The worst thing about socialism is not empty grocery stores or even the Gulags. The worst thing is harder to represent visually or to pinpoint, but it’s inescapable, and its damage extends for generations. The worst thing about socialism is what being forced to live a lie does to one’s psyche. Save for the few true believers whose numbers dwindle as time passes, virtually everyone experiences this mental toll.
By “living a lie,” I don’t mean minor shows of pleasantry or even bowing to social pressures. I mean having one’s entire existence premised on something widely, by an unspoken agreement, believed to be untrue.
As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “In our country, the lie has become not just a moral category but the pillar of the State.” Solzhenitsyn recognized that the violence of the state depends upon the cowardly culture of lies, on ordinary people trying to stake out space to live while complying with the dictates of the regime.
I Was Made to Live a Lie in the Soviet Union
In the Soviet Union, that meant in everyday life that preschool-age kids were forced to recite verses praising the Bolshevik Revolution and that their parents were diverted from work to march in parades. Political meetings convened at schools and workspaces on a regular basis. Sometimes commissars vanished from pictures. Day after day, television delivered news of record harvests or some exciting technological innovation, but these events always took place somewhere far away and didn’t involve anyone we knew.
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One didn’t have to dig very deep to discover that under the smooth veneer of uniformity was a vast, stormy sea of despair and resentment. In private spaces and hushed voices, people were passing different messages. The disconnect manifested in sky-high rates of alcoholism and a population so cynical it couldn’t commit to civic duties. Individuals preferred to focus on issues of personal importance, usually things delivering quick and easy satisfaction, such as money.
We, escapees from the Soviet Union, have heightened sensitivity to these lies. One friend of mine confided that what she dislikes most about the Black Lives Matter organization is the amount of phony self-righteousness it generates. For instance, one of her American Facebook friends posted, “Thank you BLM for opening my eyes to what is going on.” About that, my friend remarked, “What did you not know? You are nearly 60 years old, born and raised in this country.”
Americans Are Succumbing to Cultural Lies
With the exceptions of some Gen Zers who were brought up with the lie and expend an inordinate amount of energy trying to maintain epistemic closure, everyone in the country knows the BLM organization was founded on falsehood and that the death of approximately one dozen unarmed people a year at the hands of police does not amount to black genocide.
Yet millions of Americans are forced to live under this lie today. For instance, consider the store owners who place Black Lives Matter signs on their front windows in hopes of placating rioters. How many of them admit that the act is purely a protective measure, born out of helplessness, and not some kind of affirmation of radical racialist ideology?
When riots began consuming American cities, major corporations responded with struggle sessions, during which employees were encouraged to confess to being racist for thinking or feeling something offensive, or for not performing acts BLM deems “anti-racist.” These struggle sessions are often shaped by Robin DiAngelo’s book “White Fragility,” which advises supposedly well-meaning white people on whom to befriend and counsels them to seek out situations in which they would feel unsafe. In other words, employees of major corporations are being asked to mimic a cult.
Often, an employee can do very little to avoid being subjected to the emotional abuse of an “anti-racism” workshop. He can quit, but what can he do afterward? Work for another corporation with a similarly malignant office environment?
The latest development in the “anti-racist” witch hunt is BLM mobs running around the nation’s capital, shouting, “White silence is violence!” and accosting random people at restaurants, demanding they display the black-power fist. Some brave souls refuse, even after they’re completely surrounded by menacing mobs.
This exercise is remarkable because BLM appears to have given up trying to convince anyone. Of course, black-power gestures under duress have no meaning. Everyone knows it’s all a lie, but the Marxist movement keeps at it anyway, just because it can.
We Are Not Too Far Gone
Although I drew a parallel to the USSR, America today is definitely not that. We are not a totalitarian country. Although I could argue the mobs on the streets are the jackboots of the Democratic Party, and that they have friends in all sorts of institutions, the BLM organization and Antifa are not the entirety of our state.
They do, however, make it nearly impossible to express a diversity of thoughts in a public sphere. Rotten social climate notwithstanding, however, we are not without options. We shouldn’t feel forced to live a lie — not for ourselves and certainly not for our children, who will feel the consequences of this for years to come.
The antidote to living a lie is embracing reason, speaking from one’s heart, and rebuilding human connections. While the hysterical mobs were harassing unsuspecting diners in D.C., it was heartening to see the unifying response ringing out at the Republican National Convention. The most powerful speeches were delivered not by politicians, but by ordinary people, talking thoughtfully and sincerely about their personal experiences, people like Nicholas Sandmann, Andrew Pollack, and Maximo Alvarez.
We might not have a clear strategy to confront the woke encroachment on American ideals, but the first steps are to rebuild human connections and refuse to embrace lies.