Monday, February 16, 2015

Quietism, Or "Hunkering Down?"

This morning, the great Victor Davis Hanson deposeth and sayeth:

For bewildered and increasingly quietist Americans, the center holds mostly in family, religion, a few friends, the avoidance of the cinema and nightly news, the rote of navigating to work and coming home, trying to stay off the dole and taking responsibility for one’s own disasters — as the world grows ever more chaotic in our midst.

All sorts of escapism from the madness is now epidemic. Home-schooling. Gun ownership. A second home in the mountains. A trunk of freeze-dried food. Kids living in the basement. A generator. Some gold coins. A move to Wyoming. An avoidance of the old big cities. A tough choice between death and going to the nearby emergency room (at least your relatives are safe as you pass away at home). A careful and narrow selection of channels on cable TV. A safe room or escape plan. And on and on.

There is a strange new and dangerous sentiment brooding below the spoken surface that whatever is going on in the world and in America today cannot go on much longer — although as the sages say, there is a lot of rot in the West to enjoy for some time yet.

I cannot argue with Dr. Hanson's assessment of the objective facts of our nation:

  • An increasing number of families are homeschooling their children.
  • Gun ownership and gun acquisition are on the rise nationwide.
  • Interest in real estate outside the urban and semi-urban danger zones has increased as well.
  • The vendors of "emergency food" and "disaster prep" goods are raking it in.
  • Hey! I just put in a generator!
  • Gold and silver as inflation hedges are making a big comeback.
  • The search for alternative sources of medical care is becoming especially frenzied.
  • Safe rooms are multiplying, especially among the residents of well-to-do areas close to large cities.

Some of this is undoubtedly "better safe than sorry" stuff. We might compare it to the skeptic about nuclear war who puts in a bomb shelter despite his low assessment of the probability of an exchange of nukes because he can afford to do so, and because "It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it." And some of it is propelled by a habitually dark assessment of the state of society by persons who are simply inclined to see disaster looming around every corner. But some of it is the fruit of a sober analysis of current trends in politics, economics, and the social order.

Such an analysis might be wrong, in the sense that while the trends, should they continue, would eventuate in catastrophe, nevertheless they might not continue. The nation might right itself; all might yet be well. In that event, prior disaster preparations might be viewed a posteriori as having been a waste of time and resources. But such "Monday morning quarterbacking" is inherently invalid. Hindsight, as the saying goes, is always 20-20.

In outlook, I stand closer to the preparationists than to the pooh-poohers. Indeed, in some ways I'm more radical than most. Were my wife and I of an age to produce further children, they would be born at home. We would strive to keep them free of birth certificates, Social Security numbers, and the other trappings of "official recognition." There's no better defense against the predations of the State than to deny it all knowledge of your existence. Unfortunately, it's a bit late for us already-born pro-freedom types to try that.

Just yesterday, I invoked Patrick Henry's famous question: "Why stand we here idle?" The question has as many answers as respondents. Some of us are too encumbered by freely chosen responsibilities to embrace rebellion actively. Others find that their choices have fettered them to the State in one way or another. Still others are too aged, or otherwise worn down, to contribute usefully. (I'm in that third category; given my age and infirmities, all I have left to contribute is words.)

Still, every last one of us has a voice. Every last one of us can express himself, whether in words or in deeds. Every last one of us exerts some leverage over the future, even if what he can achieve is sharply bounded by his circumstances. The only reason not to lean on one's personal lever is fear: in the usual case, the fear of being targeted by the myrmidons of the State.

It's not unreasonable to fear -- and as I wrote a few days ago, fear can be useful. But fear must not inhibit us from doing what we can, consonant with our other responsibilities to our loved ones and ourselves, to resist and reverse the crumbling of the Republic.

If what Dr. Hanson has tagged as "quietism" is truly only that, then it's to be deplored. Beyond all other obligations, we who love freedom are obliged not to be quiet. But if it's merely one facet of the national mosaic -- if those who are preparing for political, economic, and social upheaval are "hunkering down" while simultaneously exerting themselves as best they can to leave their own preparations forever unemployed -- then the outlook is potentially much brighter.

So the ultimate question becomes: Have we given up?

Dr. Hanson concludes his essay as follows:

The postmodern world of our new aristocracy and the premodern world of those they both avoid and romanticize won’t hold. The old caricatured middle shrinks and turns inward. Even if the doomsday mood is a mere construct of the new instantaneous media, it is a dangerous mood nonetheless.

We all know what follows from this — either the chaos grows and civilization wanes and tribalism follows, or the iron hand of the radical authoritarian Left or Right correction is just as scary, or a few good people in democratic fashion convince the mob to let them stop the madness and rebuild civilization.

I hope for option three. I fear option one is more likely at home. And I assume that option two will be, as it always is, the choice abroad.

If one accepts the vision promulgated by the nightly news, option one -- the chaotic dissolution of the American order -- does seem the most likely. But the nightly news obeys the same dynamic as any other news organ: bad news always leads. Besides, the major news agencies are headquartered in large coastal cities. Their reporters and stringers concentrate on urban events, which creates a "selection bias" of unknowable impact. It's quite possible that the image of America it purveys is inaccurate -- that the bastions of civility and order far outweigh the social cancers in the scheme of things, and will overwhelm them before the American organism can succumb.

Option two -- the outright totalitarianization of these United States -- would only be possible were Washington to succeed in first disarming the citizenry. The State's power to inflict its will on us is limited by its manpower and the equipment they possess. Not every police department will cooperate; not every cooperating police department will possess machine guns and mobile armor; not every militarized police department will be proof against being taken down by the forces of freedom. As long as the American people remain a people in arms, a Cuba-like or North Korea-like future is one we need not worry about.

It's impossible to assess the likelihood of option three: the resurgence of Constitutional government before a tide of pro-freedom sentiment. The freedom movement is a real and substantial thing, but its power to sway national discourse is sharply limited by the "individual crank" problem. We cranks have to get on the same frequency, at least to the extent of refusing to slander one another's preferred causes and subjects. Until we manage that, our influence will be circumscribed.

However, the probability of a revival of a free, prosperous, orderly America won't drop to zero until we give up. Therefore: if your prognostications and the weight of your responsibilities suggest that you should "hunker down," by all means do so. But don't stop speaking out. Don't become "quiet." The crocodiles might eat you last, but they will eat you. Your hope of a better future lies in speaking and acting as a free man should: clearly and candidly, secure in the knowledge that in a good cause there are no ultimate failures.


Backwoods Engineer said...

"In outlook, I stand closer to the preparationists than to the pooh-poohers."

Welcome to the party, pal! Glad you're talking about this.

Anonymous said...

I agree, this is a good topic. I've often wondered the same things myself. Mainly, "what are we preparing for?" and "now what?" I think and hope "hunkering down" is accurate, and I think it's better than the alternative. Peaceful people aren't looking forward to difficult, truly awful times, in which hard choices need to be made and implemented. We love peace, and we love America. If "action" was the primary goal, more harm than good might come of it, and that would make us part of the problem. Unfortunately, waiting for "the problem" is the peaceful man's only recourse. Like the true mother of the baby, who preferred to see the baby go to someone else than rip it apart down the middle. We peacefully await the "decision" of the "other", in the best interest of that which we love. And if violence presents itself, action will become necessary. Unfortunately, if the "other" simply carries the baby away, we may never have call to act, as we watch our loved one vanish into the night, and with it, the last best hope on Earth. As the "man of the house" of sorts, it seems the rest of the story involves biding one's time, and seizing an opportunity to act and prevent total loss once it emerges. But what if this opportunity never presents itself? What if there is only the hypnotic fading of the light? I guess that's the crux of the problem, and I don't have an answer for it, yet.

Anonymous said...

Glen Beck discussed this last week. I gave up on him after he started handing out teddy bears to migrant kids at the border, but he's one of many alternative sources I use for information. Good, bad, or indifferent it is what it is. Anyway, his point was this monster is too big for one person, we can't sustain the fight because it's happening with such rapidity on a daily basis. It's rotting. Read David Stockman's article on entering the crack phase where China incurred $20 trillion in debt for $5 trillion GDP. It's global in nature, deliberate or not is anyone's guess:

No politician nor a John Wayne are going to turn this one back. I think the fuse has been lit for economic implosion which is starting to show. Things I never had an interest in I understand today, Baltic Dry Index anyone? It's hard to prepare for something potentially so unprecedented in our lifetimes. The goal is to stay one step ahead of it all. God help those that have nothing and believe the status quo will save them. The freedom minded will be picking up the pieces once the children in charge are finished destroying it all. When you've lost everything you have nothing to lose.

lineman said...

It all comes down to one thing and that is where are you going to ride out the storm...The storm is coming there is no doubt about that now so wouldn't it be better to ride it out amongst the company of Patriots who love liberty just as much as you do...That is one thing that the Liberty movement is desperately lacking and that is a Physical Patriot Community where every neighbor is a Patriot and you will all stand together to face whatever comes against you...

Anonymous said...

Lineman has a good point. I have a place to ride it out, but unfortunately, the neighbors are an unknown quantity. I'm far enough away from the city where it won't be too crazy, but close enough that it makes sense for work, while the clock continues to tick. Every day is a new preparation, a new step in the right direction. If I can get far enough ahead, I'll buy a ranch in the Redoubt. But if I don't, I'll be prepared to weather it here. You can't have it all. Being prepared is better than not being prepared.

lineman said...

You need to be making contacts in the Redoubt then so that can establish good relationship with them right now and when the SHTF you would be welcomed instead of treated like a refugee... Read Selco blog about the percentage that survived in the country compared to those in the suburbs or cities...We need to actively be banding together now while its still going instead of when its chaos and you are in the trust nobody mode...

Anonymous said...

" the iron hand of the radical authoritarian Left or Right correction is just as scary"
Phrases like this, amounting to attempts to seem even-handed, bother me. Just what would the "authoritarian right" look like? Remember, Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin were all "men of the left." Stalin was a communist. Hitler was a national socialist. Mussolini had given up on government ownership of the means of production, but insisted on government control. In fact they were just variations on the same theme.
It's not clear to me that the right, at least as understood in America, is authoritarian at all.
It's hard to label someone who is for small government, low taxes, freedom from arbitrary regulation, and being "let alone," as "authoritarian."

Jimmy the Saint said...

"Option two -- the outright totalitarianization of these United States -- would only be possible were Washington to succeed in first disarming the citizenry. "

Not the only means. If enough people who support totalitarianism are armed, and they either outnumber or out-will (or both) the armed folks opposed to totalitarianism, they can still impose it. Disarming us is just easier on *their* spear-carriers.

PJ said...

Seems to me, the Constitution is the fig leaf that got us where we are today.

By all means, get yourself a new and improved Constitution and give it another shot. But don't be surprised when anarchists want nothing to do with it. It will be ok, we can co-exist - as long as Constitutionalists don't imagine their thing is so good that they can impose it on people who don't want it. That would be a mistake.

David Landro said...

I don't think those who will take action are idle at all. I know this from personal experience. I do believe they are preparing. Practicing, gaining intel, training, aiming small to miss small. The actual numbers are small. Perhaps III%. When called on, they will be there. But if anyone thinks we can save the republic, believe me when I tell you it was usurped long ago. We are slaves to a corporation now. Wall street owns 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and a good deal of 535 pols sitting in DC. If you count scotus, make that number 544. The goal will not be to restore the United States of America, It will be to ensure the survival of a remnant. The survive the coming upheaval and unpleasantness...

Anonymous said...

It is not the Constitution that got us to this point, it was ignoring it that got us to this point. The Constitution was not meant to be something imposed on the people, but rather to limit the government. They ignored it, and we let them.

Paul X said...

"They ignored it, and we let them."

Thus, it did exactly what it was designed to do, by the Founding Lawyers.

Go ahead, make a Constitution that won't be ignored. BTW you won't be running the Convention; the Usual Suspects will be doing that. Good luck...

In the meantime, leave the Anarchists/Voluntaryists/Agorists alone. It's all we ask. If you don't, then it's just another case of "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss," and will be treated as exactly the same kind of threat as the old boss was.

TimeHasCome said...

Great article followed by great comments . I too have resigned myself to a very low profile quiet life waiting for something and I don't know what . I know that I am not alone there are millions doing the same . Reverend Graham said a storm is brewing and he is quite correct.