home > archive > 2007 > this article

Education really is the key to society and the future - Part Two: Towards "normative" totalitarianism?

By Mark Wegierski
web posted February 26, 2007

In managerial theory, it is often conceptualized that there are three main methods of getting a person to do something, or for controlling a person's actions: coercive, utilitarian, and normative. These distinctions are useful in describing some of the principal differences between, for example, the former Soviet system (operating mostly through coercion), and the managerial-therapeutic regime (as described by such thinkers as Philip Rieff and Paul Edward Gottfried). It is indeed quite possible for a so-called soft totalitarian system based almost entirely on normative controls to exist. That is, if people are conditioned in one given direction by mass-media and mass-education, they follow the ruling ideology apparently of their own free will. Given the enormous component of left-liberalism in the mass-media and mass-education in Canada, it could be argued that, in Canada, traditionalists and conservatives are simply being edited out of current-day social reality.

It may be remembered that in Canada, unlike in the U.S., one cannot perceive any significant countervailing tendencies to the managerial-therapeutic regime. Some of these elements in the U.S. could be identified as the much greater presence and coherence of fundamentalist Christianity (including both evangelical Protestants and traditionalist Catholics); the various Great Power exigencies of current-day America, including a huge military and considerable security and intelligence services; a judiciary and constitutional tradition where there is a substantial conservative presence even today; a more regionally and intellectually diverse country with more ideologically variegated urban centres and hinterlands; the flourishing of hundreds of usually more conservative, mostly denominationally-based, private colleges; and a large network of right-wing think-tanks and publications. Indeed, some commentators have suggested that these various factors make America a "Right Nation." It has also been pointed out that, although Canada has vast hinterland regions, most of its population lives in large urban centres – notably Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver – three cities where support for the Conservative Party is extremely attenuated. However, it is those three cities, especially Toronto, that have an overwhelming influence on current-day Canadian society and culture.

Among the most cherished educational policies of left-liberals are such programs of "sensitization" as "Anti-Racist Education". One should really put the names of programs like these in quotation marks, as they usually move far beyond "teaching people to be nice to others" as they might claim to be doing. One could suppose that – in the way it is usually administered to students today – it is mostly a vehicle for wracking white Canadians with guilt, and for pejoritizing traditionalism and conservatism.

It is important to remember, nevertheless, that politeness is not political correctness. It could be argued that people can usually be more naturally polite to each other, only if they are secure in their respective identities. Yet the whole emphasis of measures like "Anti-Racist Education" would seem to be an attempt to render nearly all of traditional Canada and Western civilization, to appear as utterly hideous to "decent" human sensibilities. There is the refusal to consider the idea that one can probably be more naturally polite to people without having to hew to the multifarious dogmas of political correctness.

And it is in such "mandatory sensitivity-training" measures that the dogmatic aspects of left-liberalism may be seen very clearly. It is an area where left-liberalism usually brooks no opposition.

One may have been quite shocked to find these words being spoken by Bernard Shapiro (the Deputy Minister of Education, and ostensibly a "neutral professional civil servant") in regards to Ontario's proposed Anti-Racist Education measures, in 1987:

"My own sense is that the time to have a mandatory policy, the time to wield the stick, is when you have three or four recalcitrants out there that you want to whip into shape... Resocialization takes time... The point is to produce the result, not to produce the symbol of the result... The easiest thing to do is to make a policy mandatory and to announce that the problem has been solved."
                                                                                   The Toronto Star, September 12, 1987, p. A3.

If a conservative had used such forceful language in regard to a different issue, he probably would have been hounded from office. It could be argued that Shapiro has all the subtlety of Orwell's O'Brien. It looks like he is speaking from the position of an absolute ruler, confident that no one will question his statements. The totalitarian edge of modern left-liberalism is clearly seen here. Of course, it is claimed that it is being done on behalf of such "high-minded", "decent" values, that a bit of coercion is indeed called for.

George Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, describes the origins of the ruling class of that society:

"The new aristocracy was made up, for the most part, of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians."

The near exact correspondence here to the social origins of what might be called today's "New Class" or "Information Class" -- of which the media is the most prominent portion -- is uncanny.

In terms of the hysterical left-wing responses to the slightest, supposed "move to the right", in an already left-liberal dominated society, the following passage from Orwell is instructive, highlighting the drive to totality generated by a regnant ideology:

"The heretic, the enemy of society, will always be there, so that he can be defeated and humiliated over and over again... The more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant: the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism. Goldstein and his heresies will live for ever. Every day, at every moment, they will be defeated, discredited, ridiculed, spat upon -- and yet they will always survive."

Hence the political conflict in late modern societies – despite their pretence of upholding classical liberal freedoms  -- may move in the direction of ever more dystopic and apocalyptic outcomes.

To the typical left-liberal or left-winger, to be on the social peripheries means to be truly "social"; to be in the social mainstream, and consciously supportive of its ideas and outlooks, is to be dangerously "anti-social."  This "inside-out" sort of situation as a major feature of the society, creates a very intractable social crisis. Indeed, it might be argued that a society ruled by liberalism (in the contemporary sense of the term) cannot long endure without some kind of tempering reforms  -- either liberalism eventually destroys everything ordered in that society, or the core of the society somehow re-asserts itself, and successfully challenges the environment of ever increasing social fragmentation and attenuation.

However, in the case of Canada, there can indeed be seen very few prospects today for any kind of restorative projects, whether in any part of the education system, in the mass-media, or in party politics. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.

Other related essays:





Site Map

E-mail ESR


© 1996-2024, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.