Lumpenintelligentsia vs. Society

EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

Jean-Paul Gaultier designed Manneken Pis costume for gay pride to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the city's Gay Pride Week, Brussels, 30 April 2015. 

A tale of political correctness


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My family and friends claim that I am rather outspoken. As if it were a negative trait, to call things by their name.

Some time ago, I engaged in a rather animated discussion over the character assassination(s) using media against political personalities. Although the latest of these ‘hits’ was the #2 of the commission, Martin Selmayr, the discussion was sparked by the remarks of Gunther Oettinger against the backdrop of the Donald Trump election.

During this discussion, I was reminded by my colleagues on the editorial team (once again) that when I speak, I must be careful to be “politically correct.”

Otherwise, I was warned, “society” will denounce me.

Which “society” would denounce me, however, we could not agree upon.

My friends, you seen, posit that the “society” legitimised to judge what one says, is the lumpenintelligentsia. It is a small group, or rather a grupuscolo, from within the Brussels bubble of bubbles, the “Sublime Porte” functionaries and their media satellites.

The purpose of their noble existence is to invent ways to “channel” to citizens, the way of life they consider would facilitate the rule of their patrons. They want citizens obedient, happy in their consumerist nirvana, all employees of a big employer and free of any embarrassing thinking.

The essence, as graphic as it may seem, is to destroy the power to imagine and the will to create of individuals and, in turn to characterise those resisting to “surrender” as politically “incorrect”. We are not talking in political terms here; this is not about the ‘right’ or the ‘left’, but about the elements of society that seek its evolution.

However, this small lumpenintelligentsia grupuscolo, is far from connected to the mainstream of society, and is even further from representing or commanding it.

The term “lumpenintelligentsia,” meaning pseudointellectuals, is a modified loan-word from Carl Marx definition of “lumpenproletariat,” deriving from the German word “lumpenproletarier.” Lumpen literally means “miscreant.” In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Luis Napoleon” (1852), Marx describes lumpenproletariat as decayed bourgeois, vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, maquereaux (pimps), brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers and beggars.

In one word, what the French call “la bohème”.

With lumpenintelligentsia, we are not quite there, but metaphorically, we are close enough.

The “society” I have come to know is the real thing; and its mainstream component is the ordinary people of our lives. It includes those waiting for the bus or driving their car in the morning to go to work or open their small shop; and they number in the tens and hundreds of millions.

This society couldn’t care less about being politically correct or “racist” as it is intended by the lumpenintelligentsia; it is simply not in their vocabulary. This society simply and unquestionably obeys to the rules of the state, but as far as that. For this society, whatever is not explicitly prohibited by the law, is permitted. After all, this is the essence of our political civilisation.

In civilized societies, there are laws which define the relation among citizens. Unwritten laws are dictated only by the God and in this case, although I am a deep believer, I am an atheist.

The French law, penalizes the denial of the Holocaust. This law did not come out of the blue. It came as a necessity to confront a post World War II reality, because there are a few extremists, some now hidden within the 30% of the Front National, who were using the denial of the Holocaust as a political argument to serve domestic expediencies. In reality most of them not even know what the term “Holocaust” really means. Whether you like or dislike the Jewish people, is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the Holocaust is a historical reality and no one has the right to distort history for reasons of political propaganda.

From that point of departure, however, to the point of calling someone racist and homophobic, because they are opposed to calling the unity of a homosexual couple ‘marriage’, is a vast distance.

Our people that make up our societies are more resilient. The fad of political correctness has over-sensitized us, and in many cases acts as a shield, which does not allow us to discuss certain issues openly and at their core. I have read that in the US, some school districts are offering counselling services to students and staff upset about the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, and that universities have organised ‘cry-ins’.

Our next generation of leaders needs to be grounded, pragmatic, and needs to be tougher than that. God forbid they travel to China or Russia. Circa 50 countries in the world are run by dictatorial regimes, much worse than the worst incarnation of the many words of Donald Trump (even when we group them all together and give an entirely new context to them to create a MechaTrump); who mourns, cries, gets counselling or even complains about these leaders that represent about than half the entire world? Very few.

Political correctness is about not calling someone a ‘fag’, or a ‘nigger’, or not speaking openly against gay marriage or adoption; in the case of politicians, it can be as rudimentary as not calling Chinese people ‘slant-eyes’. And while the media have denounced these sorts of expressions, they aren’t only not extinct, but commonplace in our European societies.

Express yourselves to the fullest. It’s the only way to have real dialogue, engage honestly, and facilitate real change, development, and the evolution of our society.

If people are to understand why using toxic characterisations is damaging, that can only happen through dialogue. If they are to comprehend how issues such as adoption or marriage affect gay couples, and if/how that affects society, that too can only happen through dialogue.

Political correctness should not remain in our societies as a norm of social censorship, for it only manages to bury the issues that cause tension in societies under the rug, to the short-term benefit of the few who experience a numb calmness.

Evolution of society requires a clash of ideas and minds; the alternative is (often misplaced) hibernating resentment and brewing populism.

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