In times of stress, look for the Prophets of an earthly paradise. Is America ready for its own millennial cult?
The United States today is plainly in what Anthony F.C. Wallace termed the period of cultural distortion. Statistics do show alcoholism and drug consumption to be widespread and more troublingly, non abating problems. The fabric of sexual mores, despite some bifurcation on the issue is broken down from what was the traditional model, and rebellion, even if much of it is expressed in terms of individualistic consumption choices, is against the larger entity of family which includes the paternalistic system metaphorized by the 1% and other measures of income disparity and dislocation. So, the scapegoats are still in the system, the echoes of the New Left, may ’68, and the post-Trotskyites still eyeball destruction, an urge for nihilism whether specifically Zionism as a catch-all for colonialism or the entire market and financial system as a whole.
Both Left and Right attack the vast bureaucratic apparatus; accusing it of doing too much or not doing enough. What in the early 1960’s with the Beats, – the Kerouac, Ginsberg , Burroughs aesthetic , isolated alienated behavior of individuals is now institutionalized and in many ways a commodity of the hip and the cool, numbed, as the residue of a gnawing want, a yearning is not being fulfilled to the extent of the Promise that was proffered within the mythology. Obama was pitched as a sort of redeemer, a man of change, an artificial Ghost Dancer who would bring America to a point of revitalization rather than the narcissistic antagonist and destructive force that seems to be revealing itself at the dark fringes of his white cuffs.
If history and anthropology can tell us anything, it is that the pattern of millenarian movements show that at this point- on the cusp of profound economic changes dues to technology, especially technological unemployment- something must happen in the United States and it appears to be happening quickly.
But the United States does offer an alternative to millenarian fervor. We possess legal mechanisms that have not yet broken down as did those of the Weimar Republic with the advent of Hitler; they can relieve the stress our culture is now undergoing. But can wisdom channel the deprivation that so obviously exists at all levels into greater participation by all in the economic and social system. But should the laws cease to function, the United States will be ripe for a millennial cult; potentially much more cranky and charismatic than the likes of Ron Paul and other residue of the constitutional breakdown.
Exactly what form the cult will take cannot now be predicted, for no prophet has arisen whose code appears able to win the support of the masses of the people. It might take the form of a political movement, as was the Russian Revolution against the Czarists or a religious movement, as was the rise of Christianity against the Romans. No matter the form it takes, once begun it is irreversible and almost assuredly will result in violent upheaval.
Should no successful millenarian cult emerge to win the loyalty of the masses, then the prospect as taught us by history and anthropology is one of disintegration of our entire society and its eventual disappearance as a viable force, as for example occurred to the Ottomans. Of all the possibilities, plainly one is to be preferred by almost everybody: make the American Dream come through for all by using the legal mechanisms that still exist in our society.