationships, totalitarianism survives as mass culture with its commercial/entertaining art (appealing to the common/reduced denominator of taste and intelligence) and mass production (the biggest profits are made on mass production/consumption).

Mass events attract mass crowds, and the biggest among them are wars. Mass people readily buy jingoistic propaganda that triggers in them the three basic emotions, creating/sustaining their war enthusiasm – national, religious and political megalomania, the readiness to prove with hate and power their superiority over the inferior “enemies”, and also tendency for masochistic self-sacrifice for the sake of an idolized self-, “our” country’s and “our” cause’s images. Mass sports in a nimbus of machoistic shining, pop-singing with its glamorous sentimentality, Hollywood movie-making and violent video-games – try hard not to lag too far behind the war as money-making enterprise. Young people are helpless in front of this splendor because humanistic education is less and less available, and the narcissistic feeling that they are “smart enough” to understand life without the “boredom” of educating themselves is stronger and stronger in them than ever – they sucked this con-confidence from vulgar consumerist orientation surrounding them from childhood.

Aspects of mass culture (euphoria and dogmatism generated by war, mass sports, pop-music, commercial art, video-games, self-assertion through firearms ownership and shooting range bravado, etc.) bathe in a totalitarian communality (based on mutual identification by the principle of similarity and on scapegoating otherness/dissimilarity as the incarnation of the dangerous alien-ness). In a totalitarian community, for example, in the army even under a democratic regime, the responsibility for the actions of the solders are completely projected into commanders, and the subordinated ranks are emotionally and intellectually reduced to the condition of children. But in a democratic community people positively accept dissimilarity and learn how to love difference – democratic people are able to keep peace with each other and be respectful of the different opinions, life styles and ideas about the world. Theoretically, democratic countries should be much less involved in wars, but it is obviously not the case because democratic systems in reality are not democratic enough. And this is especially true in periods when democratic systems slide downward into totalitarianism (as it happened during Bush Junior presidency and continues under Obama because of the power of conservative politicians in House of Representatives and Senate). Totalitarian emotions are so strong inside human beings (they are our historical past) that (totalitarian) regression is easy and feels natural while even the smallest steps towards more democracy are incredibly difficult (democratic reflexes and habits are too weak in human psyche).

As everything new and not habitual, democracy is fragile. It is never guaranteed. It needs permanent nurturing. The poorer the people are the less psychologically democratic they become – the more they are intolerant of otherness (their intolerance produces ideologies of fight/war with various categories of enemies) and the more they’re filled with self-aggrandizement. A good example here is today’s American neo-conservative’s ultimatum-posture in their fight for their personal self-interests through destroying interests of their opponents – American ninety-nine percent of population. But what is even more important for keeping democracy than general prosperity and well being of the population is humanistic education. Today in US it is in the process of being snatched away from people.

Without humanistic education (liberal arts) people’s mind operate on the pre-scientific level where the same demons who ruled over human history for thousands of years, are starting again to rule over human destiny – beliefs instead of reasoning, proneness to suspicion instead of emotional rationality, tendency to feel passionate antipathy or, conversely, sentimental admiration towards some people, rushing to conclusions with the speed of witch on the broom, seeing relations with other people and countries from the position of power/control, not negotiation and compromise, and many other symptoms of totalitarian style of living. There is no democracy without humanistic education for the masses.

Even democrats by profession, political affiliation and sensibility are less and less humanistically educated (they almost had no encounter with serious literature and art and with intellectual cinema). Their understanding of political fight (in their case for more progressive agenda) is reduced to the narrowed and flattened economic terms. That’s why they are less and less capable of meeting on the cultural battleground the prejudices, superstitions and infantilism of their conservative opponents.