I. A Brief History of the Reformation.
Christianity is one of the world’s great organizing myths.* Convince people that their beliefs make them special — indeed, immortal — and they’ll die for you with a smile on their lips.
The problem, though, is that Jesus’s teaching requires you not just to say, but to do, and, ultimately, to be. The vast panoply of ritual that the Church developed in its first 14 centuries was great at conflating these three, but by the late Middle Ages it was obvious to everyone that mere ritual had completely replaced substance. Relics, vestments, “creeping to the Cross,” and all the other stuff Luther and the boys complained about — and Late Medieval Catholicism was very, very weird — meant that “faith” was just empty show. “Indulgences” are overrated, Reformation-wise, but that’s the basic idea — you don’t have to be, let alone do, when you can say… or have said for you, for a minimal fee.
The great Reformers were all very special snowflakes, but the Puritans were the special-est snowflakes History has ever produced. They focused entirely on the inner experience. Get your being right, they held, and whatever you say and do will automatically be right. That they were history’s first ideological murderers goes without saying, and truly excellent killers they were, too — ever heard of the Pequot Indian tribe? No? There’s a reason for that. “Thus the lord was pleased to smite our Enemies in the hinder Parts, and to give us their Land for an Inheritance.”
It’s tempting to say “and here we are!,” and indeed it’s commonplace in Our Thing to refer to the dour scolds who rule us as Puritans. They’re not, though, because Puritanism never had mass appeal. Equating “membership in the Elect” with “worldly success” is great if you’re one of the successful, but as the vast majority of people aren’t successful, The Elect are a small, elite club. Which Calvin et al to their…credit, I guess? … were ok with, but once the revolutionary fervor passed away with the first generation of fanatics, Puritanism was unsustainable. In Massachusetts, for example, they were hanging witches in 1693; by 1698 Cotton Mather was being openly mocked, and by 1700 everyone was pretending that the whole sordid business never happened.
II. Saving Your Soul by Being Yourself.
If you really want a revolutionary movement, then, you have to have mass appeal. Which means you have to have a way to show the world the pristine condition of your soul that doesn’t involve either
- mere ritualism; or
- material success.
A tall order, you’d think, but that’s the genius of Communism. It tells you that you are a superior person merely by being who you are.
If you’re not successful, it’s Capitalism’s fault. You are a Victim of Society — a paschal lamb (look at Leftist iconography, even at this late degenerate date, and tell me e.g. trannies aren’t being portrayed as sacrifices for Society’s sins, even as they’re seemingly being praised).
If you are successful, then your success isn’t due to some combination of hard work, luck, and talent. Rather, it’s education. Specifically, it’s education in the Leftist sense, which (irony alert!) an actually educated person would call gnosis. Merely by reading the Scriptures — that is, by “going to college” — one achieves insight into the hidden nature of the universe.
So long as the correlation between those two doesn’t go negative, you can keep the revolutionary fires stoked. That is, so long as
- no significant amount of poor people manage to better themselves without “college;” and/or
- no significant fraction of “college” graduates sink into poverty
you can maintain the illusion that you and everyone like you is among the Elect. Is it any wonder, then, that the Left is addicted, not to identity politics, but to gestural politics? The “identity politics” stuff is just a subset of the gestures, which are, in turn, mere rituals to propitiate the gods… who, thanks to the mysterious alchemy of Left-gnosticism, are really us. Give people permission to worship themselves, and they’ll do anything you tell them to.**
III. Going Negative.
The problem is, while Leftist “help” has made certain that 1, above, will never happen, that same “help” has all but guaranteed 2. A college degree is now negative equity, and as resources get scarcer, even dimwits with Angry Studies degrees will cotton to it. Moreover, simply writing off student loan debt won’t help, even if there were some way to do it without crashing the economy — you may not be 100 large in the hole anymore, Snowflake, but you’re still 29 years old, with no marketable skills and a resume that tops out at “part-time barista.”
Which will, naturally, lead to a reexamination of 1. Illegals have all the jobs you’re qualified for, and as for welfare…. ooops, sorry, you’re the wrong color. You think President Kamala Harris is going to short one of her Hotep Brothers for you, or President Ocasio-Cortez one of La Raza? Tough shit, Honky — starve.
Anger focuses the mind wonderfully. However, it’s not enough. To really get people going, you need to spiritualize their situation, the way the Puritans and Commies did. If I were to craft an organizing myth — hypothetically, FBI goons, hypothetically — I’d sacralize the concept of “responsibility.” Just by struggling to make it, taking care of your own, you’re noble. Moreover, you did everything They told you to do, and got screwed. You made mistakes, yes (that Angry Studies degree), but only because you were wormtongued into abandoning your sense of responsibility — to yourself, to your posterity, to your people. “No rights without responsibilities” might work as a rallying cry — do you want the very same people who cheerfully freeload to be able to vote on the flavor of their free lunch?
That may not work — these are, like Luther’s theses, only theoretical starting points for reasonable discussion among learned men — but it’s something.