GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

February 10, 2010

More thoughts on minimal secessionism

Filed under: GA — adam @ 3:03 pm

The thinking behind my most recent post was that the possibility of a systemic collapse of the contemporary market/democratic system can’t be discounted; that if such a collapse takes place life will nevertheless continue: people will need food, shelter, power, etc., and they will enter into economic relations in order to meet those needs, and political and cultural relations so as to define and preserve the relationships they enter into; and that, therefore, it is helpful to think about the kinds of dispositions and capacities that might be exercised in anticipation of that possibility, and exercised in such a way as to simultaneously minimize said possibility but to restore some new normalcy as quickly as possible afterwards. In others words, I was proposing thinking on the margins of the current system, in the shadow of its possible demise, for both diagnostic and prescriptive purposes.

There is another reason to take up the question, though, and that is the growing difficulty the differing factions in American life will have living together. Some kind of separation, embedded in differing ways of life, of the factions from each other, might be the best alternative to civil war. The story of 20th century American society and politics has been the rise of Progressivist assumptions—i.e., the assumption that modern life was too complex to allow for its management by private agencies and spontaneous forms of order and needed, therefore, to be turned over to scientific experts. Freedom was a source of chaos and conflict on a level incompatible with an advanced technological civilization and must give way to a largely planned (and ultimately transnational) order. The attempts by an insurgent conservative movement, through the 80s-00s, to resist the installation of this order (based upon the alliance between big government and big business), have only succeeded in slowing it down, and that only temporarily. It seems to me clear, though, first, that Progessivism has reached its limits, that is, it generates more resentments than it can recirculate, and it now threatens to swallow up the market order upon which is has been merely parasitic so far; second, that its adherent are nevertheless determined to continue pushing through to the definitive and irreversible establishment of that order, by any means necessary—indeed, they can’t imagine a life worth living under any other order; third, that a majority of Americans wish to retain the benefits, real and perceived, granted to them by that order, without supporting its continued expansion; fourth, that the wishes of this majority cannot be met, since progressivism must continue to grow or wither away; and, fifth, that a growing minority of Americans are coming to feel that they can’t live under the Progressive order at all, even in its present form, and that they must resist, at all costs, its further expansion.

It is that last observation that decisively changes the equation. I would estimate the number of hard core progressives in the U.S at 15-20%, but they are very heavily concentrated in high influence arenas (media, education, many sectors of big business and, of course, government) and are in close contact with and receive significant support from their international equivalents. I would estimate the number of Americans who will have had it with progressivism by the time this President and this democratic majority will have shown us everything they have at something like 20-25%. If the majority interested in some version of current arrangements could constitute a genuine center, those rough edges could be smoothed out; but if they can’t, then it is the polarity that will drive events. That is the way things look to me.

It would be easy to dismiss talk of civil strife, much less civil war, as hyperbolic, but I have a very specific scenario in mind: the progressives must institute their agenda nationally and internationally, and it must do so through a solid phalanx of laws and bureaucracies, and those laws must ultimately be enforced. In the end, it doesn’t matter if this is done by an overtly progressive administration and legislature or covertly and gradually through the armies of unelected and permanent judges and administrators who are controlled by no administration and have only the most distant relationship to laws (which, increasingly, do little more than empower those very administrators to enforce some “mandate”)—it will be seen through even in the latter case. We are already almost at the point where progressives insist upon arresting citizens for actions that the latter consider to fall wholly within their legitimate rights (perhaps we passed the point a while ago, but I don’t want to enter into too many controversies here); we are almost certain to get to the point where constitutionalists feel compelled to make a point of forcing them to do so and progressives will in turn feel compelled to make a special point of complying—and resistance will be organized, fairly rapidly and surprisingly effectively, I think. (I’m still thinking of that remarkable “Green Police” commercial during the Super Bowl! But also of the harassment of Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant by the Human Rights commission in Canada, the current trial of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands—and much else.) It’s hard to say how the police and army (the men with the guns) will fall out in the event—nagging grandmothers who don’t want gay pastors rather than battling violent criminals might seem awfully tempting to a lot of them, but many will feel ashamed and wish to return to defending the innocent against the violent. And we should also consider that all this will be taking place in the context of what I assume will be an extended and increasingly grave recession, perhaps depression.

The secessionism I am exploring, then, is also aimed at providing an alternative to such a confrontation, and at ensuring that such a confrontation, if it turns out to be inevitable, is resolved as quickly, peacefully and, of course, successfully as possible.

To put it yet another way, I am practicing what the theorist of nuclear warfare (and how will that play into all this?) Herman Kahn called “thinking the unthinkable”—perhaps that’s the most authentic mode of originary thinking, since the unthinkable is what must have first of all have been glimpsed for our first ancestors to have put forth the life-saving sign.

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