Building an Imagined Community

“Imagined communities” and “invented traditions” are everywhere — so much so, in fact, that it’s impossible to tell in most cases if they were “invented” or merely developed organically (a major criticism of the theory that didn’t get nearly enough play, because Hobsbawm and Ranger were telling eggheads what they wanted to hear).  So to see how the process works, it helps to start with one that was clearly made up out of whole cloth, and imposed top-down: Communism.

Communism has several huge advantages for a sprawling, multicultural, semi-feudal empire like Russia.  First, and most obviously, is its universalism.  Man and woman, Jew and Gentile, all are equally Workers, and all equally exploited.  How else are you going to tamp down the old antagonisms — religious, and above all racial — that divide an empire that runs from the Caucasus to the Sea of Japan?  Religion, culture, etc. is the “superstructure” erected on the “base” of the means of production, Marxist doctrine asserts, and while they tended to downplay the dogma among, say, Muslims — you know, because they get explodey — if you do it right this is a very effective technique.  Priests are parasites, comrade — they do no work, yet live fairly nicely at public expense.  Isn’t it obvious that all those religious rules are really there to keep the priests in power, and you out of power?

So, too, with any “culture.”  It just so happens that the Beautiful, which is the same thing as the Good, always and everywhere tends to prop up the ruling class at the expense of poor folks.  Opera, ballet, symphonies, art galleries, even libraries — you need money, free time, and transportation to enjoy them, and of course the hicks from the sticks lack them all.  The real culture is the People’s Culture, comrade, which is why Lenin set up the Commissary for Enlightenment right up there alongside the Red Army (giving Anatoly Lunacharsky the title I’m gunning for in the next Trump administration: Enlightenment Commissar).  Proletkult was the rap music of its day, with barely-literate Proletarians busting stilted rhymes about steel mills and tractors instead of bitches and bling.

This works great, because by the time your Everyday Ivan realizes he’d much rather drink a vodka or twelve rather than write poetry after a shift at People’s Heavy Machinery Works #202, you’ve captured the people who really matter: The “proles” with enough on the ball to serve in the Party apparat.  The ideal apparatchik doesn’t really want to write poetry, either, but he wants to want to, since that’ll show those rubes he feels guilty for hating so very, very much.  He gets to live like a satrap while still keeping his proletarian street cred, and since he can send anyone who says he’s not keeping it real to Siberia, the system works.

And it gets better, because there’s a Commie cursus honorum to climb, and it really is (mostly) meritocratic — “merit” in this case meaning “able to produce the appropriate quote from Marx or Lenin while getting your departmental rival shipped to Siberia.”  It’s almost entirely meritocratic in the sense that, after a lifetime of Fraternal Socialist service to the comrades in Krasnoyarsk, your son — who has run through his own cursus honorum in the Little Octobrists, Young Pioneers, and Komsomol — will get forwarded to the special service academies in Moscow, where the real Party men come from.

Done right, then, Communism is a very efficient — really — sifting process for finding a certain type of man.  It’s far superior to our supposedly “free market” system, because it’s directed — whereas our budding apparatchiks keep getting diverted into stuff like Gender Studies and “the Arts,” Commies don’t mess with that.  Stalin himself all but said that women need to stay in the kitchen, and as for the Arts, well, if you didn’t demonstrably have world-class potential by your early teens, it’s off to the Red Army with you.

That type of man is 100% invested in the system that made him, since he owes everything to it.  Thus he will work night and day, 24/7/365, to perpetuate it.  Compared to an Assistant Sub-Commissar’s Assistant (Junior Grade’s) commitment to the principles of Marxism-Leninism, your average SJW is wishy-washy about… well, about everything, which is why they’re forever trying to elect themselves a vohzd…. 

[Wait, you thought their Trigglypuff antics were about us?  We are to them what “the beast” was to the kids in The Lord of the Flies — a boogeyman that gives them an excuse to vent their natural urges.  Trust me, I’ve been in and around academia for a long time, and your average SJW has never met, in her entire life, anyone to the right of Bernie Sanders (the same Bernie Sanders they themselves mocked back in the 2000s, as being a sellout cartoon faux-socialist sponging votes away from the real People’s Candidate, Dennis Kucinich).  Everything they do is in the service of their own intra-SJW pecking war.  They’d happily sign off on school prayer and mandatory concealed carry if you convinced them it’d make them #Woker than their frenemies, e.g. back in the 2008 primaries when it was briefly all the rage among the uber-Progressive to be anti-Obama…. but that’s a story for another day].

The problem, of course, is that this system goes against human nature.  No, I don’t mean “Communism” itself, although that’s the most elaborate misanthropic fantasy ever devised.  I mean the practice of Communism.  That kind of guy — the apparatchik, the SJW, the mini-Hitlers that make a day at the DMV such a joy — is the kind of guy people fantasize about punching in the face.  He’s a feculent weasel, acting like the Tsar himself to anyone he has power over, but cringing like a whipped dog in front of anyone more powerful than himself.  Older folks, think of the DMV; younger readers (assuming we have any), please think of the pinched, sour faces of the Diverse ladies at the Registrar’s office.  Now, imagine that everyone — everyone — in your world with any authority at all is one of those people.

That’s Communism.  The whole shebang, top to bottom, is set up to produce exactly that type of guy, and weed out everyone with any power at all who isn’t that type of guy.  You could make the distribution side of Communism work, no problem.  You could even, in a country as fertile and as blessed with natural resources as Russia, make the production side work… provided you gave The Workers a reason to shake off their hangovers for a few hours a day before hitting the vodka again.  But why should they?  I don’t even like vodka, but I’d drink myself stuporous 24/7 just to make that guy’s life a teensy bit harder.  I’d do all the things Russian workers were famous for doing — pounding screws in with a hammer, mixing cement with sand — because why the hell not?  If I do a good, or a competent, or even a not-FUBAR job, he gets the credit, and fuck him.  No, seriously — if I and my comrades screw up bad enough, he might get sent to Siberia….

It’s the fake-universalism that gets you.  Pretending we’re all equally Workers ends, inevitably, with apparatchiks — those guys — in charge of everything.  But there’s a better way…

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