There's an interesting juxtaposition on the op-ed page of today's (technically, tomorrow's) NYTimes. Ross Douthat, in "Life After the End of History", argues that we should examine the fall of the Berlin Wall through the context of what neo-conservative Francis Fukuyama called "The End of History", in the sense that we no longer had a real existential threat to democracy and free market economics, in that both Fascism and Soviet Totalitarianism had failed to eradicate our political paradigm. Then Douthat goes on to speculate that we might be hesitant to celebrate the 9th of November as a kind of super, global Independence Day because we cling to the notion that empires do fail, specifically as a consequence of their own decadence, and that we need, on some level, a threat from the outside to... well, here he's less clear. To stave off perpetual decadence? To prevent permanent decline? Anyway, without something bad to motivate us, we're stuck in our current position, and that position is unassailable, and that's bad somehow.
But the other column on the page articulates a danger. Perhaps this is just what Douthat is describing, a function of the impulse to find an existential bogeyman. But I find Paul Krugman's bogeyman to be quite scary. In "Paranoia Strikes Deep", he describes the movement of the Republican party from the center-right to the far-right as a generational replacement in which the lunatic fringe, previously used but ignored by the party, have now become the ones in power. He warns of the danger of America becoming Californiafied (not to be confused with The Red Hot Chili Peppers' notion of Californication) which he describes this way: "In California, the G.O.P. has essentially shrunk down to a rump party with no interest in actually governing — but that rump remains big enough to prevent anyone else from dealing with the state’s fiscal crisis. If this happens to America as a whole, as it all too easily could, the country could become effectively ungovernable in the midst of an ongoing economic disaster."
Could this be the existential bogeyman we need to keep ourselves on the right track after the end of history? Doubtful. Instead, this idea will have to battle, head to head, with the worldview of the far-right, which holds that government is fundamentally evil, our president unfit for office, and the will of the majority on both policy and social issues is a product of a liberal conspiracy determined to strip America of its values. Hence, as a liberal I might find the irrationality of the far-right to be a danger, precisely because of the fervent zeal with which they see me as a danger. They are certain that liberals like me are destroying the country. I am frightened that people with that much certainty (about just about anything) are destroying the country.
As Vizzini said in The Princess Bride, "...then we are at an impasse."
To which The Man In Black proposed an elegant solution. Iocaine powder, anyone?
And now, one can deduce, Fukayama's "End of History" will produce the "Reboot of History" once we figure out where the poison truly lies.
"The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right and who is dead."