Freedom without covenant becomes selfishness. And that’s what we see at the top of society, in our politics and the financial crisis. Freedom without connection becomes alienation. And that’s what we see at the bottom of society — frayed communities, broken families, opiate addiction. Freedom without a unifying national narrative becomes distrust, polarization and permanent political war.Brooks sees the problem is big. What he doesn't yet see is that the Alt-Right, Neoreaction and the rest is mostly a tragic figure in his mostly accurate conception. The Right isn't out there cheering for racialism. Instead, it accepts that the very liberal things David Brooks would like to save are largely influenced by race and, crucially, ethnicity. The evidence of voting patterns suggests Irish, Nords and Southern European didn't assimilate for at least a century, and their assimilation was mostly reverse-assimilation. America has moved so far left that New Deal Democrats now land on the right. The new immigrants lack even basic shared values such as Christianity and rule of law. They aren't pulling Anglo-America in a more Continential/Statist direction. They're pulling America apart.
People can endure a lot if they have a secure base, but if you take away covenantal attachments they become fragile. Moreover, if you rob people of their good covenantal attachments, they will grab bad ones. First, they will identify themselves according to race. They will become the racial essentialists you see on left and right: The only people who can really know me are in my race. Life is a zero-sum contest between my race and your race, so get out.
That's why there's a red pill and the accurately termed Dark Enlightenment. A key flaw in liberalism (looks like this word is back to original meaning among the educated set) is the blank slate/universalism, the idea that liberalism is for everyone instead of a peculiar cultural institution native to the British Isles. Many cultures may have forms of liberalism, but what we in the Anglo-Americas understand as liberty is not what exists in most parts of the world, even if we would correctly drop them into the "free" category. (The libertarian, anarcho-capitalist nirvana of Somalia being the most extreme example.)
For the sake of argument, perhaps Brooks is right and we're wrong. There's no Blank Slate, but HBD is less deterministic than we understand. Brooks would have a compelling argument to sell the dissident Right, which even at its most reactionary is still more liberal than most of the world (culture!)— if we had time for a debate. But as I said, the Right is the tragic figure. There is no time, Mr. Brooks. To borrow from the five levels of Maslow's hierarchy (survival, safety, belonging, esteem/status, self-actualization), Brooks is on level 3 or 4, the progressives are on level 5 in cloud cuckoo land, the right is on level 2 and worried this is actually a level 1 existential crisis at civilization scale.
History is full of examples of nations that built new national narratives, revived family life, restored community bonds and shared moral culture: Britain in the early 19th century, Germany after World War II, America in the Progressive Era. The first step in launching our own revival is understanding that the problem is down in the roots.Oh no.