|Having taught history for over ten years now for students from age 6 to 66, I’ve reached a unique vantage point from which to observe and assess the culture. The news is not good, so I’ve decided to accelerate my efforts to help people prepare for the coming future.In order to achieve a synoptic view of the present-day, I’ve studied and taught Ancient, European, (North and Latin) American, Islamic, Indian, Japanese, and Chinese history to Objectivist adults via the “First History for Adults” program and homeschool students via History At Our House. The outcome of this study has been a keen appreciation of just where we stand in relation to multiple interrelated threads, most essentially: the trajectory of American government and the ongoing disintegration of the modern monetary system.This perspective recently received an injection of an incredibly vital insight through the amazing work of Leonard Peikoff in the DIM Hypothesis, which has served as a kind of capstone to my own understanding. Based on my entire career of historical research and understanding of Objectivism, I am ready to pronounce my agreement with the hypothesis:
“RELIGIOUS TOTALITARIANISM in America — that is my prediction.”
I think when most people read this line of the book, or hear about it, they think of it as something that might happen — at some point in the future — but that is is only a possible outcome which is not really connected to their lives and values now, and thus not really relevant to their immediate choices and actions.
It’s something to think about later.
Religious totalitarianism in, say, two generations — maybe? Plenty of time to enjoy whatever freedom we have left in the mean time then. Right?
No. Sorry. Absolutely not.
The key to avoiding this trap is to understand how history unfolds. A rationalist interpretation of DIM would be some kind of mental leap from where we are now to some distant Peikoff-defined M2 totalitarian cultural “mode” (as Peikoff calls it), without considering the path from one to the other. What we have to grasp to avoid that kind of dangerous interpretation is that an “M2” totalitarian dictatorship will be outcome of a chain of historical events that we will be living through, and they won’t be pleasant.
I anticipate, for instance, that an extended economic crisis, already underway since 2007, but entering into a new stage by the collapse of the Japanese (or Italian or French–pick any one of the bigger economies) economy this year, will generate a set — not a single one, but a set — of economic and geo-political triggers for modal change. (The truth is NOBODY can predict the specific path that any particular economy will follow, never mind the global economy, over the next few years, except to say, it will be volatile, and inevitably downhill. My guess is that Japan’s debt bomb goes off first, but better informed experts have been wrong about such things.)
The response to the crisis — whatever specific form it takes — will be governed by the current “D1” (modal) framework of thought in American (and other) governments — and it will fail.
What this means is: governments will tighten controls on our lives piecemeal, as per capital controls, Smoot-Hawley type nationalist legislation (if not in America, certainly in France and elsewhere), and by printing hallucinating amounts of new fiat money to try to cover up what Austrian economics incontrovertibly tells us is an inevitable ongoing global deflation.
There won’t be a grand theory behind it. “D1”s don’t work that way. Think about how the Obama administration has responded to the Egyptian “Revolution.” That is how it will respond to the end game of debt-based money.
One has to be clear, however, that this will mean an accelerated loss of freedom — in small, digestible stages. The move from where we are now to full M2 dictatorship will involve little changes that people will be able to tolerate in isolation. Each step will be weighed in the moment only, and found tolerable in itself. Each step will condition those who acquiesce to it to be ready to accept the next one. Until they are living in a dictatorship.
This has happened before. The most tragic example of this kind of “boiling frog” scenario was the lead up to the Holocaust. It is captured by a famous passage attributed to Pastor Niemoller about his own intellectual incapacity to deal with the history he was living through:
First they came for the communists,
The American story will go something like this…
First they persecuted big businesses for their tax avoidance,
In the wake of the Boston bombing, Americans will get used to not carrying backpacks to public events. It will be prohibited, as for the recent Miami Heat victory parade. But it will seem sensible. We already know how to take off our shoes when we get on a plane. We don’t like it, but we do it, and we’re used to it now. It has become “normal.”
After the next attack in some public setting, the TSA will start checking our bags as we board the subway. We won’t like it at first, but then it will become “normal,” along with highway checkpoints, which have been showing up for quite some time, and only conspiracy nuts are complaining about. Each step will be small. That’s how the D mode operates as a cultural conditioner, as it lays the groundwork for M2 dictatorship.
And then, at some specifically unforeseen moment, it will be too late for Americans and their children. Like millions of Jews caught in Germany and Poland, the normalcy bias will have numbed them to the gradual change. And they will find themselves inside of an M2 dictatorship.
And so will you, unless you are equipped to avoid this fate.
It won’t be easy. Based on my assessment of the culture, and even of the Objectivist sub-culture, I think that very few will actually avoid the worst. History’s big changes have always been events that just seem to happen to people who don’t understand how they got caught in the middle of them.
But you can understand history! It is possible, if you drag yourself out of that sense of normalcy that is numbing you to the decline of America, and take charge of your own personal trajectory through history.
You can generate one of two crucial outcomes: either 1) the society around you collapses, and you find a way to insulate yourself, or simply to get out, thus avoiding the worst, or 2) you can actually help to shape the culture towards an alternate outcome.
Isn’t either of these two immeasurably better than just being another one of history’s anonymous victims?
I know. It’s summertime. There are beaches and barbecues to enjoy. Pretty soon football season will be upon us. Unfortunately, so will the war to implement Obamacare.
Yup, history is happening. Life here and now absolutely has to have two aspects: enjoy what you’ve got, and prepare.
The latter has to be a ruthlessly intellectual process. It has to be a quest to truly understand the world around us, bring it into focus, such that we have an actionable, forward-looking framework of philosophical and historical guidance to optimize how we define our values and take the steps necessary to mitigate what history is going to do to us.
If you are ready to take charge of your trajectory through history, stay tuned to Powell History.
My goal as a historian is to make the means available to you, and I have many new products — including FREE ones! — in the works for the coming year.
If you can take advantage of these, then you can at least achieve a personally optimal historical outcome over the years to come. That advocates of reason and rights can affect a culture-level change is, tragically, very unlikely. Again, I agree with Leonard Peikoff on this. We’re just too far gone and the society at large is just too unreceptive to good ideas.
That’s not a reason to give up. That’s a reason to fight harder. And to prepare oneself.
I know nobody wants to think about this stuff. It’s complex and depressing. The key is to understand that there IS a path for each of us to get through history as safe and as happy as possible, and to begin taking steps ourselves in the right direction, as history proceeds along its steps in the other. People have done it before, and we can do it too.
Are you ready to take charge of *your* trajectory through history?
July 13, 2013 by Scott Powell