Three months ago, as the COVID-19 lockdowns entrapped us, a friend told me, “Claire, this is TEOTWAWKI.”
I objected, “This is bad. This is petty dictatorship. This is totalitarian thinking. But it’s hardly the zombie apocalypse.”
“I didn’t say zombie apocalypse,” he reminded me. “I said the end of the world as we know it. And it is. From now on, everything is changed: our relationship to government, the economy, society, our personal expectations, everything.”
He was right. He just didn’t know how prescient he actually was.
He became much more right with the advent of nationwide riots (which he’d also predicted, but that’s another story). The riots are TEOTWAWKI. But not because they’re riots; riots and looting have long been American institutions. And it’s not even TEOTWAWKI because of the blazingly illogical, repugnant, unapologetic hypocrisy of mayors and governors, punishing ordinary social or business relationships, condemning peaceful anti-lockdown protests, but praising and supporting street marchers, unmasked shouters, looters and arsonists.
No, those are just symptoms. The real, foundational TEOTWAWKI in all this is cultural. The nonsense long festering on college campuses has burst forth like pus from a boil into the mainstream culture. The foul, disease-ridden ooze of grievance, cancellation, purges, socialism, anti-free speech, savage moral righteousness, absolute intolerance of any disagreement, identity politics, politically correct racism, rule by childish whim, ignorance of history, and hatred for anyone perceived as “other,” now spreads freely across the land.
The riots may (and will) pass. Perhaps eventually some of the cancelled may even regain their jobs and reputations.
But we’re not getting sanity or civilization back any time soon. Because we no longer have the tools to restore them. Free speech is going. History is gone. Philosophy has been distorted beyond all measure. Economics is on the outs. Logic? What’s that? Reason? That’s dead white male racism. Respect for individual rights is “hatred.” The concept that good people can agree to disagree, that they can defend each others’ right to speak even while disagreeing on every point, has been crushed by the weight of collectivist rightthink.
The foundations of freedom have been pillaged.
Entire generations about to take political and managerial control largely don’t know how to think. They’ve never learned the skill. Oh, they know what to think, that’s for sure. But how to think? That toolset is obsolete. Broken. Trampled into the mud of dogma and smug certainties.
We may soon watch them eat their own, as rightthink changes from week to week, and no amount of socialism or forced compliance produces the happiness they imagine is just a few dictated reforms away. They’ll consume their entire movement as the Jacobins and the Cordeliers and the Herbertists and the Feuillants and the Girondins all consumed each other and were in turn consumed, once upon a time.
But fun though that might be to watch (from a distance!), the self-consumption of the insane left won’t gain us our freedom back. Not even a little bit of it.
We’re *&^%$#@!ing doomed.
The same friend who predicted the riots and proclaimed TEOTWAWKI also gave me a book on survival.
Not TEOTWAWKI survival. Not hard-times survival. Not even survival after being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like on the Titanic or in the World Trade Center on that day. Laurence Gonzales’ Deep Survival is a book about, and originally for, daredevils. Sensation seekers. Mountain climbers. Fighter jet pilots. Ocean sailors. Bush pilots (Hi, M!). Artic explorers. Wilderness trekkers — and other people that neither my friend nor I will ever be.
It tells the stories of thrill seekers and adventurers who screwed up and paid the price — the ultimate price, for some, and the price of suffering and survival for others. Then it analyses how things go wrong, and how things go right.
At first, I thought, “Okay, this is interesting. But all I’m going to learn here is what I already know: I’m glad I’m not those guys.”
Then the book grabbed me. It had grabbed my friend in the same way.
A pair of brilliant chapters begin with a disaster on Mt. Hood — but those chapters go on to talk about how systems — all sorts of system — fail. (Relevant points for our times: It’s often the biggest “experts” who make the fatal mistakes; and systems have inherent dangers that frequently become worse when safety measures are introduced.)
From there on, it’s one valuable insight after another.
A few are a bit obvious. Just as in the movies, the guy in the life raft who cries, “Oh god, why me?!” is destined to become shark food.
Other insights (from studies and real-world survivals) are deeper. Gonzales talks about the mistakes virtually everybody makes, but who best overcomes them and how. (Hint: Rule followers are at a disadvantage; independent thinkers create better chances for themselves and their companions.)
Each disaster, whether sudden or slowly unrolling, is some adventurer’s personal TEOTWAWKI. How well he or she responds plays a huge role in determining survival or death.
One of Gonzales’ many points is that those who survive lay down a foundation by accurately assessing their situation. The assessment may be, “Oh F*ck, I’ve broken my leg. I’m going to die” (as it was for mountaineer Joe Simpson, whose Touching the Void experience with fellow climber Simon Yates is haunting, even 35 years later). However negative an assessment might be, if it’s accurate about the fundamentals, it makes a realistic place from which to act. And to go on living while others in similar situations die.
Do you agree that this is TEOTWAWKI?
If not, what do you consider these last three (and ongoing) months to be?
Realism says yes, this is TEOTWAWKI. Because the world doesn’t always, or even usually, end in a supervolcano blast or a global war or an invasion from outer space. More commonly, it shifts under our feet while life goes on.
No, it’s not (yet) the zombie apocalypse. But the world as we know it is past. Gone. Ended. Dead. We’re not going to recover it. We’re not going to watch the crazies self destruct, then waltz back in to restore constitutional liberties amid the ruins, to the applause of a grateful and enlightened citizenry. We’re not still waiting for some point in the future when we must act. We’ve already entered a new world that we must deal with. And deal with rationally, no matter how unpopular rationality is at this moment.
There are ways to fight the woke. While I don’t agree with everything on that list (nor did JW, who found it), it’s a pretty good start. There are also ways — and we can hope they’re feasible for us — to avoid the woke and wait for them to self destruct. But there are no ways to come out of this in the same world, the same society, the same culture, we went into just months ago.
The events unraveling now have been a long time coming. Now they’re here. And now what?