The Cult of Personality, in which a “Great Man” hovers larger than life over the masses and seems to embody their utopian aspirations.
Long before Lenin, Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote this arresting passage (from his short story “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”):
[P]eople appeared who began devising ways of bringing men together again, so that each individual, without ceasing to prize himself above all others, might not thwart any other, so that all might live in harmony. Wars were waged for the sake of this notion. All the belligerents believed at the same time that science, wisdom, and the instinct of self-preservation would eventually compel men to unite in a rational and harmonious society, and therefore, to speed up the process in the meantime, “the wise” strove with all expedition to destroy “the unwise” and those who failed to grasp their idea, so they might not hinder its triumph.
Currently I’m reading “Demons” by Ole’ Fyodor. Excellent book; it amazes me the vividness with which Dostoevsky paints the rise of the revolution. What makes his insight all the more believable is his experience as one of the “new men”; the intelligentsia of the 1840s. And his cure of that youthful stupidity, which led him to be the great writer he became. What’s scary about all this, however, is that the sentiments of the 1800’s in Russia seem to be echoing themselves today. The 1840-1860’s have become morally comparable to the 1940’s-1960’s. And who’s to say in 2018 there won’t be a damned revolution with a rhetoric driven despot at its head? And is it coincidence that Obama fills the moral spot of the “new man” philosophy? No right, no wrong, working class focus, ruling class demonization, sexual liberation; everything that is directly socialistic. And what’s worse… it is the socialists that invented terrorism; demons indeed.
Will the Second American Revolution leave as many bodies in its wake as the Bolshevik revolution?
You show Lenin’s head floating in place of the old wizard of Oz. I see Obama’s.
I share your enthusiasm for Dostoevsky’s “Devils”—but Barack Obama is very far from the anti-Christ figure in that novel (If I recall correctly, the character’s name is “Stavrogin”).
I do agree with you that the totalitarian and nihilistic impulses in social movements are DANGEROUS—and I want to assure you that, as an Obama voter, should he turn out to be the socialist “cult of personality” nightmare that you imagine—that I will enthusiastically vote against him in four years.
Obama will have to govern from the center (if he is to survive politically). His party will be trounced in the midterm elections if he doesn’t.
I do also think that the Fox News right has been extraordinarily unfair and unforgiving toward Obama as a human being. Character formation for a black male in America is an unusually difficult process, and will necessarily zig-zag into curiosity about Malcolm X books etc.
Smart women find themselves exploring feminist books—how can they not (think of Hillary Clinton’s youthful formation)?
To not cut Obama some slack on such things—and to demonize that journey—is to reject the very notion of the country ever having a black president.
He will prove, I think, to be a moderate governing politician, and all the “sky is falling” hysteria about him will prove silly and overblown.
A year from now the positive change that Obama represents will be obvious to most Americans—and they will be collectively proud to have broken the race barrier with regard to the presidency. America will once again be a country that doesn’t torture and that is a beacon of reason, civil rights, and freedom.
I truly believe that.
If I’m wrong, I’ll switch who I vote for in the subsequent elections.