Note: I will be on the Restoring Order podcast tonight at 7PM Eastern time. The show will run for about 90 minutes. You can watch it here. I also have a new post up behind the green door. This a review of the political movie Duck Soup.
The 2020 drama The Courier is one of those films that is remarkable for what it does not do, rather than what it does do. It is a straight forward drama unburdened by Progressive politics. It sticks fairly close to the original story, without inserting magical people or performing a sex change on the principals. In fact, all but two of the characters are white males. The two females are supporting roles. In today’s climate, that is something close to a miracle.
The story itself is familiar to those who grew up in the Cold War, even if you are not familiar with this particular story. It is the story of Greville Wynne, a British salesman turned spy, who traveled in and out of the Soviet Union in the 1960’s for business, but he was also carrying top-secret information. We get the familiar cat and mouse stuff that is a staple of spy movies, along with the human drama that comes from a reluctant civilian caught up in the spy game.
It is a solidly told spy drama with competent acting and directing. What makes it remarkable is what it says about the current age. There are people alive today who recall the events portrayed in the movie. Most Americans alive today lived through some portion of the Cold War. Despite this, that era feels as familiar as the Middle Ages or Ancient Greece. The Cold War West, at least the English speaking portion, is not just a different time. It is a different world.
The weird thing about the Cold War is that as soon as it was over, there was no reminiscing about it or how it altered society. It was so quickly forgotten that young people could be forgiven for not knowing it existed. Young people in America know more about civil rights stuff and certain events in World War II than they do about what happened just a few decades ago. Even the collapse of the Soviet Union has been hurled down the memory hole.
It is an odd thing, given that the Cold War was the longest American war. It lasted roughly from March 5, 1946 to November 9, 1989. Most people date the start to the speech given by Winston Churchill at Westminster College in Fulton Missouri during a tour of the United States. This is when he uttered the famous words “Iron Curtain” which became synonymous with the Soviet Union. The end, of course, is marked as the day the Berlin Wall came down.
For close to half a century, the United States was on a war footing. Rather than demobilize after the defeat of Japan and Germany, America retooled the entire nation to fight communism in general and the Soviets in particular. For two generations it was the superstructure of society. The economy, the culture and politics operated within the struggle against Russia. It is the American empire’s Peloponnesian War, except this time the democracies beat the Spartans.
One reason why this event was so quickly forgotten is that it appears to have been a necessary restraint on the worst elements in American democracy. Like a dog that got off the leash, there has been no turning back for those elements, suddenly freed from the restraints of the Cold War. The crusades against the Muslims were an attempt to put the crazies back on the rope, but it failed. Those crazies are now threatening to take over the whole country.
Every society has a portion that is mentally unstable. They are functional and can be put to good use, but they need structure. Religion has been the primary way to keep the unstable on the straight and narrow. With the decline of Christianity, mass movements in America have been the alternative. The various social reform movements in America, dating back to the 19th century were a way to give the unstable the structure they needed and put them to good use.
Of course, without a limiting principle, mass movements quickly turn into a disaster as the fanatics never know when to quit. They always look for some next step in their quest for salvation, The obvious example is how the temperance societies turned into outright bans on alcohol. Reducing public drunkenness was a worthy goal, but banning alcohol completely was lunacy in stilts. We are seeing this happen today with crazies rampaging through the streets, howling like lunatics.
That really is what the Cold War was for America. Without it, if the Cold War had never happened, America probably would have descended into anarchy and civil war by middle of the 20th century. The threat of thermonuclear annihilation forced the responsible to keep the unstable in their cages. It also gave these unstable people options into which they could express their fanaticism. The obsession with ancient grudges, for example, could be expressed as neoconservatism.
You could write the story of America as the story of fanaticism. The first waves of fanatics landed in what is now New England to build their paradise in the wilderness of the New World. They eventually conquered the rest of the continent in the name of one cause after another. Then they conquered the rest of the world, first in the name of democracy then to free the world of competing lunacy. With no more worlds to conquer, the fanatics are destroying themselves.
If you look around at the various tribes of lunatics in the pantheon of modern leftism, the quest for structure is clear. The Antifa goofballs are motivated by alienation and atomization. They are urban consumers with no purpose other than to consume. The females howling about male privilege are unmarried and childless, thus lacking the structure in which a woman can blossom. The Left is nothing but stray dogs looking for home, longing for the leash.
This is why the so-called conservatives wanted the war against the Muslims to be the new Cold War and why they rant about Russia today. As the late John McCain used to say, they want to be part of a cause bigger than themselves. A holy cause provides a reason to instill discipline. It may be what is behind the ruling class paranoia about imaginary white supremacy. It gives them a purpose and therefore a structure to their otherwise disorganized minds.
Like the Muslim panic, these new panics – and Covid can be viewed in this light as well – will fail due to a lack of reality. The Muslims were never a serious threat to anyone but themselves and maybe their neighbors. White supremacy is a figment of the fevered imaginations of liberal women who read too many bodice rippers. Even China is looking like a poor stand-in for the Devil. These are not real threats, so they can never be the organizing issue of a new American creed.
What may be happening is the end of one plot line in the American story. The fanatics who conquered the wilderness to build an empire are in the last chapter. The rest of the country is now tasked with how to wrap up this story line. Maybe it will be a new religion for the fanatics to join. Maybe it will be a reactionary response that relies on force to subdue the fanatics. Maybe it is a Hobbesian end for a people who suddenly realize they have no reason to be in the same country.
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