Commentary: As Americas Culture Suicides-By-Woke, a New Dark Age Looms

by Victor Davis Hanson


In February, New York was the world’s most dynamic metropolis. By August, the city was more like the ruins of Ephesus. It is not all that hard to blow up a culture. You can do it in a summer if you haven’t much worry about others.

When you loot and burn a Target in an hour, it takes months to realize there are no more neighborhood Target-stocked groceries, toilet paper, and Advil to buy this winter.

You can in a night assault the police, spit at them, hope to infect them with the coronavirus, and even burn them alive. But when you call 911 in a few weeks after your car is vandalized, your wallet is stolen, and your spouse is violent, and no one comes, only then do you sense that you earlier were voting for a pre-civilized wilderness.

You can burn down a Burger King in half an hour. But it will take years to find anyone at Burger King, Inc., who would ever be dumb enough to rebuild atop the charred ruins – to prepare for the next round of arson in 2021 or 2023.

Today’s looter carrying off sneakers and smartphones in 10 years will be tomorrow’s urban activist, understandably but in vain demanding stores return to a charred no man’s land, to do their fair share, and to help restore the downtown, neighborhood, inner-city, or the “community.”

Old Liberal Ideas Are Being Destroyed

We are living in the most racially polarized climate since the 1960s. America’s past, present, and future are in the process of being recalibrated entirely through the lens of one’s skin color. Columbus is reduced to nothing more than another racist white Italian sailor of a half-millennium past. Grant might as well have fought for slavery in the mind of today’s campus ignoramus. Apparently, the Antifa thug thinks he could just as easily have written the Gettysburg Address or sculpted a statue of Frederick Douglass.

The old liberal ideas of assimilation, integration, and intermarriage are being destroyed by the Left under the specious doctrines of cultural appropriation, or “acting white” or “how we look is who we are.”

A new fuzzy Jim Crow returns with racially segregated campus safe spaces and theme houses or the race-based reeducation and training sessions in the workplace – all predicated to stop racism! Somehow selecting strangers on the basis of their race to bully in a restaurant, or targeting old anonymous men and women to beat up in the street by their race, or singling out suburbanites by their race for racial taunts and profanity is redefined as reparatory justice or overdue payback – on the assumption that no one would dare say that the arson, looting, and rhetoric are descending into ever more hate-filled nihilism.

Our collective future of nationalized tribalism will become what always results when citizens identify by superficial appearance or shared religion. Just go to Lebanon, the Balkans, or Iraq to see what is in store first hand.

Tribalism Rising

To survive, all groups will self-identify, at first quietly, but eventually unapologetically. Some will form alliances of self-preservation, others will war with each other. Tribal gangs, as they already do now in our streets of fire and looting, will assume they are exempt from consequences; and so will their antitheses of vigilantes who band together to guard their stores in the absence of a defunded police.

Liberal elite whites themselves are now uneasy, since the abstract doctrines they so nihilistically advocated, from defunding the police to recalibrating looting as “redistribution,” are now becoming reified and closer to home. They see that when BLM protestors jam a restaurant to demand fealty or lecture on “white privilege” or march into a suburb to wake up the commuter to apprise him of his immorality, the racialists will not qualify their agendas with “except for woke whites.”

When tribalism is distilled to its innate and terrifying essence, there are never exemptions for individuals: you are reduced to what you appear superficially as to strangers. The white felon is no different than the white Harvard president, the black shoplifter is the same as the black physicist. We are all condensed to a sort of collective nothingness, or rather a racial “allness.”

The Self-Immolation of Pro Sports

Professional sports, once an integral part of American life, appears to be nearly in ruins. Professional baseball, basketball, and football might have survived the virus, the lockdown, and the recession – and then maybe they might not have. After all, millions of the bored more quickly than expected got acculturated to the idea of soon not listening to a boring rant from LeBron James or the sad confessionals of Drew Brees.

But what the NBA and NFL, and perhaps MLB won’t survive is cultural suicide as players fragment into causes. The NBA existed on the premise that billionaires were willing to pay multimillionaires to lose billions as a prestige lark – as a franchise became a sort of a huge, showy Louis Vuitton bag. But even billionaires have limits. Snobbery and appearing cool do not always trump losing the equivalent of a Ferrari every hour or a Gulfstream each week.

The NBA, we are told, is a woke industry.

But it’s also the strangest, most nondiverse, right-wing, money-obsessed woke institution in America. More than three-quarters of the multimillionaire players are African-American. Over 90 percent of the billionaire team owners are white.

Yet the entire industry – players, coaches, owners, staff – lecture Americans ad nauseam about their supposed sins. The monotonous sermons have become transparent medieval redemptions – given the mortal sin that the NBA sold its very soul to a racist, genocidal, and totalitarian China – to recover billions abroad for the billions lost in viewership and attendance at home.

Nondiverse multimillionaires, working for even less diverse billionaires, finger-pointing at middle-class Americans on the evils of privilege, in the pay of the Chinese Communist Party, is not a way to win back fans.

Institutional Crack-Ups

Universities are in for hard times. The federal government eventually will get out of the $1.5 trillion student loan subsidy business, and force spendthrift colleges to accept their own self-created moral hazards. Charging $30,000-40,000 for tuition over Zoom is a bad business model in a recession. And the alphabet soups after the names of professors and deans will not make a bit of difference.

Thousands of college-educated protesters and rioters are not especially good advertisements for the building of lifelong character on woke university campuses. Once undergraduate institutions decided to make students socially conscious rather than educated, and once their graduates seem to be neither, then who really finds their mentors essential?

Our major cities, emerging from lockdown, and on the edge of nightly violence, remind us of what Procopius, the Byzantine historian, saw of Rome in AD 538, once the cultural and political megalopolis of the world: a mostly deserted shell of weeds, deserted streets, collapsed stone, choked fountains, and fortified villas where lawlessness reigned and feuding tribes were what was left of a government that once had enshrined habeas corpus.

No city gets a pass from history, not Athens, not Rome, not Alexandria – not Detroit, Baltimore, or Chicago.

After all, there is no rule that just because Bill Gates and Amazon headquartered in Seattle that its mayor, city council, and state governor will not abandon its signature downtown. What once made Portland great can be undone in a few weeks.

Wall Street may run the world, but it certainly does not run the New York City government. Electronic capital really does still have human legs and when the proverbial suited investor thinks he will be infected, short of toilet paper, or assaulted on the street, he leaves, taking his laptop with him. Bill de Blasio is left to govern, like a horned and bearded Visigoth, over an increasing shell of former grandeur.

To venture into San Francisco is to return in a time machine to 1855, a boomtown based on silicon chips, not gold dust, but one likewise lawless, fetid, and safe only for those with private security guards. To the casual visitor, it appears a lunatic place now recalibrated for the homeless, the looter, the assaulter—and the very rich. Crimes like public defecation and drug use, or shattering the windows of a parked car window to steal its contents are not crimes unless the targets are the well-connected.

The story of all Dark Ages is that when civilizations finally prefer suicide, they do it easily, and the remnants flock to the countryside to preserve what they can – allowing the cities to go on with their ritual self-destruction.

So it has begun to seem this endless summer.

– – –

Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He was a professor of classics at California State University, Fresno, and is currently the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict was Fought and Won (Basic Books).



Related posts

9 Thoughts to “Commentary: As Americas Culture Suicides-By-Woke, a New Dark Age Looms”

  1. Dan J

    The voice of Christmas Yet To Come. Fortunately, change was possible for old Scrooge. Is it also possible for the USA?

  2. Anna L

    Interesting that this article by a California philosopher has been published in Tennessee. Here, at our well-preserved and self-sufficient State, we, rural dwellers, have been literally seeing migrant caravans from….. Northern cities. Our construction, manufacturing, and service industries are in a very good shape. Right now, moving are those who lost their small businesses or non-VIP jobs to the lawlessness. HGTV and other entertainment is slowly relocating down South too. Good, or bad, the trend that VDH illustrated by the Roman example, was actually repeated many times after. Most recently during the USSR and Stalin purges where the luckiest and the smartest left Moscow and Leningrad for smaller towns in the Caucasus and the smartest went even farther and assimilated in Cossack enclaves deep in the country’s South. Chinese followed with the luckiest and the smartest leaving big cities to avoid “cultural assimilation”, a.k.a. 6 ft under. Not even talking about Hitler whose policies “moved” the luckiest and the smartest to other countries and killed those who stayed. This is just another phase of history. My only hope is that being as unique as America has been, we may not totally follow the footsteps leading to the societal collapse. At least on our watch.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Duuuh! They’d use their phones.

  4. Georgiaboy61

    Victor David Hanson is, as always, observant and insightful, but he misses perhaps the most-important detail of the ongoing immolation of America’s once-great metropolises. They are not committing suicide; they are being murdered. Specifically, the globalist elites – the billionaires who actually run much of the country from in the shadows – are unleashing color revolution on the United States after having perfected their methods in dozens of foreign lands over the last thirty or so years.

    The unfolding conflict in the U.S. is only superficially about race. Race relations serves only as a pretext for what follows – full-on communist revolution. Once the oligarchs have used blacks for their intended purpose, they will be cast-aside, their usefulness done.

    The reader is invited to explore the phenomenon of color revolutions elsewhere; they have been written-upon extensively, and have happened recently in places as diverse as the Ukraine, Syria and Libya. Like dominoes falling, the globalist billionaires have toppled one neutral/unfriendly regime after another, and are now ready for the big prize, the U.S. itself.

    That a given government or polity enjoys popular support and electoral legitimacy is of no moment; what counts is what the oligarchs want. And they mean to get it. Trump and the Deplorables stand in the way. The country may very well have seen its last peaceful transfer of power for quite some time. No matter the outcome, unrest, violence and chaos seem to be ahead. The Democrats-Communists-Deep State have already signaled that if Trump is re-elected, they will not honor the result of the election. And given the open and notorious cheating and ballot-box stuffing by the other side, it is no wonder that the Right plans to protest the outcome if Biden wins.

    The rational course of action would be for both sides to agree upon a geopolitical separation, a divorce – and split into two or more separate entities. But that outcome seems unlikely, which means a contest for “all the marbles” lies just over the horizon.

    Strauss and Howe wrote of the “Fourth Turnings” model of history, in which paradigm shifts occur on roughly 75-85 year cycles, or roughly one human life span in years duration between each event. The last such shift occurred in 1945, at the end of the Second World War. If their theory was correct, the world is due for another paradigm shift very soon indeed. Batten down the hatches and fasten your seat belts, folks, it may get rough out there!

  5. Marcy Connolly

    Victor Davis Hanson is always spot on & today he hit a home run! Take a look around & you can see his predictions are on the march. If I owned property in a big city the “For Sale” sign would be out for all to see. I was a college student in the 60’s & while I agree it was a very turbulent time it was not as devisive as it is today. We had something called values which are sadly hard to find today. Even the most explosive of the activists would not hit an unaware pedestrian in the head with a brick or throw a bucket of paint at an elderly woman & laugh about it gleefully. Schools taught about America’s greatness & students left with a feeling of pride to be part of a great nation (even with all the warts). It’s time to get our country back to the proud history that she has enjoyed for the past 200+ years. It all starts with the schools so pay attention to your school district & their representatives. Ask for the curriculum, get to know your child’s teacher & what text books they are using. We have to do our homework to save our children and grandchildren. We can do it…we’re Americans!

  6. Steve Allen

    How many of these fools, who seem to know everything even though they’ve only been on the earth less than 30 years, have any idea what it takes to be great? They ridicule Columbus….how many of these twerps would even have the guts to board a 15th century sailing vessel with no ability to know the weather in advance, eating food that had to be stored without refrigeration, with only a rudimentary compass and celestial navigation devices and, without maps, start sailing into uncharted waters? How about the incredible people who fought on both sides during the Civil War? The 19th century in America is one of the most historically monumental periods in our history. And these 20 something’s who don’t know jack squat think it’s their right to tell the rest of us Loyal Americans what we can and cannot think and do? Rightness will prevail over evil. The Left has become the minions of the Anti-Christ and their time of reckoning is fast approaching.

    1. J West

      And these 20 something’s who don’t know jack squat think it’s their right to tell the rest of us Loyal Americans what we can and cannot think and do?

      Those 20 something don’t need to know jack squat, their bosses like them to be ignorant so they will not question what they are told to do.

      If we don’t state shooting back soon, we may find ourselves being loaded into box cars to the reeducation camps or the gas chambers … depending on how we comply.

      I can and will happen … it has happened before and history does repeat.