Jacob Howland

Building Babel

The construction of the new Tower is happening on multiple levels. That work is financed in no small part by wealthy organizations willing to outsource their thought and conscience by enriching activists and promoting their ideological agendas. 

Politics today seems to have crawled out of some Hobbesian muck. It is a nasty, brutish little runt wherever it appears, which is almost everywhere. Its act—for these days everything is performance art—is a tragic farce. On the streets, its watchword is riot; on the Internet, abuse; in the academy, the boardroom, and the media, a coordinated equalization of attitudes that borders on the totalitarian. At the highest levels of government, it is too lazy or stupid to persuade, preferring rather to manipulate, bully, spy, and punish.
Hobbesian man is moved by powerful passions of pride and fear. His vainglory and the joy he takes in standing above others give rise to war. The horror of anarchy and the fear of death make him seek peace. The ugly and ubiquitous politics of the Left is now channeling these passions into a massive project of social engineering: the construction of a new Tower of Babel.
Fear and pride raised the old Tower of Babel, built by anonymous wanderers who sought to “make us a name, lest we be scattered over all the earth.” Their anonymity is fitting, for there was then only “one language, one set of words. . . . one people” in the world. The Babylonians formed bricks out of the soil—adamah in Hebrew, the same stuff God breathed life into to make the first human being (ha’adam)—and began to “build a city and a tower with its top in the heavens.” These hard-baked bricks, all cut to the same measure, are images of human beings from whom the breath of individual life and particularity has somehow departed.
Modern attempts to construct the Tower have unfolded before, most notably in the Soviet Union and China. Today an inhumanly univocal tongue, asserting itself as the measure of all things, once again threatens to swallow the rich particularities and multiple languages of individual thought, speech, and creative expression.
The foundations of the new Tower have already been laid. In a recent interview, the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei was asked if he thought that Donald Trump was an authoritarian. He did not:
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