Gatorade for the Gulag

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Achipelago is a gripping account of the veritable hell inflicted on the Russian populace through the rise and establishment of Soviet Communism, and presents much insight into mentalities in play in our own time and in our own country.

As the pages progress through the eyewitness accounts, a reader who strives to be civilized might find himself struggling with disbelief that what is being presented is true and accurate, that this is not some exaggeration, not some plot for Hollywood’s latest horror flick that would make Friday the Thirteenth seem appropriate for children, that it was even possible for humanity to sink to such lows and for such a prolonged period of time (and still is). As our stomachs turn, perhaps we realize how acclimated we have become to a diet of milquetoast and saccharine for far too long, and the optimism toted about humanity’s future – of course, once finally freed from the tyranny of Western Civilization – will prove to be dust in the wind against the breath of the Frankenstein our cancel culture is in the midst of creating.

For the believer, a thoughtful read of Gulag also presents a sobering challenge.

On one hand, it clearly demonstrates how possible it was for humanity to crucify Jesus Christ; on the other, not exactly knowing what to do with that, we may cope by trying to convince ourselves that everyone ultimately wants to be good.

The Christian knows that Christ died for all – but not all are saved: one of those unpleasant and inconvenient truths that dot the pages of Sacred Scripture. Those who try to live the Commandments, difficult as it can be, can find it a mystery in regard to those who have no care to do so. We know the enemy that lurks within ourselves – weakness, blindness, malice, and concupiscence – and so we are careful when we point the finger knowing that, in the words of several saints, if it were not for the grace of God, there go I. But there are times when the enemy must be exposed.

The real value of Gulag is not just in Solzhenitsyn’s lived experience that depicted the cruelties of such a regime (and this book was read by tens of thousands of “me too” survivors who validated every word of it). Gulag exposed what Communism and Socialism really are about, and presents a brilliant psychological analysis of what is at the core of both systems:

The thirst for power.

It is amazing what people will do to get it and secure it, and how it changes and twists those who first taste it and like it.

Communism and Socialism ultimately amount to be deadly Ponzi schemes where everyone who signs on ends up contributing to make those at the top more rich and powerful. Remember the pigs in Animal Farm?

The fact that neither system can be implemented peacefully, the fact that they have been and can only be established upon the corpses and shattered lives of millions, the fact that they require the silencing and cancellation of a majority and the rewriting of history, the fact that they promote the advancement of a few upon the exploitation and enslavement of many, reveal an atheistic and conscienceless ideology that has no concern for any eternal consequence. Solzhenitsyn observes:

Power is a poison well known for thousands of years. If only no one were ever to acquire material power over others! But to the human being who has faith in some force that holds dominion over all of us, and is therefore conscious of his own limitations, power is not necessarily fatal. For those, however, who are unaware of any higher sphere, it is a deadly poison. For them, there is no antidote. (Gulag, 4)

The flashpoint emerges when power is wedded to ideology, and this is when things get dangerous – and quickly. That is because ideology is not the same as truth.

In contradistinction, notice how careful Christ is to define power in terms of service; at the Last Supper, He washes the feet of His Apostles and commands that they follow His example (Jn. 13:13-15). He further forbids the use of force as a means to make converts (a slightly different approach from Islam’s methods).

So whereas truth permits itself to be searched for and discovered, making self-correction and redemption a possibility, ideology imposes itself in a most rigorous and unbending fashion that demands absolute conformity. The acquisition of power sees to this. It is evident why free speech must be squelched and an iron curtain erected. The party line becomes sacrosanct, and fear is used to keep its elite followers beyond criticism and reproach. No one challenges the party line (which can change at the will of those in power) without consequences.

“Virtue signaling” in various and sundry forms is a sign of fidelity, and those who resist are first held as suspect, then as potential threats, and resolvedly as domestic terrorists, micro-aggressors, or hate-mongers. Solzhenitsyn continues:

Ideology – that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes, so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors. That is how the agents of Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations.

Thanks to ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experience evildoing on a scale calculated in the millions. This cannot be denied, passed over, or suppressed.

[…] Evidently evildoing has a threshold magnitude. Yes, a human being hesitates and bobs back and forth between good and evil all his life. He slips, falls back, clambers up, repents, things begin to darken again. But just so long as the threshold of evildoing is not crossed, the possibility of returning remains, and he himself is still within reach of our hope. But when, through the density of evil actions, the result either of their own extreme degree or of the absoluteness of his power, he suddenly crosses the threshold, he has left his humanity behind, and without, perhaps, the possibility of return. (Ibid.)

To increase power, those who subscribe to Socialist and Communist ideologies must exploit the natural diversity and inequalities present in humanity. Marx would incite class warfare to achieve his ends and establish a set of victims upon which to build a power base. But while he focused mostly on the economic, class simply is shorthand for classification, so it does not necessarily need to be economic. It can be whatever is most convenient for the matter at hand.

In a country like the United States where there is (or was) real possibility of graduation from one economic class to another, race could be used instead and historical injustices exploited to establish a “victim” class and an “oppressor” class. Sexual orientation can ride on its coattails and be built into the ideology of the party line, along with other things like environmentalism that are not categorically large enough (or even popular) to be exploited on their own. “Science” is elevated to a status of infallibility to support the agenda.

In the process, the party line gets to dictate which races are victims and which are not, who gets offended and what is considered offendable, another benefit of their power. But the existence of the victim class is necessary to maintain that power, so instead of being “liberated,” it is turned into a dependent class while being made to feel empowered under the guise of “fairness” or “equality.” Who gets cancelled and how history is rewritten must fall along these lines.

But how does it get this way?

While we cannot point to any one factor, if Solzhenitsyn’s observation above about crossing a threshold is correct, when a ruling class and the majority of its constituents have bought in deeply to the murderous abortion culture we live, the exploitation we see should not come as a surprise. How much justification goes on to validate it by so many! How much ink is spilled alongside the blood to defend it as a “right.” How much effort goes to prevent legislation that limits and illegalizes it, lest a massive and collective reckoning be demanded of the evil perpetrated for so long, and a surrender of the “freedoms” gained at the cost of the true right to life of the most vulnerable.

When the unborn are dehumanized for the gain of power, the already-born are dehumanized as well. No wonder contraception is the prelude to it.

Love without responsibility is no different from power without service. They both corrupt fast, carrying a sweet and addictive taste that masks the deadly poison within. Recall who coined the phrase I will not serve.

Hence why the Catholic must maintain a supernatural perspective of what is happening around us. There is no other way to adequately explain it, lest we be included in our Lord’s lament over finding little faith upon His return. It is no coincidence that everything Godly, Catholic, and decent is now considered oppressive and falls prey to an ideology which takes no prisoners.

Wokeness is hardly about being awake; it poses as an angel of light, and well-serves as the vehicle to increase the power of a few who have long abandoned concern for eternity, to “reset” a world put on course by a Man on a Cross.

It is lamentable how little we hear from the Church leadership on these things, and for that they stand in more need our prayers. Perhaps we are witnessing the warnings of the Mother of God at Fatima playing out in our midst on account of that. Solzhenitsyn’s words are prophetic:

In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousandfold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations. It is for this reason, and not because of the “weakness of indoctrinational work,” that they grow up “indifferent.” Young people are acquiring the conviction that foul deeds are never punished on earth, that they always bring prosperity. It is going to be uncomfortable, horrible, to live in such a country! (Ibid.)

But our mission as Catholics does not change despite the circumstances, no matter what happens:

Be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time when they will not endure sound doctrine but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables. But be thou vigilant, labor in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry. Be sober.

For I am even now ready to be sacrificed: and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice which the Lord, the just Judge, will render to me in that day. And not only to me, but to them also that love His coming. (2 Tim 4:2-8)

How easily the indifferent with nothing to live for can be “woked up” by those who promise everything with no responsibility and no consequences, only to be enslaved by them in their own insatiable thirst for power.

How astonishingly different from the thirst Jesus Christ proclaimed from His Cross.


April 26, 2021