We very much liked Tom McTague‘s article in the Atlantic, in which he makes the point that the golden age of western liberal capitalism was nothing of the kind. He compares the period from 1990 until about 2008 with the Roman empire just before decline set in. Both were beset by complacency. The seeds of their destruction had already been planted. McTague argues that the last thing the world needs is the illusion of a return to the status quo ante. On the day when Joe Biden accepted the Democratic nomination, this is a useful warning.
What McTague actually does is to state that something turned with the start of the new millennium and that the changes that took place afterwards cannot simply be undone by trying to reverse irreversible changes. I’ll offer three things from my perspective to show that turning the clock back won’t happen no matter how much pressure the “establishment” brings to bear.
Let’s start with the Chinese: it was ridiculous to assume that the Chinese would proceed in anything but an autocratic way. Anyone really familiar with the civilisation knew this but we were drowned out by the voices of the pseudosophisticates who thought that history had ended and that the collapse of the Soviet Union vindicated their idea that only “democracies” would triumph. Now the Chinese are on the march and the pseudodemocracies are really at a loss as to what to do.
As a Christian, it was obvious in the early years of this millennium that something “in the air” had shifted. When I wrote the introduction to the first instalment of the fantasy series The Island Chronicles, I made the following statement:
It (the fantasy world) was discovered long ago, when darkness enveloped and all seemed to be lost. With subsequent events, though, things became better, and the urgency of the topic was not so great. Today, however, we live in a world where events turn very rapidly; what seems safe today is gone tomorrow.
In many ways the 1990’s was Evangelicalism’s last major push in the US, and for Catholics was John Paul II’s last full decade on earth. Since that time presenting and living the Gospel has been an uphill battle. Attempting to reverse it through political process has not worked. It’s going to take more, more that probably American Christianity is prepared to do.
Finally, all of the current upheaval over race is an inward looking exercise at a time when the country needs to look outward to its own survival. There are better ways of moving our racial paradigm forward but at this point we are incapable of seeing them. Critical race theory is simply taking white supremacy theory and inverting it, and there’s an easier way (in the South at least) to fix this problem. But the energy we spend on this would be better spent strengthening the country for the journey in our new world. We, however, treat the United States as an indestructible perpetuity, but we will soon find out it is not.