Monday, June 4, 2018

The Age of the Strongman Follows the Time of the Weakman

As Western Europe buckles under an influx of millions of Muslim immigrants, European liberals declare war on… the radical right. People who did not give a second or third thought to flooding the continent with unassimilable Muslims are horrified to see a backlash against their policies and their philosophy.

Does this mean that liberal democracy has failed? Does this mean that the bright eyed optimists, from Francis Fukuyama to Steven Pinker, have misread the historical moment? Have these reconstituted Hegelians preferred the joys of a grand narrative to the facts on the ground?

If we are seeing the ascendance of strong men around the world, from Vladimir Putin to Xi Jinping to Donald Trump to Recep Tayyip Erdogan might it not be that their ascendance signals a rejection of the Western liberal effort to feminize their countries. Aren’t these strong men merely balancing the influence of weak men? Count Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau among the weak. And of course the most significant weak men have been women: Angela Merkel, Theresa May and the ruling females in Sweden. Nations controlled by women or by men who are in touch with their feminine sides are notably more crime ridden, more terrorism ridden than are those that are run by strong men.

In an excellent essay John Gray points out that liberals have simply misread history:

Why is it that liberals keep misreading the present? They deplore the AfD – just as they do the rise of similar parties in Poland and Hungary, Austria and Italy, for example. But they do not ask themselves what it means for their view of history or the political projects they hold dear. Just as they have done throughout the post-Cold War era, they treat such developments as passing difficulties on the way to a world without precedent. In this imagined future nationalism and religion will no longer be deciding forces in politics and rivalry for territory and resources will have been left behind. Basic freedoms will be protected in a universal framework of human rights.

In brief, liberal thinkers do not care to examine the implications of what is happening in the world. Most especially, Gray will argue effectively, they are incapable of accepting responsibility for the failures of systems they have been running.

If things are not looking very good for liberal democracy, liberal democrats explain that history moves in cycles and that, in the end, all will work out for the best. The fact that nations around the world are increasingly rejecting the Western liberal model ought to set off alarm bells. It ought to suggest that we cannot rely on historical inevitability. We cannot expect that other nations will adopt a political system that opens its doors to hordes of unassimilable refugees. Or a system that tears itself apart over diversity quotas, regardless of the effect it has on performance or achievement. And let’s not mention the spectacle of using the court system to divide the nation over transgender high school locker rooms.

Elite liberal intellectuals have learned very little. They seem to understand that installing democracy in nations that have no experience with it does not work. The Bush freedom agenda has failed:

Some among them have learned that forcibly installing liberal regimes in countries where they have never existed before does not work, others cling to the belief that regime change could have been successful if it had been better planned and implemented more determinedly. They also differ in the degree of their enthusiasm for the free market. But all of them view the mix of capitalism and democracy that seemed to be triumphant at the end of the Cold War as the only regime that can secure popular legitimacy at this juncture in history, and therefore as a model for the entire world. Rather than being the victor in a historic contest with another Enlightenment ideology – communism – a late 20th century brand of liberalism embodies the only possible future of humankind.

And yet, Gray continues, an increasingly important segment of the left has become radicalized. Some have called it the alt-left. Gray calls it alt-liberalism. It no longer really believes in liberal democracy:

On the other hand there is what might be called alt-liberalism – a mutant version of liberal ideology that repudiates the Western civilisation that gave birth to a liberal way of life. Embedded chiefly in universities, where they shape teaching in the humanities and social sciences, alt-liberals may appear an insignificant force in politics. But while they cannot command a popular majority in any democratic country they shape the agenda on sections of the left, and weaken parties of the centre to which many voters were attached in the past.

Off on their own extended guilt trip, alt-liberals want to undermine Western values in order to bring about a new socialist paradise. They have blinded themselves to history and believe that the fall of Communism and other socialist enterprises is only the prelude to a new socialist order. Having dumbed down the educational system to the point where students are incapable of competing in the world they find it easy to persuade these same students that the world owes them a living.

Liberal values, Gray argues, are threatened both by the rise of strongmen around the world and by an internal disease that is eating at them from the inside. He calls it a moral failure to accept responsibility for its own complicity in producing the conditions it deplores. Dare we mention Barack Obama, who never accepted responsibility for his own failures... who was a master of the art of blame shifting.

The world is rapidly changing. The world that liberals accuse the right of destroying has long since been destroying itself. Liberals accuse Donald Trump and other strongmen of upending the world as they knew and love it. They do not understand that they are living in a mirage.

Gray explains:

The recent age of progress, whose passing liberals mourn, included unending war in Afghanistan, a European migrant crisis rendered intractable by anarchy in countries where Western intervention destroyed the state, a global financial crash and decades of stagnant or falling living standards for swathes of the population in many Western countries. Unfolding disasters such as the American opioid epidemic and attendant fall in life expectancy have their roots in the corporate predation and ravaging of communities that occurred under the regime over which liberals of one kind or another presided. But they can comprehend the disorder of the present only on the basis that they had no part in creating it. They continue to believe their hegemony was a reflection of their superior rationality. The current hiatus can only be a passing spasm of unreason and the prelude to a state of normalcy returning in which they are once again in charge.

He is arguing that liberals have refused to take any responsibility for having produced the horrors that the public is reacting against. We tend to see the migrant crisis as indicative of the problem created by Western liberalism. And we ought to mention not only Angela Merkel, the architect of the current German calamity, but our own Barack Obama, a man who now believes that he had not timed his presidency correctly.

Gray sees us moving toward a new authoritarian era. Among the consequences, are a revival of the political pathologies of the past, among them, anti-Semitism. Marine Le Pen for one, manifested it, but Gray points out the extent to which the British Labour Party is infested with it:

Anti-Semitism has re-established itself on the left partly by way of an ideology of anti-colonialism. Believing Western colonial power to be the worst evil in history – a progressive orthodoxy that has been inculcated in Western education systems for decades – sections of the left relativise the Holocaust, treating it as only one among many crimes against humanity. At the same time, they see Israel as the worst embodiment of colonialism – hence the demand that, alone among the world’s states, it must demonstrate its “right to exist”.

Let’s not forget the number of Muslims who live in nations like Germany, France and Great Britain. Some are recent arrivals. Others have been there for decades. Most of them harbor some degree of anti-Semitism and, under the aegis of leftist ideology, have defined themselves as warriors against Judeo-Christian civilization. Or else as a new proletariat rebelling against the patriarchy. One does not want to be blindingly obvious, but many Muslims vote in elections. Liberals seem most willing to pander to them by sounding notes of anti-Semitism.

Until recently, the world order depended, Gray explains, on the hegemonic power of the United States. He argues that Donald Trump is retreating from American leadership in the world, yet he suggests that Trump is reacting against Barack Obama’s Weakman policies. Obama sided with Western European alt-liberals and diminished American power and influence in the world. He is most responsible for opening the door to other potential alpha male.

When Communism fell the two leading Communist nations tried two different ways to modernize. Gorbachev’s was the more liberal, more Western approach. Deng Xiaoping borrowed more from Singapore and created a free enterprise system without liberal democracy.

Which worked better? Clearly, Vladimir Putin saw that the authoritarianism of Deng was creating more wealth and prosperity than the Jeffersonian idealism of Gorbachev. Ergo….

Gray adds that even if Islam undergoes its Reformation, the results are not going to look like a liberal democracy. Egypt voted the decidedly un-liberal Muslim Brotherhood into power. A military coup returned the nation to a semblance of normalcy and to economic progress... under a strongman. Saudi Arabia is liberalizing and modernizing, but Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seems to be following the Chinese, not the Western model.

Liberal democracy has been losing out because it seems not to be competitive. It is not competitive because it has been weakening and feminizing itself. Efforts to establish it around the world have largely failed. This might mean that the strength of America and the Western world lay not in our ideals, but in the practical spirit that worked hard to compete … and to win.

Gray sees things differently. I give him the last word:

Liberals need to shake off their sickly nostalgia for an irrecoverable past, whose flaws and contradictions created the world in which we find ourselves. Instead the intellectual remnants of the post-Cold-War era fall back on a narcissistic fantasy in which all will be well once the vanishing regime they embody is back in place. When liberals see the current condition of politics as an interregnum, they demonstrate their failure to recognise the new authoritarian hegemony that they helped to establish. 


Shaun F said...

Liberals have no understanding of human nature or male or female character. I have concluded that it is simply because they don't believe in God. So they think they can be God and try to create and bring a manmade heaven down to earth. They are driven by envy and covetousness. Look at Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao as examples. Or as you've cited Angela Merkel, and Prime Minister Justin Bieber. The left will become more insane, as media, education, and Hollyweird are meant to amplify their insanity.

MikeyParks said...

All of the current troubles, with the possible exception of the rampant Islamification of the west, were predicted. The Left just ignored the predictions, or belittled those of us speaking up. Dumbing down education, feminization of political and social systems, substituting quotas for merit and other blindly stupid Leftist policies – it was clear to many of us that these would bring disaster. And they have. Thank God for Trump. I only hope he's not too late.

Sam L. said...

It seems to me that alt-left is not as accurate as Ctrl-left, as the left wants and desires to control us. See
for further explanation.

Deana said...

Surely you meant “womanmade heaven.”

What man would think what we have now is anything close to heaven?

Anonymous said...

To answer your multiple questions in paragraph 2, the only real available approach toward political settlement is the judicial route... in almost all cases. It is the most vulnerable pursuit.

This is also growing tiresome track of politics. We have the shortest constitution in the world. It survives. It's designed to be elastic to weather changes in the culture, while still retaining its relevance and importance. Some say we need to have a "living" constitution, but the "living" part is subject to interpretation. Inevitably, it comes down to their "learned" interpretation.

When judges can overrule legislators and executives with impunity, no one will respect constitutional principles. Because they clearly see that they have no say. We're not ruled by the majority, but we're also not controlled by a marginal minority. That's the idea. But the 20th century has shown us that juris doctors have as little restraint as divine kings. JDs claim education, while kings claim heredity and divinity.

The idea of gay "marriage" is a perfect example... the States were already in the process of swaying toward this accommodation, but progress was not at an acceptable speed for the most learned court of human beings... a self-imagined divine body of nine. Just nine. That's all. Deciding on what the law should be.

That's nuts.

I continue to be concerned about judicial overpowering in the political process. The third branch was designed to be the weakest, but has become the strongest per capita. Just because you have a law degree from Harvard or Yale does not necessarily give you the intellect, wisdom or right to overrule law (nor does it give you the right to remedy or overcome its deficiencies).

The recent SCOTUS decisions acknowledging or recognizing some sort of exclusive rights around gay-ness are an abomination. They are not about immutable characteristics, save what people want to say about their sexuality. Nobody compelled them to speak out about their sexuality or express it. That is a choice. There are lots of sexual expressions... are we expected to accept all of them, or just one the ones that are most trendy or popular? We all have our own human proclivities. Are they necessarily unconstitutional because a select few of Ivy League-educated justices say so?

No way, says I. The Supreme Court has become a circumvention of law, of justice, and of popular sovereignty. Therefore, its rulings have become a disgrace to the idea of representative government. Confirmation by the Senate is simply not equivalent to an election. I do not understand why people do not see this. Where is the check on the judiciary? Impeachment of judges? There are simply too many to conduct trials. And now we have judges as part of "the resistance," claiming haphazardly that they can prevent executive action with the flimsiest of rationale (let along evidence).

Is this just? I'd like Justice Kennedy explain that for me. If he cannot, I'd like to know why he can continue as one of the most powerful men in America.

Anonymous said...

@Deana at June 4, 2018 at 4:29 PM:

Most men are tapped out on institutions where women are 50%+ prevalent in the visible ranks.

You can't change nature.

Getting men involved in the 30+ age "group" is national emergency, if you really pay attention to it.

Yeah, Ross Perot's "giant sucking sound"was a real purdy batch of nonsense, weren't it?

Not so much.

Time to wake up, America!