The year was 1992, the Cold War officially came to an end, Boyz II Men were topping the charts, and the first McDonald’s restaurant opened its doors in downtown Beijing… it seemed anything was possible. It was an age of optimism; the United States had finally exorcised the demons of Vietnam in a blaze of cathartic butchery along Iraq’s Highway 80 and a young, eloquent sexual predator handily unseated a respected but uninspiring incumbent. As the new President celebrated his inauguration, Fleetwood Mac performed “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” to a roaring crowd drunk on possibility. It was the dream of the 90’s. It was the dream of Francis Fukuyama.
Since 1992, Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man has become the Communist Manifesto of Globalist Liberalism. Its glib pages served as the kindling which ignited the minds of countless Neo-Liberal pundits into passionate frenzies of devotion. Like dispensationalist preachers scanning the latest headlines, feverishly looking for fresh evidence of the coming rapture. So too did our Pundits and “Thought Leaders” search amongst the day’s news for the latest signs of the end of history. The signs, after all, were everywhere. Every new development somehow seemed to prove Fukuyama’s optimistic predictions. The headlines rang out: “Russia’s road to democracy has just begun!” “Democracy in China is inevitable!” “Look at the progress the Gulf States have made! They’ll be there in no time!” So said the Pundits. The dream was alive, and they were living it.
Fast forward 24 years, we are now in the year 2016, and the Fukuyamaist project goes on, the dream is still alive. Our Pundits still look every morning anew, for fresh signs of the prophecy’s fulfillment. Of course, things look a bit different than they did in 1992, the Globalist project is having a bad run of things. Between springs of both the Arab and Russian variety, a Global economy whose golden eggs keep getting smaller and smaller and a rising Sino empire with a mind of its own, the dream is having a rough go of it. And so their glances across the headlines have become more strained, their brows more furrowed. There is a sense of urgency in their searching now, a once confident faith now less so. But still they search on, more fervently than ever. After all, the prophecy will come to pass; it must come to pass. So say the Pundits.
Is not this searching, this straining forward, this fruitless desiring the primary condensed symbol of our age? Some would dare to even call it decadence. Described by Jacques Barzun as: “The loss it faces is that of Possibility. The forms of art as of life seem exhausted, the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result.” Possibility has ended, the clock is stuck at 11:59 and so we wait for Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.
Even our famously vapid Mass culture waits for a Tomorrow, deliverance from the tedium of the endless Karmic cycle of reboots and sequels for which it has foredoomed the American Consumer to suffer through. The last several years have seen the release of dozens upon dozens of films produced with solely the intent of appealing to an exhausted America’s nostalgia for the greatness of a lost past.
Our youth culture, long fetishized as a sacred totem of novelty and mystical font of “creativity” and “vibrancy” by aging boomer academics, now rests at a standstill as well. Ever since the suburbs of the 1950s spawned an entire generation of wastrels with too much time on their hands, the American “Youth Culture” has spun from one vacuous subculture to another. Few lasting much longer than a decade before being overtaken by the next futile collective grope for identity.
The gears of the counterculture machine have rusted shut, like the gears of so much of America’s industrial base. At the end of the assembly line of youth culture stands the finished product: the Hipster. An ageless child, the Hipster is a walking collage of ironic nostalgia for youth cultures past. Stuck in an intellectual and cultural ghetto he is unable to escape, his feet frozen in place by the weight of the generational spiritual poverty so common to his kind. Placeless and atomized, he is liberated from the History so despised by his forebears. A waif, drifting from one pseudo identity to another, he is a walking, talking version of the Fukuyamaist vision. Hipster man stands at the very edge of history, stares over into the abyss and sees only his own reflection staring back at him.
Are not even our politics little more than another Hollywood reboot? Merely the congressional version of the regurgitated and remixed styles worn with ease by our tired Hipsters? Even after the Wall Street Crash of 2008, Clintonite Neo-Liberal economics still dominates the discourse of all right thinking individuals. Both the center right and the center left refuse to deviate from their fundamentalist faith in Free Market Globalism. The Devil separating them is in the details, and only ever in the details.
Likewise, Neocon interventionists still dominate our newscasts and Op-Ed pages, selling the necessity of regime change and democracy promotion. Foot soldiers of the Fukuyamaist dream, their faith in the coming of the end is firm. But like the Israeli fanatics who plot the destruction of the Dome of Rock to quicken the coming of the Messiah, they realize the apocalypse sometimes needs a little help.
24 years on and the world has begun to ignite. As a Summer brush fire helps engulf the dry wood of an overgrown forest, so too has the dry, spiritless ideology of the Globalist dreamers been set ablaze by a teeming mass of humanity. Surging forth from their rubber rafts, with mouths agape and hands outstretched, reaching for their very own slice of the End of History.
Once aflame, this dream, the dream of the 90’s, burns brighter than ever. Fukuyama himself, when recently questioned about the seeming decay of his prophecy, didn’t hesitate to double down. All the present troubles of the Global order are but a passing fad, speedbumps on the road to the inevitable Neo-Liberal utopia awaiting us. Like a shaman, Fukuyama gazes into the flames, straining to discern a new sign for the faithful. A sign he will be certain to discover. For at the end of the day, like any true child of the 90’s, he wants to believe.