by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog
With all this Great Lockdown time off it’s easy to use it poorly, but I did make one good decision: to not write a multi-part series critiquing the nonsense which is Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.
It’s nonsense not because de Tocqueville was a segregationist, rabid anti-socialist and even recognised by his peers as the quintessential fake-leftist of his era, but because his analysis was based on a mere nine months of residence in the US. Had I written a book on France after my first nine months here it would have been glowing, full of the thrill of novelty… and a totally superficial fairy tale full of in-theory-but-not-practice.
De Tocqueville loved liberty because he studied prisons, not because he loved humanity – his “love” was fear-based.
I was reminded of this last month when de Tocqueville was extensively quoted in an anti-coronavirus hysteria article titled, Panic Will End But Tyranny Will Not:
“By this system (as he writes earlier, the combination “of the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty”) the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master, and then relapse into it again. A great many persons at the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large. This does not satisfy me: the nature of him I am to obey signifies less to me than the fact of extorted obedience.” (emphasis mine)
De Tocqueville supporters self-flatteringly focus on how they heroically refuse any “extorted obedience”, but the bolded part reveals how his argument is based on fundamentally anti-social tendencies:
For de Tocqueville there is no such thing as a “good public servant” because in a centralised, popular bureaucracy they are all despotic thieves of the individual privileges (freedoms) he enjoyed as a part of the aristocratic 1%. Even if that pubic servant was Jesus son of Mary it would be no matter – everyone’s “nature” is irrelevant in a popular (i.e. necessarily anti-aristocratic) and strong (i.e. necessarily large and centralised) style of government. Typically of Westerners, de Tocqueville appears to assume that all natures are the same (motivated solely by Western “universal values”, of course) – nasty, brutish and tyrannical.
It’s a view which is hysterical, indeed.
A man whose only tool is a hammer sees nothing but nails – a man who studied prisons saw only potential cages which could limit his exceptional 1%er privileges.
De Tocqueville did not realise, because he was definitely not truly familiar with the US, that he was expressing a political view similar to Yosemite Sam, of the Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes. Yosemite Sam incarnates the political perspective of that historically-real 17-19th century American persona: the half-madman, all-uncontainable, über-pioneer/colonist who insisted on pushing west of the military fort all alone. This person single-handedly invaded the territories of bewildered Indians, only to weep for his lost frontier gains when his fellow Americans inevitably joined him a few years later thanks to the construction of yet another new military fort.
There is such Yosemite Sam-ism across the West – which is full of colonists, after all – that I’m sure many readers were “trigged” by my headline: “This stupid Muslim can’t know about freedom like we do. They’re a bunch of stupid nomads!”
Yosemite Sam, US libertarians/conservatives and French pied-noirs are often not just reactionaries but dangers to social harmony because they resolutely refuse to believe in the possibility of collective progress: For them, the individual hearth/cave was the apex of advances in political science.
We can argue if Yosemite Sam-ism is a “universal value” among Westerners, but it’s definitely not an Asian value, as evidenced by the corona responses in China, Iran and South Korea. We see undeniably superior responses in those nations, and lower death rates than in the West, in large part because of the collective progress they have made via their conviction that collective progress must often trump individual progress.
Michigan protesters – not the Yellow Vests, but not wrong, either
Of course the fake-leftist media looked with horror at the recent automatic weapon-toting, anti-Great Lockdown protests in Michigan. Given my self-proclaimed consent for big government you may think I’d oppose the increasing wave of anti-Lockdown protests?
Not hardly. I thought it was great.
Firstly, the unwritten “Amendment 0.5” in the US Bill of Rights is (and de Tocqueville did not grasp this): “The right of the People (excepting women, Blacks and Indians) to be stupid shall not be infringed upon.”
Americans treasure this right dearly.
It’s not a stupid right, either! Much is learned by making mistakes. Life would be rather dull if we all had to be Confucian-correct all the time (unless we are public servants working on the taxpayer dime, of course).
But I support those Michiganders because “natures” of political systems do indeed matter – to disagree is “political nihilism”. I know that the nature of the system Michiganders are told to obey is not at all similar to that of socialist-inspired nations.
Michiganders should NOT have faith that their civil servants are self-sacrificing, tireless and upholding a system which has bettered the average Michigander’s life within their own lifetime – it is simply not true. Merely look at Flint, Michigan, and their appalling, still-unresolved water crisis. Flint has committed the sin of becoming majority-Black, so of course they are totally ignored by all state and federal government policy, but since 1980 even for their White citizens neoliberalism has forced down Michiganders woefully far even though they remain the nation’s auto capital by almost double.
In a time where food shortages are being widely predicted, Michigan’s “Big Mother” civil servants were so sweeping they banned (but perhaps only accidentally) the selling of garden seeds. In a state so dominated by water that it is the only state named after a Great Lake, their governor effectively banned fishing, perhaps the most socially-distancing activity one can find. Why should Michiganders accept this when a stunning, unthinkable 25% of Michigan’s workforce has become jobless in just 29 days? And with just terrible future prospects, as well?
But De Tocqueville failed to realise that not every centralised civil servant handed power turns into a tyrannical prison warden – only some do. Such persons should be publicly shamed and resisted.
On a macro level, systems which do not adhere to the anti-Tocquevellian, modern standards of socialist democracy and socialist rights (no one can censor the fact that socialism is a system which is based ENTIRELY on an attempt to democratically and individually empower the AVERAGE humble citizen) should absolutely be resisted because they are certain to produce poor governance for everyone but their aristocratic 1%.
If you are reading this then you are not a socially-isolated Yosemite Sam, so you must naturally concede some rights for society’s well-being
Of course you must.
Only madmen think they can live a life of pure Western, Nietzschean, no-consequences individualism.
I have routinely written that the Great Lockdown is “stupid” because the West is employing quarantining and control methods used by Asian nations but without having similar cultures of government economic intervention nor widespread trust in their governments.
Iran can mobilise 300,000 people to talk with citizens door-to-door, but Americans cannot risk volunteering because they’d be ruined by health care costs. You are fantastically inculcated with Western propaganda to imagine that the Chinese don’t largely feel that their Communist Party has adequately fulfilled their cultural concept of good governance described in their ancient “Heavenly Mandate”. South Korea is a country with no natural resources but which has become so technologically advanced that widespread coronavirus testing looked like a snap for them… but don’t think they got there via neoliberalism: South Korea used to be compared to Iran for its staunch protectionism and government control of their economy.
Conversely, the West – which was already in a double-bubble economic crisis – has, suicidally for their lower classes, added an economic crisis on top of a health crisis.
Most of the protesting Michiganders look to be drawn from the lower classes, but I was not there; but I have spent truly a year of Saturdays at Yellow Vest demonstrations and I can tell you that they are mostly drawn from France’s lower classes. In what is entirely the point here: In China, Iran, cobblers-turned-congressmen in Cuba and a few other places it is the lower-classes who now compose their civil service class from the bottom all the way to the top – in Michigan it is surely just the bottom. America’s elite government employees remain – as de Tocqueville wanted – elite and out of touch.
The pity is that many Michiganders are likely so alienated, mistrustful and inculcated with de Tocquevillian nonsense that they view everyone as a potential tyrant – thus the assault rifles. France’s Yellow Vests are brave enough to get beaten and tear gassed after starting each demonstration with Christian ideals of non-violence – violence is always initiated by French riot cops. And the reality is the Michigan gun-wavers were just a small fringe group – the overwhelming majority of protesters stayed in their car in a “car protest”, just as the Yellow Vests initially discussed doing. Furthermore, in any mass group the whole political spectrum will be represented therefore there will be some right-wing nuts, but painting all Western lower-class dissidents as right-wing neo-fascists is completely inaccurate, yet completely commonplace.
But non-violence never won a revolution. Yet a “de Tocquevillian revolution” is an oxymoron – he openly supported a freedom-ending state of siege in order to thwart the revolutions of 1848. It’s not that he was just a hypocrite, but a people-fearing elitist. However, Michiganders likely believe such an oxymoron is the best they can do, because neoliberalism has beat into them the political nihilism that all governments are bad by nature. Of course, when they get bad government, as in Michigan and Washington DC, such people are only confirmed in their mistaken, unmodern political conceptions.
This poor political education is a pre-corona problem, much like widespread Western mistrust of their government, much like the aristocratic individualism which pervades their cultures, much like their insistence on competition over mutually-beneficial cooperation, much like their system which represses lower class involvement in policy-making.
Over-enforcing a Great Lockdown which they had not earned the leeway to install is certain to not just annoy fisherman but to impoverish them as well: that is the dangerous corona brew Westerners have mixed.
Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!
A day’s diary from a US CEO during the Corona crisis (satire) March 23, 2020
If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone – March 30, 2020
Pity post-corona Millennials… if they don’t openly push socialism – April 14, 2020
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.