The century from 1911 to 2011 may have seen the most decisive changes ever in human history. In 1911, it could be argued that Western civilization stood at its peak, ruling with an often arrogant self-confidence over virtually the entirely planet. Yet there were many harbingers in 1911 of times to come. In Britain, the triumphant Liberals stripped the House of Lords of most of its remaining powers, pointing to an age when aristocrats would become an endangered species. In Russia, Lenin was the leader of the Russian Social Democratic Party, writing vitriolic tracts. Germany was moving towards an ever more dangerous nationalism that would be one of the proximate causes of the coming Great War. 1911 was also the first year in which International Women’s Day was celebrated.
The slaughter in the trenches of the Great War led to, among other consequences, the break up of the old empires in Central and Eastern Europe. In the immediate aftermath of the war, there was some feeling of optimism as long-oppressed peoples such as the Poles finally gained independence. Russia was consumed by a savage civil war between the Reds and the Whites, which was ultimately won by Lenin. However, the time of freedom in Central and Eastern Europe was to be short-lived, as a German nation intent on revenge for the humiliations of Versailles arose again, under the leadership of extremal forces led by Hitler. The Great Depression also pushed all Western societies into multifarious social crises to which different responses came to be formulated.
In the wake of Lenin’s death, Stalin came to power in the Soviet Union, embarking on power-mad persecutions that resulted in millions of deaths, centred in the Gulag which had had its beginnings under Lenin.
The Second World War began with Hitler’s invasion of Poland – the first country to fight Hitler. Stalin invaded Poland from the east. It was only when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 that the U.S.S.R. joined the Allies. As the war reached its height, Nazi Germany accelerated the Holocaust. Many other nations suffered horrifically during the war. Today, the vast extent of Nazi Germany’s evil towards Slavic countries and peoples is curiously de-emphasized.
As a result of the Yalta Agreements, what was called Eastern Europe was handed over to Stalin and his henchmen. In China, which had suffered enormously under the brutal Japanese occupation, a civil war between the Nationalists and Communists brought Mao to power in 1949. Millions died under various “revolutions” in the Maoist period.
Among the major consequences of the First and Second World Wars was the loss of Western self-confidence, making a pull-back from the old colonial empires all-but-inevitable.
The Cold War was defined by a bipolar struggle between America and the Soviet Union – with the newly emergent “Third World” required to choose sides in the struggle.
In the 1950s, America, Canada, and Western Europe emerged with a prosperity never before seen in human history. Nevertheless, Western self-confidence continued to ebb. In the 1960s, a concatenation of social revolutions and transformations arguably never before seen in human history, overtook, especially America, Canada, and Western Europe. They brought to ascendancy the self-hating and ‘minoritarian’ Western elites that have mostly continued to define the West to this day.
While Reagan decisively won the Cold War against the Soviet Union, he didn’t fare as well in the culture wars that have consumed America since the 1960s. The Reagan and Thatcher revolutions were not nearly as decisive as may have appeared in the 1980s.
The terror-attacks by Islamic extremists on Sept. 11, 2001, apparently opened up a new world-struggle, which some have called World War IV – the Cold War was WWIII. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 as a supposed response to 9/11 has turned out in retrospect to be a terrible mistake. It could be argued that the authoritarian, comparatively secular regime of Saddam Hussein represented stability compared to – among other forces — the Shia sectarianism that has now been unleashed in Iraq.
While the U.S. fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and had troops stationed in over 100 countries, ever-greater decadence engulfed America. Some of this may be related to the almost incredible outburst of electronic technology, notably the Internet, cellphones, and smartphones.
Finally, in 2008, the U.S. was reeling from an economic crisis that can probably be ultimately blamed on the notion of an economy that can only consume, and produces and saves comparatively little. Barack Obama, it could be argued, has only deepened the crisis through massive government spending and what amounts to printing more money – thus undermining the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve-currency – one of the last strengths of current-day America. He has also markedly set back the fight against abortion and for the upholding of more traditional definitions of family.
Today, the textures of life in America are approaching the surreal – the hyper-decadence; fewer and fewer people doing truly productive work; the celebrity-worship; the political-correctness in journalistic, intellectual, literary, and artistic spheres; and so forth. Nevertheless, America is said to be in comparatively good shape – relative to some Western European countries.
It should also be remembered that there are more than a million abortions every year in America, and 100,000 in Canada – statistics of killing that could be seen as highly ironic for a society that is said to be so deeply enamoured of human rights.
So America and Western Europe have come to a sad pass. In Europe, what was once envisioned as the European Community – a “union of sovereign states” – is becoming an increasingly nightmarish, bureaucratic super-state run by self-loathing elites at the expense of the national populations. The somewhat fragmentary resistance to the incipient Brave New World is mostly centred in East-Central Europe and Russia – although these countries, especially Russia, are not without major problems.
Some U.S. commentators have pointed out that the Tea Party movement represents not only a desire for fiscal probity, but also social conservatism and traditional patriotism. It can be seen as a vast movement to finally take back the country from those elites that have brought ever-increasing calamities upon the American polity. It can be understood that if the Tea Party succeeds, it is likely to have an electrifying effect upon most Western countries, including Canada.
Stephen Harper’s victories of 2006 and 2008 have created a climate of comparative fiscal probity in Canada – where, for example, the worst of the so-called subprime mortgage crisis has been happily avoided. It cannot be said, however, that social conservatism and traditional patriotism has any kind of saliency in Canada today. In that regard, the contrast between 1911 and 2011 in Canada could not be more stark.