This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3| Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6

Democracy and the need for opinions

Let us take a step back for a moment and look again at the situation where the average American citizen finds himself. Our existences are, for the most part, banal, and so are our social problems. This does not mean they are not important, but it does mean that they are not as obvious as the problem of Huns descending upon our neighbors or the threat of starvation due to draught. Our problems are at the same time much more complex and much more uninteresting.

Were the difficulties of the day to be stated in the chaotic, confused, and ultimately mundane terms where we actually find them, then no one would take an interest in the news, much less in politics. If some did take an interest, they would not feel very compelled to express and opinion on the matter anymore than they feel compelled to philosophize about the process of photosynthesis occurring in the grass on their front lawn.

In order to induce the citizen to care enough to go out and vote, he must be convinced that the workings of politics which often seem beyond his comprehension (because they are) and beyond his control (again, because they are) are worth the time he must spend trying to understand them. This is quite a task. In the words of Hans Delbrück:

“The experience of thousands of years teaches that the overwhelming majority of peoples does not take sufficient interest in the state to be able to form well-founded opinions concerning either persons or bills to cast its vote accordingly. . . . In most elections, except those of rare popular interests, the party that succeeds through some means or other in hauling a crowd of absolutely indifferent men to the polls is the party that wins. Is it then the people’s will that has become manifest through this election? We find ourselves in an evident dilemma. If no parties existed, the vote would be so small that there could be no question of an action of the people. If we have parties, it is true, they drag the people onto the stage, but the verdict is pronounced by the powers, who understand how to induce those who have no opinion of their own to vote in the way desired.”

Although this runs counter to the present way of understanding the democratic process, it is an accurate depiction of the truth, and it also explains why every news story is sensationalized as much as possible, and why political issues are framed in terms that inevitably threaten the well-being of the average citizen, otherwise the average citizen would not care. So here we are with a political system organized on the assumption that men want to control their own political processes. When it turns out that really this isn’t true of very many people, rather than change the assumption, political parties set about trying to convince the people that they should care, and this always necessitates a distortion of the issues. Nevertheless, and for reasons we will explore below, it always succeeds through propaganda technique in inducing men to become passionate about “the issues.”

But there is one serious problem with this success. Having induced the people to care, and care very vehemently, democracy is immediately confronted with the problem of knowledge. Fear and concern has been instilled in the mob, but where shall they find their opinions, which because they never cared they never formed? Clearly these must be manufactured for them, and nothing is more efficient at this process than propaganda. And so we see at this early stage a key feature of propaganda: it is self-perpetuating.

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