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Friday, May 20, 2022

The End of History–Utopia Or Armageddon, The Great American Divide

After the fall of the Soviet Union Francis Fukuyama wrote a book called The End of History in which he predicted the end of geopolitical conflict  Now that Communism was dead, he said, democracy would be the only universal, ascendant truth.

Of course he was as wrong as could be.  The world after the Soviet Union has been as fraught with conflict, geopolitical strain, and the threat of war as ever.  He did not see the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and its holy militias, the continued tensions in the Middle East, the retrograde autocracy of North Korea, or the renascent ambitions of the new Russia.

He has since recanted, admitted his errors in judgment, and excused himself for his rather Utopian vision; but his inspiration has persisted.  There is no sign that history is ending, but the notion of moral hegemony – that the world will eventually be transformed into a peaceful, verdant, respectful, inclusive place where brotherhood, community, and international neighborliness will replace conflict – is alive and well.  This progressive vision has little to do with the communitarian, Utopian colonies of the early Twentieth Century which were organized to provide an insular, homogenous place of common values and had little if any political agendas. 

Utopia - TV Tropes

These values were derived from the transcendentalist philosophy of Thoreau and Emerson which embraced a universal, natural, all-encompassing life; a philosophy which was spiritual at its foundation, which transcended rationality, and which rejected the material world.  Human beings, transcendentalists believed, were essentially good but had been corrupted by society.  Their retreat into a natural,, private, secluded world of inner perfection was the logical, predictable outcome.

The Utopians of the last century were not political or hegemonic.  They were not out to reform the society from which they had come; and if anything wished only to serve as an example of secular holiness.  They were the communitarian expressions of Christian monastic solitude and Hindu hermitage, the most evolved state of human nature.

Image result for images thoreau

Utopians of today – American progressives – are political and hegemonic.  Their goal is complete social reform and can and must be achieved through an aggressive, concerted action to destroy the past, to expunge all anti-progressive elements and to start again at Year Zero.  They are not unlike Pol Pot whose Maoist policies were predicted on the complete destruction of traditional Cambodian society.  The Year Zero was a new beginning with all traces of the corrupt past gone. 

Enver Hoxha, former Communist dictator of Albania followed the same Maoist path and returned his country to the stone age.  Only then, he said, could the country be rebuilt along progressive, pure socialist lines. 

In both case the experiments failed, but in the case of Pol Pot, millions of Cambodians were murdered or died of starvation and disease in draconian re-education camps.  Albania, like most Eastern European countries that struggled under the yoke of Communism, has recovered but not without social and economic dislocation.  The number of Chinese either murdered or died because of Mao and his Communist absolutist policies is in the millions.  Stalin’s Soviet Union was no different, and millions died in the gulags because of his brutal regime.

American progressives have not learned from this sorry history, and are still convinced that autocracy, political hegemony, and enforced adherence to confected principles will create a better, more peaceful, and desirable world.  They claim that their movement has nothing to do with the Communist pasts of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or Enver Hoxha.  The Communism of these dictators was not at all populist, moral, and socially appealing; and so it was no surprise that it failed. Progressivism, they say, is based on a universal assumption of equality, respect for diversity, and the inclusion of all.  Its similarity to Soviet and Maoist socialism is a red herring, a meme used by conservative opponents to disparage and deflect the movement.

Image result for images Pol Pot. Size: 150 x 193. Source: mtviewmirror.com

There will be a true end of history, progressives say, and it is within sight, achievable only if everyone pulls together towards a common goal, rejects individualism and selfish personal pursuits.

Conservatives disagree, and having incorporated the lessons of history well within their world view, reject the notion of enforced idealism.  It is only through individual enterprise and personal ambition that society will improve.  Given the human nature that drives such ambition, conflicts will continue because they are a by-product of competition.  When there is competitive equilibrium, conflict will cease.

These two political visions, however, are mild and temperate compared to a third far more extreme vision held by millions of  fundamentalist Christians who believe that Armageddon and the Last Judgement are upon us; in fact the fiery destruction of the world and the judgment of sinners will happen within our lifetimes.  Utopian progress, social Darwinism, and Apocalypse – what a country! say Europeans who have been used to a much more evenly-layered society which has remained unchanged for centuries.  The aristocracy, the middle class, and the working class, all neatly ordered, predictable, and stable, unsettled and unnerved somewhat by the waves of new unfamiliar immigrants, but still very European. 

The same Europeans, as critical and cynical as they have been about America – these crazy divisions are indications of a still immature society yet unready for sophistication and far from creating a cultural heritage of their own  - see America as a vital, energetic, spontaneous place, the source of enterprise, creativity and innovation.  There can be no dynamism, so European thought goes, without unfortunate by-products.  A country borne and bred of individualism and competition cannot evolve or develop without flare-ups, firefights, and outright civil conflict.  Southern crazies who look for signs of the Second Coming; excitable women, gays, and transgenders; died-in-the-wool liberals who seek the overthrow of capitalism; and political conservatives who want to restore the order of the Wild West make up the modern day Buffalo Bill’s Travelling Experience.

Image result for buffalo bills wild west show

As much as Americans say they would love to live in Europe or even be sophisticated Europeans who spend afternoons at sidewalk cafes, have cinq-a-sept liaisons with their mistresses, talk about Moliere, Kant, and Descartes over dinner, they would be bored by French predictability.  In fact Old France no longer exists.  It has not become American as many of the old guard feared, but some unhealthy amalgamation of black and white, African and European,  Muslim and Christian; but the image of ‘Europe’ as portrayed on travel posters and Internet videos is still our image, our only image, one we would like to recrate for a few weeks in the summer, but no more.

‘Divisiveness’ is a disease, say politicians on the Left and Right; but disingenuously for both want the other to disappear in their version of unity.  On the contrary,  dividedness (not divisiveness)  is what defines America.  Each of the major socio-philosophical groupings see some end of history and some purposeful means to get there; and all are addled to some degree by their wild notions of the future; but so be it.

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