It appears that my characterization of extreme right-wing politics acting as a sort of pied piper for young men was incorrect. That’s why I asked the question, of course. We often fall into the trap of doing too much talking and not enough listening. So I got the message, and I stand corrected. I hope I caused no offense by that mischaracterization—I certainly didn’t mean to.
It’s a bit surprising to hear myself described as a member of “the Blue Tribe.” Really?
I’m not sure where the idea that I view collapse as a linear rather than a cyclical process comes from. Really, my sentiment was simply meant as more of a rejoinder to people who dismiss or downplay the seriousness of the situation we’re in. Short of a nuclear war or meteor strike, human culture, including in this country, will continue in some form. Apparently I sounded like a crazed lunatic in the way I formulated this argument. That’s too bad.
As for the predictions by George Friedman in “The Storm Before the Calm,” well, I hope he’s right. It would be the height of arrogance to say that I know what’s going to happen in the next ten years. I don’t do that. Maybe we’ve reached a Zenith when it comes to political chaos, street violence and failing institutions. Maybe what we’re seeing in the U.S. really is no big deal.
Amusingly, it was prompted to this line of thinking by some comments from Mike Duncan—author of “The Calm Before the Storm”—that got me thinking about this. He pointed out (in an interview with Patrick Wyman) that the sentiment that “things have been bad before, but we all muddled through somehow” tends to ignore the vast amounts of suffering caused by upheavals, and the fact that meany people do NOT make it through unscathed, or at all.
[1:13:12] “I think we were talking a little bit about this one type of person who is convinced that this is just how things are. Things are normal, everything’s going to be fine. Why are you worrying about it? You guys are all crazy alarmists. Everything’s fine. This won’t change that much, you guys are hysterical.”
“And then there’s this other group of people who are like, ‘well, you know, things have been bad before and we’ve always gone though tough times, but we’ve always made it out the other side. So why are you freaking out? Sure there was a Great Depression, but we made it through. Yeah, there was a Civil War, but we made it though that.”‘
“Yeah, but do you know how bad it was to live thought that?…and they look to me sometimes as a historian to back them up where they’re saying, ‘Lets talk to this historian. He knows that things have been bad and we’ve been okay.’ And I’m like, are you kidding me? That stuff was all horrible! I don’t want to live through any of that…The people who live make it through in one piece. It is the literal definition of survivor’s bias…”
I have this aphorism that I like to use: you study the past so you can make decisions in the present that will make for a better future.…Yes I’m shouting about how this could all be very bad because I don’t want it to be very very bad. People are like, ‘Oh you must be loving this.’ I’m not loving this. I don’t want any of this to be happening…
So I do want to study the past. I do want to tell you about how bad things have been before. I do want to tell you that things could be bad again, in fact they WILL be bad again. Things are going to be bad again. But if you pay attention, and if you realize that things could be bad again–we do have agency. I don’t believe that history is come crazy spiritual force that just molds us and does to us what it will…I don’t think that were just molded by forces beyond our ken. We do have agency. We can control events. We can respond to things. And I think that historical literacy and embracing that instead of tying to say aloof from it is a very good strategy.”
So, in the end, this is my legacy: a crazed, depressed loser from Minnesota? Who needs it? Let the historical podcasters be the Cassandras. Nothing I say really matters, or makes a difference. I guess now is as good a time as any to walk away. I’ve got a few things in the can, so I might as well put them up over the next few months. Otherwise, I’m done. Thanks to all who read and commented over the years. Stay safe. Take care.