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above: Falcon Heights, Minnesota [Image by: Runner1928, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons, cropped and resized]

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The Radicalization of the Bourgeois Neighbor

Though I have spent my life in a relatively conservative area of Northern California, the specific neighborhood in which I presently reside seems to be greater than fifty percent pro-Biden, judging by the lawn signs. Several of these signs have accompanying rainbow flags, Black Lives Matter merchandise, and other announcements of commitment to the cultural elite’s historically and morally outrageous selected talking points.

 

Two particular houses stand out, as they contain signs that list a series of completely meaningless, yet obviously revolution-tinged, phrases: “Black Lives Matter,” “Love is Love,” “Science is Real,” “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights,” “No Human Being is Illegal.” The occupants of each house are white couples, in their late fifties or early sixties, likely having steady low six-figure household income. They seem to live comfortably, have their routines, and more or less live pleasant uneventful lives. In other words, they are run of the mill American bourgeois liberals.

 

Upon deeper reflection, however, it is truly outstanding that such households would be so triumphantly observant of leftwing pieties. How is it that the American middle-class, the large center unwilling to venture too far ideologically in the 19th and 20th centuries, would eventually embrace the social themes of the radical left? And of course, those who are not quite ready to display these signs specifically, are only ten years behind, having long assented to the dogmas of 1990s liberalism on racial tensions, state-definitions of marriage, immigration, public school curriculum, science as religion’s enlightened corrective, and equality as the philosophical foundation of American civil order.

 

When considering acceptable moral opinion over the last 150 years, it is odd that our bourgeois, middle-class neighbors have been so radicalized.

 

The culture’s direction was foisted upon the people, as opposed to a spontaneously developed process of evolving moods and instincts. That is to say, the culture at large has been the recipient of conscious radicalization efforts.

 

This cultural upheaval was and is primarily about politics—that is, the attainment of hegemonic power. It postured as apolitical social progress and was marketed as being above petty politics. It was basic to being human in the twenty-first century. Framing their narrative as “humanity not politics” the strategy was shaping the average mind toward an end that would be more useful to political objectives.

 

Culture as the strategic battlefield toward political power constitutes a strategy that could only have happened in the West. It was uniquely in the West that organic cultural institutions carried more civilizational-shaping power than the state as the preeminent agency of institutionalized coercion. This fundamental aspect of Western civilization was combined with a 19th century liberal framework that drew a sharp logical distinction between politics as the business of the state, and culture as the evolved product of voluntary human action.

 

The liberal juxtaposition of “state and culture” or perhaps “public and private” has shaped the West’s political development. While imprisoned under Mussolini, Antonio Gramsci reflected that Bolshevism in Russia only had staying power because there was no cultural body of institutions independent of the Tsar. For centuries, the imperial family was the source of both state power and cultural meaning in Russia. Therefore, to capture the center was to capture everything.

 

Yet by recognizing the uniqueness of the Western institutional framework, the post-Marxist left understood that to achieve power through the state apparatus would require decades of preparation outside the mechanisms of the political process. Groundwork was needed before the people would be ready to acquiesce to the ascendency of the new left. That is to say, neither a sudden proletarian revolt, nor democratic participation were to be the initial means of political control for a movement that was fundamentally at odds with the American people and heritage.

 

We now observe a world that is not about to enter a cultural revolution so much as it is meaningfully on the other side it. Now that the cultural problem has been taken care of, the opportunity for raw political power has arrived. No longer is there a reactionary political coalition to challenge the employment of cultural ideologies. To hold to an understanding of sexual morality, cultural memory, religious foundation, or ethnic identity that is at odds with the weaponized ideology of the left is to place oneself in a position that could destroy one’s career, community reputation, or opportunity to live peaceably. The totalitarian pressure is reinforced not by the state, but by the entire body of sociological elements including corporations, media outlets, churches, non-profits, HOAs, educational institutions, social clubs, and city-level programs. From this starting point, political power is to be acquired and held with an ease that would make the old rulers stare in envious disbelief.

 

Phrases, such as those on my neighbor’s sign, that feature prominently on bumper stickers, trending social media topics, and now in everyday conversations are not philosophically meaningful; they are politically meaningful. “Love is love” is as intellectually insignificant as “tree is tree.” But politically, it is an announcement of subservience to the ideological regime that characterizes our darkening Western world. Similarly, Black Lives Matter and Antifa are most basically neither organizations nor ideas; they are political marketing slogans that serve to bully the masses into ideological compliance and to ensure that the entire citizenry understands what is socially expected of them. Which is why neither “White Lives Matter” nor “All Lives Matter” can ever be a meaningful counter to the dogmatic nature of our secular orthodoxy.

 

Thus, we see in the radicalization of the bourgeois neighbor the ideological victory of the left over the middle class. The bourgeois has long been the class to be ideologically captured by those seeking power. It is inherent in their nature to be the class that absorbs the narratives of those above them. As the academic world, the entertainment industry, the news media, and the corporate domain assert their dogmatic unity in social values and ideological commitments, they mold the culture at large into their desired image. This image, because it is to be employed in the service of power, necessarily drives into dust all that stands opposed to its advancement.

 

In the realm of political confessions of faith, one is either a confessor, or he is a heretic. And modern man knows that to be a heretic is to risk status, security, and comfort. Hence, they dutifully press lawn signs into the dirt and affirm the phrases that have been carefully crafted and widely disseminated as those of progress against prejudice and discrimination. In thinking they are bold crusaders against backward thinking, they are participatory pawns in a long march that captured the institutions and has now moved-in down the street.

C. Jay Engel

C. Jay Engel works as a strategic business advisor and writes from his home near the Sierra Nevadas of Northern California. He lives with his wife and their four homeschooled children.

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