Does the following have anything to do with “the papal visit” in the United States? Only very obliquely. If you do want a connection, I suppose the following analysis might help illuminate the way Francis is addressing the United States, and, in turn, the way Americans are generally responding to him. Evola is an author I have only recently begun exploring, so I welcome you to join me in pondering the following on its own terms.
American “Civilization” (from “Civiltà Americana”) by Julius Evola (1945):
[John Dewey’s] theories are entirely representative of the vision of man and life which is the premise of Americanism and its ‘democracy’.
The essence of such theories is this: that everyone can become what he wants to, within the limits of the technological means at his disposal. Equally, a person is not what he is from his true nature and there is no real difference between people, only differences in qualifications. According to this theory anyone can be anyone he wants to be if he knows how to train himself.
This is obviously the case with the ‘self-made man’; in a society which has lost all sense of tradition the notion of personal aggrandisement will extend into every aspect of human existence, reinforcing the egalitarian doctrine of pure democracy. If the basis of such ideas is accepted, then all natural diversity has to be abandoned. Each person can presume to possess the potential of everyone else and the terms ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ lose their meaning; every notion of distance and respect loses meaning; all life-styles are open to all. To all organic conceptions of life Americans oppose a mechanistic conception. In a society which has ‘started from scratch’, everything has the characteristic of being fabricated. In American society appearances are masks not faces. At the same time, proponents of the American way of life are hostile to personality.
The Americans’ ‘open-mindedness’, which is sometimes cited in their favour, is the other side of their interior formlessness. The same goes for their ‘individualism’. Individualism and personality are not the same: the one belongs to the formless world of quantity, the other to the world of quality and hierarchy. …
There is a popular notion about the United States that it is a ‘young nation’ with a ‘great future before it’. Apparent American defects are then described as the ‘faults of youth’ or ‘growing pains’. It is not difficult to see that the myth of ‘progress’ plays a large part in this judgement. According to the idea that everything new is good, America has a privileged role to play among civilised nations. …
The structure of history is, however, cyclical not evolutionary. It is far from being the case that the most recent civilisations are necessarily ‘superior’. They may be, in fact, senile and decadent. There is a necessary correspondence between the most advanced stages of a historical cycle and the most primitive. America is the final stage of modern Europe. Guenon called the United States ‘the far West’, in the novel sense that the United States represents the reductio ad absurdum of the negative and the most senile aspects of Western civilisation. What in Europe exist in diluted form are magnified and concentrated in the United States whereby they are revealed as the symptoms of disintegration and cultural and human regression. The American mentality can only be interpreted as an example of regression, which shows itself in the mental atrophy towards all higher interests and incomprehension of higher sensibility. The American mind has limited horizons, one conscribed to everything which is immediate and simplistic, with the inevitable consequence that everything is made banal, basic and levelled down until it is deprived of all spiritual life. …
“Our” [Italian] American Media
Americanisation in Europe is widespread and evident. In Italy it is a phenomenon which is rapidly developing in these post-war years and is considered by most people, if not enthusiastically, at least as something natural. Some time ago I wrote that of the two great dangers confronting Europe – Americanism and Communism – the first is the more insidious. Communism cannot be a danger other than in the brutal and catastrophic form of a direct seizure of power by communists. On the other hand Americanisation gains ground by a process of gradual infiltration, effecting modifications of mentalities and customs which seem inoffensive in themselves but which end in a fundamental perversion and degradation against which it is impossible to fight other than within oneself. …
The Industrial Order in America
In his classic study of capitalism Werner Sombart summarised the late capitalist phase in the adage ‘Fiat producto, pareat homo’. In its extreme form capitalism is a system in which a man’s value is estimated solely in terms of the production of merchandise and the invention of the means of production. Socialist doctrines grew out of a reaction to the lack of human consideration in this system.
A new phase has begun in the United States where there has been an upsurge of interest in so-called labor relations. In appearance it would seem to signify an improvement: in reality this is a deleterious phenomenon. The entrepreneurs and employers have come to realise the importance of the ‘human factor’ in a productive economy, and that it is a mistake to ignore the individual involved in industry: his motives, his feelings, his working day life. Thus, a whole school of study of human relations in industry has grown up, based on behaviourism … with the precise aim of defining the best means to obviate all factors that can hinder the maximisation of production. … The private lives of employees are not forgotten – hence the increase in so-called personnel counselling. …
On the other side of the Iron Curtain man is treated as a beast of burden and his obedience is maintained by terror and famine. In the United States man is also seen as just a factor of labour and consumption, and no aspect of his interior life is neglected and every factor of his existence is drawn to the same end. In the ‘Land of the Free’, through every medium, man is told he has reached a degree of happiness hitherto undreamed of. He forgets who he is, where he came from, and basks in the present.
American “Democracy” in Industry
… The big businesses are run in the same way as government ministries and are organised along similar lines. They have co-ordinating and controlling bodies which separate the business leaders from the mass of employees. Rather than becoming more flexible in a social sense the “managerial elite” (Burnham) is becoming more autocratic than ever – something not unrelated to American foreign policy.
This is the end of yet another American illusion. America: the ‘land of opportunity’, where every possibility is there for the person who can grasp it, a land where anyone can rise from rags to riches. At first there was the ‘open frontier’ for all to ride out across. That closed and the new ‘open frontier’ was the sky, the limitless potential of industry and commerce. … Given the ever increasing specialisation of labour in the productive process and the increasing emphasis on ‘qualifications’, what used to seem obvious to Americans – that their children would ‘go further’ than they would – is for many people no longer obvious at all. Thus it is that in the so-called political democracy of the United States, the force and the power in the land, that is to say the industry and the economy, are becoming ever more self-evidently undemocratic. … If the mask of American ‘democracy’ were thereby removed, it would become clear to what extent ‘democracy’ in America (and elsewhere) is only the instrument of an oligarchy which pursues a method of ‘indirect action’, assuring the possibility of abuse and deception on a large scale of those many who accept a hierarchical system because they think it is justly such. This dilemma of ‘democracy’ in the United States may one day give place to some interesting developments.