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The Wave

In the video clip below, a Euronews reporter tries to get a combative Steve Bannon to explain the phenomenon of populism. Bannon had been touring Europe as an observer and was in a way the natural person to ask. The resulting exchange is an entertaining, even enlightening exposition of Bannon's interpretation of recent events -- but is his analysis correct?

Is the reporter's vague notion of populism as a regressive international conspiracy to revive the nation state or an atavistic return of the worst impulses of the 1930s spot on? Or is Steve Bannon correct in defining populism as largely a reaction to the diktat of the elites? Nothing new, simply derivative and merely the negative of "the party of Davos"? Or was the upheaval driven by deeper historical forces -- a notion that Bannon toys with at the very end of the interview, where he muses on it as a kind of necessary prelude to humanity's great technological challenges which the sclerotic global world order is unable to face?

There's no reason to think Bannon, despite his connection to events, has the right insight, though he might. The combativeness of Bannon (which he calls his "house style"), Trump or Farage has misled many of their critics into thinking these individuals are the source of the upheaval -- that they are in charge -- when they may just be surfing the wave. Maybe no one knows the true significance of recent events, though to Bannon's credit he is trying to formulate an answer.

The big mystery is what caused the Wave of 2016. That remains the big unsolved question, important not merely for academic purposes. Future actions may depend on the answer, for the Wave is probably yet to run its course. There is no full explanation as yet for what destroyed the mighty Global World Order, leaving us somewhat like those stock characters in science fiction contemplating the ruins of an unimaginably powerful civilization, yet realizing that something destroyed them:

According to records accessed by James Holden on Ring Station, the galaxy-spanning alien civilization responsible for the creation of the protomolecule, Rings and the Slow Zone was destroyed by an unknown agency. This mysterious force demonstrated the ability to neutralize the civilization's hive-mind or collective consciousness, and as its influence spread throughout the galaxy the civilization was forced to resort to extreme measures, destroying entire solar systems in a bid to stem the "infection."

The comparison between the crumbled world order to a ruined sci-fi civilization is not entirely fanciful. At the end of the 20th century, some thought we had actually reached the End of History.  Yet two decades later, as Robert Kagan wrote in his Washington Post article "Things Will Not Be Okay," the great global edifice was smashed beyond repair. Kagan lamented: