I don’t believe in God. However, I do believe in divine retribution. Without going into the specifics of this somewhat counterintuitive theology, suffice to say here that its central axiom is the idea that actions have consequences. One cannot go on committing evil without reaping a whirlwind or two. Eventually Nemesis overtakes Hubris, and the results aren’t pretty.
This is our future. Or, at least, one hopes it is – otherwise, there is no justice in this world, or perhaps even in the next.
This struck me as I was reading a column by Steve Chapman, a mildly conservative journalist with vaguely libertarian leanings: according to him, people on the right (of which I count myself one) are “addicted to apocalypse.” He takes us through decades of conservative apocalyptic rhetoric, from Ronald Reagan predicting the end of freedom in America due to the depredations of Medicare to Ted Cruz – the liberal media’s villain of the moment – who recently said:
“The challenges facing this country are unlike any we have ever seen. … (T)his is an administration that seems bound and determined to violate every single one of our Bill of Rights. We’re nearing the edge of a cliff. … We have a couple of years to turn this country around, or we go off the cliff to oblivion.” Citing Reagan, Cruz declared: “One day we will find ourselves answering questions from our children and our children’s children, ‘What was it like when America was free?’”
According to Chapman, whose likeness accompanying his column shows him smiling the smile of the self-satisfied bourgeois, this is all so much balderdash, because, you see, Reagan was wrong: Medicare wasn’t that bad (it’s cheaper than Obamacare!), the counterculture receded (not where I live, but whatever), and the Soviet Union faded away (well, yes, just as the apocalyptic Ludwig von Mises predicted). See? Nothing to fear! Good times are ahead! The world is our oyster!
The problem with those grumpy old conservatives, says Chapman, is that “when their dire predictions fail to come true, they keep forecasting the worst possible outcome if they don’t get their way. They seem to need the perpetual excitement of impending doom.”
The smugness of our political class is impenetrable: they believe the system that sustains and rewards them is invulnerable, or nearly so. The society in which they live is, seemingly, a well-ordered one, where – in spite of a few glitches, like government shutdowns caused by evil nihilists and other subversive elements – the machinery of society runs smoothly, interrupted only by occasional burps and hiccups
Yet just beneath the surface, there is a roiling, like some giant serpent crawling mere inches below the cool green grass, making odd curlicues in an otherwise perfect lawn: a message written in an alien cursive, signifying – what?
As the workers go off every morning, lining up at Starbucks and preparing to earn their daily bread, American drones take off from secret silos somewhere in the desert, seeking out their intended victims – and some not intended. As the sounds of normalcy stream in through an open window – leafblowers in the distance, chirping birds crowding around the feeder, children brawling in the schoolyard – the news that the NSA is collecting our emails seems irrelevant. We go about our business, and the political class goes about theirs – the former quite ordinary, the latter quite another story altogether.
A new study shows our noble crusade to “liberate” Iraq killed half a million people. It is impossible to even imagine such a crime: the mind shuts down in the face of those numbers. I can’t even visualize half a million dead bodies – can you? And that doesn’t take into account the sanctions, which killed hundreds of thousands more, mostly old people and children. Nor does it include the number we killed in the first Gulf war – we’re surely up to a solid million dead by now.
Getting away with this is what we call “American exceptionalism.” God (or Nature) punishes evil, eventually – but not us. We’re the exception.
But are we?