It was a time of catastrophic technological change. Long afterward, in the less regimented, more prosperous world that followed, people asked: how could they have been so blind?
It was a time of transparency. Real transparency, quite unlike the foolish promises of previous politicians blinded by their narcissism, and nothing like the rotten assurances of the decrepit Gray Lady who had, in her time, turned a blind eye to the Holocaust and hidden the horrors of Holodomor, the depravity of the Gulags to praise collectivist systems that devoured people and dreams and spit out nothing but misery and dehumanization and a boot stepping on a human face forever.
Now, suddenly, they couldn’t make their picked man, their chosen one into the harbinger of that great collectivist future. They couldn’t snigger behind their hands at the unwashed people who’d never know of his faux pas. Oh, they did what they could, that guard of journalistic castrati protecting the corpse of a corrupt and bloated bureaucracy. But enough slipped through the cracks that most people knew something was wrong: the Summer of Recovery that resided in some unspecified future conditional; the idea that his face would appease Islam’s irate warriors was undone by the beheadings the Jihadists insisted on posting on Youtube; the way the Light Bringer seemed to be in the dark when bereft of a teleprompter.
It was a time of danger. The news in common people’s hands. This strange power of broadcasting to the world, of entertaining the world, of breaking — after so long — the monopoly of communication that the industrial revolution had brought with it, made it seem like the world was coming apart.
The president himself: that man of the last century, formed by two generations of devout communists, instead of facing the problems with an aggressive Russia; his loss of control in the Middle East; his inability to implement his cherished –socialized medicine dream with any degree of credibility — not to mention efficiency, ability or financial sanity — his sudden realization that no, the American people weren’t hankering to be invaded from the South; then tilted that patrician nasal appendage of his to the sky and proclaimed it was all the fault of social media.
In this moment he admitted the truth. It was not unlike the moment in Scooby Doo cartoons when the villain howls “I could have got away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids.” And why shouldn’t he feel that way? His idol FDR turned a recession into a depression but thanks to the lack of the meddling kids of blogs, Youtube, internet, no one knew. The eunuch press covered for him and held laurels above his inflated image for decades.
That the common man even knew the country was in danger now, and that the world was in the hands of an intellectual poseur who held no affection for America or the American people, was the fault of this rank, disorganized, non-hierarchical ability to report the news. Those meddling kids!
Which meant everyone knew there was danger, but the danger the elites saw was, most of all, from those they wished to make their subjects.
It was a time of breakup. The industrial revolution required great territory, great influxes of raw material. Breaking out from the cottage industry of Europe and into something that could produce enough material goods to make the world more prosperous than it had ever been required an agglomeration of territories, a centralization of capital and of production. It was this centralization that allowed that madman, Marx — scribbling away, grifting off Engels, unable to produce anything or even support his own family — to dream that he could create a perfect system, that concentrating the decision- making power in bureaucrats, in intellectuals, in people like Marx would bring about utopia.
He could dream this because the technology of the time of necessity required big investment and large hierarchical ventures.
Then in the twenty first century, like a great wave receding, the tide was finally going out on all this centralization and top-down fabrication. Oh, not completely. It would linger for a while, just like fragmented, family agriculture lingered and was the occupation of most people for centuries into the industrial revolution. But slowly, inexorably, the great dinosaur of twentieth century tech was being replaced by the small, fast mammal of twenty first century customized, personalized, individualized, fabricated at home, 3-d printed tech.
An economy too long in thrall to the all-encompassing state could no longer function, and the replacements were of a different type. The great edifice of socialist bureaucracy across the world was collapsing under the strain of those who could vote themselves bread and circus and the fools who would encourage it. And the people who could still produce had to do it around the system.
It was a time of Kipling:
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”
And those that were working, even those who worked for others, were forced by the bloated bureaucracy (and in the US the antediluvian structure of Obamacare and its long dreamed-of socialist work week of 30 hours), to become contractors, individual strivers cast into the merciless world to work or die. And such individuals were less likely to wish to vote for a distant, faceless authority or to submit to a government so distant from the individual and its surroundings as to know nothing about it. They weren’t looked after: not by their employer, not by anyone.
When you can’t trust the government to look after you, you realize the power does rest in “us the people.”
The threatened separation of a land annexed in the fire and blood of the English Civil war could be viewed as foolish or as a tantrum, yes. Or it could be viewed as the precursor tremor to the earthquake of demand for greater local power, for a reverting to more responsive national or even smaller authority in Europe and for a greater empowering of local authority in the States, an authority more conforming to the US Constitution which had been tramped underfoot for too long.
It was a time of elite triumph. A time when they tried to bind down the giant that was the USA. A time when they ran abroad blazoning their theories and doctrines, and their certainty that once the US was brought down to the level of every other country, the world would be a better place.
It was a time of elite humiliation. They followed their Marxist religion. They discussed it and argued it in their classrooms, in their select parties, in their editorial offices. For decades, it had been the underpinning of every news article, every book and every movie that was allowed out and in front of the public.
In this pretty bubble they’d constructed, the improbable seemed not only possible but inevitable. They’d humiliate the US and bring her down. They’d concentrate all the power in Europe in one great unelected body. They’d enhance the self-esteem of countries that hadn’t contributed anything to civilization for centuries.
And then peace would flourish and the land would run with milk and honey.
Instead, they got beheadings and crucifixions, they got tyrants triumphant, they got Putin rampaging and they got bloggers and youtube dogging their steps.
And they got scared. Really scared. So scared that they were willing to quote Kipling whom they’d long tried to banish from curricula for being imperialist, racist, sexist and, above all, for the triad of crimes of being white, male and dead.
They quoted him, but they didn’t understand him.
Which was why:
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
And it was unpleasant for everyone. And terrifying for the elites. Fortunately the elites weren’t the world. Out there, on the ground, the people they despised, had learned to strive and thrive for themselves.
In the world that emerged after the inevitable turmoil: a world more oriented to the individual; a world when the old lie of collectivism simply wasn’t feasible; they looked back and wondered how the elites could have been so blind and how they could have thought the sky was falling, when it was only their Marxist papier-mache sky and their gaslight false sun.
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit Readers, and thank you to Glenn Reynolds for the link.