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Nicholas darling, that dust jacket designer, take him out
and shoot him…

This is a new book warning of an impending world crisis in 2014 that will shape the century to come.

Nicholas Boyle is a fellow and President of Magdalene College, Cambridge England.  An expert in German literature, theology and philosophy, he is however not a historian.  And his argument that the defining events of centuries are established in their first decade and a half, is more numerology than hard history.  I can, and will, at some point deal with the American state and its fascination with Astrology but that’s another story. 

Certainly 1815 established British hegemony, and 1914 summoned the start of the Long War, and you could make a case for Flodden field in 1513, or Bannockburn in 1314 as, in their own way definitive, but it’s really a bit weak.  Pick a date, any date, and say it’s vital, extrapolate therefrom.  Better to read Hobsbawn and his theory of long and short centuries.

The book is really a series of previously published essays and articles re-written and thrust back into the body of the book gypsy-set.  Frankly because of that its a bit rough, starts slowly and is a bit sluggish.

But then it suddenly gets a grip with his essay on “The Religion of America”.  His thesis being that America was constituted by force.  Defined, not by revolution against Imperial Masters as by the Civil War.  Made, not by God, but by the Yankee state.  He says that the real religion of America, is not your God, or my God but is the irresistible American state.

He follows that with a philosophical examination of what he calls the “darkness beneath Jefferson’s cloak” of what you didn’t expect to come along uninvited with the American experiment.  A phrase I state here will be used over and over again.  If only by me.

Boyle sees that for America to survive and for the rest of us to prosper, it must accept authorities outside  herself and above her.  The present models have all failed.  Not strong enough herself, America must cede power to others, in order that she and the world may prosper.  That for all of us to avoid a lifetime of reduced prosperity, stagnant economies and the fear of endless war, we  must accept the role of some kind of supranational authority.

 “The only conceivable peaceful route to that goal is through a continuation of the pax Americana” but he writes “both the world’s understanding of America, and America’s understanding of itself, will have to change fundamentally for that goal to be achieved”.  Additionally, America will have to manage its comparative decline more generously than, say Britain did in the years before 1914.  On present indications that hope is at best fond.

Well then, God help us.  An economic downturn might restore an aggressive Bush like figure to the US Presidency.  (Oooh let’s suggest Jeb?)  It’s fair to say that Boyle sees that as a retrograde step.

These essays are a bit chewy as they go, but worth the effort.  Take a couple of goes to get all the points.  Certainly worth the read.  And I truly hope if it ever gets to a paperback or a second edition Nicolas gets rid of the numpty who did the dust jacket.  Sheesh – could it be more seventies?

Copyright David Macadam 2010