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Juan A. Soto

One (more) year in the trenches

2020 took us by surprise, both the pandemic and the response to it. But 2021 did not. As a result, we are more responsible for allowing the power overreach that we are seeing across the board but, more alarmingly, in liberal democracies, and also for letting others use the excuse of crises to advance their own agendas. Especially when they seek to destroy the very fabric of the West.

As we enter 2022, the usual commitment-making process for the new year begins, as well as looking back on the year we left behind. A personal SWOT analysis of some sort where some conclusions about our performance are more welcomed than others and a commitment which, if broken, no consequences would follow. The following lines, however, aim to address something similar in spirit yet entirely different in scope as I will attempt to make an assessment as far as the political stage goes.

This would be an impossible task in just a few lines —and almost worthy of an entire book—, but nevertheless, I would like to raise two thoughts that I see both fascinating and alarming. Most other elements are not worth much consideration, in my opinion, as they speak of little more than mere human conditions. Politicians lie, the powerful profit from crises and the little guy bears the greater burden. This is what History —which is that of countries and wars, kings and peoples but, above all, that of the immutable human nature— teaches us. As a result, let me directly address the two elements that I see as the most interesting ones in this review of 2021.

The first pertains to the confirmation of a suspicion that has, nonetheless, been already noted by some, including myself. In April of 2020, I wrote that the initial reaction of the Covid-19 pandemic had severely undermined the self-proclaimed moral superiority of liberal democracies, as democratic, autocratic and dictatorial regimes have adopted fairly similar measures —i.e., limitation and suspension of rights and liberties— to fight the pandemic. From this phenomenon, one may argue, following a Hobbesian approach to politics, that the power of the State may be more or less dormant or in check depending on the regime in place, but its might can be rapidly and swiftly displayed.

I must note at this point that the the claim that Government is dangerous is not a question of ideology, but of History. While the first is capricious, the second is overwhelming in its verdicts. This is the reason why we should always be vigilant about the State. And also, why we should not foolishly assume that because we have the luxury of living in a Western democracy, our rights and freedoms are always going to be guaranteed.

The second issue I want to raise is the confirmation that the attack on the Western mind and way of life is very much a reality and not a temporary claim within a broader package of demands for progress of some sort. This is particularly exemplified by today’s America, which in the current post-Trump era remains divided, although social unrest seems to have decreased given that their interest and agenda are now part of the current Biden-Harris Administration. I am not referring here to the full-on rejection of the Christian roots of the West, to which I referred in my last article for this Journal. What we witness today goes as far as an amendment of much of the foundational elements of our current political system. For instance, the obsession to substitute the nation-state —and all its implications, such as the concept of citizenry or national sovereignty— by some other form of global or regional governance. Or the profound reform of the global economy following supranational agendas as the Great Reset of the World Economic Forum or the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda.

In 150 BC, within the framework of the Punic Wars, Cato the Elder used to end his speeches in the Senate with the phrase, ‘Carthago delenda est’ ('Carthage must be destroyed'). This is how Plutarch collects it (Cato, 27) and Plinio (Natural History, 15.74). Well, in a similar fashion many voices call today for the destruction of the West. Some know what they are calling for, others simply ignore the implications of their demand. At the same time, as with most hegemonic civilizations, voices for their atonement come not from outside the citadel, but from within. This is not Bin Laden calling for the destruction of the West, but Westerners saying that we live in an intrinsic evil system, however surprising that may sound to any sound mind. In the meantime, of course, revisionist powers advance making smart moves that challenge Western supremacy.

As we can see, the two items that I have raised are not particular of 2021. Neither is the intimidating advance of the State —either in a national or supranational form—, nor is the siege suffered by Western values. On the contrary, they come from 2020 and almost certainly even further back in time. However, both phenomena have experienced an acceleration in velocity and intensity throughout 2021. In the first case, because 2021 has marked a time where little to no pretext existed for the enforcement of such harsh measures to fight the pandemic, some of which might have sound reasonable when the risk the pandemic involved was unknown. The fact that two years after the Covid-19 breakout liberal democracies are still following suppressive mechanisms should be alarming to anyone. As for the second, as the Spanish Government has recently admitted, this pandemic has paved the way to pass new legislation and a number of reforms —especially a number regarding social rights— that aspire not to be a reflection of the volonté générale but to drastically transform it. This is the nature of ideological laws, not the sort of legislation that a healthy representative democracy should give itself and a recipe for disaster, as some will question their legitimacy and others will seek retribution when in power.

The same acceleration may be predicated from the globalist vs. nationalist divide, where in light of the current crisis situation, both blocs see themselves reaffirmed in their pretensions —though the conclusion, at a national or supranational level, is more ‘public’ power in both cases, as I argued in another article for this Journal.

2020 took us by surprise, both the pandemic and the response to it. But 2021 did not. As a result, the behaviour of most Governments of Western liberal democracies is inexcusable and unforgivable. Just as it is unforgivable that the overall majority of the population in said countries has shown very little resistance to what is clearly a power overreach, to say the least. In conclusion, 2021 has been very disappointing in the political scene, because we might not be able to control a virus, but Governments surely can control what they do about it and we, the people, should have kept our Governments in check every step of the way. For 2022 we shall expect more of the same on the virus and Government fronts, but we can do something about the role we play in this game called life. First, we must make an effort —for it is required so— to be aware of what is going on. We seem so preoccupied living in fear or simply surviving that we are not pay attention to the broader scene. Second, we must raise the alarm when power overreach takes place. Thirdly, we must act individually and collectively to put pressure on politicians or activate the judicial system and have Governments abide by the law.

Above all, we shall not despair. Desperation is a disease just as hope is a cure. A cure that implies hard work. That is why it is considered a virtue and this call is not useless wishful thinking. There will always be those who despise what we cherish and want to take it away from us. Let us find out who they are and what their strategy and resources are and face them. 2021 has been one more year in the trenches. In 2022 we shall be brave(er) and finally advance through No Man's Land. No one is coming to save us, and it is therefore up to us to make things better. To honour those who gave us such precious legacy and to preserve it for future generations, which deserve to enjoy it as we have.