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).

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In the absence of knowledge, emotion rules supreme

“Without a real knowledge of the object we cannot let reason make a judgment. On the other hand, a few external aspects, if perceived, are sufficient to let our emotions react.”

~ Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn[1]

Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s observation is closely related to the problem of propaganda, which is the subject of the next installment in this series. Our comments here, therefore, should be understood as an allusion to arguments that must wait until they can be fully developed in their proper place. Suffice it to say here that a very effective way to get a man to behave irrationally, and to open him in a most degrading way to the power of suggestion, is to pressure him to make a decision that he is not equipped to make. This can be done in various ways—for example either by flattering him into thinking he is equipped to make a decision he isn’t, or else by instilling him with enough fear that he is driven to express an opinion without respect to its proper formation.

Bertrand de Jouvenel traced the steps leading to this process as well, observing that the Founding Fathers, optimistic humanists that they were, believed that education and rational public discourse could fulfill the requirement of knowledge and thus create a population competent to deal with political questions. While this was perhaps conceivable in the 18th century, it is a far-fetched fantasy in the 21st. If it was possible for the man on the street to grasp the processes—political, economic, or otherwise—that surrounded him in the days of Thomas Jefferson, it is in no way possible for him to understand them anymore. The information age and universal compulsory education has only added to the complexity of things and highlighted the mental deficiency of the public at large. This has resulted in a new attitude being adopted by the Thomas Jefferson’s of today:

The men of our day, however, being circumspect people, have realized that the cultivation of the electors’ intelligence is at least as likely to open a window on the arguments of their opponents as on their own; therefore it is labour lost. The faculty of reason may lie relatively unused in the majority of a people, but there is not a man anywhere who is incapable of emotion. And it is to the emotions, therefore, that appeal must be made.[2]

Thus, we have imposed upon ourselves a regime that enthrones emotion as the driving force of politics by pressing men with questions that they do not have the knowledge to answer. This problem is built into the DNA of democracies in a society so hyper-complex as ours, and this means that propaganda itself is inherent in the democratic regime: it is not an evil inflicted by a group of plotting elites in a dark room, but is a natural product of the system, without which the system could not function, nor could men function within it. Propaganda, then, must be understood if we are to understand ourselves, and we will deal with it in its own section.

[1] Liberty or Equality, p. 116.

[2] Jouvenel, op. cit., p. 273.

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