Note: The weekly Taki post is up here. This week I go back to an old favorite of comparing modern day America to Russian, past and present. There is also a cornucopia of items behind the green door. Since so many were vexed with me about my position on crypto, I suggest proving me wrong by sending me your crypto.
Hope and optimism are the two things that propel life forward. Sometimes they lead to disaster, but often enough they lead to good results. Innovation, after all, is rooted in hope and optimism. If cynicism were the default for mankind, we would never have taken a shot on that new thing called the wheel. Risk taking requires a degree of foolish optimism and a hope that this time things will be different. On the other hand, too much optimism becomes escapism, a way to avoid reality.
If it were possible to measure hope and optimism, specifically misplaced hope and optimism, in a society, it would probably be a useful metric. A people unrealistically hopeful for the future are probably filled with dread, because their current situation is seemingly hopeless. Instead of grimly facing the reality of their situation, many choose to cast their hopes and aspirations onto someone or something. The popularity of wish-casting increases as the situation declines.
An example of this would be the Obama presidency. Few people talk about him these days, even though his term ended just five years ago. When he ran for office, however, his fans talked about him like he was Jesus. Despite his embarrassingly thin resume, they projected onto him the image of black Lincoln. There was little reason to think this man would do much of anything, given his nature and the people around him, but his fans were sure he was going to usher in the golden age.
It feels like a long time ago, but it was a very strange phenomenon. The people who had heralded Hillary Clinton as the new model woman suddenly treated her as the locus of evil in the world. Their new champion defeated her in the great contest and then he ascended the throne. Party stores had special Obama themed items produced so believers could have their Obama parties on inauguration day. For millions, it was the rapture, except it happened entirely in their imagination.
Something similar happened with Trump at the end of his term. Unlike Obama, he did not immediately develop a cult following. He won mostly because the alternative was so unpleasant that anything had to be better. It was during his term, as it became clear he was never going to do what he promised, that he developed a cult following. By the end, he was Trump the guy with a secret plan to win the election. When the shenanigans hit home, he became a superhero with a secret plan to overturn the result.
The Trump and Obama comparison offer an insight into how this wish-casting phenomenon works in liberal democracy. The people disappointed by Bill Clinton and then disaffected by Bush, turned to the escapism of Obama. The same sort of thing happened with Trump, except it required his victory in 2016 to trigger the process, as he was too much of a known quantity in 2016. Obama was a blank slate, while Trump’s slate needed a lot of scrubbing to clear some space for the wish-casting.
The Q-phenomenon is another good example. What started as an internet prank on the MAGA people became a weird fantasy cult. It combined the elements of conspiracy theory with the essentials of wish-casting. Every event was turned into proof that the prophesies would come true and the faithful would be rewarded. The size of the Q-cult was exaggerated by the media, of course, but a lot of people preferred that fantasy over the reality of the present, which says a lot about the age.
The crypto cult is looking a lot like the Q-cult all of a sudden. This one combines the silly promises of Austrian economics, the reality avoidance of libertarianism, with a form of techno-futurism. Bitcoin is going to usher in the anarcho-capitalist future, where the power of the state is broken and all of the bad things about the cultural war are rolled back to some happy place in the past. How this will happen does not matter, as what matters is the dream of a new reality, free of the present.
You can probably fit the insurrectionist fantasies of our political class into this phenomenon as well. Rather than face the reality of their situation, they focus on bizarre conspiracies about invisible white supremacists. Reality is we live in a tripartite system of corporate interests, radical cultural interests and the state. The result is a doddering old man as the face of a nation slowly tipping into crisis. Instead of facing that, they are obsessed with secret conspiracies about white people.
That last bit becomes more interesting when you put it in the context of the cult of Obama and how it ended. The lunacy that erupted on the Left when Trump won in 2016 was never about Trump. It was about the final end of the Obama fantasy. Not only was he not black Jesus, he was never the savior. The people who worshipped him and hated Hilary, had transferred their love for him onto Clinton and their hate for her onto Trump during the 2016 election, especially toward the end.
What all of this suggests is we are moving further into a collective psychological crisis as the cultural situation degrades. Rather than face the reality of a fading empire that should have been dismantled thirty years ago, people are escaping into these aspirational cults. Even the political class is embracing escapism. There is always a bit of irrational exuberance. Progress requires a degree of optimism. What we are experiencing today is closer to systemic mass delusion.
This may not be entirely without precedent. Historians debate why the Athenians waged the Peloponnesian War as they did. The decision to attack Syracuse is a legendary blunder that defies reason. Perhaps it was the result of the same phenomenon that we are seeing today. A thoroughly democratized people, unable to face the reality of what that entails, indulges in wish-casting, placing all hope into a person or a plan. What lies at the other end is a shocking corrective that breaks the spell.
A new year brings new changes. The same is true for this site as we adjust to the reality of managerial authoritarianism. That means embracing crypto for when the inevitable happens and the traditional outlets are closed. Now more than ever it is important to support the voices that support you. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you prefer other ways of donating, look at the donate page. Thank you.
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