We in Western societies naively imagine that we would never slide into totalitarianism because such systems are clearly evil and we are undeniably good. Not only would we spot it immediately, but our moral virtue and invaluable bravery would ensure that we stopped it before it could even take root.
In reality, however, such systems are never created with the promise of doing evil, but always with the promise of doing good. The Bolsheviks seemed to want to remedy the plight of the workers against their bourgeois oppressors. The Nazis, of course, wanted to restore Germany’s pride after the disgrace of Versailles and hyperinflation. The common thread that connects all of these systems is that those who propagate this see themselves as society’s self-proclaimed saviors, dealing with the problem and the enemy (which they have defined themselves), and the masses the matter not as absolute evil, but as absolute good.
In our complacency we imagine that we would never get involved in such systems because we would recognize the evil intentions from the start and – because we are not evil – would defend ourselves against them with all our might. But our ability to resist such a system does not depend on our being able to see the evil from the comfort of our armchair decades later, after it has reached its hideous proportions. Rather, it depends on our ability to recognize totalitarianism in its freshly minted form in our time and have the courage and determination to stand up against it here and now.
In a speech to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations in New York in 1975, Alexander Solzhenitsyn warned his audience against Western complacency by asking the following questions:
Can one section of humanity learn from another’s bitter experience or not? Is it possible or impossible to warn someone of a danger?… But the proud skyscrapers stand tall, pointing to the sky and saying: This will never happen here. That will never happen to us. That’s not possible here… But do we really have to wait for the moment when the knife is at our throats?
One of the reasons so few have realized what has really happened to us over the past two years is that the idea of a public health crisis being used as a cover for the imposition of a totalitarian system is relatable to most people is just too much to comprehend. However, as Solomon taught us, there is nothing new under the sun, and Solzhenitsyn spoke of this phenomenon even in his day:
The essence of communism is beyond the limits of human understanding. It’s hard to believe that humans could plan and execute something like this. And perhaps that is why communism is so difficult to understand precisely because its essence is incomprehensible.
It is difficult for the average person to comprehend an ideology that came to power talking about doing good by improving conditions for workers, but actually aimed at destroying the existing socio-economic order and then transforming what (according to the ideology) absolutely required the ruthless annihilation of entire populations who stood in the way of this goal, be they the property owners, the peasants or the priests. Likewise, most of us simply cannot comprehend that a small group of ruthless oligarchs with astronomical wealth and power could use what appears to be a public health crisis as a pretext to wreck and reshape entire societies and economies around the world in their own hideous image . The evil that lurks under the guise of good is not easy to comprehend – even if it is happening right before our eyes.
Yet the inability to grasp such things is not so much a question of an inability to examine the facts and assess the situation, but rather an unwillingness to grasp it – which largely results from the comfortable state in which we find ourselves so have found for a long time. Again Solzhenitsyn, this time in a speech on BBC radio in 1976, he identified this phenomenon and called it an enigma of human nature that suffering often leads to a determined struggle for liberty, while countless years of undisturbed liberty a people in drive in the opposite direction:
How is it that people, crushed by the sheer weight of slavery and thrown deep into a pit, still find the strength to rise and free themselves, first spiritually and then physically; while those who rise unopposed above the peaks of liberty seem suddenly to lose the taste for liberty, lose the will to defend it, and, hopelessly confused and lost, almost begin to yearn for slavery? Or put another way, how is it that societies that have been stunned for half a century by lies they have been forced to swallow find within themselves a certain clarity of heart and soul that enables them to see things in their true perspective see and see the true meaning of events? While societies that have access to any kind of information suddenly fall into lethargy, into a kind of mass blindness, a kind of voluntary self-deception.
access to information? Yes! Lethargy? Right! mass blindness? Ticked off! Voluntary self-deception? Check! All of these elements are now with us. So while millions of people are patting themselves on the back for doing good during a public health crisis, in reality they have only given those who want to draw a digital iron curtain over society the opportunity to achieve their goals, and so steer us toward a totalitarian system and society that most would recognize as evil if they sat in an armchair reading about it 50 years from now.
Do we really have to wait for that moment when the knife is at our throats before we realize our predicament? I hope and pray to God that the answer is no and that people will awaken from their lethargy, blindness and self-deception. Then together, through God’s grace and power, we can find the strength to rise up and break free—first spiritually and then physically—from the bleak future that is planned for us and our children.