In retrospect it is easier to see that intellectual conformity was never in the first place a problem confined to particular political regimes. It was never a problem that was going to be solved by regime change. It is rather a problem of modernity and globalism. Both Communists and liberal democrats were committed to their forms of modernity and hostile to tradition, or to any thinking deemed insufficiently modern. Communists believed that the political system needed to extirpate traditional ways of thought, while liberal democrats of the secular sort thought they could be tolerated—for now—because, with the march of history, non-liberal ways of thought would inevitably be trodden underfoot. U.S. Senator Patrick Moynihan used to call this attitude “the liberal expectancy,” and until recently this was also the attitude of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) toward traditional religions in China. But in recent decades, progressives have become impatient. The politics that claims to be liberal has become far more dominant in the realm of culture and has therefore become narrower, more dogmatic, more determined to impose a vision of the good on those who do not share it.
Globalization, too, has narrowed the circle of approved ideas—an apparent paradox. But in fact the type of intolerance displayed by global corporations, international institutions, and many NGOs has its own internal logic. It is a rule of logic that the more things are denoted the fewer are connoted: we are able to make generalizations only by bracketing particulars. Thus, in the realm of ideology, the more universal power becomes, the less it can tolerate the particular—deviations from accepted ideas. Worldwide commercial brands monopolize glamour and degrade the appeal of local producers. Many human rights crusaders are similarly bent on destroying local ways of life. Advocacy of human rights sounds irreproachably high-minded until one starts inquiring about which human rights are in question, imposed on whom, by whom, and using what sanctions. If we are advocating, say, gay rights in Russia or Iran, digital rights in China, transgender rights in Pakistan, animal rights in sub-Saharan Africa, feminism among the Zulu, or reproductive rights in Catholic hospitals, one may properly ask whether advocates are really according respect to the diverse opinions and beliefs of others. A global regime empowered to enforce human rights inevitably must suppress deviant local beliefs. Strict modernists will argue that global values are the right ones and local ones primitive or backward, but even if one grants that premise, the conclusion still stands: the imposition of values on a global scale requires a certain conformity of thought. Global concentrations of economic and political power have an inherent tendency to reify, harden, and instrumentalize ideas as elements of ideological systems.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor