Musing on Citizen Wells
"Both ascension and decline appear at the same historical time, and owe their origins to the same causes." ~Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche; Geneology of Morals, Human, All Too Human
"What experience and history teach us is this: that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, nor drawn any lessons that may have been learned and acted on from it." ~George Wilhelm Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of History, 1832
Historical Saeculum Evokes Blogospheric Response One of the most fascinating experiences for those concerned with historical epics and their interplay within the human psyche is to see examples of this action and reaction as it is occurring. Some months back - if I recall correctly, it was primary election season - I happened upon a blog called Citizen Wells. I was an enthusiastic supporter of then Senator Barack Obama; particularly so because I was viewing him through the lens of the historical saeculum theory, as set forth by the two American author/historians, Neil Howe and the late William Strauss. These theorists were co-authors of several texts, but the one which fascinated me was The Fourth Turning: An American Prophesy (1997; Broadway Books). I first happened upon the text in 2001, some 4 years after it had been published. I continued to read and refer to it throughout the two Bush Administrations. Finally, I was compelled to return to it once more, during the primary elections season of 2008.
Because of the text's rich and informative theory; stunning in its capacity to clarify and unify, with a nexus of theory - that of a historical saeculum or cyclical foundation, which revolves within the human social world of action with the same stability as do nature's four seasons - which holds all together, I cannot give a full synopsis of the theory. The text must be approached with reverence, and read seriously. I will say only that in the authors' opinions, we were approaching a winter of American political and cultural events; and that this would be a climactic happening which would change our nation and the world forever.
I became intensely interested in Barack Obama precisely - and only - because he appeared to be fulfilling a prophesy within the text. Now, Howe and Strauss are no saccharine idealists. They were quite aware that within all heroic struggle, a terrible danger lurks: that of human error and the possibility of failure and catastrophe. It was with a wary eye that I watched his ascent: So sudden, seemingly flaring up from nowhere, and lighting the political sky like a comet. But to return to Citizen Wells. While enthusiastically supporting Obama, "Mr. Wells" caught my eye. He had written a post comparing the coming of Barack Obama to the ascent of Hitler in pre-war Germany. It was not written in the style of right wing drivel or propaganda; the tone was scholarly, cautious, thoughtful. I left some remarks, a tad bit testy on my own part, and was pleasantly surprised to see that the master of the blog had written me back in a style which was polite, sensitive, and truly respectful of my concerns. His was indeed a "hail fellow well met" gesture, and I told him so. (One wonders, is there an epistemic privilege to those who seek to turn back to classical origins, making them almost aristocratic in their speech?) Then I went my way, but I never forgot his post.
I recently returned to check out the progress of that blog. I was stunned to see that it appeared to have expanded greatly, and to have won a formidable following of intelligent people. What stunned me was the magnitude of their concerns, and the fortitude of their political activism. Not in agreement with the deatails of their cry of alarm - for instance, they seem obsessed with the fact that Obama is of Kenyan, not Hawaiin, birth; a fact which one would hope had been clearly documented as to the latter; and there is much talk of a gay affair complete with a mystery murder - I was nevertheless genuinely admiring of their basic and overarching concern. Most of them seemed extremely well-versed and informed. There were a couple of silly moments - talk of Stalin and KoolAid, which seemed a tad bit mentally unbalanced, or at least of that resentiment which Nietzsche rightly warns - but for the most part, I was impressed.
They seemed a group who were mourning the loss of the old Jeffersonian Republic. Their noble intent notwithstanding, I felt I was witnessing a sort of funeral dirge out of the recesses of the human psyche, which is lamenting the rise of the Global Order, noticed in the eleventh hour. I again left some remarks as to what I thought the problem was: The Global Order, advanced by Carter, Reagen, Clinton, W. Bush - for the destruction of national and regional loyalty has been a bi-partisan project for sure - was the true culprit. Obama is not the cause, but the outcome. He is symptom, consequence, incident of all which came before. Tilting at windmills would appear to be the stance of our troubled age.
I pointed out those wise words of the historian: The revolution passed us by. It went by in the night, singing songs. We are foolish to mourn that which we ourselves have thrown away. I was careful to point out that for all his talk of small government, and its evil twin, big bad government, Reagen had done much to further the cause of globalization. He spoke of Main Street, and furthered the ghostly global empire. I told them also that the mania-driven concern of the Bush family - oil and pharmaceutical conglammerates in the Middle East - was about as far from the Jeffersonian ideal of a Republic of free and rugged gentleman farmers as one could get. By uniting North and South, Abraham Lincoln created a monster of a nation which was destined to abandon its roots and go global. We are all caught up in it: The Internet, global markets, the expansion of air travel, gender feminism and trendy gay rights, divorce and fertility clinics modeled on European ideas, all forms of hi-tech gadgets and medical procedures and McDonald's franchises have caused Sullivan's nightmare - of a huge spiderweb engulfing all nations - to become the fact of broad daylight. The nightmare hour is now noon, not midnight. Whither are we tending? : It is now a question without an answer. The American Republic of our founding fathers, so full of noble regionalism and idealism, was allowed long ago to become a vast, capitalistic, global, mega-corporate , quasi-European, new-fangled, empire without end: America has no region: It is everywhere and nowhere. The hypocricies and extremes of a Nancy Pelosi are mixed in with those of a Rush Limbaugh, creating a witches brew which boils and boils to no avail. Neither side will win. And too many are tending the cauldron.
That a stunning orator, full of charm and charisma, waving the flag of FDR idealism fused with a sort of wistful Neo-Liberal quasi-socialism and parade-style unity, would come to the fore, take the helm, and steer it past the icebergs for a time: This scenario is merely the inevitable outcome of all which has occured - or been allowed to occur - since 1976. An eleventh hour struggle of a David before a Goliath: Well, I get exhausted just imagining it.
For all that, I wish the gang over at Citizen Wells, well. They have more energy and optimism than I , and most, can muster. They just may be part of a trend toward future succession of states and a rebuilding of a new Republic, which casts off the old, which abandoned its roots to join the trendy and glitzy Neo-Liberal European Nanny Complex, leaving the founding fathers' words to vanish like wisps of smoke. Ours is not a time for the uncovering of secrets: Certainly, many on the Left were convinced that Bush, Cheney and Rove were free-wheeling criminals who had concealed serious breaches of federal law under a veneer of Patriotism. There is still much serious investigative journalism working on the Ohio Election Boards' behalf, uncovering the mysteries of 2004, which has its own accusations of murder (Connell: The Distrubing Death of an Election Rigger). Now it is the other side's turn to accuse, as are the bloggers who are working furiously over at camp Citizen Wells. They are certainly full of the political activist spirit: Surely Howe and Strauss foretold their coming more than a decade ago. And so the wheels turn again, wheels within wheels: Larry Sinclair, a former criminal emerged out of the shadows, failed lie detector tests, and was done in by his own gay attorney before the media. "It's coming is sudden" says the sage; "like fire, like death, to be rejected by all." And moreover: If it should prove true that Obama is not US born, for instance, would this be likely, at this juncture, and in light of the huge corporate media machine, to be tolerated by his massive support network as a reason to oust him? More likely, it would raise a cry of alarm for the formation of tiny rebel and rogue republics, seceding from the giant from whence it gleaned its constitutional basis for reform.
In truth, I think I preferred Citizen Wells when he was posting very scholarly and reflective pieces, without so much of the shrill back and forth talk that seems to have come from his garnering a large following. For all that, I am keen to watch for future developments from the sidelines...........