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Our Increasingly Unrecognizable Civilization


The following is adapted from a speech delivered on April 26, 2021, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Franklin, Tennessee, by Mark Steyn, host of The Mark Steyn Show. It was published in Imprimis



I live about 20 minutes south of the Canadian border, which used to be called the longest undefended frontier in the world. People moved freely back and forth across it all day every day. But now it’s been closed for over a year. At one point my daughter asked me to drive her up there, because there was a 30-minute opportunity for people on one side to talk to their friends on the other. “Sad!” as President Trump would say. It was like Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin during the Cold War, except that both sides are now like East Berlin.

I don’t know how this happened, but it is just one indication that America, and the West in general, have become almost unrecognizable from what they were not that long ago.

Look at just three things we have lost.

One is equality before the law, something absolutely essential to a free society. In its place, we now have politicized law. If a policeman fatally shoots someone, whether his name is released to the public depends on whether the shooting is consistent with the preferred narrative of the ruling class. A policeman recently took down a young woman who was threatening the life of another young woman with a knife, and that policeman was immediately identified—indeed, his photo was posted and he was threatened by NBA superstar LeBron James on Twitter. On the other hand, we know nothing of the policeman who shot dead an unarmed woman in the U.S. Capitol on January 6. His name will apparently never be released to the public.

Second, border control. Functioning societies, at least since the Peace of Westphalia three centuries ago, have borders. America has no southern border and no plans to get one. The official position of our government seems to be that any of the seven billion persons on this planet has a right to come and stay in the U.S. for three years, until his or her assigned court date comes up. As the number of people with pending cases continues to grow, that three years will extend out to five or seven or 15 years. If we get all seven billion people to come here, the court system will break down entirely and maybe we can go back to having a functioning border.

And third, dare I bring up the fact that it is a real question whether we can go back to agreeing to have open and honest elections? And if we don’t have open and honest elections, control of our borders, and equality before the law, then we don’t have the conditions for politics or free government.

And here’s the thing. It is not at all clear to me that many of America’s conservative politicians understand the seriousness of all this. You can see it in the fact that they go around trying to scare people with the specter of a “radical socialist agenda.” For well over a year now, we have been living in a world in which it’s accepted as normal that the state has essentially unlimited power—and in which our freedom to decide for ourselves has been diminished almost to invisibility. Why do these conservative politicians think the words “radical socialist agenda” still scare anyone in a time when the state can tell us whether we can have Aunt Mabel over for Christmas? They are completely out of touch.

Over the same period as the pandemic lockdowns, we have seen an escalation of so-called wokeness. And if you look at one of the most startling manifestations of this, transgender fanaticism—which involves, after all, the abolition of biological sex and, I’m sorry to have to say it, the physical mutilation of children—one notices that America is farther down this road than any other country in the Western world. In other words, at this moment of crisis for Western Civilization, or for what we used to call Christendom, the leading country of the free world is pulling the wrong way.

Think of it. Your daughter has been training since she was a little girl to run in school sports. Now at 17, she’s in the state high school track championships, and you are forbidden even to notice that she’s competing against a woman who is 6’2” with thighs like tugboats, a great touch of five o’clock shadow on her face, and the most muscular bosom you’ve ever seen. You’re not supposed to notice the craziness of this, and the craziness is at its craziest right here in America.

We traditionally think of France as being a bit screwy, but today there are French intellectuals who regard themselves as hardcore leftists and yet who think America has gone bonkers on this transgender issue. President Macron himself has said that American wokeness is an existential threat to the French Republic, and he even found bureaucrats in France’s education bureaucracy who agreed. There is not a single bureaucrat in the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., who would agree, but there are apparently a few in Paris.

If you look further east in Europe to the lands that were once behind the Iron Curtain—to Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, which still function as conventional nation-states calculating their best interests—you find tremendous fear of the threat of wokeness that is being exported, sometimes aggressively, from America. So it is here in the U.S. where we have to put the stake through these ideas.

But again, even most of our conservative leaders and institutions seem oblivious. School districts in America are talking about revising their curricula to cover transgender issues from grade school on. Now, I went to an English boys’ school, and we were expected to pick up sexuality on our own time. In those days people would have looked puzzled if you had said, “We’re going to have to cancel geography or Latin, because we need to put gay studies in there.” These days, instead of going off behind the bike shed during recess to learn about sex, kids need to sneak behind the bike shed to do a little bit of closeted geography or closeted Latin. It’s completely backwards. And yet what do we hear from most conservative politicians? That it would be nice to offer people a tax cut!

We are way beyond tax cuts. We’re broke. We’re just a smidgen away from $30 trillion in federal debt—something with no historical precedent. Talking about tax cuts today is like talking about VAT tax refunds on the Titanic. It’s not actually what’s necessary at the moment.

Another big issue that should take our minds off tax cuts is China. I can’t get over the way we in the U.S. have been ordered by our governors and the CDC to punish ourselves by living small, shrunken lives, while the people in China who loosed this pandemic on the world have paid no price for it.

Dr. Fauci has been a federal government bureaucrat since 1968. He’s the J. Edgar Hoover of public health. He talks about the COVID virus as if we’re at war. But he seems to think a country wins a war by taking it out on its own population rather than the enemy, which is what we’ve done.

Which do you think was the only major economy to grow in 2020? It’s not a hard question. America’s economy shrank 3.5 percent last year. The economies of Germany and Japan shrank almost five percent. France’s, Italy’s, and India’s economies all shrank over eight percent, and the economy of the United Kingdom was down ten percent. China’s economy, on the other hand, grew 2.3 percent in 2020, and first quarter growth for 2021 in China set a new world record—it was up over 18.3 percent. The COVID pandemic has been hugely profitable for China.

Continued

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