Adolf Hitler once said, “There is nothing new under the sun. There are just new ways of expressing the same ideas.” There is some truth to this, which is why we have so many ways of saying that history repeats itself. At least we like to think it repeats itself, as that’s a comforting thought. It means the answers to today’s problems, no matter how vexing, exist in the past. All we have to do is rummage around in the past for a similar time and take a look at the solutions from that period.
There are exceptions. The French Revolution is one of those novel happenings that had no precedent in the known past. The Bolshevik Revolution looked a bit like the French Revolution, but turned out to be something different, mostly because the Bolsheviks were students of the French Revolution. Sometimes things are different enough to be treated as totally new. We may be experiencing one of those times where the conditions are unique enough to feel as if there is no precedent.
Older pundits are fond of comparing the current cultural revolution to the cultural revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s. They make the comparison because they were around for the first one and they go in for nostalgia. They also see that the people cheering it on in the halls of power are often people who participated in the cultural revolution of the past. You can be sure that many oldsters on the Left think what is happening today confirms their forever youth.
There are some big differences though. For one, the rebels of the past were actually rebelling against something. They did not have unlimited corporate and institutional support. The cops were told to beat the crap out of the rioters in the 1960’s by the political class, both Democrat and Republican. Today, the political class, both Democrat and Republican, is on the side of the rioters. We saw that in New York, Washington and now Portland and Seattle.
There’s also the fact that the rebels of the past had an agenda. It may have been childish and silly, in a college sophomore sort of way, but it was an agenda they could talk about in public. They wanted more personal freedom. They wanted the war in Vietnam to end. They wanted public aid for poor people and blacks. The current rebels talk about nonsense like social justice and privilege. All they can muster is pointless slogans they heard on-line.
A couple generations ago, the Silent Majority could look at the situation and imagine an end game. For example, they could connect ending the Vietnam War with ending the anti-war protests. That meant voting for Nixon in 1968. They could see a connection between loosening social mores and clearing the streets of hippies. On the other hand, they could imagine law and order politicians instructing the cops to clear the streets of the hippies and protesting students too.
Today, there is no silent majority. The great demographic changes that have been wrought by those ascendant rebels of the 1960’s has reduced the white population to about 60% now. About 20% of that population is on the side of the rioters, just as long as they stay away from their mansions. Some portion has walked away from politics entirely, due to the aforementioned changes wrought by the rebels. The Silent Majority is just a bitter minority now.
That’s an aspect to this that gets little attention and makes this very different from the cultural revolution of the 1960’s. The geezers cheering their grandchildren burning Starbucks keep expecting the jackboots of the Silent Majority to show up like they did the last time, but those jackboots are now on golf courses in Boca. No matter how much they provoke their imaginary enemy, there is no response. This reboot of the 1960’s is missing the thing that made it possible, that Silent Majority.
Another novel item is that the now silent minority has nowhere to turn for the solution to this cultural revolution. What is it that they can give to the people burning and looting the cities to make them go home? How does one answer the call for social justice or the end of systemic racism? What would those things look like? These chants and incantations have no practical meaning. They are moral signifiers borrowed from the grievance studies programs on the college campus.
More important, there is no electoral option either. The Democrat party is actively cheering on this lunacy. Joe Biden is running an extortion campaign, where a vote for him means an end to the violence and Covid lock downs. How realistic is that when his party is cheering for the mayhem, promising to take it to a new level after they win the final election. It is not hyperbole to say that a Democrat sweep in November means the end of elections. What would be the point?
Of course, the Republicans are revealing themselves to be entirely bankrupt. Their response to the unrest is nothing. They are too busy crafting yet another giveaway to their corporate paymasters. Trump is nowhere to be found. He occasionally tweets something stupid, but otherwise he looks like a beaten man. In fairness, he is a beaten man, beaten by a political class that is corrupt beyond reform. For that silent minority, there is no political option to end the current madness.
This is a novel problem for Americans. If you are a white person in a place like Seattle, what are your options? If you abide by the law, you have your property destroyed and possibly your life threatened. People are being shot in their cars now as they try to go about their business. Gun sales are booming, but the people buying the guns imagine themselves defending their life and property within a system of laws. What happens when they realize there is no system of laws?
If you read about the deliberations of the decision-makers in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the thing that stands out is their sober mindedness. They were very worried that America was on the cusp of social collapse. The decision makers of today, that means political and corporate leaders, seem to think American society is an indestructible object they can abuse without consequence. They are carrying on like reckless children, incapable of imagining any consequences to their behavior.
Social collapse comes when the majority stops accepting the legitimacy of the system and the authority of those in charge of it. The one result of the street rioters and their corporate and political sponsors is they may get what they want. The majority may stop accepting the legitimacy of the system. That silent minority may lose all faith in the system and the people running it. That would be us one step from the edge, when all respect for authority collapses and takes society with it.
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