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
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”.
“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
For More Information
For more about this theme:
Some words of inspiration:
- A famous guest speaker visits the FM site to tell us that we are not weak — we are strong, 8 June 2009
- A wonderful and important speech about liberty, 23 July 2009
- Should we despair, giving up on America?, 5 May 2012
- Keynes looks 80 years into the future and across the Atlantic, to explain our broken values, 25 July 2012
- 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?