I am impressed by how our American society has once again gravitated to a New Victorianism. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, by the Grace of God, reigns over Britain longer than her ancestor, Alexandrina Victoria, for whom the Victorian Age is named.
The course of her reign has followed the retreat from 20th century humanism and existentialism, back to a more withdrawn and paranoid posture of the average person in society.
Under Victoria, there was a great movement towards individual psychology as a motivator of human behavior. In American political theory, individual psychology was a motivator of the politics of self-government itself.
Victoria reigned over the Lords and Commons, assembled, with little ancient political power, a feature in common with her descendant Elizabeth II.
Elizabeth, as Heir Apparent, worked (!) during the War effort to defeat the potential Nazi invaders during WWII. She was employed as a mechanic, and could drive a stick. She drove her Father’s Subjects about during the War. Apparently, she actually did thing, rather than posing for photo opportunities. WWII may have been the finest hour of the world’s fighting oppression with humanity.
Life Magazine caught her in uniform, albeit with a stunningly posed cover shot that was lit to help with the Royal Cheeks and Chin problem. Nevertheless, she was seen as someone who can do something, at a time that England was considering chucking out the whole royal absurdity.
We have come full-circle. Here in America, we have re-invented the desire for the Privilege of Gentry, albeit with the Kardashians. We are not troubled that they are slobs like Uncle George – we actually dig that a bit.
We have run in an unceasing trend that started perhaps halfway into the Reign of Elizabeth, down a path that was started long-ago, and which was defeated in Nazism and Fascism: the use of people-as-objects. Psychology over the last few decades has changed from the profoundly individualistic study of the human mind by Freud, down the dreary path of Skinner. We have circled away from the shared concepts of Ayn Rand and Sartre – two names we do not often mention together – to settle on the “person-as-object” belief in the management of human affairs – but under benign leadership, of course. The assertion “you can always make something out of what you’ve been made into” (Situations 9:101) could be either Rand or Sartre (it is the latter). It is NOT a certainty in the modern Elizabethan world, which states that others can profitably make you something out of what you’ve been made into; ideally, without troubling to gather your “consent.”
We now live with a concept of “personalized medicine” as discussed in Scientific American:
In theory, personalized medicine could work like Netflix and Amazon. They know every book and movie you have bought in the past few years, and armed with that information, they can predict what you are likely to purchase next. If your doctors had that kind of information at their fingertips—not about your purchase history but about how you live, where you work, what your genetic predispositions are, and which microbes are populating your skin and gut—then maybe cures would finally come like movie recommendations do.
Medicine, in other words, by algorithm; medicine by machine.
The harsh condemnation of the individual has perhaps transcended Victoria. True Crime stories reassure us that behind the doors of the Milquetoast neighbor likely lies a sex dungeon of death and torture. The Victorians were not so kinky – normal missionary sex was enough a fearful beast to imply as sleeping in the dark hearts of all humans, they did not need to imagine rubber utensils and such.
The most indignant rumors about the ignorant Catholics, that their priests were fearful sex abusers, turns out to be an actual conspiracy with yet-unplumbed depths; there is no bottom to the story.
We now view the human soul as disgusting and dangerous, needing a firm and wise control by inhuman entities – corporations, authorities, regulations, what have you – to keep them from spilling loathsomeness onto the general public. ISIS, Trumpians, all manner of deranged bipeds need control by the Weberian nightmare that we have come to embrace.
The quaint inhumanity of Victorian times is no match for our modern, 21st century humanity, which we may not survive.