October 14, 2003

"Something Strange...:" A Footnote

" A strain of the disease, again inspired by the Counter-enlightenment, had slipped into the Middle East spawning first the Ba'ath movement (a second-rate version that merged T 2.0 and T 3.0) and a full-fledged Totalitarianism 4.0 in the form of Radical Islamism."

Last week, I wrote an item titled There's Something Strange in the Neighborhood which stimulated more than a few entries in the "Comments" section. Among these was one which caught my eye. It was not a comment as much as a pocket essay that corrected, expanded and deepened what I had tried to say. Written by Demosophia , its more than worthy of consideration when we think about what the future might hold for the political structures of this country.

The last time a new party was formed was during the events leading to the Civil War. It's difficult to establish a new, third, party for lots of very practical reasons. And it's also difficult for me to see a trend in the election of Arnold, because he's pretty much a one-off. But there *could* be a seismic shift going on, because anti-Totalitarianism might be the 21st Century equivalent of anti-Slavery.

Yes, the party is over and it ended with 9/11. My grandfather was an aircraft mechanic in WWII, when the German Counter-enlightenment became the guiding force behind Totalitarianism 1.0. What was happening is probably seen more clearly in the assassination of the Archduke by a group of Anarchists, than on the fields of Flanders, but the rebellion against liberalism had begun. And it eventually took the form of Totalitarianism 2.0 in Russia and Asia, and Totalitarianism 3.0 in Europe itself. And after WWII and the Cold War had eliminated both of those, we thought we were done.

But a strain of the disease, again inspired by the Counter-enlightenment, had slipped into the Middle East spawning first the Ba'ath movement (a second-rate version that merged T 2.0 and T 3.0) and a full-fledged Totalitarianism 4.0 in the form of Radical Islamism. Because outside of the Koran, the greatest influence on the writings of Sayyid Qutb was, again, the Counter-enlightenment.

So when the guns had grown quiet after Appomattox, and chattel slavery moved from the throne of evil to the topmost in the ash heap of history it was replaced by another, somewhat subtler evil. And suicide terrorism is, and has always been, one of the favorite strategies of Totalitarian movements that are either out of power, or on the verge of losing it. (The Japanese Kamikaze and the German Werewolf campaigns were not an accident.)

So if liberalism is ready to mature, and put a final end to the enemy that our grandfathers and fathers fought, then I can see that motivating a seismic shift to a new alignment in the US... one that isn't merely dedicated to Democracy (power of the people), but to Demosophia (wisdom of the people). And yes, I know that we don't have a "pure" form of democracy, but something closer to what Robert Dahl calls "polyarchy."

So, the shift would signal more power and more wisdom as well as a recognition that we are really fighting an old enemy, an evil that has been around a long time. But do you really think we're ready, on the basis of an election of a one-off political figure? I do have a sense that something has changed, and I just hope it's a further fulfillment of John Locke and not Totalitarianism 5.0. So I'll be pretty careful before I jump onboard the "next big thing." Because I think the maturing of Liberalism isn't a sudden event. It's a gradual process that may or may not suddenly appear. But I will admit that there is a mature liberal impulse that is expressed in the blogosphere, and by people like Andrew Sullivan and Chris Hitchens and others, that doesn't fit the old "conservative" image. But that has been building for a long time, and it may well be the final matchup with Totalitarianism.

Radical Islam seen as "Totalitarianism 4.0." That's a powerful concept. We need to make the most of it.

Posted by Vanderleun at October 14, 2003 2:50 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

This is essentially Paul Berman's thesis of "Terror and Liberalism," that the war we are fighting today is the terrible thing that got started 80 years ago in Europe and has never come to an end.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 14, 2003 4:56 PM

I agree with the sentiment that a "mature liberal impulse" exists. I saw a lot of it while working on the Arnold campaign. The sentiment includes a great deal of anger and frustration with the actions of both parties, yet does not seek to isolate itself in rage. It wants to engage.

I also agree with the characterization of the enemy in this war. However, remember what was required to bring us out of our historical isolation in the first place -- two world wars.

Sadly, I think that the only thing that woul mobilize any popular sentiment along the lines you suggest will be more deadly terror attacks here, or on our close allies.

Posted by: Dave Sheridan at October 16, 2003 3:03 AM