How Amazon's new series gives us a new lens on the culture wars
Beautiful. I love how you point out that people distracted by the race and gender diversity forgot the obvious class warfare in the show. I do wonder if they plan to go somewhere with it or if they just want to play it coy not to offend their Lord and savior Bezos. Time will tell. Great work!
This is likely my favorite article by you, Alex… while I’ve often thought identity politics was a distraction to the class and wealth disparity issues, I did not see the accents and roles in Rings of Power as clearly as you did, it cracked me up and made me cranky. Hahaha…. I do truly hope the left and new right can see how close we are to being on the same side if we could just recognize the distractions that Moloch uses to keep us fighting amongst ourselves.
It's a losing battle because the meme is so well entrenched, but Hillary Clinton didn't call Trump supporters deplorable. She put racists, mysogynists, et al. in the basket of deplorables and said they make up, say, half of Trump supporters. The other half, she contended, were people screwed over by the economy, for which a lefty party like the Democrats ought to have some policy solutions. That being said, her failure to make that case, and the aforementioned entrenchment of the idea that snooty highbrow elites simply look down on the rest, does indeed support your argument.
It occurs to me, though, that if the narrative runs that way, how much is that due not to a rebellion of the physicals but rather to the postmodern right's embrace not of actual home and hearth, valor and virtue, but of the image of those things, and winning a Twitter war as to who more authentically represents the middle and lower classes?
Thanks for your thoughts on this Alex . As an Irish person watching this, what is most galling is how the inspiration for Tolkien's stories were drawn in part from Irish mythology and the semi divine race of beings, the Tuatha Dé Danann. The characterisation of the irish in the rings of power therefor feels like a subversion and appropriation of the original myths. Throughout history of course, in order to establish the proper legal and moral pretext for conquest, the coloniser needs to demonstrate the developmental inferiority of the colonised. And so it continues.
so great to read an article like this, a breath of fresh air in a noisy cluttered , stifling media world
Adolph Reed's message is a fascinating spanner in the works for the narrative machine perpetuated by race hustlers. This identity politics stuff really is such a huge distraction from looking at the insane economic situation we are in.
I wrote a tale something like this in a letter to people I had worked with in extinction rebellion in the us when I left. They let shared desire to bluntly state and courageously face the destruction of earthly beauty be hijacked into endless twittering around identity politics and false framing of power (and I suspect were also steered this direction by a couple of key informant/manipulator plants). Definitely going to check out Adolph reed. Thanks always for your cogent analysis.
It's not easy to touch on nearly all the salient socio-economic issues of an era in a single essay, but you've pulled it off here, with precisely the right measures of humor and disgust. It took me 500+ pages in my new novel, MINISTRY, but you've done it in less than a chapter's length. Maybe, in part, that's because Middle Earth is a complete world that is in every sense a dark mirror of our own. But in larger part, this is just damned good writing.
A great piece Alex!
So much Truth and exquisitely written. Thank you.
Although it is somewhat dated, the CS Lewis Space Trilogy addresses this beautifully as well.
The piece could be much better if you'd draw more from the biggest existing body of literature on class: Marxism. You can build your own analysis on top of Marxism and avoid making mistakes like the idea of the "thinking vs working classes" or attributing the idea of "power relations being key drivers of society" to postmodernism - these two parts of the article re-state the core and fallacious tenets of the culture wars that the article should be breaking down, not reproducing. As a result the article fails to convey a deeper, more historically grounded truth about class and culture wars. But it's still interesting to see the right try to think about class.
thank you for your interesting post on the rings of power in terms of class identity in the modern world. It really is a time when wealth inequality is increasing, and the left seems preoccupied with identity politics. This is worrying a large number of traditionally left-leaning voters and giving tailwinds to right-wing parties, adding to the polarisation that has already made Britain chaotic in the eyes of their closest neighbours.
While I agree with your interpretation of the class tensions in ROP, I think the problem with race and diversity in fiction arises mainly when the fiction is set in a historical setting, or a fantasy has such a quasi-historical background that Tolkien has provided his stories with. The historical setting in particular risks distorting historical perceptions, for example when people of different ethnic backgrounds are assigned roles as aristocrats in Victorian England, ignoring the aristocracy's complicity in the oppression of other ethnicities in the colonies. Tolkien in particular had an aversion to allegory and using his masterpiece to convey contemporary problems undermines his intention to address principles as mythology does. New fantasy or science fiction, as you said, would be more suitable for the showrunner’s agenda.
That said, I agree with your perception of what is being portrayed, and although the elves are high-minded, Tolkien portrayed them as protectors of the sacred, just as Zen masters protect the teachings they pass on. The fact that the showrunners present us with the diversity of characters, assigning them positions on the class ladder and accents to identify them with existing classes is a distortion of what Tolkien intended, and goes further than Jackson, who at least tried to stay true to Tolkien. In the confusion of the story at least in their agenda in ROP is clear, suggesting that their agenda is primarily what they convey, and Tolkien is reduced to being a purveyor of a story to be used in this way. This is an insult to many Tolkien enthusiasts.
I agree with your further comments about the applicability of this kind of representation to the meaning crisis and share your concerns. I have been following Rebel Wisdom for some time, observing the increasing presence of the "machine", the Moloch of modern times, and to some extents have become a victim of this thought machinery and the "twisted materialist worldview" as you put it, and am on the same page as you and David Fuller. The question you pose, “can virtue alone disrupt a system that’s leading to increasing wealth inequality?” and your doubt that it can, is disturbing. Although I am an idealist, I have to agree with you, which is a kind of resignation. The Moloch has been allowed to become too powerful for the virtue of the individual to make any difference. The LOTR story is also sceptical, as even Frodo cannot free himself from the power of the Ring, and is it luck that Gollum falls with the Ring, or providence? This suggests that even Tolkien felt that only divine intervention could help.
I also fully agree that we have a separation of perceptions, whether as 'Somewheres' and 'Anywheres' or as 'Virtuals' and 'Physicals', which you brilliantly brought into play in your piece. As a 'Virtual' who was also a 'Physical', I sit uncomfortably astride both spheres of thought. I see the latter often totally unable to understand the discussion and am often appalled at the extent to which ‘Virtuals’ can escape the lived experience of others. “The corruption of the financial and political systems that lead to economic inequalities, and all the mental health, racial and social inequalities these perpetuate” is often outside the scope of perception for ‘Virtuals’, who I find fighting battles for minorities that scare the living daylights out of ‘Physicals’. The extremes that Trans activism has now taken on betray a frenzy that is out of proportion to the problems at hand and ultimately, counterproductive. There are trans people who have said that their problems began with the latest activist agendas. Agendas which, considering the accepted presence of trans people for some time in my professional space, completely surprised me. It seems to me that there is more than the eye can see at work here.
I hope that we can indeed overthrow “a disparate movement that is united by loose system of beliefs that the media, political and cultural institutions are sharing a single authoritarian message around progressive identity politics” as you quoted Alex Kaschuta as saying. It is also my hope is that we can move toward not just toward fairness, but toward virtue and the sacred.
Thank you for your article and your time.
With kind regards
There used to be a saying, “No war except class war,” and it’s been blazing across my mind over and over for the past few years. This essay is another chit in the “it’s class war all the way down bucket.” What I can’t understand is how it’s notable obvious sentiment, a unifying statement of fact and is consistently something surprising when it’s brought up at all. Is that due to the longtime suppression of Marxist ideas (until quite recently) in the west? Surely it’s part of Moloch’s design, but, much like the WEF it’s surprisingly opaque and exposed.
I don’t love the statement because it makes war its primary aim, but maybe that’s where we are. During Covid I spoke with a number of people, leftist elites, who simply cut off their relatives who didn’t toe the line. The relatives were often not elites but rather blue-collar religious conservatives with a handful of kids. It shocked me how easily and quickly my acquaintances were able to sever ties and the methods they used to justify it, “ they were always like that,” or, “they’re just too crazy to deal with,” or, “they’re endangering our mother,” etc. it seemed like the height of hubris, a nasty sneer from cold cliffs of reason. Yet, simultaneously totally unreasonable and cruel. I asked them how they planned to heal those rifts and they looked at me like I was a newly hatched orc.
I suppose what I’m trying to get at is that the class analysis is spot on and the effects of the scientific materialism go so deep that brothers and sisters no longer speak to each other, cousins will never meet and the underlying cause is absurd.
While no individual can make the difference I feel that small fellowships are emerging. Platforms like Rebel Wisdom, the Stoa, Bret Weinstein’s Coalition of the Reasonable, Less-Wrong /ACX/Rationalist forums, various Discord groups and other zoom calls I’ve participated with, are making spaces for disaffected, thoughtful people to come together with those who may have once been ideological enemies but share a common passion in locating truth and meaning-- something better than the slime we currently inhabit. Consistent and clear messaging can come from this and while it’s a slow grind, I feel Mount Doom beginning to shake.
Thank you Ali.
So much of what you have written here resonates with me. Big changes in myself
from the heady irresponsible addicted and selfish money seeking life I lived prior to 2004.
I have met ,only a few people, in my life who have had your passion, vision and wisdom and not least,perspective.
Your quiet analysis of the state of our world with its materialism, neoliberalism and
inequality is so true.
Your hope for a “new type of anger” which will lead to “a new type of conversation “ offers hope to save civilisation perhaps.