BY SAM WHITE
It’s time to be realistic.
Liberalism will soon be dead.
There has been a sustained attack on liberal values, from hijacked institutions that were former defenders of such liberal values (such as universities and the BBC), escalating for many years. For those who follow alternative media and the blogosphere, this is, of course, not news.
No doubt, if you are reading this, you’re someone who’s churned through endless mind-numbing videos and articles on the same theme, all pointing out the creeping authoritarianism of the modern progressive.
You’ve watched Dave Rubin say the same thing every week, in an increasingly dullardly manner, to increasingly hackish guests, until you switched off. You know well that cultural appropriation is a tenuous and silly concept, that racism is not a one-way street, that anti-fascists are not all their name suggests. Yes, it’s old hat, and there’s only so many times you want to read the anti-woke making the same jokes, about the same topics, again and again and again.
I say you, but of course, I’m projecting.
Anyway, all this has gone mainstream now, and cannot be ignored by the masses any longer. Not a day goes by without a formerly unremarkable opinion being savaged by the online mob, and written up in regular news sources.
The most high-profile case of late is JK Rowling, who was recently the subject of a brutal, misogynistic, online witch-hunt, because she dissents from the progressive left on matters trans.
There is so much of this going on now, that it becomes pointless to delve deep into individual cases. Each one is a maddening rabbit-hole of double-think and contradiction, so in my opinion, it’s better to zoom out and look at the larger trend.
I will at this point admit that my thinking here is largely stolen from William Strauss and Neil Howe, and I’m just speculating on it a little. Please read the book they wrote, The Fourth Turning: an American Prophecy, or at least take a look at some recent interviews with Howe in which he explains his ideas.
The key is that what we’re dealing with is generational turnover, and that our society is a reification of its dominant generational values, so that when the generations change, the world goes with them.
And the world we have now, and which is currently under assault, is the product of Boomers and Generation X. Meaning that liberalism, individualism, and risk-taking have been the norm, and that freedom takes precedence over collectivism.
And as we all know, generations react against their fathers. So what comes after liberalism?
When people in the West hear the word authoritarian, they tend nowadays to think solely of the right-wing, but to be authoritarian is a character trait, not an ideology, and is not limited to right or left, as anyone with experience of Communism will tell you. As long as there are enough of them, and there seem to be, then the authoritarians we’re about to endure might come from any direction.
Currently, when I read American news, I see it coming from the left, through the doctrines of wokeness and critical race theory, and the militant street violence of Antifa, and, sometimes, Black Lives Matter supporters. Those who support such violence will refer me to the violence of the police, too. Include that if you want.
In the UK, it comes from the left, through similar politically correct mechanisms, along with the anti-democratic tendencies of those who were enraged by a majority of voters opting to leave the European Union. But it also comes from the Tory government, who, in response to a threatening (but far from disastrous) virus circulating the planet have stripped the country of its civil liberties, and probably damaged the nation and its health far more than the virus itself could ever have done.
Similar removals of human rights, in the name of safety and protection, have occurred in Australia, New Zealand, and around Europe. In fact, alarmingly, they are taken as the norm. Through our global lockdowns, we are copying, of all places, communist China, which just took over the formerly free Hong Kong. And don’t even think about uploading a video contradicting the World Health Organisation, or YouTube might take it down.
This is all referred to as ‘the new normal’. Allow yourself a shudder, if you’d like, but also, let’s not get carried away. There is growing resistance to it all, and there are well-to-do countries that have avoided illiberal, ‘new normal’ excess, such as Sweden and Japan.
Nonetheless, this all gives us a hint of the future. Appeals to the virtues of liberalism will be of little relevance to Millennials and Generation Z, because, fundamentally, individualism and personal freedom are not their priorities.
They are coming of age in a chaotic, structureless environment, in which they feel economically precarious. That they are, in historical terms, living in great comfort, is not relevant. What matters is the archetypal character values that have been hardcoded by their subjective perceptions.
Did you think everyone would value individualism forever, until we each atomized and floated off into space?
Although we might not like it, the younger generations’ reaction to a shifting, hyper-liberal world, is a logical one: to create structures. They value safety. And besides which, we, collectively, made them this way.
Are they spoiled? Sure. Well then who spoiled them?
And by the way, we didn’t have much choice about that, about shaping them the way we did, because to do so was hardcoded into our characters, and, as a result, into the world we created.
Spin Millennial/Generation Z tendencies positively, and you can expect cohesion, collective spirit, group loyalty, optimism, and an age of building and structural re-laying.
On the negative side, there will be conformity, intolerance, and shallowness. Along with the likelihood that not everything that is built will be built well. There is no knowing whether what is constructed will be any kind of an improvement.
If you do not agree with this coming generation’s collective values, or at least pretend to agree (and you probably will have to pretend, reserved silence will not suffice), then there will be no place for you. You’ll be ignored at best, or more likely deliberately excluded (in the name of inclusion).
Cynicism, idiosyncrasy, appeals to liberty, will not be tradeable currencies. Forget it. The options are limited to just one: get with the programme.
There is an alternative to this new authoritarianism, and it is this: authoritarianism. By which I mean, the only way that supporters of individualist, liberal values can possibly hope to defend them, should they wish to, is through taking an aggressively authoritarian stance themselves, temporarily going against those very values they wish to preserve.
You want critical race theory out of the universities? Prohibit it. You want the BBC to stop hiring woke commentators? Demand that they be fired.
March, petition, hector, censor, shout. Or in other words, do what the trend-following, new left is doing.
This could work, I guess. Maybe you could do all that, shore up your established freedoms, and then calm it all down again, the battle having been won.
But I very much doubt it will happen, and I’m not sure I’d want it to. I mean, Generation X, my favourite drawling, dead-eyed, slacker cynics, rising up and—what?—waving placards?
I’d rather heckle from the cheap seats, until this all blows over. Because that was hardcoded too.
And because that’s the thing, that this will all blow over,—all the pandemonium, and the excess, all the emotion and dementedness, and the losing of any agreed upon plot—as the wheel turns.
Whatever the new authoritarians build, it will only last until the next cycle, when their children, or their children’s children, take a look at the shallow conformity into which they have been born, and the phoney optimism, and the demands and the diktats, and begin—moved by deep channels of which they are not yet aware—to naively sow the seeds of chaos, again.
Sam White is a writer, photographer, and qualified journalist. Sam has written on politics, culture, music, sport, travel, and other subjects, and has also written fiction and poetry. Originally from the North of England, Sam’s now resident in Tokyo. Sam’s articles have appeared on British sites such as The Spectator, Spiked Online, Vice, The Huffington Post, and Country Squire Magazine. In Japan Sam’s contributed to Metropolis Magazine and GaijinPot, in the US to The Federalist and Splice Today, and in Australia to Quillette. Sam’s blog is accessible here.