Category Archive 'Decline and Fall'
15 Nov 2020
Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire: Destruction, 1833-1836, New York Historical Society.
UConn Professor Peter Turchin’s models are deeply pessimistic.
The year 2020 has been kind to Turchin, for many of the same reasons it has been hell for the rest of us. Cities on fire, elected leaders endorsing violence, homicides surgingâ€”ÂÂto a normal American, these are apocalyptic signs. To Turchin, they indicate that his models, which incorporate thousands of years of data about human history, are working. (â€œNot all of human history,â€ he corrected me once. â€œJust the last 10,000 years.â€) He has been warning for a decade that a few key social and political trends portend an â€œage of discord,â€ civil unrest and carnage worse than most Americans have experienced. In 2010, he predicted that the unrest would get serious around 2020, and that it wouldnâ€™t let up until those social and political trends reversed. Havoc at the level of the late 1960s and early â€™70s is the best-case scenario; all-out civil war is the worst.
The fundamental problems, he says, are a dark triad of social maladies: a bloated elite class, with too few elite jobs to go around; declining living standards among the general population; and a government that canâ€™t cover its financial positions. His models, which track these factors in other societies across history, are too complicated to explain in a nontechnical publication. But theyâ€™ve succeeded in impressing writers for nontechnical publications, and have won him comparisons to other authors of â€œmegahistories,â€ such as Jared Diamond and Yuval Noah Harari. …
â€œWe are almost guaranteedâ€ five hellish years, Turchin predicts, and likely a decade or more. The problem, he says, is that there are too many people like me. â€œYou are ruling class,â€ he said, with no more rancor than if he had informed me that I had brown hair, or a slightly newer iPhone than his. Of the three factors driving social violence, Turchin stresses most heavily â€œelite overproductionâ€â€”Âthe tendency of a societyâ€™s ruling classes to grow faster than the number of positions for their members to fill. One way for a ruling class to grow is biologicallyâ€”think of Saudi Arabia, where princes and princesses are born faster than royal roles can be created for them. In the United States, elites overÂproduce themselves through economic and educational upward mobility: More and more people get rich, and more and more get educated. Neither of these sounds bad on its own. Donâ€™t we want everyone to be rich and educated? The problems begin when money and Harvard degrees become like royal titles in Saudi Arabia. If lots of people have them, but only some have real power, the ones who donâ€™t have power eventually turn on the ones who do.
In the United States, Turchin told me, you can see more and more aspirants fighting for a single job at, say, a prestigious law firm, or in an influential government sinecure, or (here it got personal) at a national magazine. Perhaps seeing the holes in my T-shirt, Turchin noted that a person can be part of an ideological elite rather than an economic one. (He doesnâ€™t view himself as a member of either. A professor reaches at most a few hundred students, he told me. â€œYou reach hundreds of thousands.â€) Elite jobs do not multiply as fast as elites do. There are still only 100 Senate seats, but more people than ever have enough money or degrees to think they should be running the country. â€œYou have a situation now where there are many more elites fighting for the same position, and some portion of them will convert to counter-elites,â€ Turchin said.
Donald Trump, for example, may appear elite (rich father, Wharton degree, gilded commodes), but Trumpism is a counter-elite movement. His government is packed with credentialed nobodies who were shut out of previous administrations, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes because the Groton-ÂYale establishment simply didnâ€™t have any vacancies. Trumpâ€™s former adviser and chief strategist Steve Bannon, Turchin said, is a â€œparadigmatic exampleâ€ of a counter-elite. He grew up working-class, went to Harvard Business School, and got rich as an investment banker and by owning a small stake in the syndication rights to Seinfeld. None of that translated to political power until he allied himself with the common people. â€œHe was a counter-elite who used Trump to break through, to put the white working males back in charge,â€ Turchin said.
Elite overproduction creates counter-elites, and counter-elites look for allies among the commoners. If commonersâ€™ living standards slipâ€”not relative to the elites, but relative to what they had beforeâ€”they accept the overtures of the counter-elites and start oiling the axles of their tumbrels. Commonersâ€™ lives grow worse, and the few who try to pull themselves onto the elite lifeboat are pushed back into the water by those already aboard. The final trigger of impending collapse, Turchin says, tends to be state insolvency. At some point rising inÂsecurity becomes expensive. The elites have to pacify unhappy citizens with handouts and freebiesâ€”and when these run out, they have to police dissent and oppress people. Eventually the state exhausts all short-term solutions, and what was heretofore a coherent civilization disintegrates.
Turchinâ€™s prognostications would be easier to dismiss as barstool theorizing if the disintegration were not happening now, roughly as the Seer of Storrs foretold 10 years ago. If the next 10 years are as seismic as he says they will be, his insights will have to be accounted for by historians and social scientistsâ€”assuming, of course, that there are still universities left to employ such people.
Those models strike me as not wrong, but they do seem to overlook the unworthiness, incompetence, and childishness of the Establishment Elite.
14 Nov 2020
â€œ. . . and if you look off the left-hand side of the plane youâ€™ll see the smoldering ruins of whatâ€™s left of our civilization . . .â€
09 Sep 2020
Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire: Destruction, 1833-1836, New York Historical Society.
Victor Davis Hanson:
No city gets a pass from history, not Athens, not Rome, not Alexandriaâ€”not Detroit, Baltimore, or Chicago.
After all, there is no rule that just because Bill Gates and Amazon headquartered in Seattle that its mayor, city council, and state governor will not abandon its signature downtown. What once made Portland great can be undone in a few weeks.
Wall Street may run the world, but it certainly does not run the New York City government. Electronic capital really does still have human legs and when the proverbial suited investor thinks he will be infected, short of toilet paper, or assaulted on the street, he leaves, taking his laptop with him. Bill de Blasio is left to govern, like a horned and bearded Visigoth, over an increasing shell of former grandeur.
To venture into San Francisco is to return in a time machine to 1855, a boomtown based on silicon chips, not gold dust, but one likewise lawless, fetid, and safe only for those with private security guards. To the casual visitor, it appears a lunatic place now recalibrated for the homeless, the looter, the assaulterâ€”and the very rich. Crimes like public defecation and drug use, or shattering the windows of a parked car window to steal its contents are not crimes unless the targets are the well-connected.
The story of all Dark Ages is that when civilizations finally prefer suicide, they do it easily, and the remnants flock to the countryside to preserve what they canâ€”allowing the cities to go on with their ritual self-destruction.
So it has begun to seem this endless summer.
15 Aug 2020
The Wall Street Journal reported the bad news.
To step into the Nat Sherman Townhouse in Midtown Manhattan is to step back in time, say fans of the 90-year-old tobacco emporium.
It is a place where smoking isnâ€™t only allowed, but also is encouraged. The store sells all manner of high-end tobacco items, from hand-rolled cigars to premium cigarettes, including some that it produces under the Nat Sherman banner.
In days gone by, its customers included such boldface names as Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and Henny Youngman. Even now, store employees say chief executives, prominent politicians and athletes are among the regulars.
But Nat Sherman is soon to become a piece of history itself. The store, which is owned by tobacco giant Altria Group Inc., is closing Sept. 25, company officials said.
Nat Shermanâ€™s own brand of cigars, including its Timeless line, also is being discontinued. But Altria will continue to produce and market Nat Sherman-branded cigarettes, a company spokesman said.
Altria, which acquired Nat Sherman in 2017 from the Sherman family for an undisclosed price, put the store and the cigar line up for sale last October, saying the business wasnâ€™t core to its tobacco portfolio. But a deal with a buyer couldnâ€™t be completed in the months thereafter and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic served to complicate any potential transaction, store officials said.
Michael Herklots, vice president of Altriaâ€™s Nat Sherman International division, pointed to the fact that the emporium, situated near the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, saw much of its business from Midtown office employees. Now, about 90% of that customer base is no longer there, he said.
The tragedy, he added, is that the city is losing one of its most treasured retail names.
â€œWe are as authentic to New York as HermÃ¨s is to Paris,â€ he said. …
The store is a place to talk about cigar preferencesâ€”mild and creamy or full-bodied and spicyâ€”with tobacconists who have years, if not decades, of experience. Moreover, it is a place just to kibbitz in generalâ€”about your work, your family or, better yet, about nothing in particular.
The store offered customers, from those famous names to everyday white- and blue-collar workers, plenty of places to sit back and enjoy a â€œstick,â€ to use a cigar smokerâ€™s term, after they shopped. Those who wanted to commit to $3,000 in purchases a year could become members of a private downstairs lounge.
Celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian is among the regulars who frequented Nat Sherman for a leisurely smoke.
â€œYou walked in and you felt like you were part of something,â€ he said.
07 Jun 2020
Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire: Destruction, 1833-1836, New York Historical Society.
Matthew Continetti discusses today’s Progressivism in the light of Irving Kristol’s 1969 lecture on â€œUrban Civilization and Its Discontents.â€
Beginning in the 19th century, writers, artists, philosophers, and intellectuals adopted an adversarial stance toward the dominant â€œbourgeoisâ€ ethos of orthodox religiosity, marital fidelity, conventional morality, and traditional manners. With the advent of mass media and the rise of higher education in the 20th century, the adversarial impulse permeated the institutions of culture. It gained more adherents in each rising generation.
What Roger Scruton described as a â€œculture of repudiationâ€ revised inherited understandings of history, politics, economics, society, art, psychology, and behavior. The philosophy of Darwin, Marx, and Freud deprived individuals of agency. It reduced them to mere products of the environment. The will of â€œthe people,â€ no matter its direction, was considered a good in itself. â€œWhat we may call the transcendental-populist religion of democracy,â€ Kristol said, â€œsuperseded an original political philosophy of democracy.â€
The population fought over the dispensation of entitlements. But it shared a state of mind. â€œIt is, to be precise, that state of mind,â€ Kristol went on, â€œwhich lacks all those qualities that, in the opinion of the founding fathers, added up to republican morality: steadiness of character, deliberativeness of mind, and a mild predisposition to subordinate oneâ€™s own special interests to the public interest.â€
The most important question, Kristol liked to say, was, â€œWhy not?â€ Why not do drugs, consume porn, abandon your children, break into and steal from a Target store? The institutions that once supplied the answers to such questions â€” the family, the church, the community â€” receded in importance and withered in strength against the power of an adversary culture that embedded itself in media and government and the liberation of desires that accompanied conditions of security and affluence.
It became difficult to justify submission of the will to external moral authority. That those authorities were often bigoted or unjust gave rise to the additional demand of justice as a precondition of civil peace and order. But this was a non sequitur. Order is the basis of justice, not the other way around. â€œTo demand â€˜justiceâ€™ as a precondition for political or social stability,â€ Kristol wrote in 1979, â€œis to make a demand on this world which the world has ever refused to concede.â€
What I find remarkable is how the Left had managed to enroll not only the naive and romantic Dummer Jungen, but also the Boobs and Babbitts; the Christers, Wowsers, and Reformers; the Goo-Goos and the energetic ladies whose sex lives are over under a single virtue-signalling, self-congratulatory banner.
13 Nov 2019
In a must-read interview with Tablet Magazine, David Samuels discusses with Angelo Codevilla the decline of post-Republican Imperial America, the corruption of the elite, meritocracy and its current absence, the populist revolt, the rise of the surveillance state, Jonathan Pollard, and the deep state’s efforts to discredit and remove Donald Trump.
No one runs America. Thatâ€™s the terror and the beauty of American life in a nutshell, the answer to the secret of how 300 million people from many different places can live together between two oceans, sharing a future-oriented outlook that methodically obliterates any ties to the past. All prior lived experience is transformed into science fiction, or else into self-serving evidence of the present-day moral, intellectual, and technological superiority of the brave imagineers who are fortunate enough to live here, in the Now, while all who came before them are cursed. No one can or does control such fantasy-driven machinery, which seems incapable of operating in any other way than it does, i.e., in a space with no beginning and no end, but tending always toward perfection. Learning to accept imperfection and failure may be an emotionally healthy way for adults to negotiate the terrors and absurdities of human existence, but it is not the highway to the perfectibility of man or woman-kind. …
Which is not to say that America isnâ€™t governed by an elite class, just like China, or Japan, or France isâ€”only that the ability of that class to actually rule anything is even more constrained by the native culture. The idea that an advanced technologically driven capitalist or socialist society of several hundred million people can be run by something other than an elite is silly or scaryâ€”the most obvious present-day alternative being a society run by ever-advancing forms of AI, which will no doubt have only the best interests of their flesh-and-blood creators at heart.
Yet it is possible to accept all of this, and to posit that the reason that the American ruling class seems so indisputably impotent and unmoored in the present is that there is no such thing as America anymore. In place of the America that is described in history books, where Henry Clay forged his compromises, and Walt Whitman wrote poetry, and Herman Melville contemplated the whale, and Ida Tarbell did her muckraking, and Thomas Alva Edison invented movies and the light bulb, and so forth, has arisen something new and vast and yet distinctly un-American that for lack of a better term is often called the American Empire, which in turn calls to mind the division of Roman history (and the Roman character) into two parts: the Republican, and the Imperial.
While containing the ghosts of the American past, the American Empire is clearly a very different kind of entity than the American Republic wasâ€”starting with the fact that the vast majority of its inhabitants arenâ€™t Americans. Ancient American ideas about individual rights and liberties, the pursuit of happiness, and so forth, may still be inspiring to mainland American citizens or not, but they are foreign to the peoples that Americans conquered. To those people, America is an empire, or the shadow of an empire, under which seemingly endless wars are fought, a symbol of their own continuing powerlessness and cultural failure. Meanwhile, at home, the American ruling elites prattle on endlessly about their deeply held ideals of whatever that must be applied to Hondurans today, and Kurds tomorrow, in fits of frantic-seeming generosity in between courses of farm-to-table fare. Once the class bond has been firmly established, everyone can relax and exchange notes about their kids, who are off being credentialed at the same â€œmeritocraticâ€ but now hugely more expensive private schools that their parents attended, whose social purpose is no longer to teach basic math or a common history but to indoctrinate teenagers in the cultish mumbo-jumbo that serves as a kind of in-group glue that binds ruling class initiates (she/he/they/ze) together and usefully distinguishes them from townies during summer vacations by the seashore.
The understanding of America as an empire is as foreign to most Americans as is the idea that the specific country that they live in is run by a class of people who may number themselves among the elect but werenâ€™t in fact elected by anyone. Under whatever professional job titles, the people who populate the institutions that exercise direct power over nearly all aspects of American life from birth to death are bureaucratsâ€”university bureaucrats, corporate bureaucrats, local, state and federal bureaucrats, law enforcement bureaucrats, health bureaucrats, knowledge bureaucrats, spy agency bureaucrats. At each layer of specific institutional authority, bureaucrats coordinate their understandings and practices with bureaucrats in parallel institutions through lawyers, in language that is designed to be impenetrable, or nearly so, by outsiders. Their authority is pervasive, undemocratic, and increasingly not susceptible in practice to legal checks and balances. All those people together comprise a class.
Another thing that residents of the broad North American expanse between Canada and Mexico have noticed is that the programs and remedies that this class has promoted, both at home and abroad, have greatly enriched and empowered a small number of people, namely themselvesâ€”while the broader American population continues to decline in wealth, health, and education. Meanwhile, the American Empire that the ruling elite administers is collapsing. The popularity of such observations on both the left and the right is what accounts for the rise of Donald Trump, on one hand, and of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the other hand, among an electorate that has not been historically distinguished by its embrace of radicalism. …
David Samuels: Where does the ethos of a class come from?
Angelo Codevilla: Here I speak with the prejudices of an academician. Because the ethos of the academy changed, evolved. And what drove the change was the growing contempt of professors for our civilization. And you Jews ought not to feel that you are any less the enemy of these people than we Christians.
I should say the defining feature of the ruling class is a certain attitude. And that attitude developed in the academy, and that attitude became uniform throughout the country because of the uniform academy. The uniformity of the academy transformed itself into the uniformity of the ruling class.
Because that was the institution that credentialed the otherwise uncultured American masses?
It credentialed the mind and the habits. The habits of the heart. It credentialed the habits of the heart. The habits of conversation. The habits of work. The habits of logic. The habits period.
Can you imagine a bright kid coming in contact with that kind of intellectual fraud? The smartest ones will say, â€œhey, I donâ€™t want to be part of this.â€ Heâ€™ll do something else. He wonâ€™t be taken in. Which means that this class will continue to degrade itself.
11 Oct 2019
Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire: Destruction, 1833-1836, New York Historical Society.
Victor Davis Hanson observes Contemporary Progressive “progress” and finds it rather lacking in comparison the past which it always sneers at and condemns.
In terms of learning, does anyone believe that a college graduate in 2020 will know half the information of a 1950 graduate?
In the 1940s, young people read William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pearl Buck and John Steinbeck. Are our current novelists turning out anything comparable? Could todayâ€™s high-school graduate even finish â€œThe Good Earthâ€ or â€œThe Grapes of Wrathâ€?
True, social media is impressive. The internet gives us instant access to global knowledge. We are a more tolerant society, at least in theory. * But Facebook is not the Hoover Dam, and Twitter is not the Panama Canal.
Our ancestors were builders and pioneers and mostly fearless. We are regulators, auditors, bureaucrats, adjudicators, censors, critics, plaintiffs, defendants, social media junkies and thin-skinned scolds. A distant generation created; we mostly delay, idle and gripe.
As we walk amid the refuse, needles and excrement of the sidewalks of our fetid cities; as we sit motionless on our jammed ancient freeways; and as we pout on Twitter and electronically whine in the porticos of our Ivy League campuses, will we ask: â€œWho were these people who left these strange monuments that we use but can neither emulate nor understand?â€
In comparison to us, they now seem like gods.
07 Aug 2019
Natalia Dashan brilliantly explains why the Radical Left is winning at elite schools like Yale and everywhere else in the National Establishment.
Western elites are not comfortable with their place in society and the responsibilities that come with it, and realize that there are deep structural problems with the old systems of coordination. But lacking the capacity for an orderly restructuring, or even a diagnosis of problems and needs, we dive deeper into a chaotic ideological mode of coordination that sweeps away the old structures.
When you live with this mindset, what you end up with is not an establishment where a woke upper class rallies and advocates for the rights of minorities, the poor, and underprivileged groups. What you have is a blind and self-righteous upper class that becomes structurally unable to take coordinated responsibility. You get stuck in an ideological mode of coordination, where no one can speak the truth to correct collective mistakes and overreaches without losing position.
This ideology is promulgated and advertised by universities, but it doesnâ€™t start or stop at universities. All the fundraisers. All the corporate events. The Oscars. Letâ€™s take down the Man. They say this in front of their PowerPoints. They clink champagne glasses. Letâ€™s take down the Man! But there is no real spirit of revolution in these words. It is all in the language they understandâ€”polite and clean, because it isnâ€™t really real. It is a performative spectacle about their own morale and guilt.
If you were the ruler while everything was burning around you, and you didnâ€™t know what to do, what would you do? You would deny that you are in charge. And you would recuperate the growing discontented masses into your own power base, so that things stay comfortable for you.
Yale students, if they werenâ€™t powerful when they came in (and most of them were), they gain power by being bestowed a Yale degree. What would you do with this power? You donâ€™t want to abuse it; youâ€™re not outright evil. No, you want something different. You want to be absolved of your power. You are ashamed of your power. Why should you have it, and not somebody elseâ€”maybe somebody more deserving? You never really signed up for this. You would rather be somebody normal. But not, â€œnormal,â€ normal. More like normal with options and vacations and money â€œnormal.â€ Normal but still powerful. Or you want to be something even better than normal. You want to be the underdog. There is always a certain strange sense of pleasure in being an underdog. Expectations are lower. Whenever you accomplish anything at allâ€”it is an accomplishment. You would rather have a narrative story of â€œcoming up from the bottom.â€ Someone who not only does not have the responsibility of power, but someone who has a right to feel resentful of those who do. And better yetâ€”someone who can use this resentment as a tool for self-interest.
How do Yale students give up their power? They do this in one of two ways. One way is termed selling out. This usually means taking a high-paying job at an institution that is at worst blatantly unethical, and at best not intentionally idealistic. A consulting job, a meaningless tech job, or a position at an investment bank. This is generally seen as the selfish route.
But there is more to selling out that nobody talks about. These jobs are the dream jobs of the middle class. Theyâ€™re not supposed to be jobs for the sons and daughters of millionaires and billionairesâ€”these kids donâ€™t actually need the money. They want independence from their parents and proof that they can make it on their ownâ€”and prestigious work experienceâ€”but they have wealth acquired through generations that they can always fall back on. These people are generally as harmless as the middle classâ€”which is to say completely harmless. They keep to themselves. They quietly grow their bank accounts and their 401ks. And just like the real middle class, they donâ€™t want to risk their next promotion through being too outspoken. They have virtually no political power. This mindset is best encapsulated by: â€œIâ€™ll go with the program. Please leave me alone to be comfortable and quietly make money.â€
They effectively become middle class, because there is no longer any socially esteemed notion of upper class. They have a base of power, of f-you money, that they could use to become something greater than just another office worker or businessperson. But there is no script for that, no institutional or ideological support. What would it even mean to be an esteemed, blue-blooded aristocrat in 2019? So they take the easy and safe way.
How else do Yale students give up their responsibility?
They go in the other direction. These are the people who call themselves idealists and say they want to save the world. They feel the weight of responsibility from their social statusâ€”but they donâ€™t know how to process and integrate this responsibility into their lives properly. Traditionally, structurally well-organized elite institutions would absorb and direct this benevolent impulse to useful purpose. But our traditional institutions have decayed and lost their credibility, so these idealists start looking for alternatives, and start signalling dissociation from those now-disreputable class markers.
But the capacity to really think through what an alternative should look like, and create one, is so rare as to be effectively nonexistent. Instead, idealists are forced to take the easy way of just going along with dominant ideological narratives of what it means to do good. They feel guilty about their wealth and privileges, and feel that they wonâ€™t be doing their part unless they do something very altruistic, and the idealistic ideologies reinforce these feelings. So they go overboard, and rush headlong into whatever they are supposed to do. They purport to speak for and be allied with underprivileged groups. They get their professors fired for minor infractions. They frantically tear down whatever vestiges of the old institutions and hierarchies that they can, and conspicuously feel guilty about the rest.
These are the people who buy clothes from Salvation Army and decline your Sunday brunch invitation because itâ€™s too expensive, sometimes with the implication that they are saving their money to donate to more effective causes, if they arenâ€™t pretending not to have it. They are the people who might attack or cut off their friends for ideological reasons. They discharge their personal responsibility by sacrificing everything outside of their distant mission, including friendships and social fabric.
Itâ€™s an understandable impulse. After all, given the state of legacy institutions, what else are you going to do with the energy of idealism? But ultimately, by going along with the narratives of an ideology that can efficiently capture these impulses, but has no structural ability to deliver on its promises, just diverts more energy from what a normal benevolent elite should be doing.
These people might sometimes say that they are â€œtired of fightingâ€â€”but this is not the full truth. Fighting is fun. It is always very fun to be a warriorâ€”to have something you believe in that guides you. To be part of a tribe, working for the good of mankind. To be revered and respected for being on the bleeding edge of the paradigm.
Especially when youâ€™re winning.
31 Jul 2019
We left the 1712 5000+ sq. ft. house we lived in most of our adult lives. Local real estate taxes, over 20 years, went from $2000-a-year to $10,000, and the CT economy went into the tank. Nobody retires in Connecticut with the taxes being what they are.
Terry Kirkpatrick tells us that there is now a “People who have left or are leaving Connecticut” Facebook group and reports on the “CT Death Watch.”
Buy U-Haul stock. Connecticut residents are growing pessimistic about the stateâ€™s living conditions, according to a survey. A record percent of respondents (47 percent) also said they will likely leave the state within the next five years.
Even in banks? Connecticut to help 10,000 felons get a job in three years.
We like illegals. Gov. Ned Lamont is directing police in Connecticut to not cooperate with raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Glad to help out. While Connecticut lawmakers sold the progressive tax as a way to provide middle-class tax relief and reduce property taxes, neither occurred. Instead, everyday taxpayers have been hit with recurring income and property tax hikes.
Tax those movies. Governor Lamontâ€™s budget seems designed to accelerate the decline. It increases spending by $2 billion while extending the stateâ€™s 6.35% sales tax to everything from digital movies to laundry drop-off services to â€œsafety apparel.â€ It adds $50 million in taxes on small businesses, raises the minimum wage by 50%, and provides the countryâ€™s most generous mandated paid family medical leave.
21 Jul 2019
The New York Times’ derisive response to the 50th Anniversary of America’s triumphant landing on the Moon made the blood of many people boil, but really wasn’t anything new.
The liberalism of the American Establishment moved significantly in the direction of the rancid radical Left in the six years between the death of JFK and the Apollo space crew’s moon landing. Even as far back in 1969, as Steven Hayward notes, the liberals were turning against the Space Program.
[W]e shouldnâ€™t underestimate how dramatically liberals turned against the Apollo project at the moment of its triumphâ€”a sign of the larger collapse of liberalism in the 1960s. The moon landing had been set out as a lofty goal by the liberalsâ€™ hero, John F. Kennedy, and the moon landing was an occasion of national pride and celebration for most Americans. Here, amidst the rubble and gloom of the 1960s, was something that had gone splendidly right. Many leading liberals, however, could only sniff that while the moon landing was undeniably impressive, the money for the moon landing would have been better spent on social problems on Earth. The popular clichÃ© of the time went: â€œAny nation that can land a man on the moon can [fill in the blank].â€ (The total cost of the decade-long moon landing project was less than three monthsâ€™ worth of federal spending for social programs in 1969.)
Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield said that â€œThe needs of the people on earth, and especially in this country, should have priority. When we solve these problems, we can consider space efforts.â€ Even the brother of the man who issued the call to go to the moon, Sen. Ted Kennedy, expressed weariness with the space program: â€œI think after [the moon landing] the space program ought to fit into our other national priorities.â€
This may have been the moment when liberalism certified that it had become a crabbed and negative force in American life. It has never recovered.
01 Oct 2018
Victor Davis Hanson sees the old American norms transformed in the Kavanaugh process, and he sees all this as a major milestone on the road of American decline.
The Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and their endless sequelae have ended up as an epitaph for a spent culture for which its remedies are felt to be worse than its diseases. Think 338 B.C., A.D. 476, 1453, or 1939.
The coordinated effort to destroy Brett Kavanaughâ€™s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court required the systematic refutation of the entire notion of Western jurisprudence by senators and much of the American legal establishment. And there was no hesitation in doing just that on the part of Senate Democrats, the #MeToo movement, and the press. And I write this at a moment in which conservatives and Republicans still control the majority of governorships, state legislatures, the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court and the presidencyâ€”a reminder that culture so often is far more powerful than politics.
So, here we were to be left with a new legal and cultural standard in adjudicating future disagreements and disputes, an utterly anti-Western standard quite befitting for our new relativist age:
The veracity of accusations will hinge on the particular identity, emotions, and ideology of the accuser;
Evidence, or lack of it, will be tangential, given the supposed unimpeachable motives of the ideologically correct accuser;
The burden of proof and evidence will rest with the accused to disprove the preordained assumption of guilt;
Hearsay will be a valuable narrative and constitute legitimate evidence;
Truth is not universal, but individualized. Fordâ€™s â€œtruthâ€ is as valid as the â€œTruth,â€ given that competing narratives are adjudicated only by access to power. Ford is a victim, therefore her truth trumps â€œtheirâ€ truth based on evidence and testimony.
Questionable and inconsistent testimony are proof of trauma and therefore exactitude; recalling an accusation to someone is proof that the action in the accusation took place.
Statutes of limitations do not exist; any allegation of decades prior is as valid as any in the present. All of us are subject at any moment to unsubstantiated accusations from decades past that will destroy lives.
Assertion of an alleged crime is unimpeachable proof. Recall of where, when, why, and how it took place is irrelevant.
Individual accusations will always be subservient to cosmic causes; individuals are irrelevant if they do not serve ideological aims. All accusations fit universal stereotypes whose rules of finding guilt or innocence trump those of individual cases.
The accuser establishes the conditions under which charges are investigated; the accused nods assent.
Our cultural traditions are being insidiously rewritten in this new Dark Age. We know now that Euripidesâ€™s Phaedra should have been believed, as a female accuser of rape. Perhaps university presses can either reissue properly corrected editions or ban the Hippolytus entirely. No doubt we will ban Racineâ€™s PhÃ¨dre as well. Harper Leeâ€™s Tom Robinson deserved his fate because his female accuser should have been believedâ€”and perhaps To Kill a Mockingbird should be rewritten as well. In our time, we have finally and only now belatedly realized that Tawana Brawleyâ€™s voice was stifled.
VDH is not wrong.
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