by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The 20th century tended to define progress in terms of material goods. In 1920 Lenin confidently declared that “Communism is Soviet government plus the electrification of the whole country.” Earthly paradise was attainable. It would take only a few Five Year Plans to get there.
But even then people suspected the end game required more than that, a point made in a 1960s Twilight Zone episode entitled “A Nice Place to Visit.” A small-time hood called Henry Valentine dies running from the cops and wakes up where his every thuggish desire is gratified. It soon palls and Valentine wants to leave Heaven and go to “the other place,” to which the custodians retorted, “This is the other place!”
Valentine’s gloomy disappointment is reminiscent of the depression spreading through parts of the West despite comparative peace and unprecedented prosperity. World-weariness, once the condition of individuals, has become a civilizational affliction. …
… “There is infinite hope,” Kafka tells us, “only not for us.” I’m talking, of course, about climate change … every one of the world’s major polluting countries [must] institute draconian conservation measures, shut down much of its energy and transportation infrastructure, and completely retool its economy … overwhelming numbers of human beings, including millions of government-hating Americans, need to accept high taxes and severe curtailment of their familiar lifestyles without revolting. They must accept the reality of climate change and have faith in the extreme measures taken to combat it … Every day, instead of thinking about breakfast, they have to think about death.