Funny thing is, I was in school with a man named Ted Widmer, and I recently read that one Ted Widmer is a “distinguished lecturer” at a New York university and is senior fellow at the “Council for Ethics” in international affairs. The Ted I knew was anything but ethical, and dressed rather strangely, if you know what I mean. Never mind—whether he was a schoolmate or not, Widmer has written a treatise about 1919 and called it “The Year of the Crack-Up.” It’s very good. Basically he says that what took place in 1919 shaped the world for the rest of the century.
One hundred years later, his crack-up looks like a tiny fissure to me, a chink, yet in a funny way it did shape the rest of the century. The war was over and the German, Austrian, and Ottoman empires were gone. The chirpy and confident Americans, headed by a vainglorious blowhard named Woodrow Wilson, had decided to impose on the inbred Euros a thing called “self-determination.” The Yanks, after all, had arrived last-minute à la John Wayne with his 7th Cav and saved the Allies from the hated Bosch. Self-determination became le gout du jour, and that is all le tout Paris talked about. In fact, Paris dropped Proust and talked only about Fourteen Points, just as London forgot all about Eugenie, Kate, and Meghan, and babbles on about Brexit. Against the State: An ... Best Price: $5.02 Buy New $5.52 (as of 11:35 EST - Details)
A few centuries before that, a silk stocking called Louie defined the state as follows: “L’état, c’est moi.” Some four hundred years after Louie baby, an ass by the name of Jean-Claude sort of thinks l’état is his. He conducts referendums in which only a few bother to vote, but when the “self-determined” who bother to don’t vote JC’s way, he makes them vote again and again. The irony is that the only real self-determination took place in 2016, on an overcrowded island northwest of France, and unless you’ve been living in Beverly Hills, California, you know what the result of that one was.
The word “democracy” has become the elixir for all ills, but democracy and self-determination are not always in sync. After the murderous 20th century, the early 21st has seen mass mania of the minority supported by lies and hysteria—“Cancel White People” by a female Korean installed on the editorial board of The New York Times, and other quotes by her, too filthy for these more elegant pages—illustrating that self-determination has become a phrase that only means “I can do and say anything I like as long as I aim my insults against the rich, the white, the Christian, the heterosexual, and the male.”