The End of Ideology

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

[Taki’s Magazine]

My executive editor at the Miamian Magazine, Hardy Burt, informed me at lunch one weekday, “God is a girl!” This was after his first vodka martini. He appeared to be dead serious. Much older and wiser, Hardy was a communications specialist who had been a public relations guru in New York before a divorce obliged him to leave town. Here’s a video of him interviewing Ambassador Averell Harriman in 1952.

I bring this up now because there is something extraordinary which I have stumbled upon in my research, and it reminds me of what Hardy foolishly proclaimed years ago in the mid-1970’s.

I tend not to get through the NY Times and the Financial Times of London on a daily basis. So they pile up. After a month or so I need to stay put in my room and set aside an entire Sunday and look them over, cut out articles, and think about the news as it was first represented, comparing it to what eventually happened. Certain events are reported in passing, never to appear on the radar screen a second time. Certain phenomena I would have never have heard about at all.

In this way, last weekend I discovered an article dated September 30th in the Financial Times on the subject of teenage shopping sprees and "haul videos". What in the world is this? I asked myself. The article focuses upon two young, attractive American sisters by the name of Elle and Blair Fowler, also known to their many fans in the viral world of YouTube videos as AllThatGlitters21 and Juicystar07.

What did the sisters do to merit an article in the Financial Times? They go shopping and report about what they buy over YouTube. It's not complicated. The girls are enthusiastic and wide-eyed. They are not selling anything, at least not when they started out in 2008. Just talking about themselves and the products they buy to keep themselves happy and beautiful. I mean, that's it. By way of introduction, here's an interview with the two sisters. And a sample of an Elle beauty video. Here's another, a long one discussing books!

Retail therapy should not be underestimated. It is real and significant, a necessity. In fact, it could be argued that the entire U.S. economy is now based upon it, which is to say, upon the consumer.

But Elle and Blair represent more than that. For me they are proof positive of an unspoiled, youthful world free of an overvalued intellectualism, where there is no place for regrets, second-thoughts and big ideas. Everything just is, as it should be, and it is all good. There is no conflict to become embroiled in, and you don't need to solve a problem. The possibilities are endless.

Shopping is simply a manifestation of this fact, not an end in itself. It is the nearest and most convenient reality to be enjoyed by anyone, who is oblivious or not to the glaring defects of our modern age. In sum, Elle and Blair are not just airheads, although that would very likely be your first reaction.

Which brings me to the end of ideology. H.L. Mencken remarked in a June 1948 interview recorded at the Library of Congress that, "The whole country is full of propagandists who are bothering everybody." Perhaps we have always been a nation of busybodies. On point, I recall my undergraduate days at Columbia University, toward the end of the war in Vietnam. Several avowed communist groups on campus openly competed with one another to spread the party line. These ranged from hard-core Maoists to Trotskyites, and everything in between. The war in Vietnam was a disaster for all concerned. This fact lent these characters a degree of credibility. They were running with it.

In the meantime, at the other end of the spectrum, I had founded a short-lived movement called The Douglas MacArthur Society. The campus was in a constant state of flux and hyperventilation, Sturm und Drang. Nobody was doing any homework. Everybody was racing around, obsessed with politics.

I  remain a “paleoconservative” and still worship MacArthur as a great man and thinker who would have made an excellent President in 1952, but in retrospect all these efforts spent upon politics and ideology in my salad days now seem like a terrible waste of time. And so it was for the leftist radicals on campus. Many of the student Reds at Columbia transformed themselves into stockbrokers. For them it was all a mistake, a phase.  

Something along these lines may have belatedly occurred to Deng Xiaoping and his associates when they decided to stop taking Mao and Communism seriously, and try instead to advance China in a less artificial way--without drama, murder and hysteria. In retrospect, the 1989 crackdown at Tiananmen Square was a bump in the road. Without it, Apple would not be manufacturing the iPhone in China.  

During the same decade, a similar thought must have occurred, out of necessity, to Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin in Moscow. In the end, ideology had to be thrown overboard in Russia in favor of reality and what worked, before ideology strangled humanity to death.

In this regard, a letter to the editor of the Financial Times dated August 31st is worth noting. I came across it a few hours before discovering the Fowler sisters in the same stack of newspapers. The letter is from a professor at the University of California...

"As a visitor to Moscow in June 1983…in an academic conference, the only question was whether the bear would go down quietly or otherwise. The shops were empty; the lines were long; the people were despondent; there was only ice-cold water to bathe in at the hotel of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The decay from within was obvious. And the Leninist babble that our Russian colleagues were obligated to espouse somewhere in their talks, no matter how irrelevant, was clearly just that: an obligation, not a belief. The system was indisputably unsustainable."

All this misery and wasted energy in the Twentieth Century because of misbegotten ideas propagated from an insular intelligentsia too arrogant, misguided and hateful to think clearly. That is the epitaph for the age of "socialist" and Marxist ideology which roughly covers the past hundred and fifty years. It's over.

Henceforth, my solution is not to think at all, but go on instinct. With rare exceptions, the fashion layouts are more significant than the written page. We should rejoice in the fact that, as bad as things may be with the economy, it could be far worse. The grocery and department stores and pharmacies are still amazingly well-stocked. School is out. Don't waste your time. For starters, go watch the latest video from Elle and Blair.