The Egyptian army cracks down on the Muslim Brotherhood; the majority of the population approves. Greece arrests members of the fascist Golden Dawn party, including members of parliament; their popularity crumbles. Not much to go on, if you’re looking for a trend, but it’s enough to ask the question, are we getting tired of extremism?
Up til now, to be extreme has been the height of fashion. Even the dullest events and pastimes have jumped on the extreme bandwagon. Extreme knitting would not have raised an eyebrow. No limits, all out, leave it on the field.
It’s my suspicion that all this tolerance, and even preference, for extremism is a by-product of the unprecedented prosperity of the two decades prior to the 2008 meltdown. When things are going well, why impose limits? Wasn’t “no limits” the mantra of the feel-good 90s? It was fully entrenched by the time people were engulfed in recession; it must have seemed the right approach to bring the crisis to a close. There was a lingering suspicion that the problems were caused by timidity, in any case, and all that was required was more bullishness. It’s a commonplace that the first reaction to an ideological crisis is retrenchment. We’re having problems? We haven’t been true enough to our principles. The Peasants are rebelling, reaffirm the authority of the aristocracy. Religious fanatics commit mass murder, hurry off to church. We see it time and again down through history.
Seen in this light, our devotion to the extreme looks less like a devil-may-care embrace of uncertainty, and more like a conservative retrenchment.
But in all such cases, there comes the creeping realization that not only are things not improving under this program, they are actually getting worse. Retrenchment collapses under its own burdensome weight.
If what we are seeing abroad is the first faint glimmering of this collapse, we can only hope it reaches our shores before the lunatics destroy our government beyond redemption