|Our only hope?|
Politically and cultural conservative people uneasily predict the looming end of the long decayed Western order that emerged slowly from the ashes of the Roman Empire. The vetus ordo is quite dead and, despite what Republican candidates tell their frustrated base, it will never return as it once was. Some pinpoint 1517 as the beginning of the end, others 1789, some 1914, and many anticipate a day to come. Fr. Chadwick wonders if we are on the cusp of a totalitarian emergence. The Rad Trad tends more for an "I don't know, but the stuff is going to hit the fan in two generations" view.
The current period is transitional, the deep breath before the leap into cold water. New short term alliances grow out of the empty chasm where the old ones fell. China's economy remains an anomaly. Did they really grow at 8% annually? Possibly, but economists also estimate their inflation to be something around 10% and their banking system is under duress to make high risk loans at cheap rates. Their naval expansion reflects their ambition to become the regional hegemon in Asia at the cost of Japan and Taiwan. Communism is dead. The nominally Communist CCP operates a fascist regime (which is not the same as Nazism) based on federal subsidization of manufacturing enterprises. They own a considerable amount of American debt, but are far from the primary holder. Their massive "awakening" only took place in one quarter of the country and an even smaller sliver of Chinese will ever have the opportunity to access that wealth. China is an ambitious, unstable country underneath its tiger veneer.
America and Europe dally in remarkable culture, political, and economic decadence masked by America's military and GDP. The debt, the unstable demographic shifts, the extraordinary polarization of ethnic groups, and other factors make the United States susceptible to a moment of shock, the sort of thing that causes riots or public frenzies. The two fold danger is that a serious American problem both plunges the global hegemon into chaos and removes the largest power player in international affairs from its position, allowing the other aggressive players to re-align. America stood at the edge of empire after World War II and then stepped back to allow her own cultural tergiversations to chew and swallow her slowly. That same process happened in Europe a century earlier and ended in the general suicide of World War I. The "West" died decades ago. No one has gotten around to signing the certificate of death yet.
And Russia is as pesky as ever. The Soviet Union never really collapsed, it jut retracted. The last two decades in Russia could be summed up in "new name, same friendly service." Putin has re-vitalized masculinity in Russia and used the still-unattended Orthodox church as a point of cultural centralization. Russia's population decline and lack of resources prohibits Russia from becoming a self-sustaining global power, but she will always be a global player. Why was anyone surprised to learn that Ukraine, Russia's latest target, was during the communist days the engineering and manufacturing center of the Soviet Union?
America is dying. Europe is dead. China may or may not be a serious long term player. And Russia will always lurk in the background. What will emerge in the impending void? A charismatic figure who can solve all the world's problems? Such traits are found in the most potent and wicked of dictators, themselves so often types of the greatest and most charismatic despot of them all, the one who rules in misery because he did not wish to serve in splendor.
Do not worry! We are faced with decline and tremendous uncertainty over a vast period of time. Many other events will shape our future between now and the time a new order takes root. Such a malleable period may well be an opportunity for the Church, once she gets through her own collapse, to evangelize and re-structure herself for the age to come.
Regardless, these matters are hardly worth losing one's sleep over. It may not all be so bleak. Events need not unfold according to the worst interpretation, although recent events hardly suggest anything better. Yet these factors do not necessarily elicit a certain outcome. A dear neo-conservative (politically) friend said "I've given up. I'm rooting for either Skynet or God at this point." We should always root for God. Skynet can wait.