Friday, October 23, 2015

Why Bother?

     Tranquil times are the op-ed writer’s version of the Gobi Desert. No wars or insurgencies? No mounds of corpses? No screaming victims or rivers of refugees? No great institutions careening toward destruction? No discoveries of heinous deeds done under the protection of the highly placed? No columns.

     No, I don’t mean to say that you, Gentle Reader, should hope for calamities so I’ll have something to write about that will grant you a few minutes’ deflection from your own troubles. But the facts are as they are. When people are happy and prosperous, when there’s little to no misery in the world, and when the highly placed remain within the law (or at least conceal their sins sufficiently well), the op-ed business hits the doldrums. I, at least, can’t work up the necessary spleen to write a decent essay over someone’s hangnail.

     Just now, this minor member of the Internet Commentariat has the opposite problem: there’s too much to rant about. I could use up ten thousand words with nothing but brief mentions of discrete disasters, dastardly deeds, and terrifying trends alone. I could pop the breakers on the Internet without ever providing a sliver of analysis. I suppose that’s a large part of the reason so many of my colleagues have chosen to specialize on one particular focus for outrage. That’s something I can’t bring myself to do.

     Everything is going to Hell, and it’s wearing me down.

     William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, the supposed originators of “yellow journalism,” would have loved our era. They’d have had no trouble filling the front pages of the New York Journal and the New York World with whiz-bang features each and every day. Wars and terrorist attacks everywhere! Floods of refugees! American servicemen killed in Third World hellholes! Rampant racial and ethnic violence! Muslims taking over our city streets! The national debt skyrocketing! The dollar collapsing! The educational system in crisis! Record unemployment and underemployment! Fascistic bureaucracies whose minions tote machine guns! Blatant lawbreaking by a presidential contender! Near-misses by huge asteroids! Vampire attacks in Sheboygan! Zombie outbreaks in Peoria! Earthquakes! Tidal waves! Horizontal rain! Their papers would scream out the crises and scandals each day...and their readers would slowly but steadily back away, preferring to get their news from staider organs of information such as the Star and the Weekly World News.

     There are only two sensible reactions to calamities-everywhere reportage:

  • Lock, load, and march on the Capital District; or:
  • Burn the welcome mat, barricade the doors, and stand armed watches twenty-four hours per day.

     Not enough of us are furious enough to adopt the first approach with an adequate probability of success. Quite a few have embarked upon a version of the second. What the events of 2016 will bring us, only God could say...and He’s been notoriously taciturn these past two millennia.

     I’m tired. That’s hardly news. I’m an old man; I expect to be tired much of the time. I just wish the reasons were more personal. I hate watching the country I love immolate itself, and I hate even more that I can do essentially nothing about it.

     This isn’t merely a veh is mir. It’s something of a summing-up.

     I’ve been writing for the Web since 1997 at least. Over that interval, things have gone from bad to worse, with occasional minor jags in the other direction that were reversed soon afterward. I don’t think my emissions have been any part of the cause, but I can’t imagine that they’ve done much to improve matters, either. A heightened awareness of that unpleasant truth is what has me in a “why bother?” mood.

     If I, an exceedingly minor player on this field, should feel that way, I can’t help but wonder how the major figures feel about their inability to influence the course of events. Of course, a lot of them get paid for their drivel, which alters the dynamic somewhat. All the same, does Mark Steyn ever moan and wring his hands? Does Glenn Reynolds ever weep and gnash his teeth? Does Ace ever shake his head, murmur “What’s the use,” and retreat to his man cave for a marathon of mindless entertainment featuring bug-eyed monsters, big guns, and busty women in short shorts and high heels?

     Is there no course open to us but revolt or surrender? Is there no third alternative? Because that’s what really has me down this morning. Op-ed writing is about nothing but the search for such an alternative. At this time, we have yet to unearth one.

     Forgive me, Gentle Reader. There comes a point when the browser tabs proliferate beyond my ability to keep track of them, or to elicit any unity from them. Things are, quite simply, going to Hell. America is tottering drunkenly at the edge of the abyss, with no convenient planetoid in sight.

     The collapse of the United States will mean more than the dissolution of the highest and best civilization known to Man. Like it or not, America truly is the indispensable nation. American strength – military, economic, cultural, and moral – has been the foundation of all that is good everywhere on Earth since the end of World War II. The powers poised to capitalize on our decline are anything but benevolent. Should we fall, they will move – and they will drown the world in blood.

     If you’re a regular reader here, you’ve seen this citation before:

"The fall of Trantor," said Seldon, "cannot be stopped by any conceivable effort. It can be hastened easily, however. The tale of my interrupted trial will spread through the Galaxy. Frustration of my plans to lighten the disaster will convince people that the future holds no promise to them. Already they recall the lives of their grandfathers with envy. They will see that political revolutions and trade stagnations will increase. The feeling will pervade the Galaxy that only what a man can grasp for himself at that moment will be of any account. Ambitious men will not wait and unscrupulous men will not hang back. By their every action they will hasten the decay of the worlds. Have me killed and Trantor will fall not within three centuries but within fifty years and you, yourself, within a single year." [Isaac Asimov, Foundation, emphasis added.]

     We might not be at the point of no return yet...but how far from it can we be? And what can a minor opinion-monger and fiction writer possibly do about it?

     Oh, never mind. It can’t be as serious as all that, or you wouldn’t have your microwave ovens, your Jacuzzi tubs, and your iPhones. Never mind that you pledged your soul as collateral for the price of them, that you have nothing saved, and that you expect to retire on Social Security. Turn on the TV. There must be something diverting on some channel, and if not there’s always the Home Shopping Network and the Quality Value Channel. Why pay attention to an old crank who’s obviously just short on sleep? Anything is better than his doom-and-gloom crap.

     Time to pray.


Anonymous said...

Newton's first law. A body in rest will stay at rest; a body in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.


We are going to hell in a handbasket. The inertia involved is too great, and the external force available too little to change anything.
Pray indeed. About all we have left.

Fran, I come to your site and read your columns because you mirror almost perfectly my thoughts, observations and conclusions regarding our shared fate. You put into words what I cannot. I think what we know is simply too frightening for the majority of our fellow humans to accept; so they ignore it. Simply ignore it and it will go away. It's like that property tax bill that is stuck to the refrigerator door. It came 3 months early, but I'll ignore it until November 29.

All we can do at this point is look out for our own and do our best to isolate ourselves from the coming festivities. It's going to get ugly.

Tim Turner said...

70 people were rescued from a Muslim (ISIS, Al-Queda, does it matter?) jail yesterday. One American was killed and that's the headline I see all over the internet today.

Some things still happen against the darkness. But, you're right, Fran. Things are much worse than they were before and they are getting . . worser. :)

1) The people who seem to care most are all in their 60's or older. Hey, the old guys always think things are getting worse. Besides, we'll be dead soon.

2) The younger boomers or generation Xers or millenials stood around and voted for Obama or didn't care, so. . . time for a history lesson.

3) God, you know? Pray, hope and faith.

4) The glass has never been this empty in our lifetime, but, hey, it's still partially full, right?

Remember "Connections" in the 70s with James Burke? Besides being an interesting take on how innovation happens, it also gave a clue as to how the modern world and our place in it is so interdependent on technology and EVERY part working.

As modern as we are, we're an EMP away from losing almost EVERY modern convenience we now have - indoor plumbing, piped-in water, urban food, light, heat, you name it.

The food riots, the race riots, the muslims - Jesus, it'll be horrible. A Wall Street financial collapse almost seems like a reprieve.

I keep coming back to sex and girls.

I remember in my early teens reading the Bible (not because I was that religious, but I was that nerdy, or something.) There was a lot of stuff in the Old Testament that made me think God was kind of a mean jerk. But even while He was smiting Sodom and Gomorrah, there was some psalm or something that was supposed to be about the niceness of sex. (Song of Songs, or something, but I read it pretty carefully, and there was no "good stuff.")

Even the New Testament doesn't say, in so many words, have sex and enjoy it. And Ann Barnhardt insists we should be virgins til we're married - forever. But. . . but

I'm old, and my productive days of programming and creating meaningful stuff are over. But that guy that I think is supposed to be the Patriarch of the Jews? Abraham? Isn't one of the main things about that story is him getting his wife pregnant when they're both pretty old? They must have had sex then, right?

And I can't help but think that it wasn't Adam and a legislature in the garden of Eden. Eve was a girl, right?

And I'm pretty sure when Noah was filling the ark, he wasn't bringing two males of each animal on board.

We might be doomed to see civilizations fall for whatever stupid failings exist in Man or mankind. We might have hell-on-earth things like socialism or islam or MSNBC. But somehow, the universe, with its weak and strong forces, gravity, pi, Planck's Constant and cockroaches also found the grace to give us boys and girls and sex.

Wow, hey?

Col. B. Bunny said...

There is indeed an avalanche of bizarre happenings. Seeing Obama get elected twice was on the order of finding out that your dog was accepted at Yale on a football scholarship. Yet millions celebrated his election and it's just normal to see this mystery man with no papers giving speeches to Congress with his teleprompters and levying war against a sovereign state in the M.E.

Everywhere in the West the choice is for whatever involves the maximum passivity and bloody-minded evasion of the plain truth of the matter. People are so hungry for common sense and decisiveness in the service of the public interest that Trump, who articulates the simplest of truths about the border and our surrender to foreigners, attains instant celebrity. And God speed to him let me add.

The book “Shattered Consensus argues that we are so polarized that we can no longer resolve our differences. What do you or I have in common with people who think the U.S. is the apotheosis of evil? Yet there are millions who think that and devote huge resources to fouling the nest. These people are not reachable by reason and one must ask, as you do, why bother to try?

A fair question. I have this thought. I'm not a religious man but this process of observing and analyzing is a person exercise in trying to find that sweet spot in the human psyche or, alternatively, what are the governing principles of human existence. I don't necessarily turn to thoughts of a Divine Being but there is something out there that is ineffable or almost unknowable.

The current Pope enjoys the simulacra of popular adoration but it is only because of the historical authority of his office. I can't see that he has any but the most shallow insight into the human condition. Someone like Marine Le Pen, however, seems gifted with insight and an uncommon ability to express herself.

In short, what exactly is food for the soul of man? Islam is a ghastly travesty of a spiritual basis for life. Christianity grasped certain fundamental truths about man but has faded significantly. What can appeal to modern man who is so beguiled and confused by the fruits of reason and the conceits of reason?

Reg T said...

I read Sultan KNish and understand that most of Europe is self-destructing, especially Germany. The invasion of young muslim men - fake refugees of a fake religion - is actually being enabled and assisted byEurope's various governments. There are already enough muslims in most of Europe to cause disorder and disfunction, but the influx of millions more (1.5 million in Germany alone) is a very real death knell for Europe.

Here in America we have saddled ourselves with a fake President who is assisting in a two-pronged invasion of _our_ country - illegals across our southern border, and muslims from Somalia, Syria, and elsewhere assisted (using our own tax money) in reaching our shores and being placed in various towns and cities.

These invaders will be allowed to create mayhem and destruction just as the residents of Baltimore were allowed to commit unimpeded vandalism, theft, and acts of mayhem and violence in that city.

There is much to depress us and little to uplift us, facing yet another take-over of Europe by islam, yet another take-over of a country (this time America) by dysfunctional socialism, and an ever-encroaching tyranny of Executive Orders and bureaucratic regulations. Faced further with another economic house of cards due to collapse at any time, and all that is really left to us is some indefinite time to circle the wagons, and lock and load.

Chronicling this debacle, along with cogent analysis, is what you are good at Fran. I hope you will continue. None of us expect you to come up with a cure, with a miracle save. Simply keeping us informed of things we might have missed is help enough.

Keith said...

Fran -- Remember what Jerry Pournelle reminds us about every so often: "Despair is a Sin."

I visit your site just about every day and I'll bet I'm not alone. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, Francis, you think you're depressed now? Ha, ha. Wait 'til Hillary gets elected, and she WILL be elected. As much as it pains me to say that I have no doubt that I'm right. They've cleared Biden out of the way so now it's in the bag. Sanders? Please. The MSM has decided it's her turn. Yep, that same MSM that turned on her in 2008 to make way for a 'black' man has now decided that she should be the next President. We conservatives like to think that alternative media (the Internet and talk radio) are making a difference but we're not, not really. The legacy media still calls the shots, like it or not. They've still got their stinking hands on the levers of power and they're not letting go. Think I exaggerate? Go back to 2012. The Presidential election was a slam dunk for the Republicans. No way they could lose. Shooting fish in a barrel. Obama had so much negative baggage and scandal on his back there was no way he could win reelection, at least not by conventional measures. But he won. Why? The MSM. They covered for him. They squelched unfavorable news, pushed favorable news, they lied, spun, and distorted enough that the lofo's actually believed Obama had done an admirable job first time around. This time around it will be no different for Hillary. Instead of being attacked she'll have the wind at her back provided by the MSM. We need to understand that we have a serious, serious problem in this country in the form of the MSM. Reynolds derisively refers to them as Democratic operatives with bylines, but it's not funny. It's as serious as cancer and I don't know what the answer is.

Anonymous said...

Don't despair. Here is a story - read it to the end.

On a cold, snowy night an old man found a snake lying in the road almost frozen to death. Feeling sorry for the animal, he took it indoors and laid it by his fireplace.
Sometime later, he saw that the snake had recovered in the warmth and approached it. It promptly turned and bit him. As he lay dying he asked the snake "Why did you do that?" The snake replied "Because it is in my nature".
At that point the old man's son entered the room. Seeing what had happened, he lifted up his foot and crushed the snake's head. As it lay dying, the snake said "Why did you do that?" The young man replied "Because it is in my nature"

Our old generation has made a wretched mess of things, but take courage, there is a new generation who I have great hopes for.

Anonymous said...

In my youth I thought Asimov's view of a civilization in decay was too far fetched but I loved the Foundation series anyway. Now I am amazed at just how rapidly we truly are decaying; and not because of disease or disaster but of arrogance and selfishness. I am working to become a teacher and am appalled at the ridiculous hurdles in place by the state. The true daily task is mostly behavior management and modification, the supported teacher behavior is to out-bully the students. The denial and fanatic rule-making in our supposed leadership makes it all but impossible to turn the ship around.

Anonymous said...

First time visitor, from Instapundit.
You've hit the nail on the head. I sense a drop off in viewership/commenting on the best blogs, as people un-plug, having come to the same conclusions. Same with some of the best writers of blogs- just fading away, off to other jobs, hunkering down I suspect.

What is the answer? Dunno, but the basics that fit best-to-worst-case are faith, family, health, sustainable skills.

Emphasis on the last, to include flexibility in thinking.

Unknown said...

Years ago the apologists and enthusiasts of disintegration (the 'Progressives')organized for their long march of destruction of our civilization.
For the rest of us to stand alone and moan and groan is simply stupid. At least educate others, work for a political candidate you respect or contribute someway to a patriotic activist group. Every river is composed of individual drops moving together. Help to set the direction of flow.
We must organize and act for the principles we hold dear. Otherwise, we die in our despair, cowardice and shame.