Strength and Weakness
As the western political order decays, it will become more totalitarian at home, and more impotent abroad.
There is an important contrast between the weak, hysterical rhetoric of the vaccinators, and their brutal tactics, even as circumstances have forced them to retreat. The Canadian truckers are only the most recent movement to draw the backlash of this international order of hypochondriacs. They did a great deal of damage to the vaccinators’ credibility, much more than I thought was possible, and when Canada finally rolls back containment it will be in no small part due to them. (That won’t happen for some time yet, of course; Trudeau’s government will delay to deny the protestors any clear victory.) Still, the vaccinators shouldn’t be underestimated. They’ll move heaven and earth to freeze the financial assets of ordinary people who donated a few dollars to a labour protest movement over mandatory vaccination policies in one of the most heavily vaccinated countries on earth.
This central paradox, of simultaneous strength and weakness, can be very counter-intuitive, but I think it arises from a phenomenon I’ve mentioned a few times before. This is the diffusion of power downwards, from the upper reaches of the political system, into the bureaucratic institutions, academia and even the press. This diffusion, which has happened in varying degrees throughout all of our countries, and which is still ongoing, means that all major government initiatives arise from a broad consensus of the new political elites. Major media organisations, learned societies, and all branches of the bureaucracy collaborate to realise the same consensus vision everywhere. This broad collaboration means all regime policies have a broad base of powerful supporters and that official discourse is always tightly controlled. Political actors are increasingly isolated from all criticism. In the countries where this process of diffusion is the most advanced, ordinary people have lost almost all political influence. Those matters of most importance to the regime are simply never debated, and there are no political alternatives.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial