Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Anniversay, Fellow Mauerspechte!

As we noted several blogs ago (“Second Tier Speculation Traps”), Ken Wilber marked the anniversary of 9/11 on his web site. Another, far more important, anniversary has now come, something we should note with celebration and appreciation. This month marks the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain. Matt Welch asks some powerful questions about its relative non-observance in an article on entitled “The Unknown War.”

Welch focuses less on the causes of the nonchalance and more on the consequences of the peace. He notes that a significant result in Western Europe was the dissipation of the socialist imperative. “By the time the Berlin Wall fell,” he writes, “it was the rule, not the exception, that Western European governments would own all their country’s major airlines, phone companies, television stations, gas companies, and much more.

No longer. In the long fight between Karl Marx and Milton Friedman, even the democratic socialists of Europe had to admit that Friedman won in a landslide. Although media attention was rightly focused on the dramatic economic changes transforming Asia and the former East Bloc, fully half of the world’s privatization in the first dozen years after the Cold War, as measured by revenue, took place in Western Europe. European political and monetary integration, widely derided as statist by the Anglo-American right, has turned out to be one of the biggest engines for economic liberty in modern history. It was no accident that, in the midst of Washington’s illegal and ill-fated bailout of U.S. automakers, Swedish Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson, when asked about the fate of struggling Saab, tersely announced, “The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories.”
The fall of the Wall appears to represent the final political defeat of the forces of Amber in Europe that had engaged in the Five Hundred Years’ War raging in various degrees of intensity since Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg. The subsequent evaporation of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant that, for the first time since the clash began in 1517, Amber has no European political power base from which to contest the hegemony of Orange.

This cleared the way for the new clash between Orange and Green that shows up in the Thatcherite commitment to the Orange ideals v. the Green postnational aspirations of Strasbourg. We can certainly enjoy the irony of the relinquishing of the old Marxist ideals in light of the postmodern Boomeritis Green sensibilities that pervade the new European Union, and its intense longing to rope the United States into its orbit. How else can we interpret the otherwise meaningless Nobel Peace Prize award to President Barack Obama?

Berliners will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Wall next month, but I’d like to look at the strange reticence on this side of the pond to commemorate this dramatic turning point in our history.

Mired as America is in the worst financial and economic contraction in sixty years, we might be excused from reflecting on an event which, as important and decisive as it must have seemed to Germans, we could only witness on TV. We did not know at the time—although we certainly hoped and prayed for it—that within two years the Soviet Union would peacefully dissolve itself. It is only in the rosy glow of hindsight that we recognize the import of that moment on November 9, 1989, when the accumulating political paralysis gripping the East German government permitted thousands of East Berliners to flood the Wall’s crossing points.

Since no one in authority would authorize the use of lethal force to repel the tide, Berliners in effect took political authority into their own hands and literally began to rip down the Wall. Within hours the Mauerspechte (“wall woodpeckers”) started chiseling it down; within eleven months the German Democratic Republic was no more.

Boomeritis Myopia about the Significance of the End of Communism
Rarely are global turning points so starkly delineated, but clearly this was one of them. It is an irony that the end of the Cold War permitted the rise of Green governance, from the European Union to the administration of Barack Obama. You would think all of these beneficiaries of this moment would be enthusiastic in its celebration.

But you would be wrong.

Once again the problem is Boomeritis Green, this time in its complicated relationship to twentieth century socialism and its more virulent strain, communism. As I noted in Part II of “Three Blind Memes” below, European socialism was, like Boomeritis, a forward-looking desire anchored in a less developed meme, in this case, Green egalitarianism complicated by Amber tribalism. Marx and most of the promoters of socialism based their critique of the industrial world and the capitalist system that accompanied it from the Rousseauvian assumption that these were destroying a purer, simpler way of life. Socialism would, by overthrowing the greedy oligopolies of capitalism, apply political and economic egalitarianism as the means to restore the older, more humanly authentic ways of being.

(In the eighteenth century, Jefferson shared these concerns. His vision of an America comprising a network of yeoman farmers clashed with Hamilton’s view of America as an industrial giant. Fortunately for Kosmic evolution, it never occurred to Jefferson and his colleagues to eschew the logic of the Enlightenment and adopt a retro-Romantic approach. This determination may have been aided by the excesses of the French Revolution and the Jacobin Terror. But regardless of the reasons, the truth is that Jefferson and the Americans who came after him were impervious to the blandishments of socialism until the end of the nineteenth century.)

In the twentieth century its foremost practitioners Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, in an irony unappreciated by those in today’s Boomeritis wave, destroyed through collectivization the very bucolic society that their predecessors longed for.

But many in the worlds of Western academia and politics, equally as concerned about the impacts of industrialization on society, adopted fecklessly an allegiance to the Soviet Union and to Maoist China in their own drives to blunt the progress of industrial capital. In the cases of Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt, and Guy Burgess in England, and of the Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, and Lawrence Duggan in the United States, we observe that otherwise intelligent and affluent people could be found willing to actually spy for Stalin. To these relatively small numbers must be added thousands of names like Walter Duranty, Henry Wallace, Lincoln Steffens, and countless others, who in their squishy embrace of communism demonstrated thier opposition to the political and economic structures of the Orange emergence.
Numerous studies have been written about this decades-long memetic resistance. As Glenn Garvin wrote in “Fools for Communism” in the April 2004 edition of Reason,

I have documented elsewhere the role of the New Left in transforming American politics by its capture of the national Democratic Party in the 1970s. Others, including Ken Wilber, have documented its role in infiltrating and eventually dominating Western academia. All of these also included significant inroads into the mass media, starting with the New York Times and the Washington Post, and moving on to the national broadcast companies. The burgeoning Greening of the “cultural creatives” since the rise of the New Left in the early 60s provided a medium through which the touchstones of the Boomeritis worldview found a viable home.

This leads us to today. In a perverse way, the schizophrenia of the George W. Bush administration propelled Barack Obama to the presidency. Bush, who from all appearances was a conventional Orange politician, nonetheless felt compelled to attempt the co-optation of the Boomeritis platform with his fuzzy notions of “compassionate conservatism.” But his malapropism-riddled governing style ended up turning off conventional Amber/Orange conservatives without winning over any Greens. Thus as he headed into the final years of his presidency he caused his political base to narrow perceptively. His Boomeritis opponents used him to diminish all Orange-based policy viewpoints, enabling Obama to triumph over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, and John McCain, another conventional Orange politician prone to Bush-like dalliances with Boomeritis initiatives, in the general election.

If America wants to try a genuine Boomeritis Green president, it’s going to elect the real thing. And we did.

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Boomeritis, as we noted above—and this of course includes Obama—suffers from a weakness for socialism and its various guises. How much of this is a longing for Utopia as opposed to simple rejection of capitalism is difficult to fathom. Both are based on the narcissistic presumption that a self-styled altruistic elite knows what's best for the unwashed masses. Peter Foster, writing this week in the National Post out of Toronto, suggested that the Boomers are more anti-capitalist than pro-communist:

The tactical shift of Boomeritis political action, from overt socialism to climatism, cannot disguise that ill-fated mixture of Red narcissism with Green egalitarianism. Both socialism and climatism disdain the breakthroughs of the European Enlightenment, especially as elaborated in founding principles of the Amerian republic. Orange made possible the dignity of the individual above the tribe, and Green insists on extending it to everybody—but Boomeritis undermines this advanced view with its insistence that there is a “correct way” of manifesting that dignity—its way.

So it is no wonder that celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, emotional symbol of the collapse of communism, finds little favor among the Boomeritis Green elites of the Advanced Sector. It was but a setback in the trimemetic war among the First Tier waves of consciousness. Obama and his allies are more focused on Copenhagen than Berlin. As Peter Foster wryly notes, the battleground has merely shifted.

Those of us determined to break through into the Second Tier, however, can celebrate November 9th as a milestone in the Kosmic evolutionary trajectory towards consolidation of healthy Orange (and enabling the emergence of healthy Green) and the eventual transcendence of the First Tier itself. The final overthrow of the Amber power base in Europe shifts the geometry of the trimemetic war by decreasing the potential of Amber to dilute or derail the unfoldment of Orange and Green in the Advanced Sector. 11/9/89 guaranteed that the attacks of 9/11/01 would fail to achieve their strategic objectives.
What collapsed twenty years ago was Communism. What didn’t collapse was anti-capitalism, which remains the principle driver of most shades of politics. The new name for anti-capitalism is environmentalism. The most important political trajectory of the past two decades has been from the rubble of the Wall to the forthcoming climate conference in Copenhagen.

One of the very few politicians who has dared to speak out against the new threat is Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Czech Republic, who castigated Chancellor Merkel for her back-to-front analogy. President Klaus has declared that environmentalism is the 21st century’s “biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity.”

Virtually every other politician and member of the chattering classes is not only a True Believer in catastrophic man-made climate change, but has spent the past year bemoaning the “greed” that allegedly led to the 2008 economic “crisis.”

They assiduously avoid the role of government policies and regulations in creating the crisis. Above all, they make no mention of the “greedy” market’s stunning success in bringing billions out of poverty since 1989. According to the World Bank, global per capital income, at constant prices, has grown from $3,615 in 1989 to $8,613 in 2008. Wall Street bonuses, which have been the focus of so much Sturm und Drang, account for a minuscule portion of 1% of that income figure. However, the 2008 crisis is really just a sideshow. The attack on greed has moved up a notch.

Whereas the knock against capitalism was once that it impoverished people, now the claim is that it is making them so fecklessly rich that they are destroying the planet. Thus the new Jacobins of what my colleague Terence Corcoran calls “climatism” must “speak for” future generations, who, conveniently, cannot speak for themselves.

In 1983 the Indiana University historian Robert F. Byrnes collected essays from 35 experts on the Soviet Union—the cream of American academia—in a book titled After Brezhnev. Their conclusion: Any U.S. thought of winning the Cold War was a pipe dream. "The Soviet Union is going to remain a stable state, with a very stable, conservative, immobile government," Byrnes said in an interview, summing up the book. "We don't see any collapse or weakening of the Soviet system."

Barely six years later, the Soviet empire began falling apart. By 1991 it had vanished from the face of the earth. Did Professor Byrnes call a press conference to offer an apology for the collective stupidity of his colleagues, or for his part in recording it? Did he edit a new work titled Gosh, We Didn't Know Our Ass From Our Elbow? Hardly. Being part of the American chattering class means never having to say you're sorry.

Journalism, academia, policy wonkery: They all maintain well-oiled Orwellian memory holes, into which errors vanish without a trace. Stern pronouncements are hurled down like thunderbolts from Zeus, and, like Zeus, their authors are totally unaccountable to mere human
beings. Time's Strobe Talbott decreed in 1982 that it was "wishful thinking to predict that international Communism some day will either self-destruct or so exhaust itself in internecine conflict that other nations will no longer be threatened." A Wall Street analyst who misjudged a stock so badly would find himself living under a bridge, if not sharing a cell with Martha Stewart. But Talbott instead became Bill Clinton's deputy secretary of state, where he could apply his perspicacious geopolitical perceptual powers to Osama bin Laden.

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