Lil Nas X and the Threat of Therapeutic Totalitarianism

7 April 2021

7.2 MINS

If you thought that Cardi B’s degenerate WAP was bad, Lil Nas X (of ‘Old Town Road’ fame) has taken things to a whole new level. Of hell. And I mean that literally. The children’s performer Lil Nas X — whose real name is the more banal Montero Lamar Hill — has recently released a music video of himself sliding down a stripper pole to perform sexual acts upon the Devil, seated upon his satanic throne.

The question is, how have we come to this point as a culture, and in particular a Western nation? A time when — just as in ancient Israel — someone like the Biblical prophet Isaiah could lament of those in his day who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20). As you will see, the answer is somewhat complex.

In 1966 Philip Rieff wrote a book called The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud. Rieff’s thesis was that the West had rejected God, and in His place sought to create a society where the individual was liberated to indulge in the freedom of one’s own sensuality as well as the pursuit of personal happiness. However, with the ‘therapeutic’ replacing the transcendent moral order traditionally provided by religion, this has only led to the triumph of what I refer to as “therapeutic totalitarianism”.

Just over fifty years after Rieff’s work was published, we’re starting to perceive ever more clearly the bitter fruit of such a Prometheanism endeavour, i.e. the idea than the individual human being has unlimited godlike abilities and potential to re-create the world to satisfy one’s own passions and desires. For an excellent analysis and contemporary application of Reiff’s work, see Carl. R. Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Crossway, 2020).

Another, even more prescient, contribution in this regard is Rod Dreher’s Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents (Sentinel, 2020). Dreher explores how “the menace of totalitarianism” is still a very real threat to Western society. As Dreher explains:

The term totalitarianism was first used by supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who defined totalitarianism concisely: “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” That is to say, totalitarianism is a state in which nothing can be permitted to exist that contradicts a society’s ruling ideology.

Based largely on the work by Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism published in 1951 just after World War II, Dreher outlines six key factors which make a society susceptible to totalitarianism.

First, loneliness and social atomisation.

According to Arendt, totalitarian movements are “mass organizations of atomized, isolated individuals.” Sadly, even with the advent — and veritable explosion — of social media, young people today are feeling more disconnected than ever. And as Dreher rightly observes,

“It is no coincidence that millennials and members of Generation Z register much higher rates of loneliness than older Americans, as well as significantly greater support for socialism.”

Referencing the work of Robert Putnam, a political scientist from Harvard who wrote the influential book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (Simon & Schuster, 2001), Dreher writes:

… Putnam documented the unravelling of civic bonds since the 1950s. Americans attend fewer club meetings, have fewer dinner parties, eat dinner together as a family less, and are much less connected to their neighbours. They are disconnected from political parties and more sceptical of institutions. They spend much more time alone watching television or cocooning on the internet. The result is that ordinary people feel more anxious, isolated, and vulnerable.

Second, losing faith in hierarchies and institutions.

Dreher refers here to the work of the famous French sociologist, Emile Durkheim, whom Dreher writes:

… observed that many people who had been set free from the bonds of religion did not thrive in their liberty. In fact, they lost a shared sense of purpose, of meaning, and of community. A number of these despairing people committed suicide. According to Durkheim, what happened to individuals could also happen to societies.

This is because confidence in institutions — whether it be political, media, religious, legal, medical or corporate — are at all-time lows. According to Dreher, “Only the military, the police, and small businesses retain the strong confidence of over 50 percent.” Although, significantly, Dreher wrote these words though before the (‘mostly peaceful’) Black Lives Matter™ riots in the US and their accompanying Marxist agenda to “Defund the Police”.

Third, the desire to transgress and destroy.

According to Arendt, the Nietzschean mantra of “will to power” so dominates some intellectuals that, “They read not Darwin but Marquis de Sade.” Dreher explains what Arendt means by this as follows:

Her point was that these authors did not avail themselves of respectable intellectual theories to justify their transgressiveness. They immersed themselves in what is basest in human nature and regarded doing so as acts of liberation.

Dreher goes on to quote from the work of historian, James H. Billington, who observed that late imperial Russia — just before the revolution — had “a preoccupation with sex that is quite without parallel in earlier Russian culture” and that “the sensualism of the age was in a very intimate sense demonic.” Indeed, according to Dreher:

Among the social and intellectual elite, sexual adventurism, celebrations of perversion, and all manner of sensuality was common. And not just among the elites: the labouring masses, alone in the city, with no church to bind their consciences with guilt, or village gossips to shame them, found comfort in sex.

… the figure of Satan became a Romantic hero for artists and musicians. They admired the diabolic willingness to stop at nothing to satisfy one’s desires and to exercise one’s will.

Dreher then goes on to observe in a subsequent chapter:

Pornography is ubiquitous, but marriage and family formation are petering out. Ours is also an intensely sensual age, one that emphasizes sensate experiences over spiritual and rational ideals. That sexual desire is taken to be the central fact of contemporary identity is not seriously contested (it is telling that in the irreconcilable conflict between religious liberty and gay rights, the latter is winning in a blitzkrieg). The swift acceptance of gender ideology is a clear sign that Prometheanism and sensualism have been joined and have overturned the old order. The internet has acculturated at least one generation to pornography, far exceeding anything that those who overturned Russia’s censorship law in 1905 could have envisioned.

Fourth, propaganda and the willingness to believe useful lies.

Alarmingly, we are seeing this kind of pattern starting to re-emerge. As Dreher writes:

In 2019, Zach Goldberg, a political science PhD student at Georgia Tech, did a deep dive on LexisNexis, the world’s largest database of publicly available documents, including media reports. He found that over a nine-year period, the rate of news stories using progressive jargon associated with left-wing critical theory and social justice concepts shot into the stratosphere.

What does this mean? That the mainstream media is framing the general public’s understanding of news and events according to what was until very recently a radical ideology confined to left-wing intellectual elites.

A classic modern-day example from Australia in this regard is Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu (Magabala, 2014) which contends that Aboriginal culture is responsible for everything from the development of aquaculture to the invention of democracy and government! The problem with this type of approach though, is as Dreher rightly explains:

You can surrender your moral responsibility to be honest out of misplaced idealism. You can also surrender it by hating others more than you love truth. In pre-totalitarian states, Arendt writes, hating “respectable society” was so narcotic that elites were willing to accept “monstrous forgeries in historiography” for the sake of striking back at those who, in their view, had “excluded the under privileged and oppressed from the memory of mankind.” For example, many who didn’t really accept Marx’s revisionist take on history — that it is a manifestation of class struggle — were willing to affirm it because it was a useful tool to punish those they despised.

Fifth, a mania for ideology.

Dreher writes:

Why are people so willing to believe demonstrable lies? The desperation alienated people have for a story that helps them make sense of their lives and tells them what to do explains it. For a man desperate to believe, totalitarian ideology is more precious than life itself.

This explains why the Left — or anyone who identifies as something along the LGBTIQ spectrum — cannot tolerate anyone who disagrees with them and classifies their behaviour as ‘hate-speech’. Because for them, sexuality is worship. Their personal identity is founded upon their sensual desires. And thus, for someone to disagree with their point of view is to reject who they are as a person. But this is not just a lie but a form of political totalitarianism. As Dreher explains:

One of contemporary progressivism’s commonly used phrases — the personal is political — captures the totalitarian spirit, which seeks to infuse all aspects of life with political consciousness. Indeed, the Left pushes its ideology ever deeper into the personal realm, leaving fewer and fewer areas of daily life uncontested. This, warned Arendt, is a sign that a society is ripening for totalitarianism, because that is what totalitarianism essentially is: the politicisation of everything.

Sixth, a society that values loyalty more than expertise.

Dreher rightly observes that, “Loyalty to the group or tribe is at the core of Leftist identity politics.” One of the examples which Dreher refers to is that involving transgenderism:

A Soviet-born US physician told me — after I agreed not to use his name — that he never posts anything remotely controversial on social media, because he knows that the human resources department at his hospital monitors employee accounts for evidence of disloyalty to the progressive “diversity and inclusion” creed.

That same doctor disclosed that social justice ideology is forcing physicians like him to ignore their medical training and judgment when it comes to transgender health. He said it is not permissible within his institution to advise gender-dysphoric patients against treatments they desire, even when a physician believes it is not in that particular patient’s health interest.

People in the West are now conscious of the current cultural crisis and that our so-called ‘civilisation’ has its nadir, or imminent collapse. Uncertainty and a growing sense of foreboding abounds, particularly as growing war-like sentiments dominate the daily news. Many are now wondering, ‘Why is our world in such a state, especially in the light of so many advances in our state of knowledge?’

Building on the work of Reiff, both Trueman and Dreher provide an excellent analysis as to how we have come as a culture to this particular impasse. We are on the cusp of what could be labelled as ‘therapeutic totalitarianism’. A Leftist Promethean form of socialism in which the individual self reigns supreme and musicians slide down poles to perform homosexual lap dances with the Devil.

[Photo by Carlos de Toro @carlosdetoro on Unsplash]

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