If the world seems stranger than normal, Victor Davis Hanson has an explanation. Ideology, he argues, is the ancient enemy of civilization. It makes people, even politicians, do crazy things. “What ultimately destroyed the evil empires of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were bankrupt dogmas. Crackpot ideology destroyed free expression. It ruined meritocracy and ensured unequal application of the laws – and so paved the way for far worse. The Nazi idea of a superior Aryan race adjudicated everything from physics to tank design. Soviet commissars did the same, subordinating rational thought to communist agendas. Zealots in both systems infiltrated the universities and schools to institutionalize indoctrination. Wokeism, while not yet as lethal, is similar.”
“Quos Deus vult perdere prius dementat” — those who the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. Precisely who’s gone crazy is a matter for debate. But some of the headlines seem to hint at odd behavior by ostensibly sober statesmen. It is almost as if they’ve forgotten how to act in their own best interests. After two years of demonizing ‘fossil fuels’, decomissioning nuclear plants and shifting energy grids to things like windmills, the West is suddenly facing an oil shortage crisis that makes it vulnerable to blackmail by Vladimir Putin. “Oil prices have risen to well over $90 a barrel — their highest levels since 2014 — in recent days as fears of war have grown. Many energy experts say an invasion would easily propel the price above $100 a barrel. The average price for regular gasoline in the United States has risen to nearly $3.50, a rise of almost 20 cents over the last month and nearly $1 more than a year ago, according to AAA. Diesel prices have been rising a penny a gallon every day recently.” An establishment that was only recently trying to rid itself of the stink of gas is now desperate to find it. It’s like those 19th century morality stories where the wastrel begins by lighting cigars with $20 bills and finishes trying to pry out small coins fallen between the floorboards of his decaying mansion. Like the wastrels the establishment could have avoided the shortage but didn’t, and given a respite from Russia and weather they’ll go back to windmills.
The other hallmark of crazy is disproportionate reaction. Something’s in the water. All over the world, from Ottawa to Ukraine, leaders are playing Russian Roulette over chump change. Joe Biden and Putin are squaring off over Ukraine, a country the former is not prepared to defend and the latter can’t afford to conquer. In the West, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has invoked rare emergency powers in attempt to quell protests over Covid vaccine mandates even as European countries and his own provinces increasingly roll the restrictions back. Even the police can’t see the point. “Frustration has grown with what critics see as a permissive approach by police to the demonstrations in the border city of Windsor, Ontario, and in Ottawa, the nation’s capital… In an indication of the deteriorating situation, Trudeau met with both his cabinet and provincial premiers on Monday morning, where he reportedly told them he would use the Emergencies Act.”
Nothing justifies the equivalent of war powers like the moot. What is the sense of fighting for a policy hill you are about to give up? But the thing to remember is that regarding ideological compliance is it is “compliance” that really counts, (in)sanity less so. The crazier the world becomes, the less sanity matters and the more important compliance for its own sake becomes. Form is all you have when function is forgotten. According to the BBC News, Trudeau vows to freeze anti-mandate protesters’ bank accounts. “Without a court order, banks will be able freeze personal accounts of anyone linked with the protests. … This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people’s jobs,” he said. Jobs the lockdown spent two years destroying. Or perhaps this is about who is to rule, that’s all, almost as if pointlessness were the point.
Maybe the progressives don’t know what else to do. It’s obvious to them that something momentous is happening but there’s no explanation for it in any of the tomes in Revolution Bookstore. So in dismay they fall back on “the Nazis are coming!”, which translates as “’tis witchcraft!” Unable to understand the cascading effects of the pandemic, popular revolt and challenges to international security upon their agenda, the establishment is reponding with denial, media blackouts, de-platforming and misdirection like a bobbing boxer. There is no plan beyond immediate survival. The crisis has got not only the Western establishment by the throat, but Russia and China too in their own way and perhaps even more severely. The paradigm has shifted for everyone but the new ground rules are not yet clear. For now the pundits are just ranting, making random noise to comfort themselves, the way a group of monkeys gibbers when they sense a dark shadow at the base of their tree. But nobody knows what the shadow is.
Perhaps the ruling elites don’t know where they are because their own bubble drifted so silently over the decades they only now notice, looking out the window for the first time in years, that the stars all look different. In reorienting themselves they will be handicapped by perhaps the worst aspect of ideology: the idee fixe. Whatever reason might suggest about the absurdity of their obsession or compulsion, they will remain in the thrall of their ideology until its collapse frees them to think again. As Will Durant observed, “in the end a society and its religion tend to fall together, like body and soul, in a harmonious death. Meanwhile, among the oppressed another myth arises, gives new form to human hope, new courage to human effort, and after centuries of chaos builds another civilization.” That’s what the sound and fury in the street are about: renewal. Until then there may be not “centuries of chaos” but a period of it anyway.
Books: You Will Be Assimilated: China’s Plan to Sino-form the World by David Goldman. China’s 5,000-year-old empire has become the world’s largest economy, with a plan to control the decisive technologies of the 21st century—and the United States is in danger of being left behind. America has finally recognized China’s bid for world dominance—but we’re still losing ground. Domination of the next generation of mobile broadband is just the tip of the spear. Like the Borg in Star Trek, China will assimilate you into a virtual empire controlled by Chinese technology. China is taking control of the Fourth Industrial Revolution—the economy of artificial intelligence and quantum computing—just as America dominated the Third Industrial Revolution driven by the computer.