Book 15 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses contains a little synopsis of his epic, and of his Pythagorean philosophy: “Nothing in all the world remains unchanged. All things are in a state of flux, all shapes receive a changing nature. Time itself glides on with constant motion, ever as a flowing river. Neither river nor the fleeting hour can stop its constant course. But, as each wave drives on a wave, as each is pressed by that which follows, and must press on that before it, so the moments fly, and others follow, so they are renewed. The moment which moved on before is past, and that which was not, now exists in time, and every one comes, goes, and is replaced.”
It is beautiful poetry, and a profound truth about life: As Heraclitus says, no man steps into the same river twice. Change happens whether you like it or not, whether you want it to or not.
That doesn’t mean that change is good. Some change is good, certainly. The entire history of science and technology is one of accumulated knowledge. But in other aspects of life — philosophy, religion, culture — things are not always getting better. Progress is not inevitable; it takes work. Liberty is always only one generation away from extinction, as President Reagan said.
The liberals promised us change, and they have delivered it. What was so convenient about President Obama’s slogan of “Change” was that it could mean anything. It made no promise to be good.
The change has been unmistakably bad. The American economy shrunk in the fourth quarter of 2012, so if it shrinks again this quarter, we will be in another official recession. After the worst post-recession recovery since the last liberal to twice win a majority of the popular vote (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) we’re ready to go right back into another recession or at best another terrible recovery.
We have the largest national debt of any nation in the history of mankind. That is certainly a change from the booming postwar years, in which we became the wealthiest and fastest-growing nation in the history of mankind. What a change a generation makes.
Even our most basic institutions are changing. Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced as he was preparing to leave the Defense Department, after a disturbingly characteristic leak from the Obama administration, that military policy would allow women in combat areas.
Is this good change? Ask yourself: Is this going to make our military stronger or weaker? No one seems to be arguing that it will make it stronger. Like ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” it is presented as “fairness,” as “justice” and “equality.” Does anybody think this is actually good policy from a military perspective? Both of these decisions amount to lower standards.
Are women entitled to fight? Is anyone entitled to serve in the military? This attitude of “fairness” seems to get it completely backward. It is yet another victory for the self-esteemists. I often wonder what modern history would look like without that disastrous Freudian idea that low self-esteem is objectively bad and high self-esteem objectively good. I wonder what would happen if we were not always so busy trying to make everyone feel good about themselves, and instead encouraging people to be worth feeling good about. The entire gay-rights movement, and much of the third-wave feminist movement is the bastard child of this Freudian error. There is no point in feeling good about yourself unless you have a reason to do so.
Unit cohesion will never be the same. Now homosexuals and women alike will be in combat. It is axiomatic that people bond in different ways with different people. In other words, this new arrangement is explicitly not equal to the previous one. Does anybody think unit cohesion will be easier now? Of course not. It will be more difficult, and unequivocally so in some cases.
So we are becoming Europe not only in our inability to pay our debts, but also in our ability to defend ourselves. As Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has lamented, this is quickly becoming a country I do not recognize, and change is coming in increasingly negative ways. Greece is a small country: Its implosion is only a fraction of what the American implosion will look like. We are not entitled to high national self-esteem. We need to be honest about the direction of this country and reverse course where necessary.
In other words, we need change.
• Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 128 from 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. Become a fan at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him at www.twitter.com/arightside.