THE FUTURE THAT IS UPON US
We are at war. Every day this brutal fact stares into our face. It is a global war that involves many countries. It is a civil war that rips American society, pits citizens against each other, and tears apart our families and friendships. It is a war for the future of our country and the world, and we are in it for a long haul.
The more one looks at this war, the more one realizes that the outcome of this war will be decided in America. Many other countries play an important role, but what happens in the United States will have the most impact on the rest of the world.
On a superficial level, the war in America may appear to be between the opponents and supporters of President Trump. However, the conflict goes much deeper. It is a war between those who support the rule of elites over the people and those who fight for universal inclusion and empowerment, for their human dignity, for their right to create their own future.
This war is at least four-year-old. It began in 2016 when Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth President of the United States. Although the elections were fair and square and President Trump was elected in accordance with existing laws and rules, progressive liberals vowed to oust him from the office and subvert the will of the American people. They have tried–not once, not twice, but many times—to achieve their goal. They have failed but they have not conceded. They vowed to fight on to the end and fight they do.
They have taken this war to our cities. Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, New York, Kenosha, and others have become the battleground, the scene of violent clashes. Lives are disrupted and lost; properties are destroyed; people suffer. The proponents of elite rule promise more fighting, more violence, and more destruction. Their candidate for president Joe Biden is already on record, threatening America and telling us that re-election of Donald Trump will bring more war and more violence. The likes of Hillary Clinton and Michele Obama are already calling on their followers not to concede if Donald Trump is re-elected. The like of George Soros and other moneybags boast that they will provide more resources for these destructive actions.
So we are in this war for a long haul. Like in other wars, the victory in this war will depend on the will of the combatants. Whoever has the stronger will and more endurance will claim the victory. Those who fight against elite rule must persevere in their will and determination to endure the hardships and win. In order to sustain their will and determination, they must have clear objectives.
Wars are not only and probably not so much about guns and armed clashes. These are not the only means of conducting wars. Wars are primarily about the imposition of the will of one side on another. There is a whole arsenal of weapons that can be used to achieve this goal. In this sense, the most important weapon that the proponents of elite rule have is their control over public discourse. Elites are very experienced in manipulating and controlling the public opinion in their interests. They have created a huge arsenal of weapons to help them sustain this control. They have media and cultural institutions that spread their ideology. They have schools and universities that train the next generation of warriors who will fight for their cause. They have the army of professionals and bureaucrats who are willing to twist and distort the law so as to beat people into submission. We must deny them this opportunity to promote their agenda and control what issues are up for discussion. We must end their domination over public discourse, which means that we must forcefully advance our own public discourse and raise issues for public discussion that we think are important.
The goals of the elites and their supporters are moribund. They do not reflect the needs and imperatives of the contemporary world. They point to the past, not the future. They hearken back to the New Deal and its progressive agenda that was rejected by America in the middle of the 1970s. Such a return to the past offers no future. Civilizations that fail to move forward will inevitably disintegrate.
The agenda of the opponents of elite rule is only emerging; it is still in the process of taking shape, but one can already glean some of its main contours. This agenda takes shape around the main issues and divisions that fuel this war.
The most important division tears our society and the world apart is between elites and their supporters and those who crave universal inclusion and empowerment. Elite rule has been dominant in our civilization. There have been many attempts in the course of human history to end this domination but elite rule has always managed to prevail. It is time to end this domination.
The developments that have taken place in the last decades have opened new vistas for our society. Economic, technological, and social changes have enhanced freedom and empowered people. People no longer depend on elites in acquiring and disseminating knowledge. Elites are no longer capable to prevent common people from formulating their own political will that is not dictated or drummed into their heads by the elites. People can now voice their independent views and opinions and pursue political agendas that they formulate on their own outside the influence of elites and their institutions. Common people are now free to act and they are willing to protect this freedom. The result of this awakening of common people is the emergence of a new social practice—one that is universally inclusive and empowering. The elites are no longer capable of dominating public discourse and manipulate people. The institution of this new social practice is perhaps the most important goal of the emerging agenda of the opponents of elite rule.
Another important division that paralyzes our civilization and is a source of numerous conflicts is the rift between what we call rational thought and scientific reason, on one hand, and religious thought, on the other. Religious thought has had a long history and has become the source of very important intuitions such as the intuition regarding the unity of knowledge, moral and aesthetic values, the intuition about the sanctity of life, and the intuition about the fundamental equality of all people. The contemporary elites suppress religious thought and reject their intuitions, which leads to many conflicts that hinder our capacity to acquire knowledge, ruins the moral fabric of our society, our sense of justice and beauty. Elite rule goes against the important conviction about the sanctity of life cherished by many Americans.
Many conflicts in our society originate in the still unresolved problem of growth. The battles that rage over climate change and the environment are perhaps the most important example of these conflicts. The elites propose a solution that calls for redistribution of wealth, reducing production and consumption, and limiting population. Their solution is essentially to slow down growth if not ending it altogether. It is a profoundly pessimistic proposal. It goes against our past experience and what this experience teaches us. Our civilization has succeeded by growing, not erecting obstacles to its continued evolution. At the end of the 18th century, Thomas Malthus made his pessimistic prediction about the demise of Europe that foreshadowed future calamities and suffering. Reality proved him wrong. The continued evolution of our civilization opened new possibilities that Malthus could not even imagine. In the next century, Europe not only increased its population dramatically but also provided this population with a much higher standard of living and general quality of life. The benefits of this development spread far beyond the confines of Europe.
The solution to the problem of growth that is currently emerging is not about austerity and privations. It is about enhancing human creativity and creating conditions that would make possible the fullest possible utilization of the capacity of all humans to create. The economic and technological progress makes such a transition not only possible but necessary for the survival of our civilization.
Finally, there is an urgent need to create a new international order. The proponents of the elite rule have for a long time presided over the international order built on inequality—one in which the domination by the elites was fundamental. In the last several decades the neoliberal elites have ruled in the world. This rule has resulted in stagnant growth and several major economic crises that have destroyed much-created wealth. The United Nations Organization is one institution that perpetuates this elite domination. The order that liberal elites have created brought inequality, suffering, and much strife and conflict around the world. They do not have a realistic solution to the problem of world order; and neither does Chinese communism, Putin’s corrupt elite rule, or Islamic authoritarianism. We need a new international order—one that would not be run by elites but will be based on a democratic practice that is universally inclusive and empowering.
A short article certainly cannot embrace all aspects of the emerging future. America and the world need a fundamental transformation. Such a transformation is not the job that a small elite can perform. It requires efforts and creative input by many people. It is an evolving project. Many parts of this project still have to be added. The creative contributions by many people are essential for the transformation of this magnitude. They are the essence of the new democratic practice.
The future is upon us. It does not wait. We must welcome and embrace it. Our success will depend on our ability to end the domination of the elites and establish people’s control over public discourse. We should grasp this opportunity in order to lead our country and help lead the rest of the world to a better future. There is no nobler mission than to help in emancipating humanity from tyranny by the few.
Gennady Shkliarevsky is Professor Emeritus of History at Bard College, NY