The abiding enigma of this tormented era remains: why has the thinking class of America abandoned thinking? The answer is: it’s the reaction to their own failure. Failure to do what? To produce the Utopia that Gnostic [mystical foresight] liberalism promised — a perfect world based on altering human nature.
The result is an essentially religious hysteria, like the witch frenzies of Medieval Europe that were sometimes provoked by ergot poisoning — a fungus with toxic psychotropic properties that grew on the harvested rye, inducing frightful hallucinations in the villagers, who then lashed out at their perceived supernatural antagonists. Trump in our time is the ergot on the bread of our politics. And Russia is the witch.
Like other operations of the human mind, this collective fugue-state has a big subconscious module in it: the deep, poorly articulated fear that the signal notion of Progress behind progressive politics in the industrial era has reached a dead end. The world is clearly not becoming a better place, but rather reeling into disorder and ecological crisis, despite all the rational programs and politics of modern democracy, and political failure is everywhere.
The “peace dividend” promised by the end of the cold war has degenerated into endless war. The miraculous promises of medicine have been hijacked by “health care” racketeering now institutionalized under ObamaCare. The Civil Rights campaign begun in the 1950s with the most earnest, hopeful intentions (and generous policies) has produced off-the-charts black crime rates, educational defeat, ruined cities, and epic rancor. The middle class has been left economically shipwrecked by the promises of globalism. The pledge of a happy retirement dissolves as the pension funds roll over and die. And the supposed paragon of enlightened American governance morphs into a sinister and corrupt Deep State of oligarchical corruption.
In the background of all this are even more disturbing quandaries and prospects: population overshoot, mass migration from regions that can’t support these numbers of people, extinctions of animal species, the death of the oceans, climate instability. The practical problems of economy approach an event horizon of energy scarcity, runaway debt from trying to mitigate it, and eventual collapse of our day-to-day hyper-complex economic arrangements. These things are so scary that the thinking classes — except for a minority of nerdy scientists — can’t even bear to think about them.
Instead, we have the Gnostic drive to alter human nature, which has terminated in the preoccupation with abolishing sexual identity — the fantasy that we will (and ought to) throw off the shackles of biology and rise into a sort of “trans-human” nirvana. Just behold the amount of “ink” that The New York Times has spilled reporting on the triumphs of transexualism in the past year.
It’s not surprising that some of the worst thinking, the most obviously tortured theological hallucinations, emanate these days from the universities — the places where young, developing intellects are supposed to be molded. Instead of free inquiry, they now offer intellectual martial law, chained to sets of ersatz metaphysics. “Victim” ideas run wild because malign supernatural powers are in play against the faculty hierophants on the elite campuses, charged with interpreting the sacred mysteries and esoteric principles of “post-structural” (reality-optional) thought. The quandaries of “minority” America have resolved in the simple superstitious idea that demonic forces of “white male privilege” and ubiquitous, implacable misogynistic racism are entirely responsible for the woes and sorrows of the world, and the failure of progress in particular.
The failures of US-sponsored economic globalism now focus on the ur-demon (the Satan!) called Russia. Apocalyptic battle with the greatest monster of the imagination is the ultimate struggle in outbreaks of religious frenzy, and America has a ripe history of engaging with the Devil. It’s bad enough when it breaks out in a tiny colonial settlement like Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1600s. There only a few dozen people were persecuted and destroyed. It’s another matter on the global stage today when you engage a perceived “Satan” like Russia, which truly can rain holy Hell back on you if you push your hallucinated animus too far.