Friday, May 14, 2021

Second Hand Mythology, Part I – The Chosen People

I think it’s fair to say that one of the most overlooked dimensions of modern politics and society is the role that myths play in shaping people’s thinking. And when I say “myth,” I don’t just mean it in the crude sense of “stories people tell that aren’t true,” the way you might see the word used when a comfortably lit magazine publishes an article with a title like “Five Anti-Vaxxer Myths, Debunked.”

No, I mean “myth” in the sense of a story that’s ingrained so deeply into the way that a culture sees the world that it continues to shape people’s thinking even when they’re not consciously aware of it.

A good example of this is the way that so many people raised in Christian or recently-Christian cultures will eagerly try to win converts to faddish diets which – in the imagination of their promoters – are the one true way for people to eat, and will, if adopted widely enough, banish everybody’s health problems. The Myth of the Redeeming Doctrine is, of course, at root a Christian idea, and cultures where Christianity has lain heavily upon the land are the most likely places for somebody to start insisting that a new set of beliefs, currently possessed only by himself and a handful of disciples, is bound to take over the whole world because of its unique ability to liberate us all from hitherto universal human ills.

The really ironic thing is that the traditional myths of a culture will continue to shape that culture’s thinking, even during ages of rationalism when the culture’s leading thinkers believe that they have cast these myths aside.

Consider the case of Buddhism, which originally began as a rationalist reaction again India’s traditional Hindu religion and which, in its earliest form, abjured the worship of the Gods entirely. (The prayer wheels and the veneration of Bodhisattvas, so well-known in the modern world, were later inventions).

And this wasn’t because the Buddha denied the existence of the Gods. Rather, after seeing so much suffering in the world, and seeing no way to deal with it except by renouncing desire, he essentially said: “Look at the way the world is! Obviously, the Gods haven’t attained enlightenment; therefore, we shouldn’t worship them.”

The really curious thing here is that the early Buddhists never really seemed to question the basic assumption, within Hindu cosmology, that the purpose of life is to seek enlightenment and to liberate oneself, through spiritual practice, from the endless cycle of death and rebirth. The only real difference was that, after this basic element of Hindu mythology had been imported into the rising Buddhist philosophy, it no longer involved the Gods.

This omission, as it turns out, would be corrected over the next few centuries of religious evolution, since godless religions do a poor job of meeting people’s spiritual needs. As it turns out, most men and women want to worship something, and will find something to worship, even when their leaders tell them that they shouldn’t. (Just think of how the first generation of Chinese Communist intellectuals would feel about all the Daoist temples that now have alters dedicated to the ghost of Chairman Mao!)

Marxism, as it turns out, is a textbook example of this same process: like early Buddhism, it is parasitic on a religion it claims to reject, in this case Christianity.

To wit: Marx and Engels denounced religion as “the opium of the masses,” but still won their following by parroting the distinctly Christian idea that the world is headed toward a future of classless harmony, universal brotherhood, and splendiferous wealth for all. The Workers’ Paradise of Marxist eschatology, however, does manage to differ from the Christian New Jerusalem in a few notable ways, namely:

(1) Since God doesn’t exist, there is no need to wait around for him to return before it can be built, and

(2) Getting there depends on following the preachments of Karl Marx, rather than those of Jesus and his Apostles.

By this point, you might be wondering what relevance the concept of “Second Hand Mythology” has to American right-wing politics. Sure, the Left is quite adept at repurposing the myths of an abandoned religion– every conservative thinker of any significance is aware of the fact that the ideologies of wokeness and “white privilege” are just creative reworkings of the Christian concept of original sin, stripped of the possibility for redemption and forgiveness. But could it be that the Right is also under the spell of its own secularized myth?

I think that the answer is yes. And I’m not talking about the short-lived Trumpist apocalypse cult that blossomed after last year’s election – I actually have something much deeper in mind, something which begins with the following myth:

The God who created the universe has appointed David to be King over his chosen people, Israel. David’s new kingdom is destined to fulfil the high and mighty promises made by the Lord to the Israelites’ righteous ancestors – rugged, nomadic herdsmen with names like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Joshua. King David is a great warrior who unites the Twelve Tribes of Israel, wins new territory for his people, and drives the Philistines and their other enemies out of the Promised Land. Then, David’s son Solomon reigns after him, making a name for himself as the wealthiest and wisest ruler in the known world.

But by the time of Solomon’s death, trouble is already brewing, and most of the Israelites feel like Solomon has oppressed them with his burdensome taxes. A man named Jeroboam leads a rebellion and makes himself King of the northern Ten Tribes, but the Lord, though displeased with the House of David, leaves Solomon’s son Rehoboam in control of Jerusalem and the tribe of Judah, in order to fulfil the promise he made to David that his heirs would sit on their throne forever.

Again and again, God sends prophets to call the northern tribes to repentance, but they never listen, and their idolatries eventually wear down even his great patience. So God abandons them to the Assyrian conqueror, and these “lost tribes” are never heard from again. In the south, things don’t go quite so badly; while most Kings of Judah are idolators, some, like Hezekiah and Josiah, try their best to get their kingdom back onto the covenant path. But the righteous are too few in number, every passing century sees Judah becoming weaker while rival kingdoms become stronger, and though the southern kingdom outlasts the northern one, in the end it, too, is conquered by foreigners – this time, the Babylonians.

But the Lord doesn’t wholly abandon his people. David’s house can no longer rule as kings, but one of his descendants, Salathiel, is made governor of the Jewish exiles in Babylon. When Babylon is in turn conquered by Persia, Salathiel’s son Zerubbabel is permitted, by the grace of King Cyrus, to lead the Jews back to Jerusalem and rebuild Solomon’s temple. But even after this wondrous revival, the Jews keep turning away from God, who visits yet more afflictions on them.

The land of Judea is reduced, in the course of centuries, to a backwater province of the Roman empire. The House of David is reduced to a poor family of itinerant carpenters, whose link to Israel’s past is unknown outside of family lore. Then one of these carpenters, a man named Joseph, takes his pregnant wife Mary to the town of Bethlehem – the same town David himself raised sheep in a thousand years earlier – so she can give birth to the mightiest King of them all….

For nearly two thousand years, Christians have been telling and retelling this myth – the myth of the Chosen People, who again and again turn away from God and suffer for it, but who always manage, by the skin of their teeth, to hang onto their special place in the world. And their destiny – which neither their own failings, nor anyone else’s malice, can overcome – is that one of their Kings will become the Messiah.

Unsurprisingly, this myth has permeated Christian thought, and worked its way into every sort of storytelling that you can find in Christian (or formerly Christian) cultures. Just consider, for a moment, how this familiar story reappears, in different garb, in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Many thousands of years ago, three tribes of rugged, nomadic Men, known as the Edain, wandered into the western marches of Middle Earth and fought fearlessly alongside the High Elves to defeat the powers of evil. As a reward, the Valar, beings of pure spirit who watch over the world as viceregents of the Creator God, raised a new and bounteous island called Númenor out of the western sea for the Edain to live in. As Númenors first King, the Valar chose the half-elf Elros, a descendant, on the human side, of Beren, Tuor, and Eärendil, the bravest of the Edain heroes of old.

For many generations, the descendants of King Elros ruled over their Promised Land in righteousness, and the Númenorians prospered. They were renowned throughout Middle Earth for their wealth and wisdom, and their vessels were greeted with joy whenever they appeared on the horizon. But as time passed, the Númenorians became lifted up in pride, their covetous Kings set to work building an empire and dominating other Men, and the sight of a Númenorian ship on Middle Earth’s coastlines becomes an occasion of dread.

Eventually, for their sins, the Númenorians suffered the fate of Atlantis, and their whole island was drowned in the depths of the sea. But at the last moment, a nobleman named Elendil, leader of a party of dissenters called “The Faithful,” departed for Middle Earth on a storm wind with nine tall ships full of his followers, intent on preserving the ancient royal line.

Which he did. After defeating Sauron in battle (it was the decision of Isildur, son of Elendil, not to destroy the One Right then and there that set up all that future drama with the hobbits) Elendil’s people established two kingdoms, Arnor and Gondor.

Both of these kingdoms started off with almost as much wealth and power as old Númenor, but with the passing of centuries, they both declined. Gondor, the southern kingdom, lost much of its population and territory, and ended up being ruled by stewards after the old royal lineage died out in a plague. Arnor, in the north, was battered even more by military defeats and internal dissensions; in the end it was completely destroyed as a kingdom, though its royal line survived as the chieftains of a nomadic hill folk, called “Rangers.”

One of these Rangers was Aragorn son of Arathorn, familiar to any reader of The Lord of the Rings, which tells the story of how Aragorn and his brave companions went on a quest to destroy the ancient evil that his ancestors had failed to destroy, how they regained Aragorn’s ancient throne, and how they restored both of his kingdoms to their primeval glory and splendor.

Now, there isn’t any dire reason that Tolkien’s novel had to focus on Aragorn and his contemporaries instead of centering the story on one of Aragorns many, many noble ancestors – somebody like Eärendur, Lord of Andúnië, or Mallor, King of Arthedain, or  Araglas the Ranger – and relegating the whole business with Aragorn, the One Ring, and the hobbits to the book’s long and detailed appendix. Tolkien chose to do it the way he did because that is how the story of the Chosen People is always told – from the perspective of the chosennest person in the whole lot.

It’s no different, really, than when a Christian church spends so much time reading about and discussing those three brief years when Jesus was gathering and teaching his disciples, and totally glosses over the centuries that passed when the Davidic line was represented by such half-forgotten figures as Jehoshaphat, Eliakim, and Matthan. Religions are built on stories, and a good story-teller knows how to separate the major characters from the walk-ons.

But at the same time, a Christian with a sense of personal humility is bound to feel at least a little haunted by the thought that, if he had lived a few millennia earlier and been a part of the David-to-Jesus story, he would almost certainly not have been a beneficiary of one of Jesus’ miraculous healings or even, for that matter, a witness to them.

No, what is more likely is that he would have had his place in the armies of the Philistines when David slew them in heaps and piled up their foreskins, or in the herd of captive Israelites driven to Babylon like so many human cattle in the days of Salathiel, or among the homely Judean peasants who bought furniture from the family of Joseph the carpenter without the slightest inkling of how famous one of the little boys in that family would soon become.

But those haunting feelings would be a rarity, an occasional indulgence among the more philosophically minded believers. Most of the time, just like any other Christians, these people will be vicariously reliving the experience of Jesus’ most intimate associates through the familiar rituals and sacred texts that form the backbone of their religion.

And therein lays the rub. People whose worldview is shaped by the Myth of the Chosen People will see a great deal of human history – secular and religious – through that lens, whether they’re aware that they’re doing so or not. And the unfortunate fact of the matter is that history seen this way is history seen through a funhouse mirror.

Anyone who looks in the mirror will end up thinking that whatever time and place he happens to live in is the nexus of human history. And he will also end up thinking that, like most folks in the Chosen People stories, he can meet the challenges of his day in a mostly passive manner – yielding ground again and again while waiting for somebody stronger than himself to come along and put things right – without ever jeopardizing the promise of ultimate victory.

And that, as I will explain in next week’s post, is a very dangerous way of viewing the world, especially when all the objective evidence indicates that one’s nation, and one’s way of life, are undergoing a steep and possibly terminal decline.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Taking Peak Oil Seriously

One of the frustrations of being a declinist blogger with a predominantly right-wing audience is that my readers will try to see everything I post as an answer to the question: “How can we stop the Left from destroying our country?”

When actually, the questions that would make more sense are along the lines of “How can we stop our country from being destroyed?” or “How can we survive the destruction of our country?”

Basically, I am unable to see the defeat of the Left as my goal, because I think that western civilization’s problem, at the core level, is spiritual rather than political.

Unfortunately, saying this puts me in the company of a lot of quietist thinkers, who insist that the old virtues of the Christian West can be restored by people who focus mainly on improving their private, spiritual lives, in the confidence that if enough people do this, the political triumphs of the Left will either go away, or won’t matter as much.

It is as if a man stops reading his Bible, attending mass regularly, or fasting during lent. Then, after a year or two of this, he starts downing a pint and a half of gin every evening, bashing in other guys’ faces in random barfights, committing a string of cheque frauds to pay for his habit, and sleeping with prostitutes. Upon hearing about all this, his priest remarks that, since the breakdown of the man’s relationship with God came first, his problem is ultimately spiritual rather than temporal, and that if he just goes back to praying and attending mass like he should, the rest of his life will fall back in order without him having to give up his daily pint and a half of gin.

In this rather gaudy analogy, the cessation of the man’s religious observance corresponds to the disappearance, in the western body politic, of a number of virtues that are necessary to maintain a political order based on representative democracy and human rights. The daily pint and a half of gin corresponds to the western nations’ collective decision to allow a plutocratic, socially-leftist oligarchy to seize control of their governing institutions.

Spiritual renewal is not possible for a society that is content to live under the oligarchy. In other words, if the human material of a society proves to be the sort of wet, rotting wood that won’t ignite into the flames of revolution when the government decides to start promoting sex changes for middle schoolers, then no religious revivalist is going to come along and kindle the fires of spiritual renewal with that same wood!

In a sense, then, I’m even more pessimistic than Rod Dreher & Co. (In a different sense, I’m more optimistic – I don’t believe in the concept of a One True Faith or think that the religious beliefs a man holds during one lifetime will determine his fate for eternity. Thus, in my view, the rising generation of Americans, having been raised with little or no religion, will generally have miserable lives, but they’re at no risk of losing their souls.)

But I digress. As American civilization continues to collapse, there will still, I think, be chances for a few brave individuals, who are willing to oppose the system by accepting burdens that almost everyone else won’t accept, to escape. Hence the final variant on the question with which I opened this post: “How can we survive the destruction of our country?”

There will be no large-scale turnaround – at least, not until a century or two of hardship clears away the rotting carcass of what our secular-hedonist civilization has become, and stimulates the growth of a new, tougher version of American culture.

And that's where Peak Oil comes in.

American conservatives usually have a pretty easy time grasping the idea that the political defeats their movement is constantly complaining about – government support for the sexual revolution, the rise of the welfare state, the transfer of most political power in the US out of democratic institutions and into technocratic ones, etc. – are manifestations of deeper spiritual problems in our society.

What is harder to grasp is the idea that these aren’t the only manifestations of these deep spiritual problems. Indeed, there are other manifestations which have not become partisan political issues at all, and yet others on which the Left, rather than the Right, holds the better position – though as usual it does little or nothing to enact its ideals in the real world.

For example, I believe that the same arrogant attitude toward nature is behind the idea that boys’ and girls’ bodies are interchangeable, and the idea that nothing bad will happen if we keep on treating the Earth as if it contained an infinite supply of oil.

Now, I know that when a lot of people hear about Peak Oil, they think of the activists who spent the 1990s and early 2000s talking about how the exhaustion of the world’s petroleum supply was going to cause a rapid collapse of global civilization at some specific date in the near future, the year 2005 being the top candidate.

This was based on the telegenic, but false, idea that Peak Oil means a precipitous drop in the supply of oil, even though, in the original theory, it means what its name implies – a “peak,” or a time of maximum output, at the height of a bell-shaped curve, after which production will slowly decline, though equal amounts of oil will be produced on both the near and far sides of the curve.

The fixation on the year 2005 is more forgivable, because that fixation stemmed from the fact that M. King Hubbert, the geologist who invented Peak Oil theory in the 1950s, predicted this date for maximum global petroleum production.

Now, Hubbert’s key realization was that the oil production curve for a productive area of any size – a single well, an oil field, a province, or a country – tends to follow a bell-shaped curve, with the highest productivity in the middle. Early in the curve, new oil is being discovered faster than it’s being extracted; later on, discovery rates fall below extraction rates, but extraction keeps rising; after the peak, rates of discovery are near zero, and extraction rates fall in turn.

Because he was the first geologist to come up with good ways to estimate future production in an oil province, including production from as-yet-undiscovered reserves – rather than including only known reserves and getting a wildly wrong answer, like many oilmen had done before him – Hubbert became famous. His successful prediction that oil output in the continental US would peak around 1970 gave him a lot of credibility, especially during the “energy crisis” of the 1970s, when America was floundering through the transition from mostly-domestic oil sources to an import-based oil supply.

Naturally, a lot of people were concerned when the year 2005 approached, since that was the year for which Hubbert had predicted global Peak Oil. When it didn’t happen, a lot of conservatives insisted that Peak Oil had been debunked.

Think, for a moment, about the logic behind those feelings. If some guy in the 1950s, working with a much more limited understanding of petroleum geology than we have today – especially when it comes to hydrofracking, tight oil, tar sands, and the like – underestimates how much oil is in the Earth, does that mean that Peak Oil isn’t a problem? Or does it just mean that nature has given us more rope with which to hang ourselves?

And hanging ourselves we are. The United States consumes 22 barrels of oil per person per year. Most of the industrialized world uses around half that: Germany and Japan use 11, Britain and France 9, and Russia 8.

The fact that America requires so much more oil than these other nations to maintain what is, in most ways, an identical standard of living, is a reflection of the extreme neglect into which American infrastructure has fallen. We have almost no high-speed rail, doing nearly all our long-distance travel by automobile and airplane, and much of our built environment, especially in the suburbs, has been designed for a car culture only, and is virtually unwalkable.

The glut of oil and gasoline that makes our country liveable in these circumstances is going to go away over the next few decades. You don’t actually need a detailed forecast of when Peak Oil will come in order to predict this – you really only need to know that America’s present status as a huge net petroleum importer is only sustainable as long as the dollar-dominated international economy holds up.

When the rest of the world dedollarizes – and I would be very surprized if that hasn’t happened by 2040 – we Americans will lose our cheap oil imports, along with all the other cheap imports with which our ruling class has replaced our once-great manufacturing sector. Thereafter, we will all become much poorer. And we will be stranded in a built environment designed mainly for cars, even as most of us can no longer afford one.

In the end, the United States will have transformed into a third-world country, resembling Russia in the 1990s or present-day Mexico. This is, admittedly, a difficult concept for most Americans to wrap their heads around, since a “bad” future, when it shows up in our collective imagination at all, generally looks like total apocalypse (as in I Am Legend) or high-tech totalitarianism (as in Bladerunner).

Well, I am predicting a different kind of future. My favorite Peak Oil blogger, John Michael Greer, calls it “the Long Descent” because, as he sees it, the descent into third-world conditions (and eventually, when resource limits bite even harder, into a fully-deindustrialized, agrarian society) will be gradual – just like the depletion of the petroleum that makes our extravagant lifestyles possible in the first place.

From the point of view of someone who believes in the myth of progress – that is, someone who thinks that newer technologies are bound, as if by a law of nature, to be better than older ones – such a future sounds absurd. After all, there are so many other energy sources that we can use after fossil fuels are gone – biofuels, solar power, wind, hydroelectricity, nuclear, and so forth.

The problem is that all of those other technologies are already in use and, sans government subsidies, none of them are economically competitive with fossil fuels. Conclusion: once the fossil fuels are gone, and only alternative energy sources are left, energy will become much more expensive, and we’ll all have to use less of it.

Full-spectrum conservatives – people who revere their national past, who look for the unintended consequences of every policy, and who are suspicious of attempts to radically remake society – have no good reason to shy away from these conclusions. If the evidence indicates that the boons of the petroleum age will turn out to be ephemeral, and that America actually took a wrong turn by putting a car in every garage, then we should be willing to return to the sort of slower-paced society in which every generation of Americans lived from the Plymouth Fathers to Teddy Roosevelt.

Now, before I wrap up this article, I should probably answer the question of what I think about Peak Oil’s sister issue, global warming. My belief is that it’s real, but it will probably be slower and less apocalyptic than alarmists like Greta Thunberg would have us believe. It will not wipe out the human race.

Even a worst-case scenario – the melting of all the Antarctic ice and a 216-foot sea level rise – will take centuries to play out, and will simply restore the Earth to the warmer climate equilibrium which has existed, off and on, for two-thirds of the last 100 million years. The Earth’s climate has changed many times before mankind came along, and nothing that we can do is going to be any more dramatic than what nature does on her own every few million years.

Now comes another big question: what should an individual American do about this? Well, one option is to vote for the Democrats, because they’re the party that runs for office on promises to address the Peak Oil/Climate issue.

This is a bad option. Democrats have shown, time and again, that while they are happy to put American coal, oil, and gas producers out of business through litigation and regulatory harassment, they will do nothing to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Given the power, they will replace domestically-produced fossil fuels with foreign imports, and that is all. CO2 emissions stay the same, the jobs go to Arab or Russian oilmen instead of to Americans, and the Dems call it a win.

This is the usual modus operandi of the Left. Wealthy liberals virtue-signal with policies that claim to advance some fashionable leftist cause – environmentalism or antiracism or whatnot – but it always turns out that the burdens of the policies fall entirely on the working class. It is the same when it is blue-state mayors tolerating race riots in poor neighbourhoods but not rich ones, as when it is members of the Sierra Club, with carbon footprints the size of a whole Appalachian village, jetting around the country to sue coal miners out of their jobs.

So the political option is dead in the water. Which leaves the declinist option: admit that the body politic is a rotting carcass, animated by neither your own principles nor anybody else’s, give up on voting your way out of the problem, and be the change you want to see in the world.

Reduce your own consumption of fossil fuels. Travel by bicycle, bus, and train when you can. Learn to grow your own food, and to get by with fewer frivolous consumer goods. Live in a small, well-insulated house. And so forth.

This won’t change the overall direction of the country. But if you do it, then you, personally, will not be a part of the problem anymore. Also, you’ll learn useful survival skills, and when the whole country is dragged, slowly but surely, into the deindustrial future, you’ll be ready.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Book Review - The Noah Option

Today, I am going to do another first for Twilight Patriot: reviewing a book by an author who personally asked for the review, and was kind enough to send me the book for free. Michael McCarthy is a semi-retired corporate trainer who lives in North Carolina; he recently discovered my blog, became a big fan, and asked me to review his debut novel, The Noah Option.

In case you’re wondering whether McCarthy is riffing off the popularity of Rod Dreher’s 2017 book The Benedict Option (which was my first thought, too) it turns out that he isn’t, since The Noah Option was published back in 2009, apparently as a response to the wave of anti-capitalist, pro-big-government rhetoric that hoisted Barack Obama into the Oval Office.

According to McCarthy, his novel was inspired by Atlas Shrugged, though it’s easy to tell that he has very different religious views than Ayn Rand did, and he displays them in his book by making his heroes men and women of faith.

Also, if you're asking whether the choice of title indicates that this is a story about mass dieoff – in the sense of all but eight people in the whole world being drowned – don’t worry; McCarthy’s book is actually a lot less violent than the biblical story which inspired its title.

I am not going to praise the literary aspects of McCarthy’s storytelling. The characters constantly make long, blocky speeches with no resemblance to the way people talk to one another in real life, and at times they interrupt their conversation even further to make longwinded references to the author’s favorite novels, plays, and political philosophers, such as Thomas Sowell.

The main characters have no apparent flaws, weaknesses, or inadequacies to overcome: from page one, both the hero and the heroine are the perfect lover, the perfect friend, the perfect athlete, the perfect scientist or businessman, and the perfect Christian – at least, within McCarthy’s own “prosperity gospel” sense of what that entails. Near the beginning, the two leads get in a small lovers’ quarrel, which is resolved two or three pages later; otherwise, none of the sympathetic characters ever have any disagreements with one another.

Now, since this is McCarthy’s first novel, and since I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he has gotten better at the craft of writing with his subsequent works, I will spend the rest of my review analysing the underlying political and scientific assumptions of The Noah Option, and the suggestions it makes about America’s future. I will, as always, be frank about where I think the story gets things right, and where it gets things wrong.

The cover pitch for the novel begins as follows: “A tsunami of coercion and control floods the nation, wrecking lives and livelihoods....” After we open the book, we find that our heroine, Grace Washington, is a geneticist at Tuskegee University, where she creates GMO seeds for maize and other food crops. Everybody – hero and villain alike – agrees that these seeds can “end world hunger.” Like Norman Borlaug, the real-world botanist on whom Grace is modeled, she has won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work.

As I hinted they would, this character and her accomplishments strike me as unbelievable on account of being too perfect. Unlike the real Norman Borlaug, who won his Nobel Prize after a lifetime of work, Grace Washington is still a nubile young woman in at most her early thirties. And her seeds are far superior to anything that exists in real life, GMO or not. We’re repeatedly told that they yield four times more food than ordinary seeds, on one tenth as much land, using one tenth as much water, with one tenth as much fertilizer.

This sort of thing is what makes the scientist in me go, “Wait, that’s not how the real world works.

In the real world, after all, technological change is more gradual and involves more trade-offs, i.e. the real Green Revolution involved a lot of higher-yield crops that also required more fertilizer. A similar principle was behind Dr. Borlaug’s most famous achievement, his creation of higher-yielding dwarf plants: unlike wild cereal grains, which have evolved to grow as tall as possible in the struggle for sunlight, domestic grain usually grows in a field where everything is the same height; thus, it can be bred to be shorter and put its excess energy into making bigger seeds.

In the world of The Noah Option, on the other hand, being a geneticist means that nature is like a video game, where if you figure out how to hack the control panel, you can arbitrarily upgrade an organism’s stats to whatever you want them to be.

This simplistic way of looking at the world morphs into the downright silly in the person of Isaiah Mercury, Grace’s brilliant, software-developer boyfriend. His role in the story is to create a program that allows any farmer, anywhere in the world, equipped only with a flip phone, to sell his crops to any buyer, without a middleman – for instance, a farmer in Botswana can now sell his grain harvest directly to a miller or baker in Kenya.

There is no mention of how the grain is going to get to Kenya. Indeed, if McCarthy had even thought about that question, he might have realized that the need for road, rail, and sea transport – and not the lack of brilliantly designed software – is the reason that real farmers, whether they’re poor or not, usually sell to a merchant rather than to the end-user of the food they’re growing.

Thus we see, in both hero and heroine, the cult of the omnipotent entrepreneur in all its Randian hyperbole.

Thankfully, McCarthy’s portrayal of the business accomplishments of several of his minor characters is more balanced, and more realistic. We see, in Grace’s hometown, two friends of hers who are, respectively, a cosmetologist and an auto mechanic. Each has, through a lot of hard work, grown his or her business to the point of being able to employ half a dozen or so young people, starting them off at the bottom rung as teenagers, and helping them advance in the trade until they make a high enough wage to support a family.

Things are going well for each business until, near the beginning of the novel, new, draconian occupational training laws force each of these businesses to lay off most of its employees. This is indeed something that frequently happens in the US today, mostly to small businesses, though sometimes at a larger level as well – just look up what happened to Great Lakes Airlines after the FAA raised the flight experience limit for copilots from 250 hours to 1500.

Then you have the problem of large, controversial construction projects – mines, pipelines, ferries, wind farms, and the like – going through years of construction only to have their permitting process reopened in court by private environmental activist groups, and then getting halted by injunction moments before completion.

McCarthy includes this sort of thing in his book, with the bad guys waiting till the last moment to file their lawsuits, so as to cause maximum economic pain to the corporation that built the infrastructure and to its working-class employees. Meanwhile, the environmentalists themselves keep riding high on the hog, driving down the freeways in their gas-guzzling SUVs, covered in anti-fossil-fuel bumper stickers.

But after this, the author gets into self-parody by having the feds demand that every grocery story lock up all its chocolates and other candy, putting them behind glass like the drugs in the pharmacy section, in order to protect overweight people from their own appetites.

One of the ways in which the liberal elites in McCarthy’s book are such cartoonish caricatures of the real thing is the utter frankness with which they display their hatred for everyone less powerful than themselves. For instance, the activist group litigating against Grace Washington’s seed company repeatedly says, both in courtroom arguments and on the nightly news, things to the effect of: “We are seeking injunctive relief against you, Ms. Washington, because we do not want you to feed the third world. As everyone knows, there are too many people on this planet, and feeding them all will prevent the global population from declining to a sustainable level….”

Also, the leftist President and his cabinet have somehow managed to make a law to the effect that important government officials in need of organ transplants can kill random citizens and take their organs, because “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Basically, the liberals in The Noah Option talk the way that Michael McCarthy wishes real liberals would talk, so that everyone would see what monsters they were, and then the revolution could get started.

Which, in this story, turns out to be a remarkably bloodless revolution. Grace and Isaiah, on the verge of seeing their life’s work destroyed by leftist litigants and regulators, are contacted by members of the “Constitutional Resistance Movement,” who smuggle them to a secret hideaway in New Zealand, along with all their employees and all of the moveable capital of their respective companies, so that they’re essentially just as wealthy in their new home as they were before.

Our hero and heroine, along with the actual organizers of this plot, make long speeches over secret internet channels announcing their plans to the whole American public, and calling upon all the productive members of society to do what they just did – vacate their homes and businesses under cover of darkness, leave a little drawing of Noah’s Ark on the window to show everybody they’ve left their collapsing country behind, and then get themselves smuggled into a Noah Option refuge in Canada, New Zealand, or some similar place. (Just why Canada and New Zealand, which are as much under leftist control as the US, are suddenly willing to shelter huge numbers of right-wing anti-government dissidents is never explained).

The origin of the Constitutional Resistance Movement (CRM for short) is equally murky – we hear nothing of the huge amount of work that must be involved in creating a resistance movement, the long prison sentences that would inevitably face many of its early leaders and organizers, or the internal conflicts over methods and purposes that afflict all real insurgencies.

The CRM just shows up when it’s needed, to smuggle people into New Zealand, or break our heroes out of prison, or set up roadblocks and force “enviro-hypocrites” to be photographed in front of their bumper-sticker-laden SUVs, so that people on the internet can laugh at them. But unlike in the real world, none of these hijinks ever explodes into a firefight with government forces.

Three of the heroes, on various occasions, get captured by the authorities and imprisoned. They always escape, bloodlessly, within a week, and immediately celebrate by eating barbecue. One of the jailbreaks occurs during the middle of a show trial that was probably meant to evoke the ghost of Stalin, but ended up looking more like the courtroom scene from Idiocracy.

At the end of the story, well over ten million of America’s most hardworking and upstanding citizens have vanished into the “ark refuges.” Without these producers keeping the goods and services moving, the American system of government has collapsed, and the President is left standing bewildered in a mostly-empty White House, wondering why there’s no cream for him to put in his morning coffee.

To make a long story short, even though Michael McCarthy and I agree with each other about much of what’s wrong with America’s present system of government, The Noah Option presents a vision for America’s future that is very different from my own.

My vision is about what happens when the American Right keeps responding to social and political change in the same way it has responded for the last 50 years: with too little energy, courage, or intelligence to turn things around. (Rod Dreher and Mencius Moldbug have broadly similar outlooks, and are among my most important influences).

Michael McCarthy’s vision, on the other hand, looks to me like another tired iteration of the old and well-worn fantasy that if we just wait long enough, and give the Left enough chances to look idiotic, then somebody, somewhere, will do something. Grace and Isaiah do not create the Constitutional Resistance Movement; it just shows up when they need it. They do not have to choose between becoming wealthy and famous versus withdrawing from a society that doesn’t share their values; they just wait until they’re presented with a means of doing both.

In the real world, though, belonging to a resistance movement means accepting a large chance that you’ll spend much of your life in prison, if you don’t get yourself killed outright – think of Václav Havel, Nelson Mandela, or Klaus von Stauffenberg.

Also, dealing with American decadence by emigrating doesn’t mean hightailing it to New Zealand with your multi-million-dollar company in tow. It’s more likely to mean giving up your nice house and your car and your whole social circle to get a job as a teacher or something in a place like Borneo where you’ll be poor – maybe not by Bornean standards, but definitely by American standards – because the alternative is raising your family in the land of white privilege bracelets, antiracist struggle sessions, and Genderbread Man.

By this point, I’ve already been writing for a rather long time, so I’m not going to get into a lengthy description of my own ideas about how American society is likely to evolve in the future. Like I already said, you can read them in other posts, like this one and this one and this one, if you care to.

But The Noah Option, however well it might satirize the contemporary Left, fails as an emotionally or intellectually satisfying tale of oppression and defiance. It fails because, in real life, the heroes aren’t as perfect as McCarthy writes them, the problems they confront aren’t as simple, the villains are neither as cartoonishly stupid nor as transparently evil, and, most importantly, resistance to the new tyranny won’t be as easy, or as imminent, or as widespread, as most conservatives wish that it would be.

Friday, April 30, 2021

A Tale of 2058


            For today’s post, I've decided to try something new here at Twilight Patriot: writing a fictional story. Now, when someone starts writing fiction, that means he has taken on a different role for himself than a declarer-of-facts or a defender-of-opinions (i.e., what I have been in my previous posts). The fiction-writer is a suggester – nothing he says is literally true, but by saying it, he makes us think about whether it might point to something important that is presently happening, or that could happen, in the real world.

So, without further ado, here is the Twilight Patriot’s suggestion, based on current trends, of what life for a typical American family might be like in 2058.

Sara’s Story – A Tale of 2058

            When someone asks me how many people are in my family, I usually say seven. There would be eight if you count my husband, but he’s hardly ever home. The seven that you can usually find together are myself, my mother, my 22-year-old daughter Charlotte, her 28-year-old boyfriend Ollie, my sister Zoe, and her nine-year-old twins, one boy and one girl.

We live in a little rundown condo in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in what used to be student housing for a university. To the north of us is the university’s auditorium, which nobody uses anymore since the roof fell in eleven years ago. To the east is the landlord’s house, with its garden and rabbit hutch. To the south is an old soccer field that’s usually empty, except when there are migrants coming through. To the west is an abandoned gas station.

Most gas stations are like that, nowadays. Sometimes I talk to the young ones about how when I was a girl, you didn’t have to be rich or work for the government to drive a car, and that’s why there were so many gas stations.

Charlotte says she can’t imagine there ever was such a time. Ollie once said that when he was a child, his parents drove him around nearly every day, because they were “middle class.” Charlotte said that must be because “middle class” means the same thing as “rich.” I tried to explain that back in the day, most people who weren’t rich weren’t poor either, and that’s how we got the word “middle class.” Charlotte just rolled her eyes.

My husband works for a big utility company; he does repair work on high-voltage electrical power lines. It seems they are always needing repaired, because in most neighbourhoods, ours included, the power only comes on for a few hours each day (nobody knows which hours those will be) and we all have to hurry and charge our phones and do our cooking before it goes out again.

My husband is what they call an “essential worker.” Almost ten years ago, there was a big lawsuit, and the judges on the federal district court said that essential workers can’t quit their jobs, even if they want to, and they can’t bargain for higher wages, and they can’t refuse to work extra hours. If an essential worker disobeys, or gets caught trying to leave the district, he’ll be held in contempt of court, and sent off to prison for however long the judge feels like.

Essential workers like my husband still get paid a wage, so it’s not quite the same thing as being a slave, though it’s pretty close.

During the first year or two after the court ruling, my husband still worked five days a week, and came home at night like before. But as time went on, his boss called him up to work more and more evenings and weekends, and started sending him on long trips into the other counties that share our coal-fired power plant. Nowadays, I usually only see him three or four nights a month.

Zoe and I had two brothers, but they both went with our father after our parents divorced, when I was nine and Zoe was three. The elder brother died of cancer fourteen years ago, and I don’t know if the younger one is still alive or not. Our father was killed six years ago when the Ares Gang was first becoming strong in North Carolina, where he lived, and most people hadn’t yet learned to show the gangsters the proper respect. One too many insolent words and gestures, in the misplaced faith that the cops would never tolerate a murder in broad daylight, and he was a corpse just like his firstborn son.

The gang here in Cedar Falls goes by a different name, but it runs things in basically the same way. Like the Ares, these gangsters do their best to be predictable so that the rest of us will see them less as a threat to our lives and safety, and more as just another thing we all have to put up with, the way we put up with the tax collectors who scoop up our backyard chickens while muttering about “payment in kind,” or the federal marshals who hunt down missing essential workers.

Businesses like the Five Guys where Zoe works have to pay protection money each week, and young men like Ollie have to avoid the gang’s favorite streets after dark, but for the rest of us, it’s enough to refrain from speaking ill of the gang in public.

My husband and I would have liked to have had more children than just Charlotte, but after she was born, I got my IUD reinserted, and when I wanted it back out three years later, the price of the procedure was way up, even though my husband’s wages had stayed the same. We never did manage to get enough money scrounged together to cover the cost.

The same thing happened to my sister Zoe: she’s never had a chance to get her birth control turned off again since the twins were born. But with her, nobody regrets what happened. Zoe always starts sleeping with a different guy every month or two, and if one of them managed to get her pregnant, he’d either abandon her like the twins’ father had, or stick around and make us all wish he’d abandoned her.

Ollie and Charlotte can’t have children, because when Ollie was thirteen, he had started identifying as a girl – lots of boys his age were doing that back then – and his school’s guidance counsellor had convinced his parents to take him to a surgeon and get his penis and scrotum removed. A year later, Ollie was back to calling himself a boy, and his parents got him a two-year course of testosterone injections so he  could develop a man's voice and build. But there was no undoing the surgery.

My mother sometimes gripes about Charlotte’s choice of a mate, but I’ve never been bothered by it. There’s no need for Charlotte to have babies of her own when Zoe’s nine-year-olds will be doing the job five or six years from now – after all, taking care of children isn’t as easy as it used to be, and there’s only so much space in our condo, and so much food in our cupboards.

I still don’t know how they do it, but Ollie and Charlotte manage to get intimate enough for their own satisfaction. And since Ollie himself is a friendly and hardworking young man, who’s filled many a bare dinner table and livened up many a dour evening, I think that, all things considered, he’s well worth keeping around.

For us, money is always tight. Ever since the Fed decided to go cashless, the only people in my family who have been able to use it are Zoe and my husband. My husband pays the monthly rent, but he isn’t home often enough to do much else. Zoe makes a good wage at Five Guys, but spends three quarters of it on booze and cigarettes and heroin, so we have to really stretch what’s left in order to get by.

My mother, myself, and Charlotte can’t use money because of some sort of bug with the software – whenever we open up the Fed’s new app, we get a screen that says “Account parameters are missing.” Nobody we’ve ever asked about it knows how to fix it, and we can’t start new accounts from scratch, because the law only allows one account per citizen.

Ollie’s problem is that he got banned from all public service apps as a teenager, when a moderator on DuckSpeak accused him of “hate speech” for talking too frankly about his ill feelings toward the people who promoted the sort of surgery that he had had when he was thirteen.

Those of us without a working version of the money app have to use barter when we work outside the home. Whenever Charlotte and I cook or clean or do laundry for a wealthy family, they pay us with leftover food, or clothes too tattered for their own use. When Ollie repairs or salvages electrical devices or does carpentry, he’ll usually take payment in scrap metal, junked hardware, a live chicken for the night’s dinner, or a wad of marijuana.

Usually he finds a way to swap the marijuana for something more useful, but sometimes, late at night, he rolls it up into a joint and sits on the front porch taking long draughts of the smoke and looking dead to the world, and you can tell that this is a day when he’s feeling more despondent than usual about what’s missing below his belly button.

You might wonder why I’m writing all this down. After all, nothing that has happened to the seven of us (or the eight of us, if you count my husband) was ever newsworthy; no reporters ever came to talk to us about it; in fact, we might even be too ordinary to provide much material for gossip when Zoe and her coworkers are sitting behind the Five Guys at the end of the shift, smoking and throwing pebbles at the cinderblock wall to ward off the ever-gnawing boredom.

But there’s one more side to my life that I haven’t mentioned yet: I read books. I have a whole collection in my bedroom, 56 in all, stored snugly in what used to be the family refrigerator until the freon ran out. And most of them are old books, too, about things like the American Revolution, the pioneers heading west, the invention of the railroad and the telegraph and the light bulb and the radio and the airplane, the Civil War and World War I and World War II, and a time that a man stood up in Washington DC and said “I have a dream” and asked us all to live as if it didn’t matter which people were black and which people were white.

And because of those books, I can see that a lot of what my family is dealing with isn’t normal. The books, for the most part, tell of a time when little boys were never told by grown-ups that they might really be girls, or vice versa, when lawmen hunted down robbers instead of hiding from them, when the government respected freedom of speech, and when judges didn’t rule the country all by themselves, and had to share power with people like mayors and congressmen who could be voted out of office if their constituents felt like they weren’t listening to them.

 I know that the people in those earlier times weren’t free of problems of their own – after all, they did manage to have a Civil War and two World Wars! But I also know that earlier generations got a lot of things right that we’re getting wrong.

And I know that the crazy times we’re living in won’t last forever – after all, none of the other crazy times ever did.

Eventually, our way of life will end. But I don’t want it to be forgotten. I want people to remember the things that are happening to us. I want them to remember us: me and my mother and my husband and Charlotte and Ollie and Zoe and the twins.

I don’t know what the people who live in the future, and who read this, will think about us. Maybe they’ll just feel bad for us, because of all the crazy stuff that has happened to us. Maybe they’ll think we’re cowards, because we didn’t fight back harder, like the Patriots at Lexington and Bunker Hill. Maybe they’ll admire us, because so many of us lived through things that would have made a weaker man or woman give up on living.

Just think of poor Ollie: how nobody would blame him if he cut his own throat, and yet he never does. He just keeps on going, and we can all see the light in his eyes when he’s been staring at a broken motor for a long time and suddenly sees how to fix it, or when he walks in the door after a long day of work and introduces us to whatever furry or feathery critter we’re about to eat for supper.

I don’t know how the coming generations will remember us – they might think the best of us, and they might think the worst. But I am writing this down anyway because I really do want them to think something about us. We deserve to be remembered.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Left's True Alignment

As I begin this post, I probably owe my readers a big apology. I left the United States seven weeks ago and haven’t written on this blog since, having had too many other things to do during my travels abroad. But unlike a good, responsible, blogger, I didn’t state my plans up front so that my readers would know I hadn’t simply abandoned the project. Sorry about that.

I will be back to weekly posts sometime this summer. Once I do return, my first serious post will be a book review of a self-published novel sent to me by one of my readers (Thank you Mike McCarthy!). In the meantime, I figured I still at least have the time and means to write what follows.

I don’t know how many of my readers are familiar with the Dungeons and Dragons alignment grid. For a lot of people in my country, who grew up in the 1970s or later, this game was a fixture of our youth, so little explanation is necessary. For anyone else, only a brief one will be needed.

The alignment the grid is a way to categorize characters by their temperament and likely moral decision-making process. Each character’s place on the D&D grid has an ethical dimension – good, neutral, or evil – and a socio-legal dimension – lawful, neutral, or chaotic. Together they make a nine-part square, with True Neutral in the middle.

So, for example, your Lawful Good Paladin might be willing to take a dangerous detour from his quest in order to save an elven-maid from a party of marauding gnolls, but he would balk at the idea of lying to other people to get them to join his mission, and get very squeamish at the prospect of torturing a captured gnoll to find the route back to the gnoll party’s mountain fastness.

But if you replace Lawful Good with Neutral Good, the character still leaps at the chance to save the elf-maiden, while having an easier time justifying the lying and torture. Meanwhile, a Chaotic Evil character might lie and torture for amusement or personal gain, while a Lawful Neutral character, who doesn’t stick his neck out for anybody, will still be pretty good about respecting authority and upholding group norms regarding honesty and the like. Repeat this reasoning process for the other five alignments, and you’ll have a good enough idea of how the system works.

The real-life cogency of such a system is debatable, especially when it comes to Chaotic Good. For example, within the worldview of biblical Christianity (and most other traditional religions) submission to civil and parental authority is a virtue. It’s a virtue with limits, and you may need to disobey human authority figures when compelled by a “higher law” – i.e. it is better to be Oscar Schindler than Adolf Eichmann. But the point is, you can’t be an orthodox Christian and prefer lawlessness.

On the other hand, most young Americans these days love to play as Chaotic Good, and it’s probably the most popular D&D alignment by quite a bit. This is especially so among left-leaning youth. (I grew up in right-wing circles, where our characters were more likely to be Lawful Good or Neutral Good, or Chaotic Evil when we wanted to play as villains).

Speaking more broadly, people on the modern Left are enamored of the figure of the idealistic rebel. There is probably no other culture in the history of the world that has loaded the word “rebel” (traditionally a very negative one) with such bright and cheery connotations.

Perhaps the history buffs among my readers recall how, whenever a peasant rebellion broke out in Medieval Europe, the rebels always claimed that they still respected their king or duke or whoever and were just trying to rescue him from “evil counselors?” But even then, after the rebellion was quelled and its leaders’ heads were rotting on stakes, not a single contemporary historian portrayed their acts positively?

Yet nowadays, when setting the scene for some new epic of space opera or high fantasy, all the author has to do is say that his story is about a bunch of rebels fighting to bring down an empire, and everyone knows that they’ll be rooting for the former and against the latter.

This is because Leftists, who totally dominate pop culture, love to think of themselves as plucky, altruistic rebels courageously defying forces much stronger than themselves. In reality, almost nothing could be further from the truth, but the leftist myth-makers keep at it, always projecting the archetype of a cackling pulp fantasy villain onto whatever right-wing political figure they hate the most.

And no, I’m not just talking about Donald Trump. Did you know that, when George Lucas was making Return of the Jedi, he honest-to-goodness thought he had modeled the character of the Emperor on Richard Nixon? There really is nothing new under the sun.

In short, leftists regard themselves as Chaotic Good. The Right, by and large, accepts this view, with only the ethics reversed, and sees the left as Chaotic Evil.

And when you have an enemy that’s Chaotic Evil, but looks like Chaotic Good to sympathetic eyes, the way to fight it is to become Lawful Neutral. Which is what the Right has done: Right-wingers talk quite a bit about how being good members of a society means accepting that we don’t always get our way, and respecting established laws and institutions anyway because they’re the only thing standing between civilization and barbarism.

But the problem is that the Left isn’t actually Chaotic Evil. Or Chaotic Anything, for that matter.

For well over forty years by now, being a leftist has meant being on the good side of almost all of America’s most powerful people, with the exception of some holders of the (mainly ceremonial) Presidency. Everyone else – the Supreme Court Justices who together wield the imperial sceptre, the trend-setters in Hollywood and academia, the ultra-rich like Bill Gates and George Soros, and so forth – have lent the bulk of their support to leftist causes.

Also, people who commit crimes that are popular among the left, from draft dodging to illegal immigration to statue toppling, have an uncanny tendency to end up enjoying de facto or de jure amnesty.

In the final reckoning, whether or not your alignment is Lawful doesn’t really depend on how much you respect the contents of the statute book. It depends on whether your actions risk getting you punished by society’s power-wielders. Doing 48 mph when the sign says 45 does not make you a rebel. Neither does taking part in a race riot in a Democrat-run state.

There was a day when the Left had real rebels: people like Abbie Hoffman and Bill Ayers, who did things that were likely to get them sent to jail for a long time. That day is gone. From the early 1970s onward, the Left has been Lawful Evil through and through.

The Right, which still views the Left as Chaotic Evil, thinks that by playing as Lawful Neutral, it is fighting against the Left.

But therein lays a problem: while Lawful Neutral is an enemy of Chaotic Evil, it is a pawn of Lawful Evil.

For a long, long, time, a lot of well-intentioned American right-wingers have attempted, in all earnestness, to fight back against their country’s decay by trying to rebuild trust in their country’s institutions (which are controlled by leftists) and by telling the citizens that, because of the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, they now live (note the present tense) under the best system of representative government in the world.

And yet, none of this has worked, because (1) people who believe in the unconditional bestness of their own country have no motivation to go out and fight for their liberties, and (2) you cannot defeat Lawful Evil if you think that your problems stem from insufficient respect for authority.

Despite superficial differences, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump all had essentially the same act: Ride to the White House on a wave of populist rage, by convincing the Republican base that America’s new ruling class could be defeated through voting for the right candidates, and otherwise working within the existing constitutional order.

Too few people were willing to ask: “What constitutional order? Do you mean the one where voters and their elected representatives have no say in whether the country legalizes abortion and same-sex marriage, whether or not all high schools are required by law to host a club promoting homosexuality, whether illegal aliens are to enjoy de facto amnesty, and whether their country will go to war with Libya, Syria, and Yemen?”

If the answer is, “No, I mean the constitutional order that George Washington and James Madison created,” then you have a conundrum, because the constitution of Washington and Madison can only be restored by the same force that created it – a willingness to resist governments that don’t acknowledge traditional limits on their power.

Which the Right, being Lawful Neutral, cannot do – all it can do is keep submitting.

And the price of submission is that the longer you do it, the more things the other side will think of for you to submit to. In the past, it was queer sex ed classes and race-based university admissions. Now, it’s court-ordered child castrations and endless race riots.

Yes, even the George Floyd Riots are a manifestation of Lawful Evil, because the rioters are only doing the things that the most powerful people in our society – influential leftists in Congress, the judiciary, the media, big business, and so forth – approve of them doing. (To be clear, the approval is more often expressed through lenient treatment of criminals than through explicit egging-on, though the latter is far from absent).

The moment that the rioters threaten a wealthy neighborhood, the police arrive and clear them away. This is because the rioters are a tool of the plutocratic oligarchy, and cannot act without their masters’ consent. They will go away when the oligarchy no longer needs them, but for now, they earn their keep by:

(1) Performing acts of vicariously satisfying violence at the expense of the people that the oligarchs hate the most (the white working class) and

(2) Keeping most Americans so wound up over symbolic racial grievances that they don’t notice the immense role that class privilege and class prejudice play in modern American life.

Conservatives like to think of themselves as the defenders of the present constitutional order, which is essentially good, from the attacks of the lawless Left. The idea that the Left already remade the constitutional order to its own liking several decades ago, and that to keep defending it, at this point, is to be the Left’s tool – that idea is alien to the conservative mindset.

And yet, if right-wingers want to deal with the uncomfortable realities of the present situation, they are going to have to stop seeing themselves as stalwart citizens defending an ancient social order against the forces of barbarism and chaos, and start seeing themselves as peons living under a hostile and non-representative government.

Then, they will need to give up their Lawful Neutral alignment, and switch to something like Neutral Good or even True Neutral – a hard-nosed, pragmatic alignment well-adapted to living under dissolute authorities in an age of decline.

By all means, resist the state if that’s what it takes to keep yourself or your family safe. If, for example, the government decides to change your child’s gender, then flee the country and seek asylum in Russia or some likeminded place – don’t just stay home and submit like everyone else that this has happened to so far.

But don’t fantasize about taking back the country in a 1776 style revolution or a red-on-blue civil war. There are good reasons – which I have explained here – why this is not going to happen in the foreseeable future. And don’t expect that a sudden, apocalyptic crisis will arrive in time to render the whole struggle moot. Prepare for a long and drawn-out decline, because that it what we are most likely to get.

Russia underwent state collapse in the 1980s and 1990s, and it wasn’t the end of the world for the Russian people – just a time of scarcity, crime, political dysfunction, and general misery, in which practical skills like the ability to grow one’s own food, plus close relationships with one’s family, neighbors, and friends, were the best aids to survival. America, I think, has a lot to learn from Russia’s experience.

People love to call me a pessimist for saying all this. I do not think that the label is justified. Decline and fall is the common lot for empires. Nations that have spent a long time wallowing in decadence don’t suddenly grow a spine when catastrophe is looming.

Perhaps it is my religious outlook on life that lets me admit the facts of decline so calmly. Bringing forth a victory from an impossible situation is, in my view, a function of the Gods; us mortals, on the other hand, need to be more humble about the limits of our abilities, and the fallibility of the institutions that we create and sustain.  If you hang your sense of transcendental hope on the divine Powers, where it belongs, then you won’t be tempted to hang it on the frail reed of a doomed political cause – like trying to restore America’s zombie republic.

If I really wanted to, I could pretend that the old republic was restorable. I could pretend that if only the forces of law and order managed to turn things around and defeat the forces of Chaotic Evil, our national decline could be reversed.

But I know deep down that it just ain’t so.

And that is why I will continue to leave my sense of abiding hope with divine Providence, where it belongs, and approach worldly matters in a spirit of pragmatism, in the full knowledge that there are hard limits to what can be done when a nation as lacking in courage as our own is confronted with Lawful Evil.