What Happened: Millennial Edition
A Primer To The Fake-Accented Yoda & the Grifter Leviathan
In the Beginning
So you went to college and majored in … it doesn’t matter. You didn’t hear this story, though you know it well because you’re living it. The New York Times won’t tell you this story, because they don’t understand it either. And yet the burning Targets and toppled statues aren’t some inexplicable deus ex machina but rather are the participation trophies for the Establishment Olympics.
We’ve brought World War One home. Ideological camps barricade themselves in trenches and are launching occasional indiscriminate volleys in the general direction of the other, channeling their energy into promoting the righteousness of their position in order to maintain some partisan enthusiasm over what otherwise appears to be stalemate. At least the digital native soldiers eat Whole Foods kale and not trench rats.
So, the Congress of Vienna established peace and stability for a century in Europe. After Napoleon was done with his imperial shenanigans, Europe divided up Europe to balance powers so that no single nation had too much power. So, as long as you ignore the massive instability, the actual European wars, and that Europe essentially went to war with the rest of the world, the Congress of Vienna totally brought peace.
Then World War One happened, which can be blamed on the Germanic lust for power (according to most) or the British fetish for organizing the world against its will (according to the Germans) or the crumbling of empires and the ensuing instability (according to reality). The legs that upheld the Continental stool — Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman — had largely collapsed. While it’s true that the Ottoman Emperor was more interested in marrying 16-year-old girls than social or political stability, the Ottoman Empire was always built on filling vacuums, not meeting challenges. (Sultan Abdulmejid had 19 wives. He married someone new whenever he got bored). While Sultan Abdul Hamid collected girls, Czar Alexander collected Faberge eggs. Both their empires were collapsing beneath them and would take Europe with them. Leading up to the Fyre Festival of Peace, Britain charged its own people with cavalry, France invaded Germany; France invaded itself, Poles rebelled against Prussian masters … the peace n’ stability list is long.
Anyway, the empires of a continent cannot collapse without causing systemic instability. And that wasn’t the only rain on the peace parade. Italy and Germany were invented, and they felt naked without empires of their own. Germany had grown quickly, and by 1910 (when Germany was about 40 years old), it had become the world’s second largest economy and dominant European culture, mostly fueled by nationalism and debt. So the empires were crumbling, nations were unstable, and Germany had a massive bill to pay. QED World War One.
No problem, though. The Congress of Vienna only failed because we didn’t talk enough. According to the Enlightenment, dialogue builds bridges, which enable resolutions to drive across. And after World War One, we had telephones and a standing committee — oh, we need a name for that standing committee. Herd of Nations? Flock of Nations? Well, we’re not really animals. More like baseball teams. So, Major League of Nations?
So with telephones and standing committees and dialogue, we then had peace for our time (ignore World War Two). Dialogue totally worked. Yay Enlightenment.
By the 1950s, things were going great. The Congress of Vienna would finally prove (again) the mechanism for peace n’ stability (ignore the Korean War, etc). With everyone having nukes (U.S., U.K., France, U.S.S.R.), mutual assured destruction — essentially a fissile Congress of Vienna — would result in stability. Balance of powers. Peace for our time. Sure, institutions were corrupting or collapsing, and the unifying theology of society was more pet rock than Peter’s rock, but assured nuclear destruction ensured that we’d all live a long life in constant fear of annihilation. Yay Enlightenment.
Wait. No one said peace would be easy. There were hiccups such as the Korean War, Vietnam, Tibet, the Soviet’s endless quest to invade everyone. The Peace Yoda was Henry Kissinger, who took the world stage with his Vienna Congress PhD (literally) and his fake mid-century central Europe accent. He would guide us to the promised land with the assistance of the new priesthood of management scientists, led by Robert McNamara (who brought us the stunning success of the Edsel and its sequel, the Vietnam War).
Some liberals couldn’t handle all the global peace and stability. Many of these liberals were Jews, who had the suspicion that the Communists weren’t really that different from the Nazis. So these liberals took a long walk on the beach with better-dead-then-red conservatives, and nine months later neo-cons were born. The anti-Soviet/pro-Israel symbiosis between some liberals and conservatives also catalyzed some to prioritize these issues. And so, Republicans prioritized Soviets-bad/Israel-good and ignored much else in order to appeal to their new girlfriend, the anti-Commie liberal. Small government, conserving western culture, balanced budgets… your new girlfriend didn’t like these things, so you just talked about ways to contain commies. Maybe ‘small government’ was printed on a postcard sent to your constituents — you need to be re-elected — but there was a tacit cease-fire over these issues.
Coming of the Vienna Messiah
Neo-con babies were born impatient with Kissinger’s balance-of-powers religion. They witnessed American boys dying in swamps with Soviet fighter pilots buzzing overhead, the U.S.S.R invade Afghanistan, China invading Tibet/Thailand/Vietnam/etc and develop nukes for Pakistan — and that was just the 1970s. All this peace just felt a little off. They believed in the messiah of liberal democracy and believed if only America could deploy gunboat liberal democracy, then global liberal democracy would swarm across the earth like Enlightenment locusts. After all, the promise of Vienna peace can only exist among liberal democracies, because democracies don’t declare war on each other (ignore all the democracies that have declared war).
So this impatience brought us Reagan, whose “We win. You Lose.” foreign policy was a rejection of Kissinger’s Vienna shamanism, but no one really said that out loud because Kissinger’s accent reminded people of Einstein.
So the new conservatives and old conservatives held hands on the beach, eagerly watching the horizon for the Vienna messiah. And in 1989, he appeared. Poland. Hungary. Czechoslovakia. The Berlin Wall. Finally, the USSR itself. Totalitarian regimes were falling like Romanovs in an Yekaterinburg cellar. And now, peace for our time. For real this time.
The euphoria lasted for a few years. V.S. Naipaul spoke of our universal civilization. Francis Fukuyama penned the modern Acts of the Apostles, now called “The End of History?” (which led to a book, because essays don’t pay). The children of Kissinger and the neo-cons could travel from West Germany to East Germany without the Stasi checking their diapers.
The neocon exodus in the 1970s-1980s from the Democrat party resulted in a party wherein a critical mass of those who linked fascism to communism to authoritarianism were absent. What remained in the Democrat party was an unstable brew of the idealistic young, ignorant of the horrors of state terror, and the cynical old who schemed to channel idealism into power.
Curiously, while the Soviets received criticism for, you know, murdering millions etc etc., they were never banished from polite society as the Fascist (technically Socialist) Nazis were. Marx had just taken Asiatic rule-by-warlord and put Enlightenment lipstick on it, and academics love making over the barbarisms of the past with Enlightenment cosmetics. Besides, if 1989 was the beginning of the end of history — the triumphal victory of liberal democracy — then we must find a way to ignore Tiananmen Square. Thousands of students ground under the treads of tanks and washed down sewers were damnatio memoriae’d along with a thousand other Asiatic and Middle East atrocities. The apostles of the fake accented yoda ignored the rotting flesh in Beijing sewers.
Both the establishment left and right had been stoned on the myth of progress and subsumed by the Enlightenment promise that dialogue begets solutions. Sure, we didn’t find a diplomatic resolution to the problem of Marxist murder and mayhem, but we didn’t nuke each other and then the U.S.S.R. died. No one was about to sober up, so the collapse of the USSR was progress, signaling the ascendancy of global liberal democracy. From the swamps of Washington, D.C., yoda had levitated the statue of liberty for the world to see. We all felt the force.
The kooks of the Democratic party had been lurking in university faculty lounges and government bureaucracies. In those halcyon days of liberal democracy rapture, this husk of progressives received their marching orders and they slouched out towards classrooms and HR offices. Politically, though, there was a problem. Marxism wasn’t going to get elected in America in 1990.
Republicans appeased their new neo-con friends by becoming more like Democrats — or, at least, relegating conservative values to lip service. Democrats kept their Marxist swamp under wraps by politically becoming more like Republicans. And so, the U.S. political parties merged such that eight years of Clinton looked largely indistinguishable from eight years of Bush, and both parties became more defined not by the solutions they proposed but by the atrocities they ignored. The parties maintained the contours of difference — e.g. abortion — to signal to the masses that there persisted some value in voting. No, this wasn’t one of those third-world democracies wherein you may vote all you want but you’re essentially voting for the same thing or the same person. You totally have choices, just listen to cable news. Totally different parties…
Effectively, the major parties become one and then merged with corporatists to create The Establishment, which you didn’t see at the time because your culture long ago terminated your ability to perceive reality outside of your indoctrination. Genuine political and corporate tension evaporated. Parties and politics that may have found synergy with other institutions, such as the church, now all communed at the altar of the dollar. Cable news maintained the veneer of difference with a stage full of useful idiots playing their parts in the theater of partisan politics.
Conservatives figured this scam out first, initially in their rejection (well, repulsion) of establishmentarian McCain in 2008 and then in the rise of the Tea Party, which was nothing more than an effort to assert the principles conservatives believed they once owned but had somehow been sold to Wall Street. Democrats had something of a start with Occupy Wall St, but that was effectively killed by their own party with the cudgel of Obamist promises. At some point in Obama’s second term, Democrats too began to realize that their party had been sold to the highest Wall St. bidder, that their own party had effectively disenfranchised them, that their own parents had betrayed them and that their education had been suicidal.
By 2016, substantial subsets of the two primary political organizations felt betrayed by their own parties, thus the surging popularity of Trump as he mocked and ridiculed the seventeen Republican contenders in the GOP primary and of Bernie Sanders as he rode the tired socialist nag to preach to the refugees of Occupy Wall Street. Voters on both sides were angry; they felt they’d been lied to, used, and forgotten.
Then the Democrats threw Sanders into the trunk of a car, drove him to a cabin in the woods, chained him to a wood-burning stove, and forced his signature on endorsements of the establishment robot Clinton. And so the 2016 election was between a Frankenstein of the previous four presidents and a rejection of The Establishment. The anger, sense of betrayal, and motivation to destroy The Establishment got the renegade Trump elected.
No Dialogue. No Peace.
This brings us up to today. The anti-establishment right has an uneasy truce with Trump; cautiously optimistic, burned many times in the past, unwilling to give the benefit of the doubt, hopeful nonetheless. The left, however, is in disarray. Sanders once again was swept from the field; progressive ideas were grafted onto rotting establishment rootstock. Like Republicans, Democrats have been lied to before, and, without meaningful political representation, without substantive dialogue, they take to the streets with the husk of the left that remained after the neo-cons abandoned them. Rejected by their own moderates, neglected by their own party, they are homeless and hopeless in their idealist Marxist materialism.
Americans across the political spectrum are asking deeper questions. Presumably, the animating principle of conservatives is to conserve –identify the parts of civilization worth saving, and save them. And yet, billions of dollars later, it’s apparent that such conservation dollars were used to pay bar tabs instead of identifying and fortifying the foundations of our civilization. Both those on the left and the right wonder not whether our institutions have failed but rather what shall replace them. A parasitic leviathan of grift has consumed its host institutions, and no one is much comfortable with government by parasite — unless you’re a parasite.
The “Fed Put” is a term applied to the Fed’s motivation (and subsequent actions) to juice the public markets. Anna Cleslak, a finance professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, a finance professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business just published a study that demonstrates that the Fed put is real and began in the mid-1990s. So, you can ignore the unification of corporatized politics as long as your 401k goes up…. (See https://www.barrons.com/articles/yes-the-fed-put-really-does-exist-that-could-be-bad-news-for-bulls-51605529801)