There are times in life when at last you can fully recognise a deadly, half-hidden danger. Reading an intensely perceptive analysis helps, and there is a relatively recent one by the Polish philosopher Ryszard Legutko, published in English as The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies (brief excerpts featured in Quadrant‘s April 2015 edition). Professor Legutko and I grew up in the same epoch and political environment in the communist tyrannies of Eastern Europe. I escaped and came to Australia as a refugee in 1981, while he became involved with Solidarity in Poland. Now he is a leading member of the European Parliament.
My point of view differs in part from his in that I have more sympathy for today’s voters, who must swim and struggle in the filthy oceans of propaganda the Left elite churns out. But I find his main thesis strikingly true:
“There are increasingly ominous parallels between the communist tyranny we have known and currently developing versions of ‘liberal democracy’ ”.
Totalitarian tendencies in those who increasingly dominate public life in the West – let’s call them the progressive elitists; Legutko hyphenates them, somewhat ambiguously, as “liberal-democrats” – have been pointed out before. It is the way these forces have behaved in Australia during the same-sex marriage and Safe Schools debates that awakened me so sharply. Don’t think me overly dramatic when I say you can smell the totalitarian threat in the air. Yes, right here in Australia.
Decisively, it is the progressive elitists – on the Left and elsewhere – who control the marriage-fakery and gender-confusion pushes, and who, in effect, are exploiting same-sex attracted people for their own purposes. Powerful enablers do far more harm than noisy activists. Of course, not all advocates of false marriage belong to this camp. Some are honestly misguided. There are puppets and there are puppet masters.
Marriage fakery and gender confusion should be seen as parts of the elitist push. There are other parts, too, in other fields. Going by recent experience, we can expect new forms of inhumanity threatening us year by year, with the aim of destroying traditional foundations and herding us towards the prison camp of progressivist utopia. And we are not talking about “fringe elements”, not at all. The tell-tale is their deviousness as they deny obvious interconnections, all the while crying “Red herring!” and “scare campaign!” even as the consequences of legislating for gay marriage are manifest in other countries. Take the Ontario experience, for example, where grade-one children are taught there are six “genders”, as even the program’s defenders concede.
Let me illustrate a couple of the parallels between the elitist social engineers and the commissars of the country and system I thought I had left behind.
The word forgers
Confusing, distorting, reversing and destroying the meanings of words was a major characteristic of communism, as much as the constant threat of state terror. The elitists in Australia also depend on word forgeries. “Homophobe” has become a term for the hysterical condemnation of ordinary people, and it is as manipulative as any communist cant. You may be democratically tolerant and compassionate; as a Christian, for instance, you will try to love all people “as yourself” and accept that all share in the highest possible inherent dignity as children of God. Nothing can more dramatically demonstrate the polar opposite of hating people than the Sermon on the Mount, but today stating as much is of no use. If you still dare to recognize the natural complementarity of man and woman as a fact and a norm, then you are a homophobe and, of course, “a hater“. This from the the very same people who so loudly and often say they wish only to promote “respect”!
That abuse might well have ben directed at people like my mother, who survived the Nazis and the Communists with her kindness and humanity tested but intact. Her generosity, open mind, unselfishness and self-sacrifice, her deep concern for the true needs of children, would count for nothing. Had she dared to disagree, she would have condemned herself to being vilified with the homophobe label. There are others of similar perspective who come readily to mind: a staunch old friend, an Anzac hero, wonderfully welcoming; Chinese migrant friends with traditions deep and fresh; a generous colleague, living in a joyful African Christian family culture. These are good people with valid objections and reservations about same-sex marriage and Safe Schools-style indoctrination, but they are automatically cast as “enemies” for all their goodness and the charity of their characters. They disagree and that is enough to be declared pariahs by those with the loudest megaphones.
Man-woman marriage is the heritage of humanity. Defending it, in all its implications, against all forgeries, is a basic and unquestionable human right — unlike the suddenly concocted and bogus “right” to same-sex marriage. Did the Anzacs fight and die for an Australia where we must beg exemptions and indulgence to be heard when we defend true marriage? Functioning, viable societies need freedom of speech. In the framework within which the current debate is conducted, a devious attack on this basic democratic freedom is already implicit.
Meanwhile the painted mask is peeling off the faces of shameless politicians, including the person-of-faith-whenever-convenient variety, who keep reassuring us about religious freedom not being under any sort of threat. If that is genuinely the case, why not release the draft legislation that has been privately circulating in Canberra for months? By their words shall ye know them, by the absence of their words as well. Their bland assurances that there is nothing to worry about, nothing to see here, (“clergy will not be compelled to officiate” and the like) is so narrow and open to amendment as to be worthy of any communist tyrant. After all, those despots silenced and terrorised believers, but still boasted of religious freedom. Weren’t people graciously allowed to go to church?
More verbal engineering
And what about equality? The word is dragged into the propaganda slogan of marriage equality as fraudulently as any favourite slogan whose language the communist elite twisted and controlled in order to suit its ends?
For those who have lived through communist state-controlled propaganda drives, there is a stomach-turning sense of déjà vu — the spectre of that same monstrous inequality of power. Most media, universities, even sporting and professional associations regardless of their members’ wishes, the usual celebrity noise-makers — all pressed into service in support of one side only. The former AFL footballer, professional controversialist and sometime vulgarian Sam Newman nailed it this week on, of all TV programmes, The AFL Footy Show. Watch him take the AFL commissars to task in the video clip below. Notice also how host Eddie McGuire honours the legacy of true apparatchiks by marshalling irrelevance and sophistry in defence of authority.
Top managers of big banks and sundry enterprises, with their obscene and gargantuan incomes, are joined by million-dollar-a-year careerist vice-chancellors, plus rich and devious ABC presenters and the like in posing as the new champions of equality. All the while, most of these are working, directly or indirectly, to entrench their own power and privileges over small businesses and ordinary people. I asked my mother not long before she died:
“Apart from fear, what was the worst infamy you had to endure under communism?”
“The degrading feeling of being taken for a fool by propagandists.”
I, too, tasted the bitterness of ideological servility at workplaces in the old Soviet bloc: going through pitiful pretences to avoid victimization, mass meetings and marches where we had to cheer and celebrate the lies we were fed and knew we were being fed. What next for Australian workplaces now that top managers are regularly issuing their enlightened edicts on “correct” opinions? Will employees be required to celebrate the Emperor’s New Marriage Act, as Hans Christian Andersen might have put it? It is no use hoping Labor will protect workers from such degrading servility. That party has finally and comprehensively betrayed those it claims to represent; just look at its support for green energy policies which have killed jobs and grossly inflated the power bills of its working-class constituency. Labor now works on the theory that the best thing for the proletariat is that it be taught obedience.
Unless we want to surrender ourselves and our children to a nightmarish future where speech is controlled, thoughts regulated and those who deviate brought to book, we must keep fighting in our own spheres and circles, be they parental, cultural, educational, political, professional. Let us first support those who already fighting, then start working with a fresh sense of solidarity on new initiatives, new alliances. On new political parties, too, because they are desperately needed. Labor has become an accomplice in the oppression of young and old, telling its voters that ruinous energy costs are good for them and that the correct response to contentious policies is a group cheer and unquestioning acceptance. The Liberals, after stabbing a good man and decent prime minister, have betrayed the “forgotten people”. Leading politicians of both parties now swell the ranks of the arrogant, progressive elitists. Want an example? Watch Attorney-General George Brandis below defend the burqa — that foul, oppressive, impractical, misogynist sack — as (has he no shame?) a sacred “religious garment”.
We are bullied and confused by multiple machines of propaganda and distraction. Their noise keeps us from understanding the message rising from the “democracy of the dead”, as Chesterton’s resounding phrase puts it, from the tradition of life-giving marriage — the tradition that fathers and mothers should not and never can be interchanged.
But let me return to my theme, as inspired by Ryszard Legutko’s wonderfully perceptive work The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies, and address the increasingly ominous parallels between communist tyranny and elitist trickery. I will focus first on schoolchildren.
I began primary school in Budapest in the year following the 1956 anti-communist uprising, a counterrevolution in communist terms. It was a revolution of truth, with many students and others becoming heroes in the fight against the marxist lies of the day. After the movement was crushed and its heroes killed, imprisoned or driven into exile, parents had to warn their children never to utter the word “revolution“ at school, as we could never know whose parents were regime-friendly informers. If only I could lend readers my eyes of memory to see the panic, even in 10-year-olds, when someone blurted out something ill-advised about the uprising. The fear of consequences was palpable. Today, I think of the Orwellian Safe Schools program and its inevitable future variations and extensions. Must 10-year-olds live under the same stress to use the “correct” and approved term, as once fear obliged me to do?
The fake marriage and Safe Schools propagandists often use suicide prevention as a rationale, even as they ignore far better and more general anti-suicide and anti-bullying programs. And they ignore this: in Eastern Europe communist indoctrination led to masses of schoolchildren losing their bedrock cultural and religious heritage. Multitudes of lives sank into an ethical quagmire, with despair, alcoholism, family breakup and, yes, suicide the result. To save my future children and grandchildren from that same danger was one of the main reasons for escaping to the freedom of the Australia I loved and still do.
Yet now in my Australia, what kinds of distress, including suicide, could eventually flow from the religious confusion and loss of cultural bearings produced by gender-blurring programs and boosted by same-sex marriage? Are those potential suicides and ruined lives somehow less worthy of considering? Naïve question. The whole point of the progressive elitist agenda is to undermine traditional cultural-religious foundations. Why would they start acknowledging the real costs now?
The suicide of logic and compassion
Consider another push occurring right now and the Rainbow Brigade’s emphasis on stopping suicides as a rational for gay marriage becomes even more transparent. Often the very same ideological voices are pushing “voluntary euthanasia”, lately packaged in the stomach-turning trickery of “assisted dying”. Like the commissars, they will have their way with words and meanings! Undoubtedly over time the euthanasia push will see a despicable pressure on the old and sick to agree to end their lives early. Voluntary? Drugging her coffee and getting helpful family members to hold her down for the lethal injection because she was fighting back – that was the way it was done for a poor and confused Dutch woman with dementia, as reported earlier this year. So-called progressives who say they want to decrease the pressure towards suicide among young homosexuals by promoting fake marriages and misleadingly branding Safe Schools an anti-bullying program are often the very same people who do not object to increasing the pressure for the old and disabled to end their inconvenient existence.
Once more I think of my mother, who last year died a natural death last year completely helpless in a nursing home. I remember the last flicker of her warm smile two days before the end. There was infinitely more love and infinitely more dignity in that smile than the progressives, with their conditional utopias, could ever comprehend.
Universities of servility
Straight after retiring from universities in Australia, after 28 years and three institutions, memories of a climate of servility are uppermost in my mind. Places full of enhanced “21st century organic outcomes”, in vice-chancellorspeak.
Earlier, in the 1970s, I spent five years at a Hungarian university where I studied engineering. The fear of communist state terror had by then sunk deep into everyone’s mind. I am thinking of one particular physics lecture with several hundred students in attendance, during which the professor stopped suddenly and asked everyone to remain seated.
A door opened.
Four academics from the institution’s party committee filed in. Without any meaningful introduction, their spokesman started making a speech in support of some Soviet propaganda drive. Very monotonous it was. To such a captive audience those marxist phrases verged on the narcoleptic. Ironically, it was the wooden delivery that excited and maintained interest, as that seemed to suggest the speakers were simply going through the required motions. They didn’t believe. We didn’t believe. But the words had been spoken as required and that was enough. Soon, a vote in support for the Soviets was demanded. All students without exception, including me, promptly raised our hands. The committee filed out. The physics lecture resumed. Clockwork.
And now, with that memory freshly revived, a recent experience in Australia. One day there is a minor media outcry – entirely justified — about slimy, government-sponsored “gender ideology” materials aimed at schoolchildren and produced at the university where, coincidentally, I happened to be working at the time. And what is the official university response? Immediate recourse to high-minded indignation that critics would dare to call a spade a spade. In due course the university declares it has now officially endorsed “marriage equality”. And now? Let us await the next propaganda crusade … and then the next … and the one after that. Those Hungarian academics, by their conspicuously wooden performance, were moving away from enthusiastic servility. Australian universities have been steadily moving towards complete servility to the progressivist powers.
Sometimes I still turn my mind’s eye back to that Hungarian lecture, trying to recall what I saw straight after, outside the building. The luminous colours of autumn leaves following rain, or the small, hopeful flowers of spring – I cannot now remember the details, just the impression. I knew then that I longed to live in a country where I could feel the fresh air of freedom inside a university building as well as outside.
Today, as I write, I imagine confronting senior Australian academics and administrators with memories of that longing, and of what has become of it. I would say:
“Unlike you, some of us have not come here for stellar salaries or career coups. We came for the fresh winds of free debate, where fear has no place. When I became a refugee, I bet my whole life on that proposition. Can you understand that? If you can grasp what it means to be able to speak without fear, why are you now educating the youth of Australia for lives of doctrinal servility?”
What would they say to that, I wonder? But again, what a naïve thought! Of course they would have plenty to say – through their departments of marketing and propaganda (whatever the official name). They never allow themselves to be short of excuses and obfuscatory explanations for the inexcusable and self-evident.
Right side of history?
One of the most hateful aspects of living under marxism was being constantly bombarded by the message that history was on its side – “the forces of progress”, as the apparatchiks liked to say – and the concomitant conclusion that resistance was useless. To make our subjection total, we had to be demoralised, stripped of any and all hope.
Now I hear the same hateful message: anyone daring to oppose gay marriage is on the wrong side of history. Sure, if we bow before the piled-up power and privilege of the elitists, they win. Then we can expect in other fields new inhumanities, fresh deceptions, more servility. And always, because this is the way of the preening Left, new penalties and sanctions on its critics. Inside every leftist wardrobe of assertions and responses, as history has demonstrated time and again, there is a pair of much-loved jackboots.
That is the crux of the matter. We have allowed ourselves to be put to sleep, instead of fighting back. Let us now join the fight and in all the spheres available to us. And let us build new alliances.
The progressive elitists are fond of putting on shows to demonstrate their loudly professed virtue, especially where “racism” can be dragged into it. Yet they keep sneering at the cultural values of people from outside the West, which means most recent migrants to Australia. That superior, sneering attitude of the elitists is as bad as racism, probably worse; it certainly comes with the same stench of arrogance. Of those alliances we need to build and which I mentioned above, well we should build networks of solidarity with migrants against devious assaults on all of us. We are their natural friends and allies — us social conservatives, if you will — not the progressivist hypocrites who, in one breath, can cite their “respect” for multiculturalism and, in the next, demand the adoption of policies and attitudes to make a Confucian or a Muslim blanch.
We have seen the progress of the “progressive forces on the right side of history” fail, their tyranny crash, against all odds. There can be a different kind of progress in decent directions that do not make us trample upon the democracy of the dead.
Yet despite it all I cling to a hope that Australians will defy the elitists, will keep on fighting and do so without hate, but with spirit and courage.