The Foreword to the new book “The Wisdom of Our Ancestors: Conservative Humanism and the Western Tradition.”
How Davos Man Beat the Family Man
Against the Great Reset: Eighteen Theses Contra the New World Order
Edited by Michael Walsh
(Bombardier Books, 2022)
In my single days, I hung out most evenings in certain Upper West Side saloons, smoking cigarettes, drinking scotch, and reading. Such evenings were nearly heaven for me. That is until someone intruded upon my reverie and asked me to move down.
“Can you move down so my wife and I can sit together?”
“Sure, no problem.”
Back to smoking, drinking, reading.
Then, another one: “Excuse me, but could you move down a couple so my friends and I can sit together?”
Arched eyebrow, small sigh: “Sure.”
As a single man in a New York City bar, you could get knocked around like a pinball by larger groups who wanted to sit together. You had to move. It was only polite.
Such abominations did not happen when I got married and went to bars with my wife. Not that we did that much—after all, we were married and could stay home. But out and about we were a stable thing, like a rock, not so easily moveable. When you are with your wife, folks don’t even ask you to move down.
I think of Davos-man like those folks asking me to move down. Single-man has little resistance to those who insist he move down. Davos-man can get away with it because single-man has no natural defenses to the inconvenience, even the annoyance, of moving down. He’s too small.
Hemingway says, “A man alone ain’t got no chance.” That was about men dying in a hurricane. Davos-man is asking for much more than simply moving us down, and he’s suggesting something far worse than a hurricane.
I had this notion of resistance and moveability in mind while reading this new collection of essays organized and edited by the writer/thinker Michael Walsh. It is an excellent volume, though missing some critical elements of how Davos-man may have his way with us.
The volume includes a murderers’ row of writers taking on many aspects of the machinations by Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum to change utterly who we are and how we live. The late Angelo Codevilla writes on education. Roger Kimball on sovereignty. Michael Anton on Marxism. John Tierney on COVID-19. David Goldman on economics. James Poulos on big tech. Victor Davis Hanson on what he calls the Great Regression.
Eighteen theses on how Klaus Schwab and his Davos-men want it all. Among the best are the introduction and final essay by Michael Walsh.
Often bombastic and consistently brilliant, Walsh brings a deep knowledge and understanding of the historical sweep of literature, art, music, and especially opera. Walsh was a foreign correspondent for Time back when it mattered. He was near Chernobyl when it went up. He knew Checkpoint Charlie. He also spent years as Time’s classical music critic.
Walsh writes that it’s fitting the Great Reset began in the Swiss village of Davos, also the setting of Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain. That book tells the story of Hans Castorp, who goes to visit a sick cousin at the tuberculosis sanitorium and ends up staying seven years, “‘progressing’ from healthy individual to patient” and leaving only with the outbreak of World War I, “in which we assume he will meet the death, random and senseless, that he has been so studiously avoiding yet simultaneously courting at the Berghof.”
“Central Europe, it seems, is where the internal contradictions of Western civilization are both born and, like Martin Luther at Eisleben, go home to die,” Walsh writes. Not in any particular order, he takes us on a tour of Abraham, Wagner, Nietzsche, the Serpent in the Garden, Schopenhauer, Marx, Kubrick, Pope, Wallace Stevens, Darwin, Hitler, Stalin, Christ, Alinsky, Ken Kesey, and many more.
Walsh begins the final essay with a servant driving a dagger through Emperor Nero’s neck. “What an artist dies in me,” says the dying poet, musician, singer, monster. Nero’s conceit was that he was a great artist, but he wasn’t. Even so, he is reborn in aching beauty with Monteverdi’s 1643 opera L’incoronazione di Poppea. The Coronation of Poppea resembles much modern television—Yellowstone comes to mind—in that there are no good guys. And thus begins Walsh’s meditation on art, in which he asks the artist to go to war with the great totalitarian Schwab and his Davos-men. But Walsh knows the modern artist is not up to the task.
Totalitarian movements fear the power of art and therefore must co-opt and destroy its independence, Walsh argues. The artistic lickspittles in the Soviet Union and East Germany “only had to be attuned to the whims of a few powerful men and their network of informers, snitches, and rats.” In today’s cancel culture, anyone on social media can organize a mob and end someone’s career.
Walsh is correct in thinking that most contemporary artists aren’t up to facing down the woke left. Not that they are artists, but watch any episode of Saturday Night Live or Jimmy Kimmel or Stephen Colbert or any of today’s comedic paladins and see if they are willing to make, for instance, the transgender movement uncomfortable. What could be more mockable than gruff men blackfacing real women? But the “artists” know these guys are off limits. So a nation turns its lonely eyes to . . . Dave Chappelle?
Walsh defines community as a collection of individuals freely associating. He argues this against claims from Davos that community is defined by race, class, and gender. But I think Walsh is wrong when he says community is like an audience that “comes together voluntarily in communion with each other to share a religious, artistic, or social experience.”
Individuals, even those who come together voluntarily, are, in the end, only individuals, whom Davos-man can easily move. Family is something different. I was not a volunteer in the Family of Ruse. No one invited me to be the son of David and Dorothy. Neither are my daughters volunteers in the Family of Ruse. And their children will not be volunteers either. And this is the entity that Davos-man must destroy precisely because he knows it is an entity harder to move than the isolated individual. Davos-man loves individuals. He loves the single women who tend to vote for Big Daddy Government.
So what is missing from this volume? The fact that the Great Reset could not happen, that Davos-man would have a much harder time scooching us around, if not for the destruction of the family and the atomization of the human person.
A man alone ain’t got no chance, and we are indeed very alone these days. The marriage rate is in freefall. Young women worldwide are not only not getting married but also telling pollsters they have no intention of ever getting married. The economist Nicholas Eberstadt calls this “the global flight from the family.”
The divorce rate may be falling, but the children-born-outside-of-marriage rate continues to skyrocket. Hispanic and black kids are more than likely born into families without a dad. In 1970, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was criticized for raising alarm over the fact that 25 percent of black kids were born without a father in the home. That number is now nearly 70 percent. For Hispanic kids, it is over 50 percent.
New research shows there is an epidemic of loneliness, even friendlessness. Thirty percent of millennials say they feel lonely. Twenty-two percent of them say they have no friends.
Davos-man cruises up in his van: “Hey there, kid, I’ll be your friend.”
It is not a dead certainty that Davos-man and his allies in corporate America, government, academia, big tech, and the media would be unable to push us around if we had friends and family—our little platoons—but it would be much harder. A platoon is harder to push around than a man alone. So aloneness is the predicate; it is the ground that was prepared so the armies of Davos-man could take their shot at us.
But how did we become so alone?
Many factors contributed, but central among them is the sexual revolution that began on October 29, 1959, when G. D. Searle applied to the Food and Drug Administration for approval to market their drug Enovid as an oral contraceptive. History changed on that day.
Janet Yellen and George Akerlof tell us in a remarkable 1996 Brookings paper that widespread contraceptive use effectively ended shotgun weddings. Before the Pill, there was something of an unspoken agreement: if we make a baby, we are getting married. After the Pill, the lasses were on their own. This led inevitably to an explosion of single motherhood.
Mary Eberstadt argues that the woke ground troops of the Schwabian revolution were created, to a large extent, in the search for an identity to replace the one that was lost when the families of these boys and girls either ceased to exist or never formed in the first place. No longer identified as members of a family, they sought and found identities in radical politics.
There were other revolutionary moments along the way. The 1966 Fanny Hill case on literary obscenity led inexorably to kids viewing porn on their iPhones at recess. With the radical change in divorce law that swept the country in the 1960s and 1970s, no-fault divorce became one of the pillars of the sexual revolution.
In Michael Walsh’s excellent volume, there is only one mention of the sexual revolution. Pornography is mentioned twice. LGBT gets two mentions, transgender only three. Abortion only one. No-fault divorce two. Marriage is mentioned eighteen times. The family is mentioned fifty-eight times, but China and Chinese get 248.
We are weakened and ripe for plucking by the People’s Republic of China and Davos-man, and any of our enemies, because we have succumbed to the lure of a new sexual ideology that has destroyed our families and turned us into a nation of lonely singletons.
Unfortunately, while Michael Walsh and his colleagues tackle many important topics, they miss this one entirely.
Austin Ruse is president of the Center for Family and Human Rights in New York and Washington, D.C.
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