Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Optimism of a Twilight Patriot

 

I began writing the Twilight Patriot blog in February of 2019. While the landscape of American politics has changed a bit over that almost-three-year period, my opinions about my country’s past, present, and likely future have remained fairly constant.

Sometimes, I voiced those opinions by criticizing the same things that most Right-wingers criticize: the size of government, a welfare state that disincentivizes work and thrift, the dictatorial role of SCOTUS. Sometimes, I criticized things that the Right used to approve of, but has recently soured on, like military adventurism, or the dismantling of America’s industrial plant in favor of cheap imports.

Sometimes, I took positions that are heretical on the Right: ‘Global warming is real,’ I said, ‘and President Trump is only pretending to care about the border wall.’ And sometimes, I simply sounded alarmist: ‘Inflation is two or three times worse than the official numbers say, and the US military has grown so weak that even third and fourth-rate enemies can prevail against it.’

And I made a consistent set of predictions: The American Empire was going to continue its process of decline and fall. It didn’t really matter which party won the next election; neither party would make the changes that really mattered. In a little while – historically speaking – the United States would be a third world country, with third world levels of poverty, inflation, unemployment, political dysfunction, crime, and military ineptitude.

And I was saying all of this before the re-engineered bat virus, the five-month-long nonstop race riot, and the attempted coup.

I was talking decline and fall before the Afghanistan route, before the police and the military started using vaccine mandates to purge out their less conformist members, before… well, you get the point.

But there’s another curious thing. If you follow political commentary for a while, you’ll notice that whenever a big crisis happens, or seems likely to happen, a lot of people start talking doomsday scenarios: The coronavirus is going to kill >10% of the people who get it, causing a total collapse of the government in the process. Or the vaccines are going to do the same thing.

Or the Floyd Riots will be the permanent end of law and order throughout the United States. Or some other imminent event is going to cause the world as we know it to roll over and die.

When Qasem Soleimani was killed, I heard people saying it was going to spark World War III – but it didn’t, and a few days later, the excitement had died down. For years before the 2020 election, people on both sides of the aisle were insisting that if the Democrat won in a way that Trump’s base believed was unfair, we would have a civil war on our hands. Then Trump lost, and most Republicans did indeed believe that Biden had cheated… but one hour of LARPing does not a civil war make.

So we were left in the great in-between. We’ve seen, over and over again, that our civilization is not on the track of upward progress. It is not even maintaining a comfortable status quo. But in most people’s imaginations, the only alternative to those things is instant apocalypse, and we’re not getting that, either.

Just a gradual decline and fall, a slow slide into third world conditions.

It is a disappointment. We Americans feel that our nation is so unique that if it doesn’t keep progressing onward and upward indefinitely (to the point that we eventually learn how to make people immortal, or colonize outer space, or what have you) then it at least deserves to go out with a uniquely memorable bang.

But here I am, predicting that neither of these things will happen. Just a slow slide into the mud. ‘Look at the situation in Mexico,’ I say. ‘Look how the people are getting poorer and poorer, and central authority is weakening, and many of the rural areas are being divided between warring militias and gangs. That will probably be our future, too. Hopefully, our technology will decline quickly enough that our overlords don’t get a chance to set up a universal surveillance state like in China.’

And then, as if I wanted to make my readers go ‘huh?’ one more time, I say that I don’t find this depressing, that it’s far from the worst future we could have, and that there’s a lot of room, in the future that I’m sketching out, for hope, optimism, and plans to rebuild.

In large part, this is possible because of my belief in God and my fundamentally religious worldview.

Generally speaking, religious people – in other words, people who have hung their hopes of ultimate victory on something less feeble than human beings or institutions built by human beings – have no reason to hide from the reality of decline and fall.

In the Western religions, this is because the material world, and everything in it, is transient, and irreparably marred by mankind’s sins. We are only here on earth for a brief moment – ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust,’ and all that – and if we happen to live in an age of worldly decline, it shouldn’t be a source of sorrow to us, only another reason to serve God faithfully and lay up our treasures in Heaven.

The Eastern religions conceive things a bit differently. In their view, the world itself may well have no beginning and no end, but everything in it lasts for only a brief moment amid the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. Each of us has lived many lives already, and can look forward to many lives yet to come, and the way to wisdom and happiness lays in recognizing transient things for what they are, enjoying them while they last, and refusing to cling to them when it’s time to leave them behind.

Since Twilight Patriot is not a religious blog, I’m not going to comment on which of those two overarching philosophies I find more convincing. Suffice it to say that people who follow either of them will have an easier time weathering the storms ahead than the materialists who lean, for their sense of meaning and purpose, on the frail reed of human progress.

If you’re a regular reader of Twilight Patriot, and perhaps even if you aren’t, then you probably admire a lot of the same people as I do: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, the Marquis de Lafayette, Frederick Douglas, Winston Churchill, etc.

Men like that can only exist during times of adversity. And with that in mind, is it really depressing for me to say that America’s future will involve regression, fragmentation, poverty, and violence? Nothing else could toughen up the soft, effete, atomized people who presently live here into the kind of men and women who can do great things. As in nature, so with mankind – some trees can only take root in in the ashes left by a fire.

George Washington and the other founders grew up in a country that was poorer, more violent, and more technologically backward than the country we live in today. Because of my conviction that history is cyclical and that progress is never permanent, I am free to believe that America may yet produce a thousand Washingtons. Is that really such a bad future?

But what does that mean for the here and now? It means that each of us – each of us who desires to in some way be a part of building the next great North American civilization – should be eager to score a win against the system.

And we can win against the system by detaching ourselves from the system.

Whenever some American kid realizes that America’s days as the nonproducing consumer among nations are numbered, and decides to learn a trade that involves working with his hands instead of pushing numbers around, that’s a win.

Whenever a trad wife gives birth to three or more children, and raises them up in such a way that they imitate her decision to make family a bigger priority than the pursuit of wealth, that’s a win.

Whenever someone opens the town newspaper, reads a letter like this one, and is dissuaded from disfiguring his or her child’s mind with ADHD medication, that’s a win.

Whenever an American couple refuses to send their children to woke public schools where race hatred and gender dysphoria are taught, that’s a win.

Whenever someone grows his own food, and builds or at least repairs his own house, car, appliances, furniture, etc., rather than relying for those things on an increasingly dysfunctional global supply chain, that’s a win.

Whenever someone finds a way to work for himself, taking payment in cash and/or barter when possible,  and depriving corporate and government middlemen of the chance to skim off of his labor, that’s a win.

Whenever someone realizes that the fossil-fueled economy is going to wind down over the next few generations, and acts on that realization by making a hobby out of preserving the technologies that are appropriate to a more primitive world – technologies like sailing ships, home-built radios, letterpress printing, or traditional glassmaking, to name a few – that’s a win.

Acts of resistance against the state can be wins, but we need to be realistic about our expectations in this regard. People who do not have the courage to seek asylum abroad when their own children’s genders are changed by court order do not have the courage to repeat the events of 1776, or even 1989. Which is why the only kinds of resistance that I expect will be done, successfully, during the next few decades are the small and local kinds.

Our side does not have a path to nationwide victory – indeed, in times like these it makes little sense to speak of “our side” at all.

My favorite metaphor for the collapse of American civilization is the Blind Men and the Elephant. Just as the six blind men, though feeling different things, all knew that they had grasped onto some part of a large animal, a lot of the people living in the United States in 2021 can feel that their country is falling apart. But because we each feel only some aspects of the rolling collapse, it is easy to quarrel with one another about the real nature and causes of it.

Yet in our quarreling, we’re often all partly in the right. The people who think that the sexual revolution was a mistake, and those who think that treating petroleum as if it’s a renewable resource is a mistake, tend to be political enemies… for now. But the collapse of the gasoline economy, the re-agrarianization of America, and the disappearance of the technologies that make it easy to manage venereal diseases will, I think, bring each around to the other’s point of view.

None of this is going to be easy or pleasant or quick. There is, at this point, no turning back from the future that America has earned for itself. We will not get continued progress, nor will we get instant apocalypse; just a long, slow, multigenerational decline into third world conditions – into impoverished, violent, and politically repressive conditions – followed by an opportunity to rebuild. Or rather, several opportunities to rebuild, since by that time the United States will almost certainly have fragmented into multiple pieces.

So that, then, is what optimism means for me. It means looking at the situation as it is, with its challenges and opportunities, and choosing to meet the challenges manfully, and act on the opportunities.

It does not mean believing that one’s political party has its act together when the evidence suggests that it does not. Nor does it mean insulting the founders by saying that the constitution we have today is, for the most part, the same one they established, and that our country can be saved if only we protect said constitution from future assaults, when in reality the old constitution has been dead for a long time, and ought to have been given a decent burial already.

And once you admit that dead things are dead things, you can focus on the real challenges of our time: disengagement, survival, and rebuilding.