Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Cracks In The Veneer
Civilization is but a thin veneer over the seething mass of humanity.
That outlook on the human condition is attributed to German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and shared by others, myself included. A more recent example would be William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies,” that novel baby boomers had to read in school. It resonates with me still and more so lately. For the unfamiliar I’ll summarize the plot: A plane crashed near a remote island. On board were early-adolescent British boys and some teachers, but only the boys survived. They had to stay alive on the island without adult supervision, and how well or badly they did that is the main theme of the book. Mostly, they devolved. Their innate savagery emerged and became stronger than the civilizational constraints with which they had been imbued.
Golding obviously believed humans to be innately prone to savagery, able to overcome it only by the constraints of civilization which they receive through western tradition, and which is maintained by the supervision of elders within that civilization.
An opposite view of humanity held by many in the west would be that of the “noble savage,” the idea that humans in their natural state are given to peaceful coexistence. Such adherents would write a different kind of novel - one in which the boys shared and cooperated on the island rather than fighting and killing one another. Anarchists within the “Occupy Wall Street” or OWS movement would hold such a view - that without the constraints of government to control them, the default mode of humanity would be one of sharing and mutual cooperation. It was interesting to observe their naive attempts at uber-democracy such as their cult-like chanting repetition of a speaker’s remarks, and their refusal to move in any direction unless there were a
group consensus supporting it.
During the short life of OWS, the notion that we’re all inherently good and nice when not influenced by capitalist greed was not being borne out. Fights, assaults, rapes, thefts, drug overdoses, and vandalism abounded in virtually every camp across the country. In nearby Portland’s relatively peaceful “Occupy Maine” camp, three were arrested when one beat on his drum to wake up the rest of the campers in Lincoln Park, only to be choked by another and hit with a hammer by still another who wanted to sleep in. The western mainstream media heralded the “Arab Spring” as a renaissance of secular democracy against oppressive military dictatorships across Muslim North Africa. I wrote weeks ago http://tommclaughlin.blogspot.com/2011/10/visions-of-left.html how Van Jones, President Obama’s disgraced “Green Jobs Czar,” declared OWS to be an “American Autumn” in the spirit of the Arab Spring, as if it were comprised of smiling happy people holding hands in blissful anarchy, but none of that is panning out either. Egypt’s recent elections have given over control of the country to radical Islamists who will impose Sharia on everyone. It won’t be long before Egyptians start pining for the relatively blissful days of Mubarak’s military control. A year or two should suffice. Ask the Afghans. Ask the Iranians. I wouldn’t want to be a Christian, a woman, or a homosexual in Egypt when the Muslim Brotherhood takes over.
The British government is preparing for riots when the Euro collapses - and they’re not even in the Eurozone. Greeks are rioting already - and they’re not in default yet. What will happen when they are? Western democracy is a wonderful thing, the highest attainment of western civilization, but it’s not sufficient by itself. If democracy were imposed on the island described by Golding in his novel, who would win power? It wouldn’t be the civilized Ralph.
Jack, leader of the savage group, would prevail and then what? There wouldn’t be any more elections, that’s for sure. Hitler, remember, attained power in a democratic Germany. The majority in any democracy can elect a government that President Reagan described as like a baby: “an alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other,” a government that will tax, borrow, spend and print money until everyone is destitute. That is what’s happening in Europe and in the United States. When those governments collapse it won’t be pretty. What will it be like? Look at Somalia. Look at Afghanistan before we invaded. That’s what it will turn back into when we leave too. Authority will be in the hands of whomever controls the most men with automatic weapons riding in the back of pickup trucks. That thin veneer of civilization is showing cracks in Europe as hard times approach, and we’re likely see more in 2012. What scares me is that we’re on the same path Europe is, just a bit further back. If we don’t change direction soon, look out.