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:
State Power, Political Warfare, and the Effort to Reclaim America: A Conversation with L0m3z
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.
I've been poking around on the fringes and, to the extent that repetition = popularity, the dark meme "We can no longer vote our way out of this." seems to be ascendant, contra LOm3z.ReplyDelete
My food stocks will have to be upgraded to include more popcorn. Especially if the Constitution no longer holds sway as before.
There is no neutral elections authority anymore. So voting is a charade.ReplyDelete
That's our immediate problem.
dfp21 - to dovetail onto your post remember the venerable Mark Twain observation: “If voting really matter they wouldn’t let you do it.”Delete
One thing that is a recourse - quite possibly the best one - & haven’t seen it mentioned much outside of some store owners in - of all places - West Hollywood, CA - is for the conservative/populist side to stand as one & starve The Beast by not paying ANY taxes. The govt could be brought to heel very quickly IMHO. Certainly it’s against the law but the Left/Dems break the law with impunity & suffer no consequences. If the masses stood as one there’d be no way out for the govt - they simply can’t prosecute literally millions of people, there simply aren’t enough IRS agents nor could the court system handle it. Think of it as an inverted Cloward/Piven strategy: cause the govt to implode on itself for lack of funds. They govt is already out of $$, they’ve just been kicking the can down the road, “let the collapse happen on the next guy’s watch” has been basically the modus operandi since probably Shrub I.
Don’t go for the guns - that’s what they want! They’re itching for us to do that & when we don’t- see Jan 6 - they manufacture a “crisis” out of nothing & call it an “insurrection”.
What recourse would the govt have? Send SWAT teams to people’s homes, “Write us a check or else!” How would that play out on the evening news? The crux of military operations is - or used to be - victory predicated by outthinking & outmaneuvering your opponent; you “hit’em where he ain’t” or - like Jackson @ Chancellorsville - you execute a bold flanking maneuver & smash your enemy’s flank that’s hanging in the air.
The govt has multitudes of flanks hanging in the air. It’s up to us to turn one & keep the pressure on.
They don't need taxes anymore. They print money digitally and recklessly. Hence the new MMT.Delete
That's also the reason IMHO, why middle class doesn't matter to corporations anymore. Their largest customer base used to be the middle class. Now they see, in their clustering algorithms and focus groups, that the biggest check writer is the government, with the same reckless money printing capability.
There is only one way out of this whirlpool, or blackhole if I my create an analogy. And that is to dump the largely useless excess mass to escape.
It could be possible to wait it out like the preppers plan to do, if the population was not this high. I think there will be nowhere to hide this time though. Just look at South Africa. That's what's coming.
On paper what you say is probably true; they don’t need the middle class’s $$ anymore & they’ve been printing fiat currency like it’s Monopoly money; however, the aftershocks/PR of such a large, widespread communal blowback on something like this would more than likely crash the stock market & wreck the govt bond markets for an extended time with associated snowballing circumstances. Another likely outcome is total collapse in the legitimacy of the elected admin. Foreign govts would see the admin would have lost the faith of the people & govern themselves accordingly.
Could that cause the Chicoms/Russians to go on real estate grabbing sprees? Sure it could. Is it harsh? Yes. But here we are.
It’s enough to make one pine away for “the good old days” when all we had to worry about was the German Army ;<)
Maybe the phrase "the ancestors of both political tendencies which *are* "libertarian" (subjectivist) in their orientation" is what you meant.ReplyDelete
Over all, this is a quite sound analysis.
I must add one more major change: media technology, starting with radio & film (putty in Adolf's, and maybe J. Edgar's hands), and now social media (putty in Gates/ Zuckerberg's hands).
Nowadays, anyone who *reads* Socrates, or the Bible, is so very outré, compared to those who read 200 character tweets.
W/o such media, the old system’s inertia may’ve bought much more time, e.g. to work out kinks in the newer ideas.Delete
Now, w/in minutes, Smart Mobs can form to trash whole hoods.
Western civilization is moving ever farther eastwards. Ironic, no?ReplyDelete
Victor Orban and his friends in Central and Eastern Europe are ready, willing and able to team up with Red America. Together, they could make a formidable alliance. Separately, they (we) are doomed.
Who will have the foresight, courage and chutzpah to advocate and to push Red America into taking the obvious next step?
Because, it’s ‘struggle sessions’ and re-education ad infinitum (at best) if we all keep twiddling our thumbs. And after they thoroughly break us, then we get either eliminated or assimilated – like the Borg.
Since the left have no use for the Constitution anymore, what (beyond force of arms) can stop Red America from seceding?
Secession or assimilation? Is there really any other choice?
BTW Mark - Brilliant synopsis
On diffs between W. and E. Europe, esp. on the Hajnal Line, seeDelete
Thanks Mark, very insightful essay.ReplyDelete
I am not sure where we are going.
I still have a bit of shock on What was done to Trump, Why it was done, and by Whom, and How, happening in the US.
And what happens if enough people believe nothing they can do can change the course legally? The ability to vote, and believe your vote will be counted, is a HUGE Safety Valve. As is believing that their is one system of justice.
Larry Elder in some of his advertisements, is going after big business.
Big Business does not realize how fragile their power is. The amount of hubris, especially among the tech giants, is at psychopathic levels.