To understand Hegel (the philosopher) the reader must be in perfect health, though sometimes the minds of geniuses deliver compact nuggets of wisdom, understandable by the rest of us. One such instance is the idea of ‘Zeitgeist,’ the spirit of the times.
Pedantically speaking, Hegel preferred the form ‘Geist des Zeit.’ It was English poet and literary critic Matthew Arnold who introduced the term ‘Zeitgeist’ into the English language in 1848.
‘Zeitgeist’ gives a habitation and a name (1) to a range of concurrent, palpable and often-irrational phenomena observed by many, and yet not immediately traceable to their source.
But the law of causation dictates that every change in nature has a cause. In this respect the actions of individuals are perhaps easier to handle than the actions, the attitudes at large and the currents of thought that move peoples and nations.
Sometimes the cause is mistaken. For example, Polonius determined that Hamlet was mad but misdiagnosed the symptoms. It wasn’t love the reason for Hamlet’s madness, but, as we know, a burning desire to avenge his father’s murder.
With peoples and nations the causes of the Zeitgeist can still be traced with reasonable confidence. But the same forces that muscled-in the changes have all the interest in hiding their role, lest the reaction by those affected may turn their winter of discontent (2) into open rebellion – a currently unlikely event, for the discontented have been cowed into resignation. Besides, they have also lost some key essential tools of self-defense, without even being overly aware of it.
First in the list, is the practical cashiering of the first amendment about freedom of expression. For the forces forging the Zeitgeist also own and therefore control the current venues of mass communications. That they can do so with impunity, on the flimsy ground that the censors’ companies are ‘private’ and therefore untouchable, only shows the immense power of the ‘Zeitgeisters’.
And in a macroscopic instance of the current Zeitgeist its masters have persuaded countless millions to be ashamed of their own being – a first in history unless mistaken. In fact it took to the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to state officially what most Americans already know but are afraid to say it – that there is an ongoing war against Americans of European ethnicity.
There are many related events, policy statements and literature, but some examples should be quoted so as not to turn assertions into generalizations.
The Saker’s readers may recall the New York Times’ article by Roger Cohen, before the last presidential elections, titled, “Trump’s Last Stand for White America.” The clear implication being that with Trump gone, so will be the whites.
And here is a collection of quotes by Noel Ignatiev, a recently departed academic and ‘guru’ of the war against the ‘whites’. Incidentally, as we will see later, one of main creators of the Zeitgeist is academia. Here is Ignatiev:
*** The goal of abolishing the white race is on its face so desirable that some may find it hard to believe that it could incur any opposition other than from committed white supremacists… Keep bashing the dead white males, and the live ones, and the females too, until the social construct known as ‘the white race’ is destroyed – not ‘deconstructed’ but destroyed.
*** If you are a white male, you don’t deserve to live. You are a cancer, you’re a disease, white males have never contributed anything positive to the world!
*** The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race. Until that task is accomplished, even partial reform will prove elusive, because white influence permeates every issue in U.S. society, whether domestic or foreign.
*** Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.
*** The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race.
*** Whiteness is not a culture . . . Whiteness has nothing to do with culture and everything to do with social position . . . . Without the privileges attached to it, the white race would not exist, and the white skin would have no more social significance than big feet.
As another example, the name of Coudenhove-Kalergi as the promoter of a ‘multicultural’ European Union (literally ‘a Europe of half-breeds’) is known to many. For his program applies to all whites, including America’s.
According to statistics, in January 2021, 100,000 illegal aliens were admitted in the United States at the Mexican border. For February the number aired is 200,000. For March even approximate statistics are not yet available. Besides, between 20 and 30 million illegals already live in the country and it’s common knowledge that an ‘amnesty’ is in the works. Biden’s solution is to prohibit using the adjective ‘illegals’ applied to those who immigrate illegally. Similar ‘solutions’ are applied in Europe.
Fox-News is the only mainstream US channel that, however timidly and rarely, airs a viewpoint marginally misaligned with the imposed narrative. A popular commentator said recently that the tsunami of mass uncontrolled immigration constitutes a demographic replacement, with the objective to subvert the US electoral process.
He did not mention race, ethnicity or religion – he only referred to the subversion of the electoral process. But the very fact of having brought up the subject on a MSM channel is a first, for all who tried before were fired or disappeared. Yet the president of the ADL (Anti Defamation League) called for the commentator’s dismissal on grounds of racism and, by inference, ‘antisemitism’. Conclusion: he who does not agree with the Zionists is antisemitic. Or rather, since the ADL’s reason for being is to combat antisemitism, it follows that the targets of ADL’s wrath are by definition antisemitic.
On the other hand we can observe the Zeitgeist in other macro-events, such as, for example, public health.
With the Covid pandemic we have witnessed (in the West), a theologization of medicine and a medicalization of religion. As for religion, the author and accomplice is Pope Bergoglio, with his clerical masks, digital masses, sterilized holy waters, virtual sacraments and ecclesiastical distancing.
With theological medicine we move from the realm of experimental observation to metaphysics. And arguing about metaphysics is an undertaking bound to fail at the onset. Consequently and for the sake of my 25 readers, I declare and confirm my complete and evenly apportioned respect for all related individual opinions.
Statistics could help, but at worst their numbers are easily manipulated, and at best statistics resemble bikinis, for what they reveal is suggestive but what they conceal is vital.
Still, every now and then an anecdote throws a glimmer of light on the intrigues and shenanigans of those who benefit from turmoil and misrepresentations.
A case at hand is CNN, gargantuan mainstream diffuser of Orwellian truths, whose channel is present, imposed and bombarding innocent bystanders in millions of hotels and waiting rooms worldwide.
In a video possibly still found online, some ingenious outsiders managed to interview a CNN’s bigwig, where he admits that inflating the figures of the dead (from Covid) is a practice of this much acclaimed organ of information.
Another instance of the Zeitgeist is the restraint-less, particular and platitudinally magnified contempt by the political class for the electorate. In fact, just as he that is giddy thinks the world turns ‘round us, (3) so the cabalistic powers ruling America believe that the ruled at large are dumb, drunk, blind or headless.
For example, Biden calls the president of Russia a ‘killer’ even though, on the stage of America and the world, Biden appears, in so doing, or rather, speaking, a motley fool out of his mind. Which, incidentally, is what President Putin did not say, but with finesse implied when, in response, he hoped and wished publicly that Biden be in good health.
However, all of the above the world well knows, yet none knows well (4)how all did come about. Is it possible to trace back the Zeitgeist to its origins? And why should anyone care?
I will deal with the second question first, why should anyone care? The answer is ‘I don’t know’ though there is a certain pleasure in what Bertrand Russell called ‘useless knowledge’. As an example, and with unpardonable self-reference, I say here that I had three lives, the first as a musician, while the second was briefly divided between a relatively short spell in a large corporation and a computer company I founded and ran for many years.
While still hesitant about plying the risky waters of self-employment I thought I would randomly send out a few resumes, mostly for curiosity. And, being skeptical about accepting a job even if offered, I felt at liberty to tell the truth in my resume, rather than resorting to the habitual platitudes promoted by the gurus of resume writing.
For example, under the item, ‘strengths,’ I wrote “An unquenchable passion for what is utterly, totally, and incontrovertibly useless, notwithstanding occasional evidence to the contrary.” And under the item “weaknesses” I wrote, “Take your pick.”
Anyway back to the subject of useless knowledge. In one of his essays Russell says that he enjoyed peaches and apricots more since he found out that they were first cultivated in China during the Han dynasty; and that Chinese hostages held by an Indian King introduced them to India. From there they spread to Persia, and reached the Roman Empire in the first century AD. Furthermore, the word ‘apricot’ has the same Latin root as the word ‘precocious’ because the apricot ripens early. And the ‘a’ was added by mistake, due to a false etymology. All this, Bertrand Russell says, makes the apricot taste much sweeter.”
In the same spirit I will deal with the root of the Zeitgeist(s). And although seemingly small in importance compared to its subsequent impact, (5) the Zeitgeist usually begins with a career-promoting academic hypothesis that gradually becomes a widely accepted idea. Eventually, the idea becomes so natural that it becomes not only an unchallenged orthodoxy, but a cliche’ even among the plebs, the crowd, the untutored and the commoners.
But who is behind the original career-promoting hypothesis? The answer is simple, namely those who have a strategic, when not racial or ethnic interest in the consequences deriving from the hypothesis converted into a widely accepted idea.
For example, some may remember the academic-political think-tank that came up with the “Project for the XXI American Century”, based on the hypothesis of a new ‘Pearl-Harbor-like’ event’ to again galvanize the plebs, the crowd, the blunt monster with the uncounted heads (6), and the fool multitude that choose by show. (7)
Such project, such century! For the academic-hypothesis, as well known, turned into an idea and then a reality. Yet the Zeitgeisters managed the affair so well that those who dared to challenge the orthodox view of 9/11 became conspiracy theorists when they did not meet the same fate as Julian Assange.
And here is another instance of the birth and evolution of an idea affecting the current Zeitgeist – namely a reversal of the notion of crime.
Where I live, the downtown are has been for months a war zone. All stores have boarded up doors, windows and anything that may easily be smashed with a sledgehammer. The narrow spaces between the pavement and the boarded up doors have become sleeping quarters for the homeless (though Portland has a fairly good number of reasonably equipped and maintained shelters). The Apple store after being smashed and looted last year, was promptly boarded up and fenced in. Yet, just last week (I am writing this article in April 2021) precautions proved ineffectual. The store was smashed and looted again. But I heard on the local news that Apple “will preserve the original “Black Lives Matter” graffiti on the original boards” presumably for historical edification.
And I read that 100 policemen have just resigned from the city’s force, for reasons that the reader can easily imagine, given the current turn of events and the reversal of the notion of crime.
Academics have relied on two closely linked arguments to establish the statistical and moral normality of crime, and consequently the illegitimacy of the criminal justice sanctions by the system. We are all criminals – they say – and when everyone is guilty, everyone is innocent.
The second argument – Marxist in inspiration and I will return to this later – is that the law has no moral content, as it is the expression of the power of certain interest groups – the interest of the rich against the poor, or the capitalist against the worker. And since the law is an expression of raw power, there is no essential distinction between criminal and noncriminal behavior. It all depends on the class to which the perpetrator of the (supposedly) criminal act belongs.
In this sense criminologists are the mirror image of Hamlet, who rhetorically told Polonius that if every man received his deserts, none would escape whipping. But the criminologists of the current Zeitgeist even go beyond Hamlet. Not only criminals should escape whipping, (8) none should be punished.
Promoting these ideas are the mainstream media and by the entertainment industry. Eventually they resonate with the criminal’s mind. If his illegal conduct is normal – he thinks – why punish, why imprison him? It is unjust for him to be incarcerated for what everyone still at liberty does. He is the victim of illegitimate and unfair discrimination, and it is only reasonable that, on his release, he should increase revenge upon an unjust society by continuing, or expanding, his criminal activity.
When did the Zeitgeist change and when did the criminal become a victim in the minds of the intelligentsia? Interestingly several events occurred in the narrow space of two or three years, in the early 1960s. The introduction and triumph of Cultural Marxism in universities and the passing of Parliament acts opening up unlimited immigration in the US. It was also the time when Norman Mailer in America and Jean-Paul Sartre in Europe transformed criminals into existential heroes who revolt against a heartless and inauthentic world.
In 1966 Karl Menninger published a book titled “The Crime of Punishment.” Where he says,
“Crime is everybody’s temptation. It is easy to look with proud disdain upon those people who get caught – the stupid ones, the unlucky ones, the blatant ones. But who does not get nervous when a police car follows closely? We squirm over our income tax statements and make some adjustments. We tell the customs officials we have nothing to declare – well, practically nothing. Some of us who have never been convicted of crime picked up over $2 billion worth of merchandise last year from the stores we patronize. Over $1 billion was embezzled by employees last year.”
The moral of the story is clear. Those who go to court and prison are victims of chance at best and of prejudice at worst – prejudice against the lowly, the uneducated and the poor. We find this philosophy in the printed words of an intellectual, in the spoken words of other intellectuals and teachers across the land, in movies, TV shows and serials. Without excluding lurid and Gomorra-style rap-lyrics, by far the most popular source of educational literature and a thought-provoking tool in the Zeitgeist.
This moral percolates at large. For even criminals caught in the act believe that the police are unfairly picking on them. An attitude that prevents from reflecting upon their contribution to their own predicament. For chance and prejudice are forces beyond the personal control of an individual.
And in a document come out in England at the time of Menninger’s book and titled “Children in Trouble” we read, “It is probably a minority of children who grow up without misbehaving in ways which may be contrary to the law. Frequently, such behavior is no more than an incident in the pattern of a child’s normal development.”
Translation and implications. Acts of delinquency are normal and should not be sanctioned – and the delinquency of normal children is transient and the result of a purely biological rather than a social process. In previous times the idea was that human behavior is the product of consciousness, and the consciousness of a child must be molded.
However, the product of the new attitude towards crime has been a bonanza for a new breed of intellectuals and practitioners, the criminologists
Writer Theodore Dalrimple said that criminologists have shed new obscurity on the matter of crime. “The opacity of their writing sometimes leads one to wonder whether they have actually ever met a criminal or a crime victim.” And it is in their professional interest that the wellsprings of crime remain a mystery needing ever more exploration. For how else could they convince governments that what a crime-ridden country needs is more crime-research conducted by more criminologists?
Criminology has undergone remarkable expansion. Even the undersigned receives regularly proposals for a “rewarding career” that follows the acquisition of a degree in criminology. Economist John Vaizey wrote that any problem that becomes the subject of an ‘ology’ is destined to grow serious. From the halls of academia ideas filter down to the population at large, materialize in TV serials, become mental currency and mold the Zeitgeist. Finally and symbiotically, criminologists may actually become a cause of crime.
Still, criminologists have disputes in their explanations of criminality. For an academic discipline needs theoretical disputes as the Pentagon needs enemies. But the general conclusion derivable from the academic disputes bring us back to the findings of philosopher Pascal, “Tous comprendre est tous pardonner” – to explain all is to excuse all. Where the difference between ‘to pardon’ and ‘to excuse’ is shrouded in a modest lexical veil.
Finally, as far as crime in general is concerned, I have traced the origins of the current related Zeitgeist to the 1960s. There remains to locate the prime source or rather the primal ideology that fathered its subsequent coherent implementations.
The current, new institutional orthodoxy is ‘Critical Race.’ To explain it I must resort to a brief history of Marxism.
At the onset, the Marxist Left built its political program on the theory of class conflict – the primary characteristic of industrial societies being the imbalance of power between capitalists and workers. For Marx the solution to that imbalance was a revolution. Workers would eventually seize the means of production, overthrow the capitalists and usher in a new society.
The 20th century Marxist revolutions did not deliver on their promises and by the mid-1960s Marxist intellectuals acknowledged the state of things. But rather than abandoning their political project, Marxist scholars (now dubbed Cultural Marxist) simply adapted their revolutionary theory to the social and racial unrest of the 1960s.
Setting aside Marx’ economic dialectic of capitalists and workers, they substituted race for class and sought to create a revolutionary coalition of the dispossessed, based on racial and ethnic categories.
The effort was then politically unsuccessful but out of it arose the idea of rejecting all forms of authority, traditions and modes of life, notably of civilized mankind – including family, religion, sex, gender etc.
However, the term ‘Marxist’ still does not sit well in the America psyche. Though the New York Times had a front page article titled “Marx, You Were Right” on the occasion of Marx’ anniversary of his birth. But let’s abandon this side trail, though in itself important for identifying the prime movers behind the career-promoting hypotheses I mentioned at the beginning.
In the refreshed nomenclature Cultural Marxism became the ‘Critical Race’ theory, built, nevertheless, on the intellectual framework of identity-based Marxism. Which – as far as I could discover – is now the default ideology in all public institutions, government agencies, public school systems, teacher training programs and corporate human resources departments. It takes the form of diversity training education, human resources modules, public policy frameworks and school curricula.
Neo-marxist theorists have employed euphemisms to describe critical race theory, such as ‘equity’, ‘social justice, ’diversity,’ ‘inclusion’ and ‘culturally responsive teaching.’
‘Equity’ sounds non-threatening and is easily confused with the American principle of equality. But equality is the principle proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. In contrast to equality, equity as defined by critical race theorists, is essentially reformulated Marxism.
For example, in the name of equity, UCLA law professor and critical race theorist Cheryl Harris has proposed suspending private property rights, seizing land and wealth and redistributing both along racial lines.
In another example, Ibrahim Kendy, critical race guru, who direct the ‘Center For Antiracist Research’ at the Boston University,’ has proposed the creation of a ‘Federal Department Of Antiracism.’ This independent department would have the power to veto or abolish any law at any level of government and curtailed the speech of any political leaders or anyone deemed insufficiently ‘antiracist’.
There is an abundance similar examples, but I do not wish to overwhelm the readers’ patience.
In summary, what I have reported would bear no credit, were not the proofs so clear. (9) And returning to Bertrand Russell’s comments on apricots and the pleasure of useless knowledge, I do not expect to have provided any gratification by tracing the sources of the Zeitgeist(s). Though evidence, however painful, may have some inherent value and maybe awake some from the flattering truth of sleep. (10).
*** (1) Midsummer Night’s Dream
*** (2) Richard III
*** (3) Taming of the Shrew
*** (4) Sonnet 129
*** (5) Troilus and Cressida
*** (6) King Henry IV, part 2
*** (7) Merchant of Venice
*** (8) Hamlet
*** (9) Winter Tales
*** (10) Romeo and Juliet