One of the defining features of this age is that it is hard to keep pace with the absurdity we see promoted by the people who rule over us. The degree of nuttiness is certainly a big part of our growing revulsion, but it is also the speed. In the 1990’s, it was possible for Bill Clinton, the leader of the respectable Left, to dismiss homosexual marriage. Ten years later, no one on the Left dared do that. Ten years ago, men in dresses were freaks to be mocked. Today they are objects of worship by the finest people in the land.
There are a lot of people offering up explanations for why the people in charge have suddenly gone mad. Mass mental illness, caused by a pathogen would not only explain the problem, but make for an interesting movie plot. Perhaps this is just what the end of a historical epoch is like. Having lost a reason to exist, the ruling classes indulge in whatever craziness they can muster. Maybe our rulers are so alien to us that their sense of normal falls well outside what the rest of us consider decent and proper.
Another reason may be that democracy lacks an innate legitimacy and authority, so it relies on openness to sustain itself. The authority of a parent relies on the fact the father is the head of the household. He is in charge because he can impose his will. Democracy lacks this natural ability to impose its will on the public, so it must seek consensus, which requires a public expression of the general will. In order for everyone to go along with whatever has been decided, they need to see that the majority is in favor of it.
This openness can only work if everyone in the society is welcome to participate in the process of deciding things. It’s why all modern experiments with democracy quickly move from a limited franchise to a full franchise. Once the West started experimenting with democracy in the 19th century, the franchise expanded quickly, even though most nations still had some form of monarchy. In modern America we are handing ballots to the mentally ill, prisoners and to foreigners now. The door to the voting booth is wide open.
The thing is, culture and morality, the shared intellectual space of every society, can only exist with clear borders. What defines French culture from German culture is not just physical distance and biology. There is a shared reality of the French that excludes all others. It is the opposite of open. It is closed. The same is true of moral systems. To exist, they must draw lines between what is and what is not acceptable. That which defines a people is the rejection of openness in favor of a closed, exclusive mode of thought.
Saying “this is not who we are” seems to track with not knowing who we are or why we are even a “we” anymore. The reason for that is the great effort to fulfill the needs of democracy has left western countries as deconstructed components of what used to be a rational, bounded society. France is no longer a closed system, but simply a remnant of a society, the pieces of what used to make up France. No one talks about what it means to be French, because everyone can be French. It’s a thing with no form now.
If the theoretical end point of liberal democracy is a world without boundaries, physical or cultural, then it is a world without morality. After all, morality is a world of fences and gates that control human behavior within the closed social system. In order for there to be a moral order, there must be order and that must include boundaries. Once the boundaries lose their purpose, the fences and gates are simply gravestones in a cemetery of a long forgotten people. No one cares if the kids knock over the grave stones.
In fact, in a world without form, the hunt for something to level becomes increasingly urgent as there is less and less to knock over. Once the statues of the great men of the past are removed, their names must be removed. Once the basics of family life have been destroyed through divorce and feminism, the innocence of childhood is attacked via the degeneracy of transgenderism. Those hunting for grave stones to topple become increasing frantic as the supply of objects to desecrate dwindles after every spasm.
Maybe the people in late empire Rome, or just before the French Revolution, thought the world was going crazy too. Perhaps part of the social cycle is a period of frantic lunacy that is really just a form of panic at the prospect of cultural death. There was certainly a lot of weirdness with the Romans toward the end of the Republic. The French aristocracy was painting themselves up like clowns toward the end. Maybe to the normal people in those ages, these things were as revolting as seeing drag queen story time.
On the other hand, what we think of today as liberal democracy is a great novelty with which we have little experience. Full democracy in America has only existed since the middle of the last century. That’s roughly three generations. The same is true of Europe, where it was imposed after the last war. Eastern Europe has little of the degeneracy we see in the West, mostly because they just adopted liberal democracy. We could simply be seeing what John Adams observed. Democracies always murder themselves.