The Unconscious Empire Final: Benevolent Totalitarianism

In the last post, I made the claim that the anti-Semitism in 19th century continental Europe was driven by a psychological complex, a tangled web of mental trauma that had ultimately been set in motion by the fact that Europeans had begun to turn into the Other which for centuries had been embodied in the archetype of “the Jew”. These days, we are familiar with this psychology through the cliched example which has been used numerous times in film: the man who is homosexual but due to deep shame around the issue caused by his upbringing not only can’t express his homosexuality but puts on a façade of extreme anti-gay bigotry. This is the closet homosexual; the man who cannot admit he is gay just like 19th century Germans could not admit that, in the words of Karl Marx, they had “become Jewish”.

If we follow the same pattern, we can hypothesise that the exact same psychology sits behind the modern West’s Hitler Complex. That is, our obsession with denouncing Hitler and anybody who we suspect of remotely being like Hitler is a cover for the fact that we are becoming like Hitler. On the face of it, this is a ridiculous claim. There are no concentration camps (sort of), no bloody wars (sort of) and no uniforms and silly social rituals (sort of).

When Marx claimed the Christians were becoming Jews, he didn’t mean they were converting to Judaism or practicing the rituals or social customs of the Jews. He meant, they were taking on the underlying function formerly held by the Jews; what I would call the archetype. And that’s exactly what the modern West is doing. We are taking on the archetype, the underlying form, and the archetype in this case is the political system known as totalitarianism.

Hannah Arendt has provided us with the most comprehensive account of totalitarianism in her book aptly titled The Origins of Totalitarianism. There is a key point she made in that book which relates to our Hitler Complex. The implication of the Hitler Complex is that totalitarianism can only arise in the form of an evil tyrant. That is not true. As Arendt brilliantly observed, totalitarianism is a new form of political system, one that does not require a leader at all. The fact that the two men who ushered in totalitarianism, Hitler and Stalin, were both evil tyrants is merely a historical accident.  

What’s more, the socio-cultural conditions for totalitarianism were present before Hitler and Stalin could do what they did. Those conditions were not unique to Germany and Russia. They were shared by all modern nations and were brought into being mostly by the industrial revolution and certain ideologies of the 19th century. Thus, there never was any reason to believe that totalitarianism would die out with Hitler and Stalin. Arendt warned of exactly that potential in her book written in the 1950s. Sadly, her warnings have come true. The West has become totalitarian all while shrieking ever louder about Hitler and “Nazis”. That shrieking exists to hide what is really going on.

Because it does not have strong man leaders and because it claims to be a force for good, I call the form that our political system has evolved towards Benevolent Totalitarianism and I’ll explain how it works in this post.

Anything is possible through organisation

The core tenet of totalitarianism is that anything is possible through organisation. Note that this is distinct from the moral issue explored by Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov that anything is permissible. It’s also different from the idea that God works in mysterious ways, as in, if we organise correctly we will get lucky. There is no luck in totalitarianism. The whole concept is predicated on the removal of luck, randomness and spontaneity of any kind.

Totalitarianism states that anything is possible if only humans can organise themselves in accordance with the laws of nature (or history). For the Nazis, these “laws” were the supposed laws of racial science. For the Soviets, they were laws of history as elaborated in dialectical materialism. Of course, nowadays we write Hitler off as a mad racist. But it’s a historical fact that almost every educated person of that time would have believed the basic precepts of racial theory just like every educated person of our time believes in the precepts of what I like to call naïve germ theory. (I predict that naïve germ theory will have as much credibility in 50 years as racial theory has today).

Herein lies the first problem of totalitarianism: how do you know you have discovered a “law” of nature? These “laws of nature” are what modern science claims to uncover and thus totalitarianism has always been tied up with “science” although we really should call it scientism for it is at base nothing more than ideology. What complicates the matter substantially, however, is that the kind of “science” we are talking about here was widely regarded as not just true but cutting edge in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Let’s take the most famous example: the law of natural selection.

No empirical research can disprove the law of natural selection. There is random variation in species. That variation will either persist or will die out. If it persists, it is fit. If it dies out, it is unfit. There are no other alternatives. If a variation persisted for a while and then died out, that just meant the environment changed so that it no longer fitted. You can go out into the jungle and find the most seemingly useless adaptation, one that seems actively harmful to the organism which has it, that finding or any other one like it does not and can not disprove the law of natural selection.

(Yes, I’m aware that there are those who claim that natural selection is testable and empirically falsifiable. Even if that is technically true, which I doubt, the main point here is how such “laws” are viewed in the general culture and how totalitarianism as a political system makes use of them. Whether Darwin wanted it or not, Darwinism became tied up with politics right from the start).

Totalitarianism takes such “laws” of science and rearranges society according to them. In the Nazi racial ideology, if the Jews could be eliminated, that proved they were unfit. The same goes for every other race, including “the Germans”. From the Nazi point of view, if “the Germans” lost the war, that was simply evidence that they were not up to the task of becoming the master race. Only the strongest survive. If the Germans did not survive, then they were not the strongest. This tautological aspect is a key attribute of totalitarian ideology. It’s like a logical straightjacket that you can’t get out of.

The correlation of Nazism with pan-German nationalism misses the central point of Nazi ideology and was a big part of the reason why outsiders did not comprehend either Hitler or Nazism in the 1930s and why we still don’t understand to this day. The Nazis used the pan-German nationalist movement, which had been around for decades prior, to get themselves into power. Once that was achieved, they were able to govern according to ideology. That ideology had nothing to do with nationalism. It was a racial ideology and “the Germans” were just as dispensable as any other “race”.

This is another crucial attribute of totalitarianism. Totalitarianism aims at total, global domination. Its “science” purports to have found universally applicable laws that transcend all national boundaries and it is through this universality that it lays claim to total domination. The nation-state where totalitarianism happens to manifest is just as arbitrary as any other nation-state from the point of view of ideology. Thus, huge numbers of people in Russia especially, but also in Germany, were killed by the ideology of the Soviets and Nazis respectively. Neither racial theory nor dialectical materialism cared about Germans or Russians either as a people or as a nation.

Because of that, the Nazis (and Soviets) did things that defied all common sense, all pragmatism, all utilitarian considerations. While they were fighting a war on multiple fronts, the Nazis diverted significant resources to the running of the concentration camps even when those activities were actively harming the war effort. Party officials who pointed this out were removed.

Similarly, even when it was clear that the war was lost, the ideological activities continued. If the Nazis really had been true nationalists, they would have done whatever was best for the German nation. But they weren’t. They were racial ideologues. They didn’t care about Germany.

It is the unyielding devotion to the laws of an ideology that characterises totalitarianism. To understand totalitarianism, we must dissociate it from the historical accidents of Nazism and Soviet ideology. We must get rid of the idea that it is always murderous and violent. We must separate it from the similar but fundamentally different political form called tyranny. It is to Hannah Arendt’s eternal credit that she was able to do that even though she was personally tied up with the history of Nazism.

In some sense, we have it easier because we have all now lived through a real-world example. With corona, we experienced totalitarianism dissociated from the historical parallels of violence and murder. We are now able to understand in both an intellectual and intuitive sense what totalitarianism really is.

Corona as Benevolent Totalitarianism

To reiterate: Totalitarianism is the belief that anything is possible when society is re-organised according to the “laws of nature”.

When western societies decided to lockdown in March of 2020, we entered into a totalitarian world: we re-organised our society according to the supposed “laws” of viral disease. All pragmatic, common sense and utilitarian considerations were discarded. The economic effects, the effects on the education of children, the effects of cutting off the elderly from human contact or of disrupting access to medical care, any other consideration was tossed aside for the cold hard logic of “stopping the spread”. That was the only thing that mattered. This singled-minded fixation on one thing to the exclusion of all else is a key component of the psychology of totalitarianism.

Note that one of the main things that was thrown overboard was compassion. I’m talking about genuine compassion for other human beings not the faux compassion of people who claim to want to save grandma. Benevolent Totalitarianism is totalitarianism in the guise of compassion. This form of totalitarianism pretends to have your best interests at heart. It pretends to want to keep you “safe” and “protect” you. You’re free to believe that in the same way you might believe that dictators can be benevolent. But a dictator is still a dictator and totalitarianism is still totalitarianism, even when it’s cloaked in compassion.

During corona, all the core ceremonies which give meaning to life – the birth of a child, marriage and funeral rites – were abandoned during the lockdowns. That is not a coincidence because those ceremonies are concerned with individuals. Totalitarianism, by contrast, is always and only concerned with the aggregate. The “laws of nature” are always about aggregates. The species, the race, the class, the nation, these are collective terms in which the individual plays no role except as a homogeneous and uninteresting exemplar.

This attitude did not come out of nowhere. The de-prioritising of the individual in favour of the collective had begun in earnest in the 19th century. With industrialisation, the production of goods and services was re-worked according to the laws of the machine. This won some nations an accumulation (in fact, an oversupply) of goods but the price was that it created a population of superfluous people who were duly thrown on the scrapheap via unemployment. There was no welfare system in the 19th century. The streets of London were filled with people who took on the form of one giant human sacrifice; the sacrifice to the greater good.

This sacrifice created the initial conditions of terror which preceded the totalitarianism of the 20th century. People realised they now lived in a society which would allow them to die in the gutter. The same society talked about abstract “rights” but what is the point in having rights if you are starving? The hypocrisy of such a society lead to disillusionment and desperation.

Totalitarianism took these trends and added to them the horrors of WW1. The Nazis were full of men who had not only felt the humiliation of unemployment, they had been in the meatgrinder of the trenches of WW1. Their hearts were full of hatred and many of them really wanted to see everything burn.

Because totalitarianism originated in such hatred, we assume that totalitarianism requires hatred in order to manifest. That is another thing our Hitler Complex implies. But this is not true. There is nothing in the concept of re-organising society according to the laws of nature that implies any emotional content. On the contrary, the possession of laws of nature and an understanding of their logical implications requires nothing more than cold, hard logic. This was another brilliant insight of Arendt’s. We think of both Hitler and Stalin as raging madmen. But their peers thought of them as clear-minded rationalists. It is the absence of empathy – genuine empathy not fake compassion – that is the problem with totalitarianism.

Thus, we were told the corona measures were there to save grandma while grandma herself was locked up in a nursing home unable to see any family members and surrounded by people in hazmat suits. That is not empathy. That is terror.

We see the exact same dynamic in the climate debate (it’s not really a “debate”, is it?). It’s all about saving the planet and preventing a climate apocalypse. We want to save the planet by combatting climate change and we want to save grandma by combatting viral disease. What lies beneath both of these is the core tenet of totalitarianism: the re-organising of society in accordance with the “laws” of climate and viruses.

Although politicians are drawn to totalitarianism like moths to the flame because it gives them far more (perceived) power than even a dictator, we must acknowledge that the underlying belief system which gives rise to totalitarianism is prevalent in the general culture including and especially by people who would probably consider themselves apolitical. Let’s look at a prime example.

The Totalitarian Mindset

I can think of no better example of the Benevolent Totalitarian mindset than the above cartoon published early on in the corona hysteria on the well-known website XKCD. XKDC is particularly popular with people who are proponents of science and technology. They are the ones who work at Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Tesla and SpaceX, so this gives us an insight especially into our “tech elites”.

The cleverness of the cartoon is that it presents the whole thing from the point of view of the virus. The virus is apparently self-aware. It understands the “law of nature” which governs its own existence, which is that it must spread. In the cartoon, the virus is playing the role of the scientific “law”. From the point of view of the “law”, humans are a single, homogeneous entity. Any specific characteristics that individuals might have such as immunity via prior infection, general health, lifestyle, age or whatever are irrelevant (of course, this is not scientifically true, which is why I call it the naive germ theory).

The cartoon shows what happens when the humans figure out the “law” and then re-organise society according to it by staying home and eating pasta. The cunning virus looks defeated. Its last chance is that the humans will “give up”.

In the mentality of this cartoon and the people who think this way, there is no question of being right or wrong. They know they are right. They have discovered a law of nature. The job of the humans is simply to follow the “law” (if this sounds quasi-religious, that’s because it is).

I find it highly amusing that, because the cartoon was drawn in March 2020, the “law” did not yet include mandatory face masks. This was the time when the “law” told us that compulsive hand washing was the way to eliminate the virus.

Another reason why the cartoon is a valuable piece of historical evidence is because it reveals the underlying mindset as well as the political reality. This was not a piece of deliberate propaganda. The author was not acting on instructions from a central authority. This was the honest expression of a viewpoint held by an individual. Numerous other people at the same time expressed the same viewpoint, especially those from the science and tech communities.

This demonstrates the second key attribute of Benevolent Totalitarianism: it is decentralised. There is no leader. The Hitler Complex tells us to look for a strong man leader whenever we look for totalitarianism. But as Arendt had already pointed out, a leader is not required for totalitarianism to manifest. What is required is an ideology.

This is one of the key attributes that separates totalitarianism from tyranny. So, let’s do a thought experiment to clarify further.

Everybody knows that you shouldn’t yell “fire!” in a crowded theatre. But should you yell “fire!” in a crowded theatre if there really is a fire and people need to get out?

Let’s pretend for the sake of the argument that this is an old-fashioned theatre with no fire escape. As the philosopher kings in this story, we are given the task of saving as many people as possible. By definition, we are concerned with an aggregate of people, not a series of individuals. We are not considering the individual circumstances of anybody who is in the theatre. We just want to save the highest percentage of the crowd.

We create a mathematical model which says that if we yell “fire!” in the theatre more people will die than if we get each person to leave individually. Using this method, we can get those nearest the door out quickly before the rest of the people realise what is going on and panic. With this strategy, the people who are furthest from the door will die, but we will save the greatest number of people.

This is the very definition of a Benevolent Dictatorship (philosopher kings were always benevolent dictators). As benevolent dictators, we organise society according to a model that gives the greatest good for the greatest number. The difference between the benevolent dictator and the tyrant is that the later does not care about the people and probably wouldn’t bother to save them from a fire.

In order to modify the thought experiment so that it represents the political system of totalitarianism, we have to do something counter-intuitive. We must remove ourselves as philosopher kings.

This was Hannah Arendt’s brilliant insight. Totalitarianism does not require leaders at all. It requires an agreement on the part of society to follow the “law” but not in the form of rules (more on that shortly). The agreement to follow the “law” is not explicit and exoteric. Rather, it is achieved through the promulgation of an ideology. It also requires a certain psychological profile.

One of the defining characteristics of the Nazi true believers was the complete lack of an instinct of self-preservation. On the contrary, they willingly went to their deaths in service to the Nazi ideology believing it was for the greater good (the creation of a master race). When somebody yells “fire!” in a crowded theatre, it is exactly that instinct of self-preservation that kicks in. People go into fight or flight mode which leads to a chaos.

In totalitarianism, chaos is avoided by the allegiance of every individual to the greater good via ideology. Benevolent Totalitarianism requires a society of people who will no longer pursue their own self-interest (this is a huge change from the ethic of the bourgeoisie which was all about self-interest – greed is good).

To capture the essence of Benevolent Totalitarianism in our thought experiment, we must remove ourselves as the benevolent dictators. Instead, we will educate the people in the theatre so that when the fire starts, they do not follow their self-interest but they follow the “law”. How does the “law” get promulgated? It doesn’t really matter. There might be a central authority to tell people that a fire has started or the message may propagate through the crowd just like the internet propagates a message, node-to-node (just like that XKCD cartoon). The mechanism is not crucial. What is crucial is that the people will follow the “law”, the ideology.

The people farthest from the door will die. But those people do not object because, like the Nazi true believers, they are not pursuing self-interest. They are completely subservient to the “law”. They die in full consciousness that they are doing the right thing by acting in accordance with the ideology. This is not a theoretical conjecture. It’s really what happened in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. The true believers willingly sacrificed and even died for the cause when the ideology required it. (We saw the same psychology during the last 3 years).

Whether you think this is a good idea or not depends on whether you think the “law” really is infallible. Nobody in the modern west would accept any “law” pertaining to race theory or dialectical materialism (except for a few hardcore communists and fascists in dark rooms). We look at the Nazis and Soviets and think how stupid and bigoted they were to follow such “pseudoscience”. Yet we will happily follow a different “law” and a different “science” because we believe it to be true. The underlying form is the same. If you accept that society should be re-organised according to an ideology, you believe in Benevolent Totalitarianism.

With this we re-join another of key intellectual currents that began in the 19th century: the idea that there could be theories of everything and the notion that everything followed deterministically and mechanically from premises. This idea lives on to this day whenever somebody talks about machine learning, or AI or quantum computing. All we need is more computing power and then we can calculate everything and our models will be infallible. This is why Benevolent Totalitarianism has a lot of support among people who work with computers.

Of course, it’s all arrogance and hubris coupled with an unwillingness to investigate and question your assumptions, a failure of imagination and the lack of real-world experience in the domain of empirical science to believe that just because you can’t think of any way you might be wrong, therefore you cannot be wrong and just because you have good intentions, everything you do must be good.

Benevolent Totalitarianism is the belief that if we only use totalitarianism for good instead of evil, everything will work out fine in just the same way that everybody thinks they would be a benevolent dictator if given the chance.

How Benevolent Totalitarianism arranges modern politics

The underlying ideologies that justify Benevolent Totalitarianism are shared widely in our society but, as Arendt noted, totalitarianism is primarily a new form of political organisation and that is where it is most relevant to all of us, especially now that that system has revealed itself.

When thinking of how totalitarianism fits into modern political systems, I think a good analogy is the onion. The core of the onion is the centre of power while each ring is successively further away from power. At the outer layers, people (and nations!) can be completely oblivious to both the operation of power or the core ideology that is being followed.

Arendt called this outer layer the “sympathisers”. They are the ones who passively follow along. At the core are the True Believers. The Sympathisers are shielded from the True Believers by a variety of “front organisations” who simplify the ideology, which the average Sympathiser would find too confronting, into terms that the Sympathisers can deal with. Trust the science. Stop the spread. 14 days to flatten the curve. These were all propagated through the Front organisations for consumption by the Sympathisers.

What follows from this is another counter-intuitive idea: the leaders of national and state governments and the MSM in each country are really Front Organisations. They are not the centre of power. Rather, they sit between the centre of power and translate its requirements in terms that the citizens of the respective nations can understand. Thus, the citizens of the nation-states are mostly Sympathisers; they are made to passively follow along.

Meanwhile, the True Believers form an inner network that is truly global in nature. It includes members of each nation’s public service, academics, certain MSM journalists, high-ranking employees of multi-national corporations, NGOs, financiers and billionaires. The people who worked at FTX and the people who were censoring Twitter are prime examples of the inner network of True Believers.

Arendt provided us with a detailed account of how this system works in her description of the Nazis and Soviets as having as organisational structures which seemed incredibly chaotic and inefficient including duplication of function so that there were often two or more agencies who seemed to have the same job. This seeming chaos was actually there to neuter those organisations because bureaucracies have structure, they run on rules and hierarchy. But Totalitarianism must run on ideology.

Thus, totalitarianism not only does not require leaders, it actively subverts them. It breaks down traditional authority structures and hierarchies. The Nazis simply ignored the constitution of the Weimar Republic and built their own system around it.

When you subvert the bureaucracy in this way, you create a system where the rules can change at the drop of a hat. In a traditional bureaucracy, changing the rules is really hard; so hard, in fact, that an entire profession called “change management” has been created whose only purpose is to facilitate the changing of rules. The Nazis and Soviets got around that by deliberately making the bureaucracy redundant. People were still following orders but those orders could come from anywhere including outside the bureaucracy.

The people who work in the organisations, therefore, become conditioned to await instructions which can come at any time and from anywhere, a far more dynamic system than traditional bureaucracy. The breakdown of chains of command in both the Nazi and Soviet systems created a network organisational structure. You didn’t just follow orders from your immediate superior. You followed orders from anywhere.

Such a totalitarian system rewards obedience to the overarching ideology whether it be race theory in Nazi Germany, dialectical materialism in Soviet Russia or any of the ideologies that exist in our society. The primary type of employee in the system is no longer the bureaucrat but the ideologue. The obedience of the ideologue to the ideology transcends any allegiance they have to the organisation. Although the Nazis taught absolute allegiance to the Führer, the Führer himself was simply the carrier of the ideology. The Nazis and the Soviets started out as old-fashioned tyrannies, but they transitioned over a period of years into this kind of totalitarian system.

Over time, the people who end up at the centre of the totalitarian system are not the ones who are best at organising things. They are not bureaucrats or managers. They are ideologues. Such ideologues can be moved effortlessly between organisations and still be good servants of “the system”. By comparison, the bureaucrat who is just “doing their job”, is hopelessly inefficient.

The ideologues who can navigate effortlessly between all organisations form themselves into a matrix surrounding the core centre of power. You increase your power as you get closer to the “centre” and the entry to the centre depends on your allegiance to the ideology and your proven willingness to re-organise society according to its “laws”.

This duplication of function in the totalitarian system, which looks highly inefficient to an outsider, creates confusion and serves to hide the real structure from those outside, where “outside” also includes citizens of nation states. Thus, we get the shadowy, secretive nature of totalitarianism which makes it really hard to figure out what’s going on (Exhibit A: the secret contracts governments signed with Pfizer and the other vaccine manufacturers).

The constant confusion also prevents people from getting comfortable. It prevents bureaucracies doing what they always do which is atrophying and becoming incapable of change. Confusion creates dynamism. The totalitarian system transmits a constant and ever-changing stream of ideology which serves to keep people on their toes. Those who fail to keep up-to-date will be knifed by those seeking to get closer to the centre of power, providing incentives for obedience to the ideology while also creating a flat organisational structure where seniority and experience count for little.

Benevolent Totalitarianism is, in some sense, an “improvement” on the system which first appeared in Germany and Russia. Both the Nazis and Soviets started out as tyrannies and, although they managed for a brief time to implement true totalitarianism, neither system could survive the loss of the leader which created it. There were still too many people caught up in the cult of personality that got Hitler to power in the first place. By removing the need for a leader, Benevolent Totalitarianism can propagate itself endlessly and invisibly. This is why Benevolent Totalitarianism is the Unconscious Empire; an empire without an emperor.

Freed from the constraints of the old bureaucracies and hierarchical structures, Benevolent Totalitarianism has generated a dizzying array of ideologies. Whereas the Nazis and Soviets were tied to a single ideology, we see multiple ideologies at play whose unifying thread is that they take an everyday concept and turn it into an ideological battleground. To paraphrase Arendt, it’s the banality of ideology.

Ideologies now cover all the most basic elements of existence: the weather, catching a cold, your gender, your occupation, your race (ironic, eh?), your country. All of these are generic enough to be universally applicable and flexible enough to be tailored to any specific context. Thus, Benevolent Totalitarianism is a global system and, although it is true that the centre of power mostly resides in the United States, its power can be distributed anywhere.

Remember the freak out when Trump was elected because he was going to become a “dictator”? What happened instead was that the entire system, the inner network and the Front Organisations, turned against him. They tried Russigate. They tried impeachment. They tried everything.

Ironically, the network attacked Trump in exactly the same way that a body defends itself from a virus. The fact that it was corona that finally brought Trump down is a level of meta-irony that makes your head spin. From the point of view of “the system”, Trump was the virus. Corona was the antibody.


Totalitarianism cannot abide by the spontaneous, the emergent, the novel (another meta-irony: the corona hysteria was triggered by the idea of a “novel” virus, an almost meaningless concept). To re-organise society according to the “law” means that everything from conception til death simply fulfils its law-abiding, predetermined function. All individuality is stripped away and you become nothing more than a particle obeying the laws of nature. Totalitarianism is the determinist philosophy of the 19th century made into a political reality.

For that reason, I think it’s accurate to say that totalitarianism is the embodiment of the anti-Christ and it seems rather synchronous that this series of posts has come to an end in the week before Christmas (I swear I didn’t plan it that way!)  

Christmas is about the individual embodied in Christ. The “-mas” at the end relates to the word mission. Christ’s birth begins his mission, his life. What that mission is, nobody can say. It can only be revealed. It cannot be known by logic or dialectic or calculated by a computer. Consider the following painting by renaissance artist Giovanni di Paolo.

The wise men bow down before the Christ child. The King also visits to pay his respects. The worldly power, the laws of man and all the knowledge of the world bow down before the child who carries with him the promise to overturn everything we thought we knew about the world. It is the celebration of the new, the spontaneous, the individual.

We can only love each other as individuals. A society which separates the natural bonds between individuals is a society where love cannot exist and no amount of fake compassion and Benevolent Totalitarianism can ever put it back.

On that note, I’d like to wish everybody a Merry Christmas. I hope you connect with those you love.

(P.S. – I’ll be on holiday for the next few weeks doing my usual trick of trying to enjoy the summer weather while also trying not to let the Australian sun burn my lily-white skin to a crisp. I won’t be writing anything new during that time but I will be responding to any comments. Otherwise, see ya next year).

All posts in this series:-

Philosopher Kings vs Networks
The Unconscious Empire
The Unconscious Empire Pt 2: The Hitler Complex
The Unconscious Empire Pt 3: A Prison for your Mind
The Unconscious Empire Pt 4: Becoming the Other
The Unconscious Empire Final: Benevolent Totalitarianism

The Unconscious Empire Pt 4: Becoming the Other

In the last post I made reference to Henry Ford’s book The International Jew and how the chapters consisted of a variety of subjects ranging from baseball to jazz music and everything in between; 48 chapters in total on all kinds of trivial matters but with one common thread: the Jews were to blame for why everything sucked.

It sounds ridiculous to our modern ears and yet things aren’t really any different nowadays. The only thing that has changed is the categories that are acceptable to use in public. You could probably take Ford’s book, remove all references to Jews and swap them with the phrase “right-winger” or “left-winger” (or, to sex it up a bit, “fascist” or “communist”) and sell it to the appropriate demographic. Petty bigotry will always find a market.

There was a qualitative difference between Ford’s bigotry and what was happening with anti-Semitism in continental Europe. To the best of my knowledge, there have never been mobs on the streets of the US chanting “death to the Jews” such as happened in France during the Dreyfus Affair. For a variety of reasons, anti-Semitism has always been less of a problem in the English-speaking countries where it has mostly been limited to local cases of bigotry and silly books published by rich men. But in continental Europe in the 19th century, anti-Semitism suddenly became a major issue.

In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt outlined in great detail the reasons for the rise of anti-Semitism on the continent. I don’t disagree with anything she said. However, in my opinion, she missed a generalisation and it’s that generalisation I want to talk about in this post.

“What is German?” had become a burning question at the time.

We can find the key to this generalisation in the writings of another famous person, the German composer Richard Wagner, and specifically his 1850 essay called Das Jugendtum in der Musik (Judaism in Music).

Superficially, Wagner’s essay is very similar to Henry Ford’s in that its sole purpose is to place the blame for the state of German music at the feet of the Jews. The essay is mostly straight-up nonsense of the kind that German romanticism had a very bad habit of producing. It contains all kinds of airy-fairy ideas about the inherent characters of a people and a race, lots about purported physiological drivers for things and, of course, endless statements about “the Jews” as if they were one solid, indistinguishable, mass. You can hear the tone of the essay in later writings by Nietzsche whenever he wrote about “peoples and fatherlands” and also in the rantings of a certain Führer.

Wagner might have been writing about the Jews, but what was really going on was an attempt to distinguish them from the Germans and thereby to create an idea of what German-ness was. This was a common preoccupation at the time, hence the name of another of Wagner’s essays “What is German?”. The reason this was a pressing issue for Wagner and others was partly because of the political situation. Germany would not become a nation-state until 1871. But in the decades preceding that event there were numerous uprisings, rebellions and riots aimed at getting politicians to implement liberal reforms and unify into a country.

Wagner and other intellectuals were right in the thick of it. Wagner was forced into exile after getting involved with the socialists and anarchists who ran the Dresden uprising in 1848. In a roundabout way, Wagner’s essay was part of this desire to become a nation-state. In order to understand why, we need to define what a nation-state is and why Germany was having such difficulties in creating one.

Dresden 1848

The Westphalian system is usually credited with as giving birth to the nation-state concept. After the absolute bloodbath of the 30 years’ War in the 17th century, where somewhere between one-third and one-half of the population of the Holy Roman Empire died, the statesmen of Europe sat down and agreed to draw up borders and to respect them. It was an attempt to stop the petty squabbling that occurred when one area would flip from Protestantism to Catholicism or Calvinism and entire chains of violence would occur as people of the same faith rallied to right a perceived wrong while the nobility would use it all as an excuse to try and snatch a piece of land from a rival.

The nation-state is itself an amorphous concept. The word nation has its etymology in concepts of birth, hereditary and race (no, Hitler did not invent that). The State is the government and, following Westphalia, the government ruled over a territory. Implied in all this was the concept of a historical and linguistic tradition which united a people. This would turn out to be the cause of enormous problems in the 20th century but nobody thought about it at the time. (One of Edmund Burke’s main criticisms of the French Revolutionary ideas was that they ignored the importance of tradition).

For our purposes we will include all four elements in the nation-state concept: a people who live in a territory governed by a state and having a shared tradition.

Right from the start, the problem with this idea was that only a few countries really fitted the definition. Britain was one. As an island, it had clearly demarcated territory with a people that had lived there for centuries creating a tradition. France’s territory was also relatively well demarcated and so were its people, history and state.

When the time came to try and make the various German states into a single nation-state, it was not at all clear where to draw the borders of the territory or what form of state it should have because there was no unified tradition to draw on. Thus, the uprisings of the 19th century included socialists and anarchists who wanted to create a state according to their ideology. Later, the fascists would have a different ideology they wanted to follow.

The one thing the Germans did have was a people unified by a language (although the linguistic diversity at that time was far greater than it is today) and a cultural tradition which is exactly what Wagner refers to multiple times in his essays. As the political elites tried and repeatedly failed to create a unified nation-state, there arose a pan-Germanic movement whose focus was on promoting this shared cultural tradition. This movement adopted various concepts from the romantic philosophy and art of the time which is where things like the character, soul, spirit of the German Folk (people) came from. Hitler and his propagandists made extensive use of these ideas many decades later but in the 1850s it was high profile artists and intellectuals like Wagner who were pushing them.

The Iron Chancellor

When Bismarck stated in 1862 “Since the treaties of Vienna, our frontiers have been ill-designed for a healthy body politic. Not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided…but by iron and blood” he was giving voice to the continuing frustration of where to draw the territories of the new nation-state. Germany finally ended up unifying through Bismarck’s talents in statesmanship coupled with Prussian military might. But the unification was always problematic.

In its very short history from 1871 to 1945, Germany never really figured out either where to draw its borders or what kind of state it wanted. It never became a stable nation-state. Hitler was only the last in a long line of leaders trying to use iron and blood to solve a problem that seemed intractable.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Germany blew itself apart by trying to force itself together and this is where Wagner’s essay becomes highly relevant. As a statement of fact about the real world, the essay is worthless. As a statement of the psychology of Germans at the time, it is invaluable. Because what was going on in Germany was primarily psychological. I don’t think it’s an accident that modern psychology was born in the German-speaking lands. Wagner’s essay was a prime case of what Jung would later call projecting the shadow. Consider the final two sentences of the original essay. Note, he is talking to “the Jews”:

“Without once looking back, take ye your part in this regenerative work of deliverance through self-annulment; then are we one and un-dissevered! But bethink ye, that only one thing can redeem you from your curse; the redemption of Ahasuerus — Going under!”

Looking beyond the florid prose, what is really being said here? Wagner desires a unification of the Germans. That is fair enough. Many people wanted that at the time. But he believes that unification can only happen by the Jews committing an act of “self-annulment”. In other words, the Jews needed to renounce their Jewishness in order for Germans to unify. This doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense logically and Wagner himself admits that what he is talking about has nothing to do with politics. Furthermore, it all comes at the end of a long essay that purports to be a scholarly treatise on “art”. In my opinion, the essay has nothing to do with art. It’s actually a kind of psychological confession and, viewed psychologically, it does make sense.

The Jews had for centuries played the role of the “Other” in German and European culture. It was this otherness which had historically forced the Jews into occupations that good Christians were not allowed to pursue such as finance. The otherness also manifested in the creation of ghettoes and other legal restrictions on the Jewish community. Even the yellow star, which later became synonymous with the Nazis, had a long tradition going back centuries.

Example of a Jewish ghetto, often the scene of pogroms

The Otherness of the Jews found archetypal expression in a concept which Wagner refers to in the final sentence of his essay: the character of Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus is known in English as the Wandering Jew. In German, he is the Ewiger Jude – the eternal Jew.

The Wandering Jew

The myth of the Wandering Jew arose around the 13th century and it came to symbolise the Otherness of the Jews vis-à-vis the Christian majority. The basic version of the story which, like any good myth, has innumerable variations, is that there was a shoemaker who taunted and mocked Jesus while he was carrying the cross to the crucifixion. Jesus tells him he is doomed to wander the earth until the second coming of Christ. Later that day, the shoemaker leaves his family and begins his eternal wandering. He is said to wander in all lands of the earth and to speak every language.

Just like the Loch Ness Monster, there were regular “sightings” of the Wandering Jew in medieval Europe and the character became a meme in literature and popular culture. Note that the character fulfils the exact role of the Jewish Other as seen from the point of view of Christian Europe. He is a shoemaker, exactly the kind of low status occupation that Jews were relegated to. He is a wanderer and thereby is the opposite of a good feudal citizen who stays in his place and serves the feudal lord. He is also a criminal. Wandering was associated with criminality as could also be seen in other minority populations such as the gypsies.

Here is the crucial point: at the time when Wagner was writing, the Germans and the Europeans in general had begun to turn into the Wandering Jew. That is, they had begun to take on the exact properties that had for centuries been forbidden to them. They became capitalists, they became small business owners and financiers, they started to want to make money and get rich and they started to move and to wander all over the earth by way of colonialism. Karl Marx, who as a German Jew knew something about the subject, said around the same time that the “Christians were becoming Jews”. The reality was that many Europeans were already Christians in name only.

The poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, satirised this new desire for movement at any cost in his 1824 poem The Delinquent Travellers:

Keep moving! Steam, or Gas, or Stage,
Hold, cabin, steerage, hencoop’s cage
Tour, Journey, Voyage, Lounge, Ride, Walk,
Skim, Sketch, Excursion, Travel-talk
For move you must! ’Tis now the rage,
The law and fashion of the Age.

This movement was done not just by the upper classes like Coleridge taking the Grand Tour on the continent but by the economic dropouts who had been shafted one way or another by the rise of industrial capitalism:

Rogues, rascals, sharpers, blanks and prizes,
Delinquents of all sorts and sizes,
Fraudulent bankrupts, Knights burglarious,
And demireps of means precarious
All whom Law thwarted, Arms or Arts,
Compel to visit foreign parts,
All hail! No compliments, I pray,
I’ll follow where you lead the way!

We can see from the rollicking style of Coleridge’s poem that the wandering had a fun, though unsophisticated and even uncivilised element to it:

Of all the children of old John Bull
With empty heads and bellies full,
Who ramble East, West, North and South,
With leaky purse and open mouth,
In search of varieties exotic
The usefullest and most patriotic,
And merriest, too, believe me, Sirs!
Are your Delinquent Travellers!

In Britain, the rising bourgeoisie enjoyed the benefits that came with economic supremacy founded in an empire that spanned the globe. Although the streets of London were filled with those who could not escape, the British empire allowed many to seek their fortune overseas and go on what amounted to a grand adventure. Similarly, in the United States and, to a lesser extent, Australia and Canada, there was plenty of room to move and explore and experience the “fashion of the Age”.

By contrast, the Germans and other continentals were stifled. They were behind when it came to industrialisation and held back by their inability to create a nation-state with the associated military that could become a genuine contender against the British.

When the form of a nation-state was finally achieved in 1871, the Germans industrialised quickly and embarked on colonialism. However, the British had already picked off the most juicy targets. The main place left for colonial expansion was Africa and that turned out to be a nightmare of epic proportions best exemplified by the horror of the Belgian Congo. As Joseph Conrad so perfectly described it in his novels and stories, when the Germans and other continentals finally managed to get into the “spirit of the Age” and seek fortune abroad, all they ended up doing was coming up against the heart of darkness (another allusion to Jung’s Shadow).

The British and the Americans had thus become the extroverted, materialist bourgeoisie while the Germans in particular were made to turn inwards. Wagner had discovered, although he didn’t consciously know it, that “the Jew” was his Shadow. That was what was really behind the rise of anti-Semitism.

But it was more complex than that. “The Jews” had always been the Shadow, that was nothing new. What was new was that the Germans and other Europeans were becoming the Shadow. That was what was really causing the psychological distress. And it turns out we can see the whole dynamic in one of the great works of art of the age which, naturally, came from Germany and not from Britain.

Here is the second key point: Faust is the Wandering Jew.

In Faust, all the elements of the Wandering Jew, which were once upon a time a way to otherise the Jews in opposition to the good feudal European, now become a source of rebellion and delight. Faust does a deal with the devil. What is the devil if not the Shadow/the Unconscious? But the devil does not get his due and Faust goes up to heaven. As Bob Dylan would later sing: what’s good is bad/what’s bad is good. Faust turned the world on its head. It was now good to be a Delinquent Traveller; a Wandering Jew.

The British bourgeoisie really were living out the ethic of Faust. They were travelling everywhere in the world, stealing anything that wasn’t nailed down and having other adventures. In Germany, the same spirit could not find expression. It took on an introverted form which felt like an intolerable restriction. That’s what was behind all the rebellions and uprisings. It was also behind the new, more urgent, and ultimately far more dangerous, anti-Semitism that was springing up.

It was completely illogical and irrational to blame the Jews for what was happening. They were in no practical way responsible for the inability of the German elites to create a unified German nation-state. But the Jews had always been the scapegoats. The difference now was that everything became bigger and more abstract. It became psychological and found its form in an early version of propaganda. It was no longer a local pogrom in some small town ghetto. It was the very spirit and soul of Judaism that was somehow holding back the very spirit and soul of Germany.

Moreover, as Hannah Arendt noted, the pan-German movement itself was an attempt to unify Germans in a supra-national sense. It had to be supra-national because there was no nation-state around which to unify it. If the politicians could not answer the question “What Is German?”, the intellectuals and radicals would do it for them.

The irony was that a supra-national movement was exactly what the European Jews already were. Wagner’s ridiculous statements about Jewish prose or spoken language or music were just a flimsy cover for his envy of the fact that the Jews had already accomplished what he and his compatriots were trying, and failing, to accomplish.

All this makes sense within a Jungian framework. What was happening with Wagner and the others was the projection of the Shadow: you take the parts that you hate about yourself and you project it onto others. Dostoevsky’s novels are filled with this same psychology: a person envies somebody and then blames that person for being the cause of their shame at being envious. It can happen at the individual level and it can happen at the collective level (as above, so below).

Anti-Semitism arose at just the time when the Jews had ceased to fulfil their archetypal functions of the Other. The bourgeoisie was increasingly taking over the Jewish role in finance and business. And, starting with Napoleon’s reforms, the Jews were slowly achieving political equality. Europeans were becoming like the Jews and Jews were being assimilated into Europe. The identities of both were under threat.

Napoleon emancipates the Jews (and doesn’t he want you to know it)

The Wandering Jew had become the Delinquent Traveller and the Delinquent Traveller was Faust. But the continental Europeans could not process the fact that they had become the Other they had spent centuries despising. They could not integrate the Shadow. Nobody even knew what the Shadow was yet, although the signs were everywhere.

As with all social change, the transition was not evenly distributed and there were significant sections of the community who formed a reactionary vanguard against the changes, including the emergence of the bourgeoisie. They mostly ended up coalescing around pan-German nationalism and anti-Semitism became a core feature of that movement. Hitler did not create that (did he create anything new?), he just took it to the extreme.

Rather than face up to it squarely, the Jews were brought in to fulfil their usual role as scapegoat. But the scapegoat role now included all the problems of Germany or France. The entire German soul, whatever that is, needed to be healed and that meant the Jews needed to be excised from it. What Wagner really needed was a psychologist. But psychology wasn’t invented yet. It was, in fact, the madness of that era which created the need for psychology in the first place. But psychology arrived too late to be able to help.

Not as subtle as Wagner, but the meaning is the same

With this, we return to the modern world because what we are seeing right now is a psychological breakdown exactly equivalent to the one that Wagner and others were having in the 19th century. How many supposedly educated and intelligent people called either literally or metaphorically for Trump and his supporters to die? How many more have subsequently wished death on the unvaccinated? At least Wagner had the good manners to cloak his death wishes in the florid language of romanticism. We are not anywhere near as sophisticated.

As a final point, imagine that there was some higher intelligence at work that was trying to send us a message that the era of the Delinquent Traveller was over; not a subtle message, mind you, but a hard symbolic whack over the head. What might such a message look like? It’s hard to think of anything more fitting than a global lockdown.

All posts in this series:-

Philosopher Kings vs Networks
The Unconscious Empire
The Unconscious Empire Pt 2: The Hitler Complex
The Unconscious Empire Pt 3: A Prison for your Mind
The Unconscious Empire Pt 4: Becoming the Other
The Unconscious Empire Final: Benevolent Totalitarianism

The Unconscious Empire Pt 3: A Prison for your Mind

If the recent Kanye West episode had happened in 2019, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. I’ve never paid any attention to Kanye. I’m not a fan of rap music. And I don’t follow the lives of celebrities. I do have a friend that’s into Kanye, though, and I once had a discussion with her in relation to the name of one of Kanye’s albums called Yeezus. I recall cracking some joke like “who does he think he is? John Lennon?”. But my friend didn’t get the Beatles reference and we abandoned the subject in mutual incomprehension (for those who don’t know, Lennon once said the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus”).

The Jesus reference occurred to me when Kanye was kicked off twitter by Elon Musk. I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago that Twitter has become nothing more than a howling mob. Well, the howling mob duly called for Kanye’s blood following his appearance on Alex Jones. Musk, who has already been playing the Roman emperor by, for example, putting the question of whether to reinstate Trump’s account to a popular vote, found himself in the role of digital Pontius Pilate. Just like Pilate, he gave the mob what it desired.

Is Musk aware that he is playing Caesar?

So, a guy who has likened himself to Jesus and was playing the historical role of Jesus by criticising the Jews while also claiming that he loved everybody, even Nazis, got cancelled by a guy who has been explicitly playing the role of digital imperial governor. That’s weird. In Jungian terms, it’s more than that. It’s synchronistic and evidence that archetypes are at work.

The second thing that caught my eye about the Kanye thing was the form of it. Kanye made some specific claims about Jews and, even though they are of no relevance to you or me, you can see how they would be of relevance to Kanye. Kanye is in show business. From what I understand, there’s a lot of Jewish people involved in show business in America. Does Kanye have a right to talk about them?

Consider this. Kanye stated some facts which may or may not be true. Not a single person bothered to deal with those facts. Instead a howling mob accused him of being an anti-Semite and the authorities (in this case Musk) shut him down.

What is the difference?

Does this sound familiar? Over the past 3 years we’ve seen countless people stating what they believed to be facts about corona. Were those facts dealt with and discussed? Not at all. The people who made them were labelled “anti-vaxxers” by a howling mob and cancelled by the authorities. Clearly, the form is exactly the same. What happened to Kanye is exactly what happened to Robert Malone or any of the other covid dissenters.

As Hannah Arendt noted in her brilliant discussion of the question of anti-Semitism in The Origins of Totalitarianism, the denial of facts to promulgate a predetermined narrative destroys history and through it human dignity and human action. We now live in such a world. It’s a world where facts are completely irrelevant. They are denied, deleted and altered. The people speaking them are de-platformed, cancelled and arrested. In doing so, we destroy our understanding of history.

The ridiculous irony is that what happened to Kanye in relation anti-Semitism is exactly what happened in Nazi Germany. Anybody who’s bothered to read the history knows that in the years before the Jews were physically assaulted and eventually murdered, they had their jobs taken, their small businesses shut down and their livelihoods destroyed by a combination of a howling mob and vicious authorities. That our society is doing exactly the same in the name of protecting us from anti-Semitism is absurd beyond belief.

As Arendt warned, we have lost all grasp of history and in doing so we destroy the basis for meaningful human action. The people involved have no idea that they are mimicking the Nazis. They think they are good people on the right side of history. They are completely oblivious to the fact that the Nazis also thought they were good people on the right side of history.

It’s because the Jews were the central horrifying concern of the Nazis that we must be able to speak freely and factually about the full role of the Jews in that time in history. Otherwise, we cannot understand them or the Nazis and we fail to learn from history. That’s exactly what has happened to our society which has not just failed to learn from history but which appears to now be treading down the exact same path to totalitarianism that the Nazis took. Every time we shut somebody down as an anti-Semite or an anti-vaxxer or a climate denier, we drive one more nail into our coffin.

Nobody thinks it can happen, of course, especially in the old Anglo countries. We’re the countries that beat the Nazis. Therefore, we are the opposite of the Nazis. Well, a little history might sober us up on that front because once upon a time things were not so clean cut. Now more than ever, we need to understand our history. Let’s investigate that by way of the document that created the meme of the conspiracy theory, a book called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

We forget how chaotic things were in the late 19th and early 20th century. It was a time of rapid, exhilarating change. Geopolitically, there were 4 main players: the British Empire which included the United States as a strong ally, Russia, Germany and France. All were involved in the business of imperialism. The trouble for France and Germany was that they were right next to each other and, as Hitler later knew, they really needed to be united so they could turn continental Europe into a viable competitor to Russia and the British-American empire. Their fierce rivalry only served to weaken them and make them less viable in the game of empire.

That this was a period of major instability can be seen in the fact that France, Russia and then Germany all followed an identical pattern of political crisis.

In 1871, France lost the Franco-Prussian War. There promptly followed an attempted revolution called the Paris Commune which tried to install communism in the country. 20,000 people were killed in the fighting. France would not have a well-functioning government again til after WW2.

The Paris Commune: remind you of anything from last few years?

In 1904, Russia suffered a humiliating military defeat against the Japanese. There immediately followed the first Russian revolution in 1905 which was patched over until the real Revolution in 1917, but even that didn’t solve the underlying problem and the country ended up lapsing back into a different type of tyranny.

In 1918, the Germans suffered defeat in WW1. There immediately followed the German Revolution which attempted to install communism. Weimar Germany followed but couldn’t solve the underlying tensions and the country lapsed into tyranny as Hitler seized power.

All three countries eventually became totalitarian (the French under Nazi control) but nobody knew that would or could happen because, using Hannah Arendt’s definition, totalitarianism was something new. States had been perfectly capable of terrorising each other down through history. But now we saw states terrorising their own citizens. That terror had a direct prelude in anti-Semitism which was arguably worse in France than in Germany. During the Dreyfus affair there were mobs in the street chanting “death to the Jews”. Eventually, the terror would be turned on non-Jews too.

For most of history, order has been snatched from the jaws of chaos and disorder which always threatened from without. The ruler’s job was to lay out simple, memorable laws and visible exoteric structures by which to guide the flock along the narrow path which kept society from danger.

With the complexity of the modern world, chaos and disorder has threatened from within. The whole 19th century and early 20th century was filled with endless rebellion and uprising as the people went into battle against the exoteric structures of society which they were no longer willing to abide by. This wasn’t surprising as those structures were no longer suitable and clearly needed reform. The question was what sort of reform and who got to decide. Would it be the communists, the capitalists, the fascists or any of the countless other ideologies all of which had theoretically good and bad points and could have seemed like viable options to a person at that time.

Note the occult/tarot imagery on the original Russian cover

One of the ways we deal with the inherent complexity of the world is to fall back on stories and this is where The Protocols of the Elders of Zion comes into the picture. The book had an audience in all the major countries that were going through upheaval at the time including Britain and the United States.

I’m not sure if The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was the first book of conspiracy but it certainly is what we can call the archetypal conspiracy theory. It begins and ends in the narrator’s voice who tells us that the secret document they are about to reveal to us came into their possession through mysterious channels and had originally been stolen at the end of a meeting of Jewish Freemasons. The material reveals a secret plot on the part of the Jews to take over the world. In the epilogue, the narrator expresses the hope that all is not lost and that the publication of the book may lead people to see the light before it’s too late.

The key to understanding such a text is to realise why it made sense to the people at the time. For starters, the idea of taking over the world was not made up. That’s actually what was happening behind the scenes through imperialism. There really was a race to try and take over the world and it wasn’t hard to imagine that if some other country took over the world first it would not be a good thing for your country.

Many people back then would also have either been a member of a secret society or known someone who was. Secret societies were public knowledge. The Rothschild family (who The Protocols is clearly referring to) were known to donate money to the freemasons, to take just one example. It was also the golden age of interest in the occult and thus symbolism on the cover of the book would not have been out of place. The book’s references to religion made sense in a world where most people still went to church and where the church itself was battling for relevance including by getting itself involved in political and social movements.

There is nothing in the book, even from our vantage point more than a hundred years later, that is implausible. The book makes no specific claims that can be tested and refuted. It’s full of semi-truisms; vague statements that are interconnected into a story that is easy to understand and impossible to prove or disprove.

Another important cultural aspect to bear in mind about the 19th and early 20th centuries and one that is now somewhat foreign to us in our postmodern world, was the idea that there could and should be explanations that would cover everything. This was the case in physics and, because every other discipline had physics envy, the idea spread to domains such as sociology, psychology and politics. We forget that many intellectuals got behind Hitler and the Nazis but intellectuals had been getting behind all kinds of grand theories well before that. Thus, the implied idea behind The Protocols of the Elders of Zion that there should be one explanation that elucidates all the ills of the world would have seemed perfectly plausible at the time, including to intelligent and educated people.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was originally published in Russia in 1903. It’s a call to Russian Christians to save the country before it was too late. I have already mentioned the state of turmoil Russia was in at that time. It’s ironic, given what would eventually happen, that the Tsar had been more concerned about the rise of the bourgeoisie than about the communists and that’s exactly what the book is concerned with: international capital. Like most industrial nations at the time, the instability of the financial markets was a real problem as it caused wild swings from boom to bust that wrought economic carnage.

This was a problem with internationalism. Industrial economies implied internationalism from the beginning because they needed markets and access to raw materials. They needed to grow. This growth was facilitated by the capitalists and financiers who mediated international trade. In response, there arose the workers movement aimed at counteracting the power of the capitalists and financiers. These workers movements were also international. The Communist Manifesto ends by calling on the “workers of the world” to unite. And that’s what they did. The International Workingmen’s Association was founded in London in 1864.

As a counterbalance to the internationalist tendencies of the capitalists and the communists, there was a nationalist reactionary movement in most countries.

We’re so used to the intertwining of business and politics now that we forget that once upon a time there was a vision for the nation state that didn’t involve blatant corruption and greed. That vision is best embodied in the US Constitution and also the French revolution; equality before the law and the rights of the individual protected by the state. This vision was already breaking down in the 19th century and it was capitalism that was doing the most damage.

The Panama scandal in France was a great example. Many of the rising middle class lost their shirts and it turned out that half the parliament had been bought out to keep the scam going. A very similar thing happened in Australia at the same time with a property bust in Melbourne that most members of the Victorian state parliament were in on. Many tried to flee to Britain to escape justice afterwards. Both of these make the recent FTX scam look like kid’s stuff. Imagine a GFC like economic crisis caused by the parliamentarians of your country and you can imagine what these scandals were like.

An incredible tale of the blatant corruption in late 19th C. Victoria (makes you understand why Ned Kelly was so pissed off)

It was partly as a response to the disillusionment caused by blatant corruption that there arose what we would now think of as nationalist movements. These revolved around the ideals of the nation state but also drew on what remained of the old aristocracy, church and the army which, however anachronous, provided some connection with the past.

The thing to bear in mind is that all of these elements were present in every country to differing degrees. Each country had its workers who were excited by international communism, its rising bourgeoisie, its aristocracy, its nationalist sentiments and more. The battle between all these was actively raging and it was not obvious who would win.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was clearly addressed to a nationalist audience. But its message, its form, was easily translated into each country because the nationalists in each country had the same underlying motivations. Thus, when the book was distributed outside of Russia in 1919, it found a readership in every industrial country.

Given the content of the book, it would surprise few to know that Hitler had read The Protocols. He mentions in Mein Kampf how The Protocols had been written off as a forgery by the Frankurter Zeitung which just goes to show that the book had received mainstream attention. Where the story does take a surprise turn, at least for modern readers, is that the book became popular in America and was enthusiastically supported by none other than Henry Ford who said of the book that it “fitted the facts”.

Ford didn’t stop there. He owned a publishing house at the time and he had an entire series of pamphlets printed that took the central ideas of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and translated them for a contemporary American audience. Later, these were collated into a book called The International Jew. Among the chapters are diatribes blaming the Jews for the degradation of American baseball, for jazz music, for bootlegging and pretty much everything else that the author didn’t like about the state of American society at the time.

The International Jew: The World’s Problem was subsequently translated into many languages and none other than Hitler owned a copy. Hitler was an admirer of Ford. He had a picture of Ford up in his office. The world’s best-known capitalist at the time and the world’s best-known fascist were both in agreement that the conspiracy theory of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was an accurate description of reality. History makes strange bedfellows.

One of the other more famous proponents of the book in the US was a guy called Charles Coughlin. Coughlin was a catholic priest who was the original televangelist, although his medium was the cutting edge technology of radio. At its peak of popularity, Coughlin’s radio show was said to reach 30 million people per week, an unbelievable one-third of the population of the United States listened to it. Coughlin was an early supporter of Roosevelt’s New Deal and his main preaching work was done in and around the industrial plants of the mid-west which is exactly where the hardship of the depression was being felt the strongest.

Charles Coughlin

Although his popularity had begun to wane by then, Coughlin was still a respected voice when in the mid-late 30s he began to talk about the ideas from The Protocols and also to express his admiration of Hitler and Mussolini. He was first and foremost a nationalist and had begun to criticise Roosevelt for what he perceived to be the President’s growing internationalism. His criticism got to be such a problem that the Roosevelt administration organised to have Coughlin’s radio show canned and then his newsletter banned from distribution by the Postmaster General.

Aftermath of the Wall Street bombing

There is one other bit of US history at the time that is worth relating. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, which subsequently triggered the German Revolution of 1918-19 where, for a while, it wasn’t clear that Germany wouldn’t also become a communist nation, the US had what became known as the First Red Scare. There were some significant acts of violence at this time including the bombing of Wall Street by anarchists in 1920 that killed 38 people and wounded many more.

The government of Woodrow Wilson responded by, shall we say, “stretching” the constitution in order to jail and deport people suspected of communist or anarchist sympathies. This was the beginning of a long period of increased power placed in the hands of the US executive ostensibly aimed at ensuring “national security” and which still echoes down to the current day every time some politician or government apparatchik talks of keeping us “safe”.

It was during the first Red Scare that a version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was published where all references to Jews were swapped out and Bolsheviks put in their place. Instead of an international conspiracy run by Jews being the cause of all the troubles of the world, it was an international conspiracy of communists. From this we can see that the form of the conspiracy theory was the important thing and that you could take that form and adopt it to whichever group you thought needed to be dealt with.

Out of this ideological melting pot, the one thing almost everybody agreed on at this time was that the answer to all problems lay in government action. In Russia, there was the establishment of the Duma and other reforms that Nicholas II instituted but which, ultimately, couldn’t stop the Revolution. As the Roaring 20s boom gave way to the inevitable Great Depression bust, US President Roosevelt took drastic action which changed the role of government in the US with interventionist policy becoming the norm. Hitler used the same economic distress and political chaos to win himself power in Germany. In Lenin, Hitler and Roosevelt you had three charismatic leaders that led the communist, (ostensibly) nationalist and capitalist ideologies respectively. They got there by actively suppressing the competing ideologies in their home country.

These countries then went to war against each other. In the modern world, we tend to assume that it was the ideology itself which determined the result of the war as if this was a Darwinian battle where only the best ideology survived.

Perhaps there is some truth in that. Nevertheless, it’s also true that what was also going on beneath the surface was imperialism. Maybe imperialism always requires an ideology as cover but, as I mentioned in the last post, this was also the era of Total War. Ideology was no longer just sacrificing to the Roman gods every now and then. The anarchists, communists, nationalists and all the others really believed in their ideology and were not aware they were in service to imperialism.

As Hannah Arendt noted, even the Nazis were being cynical in their use of nationalism. Their main concern was imperialism and they simply hopped on the nationalist bandwagon as it suited their purposes. The position of the US is more subtle. Clearly there were people behind the scenes who were thinking imperially but it seems that the US got into the war more by accident. It doesn’t matter much now because what was important was that the US became an empire when it won the war. It also had an ideology. It ended up fitting the same imperialist pattern.

We’ve all been happy to play along during the long period of economic stability that the US empire has given us in the post war years. But, just as it was economic crises that tilted Russia and Germany (and also France) into totalitarian mode, the current economic woes of the empire are tipping us in the same direction.

The covid event was a paradigm example of state terror against not just the citizens of the US but all the rest of us imperial subjects. What was unique was that the terror barely came directly from the organs of state (well, except for Joe Biden wishing the unvaccinated a winter of death) but from the shady networks that characterise the modern “elite”. Again, the FTX scandal is relevant here because it turns out FTX was funding corona propaganda and we now are finding out that the “elites” were actively rigging twitter and other social media in favour of “the narrative”, something that was blindingly obvious but is now being officially confirmed.

The totalitarianism of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia was carried out by the state directly. When the jackbooted thugs kicked down your door in the middle of the night, you knew who they were and where they came from. So, it’s another bit of evidence for the Unconscious Empire that the terror now seems to come out of nowhere. More specifically, the terror is identical with ideology. The terror is the ideology. There are no real gulags or concentration camps, no exoteric markers of totalitarianism. It’s all esoteric now. The battle for empire is now a battle for the mind itself.

All posts in this series:-

Philosopher Kings vs Networks
The Unconscious Empire
The Unconscious Empire Pt 2: The Hitler Complex
The Unconscious Empire Pt 3: A Prison for your Mind
The Unconscious Empire Pt 4: Becoming the Other
The Unconscious Empire Final: Benevolent Totalitarianism

The Unconscious Empire Pt 2: The Hitler Complex

As I have mentioned before on this blog, my life feels like one big synchronicity lately. It seems like no sooner do I write a blog post than the universe answers it. Last week’s post was answered by none other than Kanye West who went viral the day after I hit publish. If you’d told somebody a year ago that “Kanye West will go on Alex Jones wearing a full face mask and say he loves Nazis” they would have thought you were crazy. But, in case you haven’t noticed, everything’s been crazy lately and it shows no signs of slowing down.

The use of the word crazy here is not mere hyperbole. Western society and the United States in particular is having a collective psychological meltdown at the moment. What Kanye did was to go right to the centre of it and push the Hitler button. Like any artist of worth, he knows where the crux of the issue is and that’s exactly how I viewed his Alex Jones appearance. It was performance art.

Was this the most punk rock thing ever?

We can usefully call the mass collective irrationality of our society towards the erstwhile leader of the Nazis the Hitler Complex. Jung and Freud pioneered our understanding of psychological complexes. A complex is cluster of psychic properties that threaten the stability of the self when challenged. When I say that the West has a Hitler Complex, I am saying that Hitler functions as an archetype that triggers irrational responses from the collective culture but I’m also suggesting that those irrational responses reveal something of our collective identity. Something, perhaps, we would rather not have revealed.

(Note: psychological complexes have an origin in something that actually happened. Freud and Jung almost always found that a complex was based in some trauma that happened in childhood. It is self evident that Hitler committed some of the worst atrocities in history so it’s not in the least bit surprising that the horrors of WW2 would have given rise to psychological complexes. Part of the reason to try and disentangle a complex is to allow a proper evaluation of its root causes).

Kanye triggered the Hitler Complex last Friday and, like clockwork, everybody lost their minds. Imagine, for comparison, that Kanye had gone on Alex Jones and said that he loved Stalin and that he thought communism had done some good things for the world. People would have thought it was weird. We would have heard the usual lectures from Republicans about the evils of communism and how so many millions had died under its rule etc etc. In other words, it would have been a mostly rational response.

What we saw instead was a completely irrational response and the number one accusation levelled was that Kanye had gone “crazy”. That’s what’s known as projection. It was not Kanye who had gone crazy. Kanye was putting on a show. That’s what he does. The show involved him committing the number one heresy of western culture by denying that Hitler and the Nazis were 100% evil, spawn of Satan, completely responsible for all the evils of the word.

This is not just an American problem. Here in Victoria, our wonderful Premier, Dan Andrews, accused his opponents of supporting Nazis in the recent election campaign. Meanwhile, in Canada, the enquiry into Trudeau’s invocation of the Emergencies Act suggested that a lone person waving a Nazi flag, who was duly used by the media and politicians to smear all the other peace-loving people at the rally, was a government plant. Can it be a coincidence that Trudeau and Andrews both authorised state violence against unarmed citizens during the last two years?

To unravel the Hitler Complex, we must do what Jung and Freud did and investigate the history of it. That’s what we’ll be doing in this and in following posts.

So, with a tip of the hat to Kanye West for the inspiration, let’s do a bit of military history.

Unconditional Surrender

We begin back in antiquity with the infamous Siege of Melos as related by the great historian, Thucydides.

Melos was a small and inconsequential island with a population of about three thousand people. The Athenians were almost at the peak of their power when in 416 BC, during a time of peace, they showed up one day and demanded an Unconditional Surrender from the Melians. What an Unconditional Surrender means is that there will be no negotiation of peace terms. The winning party gets to do whatever it likes and the losers have to suck it up.

Even in the violent world of Ancient Greece, just showing up and demanding an Unconditional Surrender from a peaceful country was against the rules. The Melians tell the Athenians exactly that and use a number of other arguments to try and shame them out of their unjust actions. But the Athenians reject all pretence of civility. They tell the Melians that might is right. They are more powerful and that is all there is to it. They give the Melians an ultimatum: surrender or die.

The Melians refused to surrender and the Athenians laid siege to the island and forced a surrender through starvation. That would have been bad enough. But it’s what happened next that offended even the ancient world. After the surrender, the Athenians executed all the Melian men in cold blood and sold the women and children into slavery. They then populated the island with settlers. This was a genocide right in the middle of what is considered to be the golden age of Athens, one of the greatest civilisations ever to exist.

Demands for Unconditional Surrender are rare in the history of war. The normal outcome of war is a peace treaty which comes after an armistice (an agreement to stop fighting). Because the fighting ends by agreement, the losing side is not completely defeated and this gives them some leverage in the peace treaty. The winning side accepts the armistice so that they don’t lose any more soldiers, weapons and money. This all follows from the idea that war is an extension of politics. Peace is achieved when the winning side has achieved enough of their (political) war aims to call it a day and the losing side is willing to accept its loses.

In January 1943, US President Roosevelt announced that the US would only accept Unconditional Surrender from the Germans and Japanese. In other words, he declared that the war aim of the United States was to arrogate the right to re-structure German and Japanese society and politics as it saw fit. This was part of a broader plan to set the terms of global order in the post-war years. In practice, this led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people because it gave Germany and Japan no incentive to surrender early and negotiate a peace treaty.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Was the behaviour of the US towards Germany and Japan a replay of what the Athenians did to Melos? Was this simply a might is right play where the Americans used their superior force to destroy an enemy? That was a big moral question at the time but it’s been completely forgotten about now. Or, we could use more proper psychological terminology and say it’s been sublimated; made unconscious.

Everybody thinks of Hitler as a megalomaniac. But didn’t the US also behave as a megalomaniac by demanding Unconditional Surrender? Hitler is rightly condemned for killing civilians. But the US and its allies also killed civilians in the war. Doesn’t that make us as bad as him?

These complex moral issues were not the result of simple arrogance or megalomania (at least, not entirely). They arose due to a change in the nature of warfare with the arrival of what came to be known as Total War.

Total War

Total War is all about scale. Napoleon’s Grand Armee was arguably the first army that conducted Total War. At its peak, it numbered a million men and the number of troops sent to fight in Russia was said to be 600,000. Such a huge number of soldiers needs an equally enormous support apparatus. The soldiers need to be clothed, fed and have their injuries attended to. Another way to think about it is that the army could not function without the support apparatus.

With the advent of Total War, there came a plausible way to defeat the enemy by destroying their military support apparatus, but that involves potentially killing civilians. The Geneva Convention written in the post war years would set out to address this problem but by then millions of civilians had been killed as war turned into Total War.

Unconditional Surrender Grant

It’s noteworthy here that the US Civil War was also an early example of Total War. Coincidentally, one of the main generals in the war, Ulysses S. Grant, was nicknamed Unconditional Surrender Grant, a foreshadowing of the later US policy of Unconditional Surrender in WW2. The Civil War also had notable numbers of civilian casualties and was a war not over land as much as ideology. It was, in large part, a war to determine what sort of country the US was going to be.

This ideological aspect of Total War was also present in Napoleon who attracted a lot of support from many different countries by providing a new vision for what Europe could be. A century or so later, Hitler had a different vision but it was also ideological in nature and an attempt to unify Europe. Thus, Total War really does concern itself with the whole of society including politics, economy and even culture. Hitler did not invent those things. He was following a pattern that had started long before his time.

But things had evolved even further by Hitler’s time. The question of what sort of society to live in had grown beyond just individual nation states and even continents. It now encompassed the whole globe. We can frame that as a moral issue but in reality it was the natural outcome of the industrial revolution and the advent of fossil fuels which meant that military power could now be projected practically anywhere on the globe. Any country with an industrial economy was now a potential player in a new battle for power.

The ramifications of the change to Total War are enormous but there is one aspect that is important for our story as it deals with a specific problem that Roosevelt was grappling with as WW2 came to an end. That problem is the fact that, because Total War is at least as much about ideology as about military capability, when military defeat comes there is still the lingering problem of ideology. This was no academic matter. It was central to the rise of Hitler.

Hitler was just one of many German soldiers who fought in WW1 who thought they were betrayed. The betrayal was assumed mostly to have come from the political leadership but it also tapped into latent anti-Semitism and the Jews were sometimes accused of subverting the war effort from the front lines. Was this just the crazy delusions of an evil, racist madman? Well, anti-Semitism nd racism were rife everywhere at the time, including in the US. As for the betrayal by the German leadership, there were a lot of very good reasons why Hitler and others drew this conclusion. It was not just paranoid delusions.

The problem with Total War is primarily a problem of scale and one of the main problems that comes with scale is communication. Anybody who’s had to deal with a huge, incompetent bureaucracy knows what that’s like. You can’t get a straight answer to anything. Nobody seems to know what is going on. Well, the same thing happens when you’re a soldier in an enormous army fighting along a massive front such as happened in WW1. An enormous bureaucracy is required to make such a war possible and that bureaucracy suffers from all the usual problems of bureaucracy.

Put yourself in the shoes of Hitler or any of the other soldiers on the front line in WW1. One day, a bureaucratic order is issued which says the war is over. As an enthusiastic soldier in the trenches, does this order make sense to you? Not really. You have your guns. You have your ammunition. The enemy is still there across the way. As far as you’re concerned, you can continue fighting and nobody can give you a straight answer why you should not continue fighting. You just have to follow orders. For Hitler and many like him, that was a betrayal and they spent the years after the war looking for scapegoats to explain that betrayal.

To understand this better, we need to take a quick dip into the psychology that existed in the pre-war years and then we can finally join the dots and start to see why the concepts of betrayal, humiliation and shame became a defining feature of Total War and were crucial to decisions taken at the end of WW2.

The Warrior Archetype

We can usefully summarise the psychology of pre-war European culture by using the archetype of The Warrior. If The Warrior were a cheesy TV show character, his catchphrase would be Death Before Dishonour. That is actually what the Melians chose when they refused to capitulate to the Athenians. They chose to die rather than live in what they considered to be disgrace.

Cultures that are heavily influenced by the Warrior archetype have strong honour codes and slights to someone’s reputation are taken very seriously. If you’ve ever read a European novel from the 19th century, chances are there will be at least one scene involving a duel. Some young man’s honour has been called into question and he responds by telling the perpetrator to meet on the stroke of midnight in the olive grove.

The great Russian writer, Pushkin, famously died in a duel over his sister’s honour

The advent of Total War actually caused a diminution of the Warrior’s honour code. Part of the reason was because war became no longer honourable. It was no longer a test of valour as soldiers pitted themselves against each other. By the time of WW1, it had become little more than a meat grinder (although some, such as Ernst Jünger, still managed to find valour there). This change happened gradually in Europe so that nobody really noticed. But history has provided us with a perfect example of what happens when the old Warrior honour code came into contact with the new industrial warfare.

Actually a pretty good movie

Many people would have seen the Tom Cruise movie The Last Samurai. The movie is based on the real history of US-Japanese relations in the 19th century.  The Japanese leadership had been shaken by the episode in 1852 where American warships sailed in and held the country to ransom demanding a trade treaty. They realised that they were no match for the US military and had to cave in to US demands.

Japan had been a closed society but it was forced open at the barrel of a gun. The humiliation and resentment this caused led directly to the fighting in WW2 because it turns out that people really hate having decisions dictated to them by foreigners (the Melians had shown that a couple of thousand years earlier).

The problem with Total War is that it inevitably creates humiliation and resentment and those emotions can drive the losing country to respond in ways that become a problem in future. The Japanese responded to the American aggression by modernising and preparing for war. In a very short period of time, the Japanese set up an industrial economy and the associated military that came with it. They did this initially in order to be able to defend themselves from the US but it also led to possibilities for conquest in Asia which led to some horrific run-ins with the Chinese that are still the cause of hatred of the Japanese in China.

The Japanese changed their society massively and very quickly by historical standards. One of the changes was to disband the samurai. That’s the part of the story told by the movie The Last Samurai. The final battle scene in that movie is based on a real event called the Satsuma Rebellion. It really was the samurai’s last stand.

The leader of the Satsuma clan, Saigo

500 samurai rode into battle against 30,000 troops armed with western rifles and cannons. The reason why that scene resonates so strongly is because it shows very clearly the cultural clash between the old-fashioned Warrior mentality with its honour code and the new war mentality of conscripted, unskilled soldiery.

So this is not just Hollywood nonsense. Warriors down through history have chosen death before dishonour and that would have been the attitude of the soldiers on the battlefields of WW1. The sense of betrayal they felt was the betrayal of the Warrior at the hands of the bureaucrats and financiers – aka the elites.

This sense of betrayal and shame was not just a German problem. The French felt it after the Franco-Prussian War and it is still a live issue even in the United States whenever the confederate flag is flown. With the onset of Total War, any peace treaty amounted to letting the ideology of the “enemy” remain in place. Thus, Napoleon was able to return to France from exile and raise an army immediately. The people who believed in him were still ready to fight even after numerous losses.

The demand for Unconditional Surrender was a way to try and solve this problem by enforcing what we might as well call Total Defeat on the enemy. It wasn’t enough to beat them militarily, they must be beaten ideologically, economically, culturally and, dare I say it, psychologically.

This explains the sense of betrayal felt on the ground by German soldiers at the of WW1. But, there were actual grounds for the charge of betrayal at the highest levels and the story of how that came about is another aspect of the problem of scale as it relates to Total War.

The Treaty of Versailles

Remember that it was humiliation and resentment that drove the Japanese to modernise their society and which arguably fuelled Japanese imperialism up until the end of WW2. The same humiliation and resentment was a problem leading into the end of WW1. The French still had a chip on their shoulder after their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. This led to them insist on inserting provisions into the Treaty of Versailles that were explicitly designed to humiliate the Germans as payback. Let’s do a lightning history of how it went down.

The then US President Woodrow Wilson took the initiative to formulate the peace negotiations of WW1 by outlining his 14 Points. Most of these were territorial issues about who would end up with what land. The first five points, however, related quite clearly to US political and economic interests such as freedom of navigation and trade policy. This was fine as any peace treaty is supposed to represent the interests of the parties involved and the 14 Points aimed to do that.  

The 14 Points were presented to Germany its allies and this led the Germans to believe they would be the basis of the subsequent peace treaty. The Armistice was called but the Germans were explicitly excluded from taking part in the negotiations that led to the Treaty of Versailles. Truth be told, most countries were excluded. Three nations drew up most of the Treaty: the US, Britain and France. Other victor nations were given some room to input their wishes but in a far less involved way.

The French used their prime position to insist on what became the two most controversial points: reparations and the assignment of blame to Germany. Reparations were not unknown in peace treaties. For example, after the final defeat of Napoleon, France was levied with a hefty bill in the peace negotiations.

The oldest peace treaty extant

Apportioning blame is rarer. Amusingly, in the very first peace treaty we know of, that between the Egyptians and the Hittites in 1274 BC, two versions of the treaty were written, one in the language of each people. The treaties are identical except that the Egyptian version has a clause blaming the Hittites for starting the war while the Hittite version has a clause which blames the Egyptians.

Most modern peace treaties are usually less childish. Consider The Treaty of Paris which was the peace treaty between Britain and the nascent United States of America following the War of Independence. In its preamble, King George III and the US agree “to forget all past Misunderstandings and Differences that have unhappily interrupted the good Correspondence and Friendship which they mutually wish to restore;” a noble sentiment that focuses on what should be the primary purpose of a peace treaty: to try and ensure a lasting peace between the nations.

The Treaty of Paris

Sadly, such noble ideas were absent at Versailles. The French delegation demanded not just extensive reparations but that there be a clause stating that the Germans were solely responsible for the war and that high-ranking officials could be charged afterwards with war crimes. This was an absurd claim and the British and the Americans argued against it. There was even dissent within the French ranks. French Marshal Ferdinand Foch summed it up perfectly by saying it was not a peace treaty at all but a 20 year armistice. He couldn’t have been more right but the French negotiators were adamant and the clauses were inserted into the Treaty.

Because the treaty was written behind closed doors without German involvement, the first the Germans saw of it was when the treaty was presented to them for signing. They immediately asked for the clauses to be removed. The problem for the allies was that they had spent so long negotiating amongst themselves to ensure every country got something that it wanted that any attempt at re-negotiation threatened to drag on indefinitely. Plus, the debate had already been lost against the implacable French. Therefore, instead of considering the perfectly reasonable objections of the Germans, they gave them an ultimatum: sign or we’ll invade within 24 hours.

This amounted to a demand of Unconditional Surrender but the Germans had only agreed to the Armistice on the assumption that they would be engaging in peace negotiations based on Wilson’s 14 Points. Thus, the Treaty of Versailles amounted to a violation of the terms of the Armistice. It seems to me that this violation was not intentional. It was yet another outcome of Total War where the scale and complexity of the peace treaty negotiations becomes too much to manage.

The Germans were rightly infuriated. The newly elected head of government, Philipp Sheidemann, resigned rather than sign the Treaty. His successor asked the head of the armed forces, von Hindenburg, whether the military was in a position to recommence fighting. Von Hindenburg answered in the negative. The Germans had been forced into the equivalent of an Unconditional Surrender with all the humiliation and shame that comes with that. The Treaty was universally despised in Germany, including by a guy named Adolf. The rest, as they say, is history.

It was partly the desire to avoid a repeat of this clusterf**k that Roosevelt demanded Unconditional Surrender in WW2. This made some sense because any peace treaty at that time would likely have been even more complicated than it had been at the end of WW1. However, this policy led the US into a moral transgression of arguably even greater magnitude than the Athenians committed at Melos.

In the next post, we’ll investigate that more and see how this led to the psychic sublimation that created the Unconscious Empire.

All posts in this series:-

Philosopher Kings vs Networks
The Unconscious Empire
The Unconscious Empire Pt 2: The Hitler Complex
The Unconscious Empire Pt 3: A Prison for your Mind
The Unconscious Empire Pt 4: Becoming the Other
The Unconscious Empire Final: Benevolent Totalitarianism

The Unconscious Empire

As the saying goes, history does not repeat, but it rhymes. But what if, to extend the poetry metaphor, it resonates symbolically too. What if history shows symbolic inversions such as we see in one of my favourite poems, Coleridge’s Kubla Khan.

Although only a short poem, the recurring theme of Kubla Khan is the contrast between the overt, explicit, exoteric structure of power built by the Khan and the chaotic, subconscious, esoteric nature that surrounds it. Take the opening lines:

The older Coleridge

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

The caverns are measureless and therefore not amenable to reason. We are later told they are savage, haunted and enchanted while the “shadow of the pleasure dome floated midway on the waves”. Readers of Jung will note the use of the “shadow” here and Coleridge was clearly referring to the unconscious in his poem although, like most of the romantic poets, he embodied this in the concept of nature. Nature is savage and enchanted. It is the inverse of civilisation embodied in the great work of architecture – the pleasure dome – built by a great ruler. The shadow lurks there as a threat to the ruler and reminds us of another work of a great romantic poet, Shelley’s Ozymandias:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Coleridge invokes the dichotomy between order and disorder, civilisation and barbarism, society and nature, conscious and unconscious. The great Kubla Khan is the carrier of the former but tragically fated to yield to the latter just like Ozymandias.

In last week’s post, I talked about the concept of the Philosopher Kings who, like Ozymandias and Kubla Khan, represent the exoteric structure, the collective consciousness of society. I contrasted this with what I called networks referring to the organisational structure of early Christianity which I said was esoteric in nature and also unconscious. Coleridge assumes what most thinkers down through the ages have also believed which is that the esoteric and the unconscious are a threat to order and must be kept in check or, if necessary, destroyed.

The current global hegemony of the “globalists” runs on networks and those networks are destructive of the exoteric order of the nation states who facilitate their activity. In that sense, Coleridge was right. And yet the overarching empire is those networks. That implies that the empire of the globalists is an esoteric empire and therefore also belongs to the unconscious.

But this contradicts the old beliefs of Coleridge and others. The esoteric and unconscious is supposed to be a threat to civilisation and empire. The idea that you could run civilisation and empire unconsciously would have seemed absurd to most thinkers throughout history. And yet that seems to be exactly where we are in the modern world and the empire that has brought that about is the US Empire.

A new kind of empire?

History does not repeat, it rhymes. Can it rhyme over millennia? Apparently so. Let’s look at one of the rhymes most relevant to what we have gone through in the last three years.

Trajan Decius

In 249 A.D., Gaius Messius Quintus Traianus Decius became the emperor of the Roman Empire. The empire was well on its downward slide by this time as we can see in the manner in which Decius got to power; namely, he won an important battle in the Balkans and, rather than return to his garrison as commander of the region, decided to take his troops and fight against the incumbent emperor, Philip the Arab. Needless to say, Decius won.

Almost the first thing Decius did on becoming emperor is what he subsequently became famous for largely because it triggered what became a pattern of persecution of the Christians for the next century or so. As far as we can tell, Decius did not intend to persecute the Christians. What he was trying to do was the hold the Empire together and he did it by way of an edict that required every inhabitant of the Empire to sacrifice to the Emperor before their local magistrate. The magistrate would witness the sacrifice and provide an official certificate to say the person had done their duty. Anybody who failed to perform the sacrifice by a fixed date faced torture and death.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, the exoteric rites required by the Roman Empire had been hollowed out well before Decius’ time. Decius seems to have understood that but his brute force attempt to try and spark some life back into the rites accidentally caused a persecution of the Christians of the empire who were forbidden by their faith from sacrificing to the Roman Gods. As a historical irony, the Jewish population of the Empire were not required to perform the sacrifice due to a longstanding religious exemption going back to Marcus Aurelius. Many high profile Christians were put to death for refusing to perform the sacrifice, others fled and many more simply acquiesced rather than face punishment.

Does all this sound familiar? Official certificates, cut-off dates and threats of punishment for non-compliance. We saw something very similar in the last couple of years. Thankfully, we live in a less violent society than ancient Rome. But those who failed to get their official corona vaccine certificate by a certain date could expect to lose their job and other privileges and to this day there are still people being fired over the matter. Decius required a sacrifice to the Roman gods. Corona required a sacrifice to the almighty god of Science, one of the primary gods of the US Empire.

Paying obeisance to the Gods

If that’s not enough of a coincidence for you, consider the two other main events that happened during Decius’ short reign (not quite 2 years). Firstly, there was a plague which started at exactly the same time that Decius’ sacrifice edict went out from Rome. This was a genuine old-school plague, the kind where somebody in every household could be expected to die. As with plagues in that day, it duly caused a famine. And just to round out the Four Horsemen motif of Decius’ reign, the event which brought an end to that reign was a war against the Goths.

Both Decius and his son, who had been co-emperor, were killed. Decius became the first Roman emperor ever to die in battle against the barbarians. The Roman position was so weak after the defeat that the next emperor had to sign peace conditions where the Goths got to keep the booty they stole, an added humiliation for a once great Empire.

Does that latter part of the story sound a whole lot like the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving behind all kinds of military hardware for the Taliban? And how about the weird coincidence that just as Decius and his son were co-rulers of Rome, the current US president’s son had some dodgy business dealings with the nation where another war currently rages, Ukraine. History sure does rhyme.

Not a good sign for an empire

What Decius did in 249 A.D. was to require an explicit, conscious, exoteric commitment to the Roman Empire by the people who lived in it. He didn’t require you to believe in the sacrifice because, like all Roman authorities, what he wanted primarily was a visible display of allegiance. When the Christians objected, it was because they did believe. They believed in something different and that esoteric belief prevented them from taking part in the exoteric, just as Jesus had failed to do standing before Pontius Pilate.

Most people who took the corona vaccine were people who really believed. They would say they believed there was a pandemic and that the vaccine would protect them from it. When I claim that it was really a test of allegiance, I am positing an explanation from the unconscious. In order to understand that we need to acknowledge that the US Empire itself is unconscious. The Roman Empire was a Conscious Empire. Its tests of allegiance were overt and exoteric. The US Empire is an Unconscious Empire. Its tests of allegiance are (mostly) covert and esoteric.

There are a number of historical reasons why the US Empire is an Unconscious Empire. Let’s just take the few most important ones.

Firstly, right from the start of US imperialist operations in the late 19th century, there was significant anti-imperialist political opposition inside the US itself. Sometimes this opposition got the upper hand and actively curtailed imperial activity as, for example, between WW1 and WW2. Mostly it was overcome through politics. But the underlying anti-imperialist ethos always had strong resonance among the US public. For this reason, ever since the conquest of the Philippines, the US has always conducted its overt imperialist operations under false pretences. We’ve all heard those false pretences so many times that most people could recite them in their sleep. Something something bringing democracy to somewhere.  

It’s important to understand how unusual this is historically. Almost all empires have been about conquest of land and the conquerors were not shy at all about making their intentions clear beforehand and gloating about victory afterwards. Decius was not trying to bring democracy or civilisation to the savage tribes of the Balkans. He was telling them to stay on their side of the Danube, or else. Romans were interested in land. Almost all empires have been. Even Hitler, who was trying to build a thousand year Reich (empire), was worried about lebensraum; land.  

This brings us to the second historical reason why the US empire is unusual. From the start, it was not about land but about trade. The reason was because the US industrial economy produced a surplus of goods. It needed markets for those goods and it needed raw materials in exchange. Why occupy somebody else’s land with all the administrative and military cost that entails when you can just have a friendly regime do business with your businesses? This model is far cheaper than the older models of empire but it is also invisible, subliminal. It looks cooperative on the surface. To know what is really happening requires you to look beneath the surface (to the unconscious).

The US could already rely on compliance from many countries who wanted access to US products and for whom such a trade relationship was beneficial. For those to whom it wasn’t beneficial, the CIA was there to ensure that the right politicians were inserted into positions of power. Note that this is an explicitly clandestine way to run an empire. By its very nature it is secretive, subconscious. It also requires an amount of gaslighting. Newspapers report that such-and-such a leader had a “heart attack”. A new leader is found who just happens to be willing to open up local markets on terms favourable to the empire. In this model of empire, the exoteric, official, conscious explanation is wrong. To understand what is really going on, you need to be able to question the official narrative.

The third reason the US empire is an Unconscious Empire is tied up in the age of European imperialism that led to the world wars. What was really going on in those wars was that Germany was attempting to dethrone the British Empire from world domination. In the post-war world, we’re so used to the false pretences under which the US empire operates that we forget that once upon a time empires were not at all shy about their intentions. When Hitler dreamed of a thousand year Reich, this was not some new idea, it was a deliberate throwback not just to the Roman empire but also to the Holy Roman Empire which had lasted almost as long.

The carnage of WW2 and the holocaust gave empire a very bad name. If the concept of imperialism was already politically inexpedient due to internal political reasons in the US prior to the wars, it became completely verboten in the years following as the atrocities of the Nazi regime came to light. Nobody in their right mind would talk about empire in public as a serious idea worth thinking about. The very concept was now associated with brutality and violence.

It now looks not just wrong but ridiculous to our eyes. But people at the time took it very seriously

This brings us to the fourth and final point. Hitler explicitly wanted to usurp the British Empire. He attempted to do so in the time-honoured tradition of military conquest. That’s the way the battle for empire had been conducted since time immemorial. But the US ended up usurping the British Empire not by fighting against it but by ostensibly helping it out.

The US had been supporting the British empire and its allies throughout both wars with its enormous industrial and agricultural output. There was also substantial financial aid which meant that Britain and France were in debt to the US. By the end of WW2, Britain and the other European countries were exhausted, materially flattened and massively indebted to the US. It might have been one of the easiest transfers of empire in history and it all happened behind the scenes through meetings and accords and other seemingly cooperative activities. This was not the normal exoteric, overt, conscious way empires are won and lost. It was invisible and, therefore, unconscious.

For all of these reasons and more, the US empire, especially in the post-war years has been an Unconscious Empire almost entirely lacking the usual exoteric markers of imperialism. It utilises networks to achieve its aims; primarily financial networks but also the ideological networks of NGOs and globalist institutions. These all have tie-ins with global media outlets who manage the propaganda. We’ve all been exposed to that propaganda: democracy, free trade, science, progress. The US Empire achieves economic coordination through markets and political coordination through ideology. The leaders of the vassal states of the empire are those who can parrot the ideology and implement the implied agenda.

The ideology of the US Empire is kind of like the software that runs the imperial machine. The leaders of each country are computer programmers who need to know how to interpret the software and customise it to local conditions. It’s that software that facilitates economic exchange but also drives ideological coordination through the propaganda networks. If you noticed during corona how leaders in very different countries were all using the same words and phrases as if they were copying each other, that’s because they were. There was no central planning required and no overt coordination. The whole thing runs on imitation. It all happens automatically, unconsciously.

It can’t be a coincidence that the US empire was just taking off at almost the exact time that Freud and Jung were making their great breakthroughs into the Unconscious. The Empire has made use of that knowledge in the advertising and marketing of consumer products but, as I have pointed out in the past, those techniques and tactics also gradually seeped into the political discourse itself. It’s no exaggeration at the moment to say that the propaganda of the Empire is quite literally a psychic battle. If you feel like your sanity is under attack these days, it’s because it is. More specifically, the Empire now directly targets the subconscious and its propaganda works almost entirely subliminally.

Which brings us back around to Decius. By modern standards, his edict requiring citizens to make a sacrifice to the empire looks rather unsophisticated. But it was in line with the story of Moses I talked about last week. That was the way rulers and empires functioned at that time: simple and clear rules with simple and clear (and usually really painful) punishments for those who didn’t follow them. All of this is overt and exoteric.

The Unconscious Empire is far more sophisticated. It achieves compliance through ideology while punishments are vague, arbitrary and unpredictable (eg. de-platforming with no reason given). People now voluntarily create accounts on social media or use search engines all of which are provided free of charge. But as the saying goes, if you are not paying for the product, you are the product. The product is obedience and compliance through ideology.

For those who want to continue to be part of the US empire and have access to its benefits, we can expect more obedience requirements in the years ahead with CBDCs and associated “products”. That is what they would like to do. Whether they can technically pull it off is another question.

There is a final important correspondence between our time and the time of Decius. Decius was an Emperor in the final phase of the Roman Empire. His actions were indicative of that Empire’s impending fall. Decius kicked off a century of overt persecution of the Christians. This was another sign of decline. The Empire needed a scapegoat to blame its failures on. But that scapegoat was inside its borders. It was its own citizens.

This pattern is what Toynbee called the internal and external proletariat. For the Romans, the external proletariat were the barbarians and they had been around for ever. The Christians became, apparently quite accidentally, the internal proletariat starting with the reign of Decius. With the Trump and Brexit votes, the US Empire found its own internal proletariat and with the Ukraine War it has rediscovered the external enemy that has been with it ever since its early days: Russia.

This is why the Unconscious Empire has been pulling out every weapon in its arsenal over the last three years including an empire-wide test of allegiance in the form of vaccine mandates. Just like for Decius, the internal proletariat is now a problem that the Empire needs to directly deal with but the Unconscious Empire doesn’t do so by clumsy exoteric means but by psychological manipulation, gaslighting and ideology.

For that reason, the number one task for the years ahead is simply to retain your sanity in an empire that is at psychic war not just with its enemies but with its own citizens.  

All posts in this series:-

Philosopher Kings vs Networks
The Unconscious Empire
The Unconscious Empire Pt 2: The Hitler Complex
The Unconscious Empire Pt 3: A Prison for your Mind
The Unconscious Empire Pt 4: Becoming the Other
The Unconscious Empire Final: Benevolent Totalitarianism