In 2014 darkness deepened its grip on America. None can see ahead to the dawn.

Summary: Recent events show that the darkness has claimed us. I see it, as do others with clearer sight. Perhaps you do too. What does this say about our future? What should we do about it? (First of 2 posts today)

Despair or Folly? It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.

— Gandalf speaking to the Council of Elrond in Fellowship of the Ring

Hope

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My gig has long been peddling optimism. During the 1990s I gave 3 speeches every week, on different subjects but all variations on the theme of “the good news is the bad news is wrong” (thanks due to George Gilder and my talented booking agent). Since 2007 the FM website provided optimism, analysis only as diagnosis — the prelude to treatment. This year something changed. I’ve found my optimism impossible to sustain.

The GOP response to Obamacare (giving affordable health care to the working poor = evil socialism). The expansion of our futile wars. Growing inequality. Our passive response to Snowden’s revelations. The passive response to videos of police brutality. Now our response to the Senate torture report: ineffective, except for those that applaud our torture.

The last has had an especially severe effect on my spirits. I’m old enough to remember when defending torture marked one as a NAZI, Commie, or generally evil person. Now it’s a subject of mild debate, with broad support (when used by us; it’s evil when done by our foes). That torture is good and works is now part of the mental DNA for people in our security services, intelligence agencies, and military. Also this makes it almost certain we’ll torture again — probably Americans next time.  Perhaps I’ll live long enough to see mothers urge their children to work hard so they can get a good job with the Gestapo (being American, we’ll have a snazzier name for it).

Over the past few years I have analyzed each of these subjects, and posted the analysis of experts on these things. It all points to a common element in our various problems: us. We’re broken. The War on Terror has corrupted us (Bin Laden’s victory). I cannot even imagine what a cure might look like. All our fancy technological progress, military and civilian, cannot counterbalance the darkness in our souls.

I’m not the only one in despair. William Lind has a new book coming soon — Victoria: A Novel of Fourth Generation War (published under the pseudonym “Thomas Hobbes”; you can read it online here). It starts from a dark outlook, telling of post-USA America (when the Republic has fragmented, due to liberalism). Last week I asked a well-known Army officer (brilliant, author of several books) how we can reform America. His answer: ” Revolution”.

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"Despair" by Edvard Munch (1893-94)
“Despair” by Edvard Munch (1893-94)

What next?

“Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.”
— Legolas at the Last Debate in Return of the King

Conditions look hopeless. The future probably means even worse things to come. But compare our situation to previous low points in American or western history. Do we have less reasons for hope than Samuel Adams in May 1764, when he took his first steps to end British rule in America (see details here), and a small group of people in Boston formed the first of the Committees of Correspondence.

Or in 1774 when Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush founded America’s first anti-slavery society.

Or in the dark days of 1862, when Lincoln feared defeats on the battlefield, loss of support, and recognition of the Confederacy by England)?

They didn’t give up. Neither should we. So I’ll stick to my faith that analysis should focus on finding a path to a solution, although too soon to actually see solutions. You can help in many ways. Local action, through involvement in civic, charitable, and social organizations — all platforms from which to convince people about the need for reform. Push the people you read to shift their focus from analysis and cheerleading (boo the bad guys, yea for the good guys) to discussion about solutions.

What might be paths to a better future? For example, might Sam Adams’ initiative work for us — forming a “committees of correspondence” to explore paths to reform?  In 1764 that meant building a desire in their souls for liberty. What might it mean for us?

We inherited the fruits of a thousand-year struggle to achieve self-government and justice for all.  Now it’s our turn in the front line.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
— Lao Tzu in Tao Te Ching

Looking Toward The Future

For More Information

For more about this theme:

Some words of inspiration:

  1. A famous guest speaker visits the FM site to tell us that we are not weak — we are strong, 8 June 2009
  2. A wonderful and important speech about liberty, 23 July 2009
  3. Should we despair, giving up on America?, 5 May 2012
  4. Keynes looks 80 years into the future and across the Atlantic, to explain our broken values, 25 July 2012
  5. Martin Luther King Jr’s advice to us about using violence to reform America, 20 January 2014

Posts about hope:

(1) Some good news (one of the more important posts on this blog), 21 December 2007 –  I do not believe we need fear the future, despite the tough times coming soon.  This remains a great nation, not because of our past but because of us and our polity.  We differ from almost every other nation.  The difference consists of our commitment to our political order, of which our Constitution is the foundation.  In this we are like Athens more than our neighbors …

(2) An important thing to remember as we start a New Year, 29 December 2007 — As we start a New Year I find it useful to review my core beliefs. It is easy to lose sight of those amidst the clatter of daily events. Here is my list…

(3) Is America’s decline inevitable? No.. 21 January 2008 – Why be an American if one has no faith in the American people?  How can you believe in democracy without that faith?

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11 thoughts on “In 2014 darkness deepened its grip on America. None can see ahead to the dawn.

  1. With no government to help us, and in fact fighting against the needs of the average person, we’re doomed.

    The downward spiral and “legitimized” looting of our community is accelerating, as the anti-society forces are more emboldened with each new absurdity in their favor: the unpunished rape by the financial sector; Citizen’s United’s mockery of our elective process courtesy of the Supreme Court (!); the wage fixing in the technology sector; drug companies and hospitals now only concerned with the bottom line and not our society’s health; the recent ruling by the 2nd Circuit blowing up any chance of insider trading being punished; the recent CRominbus bill that neutered what was left of Dodd-Frank while allowing guaranteed pensions to be cut even after a person retired; the climate change non-debate; the hollowing out of our education system for gain by a few; the anti-data stories about tax cuts and public spending…We’re in a free-for-all of shameless looting that is as bad as any time in history and the lesson goes all through society: take whatever you can however you can, because that is the only way to get ahead.

    1. csdz,

      “With no government to help us, and in fact fighting against the needs of the average person, we’re doomed”

      Nobody can say for certain, but I disagree. I especially disagree with “fighting against the needs of the average person”. We are the average person, and we’re fighting for our prosperity and liberty.

  2. A few disjointed remarks.

    “torture […] works is now part of the mental DNA for people in our security services, intelligence agencies, and military”.

    Torture does work, not to get information or to stop ticking bombs — but to break people to submissive cripples, force them to make confessions, turn them into informers, demoralize their relatives, and intimidate those who are still at large. Very expedient for security services, intelligence agencies and the military. “Pragmatism” and expediency are given such prominence over values in our society that you are probably right that the practice of torture will get more common.

    “mothers urge their children to work hard so they can get a good job with the Gestapo”

    Yes, being pragmatic again (acceptable jobs are hard to come by after all).

    “We’re broken. The War on Terror has corrupted us”

    The change occurred so switfly after 2001-09-11 that the moral constitution of the USA (and of its allies such as the UK) must have been insidiously undermined for a long period beforehand.

    “how we can reform America. His answer: ” Revolution”.”

    The specific examples of major internal challenges you give (abolition of slavery and independence from the UK) could ultimately be resolved only through bloody wars (civil wars at that, even the AWI pitted a pro-independence faction against a similarly sized pro-British one, with the rest of the population waiting on the sidelines). A dark perspective regarding the current situation: is a revolution, not a reform, what is actually at stake?

  3. The world itself is just not reasonable. We are living in times whereby the myths of America are coming apart. There are many of us who refuse to remain silent in the reality of this and the unreasonableness of the world. We come here to read ….and rage internally and externally against the unreasonablenes that you so well list above.

    We long for clarity, wildly long. And it sis fairly irrational if seems Ag times And yet some of us have no choice but to engage in the desire for clarity and moral decency. We demand it. Even in the face of the silence of the world or the severe trends we see happening daily.

    We really have no other choice We’ll just keep going and look for guidance here and with other like minded souls.

    Thx

    1. epagbreton,

      If there are many of you, you’re keeping a low profile. I see street parties, lots of random unfocused actions — leavened by a small number of serious people (as a fraction of the total). Hence my series of predictions that the tea party, the occupy movement, the Snowden excitement, and now the torture report and revelations of police brutality — none of them are more than flurries in the news.

  4. Ok …less than many. A few of us.

    And be not so quick to dismiss the contribution your former Optimism and current less than hopefulness makes to a few of us. Unless your mood is now so hopeless (and for good reasons) And of course your list above is accurate and you were prescient and right on, too.

    So? My point stands. The absurdity of expecting better from most is due to our expectations and those alone. This is how life is and the world is. You even posit how few stood up at various othervtimes in America’s past. If will be no different this time. Therefore Not many or a few of us rail against the world today but we have no choice and low profile or not we will carry one and do what we can in many ways you and other suggest.

  5. Dear Editor:

    I’m not sure why you disagree with the comment that the government is “fighting against the needs of the average person.” Perhaps you misread my comment? Do you think our government is even on the side of the average person these days?

    It seems that the data is very clear: the average person has been and is losing in an increasingly rapid rate over the last 40 years on all counts, abetted by the government (from both parties): economic, democratic, health, environment. There isn’t an area of our society where the government hasn’t been co-opted as a partner with narrow business interests in crimes against the average person.

    It is certainly honorable that you feel “We are the average person, and we’re fighting for our prosperity and liberty.” But it really doesn’t count in the final tally. The average person is losing, big time, and there is no improvement in sight, by any means. I can think of a legislative tally that comes close to a win for the average person.

    While it is nice to harken back to the days of muskets, sailing ships and long hand correspondence, before the industrial revolution, the world is decidedly less level, more centrally controlled and “smaller” now. Compare organizing a protest in 1774 vs. today. Have you seen the joint public-private command center in downtown NYC and do you know how it was used to remove the Occupy folks, and the journalists who were trying to cover the story? That wasn’t the same game as your examples. What was once basically amateur v. amateur, is now professional v amateur (if the one thing the Snowden revelations teach us is that the gov’t now plays an entirely different game than its citizens.)

    At the same time, the sophisticated and well-organized divide-and-conquer psychological tactics in all areas of our society has reduced the population to groups of disorganized and self-interested individuals who are easily manipulated into thinking the craziest thoughts. Some people claim that paying taxes on using common property is immoral, or protest gov’t supported healthcare while sitting in wheelchairs paid for by Medicaid. Try a rational discussion with the population on key social needs and the majority of your time will be spent arguing with sociopaths (by the literal definition.)

    Our elected gov’t has been steadily dismantling society’s safety net, education system and environmental protection, while enacting legislation clearly adds up to a dramatic re-allocation of wealth upward, all in the name of “helping” and “fairness”. We’re totally screwed.

    1. Cadez,

      I apologize. I parsed your sentence incorrectly. My mistake, since you were quite clear.

      I read it that we (reformers) were working against the interests of the average American. A common belief, with some basis in fact.

      Reform movements on the Left and Right are often waged against the average American. To change his gender relations (the “rape culture”). To undercut the economic basis of their prosperity (open borders). Thru deceit (the anti-bank tea party elected a congress wholly owned by the banks).

      But that is not what you referred to. Again, that was my mistake.

      As for the fact that government is an obstacle to reform — yes, that is a problem. But not an unusual one. Look at the unions, facing violent oppression from the government for over a century — yet they won (for two generations).

      The machinery of the Founders lies waiting for us, if we have the will and strength to seize it.

  6. “so they can get a good job with the Gestapo”

    On thread here several years ago you predicted that with companies outsourcing and downsizing, eventually smart people would tend to get jobs with the government (more security, better beenfits, shorter hours, roughly equal pay). For a while, it looked like the GOP would close off that door by shrinking government. Were we ever wrong. It’s just a matter of picking the right sectors in government.

    “Gestapo” is an abbreviation for Geheime Staatspolizei (“Secret State Police”). We’ll come up with a better name. Something snappy, probably an acronym, perhaps like “Guardians of Liberty Forever.” Imagine pins that say “I like GOLF.”

    One of my favorite acronyms was G.O.O.N. — “Guardians of Oglala Nation” , which actually existed (see Wikipedia). They were featured in the Val Kilmer movie “Thunderheart” (1992). Here’s the trailer:

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    [youtube=http://youtu.be/2dfmkymTr4c]

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    The “freedom” speech. Best part of the movie. It’s worth some thought.

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    [youtube=http://youtu.be/yrCOFUpRg8w]

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