This year and its predecessor have witnessed a disturbing number of actual earthquakes with consequent loss of life and destruction of property. What, if anything, this tells us about future disasters I could not say. In politics tectonic plates have been shifting also. Anti-system political movements have been making great advances and have scored unforeseen victories in many places. While this phenomenon has been global, with ripples being seen in countries as diverse as Colombia and the Philippines, it is in the West (broadly defined) that the contours of the political changes are most clearly outlined. Numerous theories have emerged to account for this incipient revolution but I think the most likely explanation is either the Supernova hypothesis or the End of Progress hypothesis.
A star is at its brightest just before it disappears forever. This brilliant light is the product of a catastrophic explosion. Thus we have a supernova. In the contemporary West the long settled mostly white populations are facing existential challenges produced by globalisation and social liberalism. On the one hand their numbers are in steep decline because of contraception and abortion. On the other hand globalisation, requiring as it does readily available cheap labour, facilitates the importing of suitably low cost and/or suitably skilled new populations or the exporting of jobs outside of its traditional metropolitan homelands. The cumulative effect of this over decades, combined with the 2008 economic crash, has been to awaken the settled population both to its misery (living standards for most have been stagnant or falling since at least 2007) and to its imminent transformation into an excluded minority group on its own native soil.
The response to this has been, not unreasonably perhaps, a rise of economic and cultural nationalism. When la patrie en danger the instinct to come to its defence against challenges from outside, whether that be the exporting of jobs or the importing of people, is a natural one. It explains to some extent the twin triumphs of Brexit and Donald J Trump. However, if the economic and social changes are inexorable, inevitable and irreversible then we are witnessing essentially the supernova of the European peoples. After some destructive thrashing about the tides of history will roll unstoppably over them (as the Europeans rolled over the Aztecs and others) and the future will belong to those who are better adapted to its needs.
An alternative explanation which fits the facts begins with the assumption that there is no inevitability about the future. For more than a century the dominant Western narrative has been that something called ‘progress’ exists. That is, for some unspecified reason humanity is destined to become ever more perfect, rising from ‘lower’ forms of civilization to ‘higher’ ones. Comfortingly the highest imaginable type of society is like the one we in the West have created only more so. The motors for this transformation are science, technology, capitalism, materialism and individualism. Once these things have defeated the holdovers from the past, ignorance and superstition (referred to in shorthand as Christianity,) then we will soar off into ever better regions of earthly happiness in a garden of earthly delights.
The flaw in that narrative is that there exists no good reason to suppose that it is true. Why should human civilization inevitably take any particular form? The notion that it should ‘evolve’ from bad to better is simply an attempt to translate Darwin’s theory into the realm of political economy but these are incommensurable terms. That being so the changes brought about in modern history do not represent a pattern pointing to a particular future merely a combination of events bringing us to our much troubled present. The future is undetermined and in our hands. More than that ‘progressive’ policy and social engineering are precisely the effective cause of our current troubles. These problems are not, as is supposed, the product of the reactionary remnants of the old ways. Therefore, it is plausible that the policies which will bring about an end to those troubles involve annulling ‘progress’ and following an alternative path. There is no iron law of history to prevent this happening.
How have progressive policies led us into this strait? The combination of elements contained within the project tends towards the dissolution of organic communities and of the family. A totally mobile workforce at the service of the economy, specifically of the shareholders of large corporations, and/or the State, requires such a dissolution. Humans, by contrast, if they are to survive and thrive, require strong families, communities and roots in a geographical entity and its associated culture. Economics and politics exist as servants to Man not as masters and since they have assumed the mastership role for too long Man is beginning to react to them, to cut them down to size and to remould them into more human-friendly shapes. Since, however, the anti-system movements have been goaded into this response in a mood of sullen anger and smouldering rage it is probable that in the first instance they will destroy blindly before they think of creating with vision.
I think either the Supernova or the End of Progress hypotheses may be true but neither promise a happy 2017. One institution which has survived the end of the Classical era, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and everything since is the Catholic Church. Whatever the future may hold it possesses the potential to soothe the savage beast and to humanise the forces which are now being unleashed. It is global in its reach and unconquerable in its determination to tend the sick, house the homeless, clothe the naked and sustain the refugee. The time may come when the ‘progressives’ who have spent so long in attempting to destroy it may be glad that they have failed as it shields them within its protecting mantle.