VITAL SIGNSrnThe TotalitarianrnBugrnby Andrei NavrozovrnOne day last autumn a stray clippingrnreminded me that the first newsrnfrom abroad that startled me in Englandrn—wliere, six years ago, I fled fromrnthe optimism of the New York Times as Irnhad fled from the comparably totalitarianrnbonism of Pravda 12 years earlier—rnwas not some distant rumbling ofrnKremlin intrigue or American neoconscrxatism.rnIt was an article in the Observerrnreporting on the spread of a germrnthat pro cd impervious to all antibiotics,rncalled “methicillin-resistant staphylococcusrnaureus bactcris,” or “Superstaph”rnfor short. The novel phenomenonrnprompted Dr. Ken Ilarvcy, director ofrnmicrobiologv at the Royal MelbournernHospital, to predict that in the not-toodistantrnfuture “we may look back on thernantibiotic era as just a passing phase inrnthe histor’ of medicine, an era in whichrna great natural resource was squanderedrnand where the bugs proved smarter thanrnthe scientists.” Permit mc to change thernsubject cer so slightly.rnIlerc I am six cars later. Even fromrnthe rclati e safety of a Paris hotel room,rnwatching a nation leap into the slightlyrnunpleasant beyond is frightening. Wellrnafter midnight, when the final results ofrnthe referendum on “European union”rnhave been tabulated, it transpires thatrnthe actual number of real, honest-togoodnessrnGadarene lemmings is statisticallyrnnegligible, though decisivernenough to swing the vote. To those whornfind the simile oblique, I say that on thisrnSundav in September another fig leafrnof democracy is ripped off and wovenrninto bureaucracy’s crown.rnThe juxtaposition is not mine.rnSpeaking at the Conserati’e Part’ Conferencernin Brighton in October, DouglasrnHurd says: “We want to roll back democrn—.” The foreign secretary misspeaks,rnof course, and duly corrects himselfrnin the next sentence: “Bureaucracy.”rnThus the last of the fig leaves, language,rnis being immodestly tugged at by an OldrnFltonian hand. Denmark, which votedrnto reject the Maastricht version of “Euro]rn3ean union” in its referendum bv 5(1.7rnpercent to 49.3 percent, may simply bernpushed. Britain may not even get thernillusion of choosing to leap.rnThe illusion is increasingly a luxury, asrnanyone who listened to the Presidentialrnand Vice-lesidential debates later lastrnautumn will agree. Heated medievalrndisputations about unspecified or imaginaryrnpolicies, wholly lacking in scholiasticrnsubtlety; heroic, collegiate, provincialrnbraggadocio, largely unmitigated b’rnProtestant pieties; doctrinal narrowmindedness,rnoblivious of the Catholicrninstitution of the devil’s advocate; superstitiousrnfaith in the Optimum ofrnGotttfricd Wilhclm von Leibniz, unattendedrnby a knowledge of the multiplicationrntables or an ability to write “Leibniz”rnin chalk on a blackboard; add tornthese a Chinese mandarin’s sycophancyrntoward the people who matter and a Sovietrnofficial’s cynicism toward The People,rnv’ho don’t, and one begins to realizernthat the illusion of choice, cultivatedrnwithin our culture for the last five centuries,rnis now almost as dead as the correspondingrnreality it has at times managedrnto animate.rnNot surprisinglv, it is just such illusionsrnthat the master illusionists of thernKremlin have decided to bottle, as 75rnyears ago they found it useful to eonservernin totalitarian aspic the aristocraticrnculture of old Russia. Prokofie’,rnShostakovich, Mayakovsky, Pasternak,rnChagall, Malevich—in music, poctr’,rnand painting—for these, today, onernmust read Locke, Jefferson, AdamrnSmith, Margaret Thatcher, the UnitedrnNations, the American Enterprise Institute,rnthe Lord Foundation, Whitehall,rnthe New York Times, and the Royal Societyrnfor the Prevention of Cruelty tornAnimals. But where Russian culture, asrnit was slowly consumed by the totalitarianrnstate, left a memory by the likes ofrnwhich world culture mav still be measuredrnwithout equivocation, the artificiallyrnsustained heritage of Western politicalrnthought will at best bring thosernwho do not already have it a temporaryrnfreedom to shop. So toothless, inchoate,rnambiguous, pliable, and irrelevant havernthe illusions of “democracy” becomernthat they affect the course of history.rnEast or West, only insofar as thev helprnthose in power to stay in power.rnRecent political spectacles, such asrnthe American presidential “election” (Irnapologize, but the quotation marks arernto remind the reader of the surrealism ofrnsuch moments as when President Bushrnannounced that during his administrationrn”44 countries have gone democratic,rnor was it 45?”) or the p]uropeanrn”debate” over Maastricht (again I apologize),rnshow that the West has consignedrnthe illusions to oblivion. In this,rntoo, one finds parallels with the past,rnbecause just when Russia’s totalitarianrnrulers began conserving the aristocraticrnculture of Europe’s century-long summerrnof 1815 for global propaganda purposesrnof their own, the West opened thernfloodgates to a wholesale philistinizationrnof that culture—so that Prokofiev,rnfor instance, who had fled what herncalled Bolshevisia in horror, returned inrnhorror—of which the smug barbarismrnof the New York Times music critic whornadvised the Beethoven of the 20thrncentury to try and write more likernBeethoven is but a fleeting glimpse.rnAnd so it comes to pass that nowadays arnthird-rate functionary from the Instituternof the U.S.A. and Canada advisingrn”Russia’s President” (here I am as unapologeticrnabout the quotation marksrnas I would be if he were called “Russia’srnMderoaph” or “Most DemocraticallyrnElected Representative of All ProgressivernHumanity”) can spout free-marketrnarcana or quote Lincoln marginalia inrnFEBRUARY 1993/47rnrnrn