Well, that's how it seems to me these days but perhaps it is just a result of me going slower! Anyway my sense of acceleratinging time has been increased by reading an old favourite of mine, Tom Bethell, in The American Spectator (TAS). I have admired him for more years than I, or he, probably, care to remember. Back in the BC era - that's 'Before Computers', by the way - I used to subscribe to the print version of TAS and Bethell was one of their regular contributors. Being something of a contrarian myself, how could I fail to admire a writer who told us that Einstein's relativity theory was nonsense!? Also, he is British by birth although he has lived in the USA since 1962 and took citizenship so one received from him a somewhat more detached view of affairs 'over there'. He has just written a muse on his past fifty years in 'The Great Republic' beginning, of course, with the Cuban missile crisis which now appears so historic it is positively cobwebbed! His recollection is tinged with the sort of sardonic commentary I always enjoyed:
I now realize that the missile threat was serious, more so than we knew at the time. By comparison, today’s scares, most of them masquerading as science, should be seen as campaigns to increase funding for various government agencies. Man-made global warming is only the best-known example.
After a short period teaching in Virginia he moved south to New Orleans to indulge his love of traditional jazz. Driving through Georgia and Alabama he worried that he might be mistaken for yet another white 'agitator' operating on behalf of the burgeoning desegregation movement for which, at the time, he had little interest:
My interest was in traditional New Orleans jazz, as exemplified by musicians like Bunk Johnson and George Lewis. My biography of Lewis was published by the University of California, and I made some recordings of the era’s surviving musicians, since reissued on CD. But sadly my interest in this art form coincided with its abrupt decline. There are still good reasons to visit New Orleans, but local jazz isn’t one of them. My politically incorrect thought: All the best black music in this country, and there was a lot of it, was created in the era of segregation.
When I later saw what happened to American popular music—tumbling from ragtime to the idiocies of rap in less than a century—I have been dogged by a sense of decline. Classical music, ditto: Bach to Bartok. Where’s the improvement? It’s all downhill.
Oh dear! Signs of 'Grumpy Old Man' syndrome appearing but it is difficult not to agree with him:
Perhaps that helps explain why I don’t believe in evolution. Things don’t evolve; they peak quickly and inconspicuously, then they fall apart. When I left England in 1962, it was already declining and had been doing so for decades. I have the same concern about America today—who doesn’t after the recent election? It’s hard to say how these things should be measured, but government’s share of national production gives a rough estimate. National decline seems to be the equivalent of organic aging.
As an outsider he tended to see more of the game, or at least, he saw it with a more detached eye, perhaps:
I became an American citizen at the same time and learned to drop the condescension that so many Brits adopt toward the United States. I also noticed the automatic anti-Americanism of the liberals. Watergate! Everyone was saying what a crisis it was. If so, why were they so gleeful? Ditto America’s defeat in Vietnam. They quietly relished that, too.
Liberals adopt a perpetual fault-finding mode about their own country. For a while I kept quiet about this, lest I sound like a right-winger. Maybe, I now think, a quota of liberals should be exiled for two years to see how they like it somewhere else.
He has seen the complete collapse of organised communism in the sense of national entities controlling satellite countries but he is sharp enough to see it in its new face - liberalism (in the American sense):
What of Communism today? As a party program with satellite countries, millions of “apparatchiks,” and a queen bee in the Kremlin, it is dead. But American-style liberalism is its remnant and it lives on in its dishonest way. [Whittaker] Chambers was surprised by the widespread support for [Alger] Hiss among intellectuals and within the U.S. press corps, even though few of them were ever members of the Communist Party. He saw that the winds of fashionable opinion were against him. Progressive dreams had far more appeal than free-market realities, as they still do today.
What do modern leftism (American liberalism) and communism have in common? Both are godless and egalitarian, but liberalism has “evolved.”
Communists wanted to kill off capitalism, for example, but liberals know it must be preserved—in a highly taxed and regulated form. It must be permitted to create sufficient wealth to redistribute to favored groups—single mothers, minorities, college professors—if the system is to keep Democrats in office. Liberals want market outcomes to be “predictable.” Appeals to envy and blame heaped on the rich can also be used as a bludgeon, as Obama has shown.
Of course, in their hopes that they can 'command and control' capitalism, Leftists will eventually be as disappointed as their doctrinaire progenitors, Marx and Lenin. To attempt more than setting up a framework of law based on the sanctity of private property and contract is to invite in corruption at all levels and sooner or later the golden goose ceases to lay any golden eggs - as the Chinese will discover in due course unless they change their ways. Incidentally, Bethell insists, correctly, that Chinese economic power does not necessarily mean that China is an enemy, indeed, just the opposite, Chinese wealth is of benefit to us all. However, as an American citizen and as a student of American affairs, he should remember that such wealth and power does encourage a tendency to interfere here, there and everywhere on the grounds that it is a 'national interest'. Britain in its days of empire set the example!
Looking to the fairly immediate future, Bethell sees the rise of technology, of China and of Islam dominating world affairs but admits to the impossibility of foreseeing any exact details. Tom Bethell is an intersting man and an excellent writer and his article is worth a read. In the meantime, of course, the clock is still ticking - and I swear it's ticking faster!