Yesterday I talked about a new book by Rod Dreher. In it, he talks about a book by Hannah Arendt on The Origins of Totalitarianism published after World War II. She documented what happened in Germany and the Soviet Union. It helps us see when totalitarianism is coming. Here are a few warning signs.
The first is loneliness and social atomization. Totalitarian movements are “mass organizations of atomized, isolated individuals.” Twenty years ago, Robert Putnam published his book Bowling Alone documenting the significant decline of civil society. That accelerated even more with social media.
Second is losing faith in hierarchies and institutions. According to Gallup, our confidence in our institutions is at historical lows across the board. The loss of faith is another reason for this loss of confidence.
Third is the desire to transgress and destroy. The writers and artists after World War I were marked by their embrace and celebration of anti-cultural philosophies. There was also a willingness to shove aside liberal principles like fair play, free speech, and free association.
A fourth sign was the rise of propaganda and the willingness to believe useful lies. There was a desire to reject respectable society and embrace false history. Today we have the “1619 Project” of the New York Times which attempts to “reframe American history.”
Finally, there was a mania for ideology. Why do people accept lies? It helps them make sense of their lives and gives them a cause to embrace. Along with that was the politicization of everything.
These are some signs that totalitarianism was coming to these countries in Europe. It appears that we have many of the same signs here in America.