Current Religious Orthodoxy: "The Group" as Supreme Being
Wim Rietdijk, D.Sci.
|I gave argument after argument; their only answer was that I too often repeated myself...|
I blamed them for it; they reacted by saying that I fell short in neighbourly love...
Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur.
(The world wants to be deceived; therefore, let it be deceived.) [Really?]
In all eras and cultures, the essential social evils originated in moral failure or stupidity of the elites.
But it has always been forbidden to say so, or worse, to demonstrate it.
1. Most people feel that at least our intellectuals freed themselves from religious orthodoxy and convention in favour of rational empiricism.
They are too kind to them: merely names and the ways of fighting heresy changed. Not even the social function of current religion altered much as compared with conventional Christianity and ideologies like nationalism and collectivism. It still highly is: "Causing the many to conform to and serve the interests of the few." I.e. the interests of those powers that be which lack the merit and rational argument for legitimizing their power and privilege, and therefore do so by myth, ideology or convention.
Historically, the initial stage was roughly that traditional Gods were psychological projections of the relevant community, the latter being hallowed in the process. As secularization and rationalization proceeded, the projection was withdrawn from the heavens to the earth...
Within the above scope, ideological manipulation and silencing opposition against orthodoxies continue in a considerable measure. E.g., NRC Handelsblad, Holland's leading daily, reported on 20-12-1997 that 60% of the Dutchmen and 82% of the Belgians feel that there is no room for more aliens in their respective countries. (Two thirds of Western-Europeans agree.) Still, this opinion is hardly reflected in the relevant parliaments and not at all in the media, let alone its prevailing in democratic decisions. Egalitarian ideology - serving both leftist parties looking for future votes of "deprivileged" and organized helping professions seeking more clients among them - silences all opposition. ("Racism", "fascism"; even discussing the very high criminality among third-world immigrants is practically taboo.)
2. The key word of most religion and convention, as well as of the above-mentioned ideologies, is "solidarity". Solidarity, ideology and convention are among the pre-eminent means to make people act contrary to reason and enlightened (rational) ethics. It has been observed: "If you can't govern by force, you can do it by fraud". Now we may call it the essence of sociology that myth, orthodoxies, convention, and irrationally based solidarity (e.g., with "your country"), or whatever anti-rationalism, constitute such fraud in its concrete manifestation. As soon as powerful interests sense reason and enlightened values to fall short as to convincing the community, they instinctively revert to myth, convention and other irrational means such as ideology. These are major instruments of fraud and evil by such very fact.
What is modern "solidarity"? It is accepting "the group" as foundation and source of values - good, evil, quality and beauty -, in theory and in practice. Riesman's other-directedness is a practical side of it, and most intellectuals' fundamental relativism is a theoretical one: merely the community is the ultimate source of all values.
The unpleasant thing of such "solidarity-with-the-group" attitude is that it often eliminates one's conscience and reason, and, in addition, the willingness to listen to substantial nonconformism. If "the others" are your God, you deem them right as to mentality and established ideas, and above all you fear losing their sympathy, "adjusting" yourself morally. Hence, (innerly) censoring yourself - taboo and repression - is inherent to "the religion of the group", too. Otherwise, truth, reason and integrity could make you an heretic.
3. Whereas bajonets got out of fashion, taboo, repression and censorship continue to function as instruments of power - this time of a new orthodoxy and establishment - in an ever more "civilized" way.
A nasty aspect of such situation is that, though many complain "man and the world to be very imperfect" - most modern intellectuals even abandoning their hope on progress and the ideas of the Enlightenment because of this! -, not much can be done to improve matters radically. For, as will be elucidated below, current "religion of the group" prevents all explanations of basic social evils from being discussed, because it taboos or represses all fundamental social criticism: "the group" and its main sub-groups and ideas are virtually sacrosanct. Hence, all socio-cultural explanations and theories imputing or implying bad faith with powerful interests, or unconscious ideological double meanings of parts of current orthodoxy, are essentially sacrilegious - repressed or taboo. For "God, the group", can no more morally fail than any Gods of the past! If it radically would, both our intellectuals and the majority would lose everything to hold on to, as a source of identity and sympathy.
4. What concrete basic ideas that became an orthodoxy are at stake here? A summary:
(a) Neither (the genes of) anti-socials, recidivists and underclass members, nor the basic intentions of major forces in our establishment, are inferior: about all large-scale evil stems from our social environment, or "circumstances";
(b) In the last resort, all people are of equal value;
(c) For the most part, social evils and unhappiness at all cannot be ascribed to concrete causes, especially stupidity or moral failure. Actually, the latter is relative;
(d) We derive our basic values and conscience from our socio-cultural environment rather than from the quality of our genetic nature and an objective moral order in the world. Hence, he who deems certain groups inferior or parts of our value system immoral is fundamentally wrong: "the group", including its values and major sections, and their intentions, as a largely integrated socio-cultural whole, is the source even of our judgements. That is, it virtually took over the function of God, apart from "major lapses" such as dictatorship (which "disqualifies" a group).
5. Even more important than the above "theoretical basis" of conformism and group-mindedness is the practical side of the matter. Viz. Riesman's finding that, inter alia, the decline in old faiths and tradition - and economic factors - created the other-directed personality, who cannot live without moral support from "the others" because he has no alternative source of safety, value and identity. He will never be critical of anything important as long as the majority accepts or tolerates it... His domimating our cultural climate is as valuable an ally for social evil and vested interests as official censorship ever was.
6. Now what kinds of abuse, irrational power and associated ideological concoctions are actually shielded by the fact that hardly anybody in the intelligentsia, politics and the media dares to be an heretic as to the religion of the group that constitutes our subject?
Many are described and explained in my books The Scientifization of Culture and Wetenschap als Bevrijding, and we give only a few examples here. All have in common that the authorities, the law, convention or ideology knowingly or unconciously allow the interests of powerful groups to prevail on truth, reason and moral substance:
(a) In criminal and civil law, "privacy" and technicalities often prevent finding the truth and enforcing integrity. (An outstanding instance of violating privacy as stalking not at all or only relatively recently having been made punishable by law in most Western countries, we see also an enormous hypocrisy here, apart from the chutzpah of the tolerance in itself);
(b) In education, performance, appreciating human quality and the efficiency of studying fostered by discipline will be subordinated to "group rights", interests of the educational establishment and/or the egalitarian dogma;
(c) Rather than being promoted or decorated, whistle-blowers will be fired or frustrated.
We see here how the interests of lawyers and those having something to hide are served, as well as egalitarian bureaucracies and "organization men", at the cost of truth, integrity, human quality and efficiency.
Our three examples merely illustrate the more general circumstance that "the group" and its leaders positively refuse to go to the utmost in enforcing integrity, in taking sides with truth, clarity and human quality, and in subordinating vested interests to public well-being in the most serious way. Actually, they like the "political" way of being, often covering what is vital. For the common feature of group-mindedness and such way of life is covering, often lying and accepting powerful interests to prevail on reason and enlightened values.
Such climate so much pervades modern society too that even dominating philosophy and "abstract" art emanate an atmosphere of the irrational and the "poly-interpretable", that is, troubled waters on which dubious power and interests thrive. At the same time, trend-setting egalitarian ideology covers up the vital point of genetic factors being the main cause of crime, underclasses, addiction and chronic problem cases in education, thus more than a little bit serving the helping professions and organizations. Of course, the religion of the group contains that it is social factors that produce criminals etcetera. (In a way, it is right: bad genes meeting with "liberal", "nurturist" permissiveness manifest themselves even more devastatingly. For the rest, denying genetic problems with sizable sub-groups joins naturally with the "solidarity" characterizing the religion of the group at all.)
In the above context, we can add two striking points to our (a)-(c):
(d) Anti-rationalist philosophers like Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida and Lyotard and incoherent "modern artists" such as Rauschenberg, Warhol and Beuys meet with overwhelmingly more sympathy and publicity than ideas and theories in the spirit of this site and of my books;
(e) Conformism and taboo appear to be so pervasive that about none among our leading (or even regularly reviewed) intellectuals champions eugenics or our making, say, mutually adversative groups of politicians apply lie-detectors in order to verify each other's integrity. (Again, this fits in "solidarity" and "ideological corporatism": never seriously even suggesting major sub-groups to be in default.)
In such spiritual climate public opinion even covers up the deplorable "genetic scarcity" of sexually positively attractive individuals, this making most people "officially" believe that, e.g., beauty is in the eye of the beholder. (As even such "instinctive" cover-up and repression appear to be possible, one no longer wonders about how most people could be made believers in whatever myth or ideology...)
For my part, the mere (a)-(e) above suffice for making impossible my even slightly feeling solidary with "the group", other than in a technical sense of socially cooperating and being grateful as to the existence of supermarkets, computers and myriad other attainments of modern society, and as to the phenomenon of progress anyway.
7. Now let us speak about reactions to my recent books - The Scientifization of Culture and Wetenschap als bevrijding (in Dutch). They have much to do with the foregoing.
The most striking aspect of negative reviews is that they are all essentially similar. I.e., most not even devote a paragraph to the contents of the books - theories, explanations, arguments, discussion of abuses,... All concentrate on one point: the tone. The works are "irritating", "self-exaltating", "too little playful", contain "too many repetitions", "who wants to say too much, says nothing", and I am "a salvationist".
Let's try to explain such remarkably uniform reactions.
(a) Most important, I fear, is simply irritation and displeasure about the fact that my explanations and theories in themselves fly in the face of current orthodoxy, also in the sense of their declaring in (moral) default many sectors of the establishment and often John Doe. For, in addition to being apostasy, this hurts current religion as such: I do not treat the group with the respect going with that religion, in my explanations of social evils and in producing social theory that often impute (unconscious) bad faith to major social actors. Then, the speech-making community will react either by silence or as it did, e.g., in reviewing lectures of former suffragettes: one described how the ladies were clothed and the like, not going into what they said.
Actually, such way of reaction is consistent: The essence of the religion of the group and of orthodoxy anyway is their amounting to myth as well as taboos as to addressing various vital subjects by means of reason. The basic reproach to me is my very doing so all the same. Then, it is indeed consistent if one does not go into my arguments and explanations and restricts oneself to irrelevance, if not being tacit anyway. More generally, one can always recognize those being wrong by their not eagerly seeking thorough rational discussion.
(b) Another factor also fits well within the context of the foregoing: intellectual and moral substance sincerely do not take priority with the relevant reviewers and, I may add, with the majority of group-minded people anyway. It is the very essence of current "religion of the group" that its believers are more interested in human relations and one's attitude to the group than in truth, reason and the contrast between good and evil. (Partly, this fits in with the increasing impact of a superficial "climate of the tv commercial" in which "image" and pleasing others will prevail on substance.) In the case of my books, this means priority of how I address "the others" and of my manner towards them. "People sense that you don't like them", one objected. Basically, such reproach boils down to my being more interested in enforcing integrity, improving human genetic quality and explanations often throwing an unflattering light on not a few vested interests than in the Queen's Christmas message (I always skip it).
Indeed, many arguments and exposures in my books burst "solidarity", e.g., in showing (unconscious) evil motives behind various social situations and ideologies. I don't even forgive my relevant fellow men...
For the rest, not merely (6) (a)-(d) should dissuade the straightforward from the conformism essential to solidarity with the group, to "going with it", but many other points in this site should do so as well. Generally, my personal breach with the speech-making community originates in its refusal to support using virtually all available means - including lie-detection - to make integrity, truth and meritocracy prevail on vested interests, convention, egalitarianism and relatiocracy.
(c) A major resistance to my books with the trend-setting other-directed personality and the in-crowds at all, of course, stems from the very circumstance that their main criterion of liking or disliking something is its being "in" or "out", respectively. Well, a trendy individual will sense after three paragraphs that my books jar with everything that is "in"...
It is not so much my "not liking people" that revolts him as his sensing that the group will no longer like hím if he would like my books. And he cannot do without the group's "solidarity". (As already observed by Riesman in his The Lonely Crowd, a dominating feeling with the other-directed is anxiety.)
(d) Another point should be discussed in this whole context of group-mindedness and conformism. I.e., one among the unconsciously promoted functions of repressive sexual morals was (is) suggesting a contrast between (the sexual) instinct and the elevated and positively moving. (Of course, you don't read this in sociological literature: it exposes the group.) Such contrast makes an individual morally rather dissociated and defenseless, fostering his willingness to adjust to "the group" and its powers and ideas.
Now the most important cause of my personal non-conformation is that such psychological mechanism faltered with me: my instincts, conscience and capacity of being moved by the elevated - say, beautiful women or other impressive parts of nature and culture - still constitute one coherent whole and basis of my value system, sym- and antipathies. Hence, I only need the group in a technical sense, being very happy with Internet, stores and museums, and with my beloved family members and friends. Adding to my inner independence is the conviction that a moral order is inherent to the universe, both implying long-term progress and man's survival after death in some way or other.
Possibly the worst heresy of my books is indeed a tone suggesting that I am not willing to subordinate reason and moral judgment to any need of sympathy from the group. My scepticism about it prevails even more because never a critic reacted: "Of course Rietdijk is crazy, but in any case let's set about the abuses he mentions and (incorrectly) explains, and also look for better explanations". Never a negative critic was interested at all in any abuse treated by me, let alone in its explanation. As already indicated, I suspect the main reason to be such explanations' very declaring in default established powers. This pre-eminently refers to the religion of the group: I undermine "solidarity" and "mutual trust". Both the establishment and many John Does need the idea of "the others" being basically integer, just as they needed (and often abused) the idea that God as the ultimate authority was infallible and good...
In short: my books find a religion opposed to them, as well as people who are believers, solidary with "the group" precisely because they are little interested in social evils and the immoral accepted by the speech-making community. They are not much interested in good, evil and arguments, but invested in social games, social status and politics in a broad sense, rather than truth and human quality. They often sacrified much. Such sacrifices glue them even more to "the others"; mind how by the same psychological mechanism ragging students adds to their future enthousiasm as members of their union, whereas those who lost a son in war will hate pacifism...
8. The backgroumd of (7) is that our speech-making community is hardly curious about explanations and arguments, no more than was the speech-making community of AD 1700 (clergy and nobility). Just as then, it is only interested in "God's will"; that is, in current religion of "the group": in the preferences of such group and in those of its powerful sub-groups that constitute our establishment. Deserters will be hushed up, ridiculed and hardly ever reviewed on substance.
Once, quite a few intellectuals were critical individuals, or even socialists who mocked the Kaiser etcetera. Today, not even neo-Marxism is more than a pseudo-opposition; it is certainly more reactionary than big business. [Did you ever hear neo-Marxists protest against the situations of (6 a, b and c)?] Even worse: neo-Marxism joins with liberalism as an ideology for the most powerful interest group of all: the "deprivileged" industry that thrives on the thesis that people lacking good values and/or good genes are socially "disadvantaged", e.g., "discriminated".
More generally: It became the utter sin if you publish ideas, explanations or feelings implying your declaring (morally) in default major sections of "the community". One can see this especially in the circumstance that such unflattering ideas etcetera are seldom published anymore (or at least favourably reviewed).
Current pessimism and anti-Enlightenment sentiments with the intelligentsia (Heidegger, Foucault, postmodernism,...) are directly related to the above. Such intelligentsia, integrated into the establishment, grew into one more, orthodoxy-formulating, component of the sub-group network that became sacrosanct. But then, if unhappiness and evil can no longer be attributed to concrete social actors and their (unconscious) malice - because debunking major parts or aspects of the group got taboo even with "progressive" thinkers -, all causes of social evils withdrew beyond our reach. Exit the idea of progress. And sociology transformed into a kind of consensus politics in the domain of "soft" science...
Making the group God is a modern version of: "the status quo and our establishment will be wise and good", and a secularized religion. More generally, in our relativistic era "the group" substitutes old-time God and convention as moral bases and sources of safety, which caused social criticism to become little short of sacrilege, and threatening for many.
9. In modern society we see two major denominations of the "religion of the group": the rightist and the leftist. They are equally irrational and morally fraudulent, mainly serving different interest groups:
(a) Rightism likes tradition, e.g., traditional religion, "one's country", and conventional (frustrating) sexual morality. It is more kind to most power elites than to the ideas of the Enlightenment.
(b) Leftism is solidary with "all of mankind", especially with the "disadvantaged". This is a splendid idea in principle, but alas it corrupted. In practice, the left and liberalism became the pre-eminent interest group of redistribution, help and political organizations thriving on moral, intellectual and/or genetic failure or inferiority. Their ideological shield for this: "Nobody is inferior; it is merely social circumstances that deprivileged many people; they need help rather than better values, better genes or eugenic selection."
Right and left compete in ideological, anti-rational and immoral dogma. Both dislike the primacy of rational argument and of moral and genetic quality. These would not only expose associated interest groups, but also foster "dichotomies in society". Both hate genetic blueprints or -engineering applied to man, eugenics, enforcing integrity by about all available means, including lie-detectors, and whistle-blowers. All of these would indeed emphasize the "dichotomy" between good and evil or between quality and its opposite. Quite logically, in the past decades the left even joined with the right in being critical of the Enlightenment.
Generally, "right or wrong, my country" is precisely the hidden purpose of all group-mindedness: group-interests rather than "right or wrong" should prevail. Hence, major social forces will prefer us to be "solidary" and to like "the group" rather than writing books such as The Scientifization of Culture or Wetenschap als bevrijding. Most people do, judging by the phenomenon of fashion in clothes up to and including philosophy...
10. Partly summarizing, we see:
(I) In politics, there are "veto-groups". We insufficiently realized that beyond politics "ideological corporatism" appears too. E.g., it is not done to compare abstract art with "the new clothes of the emperor" or to cast doubt on the integrity of prominent social actors (asking for lie-detectors). Neither should you doubt the genetic equivalence of races and that of underclasses to others, or surmise that thinking in the juridical domain is corrupt to the bone, technicalities, the idea of "privacy" in connection with finding the truth, and the right of the defendant to non-cooperation merely serving lawyers and those who have something to hide (who are many).
(II) I feel the controversy about my books not merely to result from their heretic theories, but also from their tone demonstrating my not feeling solidary with "the group", on earlier-mentioned grounds. Reason, integrity and general progress take priority with me as compared to acceptance by "the others" - and, however humble towards it, I feel immensely strengthened in this, too, by the impressive Source from which such reason etcetera originate.
Of course, such attitude is blasphemy in the climate of egalitarian collectivism on slippers in which "moralizing" is not done, feeling oneself to be better than most others is taboo, and the cult of mediocrity so pervasive that, e.g., by far most recent poems are studiedly about the commonplace - as far as they do not cultivate unreason by being incomprehensible.
(III) People having status and power, those with best positions, relations and organization - the establishment - have an inherent interest in the status quo prevailing on reason and rational ethic. Hence they push the religion of the group - be it in the shape of churches, convention, fatherlands or other-directedness and group-mindedness. Thus it became so dominant, just as censorship - via jails, taboo or hushing up nonconformists.
In the past, abandoning God and convention was correctly felt by the powers that be as threatening them. Now they rightly feel disrespect of the group to be an attack on their own position. In theory this is very clear and convincing; in practice it results in in-crowds generally hating serious independence of mind. Properly, they sense all exposing explanations of social evils and dominating ideology to be an undermining of the authority and moral credibility of "the group" at all, that is, of themselves.
Controversies in society - about my books and anyway - are mainly a question of mentality, of our deepest preferences. My controversy with current group mentality refers to how serious man should be about truth, integrity and objectivity, and about applying science, technology and enlightened conceptions of quality to himself and his genes too.
But this is not the whole story. Above, we indeed concentrated on dominating spirit and the "religion of the group" often frustrating or contrasting with reason and integrity, usually for the benefit of powerful interest groups. However, to make things worse, this may be a mere consequence of more fundamental moral failure. For, in a veiled way, the value system now current in intellectual circles is essentially callous and cold. There is a thread in ideas so seemingly unrelated as
(a) relativism and the denial of an objective moral order in the world,
(b) the idea that chance and uncertainty are inherent to life and the universe,
(c) egalitarianism and anti-eugenics,
(d) the massive preoccupation of philosophy with the subjective and the arbitrary, and its current anti-Enlightenment tone,
(e) most "modern art" abandoning even the intention of being moving or morally elevating, and of beautifully concentrating truth.
Implicitly, such thread is letting down the victims of injustice and tragedy, and indifference to good prevailing on evil and to human quality at all. It is actually nihilism. Small wonder that our speech-making community has difficulties with making enforcing integrity a near-absolute priority, and also "does not know" to whom possible eugenics should be applied.
- Anti-rationalism stems from irritation about irrefutable arguments.
- Evil is as objective as the unhappiness resulting from it.
- Group-mindedness and non-morally based solidarity will be substitutes for intimacy, and an inflated version of love.
A reader once observed: "Your position up against current orthodoxy shows some analogy with that of a prophet like Jesus with respect to the Pharisees". Well, there's a big difference between Jesus of Nazareth and myself. He brought his message out of a spirit of love, whereas I am often suspicious and indignant.
Also, I can't produce miracles.
Fortunately, he and I indeed have also one thing in common. The essential reason why the Pharisees hated Jesus was his uncompromisingly giving precedence to truth, integrity and human well-being over power, convention and everything else. For obvious reasons, the Pharisees felt threatened.
Now many don't like my work precisely because of my intellectual - and worse, emotional - impatience with vested interests, convention, fallacies, ideology and human failure frustrating rational argument, efficiency and happiness. Again, many feel threatened, deeming my consistent scientism and rational ethic (optimizing happiness) "one-sided" and "fanatic".
If I had left out as irrelevant the first two paragraphs, people would have cried: "He is comparing himself with Christ!", ignoring the crux of my point.
That's why I am often suspicious...
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