John Adams, Isaac Newton and the Road Warrior
There are any number of wars going on around the planet. But, in truth, none represents an existential threat to America. Nor does the Wuhan virus. Both China and Russia represent real threats, as both have large arsenals of nuclear weapons. But, the likelihood that one or the other will actually destroy the US with a nuclear attack is, fortunately, relatively low. Both countries understand that would mean their own ends as well. That isn’t a pleasant thought; Mutual Assured Destruction is a terrifying strategy, but it’s the one we have right now to deal with the nuclear threat, and it’s working.
Islamic extremism is another enduring threat, but one that’s perhaps further in the future than the Chinese or Russian threats.
That said, there’s a real threat to the very fabric of this nation and it is active, at a host of levels: the ongoing internal onslaught against Western Civilization.
A particularly astute friend of mine noted recently that our civilization, Western Civilization, is collapsing, much like the Roman Civilization nearly two millennia ago. He mentioned a number of causes, all of them also prevalent in Rome during her collapse, to include an excess of prosperity, moral decline, bad leadership, and the absence of a peaceful transfer of power.
What is Western Civilization? John Adams observed that the essence of Western Civilization could be summed up in two concepts: private property, and the contract.
Private property and contracts necessarily involve a whole host of the rights, implicit and explicit, defended by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Virtually all the rights discussed in these documents, in the Federalist Papers, and in countless discussions since, reflect some element of an individual’s right to own something, to protect it, to buy and sell, to better oneself to earn more, or involves the right to make decisions for oneself, to enter into agreements, and to not suffer interference from the state.
Consider Isaac Newton’s third law of motion: for every action there is equal and opposite reaction. In politics and the social sciences its analog is the law of unintended consequences… We are seeing this play out right now.
We have done well under Western Civilization. Virtually the entire physical, economic and scientific advancement of humanity in the last 5 or 6 centuries has been a product of Western Civilization. Even in the great communist powers, the Soviet Union and Communist China, advancements have flowed from their exploitation of Western science, Western technology and Western economics.
More to the point, advancements in political freedoms, and in improved standards of living, not just economically but also socially, and expansion of individual rights, have advanced massively in the last two centuries - all under the press of Western Civilization.
Now it is all threatened. When did it start? Hard to pinpoint, but certainly it had started by the late 1960s, (though one might argue World War I). What is more to the point is that in the last 25 - 30 years it has accelerated, a combination of a huge increase in wealth, the culmination of efforts to take control of education by the progressive movement, and a 45 year effort to undermine the peaceful transfer of power.
We’ve reached a point where unintended consequences are likely to start spinning out of control. Make no mistake, the killing of Mr. Floyd was intolerable. While many public figures expressed outrage at this killing - rightly so, they are mute at the destruction of the black youth who are murdered by the thousands - by other blacks in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and elsewhere across the country, presumably because it suits their politics to let this anger germinate. Last year 9 unarmed black men were killed by police in this country (as were 19 unarmed white men). But at the same time thousands of black Americans were killed by other black Americans. One estimate is that more than 90% of black American homicide victims were killed by a black American. It has been estimated that 1/3rd of all black men will spend time in prison. Recall that when things started unraveling for black, inner city communities in the early 1960s nearly 20% were growing up without a father in the house. And after the government mandated social programs took hold? Now 72% of black men grow up in a single parent home.
“Don’t worry,” we were told, “it will be fine, boys don’t need a father figure. That’s the old way of thinking.” Unintended consequences…
Meanwhile, Mayors and leading political figures are unwilling to speak in defense of the law, of private property, or simple decency. An industrialist’s wife offers to sell her soul and no one even blanches, cable shows which were once accused of showing gratuitous sex have added gratuitous urination and defecation, Members of Congress speaks blithely about impeaching an incoming president on the day after the election. One wonders how long it will be before some cable channel offers “fights to the death?”
The tenets of our civilization spread far and wide, beyond the law and beyond property into religion, and culture and arts. The art and architecture and fashion and a hundred other things we all enjoy are very much the results of Western Civilization. The trashing of a Target or a Starbuck’s, the perversion of our values, may, from a distance, seem to be unfortunate events, but are otherwise inconsequential.
But there are “elites” who see a path to power in the violence, the moral “realignment,” the eschewing of the law. Yet the unintended consequences of failing to respect property, failing to respect the individual, failing to adhere to some basic precepts of decency and dignity and social discipline, failing to follow the law, turning a blind eye to rioting in city after city, to the looting of stores - is to sew the seeds of chaos.
After the fall of Rome, Europe sank into 500 years of chaos, the Dark Ages. Civilization survived in small enclaves, waiting for a rebirth, for a renaissance. But 6th century Europe didn’t have nuclear or biological weapons, nor did it have means for violent people to move around the globe in a matter of days. The next Dark Ages, if we sink into it, will look less like Chaucer and more like the post-apocalyptic world of the Road Warrior. We need to act now, before we move much further down that road.