The murder of five white police officers in Dallas, immediately following the fatal shootings of a black man in Louisiana and another in Minnesota, gave President Obama the opportunity to engage in still another of the flights of soaring clichés and wafting banalities for which his admirers celebrate him; Hillary Clinton the chance to demonstrate once again that she is a towering bore even to her own followers; and the national media to indulge themselves in one more of their countless exercises in determining what the public reaction to that and similar events should be, and convincing the American public that the response is indeed what they are experiencing spontaneously.
In Dallas the President spoke of the many families he has hugged following similar incidents during his seven and a half years in office and of the inadequacy of his own words in addressing the nation; of the need to "build bridges" to prevent people from "hardening their positions" and "drawing lines" as they "retreat to their respective corners"; and of politicians' responsibility to resist "grabbing attention" and "avoiding the fallout." Obama counseled against a fear that "the center won’t hold"—an attitude he condemned as "despair," though he did concede that "it’s as if the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened." Mrs. Clinton, speaking in Springfield, Illinois, sternly lectured her proximate audience and the country at large on gun violence, economic inequality, and "overreliance" on the police in curing social ills. She quoted Lincoln’s warning about "a house divided," exhorted white Americans to listen more closely to the complaints of black ones, called for a "national conversation" on race, and wrapped up her remarks with the promise that, "if we do the work, we will cease to be divided." Both her address and the President’s were speeches that anyone could have written, and indeed anybody appears to have done. Lastly, the media swanned around, bowing their violins as they described “a nation in mourning” swamped by "waves of grief," apparently oblivious to the observable fact that the vast majority of Americans, generally indifferent to any but their own personal concerns, wondered absently why the flags on their local government buildings should be at half-mast again, a thing that happens every week or two these days. As for those people who do pay attention to the news and to politics, most of them seem to feel contempt, disgust, and an impersonal skepticism regarding the future of the United States rather than grief, whether genuine or of the ersatz variety.
In the week following the Fourth of July the politicians and the media were the institutional face of a mass, elephantine, continental but otherwise formless, pluralistic and multicultural, postdemocratic, digitalized, impersonal, incoherent, and increasingly ungovernable society whose calculated purpose in formally addressing the nation is not to give it the truth it might or might not desire but only to pacify it, mollify it, and direct its response into officially predetermined and approved channels. As these politicians and the institutions they staff are almost entirely disconnected from the people whom they claim to represent by virtue of having been elected by them (or appointed by their elected representatives), the natural result is rhetorical falsity, artificiality, banality, and ultimate futility: communication that communicates nothing despite its phony personal, folksy touches and whose sole aim is to create a type of false consciousness among the public. The office of president was designed by the Framers to be that of Chief Executive of the United States, not her High Priest or Consoler in Chief—a conveniently disingenuous part for modern presidents to play when they are really aspiring to the role of American Mikado.
In his reference to "fault lines" Obama seems to have meant the racial divide, in particular the divide between black and white. But the situation is infinitely more complicated than that. America is not simply divided; she is fractured in a craze of spreading lines and hairlines that trace the boundaries of ideological, cultural, religious, ethnic, and racial rivalries and resentments. (As I write, the morning New York Times reports that the recent attention given the killings of blacks by the police is encouraging Mexican and other Latino activists to seek to appropriate some of it for themselves by demanding that the cameras—and the politicians—turn round now to face their way.)
The country is reaping the burden of a history shaped since 1865 by liberal thought and liberal politics. First came the “reunion” of North and South—in fact, no reunion at all but the forcible union of the institutional components of two broadly dissimilar geographic, social, and political regions that from 1789 until 1865 were considered by the Founding Fathers and their descendants as sovereign states linked in voluntary and equal compact with one another. National “union” at the cost of 618,222 men was succeeded by decades of the unrestrained free enterprise (excepting the tariff) favored by economic liberalism and a century and a half of increasingly liberal jurisprudence, liberalizing religion, liberalizing education, liberal secular metaphysics (described by George Santayana in Character & Opinion in the United States, published in 1920), liberalizing psychology, sociology, and economics, and their practical application: social engineering, the mass immigration of increasingly unlike, incompatible, and unassimilable peoples, multiculturalism, and the ensuing social confusion, resentment, chaos, and public violence. Contrary to what the politicians promise, no political solution is possible for America’s contemporary "problems," better described as "conditions." (Where there’s no solution, there’s no problem.) What used to be called the art of politics has long since become the abuse of it; while the most skillful government, unable to override or cancel history, is incapable of “solving,” or even adequately coping with, troubles of the fundamentally nonpolitical sort—what the country is experiencing today. And not the United States alone, but all the Western democracies. As the U.S. grapples ineffectually with racially motivated violence, the European countries struggle helplessly to combat terrorist attacks by citizens as well as foreign enemies. On both sides of the Atlantic—in Washington and Paris, in Berlin and Brussels—governments are paralyzed by their inability to devise solutions to their respective crises compatible with the scruples of the liberal creed and the liberal agenda that have given form and meaning to their national projects for two centuries. An efficient solution for racial strife and terrorism on the present scale can only be an illiberal one, and liberal governments (and the media) know this. Liberalism is no longer capable of controlling liberally the liberal society for which it is responsible, and so far it appears that liberals would prefer to see their liberal world destroyed by barbarians, foreign and domestic, than to rescue it by illiberal means.
Science, the social "sciences," technology and technocracy, and universal affluence have encouraged modern people to imagine that humanity has conquered what used to be called "the human condition," and that every perceived social, economic, and political "problem" is now remedial by one technique or another, or simply by a sufficient sum of money thrown at it. But societies, like biological bodies, are ultimately self-healing, though artificial treatments can be devised to assist and promote the natural process. And though what we call society is a body only in the metaphorical sense, an organically malfunctioning society also must heal itself finally by the social equivalent of natural, organic means. The opportunistic and racially exploitive liberal politicians; the sensationalist, left-wing, antiwhite mediacrats; and the Marxist multicultural academy who have implicitly sanctioned and encouraged racially aggressive organizations like Black Lives Matter and La Raza are, as the agents significantly responsible for the Western disease, naturally incapable of curing it, even if they wished to (which they don’t). Instead, they can only aggravate the illness and its symptoms, as they are busily and enthusiastically doing in the face of social and political catastrophe. Healthy social and moral responses (beginning with religious ones) can only arise naturally, spontaneously, and even unconsciously, often without direct aim or seeming purpose, though a society reconstituted from liberalism’s demise will likely bear little resemblance to its predecessor, even if it manages to escape the tyranny that has followed historically on the collapse of democratic regimes. In any event, and under whatever form of government, racial antagonism in the United States and elsewhere is certain to persist in greater or lesser degree as the intractable problem it is today, and always has been, in racially mixed societies. Liberalism’s vision of a postracial society is a cruel, illusory, futile, and ultimately destructive dream, while a nation that cannot reconcile itself to reality will certainly drive itself mad, as America has been doing for many decades now. Yet the alternative to postracial politics is not white (or black or brown) “identitarian” politics; it is postutopian politics—in the context of the present era, postliberal politics.
Liberal thought and the liberal agenda as it has evolved over the past two or three centuries are as exhausted early on in the 21st century as the liberal societies they have created. That is why liberalism today is showing its conservative aspect: its intellectual and dispositional rigidity, and its intolerant ambition to prevail in the end by establishing its formless, irrational creed everywhere. Liberalism never gives up. But liberalism, confronted by the insuperable ideological contradictions of a world of its own creation, has run out of the ideas necessary to maintain that world. Its intellectual exhaustion is becoming obvious to more and more people in the West, and beyond. As the modern ancien régime, the liberal establishment is finding itself the enemy of a new Third Estate that has not been served but rather blocked and oppressed by it—people to whom liberals have nothing to say, while deriding them as ignorant "populists" motivated by class resentment, ignorance, and racial hatred. Liberals refuse to recognize that the new Western democratic movements, motivated by exploitive economies and transformative immigration policies, resent above everything liberalism’s refusal ever to let up in its efforts to realize a more and more perfect society—and to let up on the people whom they must reform and dragoon in order to get there by forcing them into unnatural and inhuman pathways. Because no society can ever prevent or eradicate every social and political evil or imperfection, each society needs to decide for itself which of these ills it should be prepared to accept as being simply a part of the human condition, and which not. But that is a decision liberals, and liberalism, are intellectually and temperamentally incapable of making, especially in regard to the matter of race, which has become their paramount—indeed, their beloved—obsession.Originally Published by Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture AUGUST 04, 2016