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This week I saw on the Champs Elysees in Paris an outdoors exhibition of large size photographs dedicated to the plight of Afghan women under Taliban rule. Although many of the pictures could have been taken under the previous US-protected regime, the show was meant to draw public sympathy to the oppressed female gender in the war-torn country. Yet next to the misty-eyed passing watchers were a few young men of North African or Middle Eastern origin proudly taking selfies next to the almost life size portraits of the rakishly handsome bearded and turbaned Taliban in traditional garments or ethnically modified battle fatigues showing off their brand new American automatic weapons. Clearly the exhibition was not imparting the same lesson to all its viewers. For many of the people of immigrant stock the Taliban were virile folk heroes who proudly upheld their native culture against Godless western invaders and kept women in their rightful place.
This incidental thought, apart from betraying cultural and religious divisions within an outwardly homogenous progressive French polity, brought me once more to the realization that Europe as the cradle of western modernity is gradually entering new waters since five decades at least. Some have called it a journey towards post-modernity which inevitably entails a passage to what we may allude to as post-democracy if by the rather vague and variable notion of democracy we allude to the primacy of individual liberty over the power of the state or of the abstract collective. What is now taking shape, under the combined pressure of the ‘new’ Left rooted in deconstructionism, the environmental threats, high-tech turbo-capitalism, demographic transformation and pandemic fears is a different type of system in which the rulings of select, mutually co-opting scientific, technocratic, financial and legal experts prevail over the will and even the interests of the popular majority.
We can see manifestations of this emerging reality in many dominant and surreptitious features of what is commonly described as ‘The New Normal’. High level figures from leading global institutions such as the UN, G-20, G-7 and the Davos Forum have repeatedly emphasized that it is impossible to go back to old (pre-2020) normalcy and that new rules must prevail if humanity is to survive.
In Europe this top-down process is inextricably tied to the mechanism of European federal construction and its designs for a new supra-national secular rationalist doxa which is in practice a new sort of civic religion intended to rule over and eventually replace traditional spiritual faiths. The affirmation of the supremacy of European rulings over national jurisdiction and laws is insidious and it increasingly justifies oversight of the internal affairs of states, both within and without the European Union. It also results in the drive to limit and possibly remove the three traditional protected privileges of confidentiality hitherto granted to citizens: attorney-client privilege, inviolability of religious confession and the right of journalists to protect their sources as we witness in the famous cases of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.
In principle, as always, such reforms are supposed to be positive and necessary as they increase the ability of society to uncover and punish crime; however in practice they open the door for the prying hands of the powers-that-be to exercise ever more control on all aspects of private life but they still leave plenty of room for the truly powerful individuals and corporations to escape the supervision which primarily extends to the rest of the population including the (former?) middle class. In essence we are witnessing the spread of techno-feudalism under the aegis of elites which are far from being ideologically neutral even if their ideology is based on – self-serving-utilitarianism.
A recent instance of ideological neo-colonialism is the irate European Commission’s reaction to the new law voted by an overwhelming majority of the Hungarian Parliament that bans the dissemination and ‘pedagogic’ use of pornographic and homosexual material in the national school system. The EU’s President Ursula von der Leyen, sometimes described as the European counterpart of the Queen of England due to her mainly symbolic power, was in high dudgeon to condemn the Hungarian decision and incited public and private entities all over Europe to punish the nation in all possible ways (hopefully) short of violence. The commitment of the EU to prevent the banning of pornography among European children was quite an eye opener about what is meant by the loudly trumpeted ‘European values’ which put exorbitant emphasis on the hitherto utterly fringe issue of the sundry micro-minorities now herded together as LGBTQX as if they had a common cause. The opportunity to use trans-gender bathrooms and change one’s sexual identity from childhood on a lark seems to be a primary aspect of freedom according to the politically correct dogma which has replaced old-fashioned, widely shared codes of morality with arbitrary rules of good or evil dictated by select minorities. That an upper-class Catholic mother of seven children like Mrs. Von der Layen was the mouthpiece of this ideology is even more striking.