It's the End of the World as We Know It
Both J.E. Dyer of Hot Air, and Roger L. Simon, our own Maximum Pajamahadeen, reached similar conclusions after watching the rock concert-esque spectacle of the London Olympics' opening ceremonies. First up, after offering kudos to the Queen, Daniel Craig, Danny Boyle, Kenneth Branagh, Rowan Atkinson, and Paul McCartney, Roger writes, “And yet. And yet:”
Moving as this most artistically inspired of all Olympics opening ceremonies was, were we watching the end of something — and I am not talking about the end of Bob Costas. How much longer can he go on? (How much Botox is there in the world?)
Were (are) we watching the end of the world as we have known it?
I’m not saying this is 1936 all over again, even though then, as now, the world was in economic crisis. Those Olympics were in Berlin, being filmed by Leni Riefenstahl, a director even greater than Danny Boyle, but plying her art at the behest of one of the most evil people of all time.
That is not the case here. But there is still something ineffably sad, at least to me. It’s hard to be optimistic this Olympic year. These are ominous times indeed, not a moment for celebration.
At Hot Air, J.E. Dyer dubs the opening ceremonies "the death throes of a civilization:"
Watching the ceremony last night, I had a profound sense of sadness for the hollow revelry. There was no dignified memorializing of the greatness, uniqueness, and courage of Britain’s past. There was “irreverent, idiosyncratic” entertainment, and a very long segment of writhing self-abasement before the shibboleth of socialized medicine.
We seemed to be looking last night at a moment frozen in time before a great upheaval, like the last days of lingering sunlight before World War I. A civilization based on entertainment and ritual political worship is headed for a fall. But then, a civilization that singles out some humans, like Israeli Jews, to show less care for – less solidarity with – is a weak and unsustainable one. Nothing else will go right with it.
Britain is not alone in her shallow, artistic commemorations of a dying culture. Western Europe’s official vision of itself largely boils down to that. I believe there are still many individuals in Europe – as distinct from the ruling precincts of political correctness and utopianism – who have the courage to forge a different future. But as a useful vehicle for what needs to be done, the continent’s official organizations, its governments and agencies, are beyond their expiration date. Too many of them do not serve the people now, but only indenture and discourage them.
Such a situation cannot endure. No amount of artistic entertainment can make fear, loss of purpose, and politically correct weakness noble or inspiring, much less invincible. The post-liberal culture and political idea of Europe are not in a position to triumph today. They are not even in a position to survive.
How grim will the future be? And when will it arrive? How 'bout right now, according to our own Victor Davis Hanson. VDH writes that post-apocalyptic California would make the perfect giant location setting for director George Miller's next Road Warrior movie:
Sometimes, and in some places, in California I think we have nearly descended into Miller’s dark vision — especially the juxtaposition of occasional high technology with premodern notions of law and security. The state deficit is at $16 billion. Stockton went bankrupt; Fresno is rumored to be next. Unemployment stays over 10% and in the Central Valley is more like 15%. Seven out of the last eleven new Californians went on Medicaid, which is about broke. A third of the nation’s welfare recipients are in California. In many areas, 40% of Central Valley high school students do not graduate — and do not work, if the latest crisis in finding $10 an hour agricultural workers is any indication. And so on.
Our culprit out here was not the Bomb (and remember, Hiroshima looks a lot better today than does Detroit, despite the inverse in 1945). The condition is instead brought on by a perfect storm of events that have shred the veneer of sophisticated civilization. Add up the causes. One was the destruction of the California rural middle class. Manufacturing jobs, small family farms, and new businesses disappeared due to globalization, high taxes, and new regulations. A pyramidal society followed of a few absentee land barons and corporate grandees, and a mass of those on entitlements or working for government or employed at low-skilled service jobs. The guy with a viable 60 acres of almonds ceased to exist.
Illegal immigration did its share. No society can successfully absorb some 6-7 million illegal aliens, in less than two decades, the vast majority without English, legality, or education from the poorer provinces of Mexico, the arrivals subsidized by state entitlements while sending billions in remittances back to Mexico — all in a politicized climate where dissent is demonized as racism. This state of affairs is especially true when the host has given up on assimilation, integration, the melting pot, and basic requirements of lawful citizenship.
Terrible governance was also a culprit, in the sense that the state worked like a lottery: those lucky enough by hook or by crook to get a state job thereby landed a bonanza of high wages, good benefits, no accountability, and rich pensions that eventually almost broke the larger and less well-compensated general society. When I see hordes of Highway Patrolmen writing tickets in a way they did not before 2008, I assume that these are revenue-based, not safety-based, protocols — a little added fiscal insurance that pensions and benefits will not be cut.
A coarsening of popular culture — a nationwide phenomenon — was intensified, as it always is, in California. The internet, video games, and modern pop culture translated into a generation of youth that did not know the value of hard work or a weekend hike in the Sierra. They didn’t learn how to open a good history book or poem, much less acquire even basic skills such as mowing the lawn or hammering a nail. But California’s Generation X did know that they were “somebody” whom teachers and officials dared not reprimand, punish, prosecute, or otherwise pass judgment on for their anti-social behavior. Add all that up with a whiny, pampered, influential elite on the coast that was more worried about wind power, gay marriage, ending plastic bags in the grocery stores — and, well, you get the present-day Road Warrior culture of California.
Look around you. From now on, it gets worse. In ten years’ time, there will be no American Dream, any more than there’s a Greek or Portuguese Dream. In twenty, you’ll be living the American Nightmare, with large tracts of the country reduced to the favelas of Latin America, the rich fleeing for Bermuda or New Zealand or wherever on the planet they can buy a little time, and the rest trapped in the impoverished, violent, diseased ruins of utopian vanity.
Forget high-speed rail; what's Steyn's describing is what's really coming down the tracks at accelerating speeds in California.