The Romantic Idea That the Mills Are the Problem
TRYING TO EXPLAIN the emergence of the Alt Right movement seems obvious until you realize that it was, to an extent, preceded by the Hippie movement of the 1960s; which itself was preceded by various other movements, including the romantic movement in art and literature in the centuries before. (ILLUSTRATION: The Ring of Brodgar is a Neolithic henge six miles north-east of Stromness, and here symbolizes the antithesis of “modernism.”)
Do those three things really connect?
Well, an obvious connection is the appeal of traditionalist, anti-modernist, J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’ to many in the 1960’s counter culture. Tolkien himself was a bit bemused and confused by that.
Sure, for many boomers who took part in the 60’s counter culture the motivation of their movement was to carry out a political and social revolution.
However, for many others there was a yearning to cast off the whole damn modern world and “return to nature”; they didn’t want to reform the system, they wanted to escape it.
The Romantic Movement expressed (among other things) a desire to turn from modernism, and it’s most obtrusive manifestation, the Industrial Revolution, and find solid footing again upon the elemental parts of life, of nature and of humanity.
It wasn’t about returning to a fantastic ideal, but simply turning away from the atomizing, soul crushing, and de-humanizing reality of a machine driven, engineered, universalistic civilization: a soulless world ordered by ideas and ideology rather than by natural and organic particulars and absolutes.
Restoration, not reformation. Thus the looking to the past, not the future, for hope. And the past looks like a forest in England circa 500 B.C., while the future looks like a shopping mall in Detroit circa 2015.
Tolkien’s work articulated that longing with such rich simplicity that it became a strangely spiritual work for many of its baby boomer admirers and their alt right offspring.
For many of the Romantics, the Hippies and the Alt Right the modern world is an artificially constructed imitation of life, which they would very much like to walk away from.
But for the modernist this (“we’re all the same”) prefabricated mockery of existence is an inevitable, ordained and all consuming fire.
When those, left and right, speak about promoting equality and social justice they do so in the context of managing conditions within those Dark Satanic Mills.
That the Mills themselves are the true problem never crosses their minds.
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Source: Signals From The Brink