Tuesday, 11 November 2014

CROWDS, CONTAGION, AND CONFORMITY

Lunatic, poet, purveyor of "cruelty": Antonin Artaud
by Andy Nowicki

In my previous post, I attempted to draw attention to the inevitable discord between one's individual willingness to struggle for the sake of the truth – however raw and lacerating be the resultant strain on his psyche – and his simultaneous desire to wrap himself in the sort of deliciously comfy cocoon of collective "struggle" provided by mass movements, through which he is provided the opportunity to remove his autonomy and subordinate his will to that of whichever "Party" he has opted to join.

It seems, after all, that it is politics, rather than religion, which truly provides what Marx held to be "opium for the masses," at least as we define politics as this persistent fixation upon – as that dippy, pseudo-mystical saying goes – "becoming a part of something bigger than yourself." The real, mass-produced opiate is in fact obtained through making an effort to "massify" oneself; that is, through electing to sacrifice one's discernment in order to merge with an ecstatically turned-on, tuned-in, mind-controlled mob, all stomping with one will towards a collective goal of communal bliss through self-obliteration, under the idolatrous spell of some would-be Fuhrer or other.

In its dominant strain, the effort at salvation through politics takes shape in the constellation of ideologies – what Orwell called "smelly little orthodoxies" – which are currently ascendant in the West in the form of what has come to be called "Cultural Marxism": stridently anti-male radical feminism, virulent anti-white multiculturalism, militant homosexualism, and so forth. These movements certainly have their share of opportunists, conspicuously flogging their alleged bona fides to obtain power and control, but they also have legions of true believers, who espy in their doctrines a supposed means of escape from pampered mediocrity, obtuse despair, and quiet desperation.

Of course, actions invite reactions, eruptions bring reverberations, and currents provoke counter-currents. As the Cult-Marxian empire solidifies its domination over the culture, rebel outposts grow ever more defiant and brazen in flouting the dominant paradigm. The more the tyrant's fist tightens, the more clever, wily souls manage to slip-slide away from its grasp.

Yet how much of the coalescing counter-culture is an authentic challenge to the repugnancy of the predominantly-enforced mindset, and how much is but a mirror image of its essentially identical proclivity to sacrifice authenticity for conformity in a rigidly proscribed and witlessly contrived manner? Put another way, will anything essential have changed when today's radical egalitarians are replaced by tomorrow's ethno-nationalists, or will we merely see the flip side of the same phenomenon, the future "tails" to match the present-day "heads"?

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The compulsion to submit to a perceived higher authority and make yourself a dedicated vessel of its greater will, of course, isn't the least abnormal, unhealthy, or abhorrent in and of itself. Properly directed, it is in fact a perfect indication of a composed and collected mind. After all, men yearn for transcendence because man is spirit in a material world, soul inexplicably flung into a realm of dust and death, substance which finds itself adrift in the midst of a "foul and pestilent congregation of vapor"; therefore it is only to be expected that the desire of his heart should be to seek his Source and set forth to do His will with the fervor and abandon of an ardent and fanatical lover, the better than he may procure passage back to his true homeland, to dwell with the One who first fathered him forth.

Yet when man is impeded from his proper heaven-turning trajectory, his will directed into the furtherance of man-made ideologies, this properly God-directed fanaticism turns perverse and unseemly. The result is widespread madness and horror, as much of recent history has shown us.

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In her book Artaud and His Doubles, Kimberly Jannarone gives insight into a man whose mad genius reverberated across a ravaged European century filled of grinding repression, chaotic destruction, and ideological terror. Jannarone's book details how Antonin Artaud, an enormously influential French actor, playwright, drama theorist, and lifelong mental patient, sought to destroy all of the genteel trappings of the bourgeois theater-going habits of his day, and institute in their place what he called a "theater of cruelty." In Artaud's vision, boundaries between actors and audience would dissipate, and all present would melt together in a kind of rapturous, Dionysian trance state, which would restore man to his primitive condition. As Jannarone puts it, this hypnotically-induced collective condition would have the effect of "destroying the individual and overturning civilization... sweeping away the individual with its elemental fury."

Though Artaud was adopted as a posthumous disciple by hippy-dippy "Living Theater" types in the 60s, Jannarone argues that this crowd greatly misinterpreted the brilliant but troubled thinker's core philosophy. They wanted to construe Artaud as an optimist concerning the ability to unlock untapped human potential, when his perspective of humanity was in fact quite dark, and his stated intentions for humanity still darker. For him, in fact, the crowd under the influence of his "theater of cruelty" becomes like a virus, which in turn advances upon and gradually infects the entire world, leaving everyone enslaved. Jannarone in fact points out that Artaud favored disease-metaphors, such as "contagion," and "plague," to approvingly discuss the effects of his prescribed method of dramaturgy.

But you can't deny the dude had a winning sense of humor.

While most would agree that Artaud was a psychologically imbalanced individual, there can be little doubt that he very much kept tune with the tenor of his times, successfully tapping into the desires felt by many in an age that saw the rise of totalitarian regimes with prevalent "populist" motifs, wherein crowds were invited to get swept up in the orgiastic excitement of being under the sway of a Dear Leader, be he nominally of the "Left" or the "Right."

We like to think that things are different now, but the fact is that man still, as ever, feels drawn to enslavement. Escaping this eventuality is ultimately a matter of overcoming our own perverse wish to be shackled, chained, and kept under the heel of those who would rule us.

(to be concluded)


Andy Nowicki, co-editor of Alternative Right, is the author of eight books, including Under the Nihil, The Columbine Pilgrim, Considering Suicide, and Beauty and the Least. He occasionally updates his blog when the spirit moves him to do so. Visit his Soundcloud page.

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