The Implosion of the Elephant . . .

Almost thirty years ago, after reading Francis Schaeffer’s “Marking the Watershed,”[1] I had extrapolated that a similar dynamic due to an inherent ideological schism at the heart of the American experiment would invariably lead to civil war. Having had deep interest in U.S. history and civics; and a more impartial, albeit foreign understanding of American affairs than the myopic and partisan-skewed perspective of those living with that present cauldron; I had viewed the Sixties and Seventies, the warning shots of the present confrontation which threatens to turn violent, as the inevitable consequence of a long unravelling of a marriage of convenience between the third stream of Protestant/Evangelical Christianity and that of (largely English/Scottish) Enlightenment liberalism. The support of Madison/Jefferson on behalf of the incarcerated Baptist preachers against the Established State Churches in Virginia was symptomatic and symbolic of that larger ideological alliance.

With the early 1990 recession, I was detecting the opening strains of a widening disparity of income, wealth, and the underlying economic power leverage that undergirds that r > g dynamic. To put Piketty’s formula in laymen’s language; if corporate profits (rate of return on capital) consistently rise faster than economic growth, instead of a rough balance in the distribution of that economic growth as had occurred between 1945 and 1975, a widening income inequality and the concentration of wealth and the means of production was inevitable. Having complained to my father, a couple of years prior, about the larger economic consequences on wage earners, of which he was one, in his aspiration for a 7–10% real rate of return on his investments, I could hardly disagree with Piketty, who to his credit provided incontrovertible statistical proof (to what is or should be intuitive common sense) in order to pre-empt and overcome the sophistries and mendacities of the corporate shills.

Knowing my Bible (“Woe to them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the middle of the earth!” – Isaiah 5:8), and the histories of Sparta (Lycurgus), Athens (Draco and Solon), the late Roman Republic, and the French, Russian, and Cuban Revolutions; it is a historical truism that extreme imbalances in socioeconomic power and wealth between the social classes invariably leads to civic, social, and political inequality, two-tier justice, civic schism and social wars, the end of free civic polities, autocracy, and the economic and/or literal culling of the elites, who have isolated themselves in their Juvenalian contempt for the “deplorables” and their welfare.

Finally, in reading Christopher Lasch’s “The Revolt of the Elites” (1995), I could perceive the third leg of that civic schism, between the cosmopolitanism of the largely corporatist elite who have more in common with fellow cosmopolitans in the urban islands throughout the world against those of the hinterland, who still believed in the national heritage. I saw demagogic champions, purported tribunes of the people around the temporal corner, although I did not anticipate that it would come in the form of Trump.

On this basis, I concluded in a rejected submission to The Nation and The Atlantic in 2011/2, that America faced imminent civic schism and war on the crucible of what I iconically coined, Adam Smith, the Bible, and the Constitution (ABC). In a more general sense, since these dynamics can be detected throughout the globe; there is an ideological struggle between the descendants of Abraham (religion) and Plato against those descendants of Thales (naturalism) and Pyrrho (skepticism); an economic struggle as consequence of the inherent flaws within advanced capitalism; and a cultural struggle between the advocates of cosmopolitanism (which is as old as the ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire established by Cyrus the Great (ca. 550 BC)) and those of the various and disparate national heritages throughout the world. The struggle in Egypt since the so-called Arab Spring, the turnback from Ataruk’s secularist policies in Turkey, the Brexit plebiscite, and Marine Le Pen’s declamation of cosmopolitanism in the recent French Presidential Election; all are symptoms of the global nature of schism.

However, like 18th century France, or early 20th century Germany, America is the avant garde of this civic division, discord, and war. I do not believe that America has more than five years before it turns violent, bloody, and spectacularly and monumentally disruptive to the global order. The tell-tale symptoms of imminent civil war are erupting faster than one can keep tabs.

Specific to the American sociopolitical landscape, there has preceded in each of the civic disruptions (American Revolution, Civil War) religious schism. While schism and separation between northern and southern factions of the same denominations in the decades prior to the American Civil war are commonly known, less known is the theological and ecclesiastic divisions as consequence of the First Great Awakening and the deporting of Anglican/Episcopalian divines in the 1780s to Canada, Britain, the West Indies and British colonies elsewhere.

In common with the decades prior to the American Civil War and in civic disturbances elsewhere, the governing leaders since Junior Bush (2001–9) have proven as singularly incompetent and hapless as they are arrogant.

Strange and soulless forms of sexuality are being paraded like Sodom, consistent precursors of other civic disruption (e.g. Weimar Republic, the Marquis de Sade, Catallus). Corruption abounds and private morality and civic virtues have taken the last train to the coast.

Judgment is turned away backward, and justice stands afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yes, truth fails; and he that departs from evil makes himself a prey.

– Isaiah 59:14–15a

The center has clearly collapsed. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” The necessary ingredients for free civic polities, that of, for instance, a common and sure-footed civic language is dissipating and undermined by a general assault on objective truth (as epitomized by the subjective and solipsistic definition of gender which others are socioeconomically pressured to give sanction) and on truthfulness. If truth be the first casualty of war, the nation is well on its tumble down that rabbit hole. And other axes of division (e.g. race, gender, religion) are proliferating like weeds.

Indeed, the war has already begun but conducted through the civic, bureaucratic, “deep state,” and judicial organs of government. Like the late Weimar Republic, (which involved both radical right and radical left paramilitary groups), low level mob violence and harassment are erupting in increasing frequency. Talk of factionalist discord and violence are now in the reader’s and listener’s face, (which but only five years ago was confined to the fringes of the sociopolitical spectrum). Laments and forlorn appeals for compromise and unity are falling on deaf ears while vehement and vitriolic partisans from both primary factions have resorted to yellow journalism and dehumanizing epithets of their sociopolitical adversaries. “The way of peace have they not known” (Romans 3:17). Like many a divorce, one faction’s existential integrity is deemed threatened by the continued relationship with the other. The larger sociopolitical schism is already setting brother against brother, and dividing and destroying marriages and families.

To reprise and revise Lord Chesterfield’s observation[2] concerning the present circumstances:

In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met with in History, previous to great civil wars and systemic changes in governmental structures, now exist and daily increase in America.’

[1] Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1984, pp. 43–66, http://www.bible-researcher.com/schaeffer1.html.

[2] Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, London: Chapman & Hall, 1837, 1.1.II. “Such things can the eye of History see in this sick-room of King Louis, which were invisible to the Courtiers there. It is twenty years, gone Christmas-day, since Lord Chesterfield, summing up what he had noted of this same France, wrote, and sent off by post, the following words, that have become memorable: ‘In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met with in History, previous to great Changes and Revolutions in government, now exist and daily increase in France.’ (Chesterfield’s Letters: December 25th, 1753.)”

Do-Overs! Do-Overs!

Being a foreigner to the “mother country,” I cannot honestly say that I studiously followed and agonized about the Brexit referendum. My current fascination is purely academic.

But I am bemused by the condescension of many within the Remain camp who frame the vote outcome in terms of a sociopolitical schism between urban Cosmopolitans and the less well-educated and Nativist know-nothings. Well; not in so many words.

In that context, I become doubly bemused when the cosmopolitan effetes, including a former minister for higher education, demand a do-over referendum, after thrashing the shires to uncover a few dyslexic rubes who checked the wrong box, or who didn’t realize that after a messy divorce, there is quite normally a temporary dislocation cost.

There is even a parliamentary petition, signed, to date, by 3.5 million presumably actual  Remain voters who claim a moral political right for a do-over because the plebiscite did not garner a sufficient quorum (turnout) and super-majority.

We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum.

Being resident of a nation in which one province sought a divorce in 1995 on the basis of a fifty percent plus one vote, I concur that such a set of conditions would be prudent. Bare majorities over significant political changes can easily become formulas for civic conflagration within that jurisdiction.

However, such a post-hoc rule might have rational and ethical credibility if it was signed prior to the vote outcome. Free civic polities can only remain free civic polities if all factions respect the rules of the “game.” As it is, the petitioners remind me of little children screeching, “Do-overs! Do-overs!” or the Grim Reaper in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.

(Irony is that the petition was created by an adherent of the Leave camp in May 2016, prior to the vote, but also for less than principled reasons, fearing that his preferred option would not rule the day.)

But before ridiculing these well-educated cosmopolitans for failing Civics 101, it should first be noted that this petition may not  represent the feelings of U.K. citizens and residents. I signed the petition from this Brampton, Ontario flat on behalf of Bea(trice) McTavish of Port of Ness, Outer Hebrides (postal code – HS2 0TG), and on behalf Tom, Dick, and Harry, their 2,947 children, and in-house midwife. Well actually . . . only Bea McTavish; just to see if it was possible.

The more absurd petition is the one over at change.org, signed by 172K cosmopolitan Londoners, or so we presume, to Declare London independent from the UK and apply to join the EU. A mere quarter century after another beleaguered European city, isolated deep within a distinct and adversarial jurisdiction, was freed of its predicament and wall; these ninnies advocate that a land-locked city within a larger geographical landmass pursue similar geographical isolation. How would that work? Will they erect a Great Wall and commission Donald Trump to build it to keep the rubes out and effetes in? If there is a diplomatic tiff between London and England, and the latter closes access in order to put diplomatic pressure, will the EU organize a great airlift to London?

No doubt that these well-educated cosmopolitans are reasoning with their feelings. Nevertheless, I had previously believed that the stupefaction of the highly educated was only an American phenomenon.