I’m suffering the sudden onset of optimism.
Don’t worry, the condition probably won’t be fatal or chronic. I’ll be back to my normal, healthy, pessimistic self in a week or two. But meanwhile I can’t get rid of this feeling that everything may turn out okay out there in the world. Well, not everything. But outcomes of the current madness may be better than we expect.
I feel this way precisely because everything’s falling apart.
And all kinds of people are recognizing that everything’s falling apart or has already fallen and can’t be raised back up. That’s the part that suddenly cripples me with optimism. Even people who exist in the thick of our cultural and political insanity are beginning to recognize and respond to reality.
The first thing I noticed is that even some mainstreamish conservative commentators are giving up on serious, respectful opinion writing and resorting to pure mockery and derision — toward government, toward media, toward the cultural insanity in general. Cue Roger Kimball commenting on a rosy piece by NPR’s favorite “conservative” David Brooks (who is generally indistinguishable from NPR’s favorite liberal, E.J. Dionne):
Really, I am delighted to learn that we have embarked on a “journey” through a new American Renaissance. Had I not been told that, I might have naively assumed that the country, which seems to me to be more divided than at any time since the 1850s, was on the verge of implosion. I am so happy to learn, then, that we are in for unicorns and rainbows, not attorneys general warning about “domestic terrorists” and “white supremacists.”
Michael McKenna, in an otherwise serious piece about the consequences of Biden’s 2020 “campaign about nothing” can crack off a dismissive sentence like “The shrinking number of people (mostly journalists) who care about Congress have been glued to their computers and televisions this past week, breathlessly following the twists and turns of the soap opera that is the infrastructure legislation.”
When nutty left-wing commentators claim that millions of people don’t want to go back to jobs because they’re traumatized by “fallout from the Trump presidency, continued police shootings, and the consequences of Jan. 6” — not because they’re being paid more to be unemployed, not because they got a taste of freedom and learned they hate the job culture, not because commutes and co-workers and bosses and cities suck — smart cookies like Charles C.W. Cooke can only ask, incredulously, “Has the average member of the press corps ever actually met anyone in America?”
Continues Mr. Cooke:
This isn’t a conservative-vs.-progressive thing. It’s not a Republican-vs.-Democrat thing. It’s not a coastal-elite-vs.-flyover-country thing. It’s not even a Trump thing. It’s a journalists-vs.-normal-people thing. Outside of the narcissistic and incestuous Thunderdome that houses the American media, it remains the case that people simply do not think in the way that the Beltway-media class believes they do. They are not traumatized by the daily news. They do not make key life decisions based upon the behavior of the president, nor wait for him to leave office before deciding that they are so disturbed that they no longer wish to work. They are not fixated upon the latest congressional MacGuffin or the implications of a given riot or the occasional mistakes of the police. And when they are looking to enjoy a good “cultural drama,” they do not look for it in the same places as the editors of the Washington Post do.
And if you’re an old Alfred Hitchcock fan, you’ve got to agree that “Congressional MacGuffin” is an act of derision right up there with “the shrinking number of people who care about Congress.”
This is not the way professional commentators used to talk about current affairs. This is not “respectfully differing” or intellectual analysis of issues. But nor is is the childish howling of the Twitter mob or the deceptive babblings of CNN or the perpetual hysterical indignation of young New York Times prodigies. This is something much more formidable and telling. This is smart, serious people who have given up taking the current regime or current culture seriously.
This is people who have moved onto the next stage: Understanding that a country’s Great Institutions have become simply … irrelevant.
Even over in that part of society where laughter and levity are forbidden (I speak here of the “woke” and the poor unfortunates in their orbit by happenstance or affiliation), things are cracking apart and both woke insiders and watchful outsiders are beginning to realize it.
Take the LGBTXYZ movement
We have lesbians rightly and righteously objecting to being threatened with extinction by the sudden tsunami of sexually confused adolescent girls (and what adolescent of either sex isn’t sexually confused?) being encouraged by supposedly responsible adults to transform into boys.
We have “traditional” lesbians and gays being condemned as anti-trans bigots (by their fellow LGBTetc activists!) for preferring to have relationships with people born to their own sex. Stop and think about that for a minute: fellow LGBT+ activists hating on lesbians and gays for … being lesbians and gays. And gaslighting the Ls and Gs by telling them they’re the haters.
We have female athletes rightly and righteously outraged over competitive male wrestlers being accepted into the Olympics as female wrestlers (the link is the Babylon Bee version of the news, which tends to be one completely accurate step ahead of the real news).
And we now even have white (oh, the shame) LGBTetc. event organizers objecting to BIPOC-LGBTQRSTUVW event organizers charging them “reparations fees” to participate in LGBTetc events.
(Of course the
poor, reasonably objecting would-be participants white oppressors were quickly told to shut up and performed the standard groveling apology. But still. There’s a movement starting here.)
It’s the People’s Front of Judea vs the Judean People’s Front all over again. And that’s just a single example from the endless “woke” intertribal wars.
It’s a Monty Python world and we’re simply at our outer limits of trying to take it all seriously.
Of course there are still
fools commentators “on the spectrum” who who can’t bring themselves to understand that the Old Order is over. Or to laugh at the madness. Yet in being so serious in their hopes to reform the unreformable, they render themselves laughable.
Case in point, Michael Walsh, writing in the sweet-but-staid Epoch Times (the Readers Digest of modern protest publications). Talk about a man who doesn’t understand the real condition of the world! A man whose 1950s-style hopes make him unintentionally comical in this corrupt, broken, and hopeless age.
Want to know what point one — point one! — of his “Blueprint for Taking the Country Back” might be? Brace yourself; this isn’t from the Bee:
The first order of business … is to get a grip on the Republican Party and make it conform to the will of the people by expelling via primary every Republican who voted to impeach or convict Donald Trump during the two impeachment farces.
Easy-peasy, right? And brilliant — ’cause of course nobody, ever, has tried reform-from-within-the-system before and we can be sure Mr. Walsh has the perfect secret recipe for making it work. We’ll just go right out and do that in a jiffy, Mr. Walsh. Then we’ll get right in line to complete steps two and three (reforming elections and choosing the “right” candidates).
I don’t know who Mr. Walsh is (though he does have cap-C Credentials). But he surely doesn’t know what even the hilariously wonderful, but not-as-impressively published John Wilder (who also has a plan for restoring America) knows: that culture precedes politics.
Better yet, when politics becomes corrupted (but I repeat myself), then finally plops into well-earned irrelevancy, healthy culture carefully steps around politics like a proper society matron from a New Yorker cartoon steps around a stinking pile of poodle poo on a city sidewalk.
And that’s exactly what’s happening now. Healthy individuals are recognizing the pile of poo that is contemporary reality and stepping around it.
People have been pushed farther than they’re willing to go. They’re sick of being asked to worship “science” but not practice the questioning and skepticism at the heart of actual science. They’re sick of being told that in the last five or 10 years their cherished and stable traditions have abruptly become “hatred.” They’re sick of being told that they’re either evil oppressors or hopeless victims simply because they were born with a particular color or ethnicity — and even more distressed at having their children taught that. They’re sick of being told that merely disagreeing with TPTB means they’re “terrorists” or purveyors of “misinformation” who deserve to be censored. They’re sick of being told that fiery riots are “mostly peaceful.” They’re sick of being asked to pretend to believe that muscle-bound weight lifters are women, that mothers are mere “birthing persons” and that men can menstruate. They’re sick of being told that Joe Biden has a working brain and is the greatest president since FDR. They’re sick of being told that governments can spend made-up money forever and thus enable an “American Renaissance” or a “Great Reset” that (really, seriously, we mean it) will be good for the peasants as well as the gazillionaires who are engineering said rebirths and resets for their own obvious benefit.
They’ve had it. Millions of people are recognizing that their brains simply won’t stretch that far.
And they’re asking, “Why the heck should I even try or pretend to try to stretch my brain to accommodate obvious nuttiness? Who benefits? Definitely not me. Definitely not the people and things that matter to me.”
Commentators are laughing and mocking. Ordinary people are taking action. Lots of individual and community action. They’re stepping around that big stinking pile of poo that is government, that fetid mass that is the media, that oozing diarrhea that is wokeness — and getting on with living in and re-shaping real reality.
William S. Lind’s Barometers of Legitimacy are all giving ominous readings. But the very fact that they are ominous, and more people see that, means more of us are free to act creatively rather than remain stuck. No, nobody in their right mind wants Fourth Generation warfare (Lind’s area of expertise). What we do want — and need — is to get unstuck from silly, vain hopes of willing hopelessly broken systems to work for us. And we’re doing it.
What was well outside the Overton window short years ago, what only us wing-nuts believed and respectable people sneeringly dismissed, is now commonplace.
Among other new or growing trends, small secessions are happening everywhere, as Daniel Greenfield describes. Suburbs are seceding from cities (or aiming to), counties from states, and states from themselves. Greenberg’s got a lot of hopeful stories to tell. He’s wrong, though, when he says the smallest secessions are being committed by school districts.
The smallest are being committed, every day in increasing numbers, by potentially millions of individuals — commentators, professors, office workers, blue-collar job holders, entrepreneurs, writers, doctors, congregation members, students, you name it — who wake up, look around, and say, “Whoa, this is getting too weird; I’m out of here.” They may not know whether we’re living in a joke masquerading as a wannabe totalitarianism or a wannabe totalitarianism masquerading as a joke. They may not even be able to identify or articulate precisely what’s wrong. But they know it’s nuts and they want to go sane.
And so they do.
And so — despite all the chaos and danger still ahead, and all the likelihood that we’ll endure social, intellectual, and cultural collapse long, long, long before we see true renaissance — I’m optimistic.
For the moment, anyhow.