Are we approaching a kind of cultural collapse?
I’ve been pointing out how, during the immigrant crisis, the default mode of European governments has been to piss on people’s shoes and complain about the rain: dozens of people murdered in Paris? How awful! If only there were someone, somewhere, who could so something about it! By the way, here is another million migrants for you to share neighborhoods with.
But isn’t this the mode of politicians here in America too?
Put simply, nobody in American elite life — not in politics, not in finance, not in the intellectual world — has been able to find a convincing explanation for the transformative negative changes that characterize our time. These changes are spiritually and possibly literally earth-shattering. The family is falling apart and being redefined at the same time. Incomes have stagnated. Small stateless actors with global reach due to the Internet threaten the disruption and destruction of everyday life in places major (Paris) and minor (San Bernardino). And for many the ethnic complexion of America is changing in ways it has never changed before.
According to Podhoretz, ultimately Sanders and Trump are pointing out that the people running the show are running it quite nicely for themselves (Washington DC has, just recently, become America’s wealthiest metropolitan area) and quite badly for everyone else. The causes they champion, from globalization to mass immigration have both winners and losers; they are always the winners, never the losers. Trump says the problem is that the leaders don’t know how to lead, Sanders says the leaders are rigging the game.
Of course, in their own minds the leaders don’t see themselves as rigging the game, nor do they see themselves as failures. They are highly educated by the standards of the day, and feel they belong to a meritocracy. If they were simple cowards or hypocrites, there would not be much of a problem. Eventually someone who is not a coward or hypocrite would end up in a position of authority.
But what if nobody has the capacity to see problems as they are, if nobody has the intellectual categories to rethink problems from new perspectives, then we are in a deadly serious situation. Civilizations are blind the the problems that eventually destroy them.