“Dehiscence” is a term used in botany to describe the last stages in the life of a plant or flower. It is when the plant, upon reaching maturity, dies, but in the process bursts or otherwise broadcasts its seeds. In the old Dark Age Blog, I used that term to describe the last stages of an over-ripe civilisation. In this post, I want to give some examples of that, and to suggest that the “dehiscence” of the Modern Era has already occurred.
For anyone who thinks that Barbara Tuchman’s account of history as the “March of Folly” ended with former neo-con Francis Fukuyama’s declaration of “The End of History” — that is to say, that the “March of Folly” finally ended with the superior wisdom of neo-conservatism or neo-liberalism — well, all I can say is: “I’ve got a genuine extraterrestrial flying saucer for sale”. I also have an interesting historical anecdote about that and about “blowback” which, for some inexplicable reason, occurs to me a 3:00 am in the morning.
What distinguishes this “new conservatism” (a.k.a “neo-conservatism”) from traditional conservatism (a.ka. “paleo-conservatism”)? Some have described it as “right-wing Bolshevism” or “right-wing Jacobinism”, which can’t be interpreted in any other way than saying there’s a pronounced fascistic tendency in the new conservatism. The days when the virtue of “prudence” (or indeed “conserving”) characterised the conservative mood and attitude seem to be long gone.
After watching the emergence of this “new conservatism” over the years, and its present performance, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two features that distinguish the “neo” from the “paleo”, and this is reflected I think in the differences, in the U.S. in any case, between the very different attitudes of The National Review or The American Conservative Magazine, respectively. The two “principles” of the new “principled conservatism” are 1) “noble lie” conservatism (the Straussians) and 2) “creative destruction” (Schumpeter). But there are deeper roots and connections for “noble lie” and “creative destruction” than are usually taken into consideration.
The latest demented punditry from the conservative press in Canada has been to redefine opposition to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s policies and his Conservative government as being a form of mental illness, duly dubbed “Harper Derangement Syndrome“.
Granted, there is an epidemic of the crazies these days. But no immunity or exemption from the crazies was made for the conservative commentariat or the columnists of The Toronto Sun or The National Post or their readerships either.
There’s nothing like a contemporary political campaign in the pursuit of power to reveal the “hidden hand” of Mr. Hyde behind the crumbling mask of Dr. Jekyll — or, “the mask of sanity” as Hervey Cleckley called it. The post-modern condition is the disintegration of the consciousness structure (the ego-nature) of Modern Man. And in historical retrospect, we can see that the first symptoms and growing awareness of this impending disintegration or “deconstruction” occurred in the late 19th century. Everything subsequently follows logically from that insight.
We need to assess our present situation and predicament squarely and soberly.
The reason that I raised the myths of Orpheus and Cadmus in the last post, and addressed the themes of these myths as being topical in relation to contemporary politics — the politics of concord or the politics of discord — is to pave the way for a discussion of what is called a “Cadmean victory”. A “Cadmean victory” is a victory that brings about the victor’s ruin.
And the reason I want to address the irony that is a Cadmean victory in the present context, is because of how uncannily familiar it is in the politics in Canada (and beyond in fact), and in relation to the irony that is Mr. Stephen Harper, present Prime Minister of Canada.
“Elections are no time to discuss serious issues” — Kim Campbell, former Conservative PM of Canada
Contrary to Ms. Campbell’s rather absurd remarks about elections, I think they should be ideal times to renew the electorate’s confidence in democracy and to re-educate the public about democratic principles. Public school teachers should duly dust off George Orwell’s essay on “Politics and the English Language” and be well practiced in propaganda analysis themselves. An election should be the ideal time to address the problem of the “democratic deficit“, both in terms of the functioning of our democratic institutions, and in the public’s understanding (or misunderstanding) of democracy itself as the practice of “self-government”.