Here’s a thought I had (it seems that I may of spoken of similar themes, or maybe even repeated this theme, in other blogs though I cannot remember which ones):
Recently, I have been speaking of something which I keep calling ‘secular oppression’. This is a point of view that originates from the “basic idea” of the French Revolution. It is used as a basis to interpret every social problem that comes along (which is why I speak of it as ‘secular’, as its used in ALL social conflicts for everyone). It is often used as a basis for social relations in general.
The ‘secular oppression’ point of view would became very popular right after the French Revolution in the early 1800’s and would establish itself in Western societies thinking and mentality down to today. As a result of this, it would greatly influence political and social thought in the Victorian era and later. Because of this we could perhaps say it is a defining trait of the Victorian era and later. It affected things in may ways. During the 1800’s it would be the basis of many interpretations of social problems. When the population of England increased in the early-mid 1800’s, for example, it would be used to explain the problems. Not only that, it would be used to villainize people turning people into tyrants and ‘bad people’ that often were not (such as the aristocracy). In addition, it would be the basis for an attempted solution to the problems. In these ways, this point of view would have far-reaching effects and consequences. Subsequently, it would have deep influence on everyday life. In the end, though, it would have an undermining effect.
As a general rule, it primarily consists of an attitude. It is not, really, a formal philosophy or belief system but generally appears as a general stance reflecting a particular point of view. This can, and did, affect or instigate certain philosophies that used it as a basis of its thinking. In this way, many different philosophies, opinions, and points of view actually originate, and reflect, the attitude of ‘secular oppression’ even though they may not, at first glance, appear to be that way (such as communism and feminism . . . see below). One could even say that it has created a particular mood to this era as well.
THE “BASIC IDEA” OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AND ITS TOO EASY TENDENCY TO EXPLAIN-AWAY SOCIAL PROBLEMS
The “basic idea” of the French Revolution is that the there is the “oppressor” and the “oppressed” and that the oppressed must “free” themselves from the oppressors (portrayed, during the French Revolution, as the supposed conflict between the nobility and peasant class). This “basic idea” became viewed as the cause of all forms of human social conflict regardless of what form it took and who it involved. As a result, it was used to explain conflicts involving things such as the class-struggle, political issues, legal explanations, business theory, family association, marriage, the minor problems between people, and so on. You name it and it was used as an explanation! In this way, someone is always being oppressed.
The problem is that the “basic idea” was almost “too easy” to use for social problems. This is because in every situation of social conflict there is always someone who is in power and someone who it not (who is associated with the oppressor and the oppressed). This condition is almost always existing in any social conflict making this line of thought an easy association and easy explanation. The problem is that the oppressor/oppressed line of thinking does not explain or address most social problems in its entirety. It is much too narrow and limited in its thinking and often misses whole points about a situation. In fact, its narrow thinking tends to make misconceptions a common occurance with this point of view. Common misconceptions are often a result of particular assumptions that are inherent in this philosophy, such as:
- The idea that the oppressor (the person in power) deliberately takes advantage of the oppressed (the person not in power).
- The idea that the oppressor conspired to have power.
- The idea that the oppressor is motivated by malicious reasons.
- The idea that the oppressed are always innocent victims.
- The idea that the oppressed are “always correct” or “pure” in some way. That is to say, they can do no wrong.
- The idea that the oppressed are always fighting for their freedom against the oppressors.
These tend to lead to a lot of misconceptions, myths, and misunderstandings, which have, in some respects, begun to define this point of view. In fact, over the years, ‘secular oppression’ has begun to be identified with misunderstanding to me . . . because it is so associated with it. In my opinion, ‘secular oppression’ has created a multitude of erroneous interpretations of social problems and their attempted solutions as well as a misaligned viewpoint of society in general. I would even go on to say that it has created a warped view of society in western society. Examples include:
- It has created many misunderstandings about society and social relations. For example, its created this idea that all society consists of is one group of people trying to take advantage of the other group.
- It has created false threats and enemies. In order for this philosophy to work a threat must be found and an enemy created. As a result, it tends to promote false threats and the creation of enemies that don’t exist.
- It has villainized innocent people. This philosophy, because it needs the idea of oppressors, has turned many innocent people into threats and turned them into bad people.
- It has created false solutions (such as communism, feminism, etc.). Many of these have created more problems than it has solved. Because it is such a narrow viewpoint it generally does not, in actuality, address the problems nor create an adequate solution.
- It has also created a mania that its right and the only explanation and answer. In other words, there tends to be a tendency of self-righteousness with ‘secular oppression’. If you cite it as authority then its automatically right. This mentality has turned this philosophy, oftentimes, into a social mania that has, at times, gotten out of control. In some respects, this self-righteousness is one of the most damaging aspects of ‘secular oppression’.
COMMON “SOLUTIONS” TO SOCIAL PROBLEMS BY ‘SECULAR OPPRESSION’
The “basic idea”, which is the basis of ‘secular oppression’, is not only used to explain-away social problems but also became the basis of points of view of their solutions.
An often used “solution” to the oppressor/oppressed condition is to get rid of the oppressor, who is generally viewed as a force or power over the oppressed and, thereby, is the cause of the problem. This is often spoken of as a “liberation” or “freedom”. Once this happens its generally viewed that the “oppressed” will no longer have any problems. This is often not the case, though. This is because many problems are not, in actuality, caused by “oppression”. But the people who believe in ‘secular oppression’ interpret everything from its point of view and, because of this, it appears to be that way to them. When the “solution” doesn’t work they generally blame it on something else, even by creating a new ‘oppressor’. Interestingly, even in the French Revolution the people in the French government blamed this person then that for years. It really only ended after Napoleon took control. As a result, we see a tendency of the “blame game” with ‘secular oppression’.
Often, though, once the “oppressor” is done away with the “oppressed” end up becoming their own “oppressor” and the cycle repeats itself with another new “oppression” that must be done away with. Who was once the “liberator” becomes the “oppressor”. This, of course, goes on and on to eternity with this philosophy.
Interestingly, its never considered that getting rid of an “oppressor” (who is the power) tends to create a power vacuum and when there is a power vacuum who knows what can appear? The power vacuum caused by the French Revolution deposing the King of France caused endless squabbles in the government that could never be rectified which allowed Napoleon to take power. In other words, getting rid of the so-called “oppressor” (the King of France) only led to a power vacuum allowing the takeover by another new “oppressor”. As a result of this, this “solution” tends to cause things such as:
- A squabbling between the people in charge that can be endless.
- A take over by someone or something (such as Napoleon, the Communist Party, etc.).
The condition of a power vacuum can be just as damaging as any “oppression”. The fact is that both “oppression” and a power vacuum creates problems.
Another common solution to the oppressor/oppressed condition is to give power to the “oppressed”. Generally, this is called democracy or “people rule”. This “solution” tends to cause things such as:
- An absence of anyone “in charge”. Much of the idea of democracy is rooted in the idea that, by making “people rule”, it will prevent an oppressor from gaining power. In other words, it assumes a person in power (oppressor) is automatically bad. But, in so doing, no one has any power. As a result, democracy tends to create a bunch of powerless people.
- An indecision or inability to solve problems. There’s no one “in charge” to make a final decision. As a result, there is much arguing that gets nowhere and things often never get done.
- A lack of unity which causes a continual dissatisfaction. Because all the people are supposed to rule no one wants to follow. As a result, no matter what is done someone is always upset about it. It also makes one group pitted against another group. This makes it so that there tends to be continual divisions and dissatisfaction in a democracy.
- A tendency to have to force policy, laws, or ways. This is often a result of an inability to make a decision, arguing, and indecision. Because of this, for anything to happen it often must be forced which can upset a lot of people. This, though, often requires someone to be “in charge” who, if there are any problems, becomes an easy scapegoat and, as a result, can easily be turned into a new “oppressor”.
- If there are any problems they try to find someone to blame for it.
- An illusion of having no problems. The absence of anyone one in charge makes it so that there is no one (no oppressor, that is) to blame the problems on. I’ve always felt that this is one of the illusions of democracy . . . the absence of a leader leads to an absence of blame which leads to an absence of complaining which leads to an appearance of having no problems! But, we must remember, that just because you have no one to blame doesn’t mean the problems are solved. In fact, I tend to feel that because there is no one to blame many problems remain unsolved in democracy. In fact, I’d even venture to say that many problems aren’t even noticed! All this gives an illusion that democracy has minimal problems.
In short, then, democracy or “people rule” is not the great “solution” it pretends to be. In many ways, it is no different than any other government or social system, having both good and bad qualities.
Overall, though, we tend to see that the “solutions” based on ‘secular oppression’ are often no better, nor effective, than any other “solution”. In other words, I see no great miracle that they perform. They are, in actuality, over-rated.
I tend to believe that the benefit of any of these “solutions” is generally not in the actual benefit or strength of the political theory they profess but, rather, more in the fact that something changed . . . and in the spirit of trying to make things better. In other words, I’ve always felt that the spirit of trying to make things better has done more than any political theory. In fact, it seems to me that the more this spirit is associated with political theory the less effective it is. Politics has this quality that it as if distorts and corrupts the spirit of trying to make things better. No doubt, this is rooted in the power that politics wields. Its ironic: to make things better we need the power found in politics but that very power corrupts and destroys the spirit to make things better. In other words, the thing we need to help us often goes against us. This, in many ways, is the “enigma of politics”.
THE EFFECTS OF ‘SECULAR OPPRESSION’
The nature of ‘secular oppression’ tends to create certain traits to appear in a society such as:
- A paranoia. This can sometimes become delusional. They will often either see oppressors where there are none or oppression where there is none.
- A blind hatred. They will automatically, and often unjustifiably, hate specific things, such as any image of authority.
- A tendency to accusation and blame. They are often overeager to find an “oppressor” to blame their problems on.
- A tendency to destroy existing social institutions such as traditions, conditions, and ways. In short, this tendency to see oppression everywhere in society often creates an “anti-society” point of view. Social things like morality, belief, traditions, and ways become viewed as a form of “oppression” and can be viewed as a threat. In this way, society becomes a threat. The effect of this is a deterioration in the good feelings about society and a lack of trust in them. This causes a tendency to destroy social institutions which undermines society as a whole.
- A tendency to nihilism. With everything being a potential oppressor (even ones society) it tends to cause a lifestyle where there is no belief in anything. Since any social institution can be viewed as a form of “oppression” they will no longer believe in it or anything else. The net result is that they believe in nothing.
In effect, ‘secular oppression’ tends to actually undermine the society in the long run. In a way, society is slowly eaten away. Personally, I think its damaging and destructive.
The undermining effect of ‘secular oppression’ can affect a society in two ways depending on how this point of view appears in the society:
- A formalized system or belief. The undermining will eventually become particularly pronounced if the philosophy becomes formalized into a system or belief (such as communism). Once this happens conditions are now “locked”, so to speak, into a philosophy that will, by its nature, inevitably spiral downward and eventually fail.
- As an attitude. If the ‘secular oppression’ is only taken as a generalized attitude with no formalized philosophy (such as is common in the U.S.) then it tends to cause an undermining but not to the point that it spirals downward and fails. This is because the society has not been “locked” into this philosophy. In a way, it as if waivers in and out of being undermined.
Much of the reason for this tendency to undermining, I feel, is because it is an attack on authority and power. The fact is that authority and power are needed in society and are part of the human condition. To condemn these is like condemning the sun for being too bright or hot. This philosophy basically condemns a necessary part of life that is needed. In this way, it becomes, really, a form of condemning life. In many ways, one could say that the big failure of ‘secular oppression’ is its lack of respect for social power and social structure. To this day, western society does not respect these things. Is it all that surprising that it tends to undermine society?
But its effects even go deeper. Because we are “social animals” this deterioration in society causes a deterioration in the individual. This has gone on, in my opinion, to cause a dehumanization in people. This dehumanization is caused by things like this:
- The fact that there is no “real society”.
- The tendency of nihilism or not believing in anything.
- The reliance on other things as a “social substitute”. More specifically, this means things like technology, trends, organization, etc.
I tend to feel that these tendencies has helped cause what I call “systemism” which is an ultra-organized almost inhuman society (see my article “Thoughts on the ‘System’ and ‘Systemism’“). Basically, “systemism” is slowly replacing human society. In this way, ‘secular oppression’ is not only undermining society its helping to create an “inhuman” society.
EXAMPLES OF ‘SECULAR OPPRESSION’
Two good examples of the philosophy of ‘secular oppression’ are communism and feminism. Both of these are direct descendants from the “basic idea” of the French Revolution. As is common, they sound good at first (particularly if you take the ‘secular oppression’ point of view) but they ended up becoming undermining and failed as a result.
The whole idea of communism, really, is rooted in the “basic idea” of the French Revolution: the people in charge are taking advantage of the common people. It became a somewhat formalized philosophy that “locked” itself into a specific orientation and direction.
It promotes the two “solutions”: getting rid of the “oppressor” and giving power to the “oppressed”. It tended to try to create a condition where this “solution” would prevail, there being no more “oppressors” and the people ruled indefinitely. What it did, though, is create a new form of “oppressors” in the ruling Communist class. In addition, the common people suffered worse than before. This are some of the failures of this philosophy I described above.
Like a lot of ‘secular oppression’ it sounds good but was doomed to fail primarily because it denied the basic human social need of power in a society. Not only that, it was a philosophy that “locked” itself into that condition.
Like communism, this philosophy is rooted in the “basic idea” of the French Revolution. Unlike communism, it never became “locked” into a particular philosophy though. It became, then, something more like an attitude or a stance that was taken. Because of its attitude based orientation it does not really become a philosophy that is “locked” which tends to make it so it does not necessarily fail as did communism.
It seems to primary be a statement and did not, as a whole, state any “solutions”. Its main emphasis was that the female was “oppressed”. Later, other aspects of it would attempt at a “solution”, primarily with the idea of giving the females power, but it tended to be mild and sporadic.
Many aspects of feminism would be greatly influenced by female psychology than politics (such as the solution of “trying to be like a man”). Because of this, it tended to make all these weird claims that have nothing whatsoever to do with politics (see my article “Thoughts on the absurd claims of feminists“). Despite this, they use politics (that is, ‘secular oppression’ and the “basic idea”) as authority. Because of this, it has developed that self-righteous attitude often seen with ‘secular oppression’.
The prevalence, and popularity, of ‘secular oppression’ shows, at least in my opinion, that there was a desperate need for an explanation of social problems after the French Revolution. This is because this period of time (the 1800’s) was a time of great growth of society. The population grew, politics became more involved, the industrial revolution appeared, many countries developed world empires, etc., etc. This, naturally, led to great conflict and problems which were of a new form and which the society was unprepared for . . . they simply did not know how to explain it. This fact, even more, made a desperate need for an explanation to the problems as well as a solution. Since the French Revolution had just recently appeared, and was centered around social problems, it appeared to offer the “easiest” and best explanation. After all, in the 1800’s, the French Revolution was a recent event and was on everyone’s mind. Its “basic idea”, as a result, set the stage for the explanations as well as a solution.
The problem, though, is that the “basic idea” was too narrow and limited in its scope, nor did it take into account many aspects of society or the new conditions the 1800’s created. In effect, it only seemed to work on the surface. It seemed to explain the problems. It seemed to solve them. In actuality, it was ineffective. But the Victorians persisted and the explanation seemed to make sense to them. This persistence in trying to make it work only led to many misunderstandings and myths as well as solutions that were doomed to fail (such as communism). This condition has continued down to today.
Copyright by Mike Michelsen