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TOTALITARIANISM AND MORALS PDF Print E-mail
Democracy-Totalitarianism

1. One of the most common forms of totalitarianism is that which is connected with issues of conventional morality, where the term 'conventional' means that which is now known and accepted from the past on general lines by the whole of society. It is usually based on the form of human actions, on actions which are apparent, and for that reason attaches so much importance to formalities. But such a dependence on these forms and such an adaptation even of delinquency have been created that a new approach disrupts irreparably the established order of the conscience.

A change in approaches to morality usually is revelatory of the truth, as that exists within the consciousness, and gives rise to a serious insecurity both about the image of the self and about the self's relation with others, which are also revealed. The first steps of the new are almost always disastrous, because there is an immaturity of conscience which the new freedom, after the breaking down of the barriers, leads inevitably to abuses. These, however, bring about their own catastrophic results, because the next adaptation has not had time to take place, which leads in turn to a re-examination of the situation. This stage, of course, involves a serious risk, that of the establishment of the abuse as a permanent and acceptable state of affairs.

However, it must be said that without a crisis of conscience man cannot easily emerge from the limited state in which he lives in the present, because habit and the 'security' which he feels within this prevent him, as they are based on both fear and inertia. In such a state of habit and supposed security, the conditions suitable for totalitarianism are usually created, although forms which may, externally, not be so obviously connected with the past cannot be precluded.

2. Totalitarianism can, of course, also take on another form, it can be a form of the imposition of a viewpoint, and this viewpoint can possibly be new. But this imposition is based on the same fear of the unknown and the 'other' as a separate and different entity.

In reality, totalitarianism is an attachment to an image of the self and of the world which in the judgement of the subject should be universal. What we have, then, is an eschatological 'idolisation' of being, in which the subject replaces the totality. In this universality he has a fantasy security, and when, moreover, the subject himself is the controlling factor, then the security is complete. This is in reality a distortion of the idea of totality, whatever other name we give to it. Under this regime, we apprehend, in the framework of international morality, others as our own people or allies and as our enemies. Our people and our allies are those who accept the eschatological idolisation of our narcissism, they are agents and hosts of the fantasy self. In that sense, we regard them as ambassadors 'for our democracy', even when they themselves obviously represent us with their own totalitarianism.

However, totality is the source of indisputable power and is therefore a challenge for man, even when he rejects it. This is precisely the working of a perpetual, insatiable, boundless 'need', as professed by economic theory or of that greed of desire and power which is usually rounded off as a tragedy of the 'rich fool', in which the only consolation for the common end is simply that the end is common to all, and in this way the unity which has been assaulted is again revealed. This is confirmed particularly in the case of those who have been seized by a tendency towards power, because then the challenge is even stronger and usually brings about catastrophic results among large groups of people, as, for example, when this is on the part of politicians. 

If the psychological factor in totalitarianism is not explored, we are not even going to touch upon the problem in a real sense. Concealed beneath totalitarianism is control as power and perfection as inertia. The fact that there is no perfection in anything that has to do with totalitarianism is not important. The subject doesn't record it as such. Moreover, perfection has more to do here with the stopping of the operation of the conscience than with the fine form, though they end up in the same thing.

Also hiding in the unconscious of totalitarianism is a merciless battle with time, in which time is death itself, which, however, could not bring about any further change in perfection, nor could it cause destruction to the general inertia, because there will no longer be anything to destroy. Moreover, something which is generally accepted (regardless of whether it has been imposed by force) constitutes a shield of safety against the totalitarian subject, it is the protection of the community, of the herd, of the species. The insecurity of the quarrel is laid to rest.

None of this serves in any circumstances as a justification of totalitarianism, because there is a side of fear which does not connote weakness, but, on the contrary, aggressiveness, even when it has a passive mask. Fear as a constituent part of the entity and not as an epiphenomenon is very dangerous and is closely bound up with power and totalitarianism of every kind. The distinction between these two kinds of fear is terribly difficult to make and sharp-eyed criteria are required to make the tracing of them achievable. 

In the age in which we live, mainly because of the development of technology, which makes it possible for totalitarianism to be complete and merciless and to have such absolute control over others as to arrive at the point of winning their consent, but also because of the intellectual development of the totality, it is absolutely essential for this distinction to be made, otherwise Orwell's fantasy will pale before the new achievements of totalitarianism.

It would be irresponsible to maintain that we are against totalitarianism, but that at the same time we are not willing to go to the trouble and have the tension entailed by such a function of an awareness of the need for clarification. Responsibility is precisely a tension of the consciousness (with absolutely nothing to do, of course, with the hypertension which is an idiom of our age). This tension without doubt entails the acceptance of the inner conflict brought about by an effort to distinguish, a greater strictness of criteria, and, naturally, more subtle criteria which must cease to be criteria from phenomena (external criteria). 

The battle against totalitarianism has to be harsh, because it is diffused through the whole of our life. Everything tends to become absolute - the emotions, thought, our ideas, even our conception of non-absoluteness - tends to control as a totality. But, as we have said, totality doesn't exert control, totality expresses itself. Control is dualism. Control is not always erroneous, but we have a duty towards ourselves to accept our lot in life and not to lose ourselves in the clouds of desire for relaxation and foolish and false perfection. The difficulty of the undertaking should not be an excuse for complacency or for concessions. The only obstacle is firmly- founded desire as an established approach to life and what is right, which, however, is undermined by the slightest effect and leads to the degradation of everyday living. 

What is this degradation of everyday life which we have not succeeded in avoiding, in spite of our excessive activation, our freedom, and our standard of living? It is a spiritual degradation. We have little relation with our self, we have made it dependent on material goods (without arguing for poverty, which gives rise to other problems), we live without an inner purpose, and there is a satiety and exhaustion of a motive for living, since anything else beyond the material is rejected. Of course, this will also be said by those who wish to exercise control over the human conscience through an intellectual and 'moral' stance. Words lose their meaning when the motive of those who pronounce them is rotten.

For this reason the only safe way is a triptych: freedom - unity - equality. Each of these concepts can be expressed in many ways. Freedom is also expressed by a vitality of the consciousness, as there is no pathological halt, unity can be expressed as brotherhood, as a disposition and action towards the good of all, and equality as a prohibition of the exclusion of the 'other'. These are three ideas which should form the epicentre of this new age - which is new because man is more developed intellectually than he was in previous centuries, he possesses excessively great technical means and knowledge, so that prudence in their handling is called for, and he lives in an age in which the extravagances and bad choices of previous periods are bringing about their results. For this reason, although the inexorably impending conflicts may resemble those of the past, they will have much greater force because of these conditions. And so this age is truly new, and man will be tested in his responsibility both towards himself and towards the world - with the meaning of not only the world of man.


Ioanna Moutsopoulou, Lawyer,
Member of the Secretariat of Solon NGO

 
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