What the Forever Crises Are Really About
We live in age of forever crises. I may not be as old as other Americans, but from my early memories and maturation, coinciding with the post-9/11 world, I have noticed that we live in an age of forever crises. These forever crises have certainly become more acute and part of public consciousness since COVID, but it goes back long before COVID.
Some crises are not crises, though they may be related to critical issues we must contend with -- but let us not confuse an important issue to deal with as a “crisis.” The War on Terror is a critical issue. I do not consider it a “crisis.” I recall this “crisis” being blown out of proportion when I was an elementary student in the midst of the anthrax scare, Saddam Hussein’s WMDs that were supposedly going to be launched on New York City, and the drumbeat of perpetual war and never-ending military intervention against people who hardly have the ability to invade the United States. Most Americans have now seen through this façade pushed for 20 years.
But the War on Terror was billed as a crisis. The success of the U.S. military, despite the eventual failure of our political and punditry class, caused this crisis to slip to the back of our minds. It became more a nuisance, two decades later, to still be stuck in war despite constant military success. Some, however, think it’s a great idea to be stuck in forever wars.
As the crisis that was the War on Terror slid away, a new crisis emerged -- one with far more dangerous staying power: global warming. We were told in the mid-2000s of the impending doom of our coasts, of island nations around the world, and that if we did not immediately change our economy and way of life, we would be the last generation to live on the earth. We are still living under the auspices of this crisis. “There is no Planet B” many millennials hold at their idolatrous global warming vigils and gatherings.
The global warming crisis is also related to the economic crisis -- the economic crisis of global capitalism and poverty (so we are told). Let us not worry about the fact that global poverty is decreasing and standards of living are increasing. We are told, especially since the 2008 recession, that our current economic system is acidic to the environment and to human flourishing. Dealing with this crisis involves the gigantic expansion of federal bureaucracies and regulatory agencies to counteract what businesses, charities, and the market cannot.
Then COVID hit. While we have seen the slow backtracking of the media over the dictatorial lusts of ostracism and COVID shaming, the COVID crisis was equally global as all the previous crises were. COVID also demanded increased federalization, bureaucratization, and regulatory measures that stripped civil liberties and small businesses. Only the Leviathan could save us from our own stupidity!
Now we’re on the verge of World War III. While most people, especially Americans, are decidedly on the side of the Ukrainians fighting for their freedom and preserving their sovereignty (aren’t these noble goals worth advocating at all times?), the media and our political leaders who worship at the altar of the Leviathan are speaking the language of treachery, calling for anti-war advocates to be locked up, and that there needs to be a greater governmental response to the war.
What all the crises of the twenty-first century have in common is that they are perpetual and that they demand big government solutions that will invariably reduce individual and civil society liberties and norms. The worshippers of Leviathan need crises -- “never let a crisis go to waste” as Rahm Emmanuel said -- in order to advance their totalitarian agenda. And it is a totalitarian agenda they advocate.
Crises demand totalizing responses: we must sacrifice as individuals and forget the idea of normal and embrace a “new normal.” What Orwellian language and newspeak all things considered. The “new normal,” of course, is greater government control over our lives and the continued erosion of civil liberties and the desecration of the vibrancy of civil society. To go back to the old normal is the world of relationships, freedom, and open association. No more! Not in this brave new world we live in.
These authoritarians and totalitarians, especially in America and the broader Western world (though they cloak their intentions in softer, more benign, language than open revolutionaries), move from one crisis to the next. Their sycophantic allies in the media keep us drowned in 24/7 news over these crises. We are force-fed the lies of perpetual crisis to frighten us into submission.
Thomas Hobbes wrote that people are willing to surrender their liberties to government out of fear. Fear is what compels us to flee to the foot “of the mortal god” that is the state for the promises of protection and security. Free us from the danger of harm is the impetus of the slow growth of authoritarian government that becomes totalitarian government over the course of time: government’s totalizing control over all aspects of our lives.
And what has the century of perpetual crisis revealed? Precisely this. If we consent to the government solution in all these crises, we will be free from the danger and harm that threatens our lives. So we are inundated by the media and the rhetoric of our politicians with the constant threats which rely on a sense of fear to surrender our liberties. If we do not, then they employ the fear of social and moral shaming: how dare you not have compassion for your neighbor or grandma!
We who love liberty, the American experiment, and true human flourishing must remain vigilant of the constancy of the forever crises that now abound. We will never not be without crises, according to our government and media. We must, however, not let their constant barrage of crises and fears eradicate our spirit of free living and human existence.
We must live our lives independent of their fearmongering. The true health of our souls, our society, and our nation, depend on our rejection of the forever crises to simply live life rather than submit in fear of life. Liberty also depends on our living free of their fearmongering and posturing of forever crises which aim, at their heart, to eradicate freedom.
Paul Krause is the editor of VoegelinView. He is the author of The Odyssey of Love: A Christian Guide to the Great Books, The Politics of Plato, and contributed to The College Lecture Today and the forthcoming book Making Sense of Diseases and Disasters.