The slogan under which Obama hopes to win the next four years is "Forward". "Forward" is the quintessential progressive slogan, progressives being people who are so forward-thinking that they want to remake the 21st Century in line with their 19th Century ideas. Progressivism, like so many other flavors of futurism, is so new it's old. It's the world of tomorrow as imagined by men with top hats and full beards whose Twitter-wielding descendants are still shouting, "March Forward!" at us 150 years later.
The Germans died for a Nazi superstate built out of Albert Speer's monstrous concrete towers of babel, a technocratic revival of Mad King Ludwig's castle building projects. The Russians died for collective agriculture and inspiring posters of grim workers hoeing the earth and electrifying the countryside. Everyone else died because they were either in the way of one vision or the other. Then they died so that a United Europe and a United Nations might usher in a better world.
The world of tomorrow has seen better days. The West is still in love with the future. If you doubt that, stop by an Apple Store and marvel at all the shiny surfaces. Try not to notice that the aesthetic is a retro futurism because even our future has become our past. Forty years after the Soviet Union tried to land a Mars rover and fifteen years since the first time we did it successfully, we landed a bigger and better rover on Mars. We may not be able to reach the ISS without taking a ride on Soviet Soyuz tubs, but the parts of NASA that aren't dedicated to proving that science and technology are burning up the planet through Global Warming, can still execute an occasional engineering triumph.
But the future is not so much a place as it is a state of mind. It is a fervent faith in the inevitability of human progress. Men have died for this faith and men are still dying for it.
Britain's Olympics opener celebrated the journey from the industrial revolution to the NHS euthanasia bed. While capitalism killed workers randomly and unscientifically, the progressive state kills them scientifically and methodically. Any old factory can kill a worker by dropping a load on his head or allowing him to inhale fumes that in retrospect turn out to be toxic, but it takes a genuinely progressive turn of mind to leave him lying in bed for three days begging for a drink of water while he dies because he has become, in the fine German phrase, "Lebensunwertes Leben" or "Life Unworthy of Life." That is true progress, which also happens to be the name of the unmanned Soyuz cargo ship that keeps American astronauts from starving or dying of thirst up on the ISS.
The Nazis and the Communists believed that certain races and classes had to be wiped out to make the future possible. We, the modernists who communicate through shiny slabs of white and black plastic, who use the flag of the United Nations as our background image and John Lennon's "Imagine" as our ring tone, don't believe in such barbaric things. Instead we kill people because they are too old or too sick and use up medical services that are always short in a collective system.
WW1 and WW2 were fought over regional ambitions, but we have gone beyond them. Our scientists can measure every atom of carbon in the atmosphere and assign responsibility for it to individuals. "Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?" Yeshayah's prophecy asks These are the territories that now concern us.
When our modern institutions aren't starving retired workers to death in soiled hospital beds, they are rationing out water and air, earth and sky. They warn us that there are iceberg shortages, shortages of soil and swampland. Our rationing has gone planetary. We imprison men for filling in wetlands and cap and trade the heat of the planet. Our collectivist world state allows no sparrow to fall without charging someone with unlicensed hunting.
But their taking ownership of the planet may be a bit premature. Outside a few enclaves where the smooth and shiny still predominate, the barbarians are at the gates of the empire of tomorrow. While the West is still in love with the future, even if it is a future of rationed everything where everyone is entitled to a tofu turkey in every microwave oven and a whopping tax bill to pay for the tofu turkey's carbon footprint, the rest of the world is in love with their past.
No sooner did mobs gather in Cairo, Tunis and Damascus than Western foreign policy analysts began dusting off their history books and drawing analogies to the 1848 European Revolutions. But there was nothing modern about these revolutions even if they relied on Twitter flash mobs and Facebook posts. It isn't the future that the Muslim world wants, even if the modern Albert Speers fill Dubai with horrendously futuristic architectural vomitoria, it's the golden past.
In Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, Hamad Jebali, the new Islamist Prime Minister of Tunisia, proclaimed, "My brothers, you are at a historic moment in a new cycle of civilization, Allah willing. We are in the sixth caliphate."
So much for the future and so much for the world of tomorrow where all men will be brothers so long as they can beat their sisters.
Western liberals are still pretending that Caliphate is just United Nations spelled backward, but their faith in the progressive future of no nations, no borders and no freedom can only be sustained for so long by Benetton ads and cheerful multicultural sitcoms. Outside their enclaves the future looks nothing like them. While they parcel out the carbon atoms of the North Pole, their capitals are being carved up into tribal enclaves where the future is as much the past as it is in Cairo or Tunis.
Our present future is defined by the spillover of violent chaos. In the throes of Egypt's revolution, Bedouin tribes in the Sinai are violently asserting their rights and the Kurds are rising in Syria. As the fall of the Czars and the Austria-Hungarian Empire devolved sizable portions of Russia and Eastern Europe into violent chaos, a violent chaos that repeated itself several decades later when the Nazis pounded through on their way to the Thousand Year Reich, the fall of the last modern states in the Muslim Middle East has ushered in its own chaos of bandits, tribalism and terrorism.
The West has been marinating in that chaos for some time now. It is the reason why we have a police state, a massive military with no equal and social welfare spending that is through the roof. It isn't, as the modern progressives would like us to believe, because people are living longer, but because of a domestic instability rooted in tribal violence and cultural chaos. And no amount of euthanasia set to a tune from Paul McCartney, who unlike John is still free to imagine that there's no heaven, only an earth where they stop feeding you if your illness gets too expensive, will fix that.
But the architects of our future still can't see the present for the future. They also can't see that the present has become the past. In the urban mosques it is not to the infidel Queen or the Republic that allegiance is owed, but to the Caliph and the Mahdi, to the martyrs who give their lives in orgies of death so that the wheel of time may turn back and that yesterday may replace tomorrow.
Their own native culture is equally decadent. In art and literature, in film and fashion, the new is still the old. The two biggest summer films are based on characters that debuted in 1939 and 1963. Stop by Broadway and you can choose between a musical based on Abba, another based on a Disney movie from twenty years ago, and Sister Act, Ghost and Bring It On, musicals based on more movies from the last twenty years. We are remaking remakes with tongue firmly in cheek to show that we don't really mean it, that we aren't truly culturally bankrupt, only ironic connoisseurs of the past.
Liberal websites denounce the 1950's in retro fonts painstakingly designed to look like they are from the 1950's. Clothing brands aimed at young people aim for that same retro look. Abercrombie and Fitch's popular Hollister brand is pegged to 1922. American Apparel is rooted in the 70's. There is nothing modern because there is no modern. Only bits of cultural appropriation to give the retro a more exotic flavor.
The progressive sneers at the past but cannot escape it. Whatever creative energy his assaults on culture unleashed have long been spent. He has nothing new to offer, only rationing plans for the old. Our technocracy has made us into sophisticated communicators, even if we have nothing new to say. Institutionally we harvest and wield massive amounts of data and use it to manipulate people. We cheered so loudly for Curiosity's arrival on Mars because it has been a long time since our culture did anything noteworthy. Even if it isn't truly new, it's new to us.
The great progressive project of the future is a rotting stench that blows across the Atlantic. It is a formless dream that died. It is a future without a future. It is a million conferences and a billion regulations. It is a world where everything is known, where each atom is weighed and every man is found wanting. It is a closed room and a white bed on which to lay down and die on while the machines count off the seconds.
If we are to have a tomorrow it will not come from those places. It will be not be the Everycity or the eternal conference. It will not be from the men and women who have appointed themselves the rulers of the earth and all that is within it. Rather it will come from those who defy the decay, who cope with the chaos that the progressive program has spawned, who hang on to their homes and their businesses and fight for their dreams.