Picture Warren Buffet, perhaps the world's best known billionaire investor, picking up a homeless man from the sidewalk and bringing him into his sumptuous office. Covered barely in rags, reeking of petrol and piss and sweat, the man's skin is rugged and wrinkled, buried under a thick, shiny coat of grease. The few teeth he has left, rotten, decorate a mouth from where nothing but drunken gibberish emanates. But that gibberish is imbibed by Mr. Buffet nonetheless, as flawless gospel, and the oracle from Omaha starts making several million worth of stock market transactions based on such rants. Buy! Sell! Squirrel! More wine! The man, now barefooted and comfortably resting on one of the office's impeccable leather couches, at intervals sips pricey cognac straight from a Swarowski crystal bottle, then gobbles up truffle canapes, a hundred crumbles left all over his spiky, unkempt beard. Then, as the stock orders fly back and forth, Buffet's assistant enters the office with a load of papers to be signed, and the homeless man, without hesitation, jumps off the couch and grabs her lusciously, starting to rip her clothes off, while Buffet tells the terrified young lady, while giggling, to take it with humor because the stranger does not know their rules of politeness and decorum. The assistant is Buffet's teenage niece, a virginal, innocent young lady, sole heir to this empire.
This story happened in reality. The characters and setting were a bit different, mind you. It wasn't Omaha but Russia, Warren Buffet was instead Emperor Nicholas II, the young lady was the entire Romanov dynasty, and the homeless man was Rasputin. It was a convulse time like the world has never seen before. Superpowers armed with colonies and traditional mentalities and armies anchored in the 19th century were, suddenly, locked into a 20th century steampunk global war. On one hand, there were ideals of gallantry and honor mixed with swords, horses, funny helmets with huge feathers, lancers, and drum bands; while, on the other hand, humanity witnessed for the first time the devastation of huge cannons, poisonous gas, machine guns, tanks, zeppelins, and persistent trenches. Never before had Europe been collectively trapped inside such a terrifying meat grinder.
And Nicholas II was in the midst of this brutal carnival of gore. His problems boiled down to naivete, a wife oblivious to the everyday reality of his subjects, and a hemophiliac child. It was the latter who served as lubricant for Rasputin to slide into their lives. An extravagant peasant with piercing eyes and a weakness for orgies, Rasputin managed to convince the Emperor and his consort that he and only he could keep the heir to the throne alive. Whenever the so-called monk boozed too much and raped a chambermaid or fondled a blue blood teen, the royal couple would laugh it off, partly because he was the only hope of their ill son but also due to him not having been brought up with the sensibilities proper of the nobility. A noble savage, if you may. But a noble savage who made Nicolas II abandon the capital to go and see the troops in the front, while advising closely (some say too closely) the Empress in how to handle her duties in her husband's absence. Indeed, the millions of casualties and the strain placed on the population by the war definitely played a role in the downfall of the Romanov family, but it is well documented that the Russian subjects knew very well about the power and deviancy of Rasputin, and not only they did not approve of it but it diminished their respect for the monarchs to its lowest point. The rest is history. Nicholas II and his entire family were murdered and the communists pulled out of the hat a reign of red terror costing over 100 million lives until its dusk in 1991.
The pattern, individually and socially, is so consistent that it is not outlandish to speak about a Rasputin Syndrome. It consists of mortification (the religious practice of self-flagellation) using as conduit a less civilized group or individual who, at the same time, is thought of having superior powers, all for the purpose of cleansing oneself from a curse or sin. This was the Romanov disease. They were evidently paternalistic towards the less refined Rasputin and, thus, forgave his vulgarity and promiscuity (even when practiced on their own kin) because they thought of him as a holy man. However, by walking that razor edge line, it simultaneously made them captive of the nefarious purposes of a true pathogen. And, as a result, they perished and so their subjects fell under a reign of terror that, in a way, was an extension of the perniciousness of Rasputin himself. Heavily tweaked in order to provide a happy ending though the same narrative arch can be seen in several stories, e.g. Down and Out in Beverly Hills, or the classic Cape Fear itself, particularly regarding the infatuation that the naive teen feels for the rough ex-con.
To clearly see the same plot played by the leftists today, it is helpful to think of modern progressivism as magical thinking, or an exacerbation of the mythical aspect of being human that is part and parcel of the species' nature. There are two books that are crucial in understanding this truism. One, Leszek Kolakowski's The Presence of Myth and, the other, Mircea Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane. For Kolakowski there are two ways in which humans approach the world, i.e. one is empirical and instrumental, the nest where reason and its fruits hatch, while the other captures the experience that is above logical sequence and technological manipulation, that which is apprehended by intuition and is not amenable to the rational viewpoint --for language itself, logical as it is, cannot capture the mythical experience felt at the deepest level. Here is where Eliade has, in my view, a much more radical understanding of this human ambivalence. For the Romanian philosopher the profane man is nested within the sacred man. Homo religiosus is, for him, the primeval state of man, in constant aspiration to break through the objective world around him in order to unearth that which is transcendent. When man goes about life reproducing symbolically the cosmogony that inspires his apprehension of being, Eliade argues, he consecrates the profane world, e.g. when founding a village with a clear center reminiscent of the center of the world, or building a house around a noticeable axis symbolizing the foundational myth, or cleansing himself through the rebirth in water prior to rituals that embed themselves in everyday existence. The profane man, a recent historical occurrence as it is, acts in the same way as the religious man though devoid of the conscious symbolism of each action; his deity is reason, his ritualistic world is the empirical method, and his meaning the insight and advantages technological advancement provides. The mechanics are the same though the sacred reliving of a cosmogony are immediate, practical, and unconsciously ritualistic.
The clash occurs, then, when the technology/profane man tries to use his tools to explain the mythical/sacred man, and vice versa. While the objective world around profane man is subject to (and dependent on) manipulation for tangible, practical purposes, the mythical being does not function in the same manner, as it aspires to connect the present here and now to the ineffable realm of that which is sacred, rendering the tools proper of each one useless for the survival in the territory of the other. This is where the left exists today. Hicks paints a pretty neat progression from ancient though to Enlightenment to postmodernism, where one is a response to the previous one. The sacred and metaphysical features of the old world generate a response by the modern values of reason, naturalism, empirical knowledge, objective existence, and the power of reason; only to be countered, in the postmodern world, by epistemological relativism, the preeminence of perpetual strife in human relations, and the banality of objective understanding of the world. What do you see when progressives go ballistic in order to disrupt campus speakers who they perceive as promoting hate speech? Or when all discourse is about "white oppression"? Rarely, if at all, a leftist can argue with the tools of reason in their defense of, e.g. socially constructed sex, anti-science policies, racial strife, or redressing of perceived injustices --it is always, with rare exceptions, a discourse based on emotions, reaching the obvious point of infantilization. And this has evolved, unmistakably, to dogma and violence. It is no wonder the left always ends eating their own, case in point the Evergreen College fiasco or, more recently, the Stasi like treatment of Lindsay Shepherd by "academics" who, 50 years ago, would have been ostracized from respectable scholarly circles due to the laughable topics they "research", their weak methods, and, worst of all, their intolerant, tribal nature.
The most puzzling phenomena in the current left, though, can be found in their performative contradictions, for example, in their rabid defense of muslim immigration despite the nefarious effects it has on the minorities they claim to protect. This is a cake that is impossible for progressives to have and eat it too, yet the persist on their 'political agenda of feels' without paying attention to the self-destructive germ residing in its gut. Hellbent as the left is on destroying everything that smells of Western values, history, and achievements, even to the point of horrid racism, it has absolutely no problem forgiving the toxic devolution of the West into the dark ages, dynamiting the fruits that they currently enjoy. While the affluent of 60 or 70 years ago at least had the cojones to grab a rifle and join the Spanish civil war, today's progressives are the epitome of champagne socialist, playing to be Che with their iPhones, cashing trust fund checks and benefiting from the very fabric of economic liberalism while seeing no problem in chanting radical slogans, turning against their own for the sake of partisanship, and waving the hammer and sickle without a moral qualm vis-à-vis such murderous ideology.
Clearly, the left has fallen prey to the Rasputin Syndrome. They are so separated from the lower strata of society they claim to champion that they simply don't understand how their armchair politicking isolates them, reaching the point of contempt. In their desperation to atone for the sin they see in the very comforts they love and treasure, they allow brutish elements to come and fondle their own, perhaps in the hope that doing so will cleanse them. The ludicrousness of their dogmatism has reached the point where they are willing to physically sacrifice their children to the altar of progressivism, while protecting the savagery of their favorite Rasputin --even if their very soul ends up traded with the devil. The bargain, as with the Romanov dynasty, is a losing one.