Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Oozing Towards The Abyss

h/t WRSA

Victor Davis Hanson: The Fifth American War

"The country is coming apart, and the advocates of radical egalitarianism are winning."
VDH is a national treasure, and ought to be the president of Stanford or Harvard U.
But my response to this essay, and its premise:

We’ve been here for going on nine months.
And eight years before that.
And eight years before that.
And eight years before that.

 VDH is right in his summary of where we are, but whether it will amount to anything imminently, maybe not so much. Things are not as bleak as his worst fears, and Trump isn’t doing anything like anyone’s best hopes. (Which is the problem, along with how much he could realistically accomplish in the first place.) He’s just gotten the elephants pulling us towards the cliff to trudge more slowly.

But no one can say precisely where the cliff is. And there’s no single swinging Richard, from Hell to breakfast, who can tell you any different, no matter how many try. Until the wagon goes ass over teakettle over its edge.

So what is it, exactly, that can’t continue?
No one can point to a thing, or an actual demarcation of how far is too far.
How much debt, how much corruption, how much lawlessness, how much lying? Anyone? Beuller? Ferris Beuller…?
You can list any number of things all day long that are bad, very bad, and horribly bad, and have my wholehearted agreement.
But no one knows where the balance point is where beyond equals certain disaster.

Even the Titanic launched lifeboats, because someone noticed seawater was supposed to be outside the hull.

What we’re headed for is more like the Hindenburg. Nobody inside or out had a clue there was really a problem until it exploded around or on top of them.

The smartest people in both cases were somewhere else, and not along for the ride. And the farther from it they were, the less it mattered.

I suspect there’s a greater lesson there, if anywhere.

The reason this country worked as much as it did, when it did, was because it depended on most people, if not all of them, to want it to work; almost everyone depended on everyone else. So you can’t have the guy running the bank doing lines of cocaine, the airline pilots can’t be sound asleep, the folks running nuclear plants can’t be shooting up heroin, and the people passing laws or teaching K-PhD can’t be doing all of that too, plus raving batshit lunatics and child molesters.

Now we have all that, except exponentially bigger, times decades. Is it any wonder that every day we slide closer to being the country of Trashcanistan?

And nobody’s stringing them up when they fail.

No one went to jail when banks crashed. The feds spent more time on Martha Stewart’s Case About Nothing than they did going after the people that looted and destroyed your 401k. The captain of the Exxon Valdez, drunk off his ass when he crashed the ship, paid a $50K fine – thirteen years later. He still has his master’s ticket. (Thankfully, no one wants to hand him the keys to their ship anymore, but he still never did a days’ time behind bars.)

Now one can grasp why John Adams would state something like this:
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Every bit of your existence that depends on other people to be clean, sober, sane, and diligent, is now just another point of failure when they live up to reality, rather than your expectations.

The only answer I can see is to do as much of everything you depend on to live and function, yourself. Even if you think you have tribe, every person you’re depending on is another point of failure between you and getting by. (Ask anybody that’s ever been served divorce papers.) You’re going to have to “go Galt” in every sense you can think of – and you’d better think of all of them — or you’re going to pay the consequences of having one foot under the Hindenburg, and being there in the first place, when it explodes and lands in flames on top of you. And you’re going to have to be far enough away from it that the crash doesn’t affect you.

Historically, that sort of existence has been accurately described as solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

So knowing that, ask yourself why people will claw tooth and nail to uphold what they have right now, even a dysfunctional corrupt broke-dick system, rather than face that.


TFA303 said...

Lots of countries have gotten along with really, really terrible governments governing really, really horrid population for decades, so I see no reason that any specific crash is inevitable. I'd like someone who believes that one is to show the logic train behind that argument, just as you're asking VDH to do.

Anonymous said...

These types of discussions always remind me of a quote from Poul Anderson's short story Hunters of the Sky Cave, where the main character (Dominic Flandy, Agent of the Terran Empire) is discussing the coming "Long Night" (the eventual collapse of the Terran Empire and ensuing period of barbarism, think the Dark Ages after the fall of Rome).

"'The measure of our damnation is that everyone of us with any intelligence - and there are some - every one sees the Long Night coming. We've grown too wise; we've studied a little psychodynamics, or perhaps only read a lot of history, and we can see that Manuel's Empire was not a glorious resurgence. It was the Indian summer of Terran civilization. (But you've never seen Indian summer, I suppose. A pity: no planet has anything more beautiful and full of old magics.) Now even that short season is past. Autumn is far along; the nights are cold and the leaves are fallen and the last escaping birds call through a sky which has lost all colour. And yet, we who see winter coming can also see it won't be here till after our we shiver a bit, and swear a bit, and go back to playing with a few bright dead leaves.'"

Mark D

Anonymous said...


Maybe I have not read enough, but you are the only one I have read who mentions something that I think is a bellwether of civilized society: "clean".

I no longer (for 5 years or more) eat out. Not because I do not enjoy good food, but because I no longer have any confidence that preparers and servers follow any type of normative hygiene practices. I also keep,disinfectant wipes in our vehicles, and we ritually cleanse our hands and interior door handles after re-entering the vehicle from any public venue. We also have another rule; nothing below our elbows ever touch anything above our neck (without hand cleaning).

It is readily apparent to any cogent observer that what was customary in terms of personal hygiene is now gone, as another piece of western culture based upon knowledge dies off.