Coming a week from today at the Tribeca Film Festival:

Watch the trailer for Seahorse, a new feature-length documentary produced in association with the Guardian, about one trans man’s pioneering quest to start his own family. The is the story of the dad who gave birth.

Freddy is 30 and yearns to start a family but for him this ordinary desire comes with unique challenges. He is a gay transgender man. Deciding to carry his own baby took years of soul searching, but nothing could prepare him for the reality of pregnancy, as both a physical experience and one that challenges society’s fundamental understanding of gender, parenthood and family.

Made with unprecedented access and collaboration over three years, the film follows Freddy from preparing to conceive right through to birth.

I am sitting here at the dining table in my house. It is a gorgeous spring day, and the sunlight is pouring through the windows like lemonade out of a pitcher. I am reading Hannah Arendt’s classic 1951 study  The Origins Of Totalitarianism and taking notes, because I will be leaving a week from tomorrow (the day after Orthodox Easter) for Eastern Europe to start interviewing people for my next book, which will be about developing strategies to understand and to resist the emerging soft totalitarianism here, based on the lived experiences of those who endured communist totalitarianism.

I’m reading Arendt along with the (comparatively dense) book The Age Of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff, and believe me, the two books are perfectly paired. Zuboff (so far in the book) writes about the power companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have over us by having extracted immense amounts of personal data, and subjecting it to algorithms that aim to predict what we are going to do, and to nudge us into doing what they want us to do.

“Social atomization and extreme individualism preceded the mass movements,” writes Arendt. It happened once; it is going to happen again. There can be no doubt that we are living in a pre-totalitarian condition now — but it’s not going to be a totalitarianism exactly like the Soviet kind. This is going to be something like it, but much more advanced. Still, the only people who have had an experience akin to what we are, and will be, going through are those who lived under Soviet communism without surrendering their minds and souls.

The Freddy film is propaganda, which, in Arendt’s model, is how totalitarian movements relate to the outside world. Within the world they control, they govern by “terror.” So, we have this film which seeks to persuade the world that a biological female who lives as a male, and has even surgically altered her body to be male, can give birth to a baby, and still assert her maleness — and that all of this is normal. The propaganda aspect attempts to persuade the world that this is so, and within the institutions and communities those ideologues control, they seek to terrorize, even with violence, those who dissent (ask the so-called “TERFs” — trans-exclusive radical feminists — who face militant abuse for daring to defend the meaning of woman). Propaganda and terror work together within the totalitarian mindset. If you don’t believe it, show up to peacefully protest this movie at the Tribeca Film Festival next week, and see what happens to you.

This story brings to mind these lines of Arendt’s. She’s talking about European societies between the 20th century wars, writing that the elites embraced transgressiveness:

The members of the elite did not object at all to paying a price, the destruction of civilization, for the fun of seeing how those who had been excluded unjustly in the past forced their way into it. … The temporary alliance between the elite and the mob rested largely on this genuine delight with which the former watched the latter destroy respectability.

Arendt said that there arose a “terrible demoralizing fascination” with the fact that outright lies could be accepted as facts, and “that the difference between truth and falsehood may cease to be objective and become a mere matter of power and cleverness, of pressure and infinite repetition.”

Yes:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

James Poulos — author of the “pink police state” concept is right — correct in his analysis, and correct in his urgency. Excerpt:

No longer are authoritarianism and transgressivism enemies or opposites, but rather mutually dependent forms of mastery: one bloodlessly technological, the other primally occult.

Had my book on democracy in America, where I developed these themes further, come out this year, I might have been able to take advantage of the current craze for 1999 retrospectives to emphasize that The Matrix teaches us the same lesson: it is both an allegory for the realization of trans identity and a master mythos for gnostic terrorism in a digital age. Reflecting on this symbiosis ought to awaken us to what is really confronting us regime-wise today—and what will continue to pose the urgent, defining question of our age.

In fact, the pink police state aspect of the regime change being thrust on us now is not at all a gentle one. Our technocrats today intend to perfect the long-held progressive goal of mastering people by mastering material science. To be granted this power, they gladly bow at the altar of the woke gods and accept its establishment as our official religion.

Their new fusionism is simple: by uploading woke gnosticism to the internet, our invisible robot masters will rule us instant by instant with a perfection beyond even the best of human experts. The posthumanity at the heart of woke religion and technology that enables the nonliving to rule the living merge into a politics of the anti-human, and the will to power becomes the ultimate science of “emergence.” Many of its priests and prophets say with a straight face, which is simultaneously a rictus grin, that they are the partisans of equality, ensuring you your due measure. Yet in truth they are at war with the naturally human creature, and strain to strip us forever of our political nature.

Poulos said that for years, he has contented himself to hang back and analyze this phenomenon. No more:

Millions of Americans are now frightened every day by the effects of the monstrous new future they see popping up everywhere, half-hidden deep in the shadow it casts on our present. It is scary to come to grips with how much the partisans of the new regime see being human as bad news—as something to be avenged. But it must be done.

For soon we will have the technology to destroy our humanity, our identity, our natural individuality. To stop others before they come into being. Before they can even be imagined. What will stop us from embracing this alien invasion of demiurges and daemons? Entities neither alive nor dead, God nor human? If your political life and thought isn’t framed around these questions, there’s still time to fix that. But not much.

Read it all.

Walker Percy’s fictional Father Smith, the mad prophet who lived in a fire tower, said in The Thanatos Syndrome, Percy’s final novel:

“Beware, tender hearts! Don’t you know where tenderness leads? To the gas chambers. Never in the history of the world have there been so many civilized tenderhearted souls as have lived in this century. Never in the history of the world have so many people been killed. More people have been killed in this century by tenderhearted souls than by cruel barbarians in all other centuries put together. My brothers, let me tell you where tenderness leads. To the gas chambers! On with the jets!”

In this interview, Percy explained what he meant:

Question: Since you are a satirical novelist and since the main source of the satirist’s energy is anger about something amiss or wrong about the world, what is the main target of your anger in The Thanatos Syndrome?

Answer: It is the widespread and ongoing devaluation of human life in the Western world–under various sentimental disguises: “quality of life,” “pointless suffering,” “termination of life without meaning,” etc. I trace it to a certain mind-set in the biological and social sciences which is extraordinarily influential among educated folk — so much so that it has almost achieved the status of a quasi-religious orthodoxy.

If I had to give it a name, it would be something like the “Holy Office of the Secular Inquisition.” It is not to be confused with “secular humanism,” because, for one thing, it is anti-human. Although it drapes itself in the mantle of the scientific method and free scientific inquiry, it is neither free nor scientific. Indeed, it relies on certain hidden dogma where dogma has no place.

More:

It is easy to criticize the absurdities of fundamentalist beliefs like “scientific creationism” –that the world and its creatures were created six thousand years ago. But it is also necessary to criticize other dogmas parading as science and the bad faith of some scientists who have their own dogmatic agendas to promote under the guise of “free scientific inquiry.” Scientific inquiry should, in fact, be free.

If it is not, if it is subject to this or that ideology, then do not be surprised if the history of the Weimar doctors is repeated. Weimar leads to Auschwitz. The nihilism of some scientists in the name of ideology or sentimentality and the consequent devaluation of individual human life lead straight to the gas chamber.

What does this have to do with Freddy? Freddy wants to have a child. Sentimentally, we want Freddy to be happy. Babies can make us happy. Who can be against babies? In the documentary, Freddy’s mom wants Freddy to be happy, because all moms want their children to be happy. But to assure Freddy’s happiness, to satisfy Freddy’s desire, we have to destroy the meaning of motherhood and fatherhood, of male and female. We have to propagandize and terrorize people into denying that there is a such thing as mother, as father, as male and female. More deeply, we have to force people to believe that there is no such thing as human nature; there is only desire and fulfilling that desire by any means necessary. Finally, those who deny this must be terrorized into silence. They must lose their jobs, must be turned into pariahs, must be intimidated into muteness through violence, and perhaps even worse.

All so Freddy can give birth, and be happy. Such is the totalitarian nature of tenderness in our time. Arendt said in her 1951 book that liberal humanists do not understand that after you have deconstructed and dismissed all traditional values and propositions, it becomes much easier for society to accept insane things. We are living that out today, on many fronts. What does it mean to be human? Is there a such thing as human nature? Will humanity be allowed to exist? Will it be permitted to defend itself — and if not, how do we fight? How is the new totalitarianism, coming to us not from the state, but through institutions of culture and via a technology that gains never before seen access to our innermost selves, working to destroy our liberty and indeed our very humanity?

If your political life and thought isn’t framed around these questions, there’s still time to fix that. But not much.

It is a beautiful spring day here — Easter Sunday for Western Christians — but the shadow of Mordor is falling over us, and falling fast.

 

Advertisement