The politics of cultural despair (2)

December 13, 2009

I wrote in my last post that Western leaders gathered at Copenhagen preside over a cultural order – based on free political and economic choices – in which they no longer believe.  They are torn from their own roots, ashamed of their own past, afraid to invoke the ancient ideals of the nations they represent.  They float above their fellow citizens like grotesque balloons, without rudder or ballast, desperately hoping to find true north by an appeal to science, or to the media, or by embracing one another in a show of global governance.

Such tactics are doomed to fail.  Make no mistake about it:  Copenhagen is a Western show.  Climate rage is a mania of the European and American elites.  The summit takes for granted a specific ideal of justice and equity.  This ideal is part of our inheritance, and so long as the presidents and prime ministers of Western countries remained true to that inheritance, they had common ground, a shared purpose:  a political direction.

But having wrenched themselves loose from the past, and disdained their inheritance, they are now condemned to drift apart – doomed to petty squabbles over blame and money, to pointless handshakes in front of cameras, to failure.  The politics of cultural despair lead inevitably to paralysis or worse.  At the summit, Western politicians seem afflicted with premature rigor mortis.

Outside, the crowd of professional radicals has arrived.  Let us grant these people their sincerity.  They are the true antibodies, the human instruments of cultural suicide.  They may be for many things or none, but the bond that holds them together is a hatred for everything that is, and a frenzy to be against.

Nihilism is knocking on the door of the Bella Center in Copenhagen, where heads of state huddle timidly, unsure whether they are hearing the future order of things or another squabbling lobby.

I’m an optimist.  I believe in the power of the American people to hammer some sense into their sometimes addled elected officials.  But I won’t deny that the spectacle at  Copenhagen is dispiriting.  The political leadership of the West appears unwilling to defend individual freedom.  The keepers our our culture seek to bury it.  Their loudest opponents demand that it be razed to the ground instead.

The decade is ending on a low note.