Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Seven 'wonders' of the totalitarian world

You all know about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and maybe the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World. You've probably heard too about the recent competition to find the New Seven Wonders of the World, which featured some stunning buildings including Sydney's Opera House and New York's Statue of Liberty.

Now, courtesy of Esquire magazine, we proudly present the seven wonders of the totalitarian world, "celebrating those modern monuments from the totalitarian world that may or may not make it through the next coup. Check them out while you still can."That monstrosity to the left, by the way, is the North Korean monument Winston Peters would have admired last week in Pyongyang, and down there on the right is the monument to Mao -- the prick who made the founding and "success" of the North Korean Worker's Party possible. These monuments - all of them -- are quite literally monuments to totalitarianism, and they're exactly as ugly as the ideology that produced them. Lumpen products of a grey, deadening spirit.

And they aren't just ugly, they aren't just tributes to the megalomania that produced them, on closer analysis they're also an explanation of the type of human being who would have them produced. You can laugh at them, as you must, but when you've finished it's also possible to learn from them, and to answer the all-important question: What the fuck kind of person builds this stuff!?

To begin with, it's instructive to compare these seven totalitarian pseudo-wonders with those all-too genuine wonders of the industrial world celebrated above. The seven wonders of the industrial world were produced by honest effort, and mostly by the energy, initiative and non-sacrificial wealth of private individuals -- instead of enforcing sacrifice and impoverishment upon those forced to pay for and build these great achievements such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Transcontinental Railroad, their building helped raise and kept raising people's standard of living.

It's the difference between the voluntary and the involuntary -- the earned and the unearned. Ayn Rand reckons it's this last that sets the totalitarian monuments apart: it's not just that they're literally as ugly as sin, but they come from something ugly in the humans who wished them produced, and who wished to bring for that same ugliness into the world. In that task, they succeeded. In her article 'The Monument Builders' Rand writes that the primary motivation of those who commissioned such aesthetic atrocities was the ugliness of power lust -- a desire for a particular kind of "spiritual" atrocity.
Power lust -- as a manifestation of helplessness, of self-loathing and of the desire for the unearned.

The desire for the unearned has two aspects: the unearned in matter and the unearned in spirit... These two aspects are necessarily interrelated, but a man's desire may be focussed predominantly on one or the other. The desire for the unearned in spirit is the more destructive of the two and the more corrupt. It is a desire for unearned greatness; it is expressed (but not defined) by the foggy murk of the term prestige.

The seekers of unearned material benefits are merely financial parasites, moochers, looters or criminals, who are too limited in number and in mind to be a threat to civilization until and unless they are released and legalized by the seekers of unearned greatness...

Of the two, the material parasite is psychologically healthier and closer to reality: at least he eats or wears his loot. But the only source of satisfaction open to the spiritual parasite, his only means to gain "prestige" (apart from giving orders and spreading terror), is the most wasteful useless and meaningless activity of all: the building of public monuments ... presented as a munificent gift to the victims whose forced labor or extorted money had paid for it ...
Such is the motivation of those who clamour for such monuments. Don't even mention today's fetish for public transport. I began writing my own conclusion, but how could I improve on this summation of totalitarianism's pyramid builders:
When you consider the global devastation perpetrated by socialism, the sea of blood and the millions of victims, remember that they were sacrificed not for "the good of mankind" nor for any "noble ideal," but for the festering vanity of some scared brute or some pretentious mediocrity who craved a mantle of unearned "greatness" -- and that the monument to socialism is a pyramid of public factories, public theaters, [public museums, public transport centres] and public parks, erected on a foundation of human corpses, with the figure of the ruler posturing on top, beating his chest and screaming his plea for "prestige" to the starless void above.
Such is the nature of the monument builders of totalitarianism.


  1. Great Post, PC! It makes me think about some of the ugly and lifeless political figures we have standing on plinths around here ... Seddon, etc.

  2. Kabila is the shocker for me, if only because I knew of the others, and because DR Congo is one of the poorest.

    There is a story to tell about how bad Belgium was as a coloniser, it left nothing, and that entire territory has been a kleptocracy from day one.


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