I have just been reading Alan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind which I first read when it was published in 1987. It is remarkable for many things, but most incredibly how none of it has aged in the years since it was written. Things are, of course, worse since academics like Bloom have almost completely disappeared, but the cowardice of the academic world seems to have been a constant. This is from the chapter on “The Sixties” an era I know only too well.
To be isolated in the university, to be called foul names by their students or their colleagues, all for the sake of an abstract idea, was too much for them. There were not in general strong men [or women], although their easy rhetoric had persuaded them that they were – that they alone manned [guarded] the walls protecting civilization. Their collapse was merely pitiful, although their feeble attempts at self-justification frequently turned victorious. In Germany the professors who kept quiet had the very good excuse that they could not do otherwise. Speaking up would have meant imprisonment or death. The law not only did not protect them but was their deadly enemy.” (Bloom 1987: 318)
We are not there yet, and there is plenty of reason to hope we might still get past the latest green-socialist disease. But there is also plenty of reason to think we may not. There is also no one else to defend our way of life other than us. I have paid attention to the ongoing discussion about the Kurds and how PDT has given them away and etc etc etc, all with further laments about who will ever again be able to trust the US etc etc etc. This from the people who surrendered in the Vietnam War in 1975, giving up on a won position and thereby causing the horrors of Cambodia. These are the kinds of decisions presidents are asked to make and it may be right and it may be wrong, but none of us is likely to know. Should this decision cause anyone to move even a milli-smidgeon towards not supporting Trump in 2020 would demonstrate only how shallow their understanding of current events is and how vast the dangers we face actually are.
So let me come back to Alan Bloom who is writing about the world we are in today, even though he published the book in 1987. Following the passage above, he discusses a conversation he had had with an academic at Cornell who had been party to surrendering to a violent student uprising in 1969.
The “social contract,” he averred, was about to be broken, and we would have returned to “the state of nature,” the war of all against all, the worst evil, so that anything to keep that from happening was justified. He proved therewith that he had never understood what he had been teaching, for the contract theorists all taught that the law must never be broken, that the strength of the law is the only thing that keeps us away from the state of nature, therefore that risks and dangers must be accepted for the sake of the law. Once the law is broken with impunity, each man regains the right to any means he deems proper and necessary in order to defend himself against the new tyrant, the one who can break the law.” (Bloom 1987: 319)
Despite what these self-important know-nothing demonstrators may think, we are not in Nazi Germany, which they understand perfectly well. None of them really believe that the world will come to an end in twelve years or even in their own lifetimes. None of them believe there is a single thing Australia can do to lower carbon emissions when China is building coal-fired power plants at a prodigious rate.
But what they do not understand is that the West, the only place where democratic, free and prosperous institutions have ever taken root, will disappear if these ignorant youths are able to shift public opinion enough to put the lever of power into the hands of the people who lead them on these demos.
This has happened before. There is no reason to think it cannot happen again, or that it cannot happen here.