Just as our new civil religion does not promise atonement and redemption, neither does it offer real hope for the restoration of political community. Del Noce perceived this when he called the new totalitarianism a “totalitarianism of disintegration” bent not on imposing a new order on the world but destroying all traces of the old one. The fundamental question at this point of our history is not whether political rule can be restored, but whether this interminable process of disintegration can somehow be arrested before it destroys what is left of the last properly human civilization we are likely to have. It is not clear that this process can be stopped. It is clear, however, that politics cannot save us, and certainly not the sophistic parodies of politics characteristic of our post-political age. The broken political mechanisms at our disposal might still be used to provide some redress for social and economic inequalities. They could still be used to enforce civil rights, to protect civil liberties, or to enact police reform. They could even be marshalled to break up the tech giants and their ever-tightening grip on the flow of information, though it is doubtful this would lessen the ability of the press to mediate reality or stop the virtual public square from replacing the real one. But political instruments cannot fix a ruined system that has mistaken ignorance for education and renounced all but pragmatic conceptions of truth. They cannot liberate us from our technological regime of necessity, which carries all of us along by its own momentum. They cannot undo the conditioning of whole generations attached to the internet from birth and trained by social media to exhibit their interior lives exteriorly and perform their virtue virtually before the world. They cannot put the surveillance genie back in the bottle or constrain the power to call down violence (rhetorical or otherwise) on anyone at any time. One cannot solve a humanistic crisis by technological and political means, and politics cannot cure the sickness of mind and spirit that has infected us. It cannot heal our self-hatred or end the desperate and futile attempt to absolve ourselves of the guilt of being. The dream of mastering fortuna by political and technical means was an illusion that has left us enslaved and sickened. The burning flames of our civilization are fueled by an intellectual and spiritual fever for which we possess no cure.
Yet the West was once defined by its belief in a power not our own that did not need our wickedness to show its generosity, a power that created our nature with an essential goodness our wickedness cannot unmake, that recreates us without destroying us or, impossibly, erasing the past: a power Whose image we bore in the reason we all share, a power that could—and did—effect the atonement that we are powerless to provide for ourselves, that frees us to live with ourselves and each other. If this was ever true, then it must be true even now, however deeply we or our ancestors have betrayed these convictions. And so, this truth must perdure even beneath the abyss of our nihilism, showing itself in the resilience of nature and in human and superhuman acts of courage, charity, forgiveness, and forbearance that mostly pass beneath the gaze of the social media panopticon. The question of whether we can be rescued from the spirit of nihilism that we have unleashed is ultimately the question of whether this power and its truth can somehow be rediscovered from within an anti-culture premised on their attempted annihilation.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor