At least two writers in the 19th century foresaw the advent of totalitarianism. The first was Dostoevsky and the second was Nietzsche. Both writers grasped the intellectual trend of their day. As education advanced, as the human spirit was given new opportunities for understanding, the result was intellectual radicalism. In the 18th century Edmund Burke warned his contemporaries that education without religion or aristocratic principles would turn against mankind. Burke wrote: “Learning will be cast into the mire, and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude.” Burke added, “In the groves of their academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but gallows.” Overwhelmed with a similar insight, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche updated Burke’s lament. In Dostoevsky’s novel, The Possessed, a radical young intellectual advocated a world in which Cicero would have his tongue cut out, Copernicus would have his eyes put out, and Shakespeare would be stoned to death – in the name of universal equality. Dostoevsky predicted that the radical mentality – emerging in the 19th century – would kill 100 million peoplein the 20th century. Those without vision, without a sense of where the world was headed, disbelieved Dostoevsky’s prophecy. Such a calamity could never happen, because the world is not a madhouse.
Enter Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. Enter, as well, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, and today’s politically correct mob. What characterizes them, besides their egotism and narcissism, is their false idealism and moral posturing. According to Edmund Burke: “Nothing is more certain, than that our manners, our civilization, and all the good things which are connected with manners and with civilization, have, in this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles; and were indeed the result of both combined; I mean the spirit of a gentleman, and the spirit of religion.”
Since Burke’s time, modern intellectuals have overthrown the spirit of a gentleman and the spirit of religion. Every structure, every religious precept, every honored tradition, came under intellectual attack. God and country were targeted. Religion and patriotism were targeted. The main surviving ideals of our day are those of leveling, equalizing and taxing into penury. Envy is the Holy Grail of our intelligentsia, and the annihilation of all values is their ultimate end.
“What I relate is the history of the next two centuries,” wrote Nietzsche in The Will to Power. “I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of Nihilism. This history can be related even now; for necessity itself is at work here.” Nietzsche knew what was coming because he understood the radical intellectuals of his day. Nietzsche called them “the tarantulas,” the “secret revengeful ones,” envious preachers of equality whose ambition is tyranny. Nietzsche even foresaw the day when Marxist professors would advance his writings for the sake of their own malignant cause. “There are those who preach my doctrine of life,” Nietzsche explained, “and are at the same time preachers of equality, and tarantulas.” Do not be fooled by them, he warned. They preach life in order to harm life.
The madness of the tarantulas permeates the broad world, with nihilist Russia as their goad. The death of 100 million in the 20th century was merely a foretaste. The call of envy assures that the noblest are slandered, that the greatest are demeaned, and the prosperous brought to ruin. America is in the crosshairs of this grand metaphysic. The world sinks into socialism because nobody knows the secret of defending what socialism was devised to annihilate. We’ve come to think that economics will save us. We know how to make money, after all. As long as the shopping mall regime continues, who cares about the rest? But our economic principles, warned Burke, developed under the protection of aristocratic and religious ideals. Economic science will not survive the decline of aristocracy and religion. “With you,” warned Burke, “they all threaten to disappear together. Where trade and manufactures are wanting to a people, and the spirit of nobility and religion remains, sentiment supplies, and not always ill supplies, their place; but if commerce and the arts should be lost in an experiment to try how well a state may stand without these old fundamental principles, what sort of a thing must be a nation of gross, stupid, ferocious, and, at the same time, poor and sordid, barbarians, destitute of religion, honour, or manly pride, possessing nothing at present, and hoping nothing hereafter?”
We can, like Dostoevsky and Nietzsche, see “what sort of a thing” is coming. We need only consult the same oracle they did. If Western Civilization is not yet poor, it has nonetheless become gross and destitute of religion. The interior mind of our contemporaries is an oracle that anyone might read. The political speeches at the Republican and Democratic conventions are tea leaves. You only have to know how to read them. For that matter, the hundreds of emails I’ve received since the Russian incursion into Georgia offer the clearest preview imaginable of the Winepress of the Wrath of God. For here, above all other signs and portents, that which is stupid and ferocious unmasks the fatal impulse of a civilization that blames itself for the skullduggery of its own enemies.
In 1996 Boris Yeltsin commissioned a poll within Russia. He wanted to know what the Russian people actually believed. Some Russians believed in democracy, some remained Communist, and some were apolitical. But the largest group believed in nothing at all. “Nihilism stands at the door,” wrote Nietzche. “Whence comes this uncanniest of all guests?”
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