This is a very depressing post, proving as it does that the Modern Era had ended by 1968, the last year when one could truly believe that every day, in every way, we were getting better and better as a society:
We go around in circles, searching for Kennedy-manques, a right wheel turning around a chewed stump where the left wheel used to be. If you don’t like metaphors, here’s a fact: All of the “lone nuts” of the 60s weakened one side of the spectrum, in favor of the other. We may think that’s a mournful coincidence now, but I doubt future generations will. In my dark moments, I’m convinced that those bullets marked the beginning of American civilization’s decline, the time when our capacity for fear and corruption decisively outstripped our desire for positive change.
I’m just not sure where this leaves you now if the progressive movement has been effectively emasculated by a few mysterious assassins. Maybe you should take a page from the Bush administration self-help guide: They took a potentially emasculating attack by a few mysterious terrorists and parlayed it into a huge PR victory, winning the short-term support and long-term intimidation of the “opposition” party.
If you are anxiously waiting for the next celebrity demagogue to lead the masses to full enlightenment, you need to look for someone bold and charismatic, of course, but mostly they need to tap into the nascent optimism in the populace. What optimism?
Unfortunately for the Looking Backward crowd, there is currently no popular optimism on socially progressive issues. Middle-class liberals think there are no social problems. Middle-class conservatives are scared of both terrorists and progressives, which is why they supported more police powers for the Thousand-Year Reign of Republicans. Unfortunately, someday there may be a regime change to a center-left Democrat who takes advantage of Republican PR blunders. Then what?
Modern progressives are scared of both terrorists and Republicans, so they will vote for a middle-class liberal Democrat who doesn’t care about progressive issues, then whine about how “betrayed” they feel. Meanwhile, conservatives will whine about the extensive police powers, expansive federal government, and adventurous foreign policy under a liberal Democratic administration… forgetting in their rants to mention how much they loved those traits in GWB.
Political actors are unprincipled; scared of their own shadows; cynical, manipulative, and deceitful; and they are all jockeying to get the central government to solve their problems for them. Is this the fault of the Lone Gunmen? I don’t think anything about human nature has changed recently. However, it seems that now the “Left” is trying to bring back the good old days, and the “Right” is trying to change the world.
This illustrates the inadequacy of the labels “conservative” and “liberal.” So-called conservatives are willing to discard all kinds of traditions and cultural values in the name of prosperity, convenience, and a higher standard of living; in other words, modernity is OK with them when it feels good, when they can discern a qualitative improvement to the old ways. Liberals, likewise, are extraordinarily closed-minded, reactionary, and authoritarian in response to criticism of long-cherished institutions such as public education.
No single issue so poignantly depicts the hypocrisy, selfishness, and viciously punitive side of “liberalism” as the reaction of a “Liberal” to the proposition that a parent may determine the content and method of his child’s education. Because of that reactionary attitude we can postulate that homeschooling is an essentially postmodern phenomenon, expressing as it does a fundamental lack of faith in the institutions of society to effect positive change in its individual members.
That explains why so many “conservative Christians” I have known are quite horrified, even dumbstruck, at the notion of homeschooling. They still have faith that the institutions of society will improve the lot of humanity, even though they may want to reform them in the spirit of 1950s modernism.
For the “nonessential” institutions, however, I say don’t bother to reform them at all: just let me be free of them, and I could not care less if they were completely obliterated. The stock market, the insurance industry, the film and television industry, and professional sports are additional examples of institutions that could disappear overnight without a tear shed by me. They would be immediately reconstituted, I am sure, in more efficient, decentralized, and populist forms, although likely less profitable.