I dreamed last night that I was in Portland with a dozen or so blog friends when The Big One hit. We had gone to the city searching for Covid-19 supplies, which was tough enough. But now we were trapped by Mother Nature — in a world where people had been ordered to fear and avoid each other. In a world where natural instincts to help had been crushed.
For some reason, I had a large collection of books with me, which two of my friends quickly “borrowed” without permission. I knew they immagined my collection would be loaded with Ayn Rand tomes, which they considered essential guides to life. But I’d shucked off all that dogmatic stuff years ago and they’d be disappointed not to find Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
I, on the other hand, felt light. The world was finally going completely mad and I felt liberated, unburdened because there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to stop it. I perched on the shiny stair rail of an eight-story glass-and-steel office building and watched civilization fall below.
I’ve wanted to blog and not wanted to blog for the last two weeks.
It took me a while to realize I was resisting because all I have right now is anger.
Some of the anger is over The Big Stuff:
- Willful destruction of the economy (and liberty, and people) over a disease that’s going to turn out to be only slightly more deadly than the seasonal flu;
- The fact that this destruction has never been about protecting health;
- The dawning truth that the left isn’t merely clueless, elitist, arrogant, and authoritarian to its core but has become a virtual death cult, craving a collapse into a depopulated, medieval level of survival while blaming the right for putting people at risk;
- But the equal truth that the right is no less culpable and is indefensible — craving power, voting for idiocies, relishing new levels of control, then blaming the left for what they themselves have wrought.
- The ultimate fact that every politician, media maven, and crank with an agenda is taking happy advantage of this trial run for toltalitarianism.
Some of my anger is over seemingly small stuff.
If I hear one more smug ignoramus, left or right, talking about when the government should “restart the economy,” I may scream. No government anywhere on this planet can “restart the economy” because the economy is an unthinkably complex system with millions of parts relying on millions of other parts and right now politicians are performing wholesale destruction of millions of system components.
You can’t just issue an order for some mythically simple “economy” to restart as if it were a light switch you flipped off an hour ago and can flip right back on at your discretion. It’s more like flipping on that light switch after you’ve spent months gleefully wrecking the entire power generation, distribution, maintenance, and billing system.
And no, it doesn’t help in the long run if you throw trillions of thin-air dollars at this economy you imagine is so simple to control.
Is it truly possible that “experts” don’t know this?
Yes, it’s possible — and that’s what makes this seemingly small personal irritation large and terrifying.
Other things that have me frothing really are small. But so telling.
Attempting to get away from the madness, I spent the last few days mudding bad interior walls here at Mo Saoirse Hermitage. Coming into the house Thursday clutching five pieces of corner bead newly bought at the lumber yard (which thank all the gods, remains open despite the best efforts of politicians), I noticed a label. To wit:
! WARNING !
WARNING: Cancer and Reproductive Harm
[Some URL for those who actually bother]
Cancer and reproductive damage — from an innocuous strip of aluminum and paper designed to get buried under plaster??? Are you kidding??? What do you have to do to get cancer or damage your gonads from this object? Eat it regularly for dinner? Shave off tiny bits and inject them into your veins? Sharpen it and stab yourself in the ovaries or testicles?
The label is too busy redundantly shouting both WARNING and CAUTION to be specific. But I see by the URL that it’s a State of California thing (are you surprised?). And I wonder why the rest of us out here in the formerly sane quadrants of the nation should be forced ever again to endure California’s sick fantasies.
But of course, it’s this kind of eternally manufactured fear over every tiny threat or non-threat that leaves us ever more open to any form of health hysteria. If an inert piece of aluminum (or maybe the deadly thing is that paper!) can give you cancer or cause you to bear deformed babies, if eating tasty foods will rot you, if any random thing you encounter might fatally damage you in some mysterious way, what might some new infectious disease do? Oh my!
Panic! We must panic — then obey the “experts” who promise to save us.
Yesterday evening, a kind friend who had hoped for a far more pleasant conversation, allowed me to vent at him over many, many, many of my outrages and frustrations (of which these are only a sampling).
He understood. He — normally a dynamic, on-the-move person who’s now confined by edict to home and financial loss — said he’s angry, too.
And one of the causes of our mutual anger is over how hard simple things have become — how every ordinary daily move now requires strategy, tactics, and fear that some cop or nosy neighbor (encouraged by politicians or bureaucrats) will rat you out simply for living.
Both my friend and I take precautions against disease — masks, sanitizers, industrial-strength hand washing and the like. But we can’t take precautions against the murder of freedom or the murder of the economy. We can’t even take precautions against the steady, relentless worsening of daily life.
One of the things I got mad about yesterday was really small. So small that I laugh at myself. But as my friend said, when you get to the end, it takes only that one straw to break the camel’s back.
I went to the courthouse to pay my property taxes and found the entire building closed to the public. Now maybe I should be happy about that. But of course, they still want their money. And suddenly I was furious that I should have to turn around, go home, address an envelope, and — above all — pay extra, pay the price of a postage stamp, for the privilege of sending them a bribe so I’ll be allowed to keep my own house.
It was that postage stamp that did it. Not the taxes themselves. Not the mindlessly destructive shutdown of life. Not the mass public hysteria. Not the fact that we’re under martial law while being held prisoner in our own homes. Not the fact that these ‘crats were hiding in their offices or homes, continuing to be paid while more useful folk were out of work.
It was that postage stamp.
I’m not a cheap person despite my thrift-store habits (when the thrift stores aren’t all closed by government diktat). I don’t even know what a postage stamp costs, these days. What, $0.55 or so? But suddenly I was bursting with bile over the thought that I should have to give manipulative totalitarian bastards that much more of my money, of my life, of my day for such an abysmally stupid reason.
I had a glass of wine, vented at my friend, and got over it. But still.
I haven’t wanted to write when all I had was anger.
Anger can be a place to begin. Anger can be productive. If anger ultimately leads you to walk out of a bad relationship, a bad job, a cruel religion, or a broken system, then good for anger — and good for you for using anger as a motivator. If anger at yourself inspires you to do better, good. If anger at injustice inspires you to work for justice, good. If anger at cruelty inspires you to be kind, good.
But too often anger is just a festering wound.
We’ve all known people who spend their whole lives in a sickness of rage — forever seeking out things and people to resent, blame, and hate — collecting bitterness as if it were a hobby — willfully making their own lives a misery while also keeping everyone around them walking on eggshells out of fear of provoking their sudden violent outbursts.
Ceaseless, fruitless anger is also the helplessness of the abused child, unable to strike back against the tormenter, so (all too often) being twisted into a tormenter himself as he selectes smaller, even more vulnerable beings on which to expend his forbidden rage.
The rage of ground-down populations is similar to that of an abused child.
While pockets of productive anger are becoming part of the response to the most irrational lockdowns, I fear that the sick kind of anger will be far more prevalent as we suffer the long-term consequences of panic-demic politics.
My friend and I made a casual bet on when riots would start. (I said by mid-July; he thinks perhaps as early as Memorial Day.) Of course, “stimulus” payments and unemployment insurance that pays more than many jobs are intended to keep the natives from getting too restless. And maybe that will work. For a while.
But ultimately there will be so much festering, sick anger. Millions of causes, billions of desperate, angry people the world over. Such anger — from people who don’t know its true causes and who’ve been lied to by clueless “experts” — never leads to anything good. It leads to the slow rot of socialism. The volcanic eruption of war. Daily inhumanity to man. Death by diseases once thought extinct. Family violence. Hyperinflation, for which some hapless group (guess which) will be blamed and targeted. Addiction. Suicide. Even starvation for some.
Nothing, nothing, nothing good at all.
The disease will run its course and studies will show that millions survived it without even being aware they experienced anything unusual. The media will pretend they never, ever over-hyped Covid-19 as TEOTWAWKI. The “experts” who initially fanned hysteria will claim they only issued the most responsible and accurate predictions.
People will shamefacedly put away their masks (those masks that magically went from being “useless” and “giving a false sense of security” one day to being The Law, or at least The Latest Vitally Important Expert Recommendation the next) and try to forget that they ever judged (or reported) their neighbors for playing in a park or getting within five feet of a friend.
But what won’t happen, what never happens, is true reflection on what went wrong, and why, and how to prevent it happening again.
The very next time politicians and the media combine to rouse mass hysteria, mass hysteria will duly be roused.
It always is. Whether it’s Covid-19 or immigration or global warming or the always-handy Jews or invasion from outer space or AIDS or commies or witches or the threat of another ice age or a deadly meteor strike or the end of the world due to Mayan predictions, computer glitches, or biblical prophesy … people can always be whipped into unthinking terror, and all the cruelties and stupidities that go with it.
And the harder the times, and the more widespread the hard times, the more likely and more potentially dangerous the hysteria.
And politicians are right now happily creating the hardest of hard times for the longest of long times in the greatest populations.
Ultimately the only cure for mass hysteria or totalitarianism is to create educational and philosophical bulwarks against them and to build social (not necessarily governmental) structures that resist being put to evil uses.
But in stupid times, that’s not possible. It’s a task for later.
Me, I’ll go outside as soon as weather permits and begin planting seeds and transplanting seedlings. (Where I live, it’s still “allowed.”)
I won’t sustain my current level of rage because I’ve got a lifetime’s practice in stepping away from anger and finding something better to do, finding more productive ways to deal with life.
So this, too, shall pass.
Next time California or Seattle does something stupid, I’ll laugh and say, “Well, that’s them. That’s not me. That’s not anybody I know or care about.”
These are tribal times. They will become more deeply tribal as governments and an increasingly, shockingly ignorant “expert” class revel in making life worse.
Leaders will arise, and they’ll mostly be either effective and dangerous or dangerously ineffective.
People will suffer. People will die. But they will mostly never understand and never even think to question why they suffer. As Buffy Sainte-Marie sang, they’ll “blame the angels, blame the fates, blame the Jews, or your sister Kate.” And they’ll go on being easy clay for manipulators at both the lowest and highest levels.
You can’t fight this. Not in any principled, rational, traditional way. Not right now. These are the crazy years. We will have to endure and survive them before the productive aspect of anger can take over.
Find a life-sustaining tribe. A tribe that has something much more to offer than anger and blame. Cleave to it, contribute to it, preserve its precious knowledge and the knowledge of freedom, and be grateful.
Build a monastery, a fortress, a climate-controlled cave to preserve knowledge. Build a community of mind, heart, and soul. Guard it well.
Then feel light because you’ve done the best you can do. And be light in dark times.
It’s all you’re going to have in the long run.