Paul Kingsnorth And … The CIA?!
Yesterday I wrote about Paul Kingsnorth’s great new Substack, to which I devoutly hope you will subscribe. Reader N.S. Lyons responds:
In your post on Paul Kingsnorth yesterday you quoted this great paragraph from his essay:“The churning of the surface waters of our societies – the fights, the divisions, the polarising ‘issues’ dangled before us like carrots to squabble over – these are all symptoms of deep shifts beneath. Add it all together – the coming-apart of (supposedly) liberal nations, the ongoing global eradication of rooted cultures and so much of the wild and non-human world, the rise of a techno-feudal new order, the replacement of older values with those of the globalised consumer machine – and what you get, I think, is a revolution.”Well, it seems he has some unusual company in his pessimism, because the day after he published his essay, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) released Global Trends 2040, the latest in a series of special documents published every four years by the NIC’s Strategic Futures Group to assess “the key trends and uncertainties that will shape the strategic environment for the United States during the next two decades.”It is a remarkable document. No one seems to have paid much attention to it yet, but I think that should change.While the analysts who wrote it are unable to describe what is happening inside the United States itself (in practice these reports are mostly produced by the CIA, given that outward facing strategic intelligence is their specialty, and the Agency is essentially forbidden from engaging on domestic matters), their prediction of where the world is headed as a whole is both shockingly dire and fascinating in its candid acknowledgement of the havoc that a combination of technological revolution and the ideological revolution of “identity politics” is unleashing on us all.Describing a storm of structural forces now driving global change, the report quickly specifies that “many people are emphasizing and organizing around different aspects of their identities, including race, gender, and sexual orientation.” Noting that “identity-based beliefs tend to eclipse truth-seeking,” including because of the need to “feel morally justified,” it predicts that “the combination of newly prominent and diverse identity allegiances and a more siloed information environment is exposing and aggravating fault lines within states, undermining civic nationalism, and increasing volatility.”“Identities and affiliations are simultaneously proliferating and becoming more pronounced. In turn, this is leading to more influential roles for identity groups in societal and political dynamics but also generating divisions and contention.” The result is that, “the expansion and increasing prominence of identity groups demanding recognition and rights are forcing an increase in debate about the social and economic foundations of societies. Intensifying and competing identity dynamics are likely to provoke increasing political debate and polarization, societal divisions, and in some cases, unrest and violence.”This is exacerbated by the fact that “technological developments are likely to increase ever faster, transforming a range of human experiences and capabilities while also creating new tensions and disruptions within and between societies.” In particular, increased “connectivity will help produce new efficiencies, conveniences, and advances in living standards. However, it will also create and exacerbate tensions at all levels, from societies divided over core values and goals to regimes that employ digital repression to control populations.”“All together,” the report says “these [technological] forces portend a world that is both inextricably bound by connectivity and fragmenting in different directions.”We should be prepared for “more political volatility, including growing polarization and populism within political systems, waves of activism and protest movements, and, in the most extreme cases, violence, internal conflict, or even state collapse.” Such “outbreaks of political violence or internal conflict are not limited to… fragile states, however, and are likely to appear even in historically more stable countries.”“Looking forward,” it warns, “many democracies are likely to be vulnerable to further erosion and even collapse.”In what I consider its most interesting lines, the report concludes that “historically, ideological shifts across regions have taken place at moments of catastrophic crisis,” but sufficient stresses “that expose governance shortcomings might create conditions ripe for new or alternative models to gain traction if widespread dysfunction is sustained.” Currently, “as a result of these disequilibriums, old orders—from institutions to norms to types of governance—are strained and in some cases, eroding. And actors at every level are struggling to agree on new models for how to structure civilization.” These “shifts or transformations [will] spur inevitable contestation between the constituencies holding onto the old orders and those embracing the new ones.”I don’t think this could match better if Kingsnorth wrote it himself!I marvel that this report was even produced in today’s day and age. It doesn’t ever mention the New Faith that plagues us (oddly, you won’t find the word “Woke” used even once), of course, and it never takes a position at all on what is happening inside the country it aims to protect, but in my view it manages that say an awful lot in between the lines nonetheless by portraying everything as common “global challenges.” I guess there are enough experienced senior analysts remaining within the intelligence community who know their stuff (that is: how states collapse) and are justifiably alarmed by what they see happening to push this out into the light of day. We should probably pay attention.I’ve written a post of my own with much more detail on the report here, including selected passages of particular note, if you are interested.
Lyons links to his (her?) new Substack, The Upheaval. From Lyons’ introductory essay:
The world is being forcibly reconfigured by at least three concurrent revolutions: a geopolitical revolution driven by the rise of China; an ideological revolution consuming the Western world; and a technological revolution exacerbating both of the former.
Geopolitically, a decent understanding of what is happening, if not of its full extent, has emerged over the past several years. The relentless rise of China, and its Leninist state-capitalist governance model, within the globalized system presents an immense structural challenge to the “liberal international order” that has prevailed for nearly a century, as led by the United States. The economic and military dominance of the Western liberal-capitalist democracies, and the set of political values they have championed, is now under siege from without. This is one mega-trend at least that has managed to thoroughly break through into American and European consciousness. Indeed, in Washington the reaction almost borders on panic.
In contrast, few seem to have actually come to terms with what is now happening within the West. Many now realize, with either terror or glee, that something big is underway in the Anglo-Saxon world, something revolutionary, with America at its epicenter. A new belief system, characterizing all of existence as divisible into a Manichean struggle for power between the oppressed and their oppressors, has emerged and turned itself into a mass movement that is scrambling every aspect of traditional American political, cultural, religious, and even corporate life.
But this ideology seemed to emerge so suddenly, and is in its stark irrationality so alien to the modern liberal mind, that surprised observers and hapless opponents so far struggle even to settle on a name for it. “Cancel Culture,” “Identity Politics,” “Social Justice,” “Wokeness,” “Postmodernism,” “Reified Postmodernism,” “Neo-Marxism,” “Cultural Marxism,” just plain old Marxism in a new guise, the “Successor Ideology,” the cult of “The Elect,” or simply the “New Faith” – whatever its name, what’s clear by this point is that this all-consuming new belief system is exceptionally zealous, insatiably revolutionary, self-righteously brutal, and going ideologically viral with breathtaking speed and essentially no opposition.
The result is that the New Faith, which rejects nearly every fundamental principle of liberal modernity – the existence of an objective and immutable reality that can be discovered by reason; the scientific method; an enduring human nature; the primacy of the sovereign individual over the collective; impartial equality before the law; secular pluralism and the value of freedom of speech; the separation of the private and political spheres – is enthusiastically taking an axe to the decaying pillars holding up liberal democratic civilization just as it enters a potentially existential struggle with a rising authoritarian challenger.
Read it all — and subscribe. I have done both. Substacks like The Upheaval, and Kingsnorth’s Abbey of Misrule, are where the action is — and not with places like newspapers and mainstream media where writers and thinkers are trying to shore up the shaky imperium. My book contributions to the debates are The Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies. If you are the kind of Christian who is still under the impression that these are normal times, and/or that it’s going to be possible to live as a small-o orthodox believer in the face of the persecutorial New Faith (which will subsume moderate and progressive forms of Christianity), I beg you to reconsider, while there is still time to prepare.