Two Things to Wonder At

What was the democratic world fifteen months ago? Clearly, it was not what it appeared to be, even to the most hardened skeptics and cynics. It is one thing to believe, as the skeptics and cynics did at that time, that most men, if push came to shove, would choose comfort over freedom, and would succumb to promises of security at the expense of all considerations of the rights of man and the responsibilities of liberty, and quite another to realize that all those matters of freedom, rights, and the risks of living in liberty had evaporated beyond the democratic horizon altogether, even in rhetoric — that such matters would not even require lip service from any thug with the chutzpah to simply demand absolute power on the flimsiest pretext of “the public good.” In truth, as we have now learned, there would be little significant objection or resistance to folding up shop on four centuries of political philosophy and practical endeavor in the name of a bizarrely transparent pretense of global crisis. Those centuries of grand thought and human struggle are entirely gone now, which is to say that they were already gone fifteen months ago; the vacuum has merely been fully exposed today.

People who seek wealth and reputation as public contrarians have a vested interest in promoting the illusion that they represent a courageous alternative to something. The image of courage is their product, which they cleverly sell in a package decorated with the pretense that the continued existence of the thing they claim to be fighting against is not materially beneficial to them. 

Their cleverness at pretense and deceit is matched by the cleverness at self-deceit displayed by the admirers who enrich and empower these professional contrarians, i.e., these showmen, all the while believing, as the business model requires of them, that their mere entertainers are their leaders. This business model — this mock-political sweat act, plain old capitalist market-serving in the guise of a (completely and knowingly ineffectual) “movement” — is actually quite hilarious, if you stop to think about it.

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