One of the fun aspects of my hobby as a writer is to surround myself with an erudite and thoughtful array of friends from all sides of the aisle and across many continents. My friend Carll, is CEO and editor of a rapidly growing newspaper, Daily Voice, focused on real time, local news. His reaction to Brexit is thoughtful and above all, humanist. His daily OpEd to friends is salient and food for thought:
I’ve got no “cred”, in today’s parlance, to talk Brexit, another vocabulary newcomer. Virtually everybody I respect bemoans Britain’s choice and the Donald supports it, which helps me fix my coordinate points on the map of public opinion. If you find me siding with Trump on any controversy, it’s a statistical anomaly, promise.
What I – and all of us – can and must wonder at is the apparently inexorable accelerating unraveling of mankind. We don’t want to be one, it seems. We don’t want community or peace. We want to wave our little flags and stamp our furious little boots and hiss insults at our neighbors like petulant kindergartners. Collaboration, coordination, conciliation, internationalism, the brotherhood of man, Red Cross, UN, open borders, the long proud precious four-century legacy of liberalism is mocked by the new barbarians. To hell with you if you’re not like me and screw you and take a hike have become our new stirring slogans, no less in Britain than in the jungle of Trump. Let’s all carry uzis at least. We’ll need them.
Is this slide inexorable or a momentary aberration? Will we come to our senses? If your hunch is glum, how did this happen? How did liberalism – of which our Lady in the Harbor and the values she proclaims are shining symbols – fail?
Pendulums oscillate. That is their nature, they can’t help it. Sooner or later, results disappoint, hope sours, and we try something new. Sequent generations contradict their predecessors – they can’t help it, they need newness to define themselves. Even if an innovation is worse, it is our own.
Liberalism seemed like such a good idea at the time – preferable to warring states and savage factions and tyrannies and thugs. Weren’t peace and health and cooperation and the wellbeing of the less fortunate a good sought by all? Didn’t progress mean advancement toward a better world for everyone?
Each thinker must shape his own thesis. (By thinker I mean members of the shrinking sodality of the reflective. Illiberalism rejects reflection in favor of passionate stupidity and blind obedience. Questioners are enemies of the rampant mob.)
My candidate for culprit is greed. The haves couldn’t resist grabbing more and more. A global economy facilitated their grabbing. Globalization dwindles the individual to an impotent and invisible speck, a data point. Democracy silently surrendered to global oligarchy.
Masters of the machine became masters of earth. Gradually mere folks woke to their impotence. Wow, they’d turned serfs without their say-so. Tea-partiers, Occupiers, rabid nationalists of all nations gave voice to this growing discontent. The masters of the universe chuckled at these noisy nuisances. Bernie Sanders and others roared, no, no, you’re not listening! Wall Street – that is, the world headquarters for global capitalism – wasn’t listening. Those discards of humanity were gathering heat like rags in the attic, moving toward the instant of spontaneous combustion when bursting into flame they would burn the place down.
The failure of liberalism, if this theory holds, is a moral failing. The winners stopped caring for the losers in the global game, stopped seeing them, celebrated their triumph with obnoxious conspicuous consumption, wrote off the poor as pests. Trump, curiously, symbolizes both the disgusting excesses of capitalism and the fury of the discards. His outlandish success and flaunting offensiveness gives the disenfranchised hope.
How should we fans of liberalism – of the U.N., our Constitution, Shakespeare and the Sermon on the Mount – respond to the present crisis? Let’s look first into our own hearts. Are we as just, tolerant, embracive, generous as we might be? Let us define the good – then pursue it fiercely. We must not shrug.