Friday, April 27, 2018

The Return of Marco Polo's World

In a review of Robert D. Kaplan’s The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-First Century ("Foreign Policy From the Dark Side," NYT, 3/28/18) Bret Stephens quotes the author thusly, “The very idea that some sermon or blog or tweet has gone viral is a sad reflection on the state of individualism in the 21st century. The electronic swarm is a negation of loneliness that prepares the way for the new ideologies of totalitarianism.” Kaplan’s locution is a brilliant statement on the narcotic effect of technology. The internet of everything has become so all consuming that solitude is misperceived as depression. The Opium of the Intellectuals is the title of a book by Raymond Aron rephrasing Marx’s famous quote, but it's not  ideology as the hive mentality that's increasingly becoming operant in political culture. Populism has come a long way from the era of La Follette and Huey Long. Now it’s a tribal mentality whose ethos is ultimately technology. Tyrants spare their followings from the burden of  freedom by offering a cloak of belief. But  cybernetics has ultimately created a human ant colony that’s ruled not by thinkers but algorithms masking as historical dialectics.

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