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Throughout history, prophecies of universal destruction have been
pronounced, and none have yet been fulfilled.

Despite the dismal record of bygone doomsayers, the business of
forecasting global destruction is booming. A cottage industry has grown
up around the approaching millennium. And why not? There is a vast
storehouse of material to work with. A brief list suffices to
illustrate. Consider the Y2K computer problem, Russia’s “strategic
partnership” with China, Clinton’s lawless presidency, and three decades
of moral decline in the world’s leading nation. Many hands are engaged
in mining this rich ore.

Sad to say, there are those who cynically exploit the interesting
times in which we live. But there are also those who, treasuring their
peace of mind above all else, dismiss the signs of the times with a wave
of the hand.

“It’s all millennium madness,” say these optimists. The approach of
A.D. 2001 has become the hobby horse of alarmists, paranoids and chronic
pessimists.

An objective observer must admit that we are currently enjoying an
outbreak of boob-bumpers and deluded cranks. There is a great deal of
nonsense going the rounds. One doomsayer believes in a polar shift,
another has visions of sinking continents, another sees Atlantis rising
from the depths, yet another heralds the invasion of an interplanetary
hive mind. We also hear news of the Great Pyramid, the face on Mars,
global warming, global cooling and the hollow earth. Prophecies,
visions, alien visitations, automatic writing, Bible prophecy,
numerology — as far as the eye can see.

But there is also a baby in that bathwater. Yes, that’s right. All
is
not well with the world. Amid the phantasmagoria of the subculture
there are genuine omens, signs, and premonitions. In fact, the world
seems to be approaching a great train wreck. Anyone who doesn’t see
this is either willfully dishonest, poorly informed, or lacking in
judgment. The United States has run off its constitutional rails.
Western civilization has been in a state of decline since World War I.
For those who actually read history, and read the newspapers, no case
needs to be made. Even so, our intellectual establishment (from left to
right) is generally optimistic. Life is good at the moment. The stores
are full. And many of our opinion leaders prefer to divert themselves
with pleasant thoughts between trips to the store. But there is no more
intellectual honesty in these optimists than there is in the unbalanced
crackpots who see the North Pole migrating to Peru.

Yes, we are approaching the year 2001. Yes, I agree, the year 2001
is
hardly an occasion for alarm. OK, some people seem to be alarmed merely
because it’s the end of the millennium. But those of us who are
rational, who see the crisis of planet earth in realistic terms, should
not be lumped with the cranks and charlatans. What alarms us is
something real and tangible.

In this context, we ought to notice what the founding father of
modern
political science once wrote. Machiavelli’s views have been praised for

hard-headed realism and scientific objectivity. Of course, his writings
have also been denounced for wickedness. His most famous work is “The
Prince,” in which he lists the methods best used to establish a
monarchical dictatorship.

Another work of Machiavelli, “The Discourses,” outlines the
advantages and disadvantages of republican government. In Book One,
Number 56 of “The Discourses,” we find the most curious passage in the
whole of Machiavelli’s writings — a passage that our latter-day
political scientists prefer to ignore. “Before great misfortunes befall
a city or a province,” wrote Machiavelli, “they are preceded by portents
or foretold by men.”

Machiavelli goes on to explain that “it is clear both from ancient
and
modern cases that no serious misfortune ever befalls a city or a
province that has not been predicted either by divination or revelation
or by prodigies or by other heavenly signs.” Machiavelli then says, in
a matter-of-fact tone, that “There is no need to go far afield to prove
this.”

He then offers a sample of accurate prophecies, prodigies, and
heavenly signs from his own time. “Plenty of further examples might be
cited,” says Machiavelli, “but I pass them over lest I should bore
you.” Machiavelli then cites an example from antiquity. Finally, he
offers the curious speculation that “The cause of such events should be
discussed and explained … by someone versed in things natural and
supernatural, and this we are not.”

I am unready to list Machiavelli among the crackpots of world
literature.

Although he was far from being a moral teacher, his political
observations are among the very best ever written. He was a model of
historical sense, and man of affairs — of real world experience — not
to be lightly dismissed. And although our world teams with charlatons
and cranks, there are genuine instances of foreknowledge. As
Machiavelli pointed out: people have visions, whether we attribute
these to the machinations of the unconscious mind, or to supernatural
agencies.

Are we, today, suffering from millennium madness? To some extent we
are. At the same time we need to keep an open mind. We need to
acknowledge that the times are perilous.

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