Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wikileaks is a watershed

Julian Assange has ignited a firestorm amongst the thinking classes. He is driving a wedge between the establishment and the general run of the intellectual class who work the levers of our modern industrial/financial world. This has grave consequences for the legitimacy of our rulers. Julia Gillard has had the approval of the US establishment, but is fast losing support at home because of her reflexive anti-Assange statements.

As Ran Prieur says in his December the ninth post, it doesn't matter who Julian Assange really is any more because he's become a myth, an enabling story that allows us (the intellectual class) to construct the narrative of our time. When a culture is on the rise, it's relatively easy for leaders to manage their business and to maintain the Mandate of Heaven. On the downward side — which we are now on, although it may be some years before this is widely acknowledged by the intellectual classes let alone the general public — problems multiply like the heads of the Hydra. It is an unfortunate time to be in charge of anything. The compromises one must make to reach the top of the greasy pole are becoming impossible to maintain. In such a time, uncompromising types like Assange find their opportunity. The times in a sense call out for them. A few years ago David Hicks had a similar chance to play this role but the time was premature and he was too shallow a vessel to carry the load, unlike Assange.

In a world of six billion people, where the dominant culture has reached the limits of its power and is starting to lose its grip, the tensions thus produced must find their expression through the lives of individuals. This is Julian Assange's fate. He has prepared himself for it and will no doubt acquit himself courageously enough according to his own values. The longer term significance is impossible to assess. But after he is gone there will be others, for better and worse. All types of people who have ever existed are out there — Christs and Hitlers — and in every crowded city these individuals are waiting, hoping their time has come.

Assange's writings are vague, overly-simple and fairly one-dimensional to my mind. He is not the new Messiah, although I have a feeling he'd like to be. But we'll see what he comes up with. And more importantly, what is made of him.

EDIT: The Archdruid in his latest post skewers the ruling elite more effectively than I can:
The elites that mostly run today’s industrial societies, like their equivalents in every other human society, have a deeply conservative streak under whatever surface layer of fashionable radicalism may be popular at any given time. They have the positions of influence that they do because they have the educations, hold the opinions, and think the thoughts that their peers, and more particularly the immediately prior generation of their peers, considered suitable to their roles. In a society that’s more or less sustainable, this is a powerful source of stability; in one that’s stumbled into an unsustainable human ecology, these same pressures for elite conformity can make it next to impossible for anyone in charge to think about the world in any way other than the one that’s making disaster inevitable.

2nd Edit: Ran's added a permalink for his Assange post so I've modified the link on his name above.