From an historical perspective human societies have been organized based on a comprehensive worldview--what we in the modern West would call a "religion." These worldviews express a society's understanding of human nature and of man's place in the larger universe. Customs, moral guidance and rules, and governance flow from that self understanding. When I first started this blog, the development of man's self understanding in history was my primary focus--thus, meaning in history.
This perspective remains relevant, although events such as the Russia Hoax overtook me before I could work my way up to modern times. Where do we in America stand in relation to this perspective? An answer to that question can only be framed from the standpoint of a very general overview of the historical development of the West.
Christian faith--considered in its essence--represents a break with the compactness of traditional cultures or societies, in which questioning of basic self understandings are discouraged. Christian faith is based on two things: historical events (Jesus of Nazareth) and a probing effort to understand the nature of reality through reason. The uniqueness of Christian faith--understood as reasoned belief--is apparent in the early Christian embrace of the figure of Socrates (a heretic in the context of the Greek religio-cultural self understanding) as a type of precursor saint to Christian faith. It was precisely Socrates' questioning of traditional certitudes that appealed to early Christians.
With the rise of Christianity to cultural dominance in the West we see a tension in society between Christianity as a faith and the attempt of the ruling class to assimilate Christianity as a cultural standard for ordering society. That tension, and the progress over the centuries in articulating the details of human nature and proper governance, is the history of the West through the Middle Ages.
However, the breakdown of consensus within the Christian intellectual world corresponded with two major developments: the Protestant revolt against Christian orthodoxy and the rise of the individual nation states in the West, more or less centered on ethnic identity rather than Christian faith. From being the cultural unifying worldview of the West, Christianity broke down into sects which were adopted by the rulers of the new nation states as suited their needs in the power politics of the day. Those nation states thus became "confessional" states, with whichever variant of "Christianity" that was adopted as official by the rulers serving to bolster the state. Thus the wars among the nation states also became what were called The Wars of Religion.
This is the context in which Classical Liberalism arose--the ancestors of both political tendencies which are "libertarian" (subjectivist) in their orientation--in popular parlance, conservatives and liberals . The early classical liberals simplistically viewed the problem as the conflict of "religious" beliefs. They sought ways to end the strife by "taming" religious "sentiment", variously seeking to submit religion to government regulation or to marginalize it in a regime of universal tolerance.
This is the general framework of the American constitutional order. The US Constitution is a framework for governance, albeit one that is based--as most of the Founders recognized--on a residual Christian cultural understanding, outside of which our constitutional order makes little sense. With the increasing disappearance of that residual Christian culture from its former status as foundational to our constitutional order--a development regretted by many but eagerly applauded by dominant elites--American finds itself at a crossroads, reflected in our "culture wars." Much of our ruling power elite has no commitment to residual Christian cultural influence--indeed, the values of the power elite are antithetical to such cultural understandings. In that context, however, our constitutional order--which has largely devolved into a 'procedural democracy'--has become the subject of political manipulation for advantage in the elite's rise to total power. The forms remain, but the substance of our constitutional order has been leached out. The dynamics have been disguised behind various rhetorical slogans--the living constitution, progress, new frontiers and great societies, etc.--but the goal of fundamental transformation from our cultural past and total control by a power elite is ever more clear.
Opponents of these developments--typically "conservatives" of various, sometimes fundamentally opposed, stripes but also including some 'traditional' civil libertarian liberals--find themselves divided, and thus weakened. This division is reflected in the basic fact of American politics in the 21st century--a clear majority of the American people finds itself without organized representation in the governing institutions of American society. This became painfully clear during the Trump administration, in which Trump found himself undermined and countered at ever turn not only by his political opposition but also by his nominal supporters. In the end, an electoral coup was staged. Republican states allowed fundamental abuses, Republicans in Congress and in Justice branch of the Executive (DoJ and FBI) turned a blind eye to street violence and election law violations targeting Trump, the courts--up to and including the SCOTUS--delayed until the installation of a new regime was a fait accompli, and the threat of military force against dissenters is openly bruited. Those who attempted to protest the electoral coup are receiving smackdowns from the rulers in DC. The coopted corporate media--traditional as well as new 'social' media--have assumed the role of enthusiastic cheerleaders and censors.
Opponents of the looming authoritarian state--most apparent in the Covid Regime--are at a loss as to how to respond. Few Republicans in leading positions offer real opposition to the mandates and lockdowns that are clearly intended not to advance any scientifically justifiable health protection but solely in the interest of achieving dominant control for the ruling elite. Conservatives are torn between loyalty to a constitutional order that bears little resemblance to what it was (or appeared to be) only decades ago, and the unknown of embracing more active opposition to a regime that possesses awesome powers of social control, both in terms of surveillance technologies and of control over the forces of coercion of every sort. In all this conservatives are hampered by a lack of historical understanding of how we got where we are--typical attempts in that direction rarely place the American experience within any larger cultural context.
For example, this morning I read what started out looking like an interesting discussion:
So long as conservatives rally themselves around the emerging populist consensus and reject the excesses of the Left’s cultural revolution there is an open lane for retaking political control.
The article is in the form of an interview with the anonymous "L0m3z". The introduction to the interview suggests that fundamental issues may be raised:
L0m3z goes on to describe the crisis of legitimacy that has arisen for the American government, one that extends from the populist uprising that is still unfolding. His explanation of the state’s strategy for navigating this crisis—using the techniques of “fifth-generation warfare” domestically—piqued my interest and helped me to think about some of the contradictions that are increasingly evident in American governance.
L0m3z begins by appealing to Machiavelli and Hobbes in his description of how the power elite uses crises to "consolidate power"--clearly the situation in which we find ourselves currently. He characterizes the Zhou regime as "illegitimate" and much of the population as "disaffected." All fair enough assessments. He views the power elite's handling of the current crisis with foreboding and correctly identifies the target of the power elite--an independent middle class:
Victory for them is a restoration of legitimacy. But they know that this cannot be accomplished by reverting back to the 20th century paradigm. Thus, Year Zero of our Lord George Floyd. Thus, Build Back Better. It is hard to say exactly what a successful consolidation of power will look like at the granular level, but it will almost certainly be more international and more top-down than what preceded it. It will be democratic only in name. It will have successfully put down the threat of populist nationalism and cowed what remains of the non-compliant middle class.
For the rest, however, I find L0m3z less in touch with the significance of what's going on in America. This comes across most clearly in two respects. The first is his assessment of the role of corporations--which he sees as largely "politically neutral" but coerced by the Left, rather than as fundamentally at odds with the middle classes. The second is his basic strategy recommendation--election law reform. As if we didn't just witness a coordinated and intended 'fail' in our electoral processes that was designed to negate just that 'populist' movement that he says he champions. In this situation, in which we do see moves toward election law reform by Republicans in power, one should at least suspect that, in addition to the intent to regain political power behind these moves, the Republican establishment is also developing a strategy to thwart any resurrection of populism.
Here's an example of that out of touch strategizing:
... a legal and peaceful regime change would require “everyday Americans” to commit themselves to a president and some number of aligned representatives, perhaps under a third party (though in theory it could entail a hostile takeover of the GOP) who state directly their objectives, and once in power, rules as a unified bloc to reassert executive power and reform procedural mechanisms to starve hostile bureaucracies and/or abolish them outright. This would also include the wholesale turnover of personnel across hundreds of departments and offices, as well as a sufficient network of allies in tech, media, military, finance, and elsewhere willing to assist in this agenda. The Grill American’s job in all of this is to simply grill and be merry.
Eat, drink, and be merry--and vote Republican, so all these good things can happen? That doesn't sound like a strategy to me. Not based on past experience. If it were we wouldn't be where we are now.