By Jonathon Van Maren
In his 1978 anti-totalitarian essay “The Power of the Powerless,” the Czech dissident Vaclav Havel explained the power of the reigning ideology over ordinary men and women, and the ways in which apolitical people could be forced into either signalling their support—or taking a stand—in Communist regimes:
The manager of a fruit-and-vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: “Workers of the world, unite!” Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment’s thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?
I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions. That poster was delivered to our greengrocer from the enterprise headquarters along with the onions and carrots. He put them all into the window simply because it has been done that way for years, because everyone does it, and because that is the way it has to be. If he were to refuse, there could be trouble. He could be reproached for not having the proper decoration in his window; someone might even accuse him of disloyalty. He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life “in harmony with society,” as they say.
Rod Dreher referenced Havel’s work in his books on how Christians should respond to the post-Christian age, The Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies. The Communist badges, he noted, have now been replaced by the various manifestations of rainbow swag that swamp business windows, bank kiosks, and public transit come Pride Month (and, increasingly, beyond). But at least business owners have some measure of choice—it is not as if they have to specifically opt out of the practice. They can simply decline to participate, regardless of how noticeable that is rapidly becoming.
Soon, however, those who do not wish to celebrate the new ideology may be forced to declare themselves. Earlier this month the Daily Mail broke the news that the Scout Association is facing backlash for introducing badges for their members—a “bisexual fun badge,” a “lesbian fun badge,” a “Pride fun badge,” and a “trans fun badge.” The badges feature the traditional Scout fleur-de-lis symbol backed by patterns associated with the LGBT movement, such as the Pride flag or transgender flag. The children were told that they should “celebrate inclusion…with our Pride collection” and could purchase this Pride swag (which includes socks, hoodies, and scarves) “to support the LGBT+ community.”