Slouching Towards the End of History

time fliesby Glenn Fairman  8/25/14
The famous (or once famous) psychologist Emile Coue’ initiated a school of hypnotic auto-suggestion that can be summed up with the phrase: “Every day and every way, things are getting better.” This mantra raises optimism to the caliber of a secular faith, and if we combine this mental fancy with History’s supposed “inevitable” impetus towards technological and moral progress, then sooner or later it’s a lead pipe cinch that we will be able to lasso our own happiness or legislate good intentions with the twitch of our noses.  One can see the upshot of such a psychological conviction in Obama’s recent remark—a declaration that “the world is less violent that it has ever been.”  Note to history: you are falling on your ass. Islam Ascendant is setting fires throughout Gaia and its zeitgeist is wholly inconsistent with a Golden Age –unless you are in the camp of the “Religion of Peace.” To this charge, one may recall Tacitus’ dictum: “We created a wasteland, and named it peace.”  So in all fairness, the perspective of the “peace of the dead” is perhaps Islam’s unique contribution to humanity.

The idea present in all philosophical theories of historical/social evolution, from H.G. Wells to G.W. F. Hegel, is that progress is deterministic. Thus, Enlightenment and the “March of God” in the world are on virtual autopilot.  And even if Hegel’s God willed Hitler’s global bloodbath, the world is nevertheless moving towards greater and greater conjoining spheres of freedom, till eventually, we all arrive at the front porch of the End of History. Ding Dong! Can we have an Enlightenment Sandwich, please?

The Hegelian Philosopher Francis Fukuyama produced his prescient tome “The End of History” when I was still in Grad School, and the thesis was this: Communism was as dead as a doornail and the last great dialectic had been resolved in favor of liberal democracy’s blessed synthesis.  Thereafter, the procession of world regimes would halt, philosophy would disappear and the political art would content itself to a mere tinkering around utopia’s edges.  God as History, (Big “H”) in grand Teutonic fashion, would soon unveil Himself in the cloak of “the world homogenous state.” Indeed, the Aquarian Age seemed at hand and liberalism as a force had prevailed.  Now all restaurants would be Taco Bell.

The only problem was that someone forgot to memo Fundamentalist Islam…or Mr. Putin for that matter. Sometimes dialectics don’t remain synthesized.

But seriously folks: The niggling question remained: how can the procession of greater freedom in the world be driven by a process that was deterministic –or “unfree?”  The answer, I suppose, is that you just have to get your mind right and embrace the utopia that’s coming around the bend like a cattle car bound for Auschwitz.  In Rousseau’s terms, you may be “forced to be free:” which casts a pall on those Aquarian prognostications of free love, free stuff, and maybe having enough weed to take the edge off the mental hospitals and concentration camps that will house the retrograde non-compliant – Bad-Thinkers all.  If Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, then Freedom is an unmarked plot – six feet from head to toe.

As for Historical Determinism, I call B.S. I believe we live in the best of all possible worlds, considering that pesky thing called free will that God felt obligated to grant us. Indeed, automatons can’t love, create or enjoy beauty in a meaningful way, and these characteristics are the greatest attributes of the Christian God. But free will hasn’t been a cakewalk. After getting the bum’s rush out of the Garden, we had to toughen up a lot and get used to life amongst the thorns and toadstools.  It’s no paradise, but it’s the only game in town since it is a logical impossibility for God to create beings that are both free and incapable of choosing the sour over the sweet —like crafting the proverbial one ended stick. Because of that sin and disobedience thing, we won’t get around to building that heaven on earth a la  Star Trek. However, we are promised, if we are somewhat faithful, that in the next life the worm in our characters will be dug out and that every tear shall be dried. So we got that going for us. Until then, we have to use the better part of our discretion and not set our hearts on the promises of every teleprompter genius with a crappy golf handicap. In the long view, the procession of history has its irony built-in, and even some of the greatest minds have revealed themselves as Bozos when it all shook out.  Hubris is the downfall of the intellectual class, and the fashioning of the City of Man is always subject to that same fatal flaw: that men could not read the tea leaves of their own natures and were infatuated with their own intoxicating brilliance. Sort of like the audacity of the audacious.

If we keep in mind that nothing is inevitable, then we have a good chance of retaining our freedoms and our humility. Historically, sometimes the barbarian who has done his push-ups wins out over the Progressive longhairs speculating on beauty in their thinkatoriums and enjoying Opera Night at the Kennedy Center. What Fundamentalist Islam lacks in technology, they make up in incalculable viciousness, guile, and inexorable demographics. If we are not careful, Fukuyama’s End of history may come to pass. However, it won’t be characterized by cheap tolerance and materialist glut, but by Burkas and the universal homogeneity of the Caliphate. The irony that attends prophecy, even the Modern intellectual variety, is renowned for its cruel turns.

In contrast, our Founders, knowing what jerks even the best of us could be, built their sober edifice on lower but firmer ground — preferring to sidestep the charge of imprudence and impiety that comes with building lofty towers to hurl spears at the Face of Providence. Instead of constructing that terrible heaven of liberte’, egalite’, and fraternite’  — with its razor sharp Guillotines of Reason, our Framers humbly erected those drab, inefficient and provincial bulwarks — thwarting the accumulation of unmixed power and hamstringing the inevitable explosive association of smart guys like Obama and their dark propensity towards political catastrophe. In the end, those bitten by the “Will to Utopia” bug remain suspect, just as their policies are the same tinderbox they have always been — ever since Nimrod got his first big idea while sizing up the neighborhood.  When it all comes down to dust, Ozymandias’ eternal monument is just another surface for a Bedouin to urinate against.

Because they believed in the possibility of human freedom, our Political Fathers made provision to maintain liberty through combining the enigmatic tension of our greatest strength and weakness: the wary skepticism of placing our necks on the chopping block of our neighbor’s altruism. Considering what they have accomplished, those Dead White Men and their cautious Constitution have proven themselves wise beyond history’s wildest dreams.

Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca.
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7 Responses to Slouching Towards the End of History

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Steven Pinker has argued that violence actually is declining, that even the atrocities of the period from roughly 1930 to 1980 (the half-century of Nazi/Fascist/ Communist mass murder) were less than those of previous centuries. This assumes that older death counts are accurate (and represent actually mass murder rather than incidental deaths due to starvation and disease). It also fails to consider the possibility that as the US chooses not to be a dominant superpower, and no one else is capable of replacing it (at least in a reasonably benevolent fashion), that trend can reverse at any moment. Given the opportunity, ISIS could easily outdo Pol Pot.

  2. Uncle! I’m crying Uncle! Wow — you, of course, said all that so much better than I, but I’m so glad you said it. I’m sick of playing pretend; Shangri-La was lovely, but you couldn’t leave — and perhaps folks are starting to realize that. Love “thinkatorium.”

    • Glenn Fairman says:

      Deana: I was so impressed with your article that I started writing a comment. The comment ballooned into this. Thank you for your inspiration. I still like yours better.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    That was some nice off-the-cuff rant. Deana, see what you’ve inspired? (That is, it’s your fault.) 😉

    Alright, since Deana has chosen the role of progenitor (sort of the T-cell of this here community), let me give it a stab:

    Oh…geez…what was the subject again?

    I guess Progressives view their ideology like building an atom bomb. If you can get enough minds together thinking the same pleasant thoughts, you’ll gain critical mass and there’ll be an explosion of Kumbaya that will blow away all the bad things and nature can return to the equilibrium of Enlightenment Sandwiches. (Enlightenment Sandwiches?)

    It’s an interesting theory. It’s even somewhat workable from the standpoint of culture and the propensity of humans to herd. But the problem is, such an orientation doesn’t know what to do with the wolves — so much so that they sneak in like a virus and may even be elected to the highest offices. After all, if you say the right words, that is all that matters, for the Enlightenment Sandwich that they all hope to feast off of is based on the principle of incantation, not reality.

    Have I added anything new to the conversation? Oh, I hope not. All that I can really and sincerely say is that I give a slight favor to those who envision rainbows and puppy dog tails as opposed to those who envision bathing us all in blood. That progressives tend to facilitate the latter shows how thin their moral veneer is, although it may be shiny like a chromed bumper.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    Of course, I could not leave out this quote from the finest dystopian movie this side of Blade Runner—Demolition Man

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I love that movie. And I forgot all about The Green Giant jingle being sung in the background by a lounge singer. Funny.

  5. Cato says:

    “As for Historical Determinism, I call B.S.”

    LOL! A more accurate term would be Historical Exterminism, as there is not one single instance of a socialist paradise lasting more than about 80 years. The USSR self-disassembled without a shot being fired. Mao’s China was ripped to pieces and replaced with one-party capitalism ‘with a Chinese face’ before Mao’s body was cold. One socialist heaven after another resolved into a killing field and ultimately melted away … Marx (Karl, not Groucho) got that part right at least. Socialist states do wither.

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