A new beginning for America and this website

Summary: The press tells us a series of exciting stories, but does little to pull these threads together to see the full picture. Here’s my version, dark and grim. This is the capstone to the almost 5,000 articles posted here since 2003, describing America’s future and setting forth a new purpose for this website.

Wave good-bye. He believes that we no longer deserve it.

Eagle carrying off an American Flag - AdobeStock-268033806
By Romolo Tavani. AdobeStock – 268033806.

First, there was the Satanic Ritual Abuse hysteria of the late 1980s and 1990s that sent many Americans to jail with the same logic as the Salem Witch Trials (and made Janet Reno America’s attorney general).

Then there was the Y2K hysteria, sharing many of the features of a moral panic.

There was the “rape culture” hysteria (more here), followed by the MeToo hysteria – since we must believe the woman (despite the many false accusations) unless the accused is a prominent Democrat (even if he is a rapist).

There was RussiaGate hysteria, known to the FBI from the beginning as both fraudulent and politically-motivated (and perhaps in part a Russian attack on Trump).

Then there was COVID-19, (in which the best-prepared nation became one of the worst affected), also sharing many of the features of a moral panic.

The latest is the Black Live Movement. They are not protesting the daily flood of Black and White blood shed by the mind-blowingly high rates of crime by African-Americans, fueled by the collapse of our inner cities since the 1960s. Much of their family structure has burned away. Their broken schools are among the results (for an example, see this video, the transcript, and more evidence here). Scores of studies (examples) show that there is little or no racial component to police violence. Also, African Americans are employed as police proportionate to their population (national data, by city) – and that the Democrats are screaming racism about police brutality largely in cities they have run for years or generations. Meanwhile, the police are both violent and corrupt, the criminal justice system is an evil joke, and our prisons are often nightmarish. Fixing these things does nothing for any faction of our elites. But getting us marching like drones in the streets yelling about racism burns off energy that might power reforms.

All of these panics richly display two trends that dominate the news. First, the growing dysfunctionality of America’s vital institutions. Government agencies (DoD, the FDA, the CDC), corporations, cities, professions (e.g., journalism), charities (e.g., the Boy Scouts) – they are falling like dominoes. Some have turned outright parasitic, such as Defense, health care, and the legal system. Each day fewer social processes work well in Americal; each day’s headlines reveal new kinds of chaos and madness.

Second, there is the growing instability of our thinking – revealed as these panics increase in frequency and magnitude. We have become weak and easily manipulated, like sheep. With little effort, we can be driven into irrational and emotional stampedes – which fade away leaving few traces behind. This is one of the reasons our elites look at us with contempt.

These trends are making America into ClownWorld, whose people cannot cope with their proliferating problems – or even clearly see them.

“When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen’s off with her head …”
— Lyrics from “White Rabbit” sung by Jefferson Airplane (1967).

While the news overflows with exciting stories about these things, there is little analysis of how they fit together. We see the trees, not the forest. These are not isolated phenomena but part of a larger process: the fall of the American Republic. The Republic is no longer considered legitimate by many Americans, and their numbers are increasing. This washes away the foundation of our society, breaking our social systems (and the institutions which are their expression). Since 2003, almost five thousand posts here have documented this and predicted the likely result.

The Culture of Defeat : On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery
Available at Amazon.

As America dies, we adapt

Slowly awareness of this, the defeat of Founder’s hopes, grows. Every society experiences defeat in its own way.

“But the varieties of response within vanquished nations – whether psychological, cultural, or political – conform to a recognizable set of patterns or archetypes that recut across time and national boundaries.  A state of unreality – of dreamland – is invariably the first of these. … In the wake of German’s defeat in WWI, Ernest Troeltsch coined the term dreamland for this phenomenon, in which all the blame is transferred to the {bad guys in the old regime} and the {people} feels cathartically cleansed, freed of any responsibility or guilt.”

— From the Introduction to Wolfgang Schievelbusch’s The Culture of Defeat: On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery (2003).

This is America today. Everybody blames the others for our problems, inventing comforting and often elaborate fantasies as explanations. Democrats blame Republicans and vice versa. Blacks blame white supremacy and police racism for their problems, not their horrific rate of criminality, high rate of broken families, and widespread disdain for education. Comfortable suburbanites turn a blind eye to their inner cities, with their often Third World-like conditions. Many on the Left and Right passively dream of the violence to come, when they Arise and Smite Their Oppressors (so much more fun than tiresomely working the political machinery bequeathed us by the Founders).

The most bizarre example is our contempt for the officials we elect. Each political tribe clearly sees the corruption and recklessness of the other party. A broad majority looks at the ballot – which often lists weirdos like Hillary Clinton, Trump, and Biden – as if it was drawn up on Mars, not by political machinery we are too lazy to operate.

Some people dream of new laws that will fix the government, a kind of magical incantation. Others dream of redrawing lines on the map of America, as if new nations can be created from America with pens. Some dream of a world government, others of America fragmenting into happy self-governing villages.

None of these can work because they all ignore the common element in our bewildering and multiplying array of social, economic, and political problems: they all involve Americans. We flee from self-responsibility like vampires from sunlight. We are no longer willing to bear the burden of self-government – which is why our institutions, public and private, are dying.

A new phase for America

This is not the End Times. We have entered the transitional phase between the America-That-Once-Was and the coming new regime that will restore stability. Until then, expect continued decay of our institutions accompanied by more frequent bouts of increasingly weird mass hysteria. Probably with increasing violence, in many forms.

While revival is an inherent possibility in every soul and every society, at some point it becomes unlikely. At some point in these times future historians will draw a line and say this was the day America died. But we are not ready to see this (hence the fantasies).

In the coming years powerful groups, led by strong leaders, will arise and contend for mastery over America. Our decay into tribalism will make this easy, as a nation of citizens become one of followers. People who believe what they are told. People who do what they are told. That is the key element in the list panics which open this essay, as it is in our security theater performances in airports. They are, in effect, training exercises for new Americans. Like troops taught to march on the parade ground so that they can fight on the battlefield.

The course of this transitional period is unknowable. We should bet that our new rulers will rule in their own interest, not ours. But we will have the right to whine.

The Founders looked to the Roman Republic as their model for America. How fitting that our decay resembles that of the Roman Republic. Let’s hope that our transition will briefer and less violent than theirs. And remember that Rome grew in power and wealth for two centuries after the Republic fell.

A new phase for this website

This post concludes a series that began on July 4, 2006: Forecast: Death of the American Constitution. Like so many others, since then I have described the slow decay of America. Reading such stories is a popular form of entertainment for America’s Outer Party (college-educated middle class). I had hoped to act as a dime-store Thomas Paine or Samuel Adams, helping to arouse Americans to begin the great work of reform. I now think that is a hopeless endeavor. We have the power, but not the will to use it.

So what remains to do? We can watch the circus, enjoying it with gallows humor. We can watch the circus, looking for indications about the new America that lies ahead. And perhaps the unlikely will happen and the horse will learn to sing.

Contest

I will send a copy of Rome’s Last Citizen (see below) to those who post the best comments to this series of posts. I have ten copies. Only one book per winner. Decisions are purely subjective by the judges, based on the originality and quality of insights, plus supporting facts and analysis, of the comment.

A copy also goes to whoever suggests a new masthead for this website. “Helping to reignite the spirit of a nation grown cold” shows a hopeful spirit I no longer have.

For More Information

Ideas! See my recommended books and films at Amazon. For something different, see “The Swallow – a story of the WWII Night Witches.”

I highly recommend Martin van Creveld’s new book, Seeing into the Future: A Short History of Prediction. “From the ancients watching the flight of birds to the murky activities of Google and Facebook today, Seeing into the Future provides vital insight into the past, present, and – of course – future of prediction.” Our media overflow with predictions. This will help you sort the useful ones from the chaff, and so better see our futures.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see my posts about fear, about the Constitution, and especially these posts …

  1. A 4th of July reminder that America is ours to keep – or to lose!
  2. The danger facing America, the names of the guilty, and our best hope for reform.
  3. Our institutions are hollow because we don’t love them.
  4. Rome’s last citizen warns America: don’t repeat our mistakes.
  5. After Independence Day, look to America after the Republic.
  6. We have become cowards. We can become brave again.
  7. We gave our rulers the greatest gift that we can give.
  8. The Founders’ error dooms our Republic, but not the next.

See the past to foresee our future

The Founders looked to the Roman Republic for ideas and inspiration. In this time of peril, we too can do so. See two books about the people who were the poles of the forces that could have saved the Republic, but instead destroyed it.

Caesar – a biography by Christian Meier.,

Rome’s Last Citizen by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni – The life and legacy of Cato, the mortal enemy of Caesar.

"Caesar" by Christian Meier
Available at Amazon.
Rome's Last Citizen
Available at Amazon.

 

70 thoughts on “A new beginning for America and this website”

  1. Amen.

    Obviously this isn’t working.

    Sorry, I can’t say I have anything to earn the prize, I am more concerned with spreading the Gospel. :)

    Thanks for pulling the scales from my eyes.

  2. I do not know how it will turn out. What I do see is many cultural similarities with pre-Revolution France. De Tocqueville gives a very striking account of them.

    You have the very unusual phenomenon where writers and intellectuals become major players. In France it was the Economists. In the US its the universities’ liberal arts faculties.

    In the same way, people with zero experience of government, business or administration are making prescriptions for policy, and these seem to go direct into policy without passing Go. As for instance in the movement to defund the police. Or the diversity mania.

    The elite are in the same way distant from the mass of the population and unaware of them. You had in France a liberal and reforming aristocracy, who lived completely separate lives, encouraging the Third Estate to radical revolt, while having no idea what they were unleashing.

    They were, like mainstream America today, so confident that everything would stay more or less under control that any possibility of an upheaval never entered their minds. They were like people on a stable flat bottomed boat who load it up, see it doesn’t capsize, and assume nothing they do can capsize. But when it goes too far, its over and upside down in a flash.

    When I say distant, Larry criticized some time back a post in which I said this. What I mean is, its the difference between never having to think about shopping, or standing in line anywhere, or watching your back as you walk to the store, or paying the rent, or getting fired, and living from paycheck to paycheck. I still think its true, they are not living in the same country. And their economic fortunes over the last 30 years have diverged dramatically.

    There is, among the elite, a similar loss of faith in the idea of the nation. This then filters through the mass of the population, and via the universities liberal arts departments becomes a sort of conventional wisdom. This is enormously dangerous, as it creates a national readiness to an overthrow of the central institutions.

    We may have a similar erosion of the institutions of society, including local government, where the forms remain but the function is bypassed. I am not as sure of this as of the others. Does local government still fully function as it used to 30-40 years ago? In France, the offices remained, but they were increasingly bypassed by new centralized ones. We do have something striking in America, the gradual extinction of civic associations which Larry has referred to.

    We have a fiscal crisis caused by war and government borrowing. The consequences of the debt binge are huge, in contributing to the boom in financial centers and the relative decline of the rest of the economy.

    De Tocqueville also remarks a kind of fragmentation in social life. The aristocracy, having lost their role in government, then became a sort of caste, retaining the privileges but with no engagement in everyday life with the Third Estate. In our own case, the mania for multiculturalism and identity politics may be analogous.

    Another striking similarity is in taxation. In France, the aristocracy having retreated or been driven by the Crown into the status of a caste with no handle on the levers of power, retained exemption from most taxes, which bore more and more heavily on the less well off. So you had islands in the population whose main relation to each other was resentment. They never had occasion or need to work together for the common good.

    The nation had become, culturally, a sort of tinderbox, waiting for a spark to set it off. The spark was the bad harvests and the financial crisis, when borrowing could no longer continue. A sort of Minsky moment, with 18c characteristics.

    I am unwilling to forecast, having learned by experience how bad I am at it. It may just drift on or go back to stability. Or the radical upheaval, if there is one, may result in left or right authoritarianism. But I do find the cultural and social similarities very striking. Not least the lack of any real misgivings about where this may all be going.

    The French were similarly confident, and then one day suddenly and out of the blue there was the Terror, and the scaffold for the monarchy. Is something like that possible here?

  3. lindsay phillips

    Good evening Sir/Madam,
    We live in very strange, dare I say stangulating times!
    I hope to counter this in my own small way in the coming weeks by starting a web-site to be used as an education resource for schools in Australia (maybe US. also).
    Here I have included a brief-ish outline of same.
    ClimateNews1491.com.au

    Who we are

    There was a time in the distant past, when the entire continent of Europe was knowing and believing of this one critical point of “self-awareness” … *
    The entire continent of Europe meaning from: the deep north of Stockholm/Oslo/Helsinki; to the far south of Rome/Athens/Gibraltar. And from the far west of Madrid/Lisbon/London; to the far east of Moscow/Minsk/Constantinople. (Ankara, formerly known as Constantinople.)

    The world on which we live is flat; and the (flat) world is itself revolved around by The Sun!!

    Both these self-awareness “touch-stones” are of course today the subject of a widely held view that is 180 degrees opposed to those two above.

    This complete revision of views was of course considerably facilitated by; Columbus, Copernicus, and Galileo. Christopher Columbus, Nicolas Copernicus and Galileo Galilei, were men of vision who weren’t blinded by an artificial &/or an imaginary consensus! (This may sound familiar?)

    Although such changes may have happened without these three men 50/100/200 years later, the fact is these changes happened when they did because of these three gifted men, and to them many of us will be forever grateful.

    Columbus did discover the Americas in 1492, and hence the naming of this site includes the year preceding this momentous event!

    So to, in late 2020 – after over 60 years ** of constant repetition by most of; Academia, Governments, Media and Hollywood – the critical point of “self-awareness” is this …

    The world is being over-run by the pollution of plastics *** and by the trace element of Carbon Di-Oxide (often lazily referred to as Carbon) – the latter leading to irreversible warming and inevitable climate self-destruction.

    Just as the majority view was errant in that much earlier time period, so too is the majority view (esp. re. CO2) errant in the modern day!!

    : Those people who have an unhealthy obsession with “Political Correctness” may question the key point of reference being Europe? Perhaps a fair point. However, seeing as both; the entire Age of Enlightenment, and, the entire Industrial Revolution have by all metrics been started in Europe, this reference point is clearly beyond reproach.
    ** : Climate disruption was first on the public record in 1958 as global warming, then in the early 70’s as global cooling, then in the 80’s & 90’s as global warming, then for the most part of last two decades as climate change. The first two changes (from warming to cooling, then back again) came about due to temperature updates invalidating the prior view, the most recent change came about due to the warming hiatus that appeared after 1998 to approximately 2016.
    *** : Yes it is of immense concern to the contributors to this site that pollution of plastics is a severe threat to the entire planet – it is a totally separate issue to that of CO2 – and one which will be concentrated on in far more detail in the coming 12-24 months.

    Kind regards, Lindsay Phillips, Qld., Aust.

  4. The other observation to make is that when democracies fall to authoritarianism, its usually because the elite invite the outsider into government thinking that the institutions will restrain him and his movement.

    The question for America might be whether the current fragmentation and hostility can coalesce into something that is a recognizable movement, probably outside the two political parties, perhaps taking one of them over and remaking it, but radically. Far more radically than, for instance, Roosevelt did the Democrats.

  5. I seem to be a member of a generation that will experience America just as it’s decline begins accelerating. JFK is murdered, Vietnam was a hideous fraud, Nixon resigns in disgrace. Ford failed to be reelected, after issuing a pardon for Nixon, Carter told America it had to get used to less energy, Reagan gave America good speeches but bad policies, Clinton tarnished the Presidency in ways we are just beginning to comprehend, Bush Jr blundered our way into a war that no one in charge appears to want to win, the economy collapsed, and he destroyed capitalism in order to save it. Obama was supposed to live up to so much hype he was guaranteed to disappoint many, and now Trump.

    And during all that time, we have ignored taking care of our own country while we have entertained ourselves into a very dangerous time with a mercurial man child in charge of nuclear weapons who is running against an empty suit for the Presidency. We either are on the eve of the greatest rebirth in history, or we continue to blunder on into oblivion.

    1. Patrick,

      “I seem to be a member of a generation that will experience America just as it’s decline begins accelerating.”

      If you were alive in 1963, you are probably a Boomber. Like me.

      Vietnam was a well-intended adventure, conducted start to finish with incompetence. Great nations often have bad wars. Indeed, most of the zillon wars in history were bad wars – and since 1783 America has had many. They do not show our decay.

      Nixon’s removal was how the system is supposed to work. The Founders knew we would have bad presidents (we’ve been luck to have so few), and created a system to remove them. That does not show our decay any more than catching a bank robber shows that banks don’t work. That Ford wasn’t re-elected means nothing. Ditto that you don’t like Reagan or Clinton or Obama (they’re no worse than the average Presidents we’ve had for 250 years).

      The economy crashed in 2008 as it has before and will again. Depressions are a natural result of free market capitalism. See the Long Depression of 1873-1879. Neither it nor 2008-09 “destroyed capitalism.”

      The telling aspect of your comment is that we “experienced” America’s decline. We Boomers have been a powerful force in America since the 1960s – during which the indicators of decline have flashed red increasingly brightly. As we said when we were young: let’s tell it like it is. The “greatest generation” handed us a fistful of high cards. A strong economy, a bold start to the civil rights movement, and many more. We’ve squandered all that.

      Let’s be bold in our declining years and do something different. Let’s assume responsibility for our actions, and admit that we’ve screwed up. It might be cathartic, make a good ending for our period running America, and set a good example for our kids and grandkids.

      1. The telling aspect of your comment is that we “experienced” America’s decline. We Boomers have been a powerful force in America since the 1960s – during which the indicators of decline have flashed red increasingly brightly. As we said when we were young: let’s tell it like it is. The “greatest generation” handed us a fistful of high cards. A strong economy, a bold start to the civil rights movement, and many more. We’ve squandered all that.

        This is very true, with a qualification that it is too polite about the real nature of our failure. We not only squandered. We also actively destroyed. Some time ago I read Horowitz, Destructive Generation, and also Radicals and saw the reality I had vaguely been realizing crisply described and diagnosed.

        Looking back, I realize now that not only did we not know what we had, not only did we waste it, but almost all of our ideas were idiotically wrong and destructive. We knew nothing, which is perhaps normal for the young, but we also had the arrogance of people who think they know everything they need to know.

        I have also been reading Heather Mac Donald – the book on Diversity. Do you know it? What our generation did to education. This was a crime.

  6. I don’t know how exactly our Nation is going to overcome this, but I do know what I would do if I had the ability to make changes. Conscription to civil service or military service mandatory upon completion of high school. I’ll explain.

    Nothing brings different races together like having to endure the same hardship together. Regardless of race, political background, age, sex, whatever- throw everyone into a platoon for 22 weeks, break them down, and build them back up. At the end, they realize there are no colors, political bias, age, etc. They are all “Green.”

    You can walk into a military barracks anywhere and see a white, black, Asian, Latino, etc all hanging out together on the weekends, grilling food, drinking a beer and coexisting as family. They have moral values now, and a code of conduct. They are proud and respectful. They have a sense of purpose and an obligation to the people.

    Every single career field that there is in civilian world, there is now in the military, you just have to wear a uniform to work and treat everyone with respect. Journalist- got it. Accountant- got it. Police officer- got it. Nurse- got it. Surveyor and engineers- got it. Plumber, electrician, photographer, You name it, there’s a career management field; it might not be in all branches, but it one of them. So with that, you now have a citizen that has gained a better moral compass than perhaps what they were raised with, and now they have experience in a career field, as well as free college tuition. They do their time, go to college, and become a functioning and prosperous member of society that contributes to all, and not just themselves.

    2nd course of action: civil service.
    Upon completion of high school, your choice is military or civil service (e.g. police officer, firefighter, EMS/EMT, nurse, sanitation, etc).

    At the same time, the people would have to work in a team environment with EVERYONE, learn from each other, and overcome hardships together- while at the end coming out on top with a new sense of duty to one another, the people, and an obligation to fulfill that duty.

    The bottom line, don’t give people the option to “be” equal, make them realize they “are” equal.

    1. John M Stryker

      For those fortunate enough to receive ‘Scholarships’ instead of executing them immediately upon graduating from high school, they can be utilized upon completion of the first period of National duty.
      No need to exempt anyone who is physically and mentally capable of participating. NO other EXCEPTIONS.

  7. I often think that we are so wealthy that many(actually low priority) issues/weaknesses go up the priority list. Then the media and public fixate on them.

    Recent police problems. These videos make “good TV”. The majority of police work where, for example, “violence/loss of life” are risks, are boring- car crash injuries, OD people lying in the street unconscious, etc. Not good TV, but the stats say this is where the real priority should be to help the public.

    The snowflake culture where “sticks and stones” doesn’t exist, makes these people weaker- and is very damaging.

    Virus shutdown- could only happen when wealth is present and can be spread around by government action. In the Spanish flu episode they wouldn’t even think of this because they didn’t have enough wealth.

    Income inequality is at unacceptable levels, caused by globalization in my view=Working/middle class sold out by elites.

    Anyway, I suspect there is a hard time coming. It will be different and hard to predict. But I am hopeful due to the cyclical nature of markets- good times follow bad.

    Luck to us all.

    1. Welcome,

      Thank you for that well thought out and expressed comment! My perspective is somewhat different – remembering that we’re discussing things about which we can only guess.

      The media tends to focus on narratives that are useful to powerful factions of our elites. These problems might be exaggerated or even imaginary, but that matters not if we believe and lose our minds over them

      Nobody is sold out by anyone. If we become sheep, we will be exploited. That’s our problem, not anyone else’s.

      Few social dynamics are “cyclical.” Markets are certainly not cyclical. US equity markets have been rising since 1942, with occasional stumbles. Historically, most financial markets go to zero. We are one of the exceptions, and so forget this. Czarist and Austro-Hungarian Imperial bonds are valuable only as pretty pieces of paper.

      1. Lady Reader,

        Thank you for the correction – and the link for additional info!

        But perhaps looking at this as binary, shutdowns or none – is less useful than a more granular perspective.

        The “Spanish Flu” was vastly more destructive (in several ways) than COVID, yet there was no shutdown of a large fraction of the economy. Unlike now, closing 40-50%, depending on the metric used.

  8. Larry,

    Your reply to Patrick is awesome! Par for the Cummer Course.

    Good to read you again. I mistakenly posted on Ian’s Night Witch thread. Please check it out. It includes a suggestion for your revised masthead.

    Beste

  9. As always, a very insightful post, Larry. Please forgive my long response. I think we are living through our own version of China’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, with ritual denunciation, dismissal and exile of those who do not adhere to social and political orthodoxy. It’s much worse: where the Red Guards would surround their victims with a circle of accusers for days on end until they ‘confessed’, we do it before virtual mobs whose denunciations are eternal and unending, and ensure the apologies are recorded and broadcast over all modern media. The transgressions are widened every day until no one is certain what previous orthodoxy will become taboo. Nothing is now secure. Are these efforts to ensure that people’s beliefs and values are fluid so that they have no basic values to use to object, and instead can be constantly reshaped? Worse, have we created the perfect setting for this to happen so easily?

    In totalitarian regimes, such as Stalin’s USSR, propaganda and isolation combined to allow Stalin to shape opinion by allowing no alternate ideas to be broadly expressed. The West, on the other hand, has always emphasized freedom of belief and expression, and generally allowed information to circulate.

    Mass media – radio, television, the internet – has had a detrimental effect on most people’s ability to read and process information. I began teaching history in 1989. I was able to assign students 10-page readings from textbooks that were primarily text, with some charts and illustrations, with the expectation that the work would be read and understood. When I left the education system in 2015, I was only able to assign short 2 or 3 page readings – from later editions of the same textbooks which had reduced and simplified the text and increased the amount of charts and pictures – with any hope that students would understand it.

    Worse, we’ve also virtually stopped teaching spelling, grammar and writing skills in public schools.

    Writing skills are essential. They teach students not only how to write, but should also teach how to research and analyze material critically. Not teaching these skills means that students grow up without any appreciation for views other than their own, as they’re not taught to see and recognize other viewpoints. More importantly, they do not learn the most basic of free speech principles: there are always at least two sides to every story. People may not agree with other peoples’ views – but you cannot dismiss those views until you have read them, understood them, and can explain why their views are incorrect. But even then, to paraphrase an old Irish saying, “people have the right to their opinions – wrong though you think they may be.”

    These failures have led to today’s Western Cultural Revolution. In Canada, in the past week, younger journalists at the National Post newspaper revolted because the opinion editor printed an column by Rex Murphy, a conservative writer, who argued that while racial discrimination exists in Canada, it is not systemic. They apparently wanted the editors to repudiate the column and the writer. Interestingly, when the editors told Murphy that others would be writing columns critical of his, he had no problem with it, and thought they’d every right to do so.

    This is even happening at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), a centre-left (some would say very left) broadcaster. Long-time program host Wendy Mesley was forced to apologize and suspended when others at a meeting leaked that Mesley had quoted another person in a news story who had used the N-word. Mesley repeated the quote verbatim to present what the person had said. She was not expressing herself in any way.

    These are the actions of journalists, who one would think would respect the very principles of free speech that journalism and our society are built upon. They should have learned these principles in journalism school; but they should have been taught them long before in elementary school, where all students should learn them. These are failures of basic, fundamental education, even before taking into account how history often goes untaught in many school systems.

    What happens next? It looks as if the followers of our Cultural Revolution have already begun to devour their own, as happened during the French and Russian Revolutions and in China’s Cultural Revolution. But it’s too easy for new variants of orthodoxy and new transgressions to take hold in today’s internet age, especially in a society where critical thinking and respect for other viewpoints has been lost.

    But things may not be as dark as they look. People are growing more frustrated at demands for the removal of monuments, but of any interpretation of history that varies from the protestors. Many are pushing back. Boris Johnson’s response to threats against Winston Churchill’s statue is one example, while even left-wing newspapers and commentators are beginning to speak out.

    Perhaps Boomers' (and I’m one, born in 1958) last – and greatest – service to the society whose Golden Age we enjoyed would be to recognize where we have gone wrong, and seek to restore the best of what we often wrongly protested against. Our lack of respect for pragmatism, time-tested beliefs and methods was born of the unparalleled prosperity which allowed us to denigrate the very people, values and ways which had built it – and led to many of today’s problems.

    If we don’t, people will turn to an authoritarian – or worse, totalitarian – leader to bring security once more, as you’ve often said, Larry. It would be a sad end to the American and democratic experiment of the last three centuries.

    1. Paul,

      Wow.Thats a great comment! Especially valuable as a report from across the border.

      While I agree with you on all points, you describe only half the picture. The Right has also turned against us,

    2. Accidentally sent that comment before finished…

      In the US, at least, the Right has also turned against us.

      The key thing when looking at America: both sides clearly see each other, but have no self-awareness about their own side. That’s the “factionalism” the Founders feared above all, which I and others call tribalism. Americans see the good guys and evil others. This makes rational discussion, let alone sound public policy, difficult or impossible,

      It makes us easy to rule, as we see our alternatives as only A or B. Much as in the last days of the Roman Republic, people became followers of one or another of the various authoritarians. Caesar, Cassius, Pompey, etc. each had a “brand” – the equivalent of Left or Right today. None offered self-government.

      Once a society reaches that point, its people’s days as citizens are over – and they must accept what their leaders dish out.

      We are, I suspect, nearing that point.

      1. My turn to agree with you, Larry! In Canada, the centre-left dominates politics and political discourse, and so many here tend to see the left as the greater concern. Even the federal Conservative Party is centrist, and the Conservative Party which governs Ontario is called the ‘Progressive Conservative’ Party (the federal party used the same name from 1942 until 2004). But you’re absolutely correct; the Right has abandoned the average person too. And both sides do see each other as evil. I miss the days when members of parties could reach out to one another, which weren’t that long ago. In the 1950s, Eisenhower relied on the Democrats to support many of his policies, and until the 1970s there wasn’t a lot of difference between a liberal Republican and a conservative Democrat, which allowed a lot to be done.

        Unfortunately, my head says you’re right, and we’re going to end up maintaining the forms of democratic rule while power is unchecked.

        In Canada, this may already be happening. Parliamentary oversight of governments has been greatly weakened in the last fifty years. Even so, Prime Minister Trudeau originally tried to pass legislation that would have suspended Parliament until the fall of 2021 on the grounds that the pandemic was an emergency that required giving the government freedom to act. He did this even though his Liberal Government does not control a majority of the seats in the House, but maintains power because it’s supported by the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Bloc Quebecois, a left-wing party from Quebec, while the Conservatives are the Official Opposition. The opposition parties refused. But Trudeau has only allowed the House of Commons to meet for short periods once a week, and has refused to submit a budget because of the pandemic, even though the British House of Commons and the Ontario Legislature are meeting and holding their governments to account. Not to mention that the Canadian and British parliaments met routinely during World War Two. Unbelievably, the NDP and Bloc supported this. Some of it is politics; the NDP and Bloc will almost certainly lose seats and the balance of power if there’s an election. But for them to lose sight of the basic role of opposition parties in a democracy is worrisome. The outgoing Conservative Opposition leader, Andrew Scheer, was criticized for complaining about Trudeau’s actions. We are governed now by Trudeau making appearances at daily press conferences, with press questions limited and often easily evaded by Trudeau.

        Yet most of the media and much of the populace is unconcerned. It will be interesting to see what happens in the fall when Parliament is set to meet after its summer break, especially if the lockdown is lifted. Will parliamentary oversight be restored? It’s a concern, especially as Trudeau has expressed admiration for China’s system of government in the past.

        Of course, the same process is very evident in the US; look at the change in the powers of the presidency in the 20th century, despite efforts to rein them in after Richard Nixon’s resignation. Sorry for the long disquisition about Canadian politics, but it’s sadly enlightening to see how both democracies are following different paths en route to perhaps the same destination.

        As you say, we may be nearing the point where people prefer to see a leader set themselves up as a modern-day Augustus, keeping the trappings of democracy while holding absolute power.

      2. Paul,

        Thank you for your reports about politics north of the border. Americans love Canada, and will do anything for it other than read about it – so your reports are a great corrective to our ignorance about its important trends!

      1. Larry,

        Caveman gave you your revised masthead! Maybe I’ll get a tattoo of that quote. Wink wink.

        So many comments warrant a copy of the prize. Tough choices, eh?

  10. “I had hoped to act as a dime-store Thomas Paine or Samuel Adams, helping to arouse Americans to begin the great work of reform. I now think this is a hopeless endeavor. We have the power but not the will.”

    What is it about you (your specific social experience) that gave you this will?

    Why didn’t you flee from self-responsibility?

    Why were you apparently willing to bear the burden of self-government?

    Why did you get excited about working the political machinery bequeathed to us by our Founders?

    Why were you able to resist marching like a drone in the street yelling about racism and burning off energy that might power reforms?

  11. There was something in the era before the sixties which gave rise to that destructiveness. It was latent within it. I have puzzled over it, have some thoughts, but haven’t come across any full account of the how and the why. There are lots of accounts of the what, of which Horowitz is a great instance. There are plenty of accounts of what it has led to, and Larry has cited several of them. And Mac Donald is a recent one.

    But what it was that gave rise to it, made it possible? That has been puzzling me lately. It is not that it all went wrong, its that it all was wrong from the start. But there was something in our education, backgrounds, in the society of the time, that had the seeds of the destruction in them. How did we come to grow up in that society and get just about everything so completely wrong? What was it in that society that led to or facilitated it?

    Some of the things I think about now, watching the news and reading.

    ….an old man driven by the Trades
    To a sleepy corner.
    Tenants of the house,
    Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

    1. henrik,

      Nothing comes from nothing (ex nihilo nihil fit). But I prefer to look at the actors, rather than those before them that in some unknown and unknowable way produced conditions that led those actors to act as they did,

      Assumption of responsibility is the key to life, in my opinion. Whatever the previous generation did, they raised the Boomers to the best of their ability. The search for ways to shift the Boomers’ responsibility to previous generations is just another manifestation of our problem. I doubt this attempt can help in any way.

  12. We are going through a lot, in this America: the pandemic, the economic devastation, the death of George Floyd, the protests followed by the riots and looting, our lack of inspiring leadership. I feel like a rudderless ship. I alternate from grief, angst to desolation and depression. I am sure many of you feel the same.

    Yes, all politics is local, thus the reactions of different communities differs throughout this very large and multicultural country. The reactions in urban centers with large minority populations, with whole sections of the population without jobs, income, property, education, family structure, drug infestation and poor health care pushes people to despair and acts that are difficult to understand. For, what do they have to lose? They have nothing. They do not even have pride, which has been stripped from them though centuries of lack of opportunity.

    But if I may ask. How many countries in the history of mankind have gone into a devastating Civil War so slavery could be abolished? Did we not produce MLK, the Great Society, the Civil Rights Bill and others? Not enough, but as Lao Tzu said, A voyage of a thousand miles starts with the first few steps. And, do we have to destroy civil society so our dreams can be accomplished?

    We seem unable to solve the problems of our society or even to recognize them. Instead we opt for reacting to the moral low hanging fruit instead of solving the structural problems. As Larry so well stated, our institutions are uncapable of problem solving. Instead they create conflict to maintain or regain power.

    I condemn the violent, senseless, and brutal murder of George Floyd. The vociferous protesting of this injustice, to a human being, created by God in his Image, is not only a legitimate and necessary exercise of our constitutional rights, but also the exercise of our civic duty so we can preserve our moral compass. We must demand change, a change in direction towards a more perfect Union.

    But I also condemn the continued death toll in our cities, the substandard schooling and the demise of the family.

    In this dark night of the soul, I would like to end with a poem by Thomas Hardy, “Song of Hope”. I will only include the first stanza:

    "O sweet To-morrow! –
    After to-day
    There will away
    This sense of sorrow.
    Then let us borrow
    Hope, for a gleaming
    Soon will be streaming,
    Dimmed by no gray –
    No gray!"

  13. I think we are living through our own version of China’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, with ritual denunciation, dismissal and exile of those who do not adhere to social and political orthodoxy.

    Yes, this is very true. Our culture has descended into mob rule and persecution of individuals on the basis of free associations in the minds of the mob, ascribing personal guilt for imaginary crimes on the basis of how they interpret remarks the individuals have made.

    Is it fanciful to connect this with the prevailing dogma of Post Modernism in university liberal arts departments? Teach people that texts have no objective meanings, that what it means = what it means to me, and you will end up with them claiming that because some statement arouses feelings of resentment, the author of the text must be a bad-thinker. Anything said by anyone can thus be made the basis of an accusation of racism, trans- or homo- or Islamo- phobia, or a reprehensible manifestation of white privilege… or any other thought-crime.

    This is how a generation has been taught to approach anything they read, and they have learned the lesson.

    A classic instance of this occurred in the UK. Johnson, the current Prime Minister, when a journalist, wrote a piece in the Daily Telegraph on the burqua. He noted that its banning was become general in Continental Europe, and argued that Britain should take no such steps, that government regulation of dress of this sort was wrong. In the course of the article he remarked that whether you thought the burqua absurd or ugly, as he evidently did, was irrelevant.

    Essentially the argument was, if it makes people look like bank robbers or mail boxes, that is no reason to ban it.

    This was then construed as racist and Islamophobic, despite making no, zero, reference either to race or ethnicity. I don’t even think, from memory, that it even referred to religion.

    It is indeed as the poster of the quote remarked like the Cultural Revolution. What happens is that an individual is targeted. Then their past is scrutinized to find evidence against them. And some fragment of speech may always be found, given the way in which interpretation is done.

    It is like the Soviet Show Trials, also.

    Posts like this will also be evidence of thought crimes. To question the movement in any way is one.

  14. The question we all, in the US and Britain, should worry about is what happens when the free money paid at the moment runs out.

    That is when it will hit the fan. My understanding is that in the US this happens the first week in August. In Britain it will happen sometime in September/October.

    Then we shall see where this is really going.

  15. This is a KGB defector talking about the ideolgical subvertion of a nation. Interesting that he is talking about the Boomer generation. We have since had generation X and the millennials, we’re now 3 generations into the process. Its long since become self generating.

    Although to an outsider its contractory, internally its coherent, logical, self forfilling, and validates the identity of the member. It piggybacks on the back of legitimate concerns about eqality and racism, in a way it works like a political religion. It provides a coherent worldview, that can explain the shape of the world, the NY times recent 1619 project is a prime example, where American history is viewed solely through the lens of slavery.

    Its been variously called critical thoery, postmodernism, marxism, social justice, feminism, gender studies. For me its none of those things, it funtions like facism, in that it cherry picks what it wants form the surrounding ideologies, in this way way it is able to attract a large audience who can all find something they like, BLM, trans issues, gender balance, anti colonialism, anti facism, anarchism, all can be grouped in this new left syntisis.
    To my mind its one of the biggest threats to western civilisation, because it seeks to deligitimise the west by staining it with an original sin, for feminism that sin is the patriarchy, for the BLM movement that is slavery, to there mind the system needs to be destroyed in order that we may be equal in a new yet undefined system.

    The way we beat it is the same way we beat marxism in the west in the 19th centuary. We reform our system in order to address the legitimate concerns of the citizens. Otherwise those issues will be used as a way to reduce our cohesion, and open us to a more radical reordering of our civilisation. In the US this means the Republican party needs to reinvent itself as a party that can protect the working class, not the rich. Obviously there is a thirst for this, otherwise trump would have not been as succsessful as he was. Trump presented himself as a blue collar champion, he lied but people were so desperate for a alternative, they belived him.
    Trump showed the way, if the Republicans were wise they could take what was appealing about Trumps message, but back it up with real reforms.

    We are not lost, there is plenty of hope, unfortunatly that hope resides in the emergence of a Republican party that has the best interests of the working and middle classes at its heart.

    1. Gerard,

      “We reform our system in order to address the legitimate concerns of the citizens”

      That’s sentence doesn’t make sense to me. Who is “we”?

      In any case, that is not remotely relevant to the problems described in this post. “We” are the problem, the weak link. Not the “system.” That we refused to accept responsibility for our problems, blaming instead the “system”, is just another symptom of our problem.

      But I’m confident that our increasing tribalism will produce leaders on white horses who we can happily follow to build a new regime.

      “unfortunatly that hope resides in the emergence of a Republican party that has the best interests of the working and middle classes at its heart.”

      Yes, each tribe see the “others” as the problem – and themselves as the salvation. Seeing the problems with their own tribe might be a first step back to responsibility.

  16. Just to clarify, I think this guy was wrong in how the threat of ideological subversion played out, obviously. However I think his theoy of how ideological subversion works is worth consideration.

    1. Sven,

      It is a transitional period. Many Americans, perhaps most, won’t miss our freedoms (freedom of speech is already unpopular) and will enjoy the irresponsibility of being subjects. And there will be far more stability.

  17. These days I’m often haunted by recognizing echoes in the words of the crazies on both sides, but more recently more often the crazies of the left. I hear echoes of my radical first husband – think of a marriage of a 33 year old firebrand to a 17 year old idiot in which the firebrand makes each evening a struggle session. I am the 58 year old woman who once survived that. The woman he first dated after I left him once looked me up to tell me that she so admired me for surviving nine years of that kind of brainwashing, that kind of “you’re always wrong” every single night, often until 3 a.m. At that time, all I could say was “I couldn’t stand being yelled at anymore.” So that’s my excuse — the older and more vicious members of the older boomers ate up my twenties. I feel I’m still recovering.

    And that’s not even to consider how often I hear echoes in left and right of my late, beloved, and extremely mentally ill sister …

    But when I look deep inside, I know how much was my own fault, and it was a lot. I can also blame the delight our parents took in us, which spoiled us terribly. But what were our parents to do? They survived the Great Depression and World War II. I don’t think that they could help spoiling us in the ways that they did — they too were simply tempted beyond what they could endure. They did so many of the things that they did either because they were themselves so badly wounded by life they couldn’t help being hateful or because they were so badly wounded by life they couldn’t help being ridiculously indulgent. Either way, you spoil a child.

    I recommend serious, deep — as in you’ve never gone there before — self-reflection and repentance. I pray every day for repentance, revival and healing for specific people and groups and for my country. And teeny tiny mutual aid societies like the garden club that isn’t a garden club that I’ve formed with my cousins. It isn’t a garden club because all it is is making victory gardens our excuse to strengthen our extended family – to bring back the Southern Appalachian clan we grew up in, using the current emergency as our excuse. Here in town, I’m seriously considering starting a support group for ordinary workers caught in the cultural crossfire. Workers, that is, like me. I am not an academic nor a journalist, but I’ve gone from being ostracized at work 2003-2006 because I “got caught” publicly protesting the Iraq War to being ostracized at work because I’m not using pronouns “correctly” and my skin is white but I’m not seen at the protests, and my accent is Southern, and I once actually was heard to call a man “sir,” and let’s not even get into the question of my faith. God only knows what will happen at work the day the news leaks out that I’ve left Progressive Church for a more orthodox splinter of our denomination.

    I think what I’m stumbling around here saying is that we desperately need authorities. We need patriarchs and matriarchs too. We’ve got to be the authorities we’re lacking. (We need masculine and feminine authority. Papaws and mamaws too.) And by authorities, I mean the moral authorities. The kind of moral authorities slaves are known to become. We likely won’t live long enough to have any other kind, but in the time left to us that’s really all that we can do. Before you can even have a foundation, you’ve got to dig a hole.I cannot afford, for instance, to tell my lefty employer what to kiss, but I am always looking for those things that I can do and then start doing them. I’m not even laying foundation. I’m just digging godly holes.

    1. NellPerkins:

      What do you think was going on with “your radical first husband?.”

      What do you think was going on with you at that same time?

      Based on his recent comments (“assumption of responsibility is the key to life” and” We are the problem, the weak link, not the system”) Larry also seems to be grappling with issues related to the formation of character (will, responsibility, and perhaps also the capacity to deeply care).

      Yet, as of now there has been little direct discussion of the linkages between individual character formation and the system (in all of its dimensions, especially cultural (role of family structure, role of belief/church, role of neighborhood, role of peer–group, role of school etc.)

      Perhaps my seemingly more secular way of saying I also am “just digging godly holes” is that because I finally have realized that I don’t really know for sure, I might as well act as ethically as possible.

      Was this apparently un-examined desire for certainty part of what was going on with your radical first husband?

      1. Oh, definitely an un-examined desire for certainty. And one of the things about him — and the whack jobs running the streets right now — is that the more that desire is un-examined, the more one yells for freedom while dictating terms to everyone else. And that’s why it all has to start with repentance and learning humility. I have no idea what to do with those who don’t know that they’re suffering from this. Avoid them, I guess, as much as we can.

      2. And as for me, yes, I suffered from that un-examined desire for certainty as well. There were other factors. It’s not easy for high IQ teenage girls to get boyfriends – not until they go to college, but in college there are even more bad actors. (If I had a daughter going to college, I would insist on some elaborate strict chaperonage! And if she’d been miserably unpopular in high school, I’d insist even more.) But besides the whole “boys don’t like smart girls” thing my parents just weren’t strict enough and they didn’t pay enough attention and they did not direct my intellectual or spiritual development to any degree. They had their reasons. They weren’t officially neglectful and they loved me very much, but they didn’t pay enough attention to giving me any certainty at all. Enforcing a curfew is work and so is watching what your bookworm is reading. I won’t even say what I was reading but too much of it was feminist claptrap, most of it was destructive of the faith, and some of it was soft porn.

        And consider this: I looked like a dutiful daughter. I minded my younger brothers and sisters. I worked a job and I cleaned the house and cooked most of the meals and got straight A’s. I looked like such a very good girl, but I was on my own in most every way that counted. I didn’t watch TV. I was intellectual as I could be given the resources available to me. But I was a total mess. When I consider that a girl in my situation today would also have available to her all the nonsense and mess on the internet, I despair of what she’ll have to go through to figure out what happened to her.

    2. Interesting and thoughtful piece. Yes, as I look back, I too see not just where we as a generation went so disastrously wrong in what we thought we knew about public policies, but where I too in personal matters went equally badly wrong. In the personal sphere it used to be called admitting one’s sins.

      If you are 59 and already at this point, I can tell you that it gets clearer as time continues. It is as if the mist evaporates and the individual trees, formerly a sort of grey undifferentiated mass, become clearly visible.

      Its time for my own, older, generation to realize and publicly confess our failures. Our own sins we will have to deal with ourselves in some way, but its time we admit that our political sins, our crazed ideas about human nature, intellectual life, policies, the nature of the society we were born into, all that lies behind woke progressivism today, it was all wrong. It was a classic case of the adoption of an unexamined ideology, all the more furiously convinced of its rightness because it was unexamined and unarticulated.

      I would say to everyone, read David Horowitz. And read Heather Mac Donald, The Diversity Delusion. Its the way to understand what we approved of, advocated, sought to bring about, and what it resulted in.

      I first read Horowitz’ two books, Radicals, and Destructive Generation, several years back. I found them interesting and enlightening at the time, and reading them I could see the outlines of the trees whose form I had suspected in an inarticulate way for some time. But as time has gone on and brought with it increasing clarity and focus on the essentials, more and more I think back on the early days of the cultural revolution we are living through now, 40+ years on, and see how completely mad it was. If you read Horowitz and find his verdicts thought provoking but perhaps not totally convincing, wait a few years. Time will bring the clarity which will let you see.

      At the time we were in the state of blissful unawareness that the French aristocracy were in, at about 1780. They felt free to adopt ideas, to demand, to encourage movements, because they had no idea what they were unleashing or where the implementation of their ideas would go. They thought their world was solid and unbreakable, they never thought through consequences.

      We too were dreaming.

      As R D Laing said (another counter-cultural idol, with feet of clay):

      If I could tell you, I would let you know. If I could show you, I would make you see.

      Yes, but what you need to see is not what he wanted to show you.

  18. Quite the interesting read and supplimental comments posted. Thanks for that!

    Free will is usually broken by fear and/or defeat. The global threat embellished from Covid-19, and the forced submission to lockdowns, followed closely by pent-up anger through protests, has weakend the will of many globally and deepened an already deep divide among many populations. Hence, providing an expedited path moving forward to change via a global control button that is emerging.

    Queue up The Doors “The End”

  19. Brilliant post.

    I find the ‘dreamland’ term extremely apt, especially since I attribute the slow motion collapse of the West to our obsessive focus on the way things SHOULD, OUGHT and ARE SUPPOSED TO be, coupled with our rejection of the way things ARE.

    We are constantly bombarded by moral messaging that contradicts observable reality on topics as diverse as ‘disunity equals strength’, our 57 flavors of gender, the rioters & looters who are ‘mostly peaceful’, and an enlightened progressive model rife with violence & systemic racism.

    Many historical models apply, but I believe our current situation is best described by satirical literature, specifically ‘Candide’ by Voltaire, wherein we strive to achieve the enlightenment perfection that should, ought & is supposed to exist in a perfect world, even though our world is admittedly & observably imperfect.

    Welcome to Clown World in which we demand solutions to the very problems that we refuse to acknowledge in the pursuit of unrealistic perfection.

    Pragmatism is dead.

  20. I’ll do my part by hiding my books on problematicals such as Churchill and Washington for future generations before the Woke Khmer Rouge come to scrub them from existence. Headline from 2021: “As part of the Great Leap Forward, Chairman Mao Zuckerberg announced all posts referencing known racists will be purged to ensure purity of thought and ideology.”

  21. Philip Martin

    A middle boomer here, born in 1955. I have read that one’s essential character is formed by they seventh year. If true, then I am a child of the 1950’s which in my neck of the woods (Kansas City, MO) meant conformity to established norms of behavior. Those norms included respect for authorities, civility to peers, patriotism, devotion to God and his commandments, and the pursuit of personal security and material prosperity.

    This way of life was stifling for many people, especially for those who were on the outside looking in: racial minorities, the dispossessed, the marginalized who could not, or would not, fit in or be accepted. Some who did fit the mold found the contradictions inherit in this ethos hard to reconcile. How to be patriotic when the highest authorities are found to be deceptive and criminal (the deceit of Vietnam, the crimes of the Nixon era)? How do you follow a Christian path in a capitalist and materialist society? And what does any of this mean with the threat of nuclear annihilation an ever-present threat?

    Many of us rebelled. The hippies–these would have been my older boomer cohorts and some war babies and the last members of the “silent generation”–set the example. Some of my peers plunged into the world of careers and pursuit of material prosperity and these were the Yuppies. Others became born-again Christians. Others–well, what we did was segregate ourselves into tribes. This was much like high school. You had the cool kids, with nice clothes and cars, the jocks, the greasers and hoods, the nerds, and so on. What made this unlike high school was that these tribal divisions became hardened and society became balkanized. The feel-good presidencies of Reagan/Bush and Clinton papered over some of these divisions, and on rare instances we could come together as a nation and society but such moments were transitory.

    Unity has been replaced with division. We have been herded into sides. Compromise has been discredited. Opportunists have exploited these divisions to enrich themselves materially or politically.

    All of this to ask: what is it that we seek? Would many of us find ultimate satisfaction in seeing the defeat of our political opponents? Can we envision a society and nation in the 21st century that preserves and reveres the freedoms of our forefathers? I don’t know. What I do know is that looking backward to the 1950’s or any other era of “good feeling” is mere nostalgia and not helpful. We still hold a few good cards and I hope we can play them well and avoid the obvious looming disaster, i.e. the emergence of a “strong man” type of leader who will lead us out of our collective misery.

    I see the protests against the pandemic lockdowns and police brutality as evidence that at least some Americans are not sheep. But violent rages along the lines of “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” set the table for authoritarians to emerge and dictators to seize power. We diminish this threat by looking beyond our parochial tribal loyalties.

    1. Your account is, it was oppressive and conformist, and if you didn’t fit in, you were in trouble. There is a lot of truth to the first part of that.

      Much less however to the second. It was a prosperous time, you could drop out and live modestly on part time jobs, which were plentiful. Housing was cheap, compared to today. There were quite a lot of like-minded people to get together with. It was actually a great time and place to be a dissident.

      This was not the problem. The problem was that somewhere in the air we breathed there was a pervasive assumption that the society of work, family, patriotism was beneath us, that steady jobs were somehow contemptible, that the society was deplorable. An incoherent set of feelings and demands which finally coalesced into present day woke left-liberalism. And along with that, there has remained the same fatal assumption that society on which we all depend is invulnerable.

      We are about to find out that it is not.

      But violent rages along the lines of “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” set the table for authoritarians to emerge and dictators to seize power. We diminish this threat by looking beyond our parochial tribal loyalties.

      Yes to this. There was some fatal flaw in the era, and it led inexorably to Vietnam and then to the reactions to Vietnam. And we are seeing the working through of that fatal flaw today.

      1. Minor correction-

        “Housing was cheap, compared to today”

        Average square footage of home in early 1970’s was around 1100 sqft. Prices (discounted for inflation) are aligned today. Actually, it could be argued that today’s houses are cheaper given tech inside each one.

        Instead, Americans appetites got larger —> demanding bigger homes, more food, more comfort.

      2. Mike,

        You are, of course, correct. The rate of increase in home prices (net of depreciation etc) is roughly zero after inflation – after accounting for size etc.

        This isn’t obvious because people focus on regions like California, where they have had the one-time price rise from farmland to cities.

      3. The issue of the apparently growing role of emotion in modern political discussion is something that warrants serious consideration.

        I grew up at a time where the public sphere was largely based on newspapers and T.V. and the nature of debate tended to consist of claims made and challenged primarily through rational argument.

        It may be that our modern social media (Twitter, Facebook etc) has helped to create and enforce a different type of public sphere, no longer largely distinct from emotion.

        These new social media platforms no longer appear to prioritize rational argument but instead prioritize connection with individuals of similar sentiment ( for example, anger or ressentment).

        This more purely emotional mobilization, is then played out in the streets, contributing to new levels of dogmatism, tribalism and manipulation.

      1. Philip Martin

        I was responding to your comment about this nation’s decay into tribalism, which you cite near the end of your post. I disagree with you regarding the relevance of my post. This being your site, however, I defer to your judgement and will stop posting irrelevant comments. So sorry to disturb you.

      2. Philip,

        It helps if you respond with some kind of reference. When replying to people’s comments, I usually give direct quotes.

        Otherwise it is difficult to see the relevance of the points being made.

        If you find a request for an assessment of the post is too brutal for for you, well there is not much to say in response.

  22. Interesting read and I can understand the concern, I feel it as well. But there are few thoughts I have been referencing to myself during this time. During the Cultural Revolution utter madness reigned supreme and destruction of Confucian and Buddhist beliefs was the norm, to point of digging up bodies tearing down statues and banning some of the earliest works of intellectual greatness the world had ever seen. 20 years later that same Chinese government started falling over itself to resurrect and support these ancient traditions to provide some legitimacy to their bankrupt authority. The present is a snapshot, I don’t deny the concerns, but this nation has been through nightmares before.

    1. Rob,

      I do t understand your point. Chinese culture is a wreck. Those ancient beliefs are relics. The Shaolin priests run a circus.

      You entirely miss my point of why our present situation differs from crises in the past. They are not all of equal magnitude.

      1. I don’t deny China never recovered from the 1960’s, my point is even those destroying the present might begin to recognize the worth of what they currently which to erase.

  23. Larry-

    If one is living in delusion, how can they expect to do an accurate self-appraisal?

    In reality, we’ve had “an explosion of American hubris and an era of excess.”

    Andrew Bacevich is covering part of it in his latest book, “The Age of Illusion: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory.”

    -Mike

  24. What a great run of comments! They keep coming! So brilliant and well thought out. I must study them.

    Masthead change noted. Good one!

  25. I wonder if the increase of emotion in the discussion of what is now the “internet public square” is probably related to the algorithms of these social media platforms, which create conflict and thus an increase in dopamine hits to our brain. These dopamine hits are addicting and insure a return back to the platform & thus increased sales/profit. The increased emotion in the discussion of political issues is an unintended consequence?
    I wonder if this has been studied?

    1. Tainomid-

      I can partially answer the question. What I don’t know is motive or if it’s a byproduct of all the noise?

      For initial research, it started in Stanford Design School around 2007ish. Nir Eyal covers the history in “Hooked: How to build habit forming products.” This is how Facebook, Google, etc… get you coming back to their sites.

      For corporate marketing, as it matured digitally, it covers thousands of attributes to market to individuals. So, you get marked by race, age, sex, etc…

      But, all of these are done by product teams for one website for their target audience. They have a very singular focus not considering all the other inputs that one has on other sites.

      My guess is that it’s the sum of all the different websites which creates information overload- not necessarily caused by one algorithm.

      -Mike

  26. This is my prediction for the future: Whatever hasn’t happened will happen, and no one will be safe from it.~ Haldane

    Nice to see you back.

  27. Daniel Cullen

    Hmmm….I’ve yet to see a good description of how we got to our current situation nor a clear road-map of how to get out of it. Did I miss it?

    1. Daniel,

      “I’ve yet to see a good description of how we got to our current situation”

      How we got here is an epic, and I believe we are too close to see it.

      Edward Gibbon wrote The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 1300 years after its fall, and took six long volumes to do so. And while it is often considered the first good draft of that history, even now we understand much more than Gobbon did but lack a full understanding.

      “a clear road-map of how to get out of it.”

      Did you read this post? It gave a somewhat clear (although only a guess) answer.

  28. This utopianism of the New Left was bred in the humanities departments of European universities in France and spread like wildfire to Germany, Britain, and the US. It can only be uprooted by reforming the university. From academia, it seeped into the culture: politics, journalism, media, law, and the social sciences. I don’t see it changing. It would require the general public to withdraw its support of higher education, according to John Ellis. But I also see the New Left as a symptom of something much larger: what Barzun called décadence, a “falling off” of the Western principles, which occurs cyclically every 400 to 600 years, and which in this cycle started with the Great War and the onset of Modernism (the replacing if the old order, the fall of the European royal houses, and the rise of mechanism to replace religious life). Modernism, in the arts, the sciences, and the principles of government, shattered the Old Order. The way people viewed life and their place in it was permanently altered. Bureaucracies formed and spread, art and music grew “abstract,” high culture was rejected by the masses (which had previously revered it), religious conviction was tortured by doubts, and science, particularly physics, showed Man how immaterial he was in the cosmos. It’s no accident that the Theory of Relativity more or less coincides with the Theory of Moral Relativity. The more one reads about Modernism in the West, the more one perceives it as a civilizational linchpin. In terms of its long-term effects, the Great War was on par with the Protestant Reformation 400 years earlier. Out of the Dark Ages after the Fall of Rome (in a long décadent phase known as its late empire phase from it’s early republic phase), a new flourishing of human love of itself in the West took root in Florence, Italy. The Renaissance amassed the energy of the prior confused age and gave it form, structure, and purpose. We await a Renaissance. What small corner of the West will it be born? Who knows? But the Burkhardt view of civilizations is that they breathe, they ebb and flow, they fall away and they are finally reborn in some new way that transcends the decay and confusion of the past. The Middle Ages were the Age of the Roman Church. The Renaissance was the Age of Man. The next age may be the Age of a Unified Theory of Life. Who knows?

  29. FM,
    I’ve been a reader for years, since I was a kid and you were on JR’s d-n-i.net. One constraint you’ve highlighted over the years is post / comment length and the complexity of the issues we’re discussing, so I’m aware I’m writing in the broadest of terms below.

    Now, off the top of my head, so sorry if it’s unorganized… The elites have power / time / info / organization disparities. They continually gain in wealth and power while giving just enough in concessions, social legislation, engaging in performative ritual Dem vs Rep political fighting, and harsh repression via private armies or police, to keep the lower classes from demanding change, all while the general quality of life deteriorates and becomes more and more precarious. Any looming electoral change has also been deftly swept aside, in the past Wallace, Sanders presently.

    The elites know how to keep and pass on power and security, and prevent the masses from getting any. Be it money, political organization, education, health care, healthy food and water, even accurate information costs money now. They implicitly know their class interests and act accordingly.

    What do we do in response? Beats me. I don’t see how “blaming the system” is a cop-out. It is self-perpetuating and shields those on top from consequences. A gigantic percentage of the population eats up propaganda and keeps them in power against their own interests. Their grand strategy is more cohesive as the elites protect each other, they weaken their opponents through media attacks and security force harassment / violence, give its allies reasons to remain loyal through endless amounts of money and protection, attracts more uncommitted or people who shouldn’t care with feelings of superiority over their fellow americans in the other loser / stupid / evil / commie / racist party, and leaves any conflict more wealthy with their foes in chaos. What’s the grand strategy of the modern wage slave?

    Longer:

    Price setting power by industries. Wages and prices are set with near-perfect information by corporations, with information analysis and sharing never before possible. The organizational and information disparity between workers and owners is complete.

    Capitalism / normal behavior causes power to accumulate over time; fortunes, personal contacts, uni legacy admissions, institutions founded to enact political change. Conservatives / the right / elites have very effectively dismantled the left’s political power; elites control the DNC / RNC, left parties/leaders massacred in SAmerica, Indonesia, mid east; USA dismantled its socialist parties, assassinated fred hampton, mlk, ferguson protesters etc. Even the recent left insurgency inside the Democratic party was crushed by a supposedly Obama-organized coalition, not to mention the primary election fraud that would make Mexican cartels blush, and news coverage rallying around the DNC. The capitalist class in america has, throughout its history, crushed opposition with private armies and political control.

    The powerful fund institutions and political parties to shift America to the right, only hitting a speedbump during the new deal which was only there to save capitalism from itself, then continued the rightward slide. Lobbyists and donations shape our laws instead of the desires of the people. Concessions are made with left social policy allowances to placate the masses, (gay marriage, abortion etc) while monumental shifts to the right are made in other spheres, gvt power ie spying and war making powers, civil liberties annihilated, police civil asset forfeiture and qualified immunity, bailouts for banks and even blackrock funds now, tax laws, wells fargo leniency vs the average person who gets foreclosed on, and the myriad ways the government serves the powerful. These shifts are the elite shaping america to better preserve their power or exercising it to keep it.

    Commoditization of every aspect of life obliterating normality by turning anything healthy / enjoyable / leisure / clean / non-toxic into a luxury and worse substitutes into “inferior goods” simply to be purchased or consumed based on personal choices. Also allowing for the rationalization of any bad life situation to be hand waved away as a choice.

    It is hard to organize politically, inform yourself etc when free time needs to be spent in furthering education or a 2nd job. A big part of why these protests are firing off now probably has something to do with all the recent job losses and school closings. Even when time is available change is stymied, I remember you lamenting the frustrations of local politics years ago.

    the dismantling and co-optimization / looting of institutions, government functions (something you’ve covered in depth and mentioned in this post)

    a population that has a fractured and distorted view of the past and present; how / what history is taught in school, the news subscribed to online, the much maligned News as Entertainment 24 hours of crisis TV news, causes us to barely be able to even discuss matters of great importance. It is hard to have a political discussion when “x caused y” can’t even be agreed upon. Russiagate insanity shows that even events happening before our eyes have been turned into spaghetti during the 2nd phase of people’s OODA loops.

  30. “And remember that Rome grew in power and wealth for two centuries after the Republic fell.”

    For a great essay, this is a naive mistake. US is more similar to Rome in the 3rd century than with the republican Rome. In terms of internal organization US is an oligarchic republic but how does that make any difference?
    We are talking about the empire and the US empire is collapsing at least since 1970 (first peak oil in US). Poor people in US live worse lives than the poor in Eastern Europe or even some third world countries.

    One other thing that most students of history ignore – when looking at Rome’s collapse we should aim to imitate them because they managed to delay the inevitable for an incredibly long time.

    As a simple example, take proscriptions – decried as a horrible thing by historians, it might have helped to keep the aristocrat class nimble by repeatedly allowing new members in.

    The institution of emperor itself was a great success that managed to centralize decisions and survive a lot of insane emperors. I don’t think our presidency has what it takes.

    1. Nomadic Beer,

      “this is a naive mistake. US is more similar to Rome in the 3rd century”

      That’s a commonly held belief. There is little truth to it.

      By the third century, Roman had been a military dictatorship for over 200 years – with all the damage that caused to their society. The US is still a democracy, although sliding into some form of new regime. Perhaps an oligarchy, perhaps something else (confident predictions of our distant future are made by people who can’t accurately predict results of the next election).

      Most of the other “similarities” are equally bogus. The talk of “empire” is especially absurd. People talk of an “American Empire” because it captures some elements of our foreign policy. But we do not have a real empire. Empires are lands conquered and held by military force – its subject peoples rise in rebellion when they can – and wealth flows from the conquered lands to the Imperial center.

      None of that is true for America. With a few rare exceptions, host governments protest when we want to withdraw our troops from their nation. The “empire” is a cost to America (albeit profitable for some powerful elements). The largest cost is that the dollar is the reserve currency – called a “poisoned chalice” by economists because it keeps its value above market rates. Trade deficits and industrialization are inevitable results.

      There are unavoidable factors that make empires an economic liability in our time. The rise of 4GW, making it almost impossible to hold colonies. Technological and economic factors also play a role.

      This is just an intro to this complex subject, of course.

  31. Pingback: A new beginning for America and this website – Fabius Maximus website – Intellect Goals

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