1. Fukuyama forever?
The purpose of GA is to provide the minimal set of presuppositions that permit a plausible hypothesis of origin for language and the rest. But the fact of having invented language, which makes possible indefinite layers of recursion, means that this minimality is a source of indefinite complexity.
For example, the “coda” of the previous Chronicle, which referred to Netanyahu’s victory as a positive step toward restoring the West’s self-confidence and the ultimate possibility of reestablishing its world leadership by uniting the three “Abrahamic” religions. Isn’t this just an example of colonialist mentality? Isn’t it just an extension to Western Civilization of my view of the Jews’ “firstness,” of their status as “the chosen people”? How can I criticize antisemitism when the Jews encapsulate the evils of Western hegemony?
Well, as my favorite Churchill quote implies, the West’s success in creating the modern world was the product of its qualitatively greater capacity for self-correction. To hold the West as morally inferior on the basis of its supposedly inequitable superiority to these other systems is the earmark of the seemingly ultimate Woke stage of the epistemology of resentment, the “end of history” of the Left.
The Western system is not linked in some Hitlerian way to our race, Aryan or other (Semitic?). Nations like Japan and South Korea have prospered by adopting both the West’s technology and system of government, and China has certainly profited from the former. To have created modernity makes the West first, not best.
Churchill’s modest pride is the best we can do; it is fitting that in our Woke era he be reviled as an “imperialist” by a generation whose so-far peaceful lives are among the benefits of his vision and spirit during WWII. No doubt imperialism was often exploitative and cruel; one need only mention Leopold’s “Congo Free State.” But the principle of spreading Western modernity to the rest of the world was, and still is, essentially beneficial. It was Western medicine and doctors who helped banish the Ebola epidemic from the West’s former African colonies. When the account is drawn up, the overall result of imperialism was greatly to improve and lengthen the lives of billions in the formerly colonized countries.
2. Return to Israel
I cited in Chronicle 755 the case of the Jews’ return to Israel as a dream of American Protestantism that was at the same time prophetic in the context of the contemporary world. The fact that Israel’s existence has been uncompromisingly resisted by all Palestinian factions is inseparable from the Christian West’s longstanding reluctance to take Israel’s part in this conflict, as though the existence of dozens of Muslim states were normal whereas that of one Jewish state is a scandal.
Thus in the recent UN vote about Israel’s nuclear weapons, only five countries voted against the resolution declaring them illegal, with all the European nations abstaining. In the yet more recent 98-17 vote to “try” Israel in the International Criminal Court for its “occupation,” (see https://worldisraelnews.com/un-votes-98-17-to-take-israel-to-intl-criminal-court-over-occupation/?utm_source=newsletters_worldisraelnews_com&utm_medium=email&utm_content), the countries that voted with Israel in opposing the resolution were Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Italy, Liberia, Lithuania, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and the United States. The United Kingdom and France abstained, while at least a few European nations swam against the tide. Yet Ukraine and all the Arab nations approved the resolution.
As with every other humanitarian controversy, Israel is singled out for condemnation by the UN, and most of the world’s so-called democracies abstain from defending it. In the wake of the Abraham Accords, it seems evident that any change in this configuration will come rather from the Muslim nations of the Middle East than the “Christian” ones of Europe and Latin America, even if it is not yet registered in their votes.
There is no need for Israel to boastfully proclaim its world-historical importance; just as the Nazis’ policies revolved around the Jews, so have those of the UN, the world body presumably dedicated to international harmony. Like all other examples of antisemitism, this is a negative form of flattery that the Jews would rather avoid. But in any case, it confirms their role as the exemplary people of the West, and thereby confirms as well the prophetic intuition that only when—or if and when—the Jews, having returned to their ancestral homeland, can at last become a “normal nation,” the West will have finally reconciled itself to the historical reality of its spiritual origin, and the Abrahamic religions will be able to reach a compromise among their visions of humanity.
3. Electoral Reflections
Comparison of the results of the just-concluded elections in Israel and the US makes the exemplarity of Israel all the more apparent. Whereas Israel rebounded from its anti-Bibi moment, in the US the excesses of Wokeness were far from repudiated; two years after electing a near-senile president, Democrat voters put in the Senate a man whose mind is disabled from a stroke. Early voting and freely distributed mail ballots surely contributed to these results, yet it seems clear that the expected “Red wave” failed to materialize.**
The decisive element in the Democrat vote was that of Gen Z. According to one survey, whereas older voters favored the Republicans, and those from 30 to 49 were nearly even (Democrats +3%), those 18-29 gave the Democrats a 64-36 margin. This generational gap was not the simple effect of youthful rebelliousness; it signaled the overall success of the “Long March through the Institutions” proposed by 60s student activist Rudi Dutschke. The most significant long-term result of this “march” has no doubt been the lowering of the American birth rate, putting the US on a par with the dwindling populations of the other Western nations. If I point out that only Israel among these industrial nations has a positive birthrate, it is not to claim that we need to populate the world with Jews, but that even outside its ultra-religious sector Israel still maintains the traditional attitude toward the family that permits the continued flourishing of a nation-state.
I would like to view this development as the fulfillment of the Puritan prophecy of the return of the Jews to their homeland. But given that this positive demographic is due in good measure to the strongly felt need to replace the victims of the Holocaust, one might just as easily interpret it as a holdover from the traditional world that liberated the Jews and produced liberal democracy, a world largely defunct today in Christian Europe, where the birth rate falls ever lower and where having children is increasingly seen by young people as an unnecessary burden, if not a form of environmental pollution. And we may note that, along with China, the Asian nations (Japan, South Korea) that have most closely adhered to the Western formula of liberal democracy have even lower birthrates.
Historical evolution does not follow a predetermined pattern. The very exemplarity of Israel may just as well be a sign that the Western “end of history” is fated to lead to something else, perhaps even to the 1984ish future suggested by recent developments in China. The return to Israel, a fulfillment in one sense, may in another be a sign of the closure of the West’s historical destiny, just as the Republicans’ failure to score a decisive victory despite the obvious deficiencies of Biden and his administration may be seen as one more sign of the West’s Untergang.
4. More on Wokism
Homo sapiens added an indefinitely self-reflexive/recursive layer to a biological system that had previously evolved by means of the Darwinian process of natural selection. But this biological system itself was not qualitatively changed. The human family was a “natural” institution that, however it came to be modified by cultural developments, did not deviate fundamentally from its normal biological function of preserving the human genome through the generations.
The recent fuss over transgenderism is in many ways a tempest in a teapot, but it is a symptom of a very troublesome tendency, the loss of respect for biological norms that had previously been taken for granted. With the first major disturbance of these norms, the acceptance of homosexual marriage, the difficulty was not posed by having made homosexuals’ lives less onerous, but by the concomitant denial of the biological normality of heterosexuality.
Liberation from norms inevitably brings in its wake the denial of the necessity of these norms, thereby constraining “human nature” in the guise of liberating it. Tolerance never remains merely tolerance; once something becomes permitted, its legality is swiftly transformed into acceptance as full normality. And in the current Woke atmosphere, this in turn leads to the deprecation of the norm itself, which comes to be understood as one more inequitable favoring of one group over others, just as the modern West’s conquest of the world is seen as a violation of reciprocal morality. In however altruistic the terms in which it is expressed, the vicarious adoption of the other’s resentment that we call Wokeness is not a step toward symmetry and reconciliation, but rather a virtue-signaling criticism of the adherents of biologically-based normality.
For this reason, Wokism is often compared to Puritanism, but the self-defined virtues of Puritanism, however severe and even self-destructive, were not hostile to the institutions that preserve the human species. Truly sacrificial behavior, however anti-natural, takes place between the individual and his “soul,” his internal sense of the sacred, before it is directed at others. Even the most extreme forms of Puritanism that lead to such things as self-castration (the Russian Skoptsy), although certainly “unnatural,” do not disturb the normal human universe, within which they are outliers. At worst they may lead numbers of people to destroy or mutilate themselves, but the extremism of such sects isolates them from the general population.
The increasing common claim that all forms of sexuality are morally equivalent is very different. Woke behavior is concerned not with self-chastisement but with the condemnation of others for not agreeing to consecrate the vicarious resentment that defines it. The Woke person’s condemnation of his own ascriptive (“white male”) group becomes concrete only with respect to the recalcitrant members of the group who fail to affirm the Woke criteria of virtue. Needless to say, in the academic world, this way of thinking has opened up vast opportunities for studies purporting to demonstrate that yet one more historical figure or group or tradition must be condemned for having violated these criteria.
A further effect of vicarious resentment is to justify the violation even of norms that no one explicitly denies. Hypocritical puritans may disobey the rules they impose on others, but Puritanism at least claims to restrain everyone’s instincts equally, whereas Wokism overtly permits the “oppressed” to live by less stringent rules than the “oppressors,” as we see in the previously unthinkable yet currently widespread practice of not punishing criminals for “minor” crimes.
The refusal to punish or otherwise discipline is the most dangerous and perverse aspect of Wokism. Even in matters where violence plays no role, discipline itself is increasingly ignored and/or disparaged. Thus students “not allowed to fail” are given passing grades when they neglect to do their assignments, or even attend class.
The Woke refusal to punish what are dismissed as “petty” crimes is anything but a mode of Christian forgiveness, nor is it carried out with the purpose of improving its beneficiaries in any but a material sense. On the contrary, this perverse form of Woke resentment is effectively directed against the victim of the crime, whose right to redress is denied, as if in punishment of his appeal to social authority in its role as oppressor. Nor does this tendency reflect any real sympathy for the criminals themselves. It is rather a mode of complicity, of collaboration with the criminal in his “critique” of the society as ultimately to blame when he, like Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread, is “obliged” to commit the crime.
It is a mistake to call Wokism a “religion,” but here as in other similar cases (communism, Fascism), the difficulty is easily resolved by the realization that, as GA proposes, before socially accepted religion, we are subject to its implicit principle, the “sense of the sacred” lodged in what we can simply call our soul. Wokism retains our elementary moral sense from the originary event and, as what seems to me the ultimate stage of the epistemology of resentment, condemns in its name the “inequitable” society as a whole. It is through this condemnation alone that the Woke do penance for reaping the benefits of this society.
We may disapprove of all this, but can we be sure that similar attitudes are not destined to dominate all modern societies, with the sole exception of those like China, who rather than relying on the market exchange of goods and political ideas, prefer to submit to the incarnation of a national ideal in the person of a supreme ruler?
Yet perhaps, as some of our wiser pundits have suggested, the Right’s relative failure in this current election may be an inaugural step back to a healthier democracy in which, while recognizing Donald Trump’s invaluable contribution to American politics by making us aware of the dangers of the Left’s increasing radicalization—a task only possible for someone effectively immune to it, with all the “insensitivity” that this implies—we can move on to less problematic figures, notably Ron DeSantis, who emerges from this election with a major personal victory as well as the example of moving his large, formerly “swing” state (recall the 2000 election!) well into the Republican column. Rather than a great triumph in 2022, how much more useful and satisfying will be such a triumph in 2024! I know there are counter-arguments, but I prefer to end on this note.
** Adam Katz has brought to our attention a text: (https://theconservativetreehouse.com/blog/2022/11/13/the-modern-electioneering-process-of-ballot-submission-assistance-is-taking-center-stage/), which raises the real danger that, unless a firm halt is called to the persistence of Covid-era electoral procedures—extended voting period, generalized mail balloting, pre-registration of drivers and others licensed by the state…—conservatives will never again benefit from fair elections.