Some Early Lessons From The Pandemic

I’d like to begin by establishing that I am an example of something that there seems to be very few of at the moment: a COVID moderate.

•No, I don’t think it’s a hoax.
•No, I don’t think it’s a “plandemic”.
•No, I don’t think it’s “just the flu, bro”.
•No, I don’t think that Drs. Birx and Fauci are NWO operatives.
•No, I don’t think there’s any large-scale faking of numbers (outside of China).
•Yes, I think that, in the face of a disease outbreak caused by a previously-unknown virus that threatened to kill millions, it was reasonable to shut down until we got a better handle on things.
•Yes, I think that the shutdown and associated social distancing measures are primarily responsible for a much worse scenario failing to materialize.
•Yes, I think that we now do have a better handle on the crisis, in terms of our knowledge base about the virus, availability of the equipment we need to deal with it, and what the best policies to minimize it are.
•Yes, that means I think that May 1st was a good date to start cautiously lifting restrictions, starting in less-affected (primarily rural) areas.
•Yes, this probably sounds familiar to you. That’s because what I’m outlining is basically what the Trump approach to all of this has been.
•Yes, I think that Trump has done a good job with the crisis. Not perfect, but I don’t expect perfection. It’s easy for Monday morning quarterbacks to point out what he should have done differently weeks, months, or years later. Color me unimpressed. Every Monday morning quarterback equipped with 20/20 hindsight goggles is a genius, and is also completely useless.

So while much of the right seems determined to squander a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discredit globalism on weird conspiracy bullshit and whiny blackpilling, I prefer to try to stay level-headed about the present and rational when it comes to what current trends are indicating about the shape of future events. This last item is critical; it is often true that big and important events in history look in retrospect to have been presaged by smaller, earlier ones that few paid enough attention to or learned the right lessons from. For example, it seems clear in hindsight that the European uprisings of 1848 were precursors to the rise of communism, and that the “Bleeding Kansas” violence of the 1850s prefigured the American Civil War. I have the sense that we are seeing an event like this in the coronavirus pandemic; a sort of precursor or dry run for something else that is on the horizon in the coming years. Specifically, it seems increasingly unlikely that the vast political, cultural, religious, and demographic divides in our society will ever be solved through our current political system. All of those divides have been on very prominent display during the current crisis. Every fault line along which we have mostly-peaceably fractured during it will almost certainly also be among those that we will less-peaceably fracture along in the future. This makes the example of our current situation invaluable as an instructional tool. We should pay close attention to the lessons it teaches. It is likely that our ability to understand them will be tested under even more challenging conditions in the future.

If we start with the most “big picture” lesson*, it is this: Trouble will likely come unexpectedly, and will be distributed unevenly, in patterns that will be unpredictable at first. Even when some manner of trouble that you have been expecting shows up, the specifics of it are highly unlikely to go precisely the way you imagined them. There will be a lot of misinformation and rumors in circulation, especially early on in the course of it. Situations often change quickly. What was true a week ago may not be true now, and where trends pointed a week ago may not be where they point now. Make your best educated guesses based on trendlines, but be flexible in your thinking and as broadly prepared for a wide range of possibilities as you can be.

This unevenness of any potential happening is one point that must be emphasized. During the pandemic, there have been some places where the hospitals became hell on Earth, and where doctors and nurses were pushed to their limits in trying to deal with it all. And yet there have been many places where the hospitals stayed quiet and there was so little going on that doctors and nurses were temporarily furloughed. In the accompanying economic disruption, there have been some places where everyday life has essentially come to a standstill, and others where it remained almost completely normal. This is likely to be the pattern in case of large-scale civil conflict, as well – there will be many eager “Boogaloo Boys” who end up sitting around and not ever firing a shot, because no significant amount of fighting will ever come anywhere near them. Some spotty supply disruptions aside, in many places, things will continue on more or less as ordinary, and the trouble will mostly seem very far away.

But again, that can change quickly. Early in the coronavirus crisis, it seemed like Seattle would be the epicenter of the event in the United States. But quite suddenly, New York City and its environs overtook, and then dwarfed it as the nexus of the disease. Perhaps in hindsight, all the signs of that occurring were there, but it was not predictable at the time, and it was indeed not predicted by much of anyone. In fact, the west coast, with its greater proximity, not to mention cultural and business ties, to East Asia, made it seem like a much more likely place for a truly awful outbreak of COVID-19. But it turned out that Los Angeles and San Francisco have not been too badly affected by the disease itself (as opposed to the economic damage caused by the response to it) at all, and that the Seattle flare-up abated just as New York’s case load exploded. The point is, again, that trouble will likely not show up where you expect it, when you expect it, and how you expect it.

Speaking of location, here is one important takeaway in this political season: the election for your local county sheriff may very well turn out to be the most important one affecting your everyday life. More important perhaps than even the one that determines who sits in the Oval Office. Yes, legislators, executives, and judges determine which laws are passed and remain in effect. But your sheriff decides which laws will be enforced, which gives him a de facto veto over all of them. This, by the way, is exactly what the founding fathers intended; it is the reason why the elected office of sheriff exists, and also why our elites have been pushing for a century now to have the authority once invested in elected sheriffs handed over to professionalized, unelected police departments that are effectively a part of the unaccountable permanent bureaucracy. The extra fail-safe that is represented by the elected local sheriff has been on display recently both when it comes to gun control and to unnecessarily-restrictive COVID lockdown measures, with the sheriffs taking the side of the people and stating outright that such laws will not be enforced under their watch. The lessons here are that you should live someplace where law enforcement falls under the authority of an elected sheriff instead of a bureaucratic police department, and you should take a very active interest in evaluating and campaigning for the right candidates.

A related point: from Texas comes a report of some Boogaloo Boys who showed up with their Hawaiian shirts and AR-15s to protect a local bar that had decided to reopen in defiance of lockdown orders. When the law arrived, however, they promptly surrendered and allowed themselves to be arrested. This, of course, made both them personally and the entire Boogaloo movement look like impotent fools who talk tough but fold like a cheap camera when push comes to shove. This delivers a disastrous message for both sides: it demoralizes Boogaloo Boys elsewhere, and it gives the law the impression that such surrender will always be the case, which may cause them to escalate into a confrontation that may not end the way they were expecting in the future, instead of de-escalating (as, to their credit, most police have done in these sorts of situations). I will leave the lessons that the police should take from this to them to determine, but as for other Boogaloo Boys, I offer two lessons from this incident. The first is: pick your battles wisely. Showing up ready to fight for our constitutional rights (for example, the Second Amendment protests in Virginia or the First Amendment protests against COVID-related church closures in Michigan) is a worthy endeavor. Showing up ready to fight for some dive bar in West Texas isn’t, which the Boog Boys there figured out when it came down to time to fight or give up – but which they should have thought about before they left the house. As a corollary, if you are fighting for something worthy, never back down. Don’t bring guns to a fight unless you are ready to use them if you must. If you don’t have steel in your heart, then you shouldn’t have steel in your hands.

Keep your head about you. This will be much more difficult to do in any crisis than you may think. Opinion may not break along previously-set lines, so be careful in choosing whose judgments you listen to. It’s likely that some formerly-sensible people who you once trusted will not be able to rationally handle what is happening, and will sink into bizarre conspiracies, unwise bravado, or despair. Many will see patterns that they were pre-primed to see in unfolding events instead of what is really there, and many will see the villains that they were expecting to see behind them, whether those people are really at fault for anything or not. Speaking of conspiracy theories, there will be a lot of them in circulation – and while most of them will prove to be false, you should not discount the possibility that a few may be true. Certainly, some guilty parties will be eager to cover up their misdeeds, and there will be some genuine villains who will use any crisis as an opportunity to do unscrupulous things that they already wished to but couldn’t find a pretext for. Be slow to judgment, and keep your own counsel about what is true and who is to blame. Don’t act on anything before you know that it’s true; until then, follow the advice that my great-grandmother once gave me: “Keep your eyes and ears open, and your mouth shut”. With all that said, you will find that most common people will behave far more sensibly than you might expect. Don’t dismiss your neighbors out of hand; don’t assume them to be fools who are incapable of engaging with reality or doing what will need to be done. Be ready to work with them.

Remember that in any meeting any crisis, there always will be false starts, stumbles, setbacks, and outright failures along the way. Don’t ever allow yourself to panic or sink into hopelessness because of them; experience tells us that both the worst-case scenario and the best-case scenario are unlikely to be what actually happens. Don’t lose your senses, don’t lose heart, don’t lose hope, and never stop learning and adapting to the situation around you.

 

(*I’ve decided here that it’s best to confine myself to the big picture instead of delving into the nuts and bolts of the world of “prepping” – telling you which guns to buy for The Boogaloo or what kind of emergency food to have stocked in your garage for when The Happening happens. That’s not to say that I will never touch on the subject at all, but there is no lack at all of wise and authoritative voices out there who have produced enormous amounts of content related to the subject, and I can’t see much point in simply repeating what they say.)

The Post-COVID Path

The great 20th century thinker Yogi Berra once noted that it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. There’s no doubt that current events will prove him right again, as he has been about so many things through the years.

For one thing, logic doesn’t help as much as one might hope in situations like this. It would, if humans were rational creatures, but we aren’t, and believing that we can be made so, even in the face of both overwhelming evidence of the right answers and of terrible consequences if we fail to pursue them, is a path to madness. For all of the faults of his signature work, Stefan Molyneux is right to point out that preferable behavior is not at all the same thing as preferred behavior – what people should do and what they will do often bear little resemblance to each other. There are a lot of factors that play into that; normalcy bias, self-interest, panic, shortsightedness, and outright stupidity being prominent among them. People are most often slow to learn and quick to forget even the most painful of lessons. As Rudyard Kipling put it:

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire

It’s not easy for non-fools to predict the actions of fools, other than maintaining the general sureness that they will stick their fingers back into the fire, one way or another. But exactly how? Hard to say. They seem endlessly creative in finding new and inventive ways to do it. That’s one of the things that makes governance, even (maybe especially) by the smartest of people, so difficult.

So I’m afraid I won’t be as much help as you might like in predicting what fools will do in response to all of this, other than repeating what I said in my last piece about our political, social, and economic elites (the biggest fools of all!) chomping at the bit to wabble their fingers back into the fire at the earliest opportunity by returning to the status quo as soon as the immediate crisis has abated.

But, dear reader, you and I both know that this is neither possible nor desirable. We also know that, other than guarding against the damage that it may cause to us, non-fools must disregard the thoughts and actions of fools completely – they should have no bearing whatsoever on what we think and do.

So let me offer a few not-particularly-organized observations about the current crisis, along with some ideas about how non-fools should proceed in the wake of it.

My first thought is that the age of snarky, ironic, cynical, “2edgy4u” internet nihilism – on both the left and the right – is over. That was an indulgence of the fat, dumb, and happy pre-COVID age. It inspires nobody to useful action, and is thus useless in more difficult and challenging times. Beyond that, there is no humility to it, and if there is anything that the past few years should have taught us all, it’s that none of us know for sure where things are going or how we are all going to get there. We can, and should, take the steps that seem right based on broad strokes of historical knowledge and an understanding of trend lines. But over the course of my adult life, I’ve seen all corners of society, regardless of political outlook, caught blindsided by Black Swan events like the end of the Cold War, 9/11, the Trump presidency, and now the coronavirus pandemic. Humility allows us, when these things happen, to say that we were wrong, that events outpaced us, that disruption snuck up on us while we were looking the other way. This in turn allows us to be flexible, to be ready to fight on all fronts, and to take every opportunity that presents itself to us, foreseen or unforeseen. We cannot afford to eternally be stuck lagging behind paradigm shifts, holding onto outdated pet theories or comfortable old strategies out of pride, and “fighting the last war” as the saying among soldiers goes.

Which brings me to my next point, which is that this is exactly the trap that the left seems to be stuck in right now. The sheer tone-deafness and staggering incompetence of their response to not only the pandemic, but the past five years or so worth of paradigm shift, has been astounding. The bottom line is that telling ourselves that they are an unbeatable political juggernaut is self-defeating, and, in light of recent events, just silly.

There are many sectors of the right that have come out looking none too good from this, either. Among them are the “it’s just a flu bros” who have tried to convince everyone to simply go back to normal at the height of a pandemic because we need the economy to chug along exactly as it had been before this – which is just another way of saying that you should risk ending up on a ventilator so that their 401k doesn’t tank. This, as much as anything else, shows them to be talkers and not doers. Yes, they’re all in for the revolution – until their investment portfolio goes down, and then suddenly we hear: “Woah, wait a darn minute there, fellas! Not my stockerinos! I didn’t sign on for this! Get back to your day jobs!”. Perhaps they really did think that changes as radical as they advocate would be possible without serious disruption. That would certainly explain the morose blackpilling about Trump that is so common among them – it might be they really did think it would all be as simple as voting for the “God-Emperor” and then sitting back in their comfy chairs in front of their big-screen TVs sipping Diet Coke and watching him send the House Democratic Caucus off to a penal colony in rusty chains. If so, they’re fools. And if not, they’re fair-weather radicals – all hot air, and nothing more. Either way, they’re useless. If they really can’t stand the discomfort that the COVID outbreak has caused them, then they’ll crumble like stale bread in the face of the far more serious disruptions that are likely to come. The current crisis very clearly illustrates that the time for talking is over and the time for doing is upon us. Or perhaps it is better to say that the time for only talking, and not taking substantive actions in the world is over. Now certainly, I plan to keep up the dialectic in this space – I have plenty more to say. But, as the great Dissident Right thinker Martin Lawrence once noted, “Shit just got real“. It is time for us to “get real” as well. Here I am not necessarily asking you to lead the revolution or come up with a plan to save the world. What I am saying is that it is time to start formulating and taking action on plans to detach yourselves and those around you as much as possible from a system that, in the pre-COVID world, we already knew was evil, but that post-COVID reality has shown us is far more fragile and unsustainable than most of us ever believed.

In fact, one casualty of this has been many people’s normalcy bias – the idea that there is an inevitability behind things staying the way they are forever. This is subtly but importantly different from the shattering of the “End of History” illusion that took place on 9/11. Yes, 9/11 showed us that the outside world was still a violent place, and that we were not immune to the effects of that. But at no point did it call the fundamental stability of our system and our way of life as a whole into question. There was a call to war, but nobody saw any need to re-evaluate any of the underlying arrangements on which our society operated. Of course, the elites who profit off of those arrangements in terms of money and power will not want any of them re-evaluated now, either. But a sudden shock – the revelation that those arrangements are unable to protect us from demons like plague outbreaks that we thought we’d left in the distant past – has revealed the fragility (and, indeed, unsustainability) of them to the great mass of common people. Modernity has failed to keep its side of the bargain. This is a far more significant broken illusion. An unthinkable possibility has become reality, and this in turn makes all unthinkable possibilities seem far more thinkable. The ways in which this can benefit dissenters should be obvious.

And so, dear reader, I challenge you: It is time for you – for us all – to do something. Perhaps you can save the world. If so, I hope you do. But if you can just save the people around you by becoming a contributing member of a sane, stable, shock-resistant, and sustainable community, then you will have done a great service. Here is where I believe you should start.

The first thing you should do is to get out of the big cities, which history shows us are deathtraps in times of disruption. Here, a lot of ignoring of fools will be necessary on your part. First, you’ll have to ignore the leftist press and academia, which is already trying to gaslight the public into thinking that the coronavirus pandemic is a particular problem of the rural south instead of the big coastal cities like New York, a bit of ludicrous wishful thinking that a moment’s glance at actual data disproves. Second, you’ll have to ignore the fools who will try to convince you that big cities are the safest places to be in times of disruption, based largely on some 20th century examples of tyrannical regimes disarming the peasants and then taking the fruits of their labor by force in order to feed the cities. There are a few key fallacies involved in this thinking.

First and perhaps most obvious is the fact that in the United States (as opposed to Cold War-era communist states), the countryside is armed to the teeth and the cities are not. The late 20th and early 21st centuries provide no lack of examples of what happens when a traditional 2nd Generation army sets itself up in a nation’s big cities and tries to impose its rule on an armed and hostile countryside; as you are not fools, I need not tell you what the results of that have been. Second is the fact that the big cities are run by elites who hate you and want you dead, so turning to them for protection is plain suicide. Perhaps in a different era – say, in the East Germany of 1967 – you could have survived by keeping your head low and pretending to go along with the official ruling ideology. But we do not live in that age anymore – your skin is your uniform, and when trouble comes to the diverse big cities you will be targeted mercilessly for wearing it. Finally, and most subtly, there is the conflation of tyranny with disruption, or, put another way, of tyranny with chaos. These are very different phenomena*, and the realities of one will not be the realities of the other. This is important because at this juncture of history, we can observe that the Big Problem of the 20th century was tyranny, while the Big Problem of the 21st century is more likely to be chaos (with a lot of anarcho-tyranny to deal with along the way). Everything in the 21st century seems to be pointing in that direction. Its first decade began with a show of dysfunctionality on the part of the US government in its handling of the 2000 election, and then with 9/11, which, despite neoconservative seething about “Islamofascism”, was fundamentally an act of chaos and disruption. The wars that resulted from it in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, far from ending up in the westernization of Islamic lands under benevolent American imperial rule that we were promised, merely sunk them all into chaos. Chaos and disruption are the forces that pull at us most now. And while these can work to our advantage if we’re smart, they’ll destroy us if we act like fools, which would include staying in the places where they cause the most destruction.

There’s a reason why smart elites in functional societies (as opposed to what we have now) have always kept country estates they could retreat to when chaos and disruption reared their heads. Heed their wisdom.

If any of you think I’m directing scorn at the mainstream media for their counterfactual attempts to convince people that the cities are safer than the countryside, I say: on the contrary, I welcome it. The more fools there are who stay in the cities believing that they’ll be protected from the effects of disruption, the better things will be for the non-fools who know better. When trouble comes, we’ll have enough of our own to care for without being saddled with saving big-city fools from the entirely predictable consequences of their own poor decisions. Let them stay where they are. And while I’m giving out counterintuitive thanks, I’d like to offer some to all of the Social Justice Warriors who have worked tirelessly to throw the Dissident Right off of social media, to get them fired from their urban cubicle jobs, and to render them unemployable anywhere except in the rural sections of deep red states. I know that for those who fear being “hurled into the void”, as the Zman puts it, this seems like the worst fate imaginable. But nothing could be further from the truth. What we on the Dissident Right need to do now more than anything else is to disconnect from the corporate and consumerist, to stop spending too much time on the internet, to get out of the diverse, polluted, crime-ridden, disease-prone, and degenerate big cities, and to start making things real in genuine communities full of people like us.

I moved out of the big cities a couple of years ago, and I can tell you from firsthand experience: It’s pretty comfy out here in the void. So come home, white man. Get out of the cities as soon as you can. Take a massive pay cut if you have to. Change careers if you have to. Stock shelves on the night shift at Walmart if you have to. But get yourselves and the people you love out of the cities before it’s too late – if it isn’t already.

(Yes, I understand the desire to stay in the cities. I lived in Silicon Valley for 25 years. I loved it dearly, and I desperately miss the old Valley of the 90s and 00s. But that world is gone, and it’s never coming back; we tread that path but once. And if nothing else, I can’t imagine trying to get through this crisis in my tiny old city apartment instead of my cottage with its yard out back and a hayfield out front.)

This ties in with another consequence of the pandemic that I’m already beginning to see. Of course, the effect it has had on the public perception of globalism goes without saying, but what I am also encountering is the first flowering of a new resurgence of regionalism. This is very different than what I saw after 9/11. In those days, the hearts of the entire nation poured out with love and sympathy for New York City and Washington, DC. Now, with New York City as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, the near-universal sentiment I hear is: “To hell with them. Nothing good comes from that place anyway”. This is a troubling portent for nationalists, because it may mean that it’s getting to be too late for nationalism, if you mean it in the “From Detroit down to Houston, and New York to LA” sense. Eventually, we may all have to choose something smaller-scale to transfer our primary loyalty to. It’s not too early for each of us to start thinking about what exactly that might be.

I’d suggest you begin with something very local. This weekend, I knocked on my neighbor’s door and asked whether everybody there was okay and if they needed anything. They were fine, I’m happy to say, but a bond of mutual care was established in that moment which may help me out very much someday. I urge you to consider doing something similar.

With that said, let me offer some observations on the larger situation, and the likely consequences of the pandemic.

Behaviors will begin to change at all levels, from the governmental and corporate to the individual (though whether they will change as much as they should is an open question). One of the biggest long-term effects of all of this is that the government will likely no longer be able to afford a lot of nice-but-unnecessary things that it previously could. A sensible elite class would, in this situation, drastically downsize the empire and the military-industrial complex, and strictly limit social services to the truly needy, and then only to citizens of the republic. No, I’m not counting on that being what our elites decide is “necessary”, either. But something is going to end up having to give, now sooner rather than later, and the day is no longer so very distant when they will be dragged kicking and screaming into reality. For example, the days of blowing half a trillion on a fighter jet that doesn’t work, and doesn’t have a realistic mission even if it did, are very quickly drawing to a close. Lots of other outdated or noncritical things will have to go, too. Our elites will fight tooth and nail to keep them, but our journey to the point where they just won’t be able to anymore has been drastically accelerated.

Some other behaviors that are going to have to change include the populace being in debt up to their eyeballs and businesses being leveraged to the hilt. The cheap credit carnival was always just a sideshow of Clown World, but now, fun as it was while it lasted, it must be closed – the Fire Marshals of the Copybook Headings, having discovered that the damn thing nearly burned down ten years ago and is now on the verge of doing so again, have condemned it, and only a fool would ignore their posted warnings. Post-COVID, having nothing in the kitty for a rainy day other than a maxed-out credit card just seems suicidal. For corporations, beyond the obvious madness of rendering their business model completely and utterly dependent on an incompetent, corrupt, dishonest, unaccountable foreign dictatorship in order to function**, another behavior that is overdue for change is supply chains running at “just in time” efficiency. While maximum efficiency is appealing to penny-shavers, it leaves no slack in the system to absorb shocks of the kind we thought we were invulnerable to back in pre-COVID December. The smart will see the need to get more local, more sensible, and more resilient.

On an individual level, we are bound to see the same normalization of prepper culture in the post-COVID world that we saw with civilian tactical culture in the post-9/11 world. The prepper stash will be the new AR-15; only “doomers and extremists” wanted one before the crisis, but everyone will want one after it. There’s a great business opportunity in that for people more adept at such things than I am.

I will restrain myself from giving you much advice with prepping here, as there is no lack at all of smart, qualified people ready to offer thoughtful suggestions for free over the internet or in books. Instead, I will limit myself to two suggestions. First, you need not go overboard with prepping – an “end of the world” stash that fills every spare inch of your house is probably unnecessary. But you’d be surprised how well a two to three month supply of essentials fits into a relatively compact space. That said, my second suggestion is that if your living arrangements are such that even this modest level of preparation is impossible, move.

This of course brings up the question of “The Boogaloo“, and whether all of this makes such a thing more likely or less likely. This is a matter that I must admit remains unclear in these early days of the post-COVID world. It could be that people have had their fill of disruption and privation for a while, reducing the chances of it. Or the forces that tear us apart could be accelerated, increasing them. Either way, you should make yourself ready. As for the effects on the political spectrum, at the moment they are a Rorschach test in which virtually everyone is seeing what their preconceived biases have conditioned them to see. Trust none of that, even among your own perceptions. Even the effects on the great issue of our day, mass Third World immigration, are uncertain, though there is some reason to be hopeful – it is likely that a poorer West that is less able to spend lavishly on social programs for the diverse, combined with a much-reduced ability for anyone to travel internationally, could slow it down considerably. We’ll see.

It is always true that the only certain thing in life is change, and thus the only thing that I can definitely promise you is that the post-COVID world will be different from the pre-COVID one. I’ve kept my predictions modest for a reason (there’s that humility creeping in again), but even at that, they could all be completely wrong. Take them under advisement, but of course, keep your own counsel about how you will move forward.

Just make sure to stay off the path of fools. It will be crowded enough without you.

 

(*Though of course, tyranny and chaos are not necessarily mutually exclusive, as Sam Francis’s insight on the phenomenon of anarcho-tyranny shows. But again, anarcho-tyranny is functionally unenforceable on a heavily-armed countryside, even while it is remains near-infinitely enforceable in cities. And it should not be forgotten that both chaos and anarcho-tyranny present an enormous opportunity for those who are able to offer a better alternative.)

(**One other minor casualty of this will be the bizarre strain of [largely Boomer-driven] pro-China xenophilia that has been a thread within the Dissident Right since the early Moldbug era. With apologies to the likes of Spandrell, Nick Land, John Derbyshire, and Fred Reed, the bloom is off the China rose, forever. This should also [again, should, not necessarily will] sweep out the last vestiges of free-trade libertarianism, and indeed all of the “GDP uber alles”, homo economicus thinking that has dominated much of the mainstream right since the days of Gordon Gecko. Those sorts of pre-COVID thinking are now on the ash heap with the cremated remains of a few hundred thousand former residents of Wuhan. Of course, our elites from all factions will still do everything they can to convince you that your primary foreign enemy is Christian Russia instead of Communist China, but anyone still listening to our elites on matters like this after the hunt for Iraqi WMDs came up empty-handed needs their head examined.)

Post-COVID Thinking

Every Saturday evening out here in the mountains of southern Appalachia, the talk radio station that broadcasts from the nearest small city (it comes in pretty clear at night; not so much during the daytime) plays a rerun of an old Art Bell show from the 90s or early 00s. This past weekend, it was a replay of a broadcast from 1996, in which the topic was the Militia movement of the time. I was in my early 20s when it aired originally, so those times are hardly unexplored territory for me (though I will admit that my memories of 1996 are mostly a haze of Soundgarden, Animaniacs, Quake LAN parties, Sailor Moon, and not-very-successful attempts to woo the Japanese exchange students at my college). And yet, I found myself astounded at just how alien (no pun intended) the thinking expressed by both the host and the callers in those pre-9/11*, pre-alternative media days seemed. The difference in attitudes between then and now couldn’t possibly be more striking, especially in the degree to which people trusted the government, mainstream media, and civil institutions more than we do today. Yes, they insisted, the government may have been hiding a crashed UFO or two from us, but by God, we still had the Constitution! If the legislature passed an unjust law or the security services under the Executive branch became abusive, certainly the courts would sort it out justly and fairly, and if lower courts didn’t, there’s no doubt that the high-minded jurists of the Supreme Court would! And sure, the press (it was unnecessary to say “mainstream press”, because in 1996 there was essentially no other kind) might be a little left-leaning in their private thoughts, but they wouldn’t just outright lie to the public – if it was in the New York Times, or if Dan Rather said it on the CBS Evening News, then it had to be true! Thus, even on a program which based itself (by the standards of its time) on peering beyond the veil to find the hidden truths out there somewhere, the official government/media narrative of events like the atrocities at Waco and Ruby Ridge was simply assumed to be substantially true. And while they were, of course, imperfect and sometimes made mistakes in judgment, the basic goodness, competence, and honesty of all of the institutions were beyond question by serious people.

As I sat there incredulously listening to this piece of the not-too-distant past, I found myself coming to the understanding that what I was hearing was separated from modern thinking by not just one big paradigm shift, but by several of them**. It was from a time before the rise of the Ron Paul-style libertarianism which had its great moment during the Bush-era wars of the 00s, before the age of Neoreaction and the Alt-Right which followed in the ’10s, and before the era of MAGA and the Dissident Right (not to mention the Social Justice Warrior movement) that forms our modern sociopolitical landscape.

And of course, it is also from the era before the Great Pandemic of 2020. The fact that this will most certainly be another great a paradigm shift was driven home to me when I was watching a YouTube video by the author and Iraq/Afghanistan veteran Richard C. Meyer, in which he accused the publishing industry of being stuck in what he termed “pre-COVID thinking” – a coinage that may seem odd as we all quite suddenly try to adjust to this crisis, but that encapsulates a concept that is crucial at this historical moment. It is certainly one with particular relevance to us as dissidents. It is our responsibility to always be ahead of the curve, and as such, it is not too early for us to begin to think of what post-COVID thinking may entail. Doing so will provide us with a chance to ride the wave of disruption that has washed over us, instead of being swamped by it, as many have been and will be.

First, let us be clear on one thing: our society’s political, social, and economic elites want us to learn nothing from this. Those who believe that this crisis will change elite behavior in any appreciable (much less sane) way – that it will shock them out of their pattern of greedy, shortsighted, and ultimately self-destructive actions – are fooling themselves. Let’s not forget that 9/11 was going to “change everything” too; and it did for a couple of years, until the initial burst of emotion surrounding it faded. In the long term, however, other than using it as an excuse to help themselves to a few new tools of power, it didn’t change their behavior one bit. The pandemic won’t, either. Recall that ten years after 9/11, we had twice as many Muslim immigrants in this country as we had the day before it. Ten years from now, if our elites have anything to say about it, we’ll be doing twice as much manufacturing in China*** as we did before this pandemic hit. That’s just the way it goes in corrupt, declining civilizations which find themselves saddled with a self-absorbed, out-of-touch elite class running things.

No, what our elites want more than anything right now is for things to quickly get back to “normal” – defined by them as endless masses of urbanized cubicle drones working long hours (at least, until their H-1B replacements get approved) to pay off the mountains of cheap-credit debt they’ve piled up in order to pay for useless junk churned out of Chinese slave-labor factories. That was the pre-COVID model. And our elites liked it. A lot. So they’ll do everything they can to memory-hole this whole event – to put it in the category of “Hey, remember that crazy time when…”, as if it was no more consequential than Disco Demolition Night. That’s what they did with uncomfortable events like the LA riots of 1992, and ultimately even with 9/11, which despite all the weepy exhortations to “Never Forget” it, has drifted so far out of the public consciousness that even the burgeoning field of 00s nostalgia ignores it in favor of misty memories of GTA: Vice City on the Playstation 2.

But here in the modern era, in which we are (rightfully) far less trusting of our elites and the institutions they serve than we were back in 1996, we can say that just because they are unlikely to learn much from this disaster, that doesn’t mean that we can’t.

In the weeks and months immediately following the attacks, almost nobody was able to form a clear picture of what Post-9/11 Thinking would look like in the long term. We couldn’t see the chain of events that would follow in its wake, nor what the reactions of different parties would be to it. Some of what happened ended up being the exact opposite of what conventional wisdom predicted. It was thought that we would grow more cohesive and unified as a nation, but the political (and in many ways, regional) divide has, over the intervening twenty years, become deeper and wider than ever. It was thought that a “rally ’round the flag” effect would make the government more trusted, but (largely thanks to the rise of internet-based alternative media) people believe in it less than ever, with even the most flag-waving of conservatives decrying the “Deep State” (now there was a radical, out-of-the-mainstream term in 1996!) and demanding that a strong leader “drain the swamp”. It was thought that the aftermath of 9/11 would cement the economic and military supremacy of the Imperium Americanum, but even before the pandemic appeared, two lost Middle East wars and the economic crisis of 2008 had weakened it to the point of leaving many doubting its viability.

Among the many signs of post-9/11, post-alternative media change have been some of the very things that Art Bell and his callers spoke about on that radio show. A mistrust of the government and the institutions, and a desire to become less dependent on them, that seemed like fringe lunacy even to a program based on stories of Bigfoot, extraterrestrials, and secret projects at Area 51 no longer does; the unthinkably radical has become thinkably normal. In 1996, if the Attorney General and the New York Times said that the Militias were simply a bunch of criminals (and worse – racists!), and that “survivalists” were merely paranoid kooks, then that’s what they were. But things are very different now. The fringe of Militia members and survivalists has morphed into modern civilian tactical culture – which simply did not exist in those long-gone days. In 1994, a nationwide Assault Weapons Ban could be enacted because even among gun owners, few owned or wanted that class of firearm. But today the AR-15, which in those days was seen as the weapon of radical loons and was effectively banned by that now-expired law, is – by far – the best-selling rifle in America. The idea of normal people taking tactical shooting courses, now quite common, would then have been thought crazy. Even something as now-innocuous as a 5.11 store in the neighborhood strip mall would have been seen as puzzling in the 90s (“An upscale survivalist gear store? Why?”). Events have moved them far off the fringes that they used to occupy.

The bottom line is this: Big, paradigm-shifting events, of which the COVID pandemic is the latest, change the culture in ways that our elites increasingly cannot see, cannot understand, cannot dissuade us from, and cannot stop from happening. So all of us should cease caring what they think about it and how they will respond to it, and start formulating our own thoughts and responses. This will, of course, be a tentative, ongoing process, and may lead us down a few blind alleys along the way. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start along the path.

And so I say to all who may read this is that our most important task now is to consider one central question: What does post-COVID thinking look like? What lessons should we take from this, regardless of what the elites may think or do? How far will all of the pre-COVID paradigms shift, where will they shift, and how can we place ourselves ahead of that curve? Most importantly, what concrete actions should we take (as opposed to only talking and not also acting – which is perhaps the most expired of all pre-COVID plans) in order to place ourselves and those like us in a position to thrive in the post-COVID world?

In the coming days, I will offer my own thoughts on these issues, but for now I believe it is enough to urge everyone on the Dissident Right to start to engage them. This is the most important conversation we can be having right now. Any individual, any group, any philosophy, any political position, or any movement stuck in pre-COVID thinking is now irrelevant, because the post-COVID world, for better or worse, is what lies ahead.

 

(*It was even a few months before the Atlanta Olympic bombing/Richard Jewell debacle, which turned out to be quite a harbinger of things to come.)

(**Oswald Spengler noted that, as civilizations go into the final stages of disintegration, the pace of events seems to accelerate, meaning it can go through a number of paradigm shifts that one might have taken decades or centuries in only a relatively short period of years.)

(***At most, this may convince them to start moving their sweatshops out of China and across the border into Vietnam, or perhaps to another poverty-stricken Third World hellhole with a slightly less incompetent [but no less corrupt and oppressive] government. But as for impressing upon them the point that becoming economically dependent on faraway dictatorships in order to save a few pennies here and there is a bad idea, it won’t.)

Il Ritorno

As I write these words, the Great Pandemic of 2020 rages across the world. Whether it will have lasting consequence or will come and go like many events that seemed important at the time remains to be seen. But for me, it represents a nexus in my life, and the right time to return to all of you after two years away. I don’t normally like making my writing too personal. Our self-indulgent age is filled with people who will bend your ear with boring tales of their everyday lives, and – worst of all – excruciatingly detailed analyses of how it all made them feel. I swear that I will afflict no such thing upon you. But you do deserve some explanation of where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing these past two years, so that is what I will give you. The short version is that I have been on a long and difficult journey, and now that I am finally settled, I find that my life is nothing like what it was before I began it. That journey disrupted everything, including my writing, but I do now finally have the chance to return to it… and to you. Here is the story of where I have been in the meantime.

By the summer of 2017, it had become apparent that my 25 years of living in California could not continue much longer. My reasons for that are about the same as the rest of those who have been a part of the great middle class exodus out of the state: ever-higher taxes, increasingly tyrannical laws, a quality of life that kept getting worse every day while expenses skyrocketed, more crime, a vague feeling that something very bad was coming and that this would be a very bad place to be when it did. When I moved to California in the mid 90s, I was barely into adulthood and it was a dreamland of unimaginable beauty and opportunity. I loved it more than any of you can imagine. For years, I swore that the fools and tyrants who held the reins of power in the place would never drive me out. But even the most grand and beautiful of ships can be driven onto the rocks, and as it sinks, there comes a point when one most decide whether to get on a lifeboat or go down with it. I chose to jump ship while I still could. It broke my heart, but it was time to go.

And so, two days before that Christmas, in a small car loaded with my meager possessions, I crossed the Nevada line at Primm, and my California years came to an end.

Initially, while I was trying to figure out what I would be doing with the next phase of my life, I went to stay with my father in the Winterlands, far in the north, where brutal cold rules half the year. I found that the long years in California had made me soft, and adjusting to it was difficult. Beyond this, my relationship with my father has been strained even in the best of times, which made things even more difficult. My parents were divorced when I was a child, and my mother settled in the Summerlands, where it’s mild in the winter months. As soon as I had settled in up north, I found a pretext, and headed south to visit her for a couple of weeks. On the way, I accepted a standing invitation to visit from friends in southern Appalachia. It was the first time I had ever been there. I found the land to be beautiful and placid, and the people gracious and upstanding. It made an impression. Once in the Summerlands, I found my mother to be in good spirits and good health. I passed a couple of weeks with her and headed back to the Winterlands with a promise to return soon. Trapped inside by cold and snow, I began looking into what relocating permanently to southern Appalachia might entail.

In early spring, I repeated my trip. My mother was still in good spirits, but had developed a cough that I attributed to allergies. A week or two after I had returned to the Winterlands, she called and told me she had been diagnosed with COPD. In late April, she called again, calmly telling me that the diagnosis had been updated to lung cancer. She had smoked for 40 years, and quit a few years before, but it seemed the damage was done. I hurried down to see her, and once I was there she asked me to stay as her full-time caretaker. I agreed, and after a quick round-trip back up to the Winterlands in late May to load up with enough of my things to get by during a long-term stay, I settled in with her.

She got weaker very quickly. I found myself holding onto the hope that she would make it to Christmas. She died during the first weekend in August.

With her gone, and my name not on the lease, the sleazy management company that owned her apartment complex ordered me out by the end of the month. Before she died, she made me swear that her possessions wouldn’t end up in the trash, which is what property management companies do with the contents of abandoned or foreclosed apartments. I found myself with three weeks to get rid of her lifetime’s worth of collected stuff any way I could. That didn’t really leave me with enough time to make any money off it. I agreed to let a reseller haul it away for free, just so I could keep my word to her. He showed up with a 26 foot box truck, and it took five days for three people to get it all packed up and hauled away. Included with their take were collections of trinkets it took her years to accumulate, and many more items that were sentimental to me from my childhood. I had no way to get them back to the Winterlands and noplace to put them when I got there. All my car would carry was the stuff I had brought with me and a box full of family papers, old photographs, and legal documents. And so, on the first of September, that’s what I left the Summerlands with on my way back north.

My mother had not, however, died penniless. Once all of her affairs were settled, I inherited from her an amount of money that, while not “never work another day in your life” money, would be more than enough to settle someplace with a low cost of living, work as much as I cared to, and not have to worry about getting by.

Someplace like southern Appalachia.

By the beginning of the next year, things began coming together for a relocation there. The “work as much as I cared to” matter found a solution. I started looking for a place to live convenient both to that and to my fiends, and by May, I had signed a lease on a small cottage at the edge of the county seat – a town of 15,000 or so a half hour from both the highway and the mountains, an hour from the nearest small cities, and several hundred miles away from the nearest big cities. Mine is the last block to have streetlights on it – a right turn on the main road puts one out in quite literal cow country very quickly. Meanwhile, a turn to the left and a few minutes’ drive affords access to everything one might need – shops, restaurants, and services. The town punches well above its weight in these areas because, like many such places surrounded by large swaths of countryside, it supports the needs not only of its own residents, but of those who come from the surrounding rural areas “into town” for all the things they might need. I had worried that fast, reliable internet service would be a problem here, but it isn’t. Amazon deliveries take a day or so longer than I was used to in California, and spotty radio reception in the mountains led me to purchase a SiriusXM subscription, but beyond that I found I was not wanting for any modern convenience at all.

For the exact same amount of money I had been paying for renting a single room in California, my cottage features a bedroom twice its size, with my own small kitchen, living room, workspace, porch, two large closets, and a parking space. And it’s all mine.

I got my license changed over. Then I bought a bunch of guns I couldn’t have in California. I got a concealed carry permit, which was impossible where I lived in California but is easy here. I filled some of the generous extra space in the cottage’s closets with emergency supplies – water, canned food, first aid kits, ammunition, batteries, and other necessities. Perhaps not as much as a serious prepper would have, but far more than I ever could have had in California. I started going to the shooting range a lot – something I found that I genuinely quite enjoy. I made friends with my neighbors and their dogs. Fall passed, then a mild winter. I explored my new home – driving, walking, and flying a quadcopter drone that I bought myself for Christmas. Things began to feel comfortable.

What happened next I need not tell you. And I should hope it goes without saying that I’m very glad that it happened when I was here and not in big-city California.

And now, a couple of years older, settled into a new life in a new place, and having been through a journey of great hardship (and some joy too), I return to you.

A few things will change in this space. Among them will be some of the content I plan to post here. Much of it will be along the same lines that you’ve come to expect over the years. But some of it will delve into the more practical in terms of the actions that we should all be undertaking as we go forward. Yes, real actions. One place – perhaps the most important – where I’ve found myself diverging from the rest of the dissident right is that I’ve increasingly come to understand that the time for talking is over. Or, perhaps it’s better to say, the time for only talking is over. It’s okay to philosophize, and I will continue to do that here. But I’ve grown tired of what my friend Tony Martell has called “know-it-all do-nothings” – the sort of people whose routine was fresh in 2016, but has gotten stale, useless, and increasingly annoying as time has gone by. Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear knows how bad things are. Continuing to complain about it, at this point, just comes across as mopey, impotent whining. Yes, we all know that things are bad and likely to get worse. So what do we do now? Here, an answer that will save the world is too much to ask of anyone (and probably fantasy anyway). But what you can do to help yourselves, your families, and your communities, even on the smallest of scales, is more useful than all the snarky blackpilling that the internet can muster. So I will share with you ideas from my own journey, wisdom I have learned from others, and ideas for the future.

I plan to keep up my pre-2017 pace of one or two articles a month. I know that’s a lot less than other writers, but I put a lot of care and thought into what I say, and it often takes me a while to figure out how to say it just right. But – with any luck, at least – I won’t be disappearing for so long a period ever again. My next article should be posted very shortly, so check in again in the next couple of days.

And thank you for sticking with me.

(P.S. Another thing that has changed is my email address. In the future, please use antidem@protonmail.com)

A Heritage Lost

I spent most of last week with my old friend Psycho Dish, down at his parents’ house in the eastern suburbs of Philadelphia, just across the New Jersey state line. His dad passed away a couple of weeks before Christmas, at 86 years old. He’d had a heart attack in the middle of November, and everyone thought he’d never leave the hospital alive, but he fought his way back to the point that the doctors had agreed to let him leave. As they discharged him, they cautioned the family that he could pass at any time, and they were letting him go so he could have perhaps a few more weeks with them during the holidays and die at home, which at that point was all that he wanted. And a month later, after a chance to enjoy some last simple pleasures and say his proper goodbyes to everyone, that’s what he did.

His wife had already been gone a few years and all of his children had households of their own, so the plan on this first warm week of spring was that all of the children, along with a few spouses and older grandchildren, were to come together at the house to clear it out before it got professionally cleaned and then sold. Pads of Post-It notes of various colors were given to all the family members, who were to use them to tag whatever items they wanted. Anything left unclaimed after the week was over would be offered to the Salvation Army, and anything that they wouldn’t take would be left for the cleaners to dispose of. I was the only one there not related by blood or marriage, but it was a big task and any help was welcome. Family members showed up in clusters over the first couple of days of the week. We got there in the second wave, after a fair amount of stuff had already been claimed, though fortunately nothing that Psycho Dish really had his eye on. After all the requisite greetings (and in my case, introductions) were over, Psycho Dish took the pad of blue Post-Its that had been set aside for him and started a room-by-room sweep, tagging everything he intended to take with him. I was sent to the master bedroom and given the task of taking boxes down from the shelves from the closet – many of which had been up there for as long as anyone could remember – and making an inventory of what was in them.

It’s amazing how much someone accumulates over the course of a long life, and every little thing tells a piece of their story. I had only met Psycho Dish’s dad a couple of times before he passed, but, in a sense, I got to know him better during that week than I ever had while he was living.

The first thing that had to be done was clearing the closet of all of his clothes. I had only just started when I came across an important part of his story – his fire department uniforms. He had been an electrical engineer by trade, but when he moved to what was then a small but rapidly-growing suburban town in the mid-1950s, he discovered that it had no fire department, or really any emergency services at all beyond a handful of bored police officers. He could have done what so many who move to small towns nowadays do – agitate for taxes to be raised and for the government to solve the problem for him. Instead, he decided that he was going to be a part of the solution himself. He gathered a group of like-minded men from around the town, and together they founded a volunteer fire department. The first fire station was an old barn, and the first fire engine a used model bought from Philadelphia and paid for mostly with donations from the townspeople. All of the volunteers had full-time jobs, but they all dedicated tremendous amounts of their free time toward the benefit of their neighbors and their community. He had served in the department for 50 years, until advanced age meant he could no longer do so, and continued being involved with them, showing up in his Class A’s to all of their ceremonial events, to the day he died.

I called Psycho Dish’s sister Janet, who was executrix of the will, into the bedroom and asked her what to do with them. After a pause, she replied: “I’ll call the department and see if they want them back. Maybe they can do something with them.”

Leaving the uniforms in place, I continued taking clothes out of the closet, pulling them off of their hangers and bagging them in big white trash bags for their trip to the Salvation Army. It wasn’t long, however, before I found another item that deserved a better fate. It was a windbreaker, covered in patches with the names, designations, and images of perhaps a couple of dozen Navy ships. Here too was a part of his story. He had been born in the California of Steinbeck novels during the depths of the Great Depression, worked his way through high school while war raged across the sea, maintained impeccable grades, ended up with a full-ride scholarship to UC Berkeley’s engineering school, and graduated with the Class of ’55. It was the height of the Cold War, and smart engineers were greatly in demand by the defense industry. RCA hired him straight out of college and moved him to a research facility near the Philadelphia Navy Yards. He worked on radio transmitters and radars for a few years, but his crowning achievement was his work on the AEGIS system, a tightly integrated radar and weapons package that makes the modern warships that have it basically invulnerable to the kind of aerial attacks that devastated the WWII Navy. So critical was his work on the project that whenever a newly-built AEGIS ship went out for sea trials, he would be among the civilian engineers brought aboard to troubleshoot problems. Each patch was a gift from the captain of the ship he had sailed with, and there were a lot of them there. While radicalism and protest overtook his alma mater, he remained a moderate Kennedy Democrat, holding on to the mindset of an age in which patriotism was assumed to cut across party lines. There was never any question for him that helping to defend his country by working for the Military-Industrial Complex was morally right. As far as he was concerned, that’s just what any patriotic American would do.

I found Psycho Dish and handed the jacket to him. He gave it a sad look, then told me to put it aside and we’d figure out what to do with it later. With that done, I started hauling bags of clothes out to the car for their trip to the donation bin. I’d only gotten a couple of them loaded before Psycho Dish found me in the bedroom and told me he’d rounded up some help.

This came in the form of his son, who had just shown up. He lived full-time with his Aunt Janet, but hadn’t arrived with her. He’d held off a couple of days and ended up driving down with his cousin Brie, who had to wait until her week of Spring Break started before she could join us. He wasn’t in college himself, though, nor was he doing much of anything else with his life. One Christmas when he was 10 or 11, Psycho Dish had given him a Pokémon game and a pack of Magic: The Gathering cards, and that had pretty much sealed his fate. Now he was 23, had washed out of college permanently after multiple tries, and had recently quit the latest in a series of low-paying food service jobs flipping burgers or making cappuccino. It wasn’t that he didn’t have the intelligence to make more of himself; he just didn’t have the ambition for it. What he made was enough to pay the pittance rent his aunt asked of him, buy whatever cheap food he needed to supplement what he ate at work, and buy Pokémon DLC or Magic cards – which was all he really asked for in life. Hanging from a strap around his neck was a plastic case with a sticker of a female anime character on it. In the spirit of polite small talk, I asked him what it was.

“It’s my Switch!”

A young woman’s voice interjected loudly, “He never put the damn thing down once the whole trip!” It was Brie, who was looking through a bookshelf in the hallway just beyond the bedroom door. I hadn’t met her before, but with her short, bright green hair and large nose ring, she made quite a first impression. More ambitious than him, she was in the final semester of a Women’s Studies degree at a school in Massachusetts.

Shaking her head slightly as she stared at the bookshelf, she continued, “Not even when I stopped for a piss break.”

Wanting the conversation to go in a different direction, I pointed at the sticker on the case and asked, “Who’s that?”

“That’s Cynthia! She’s my waifu!”

“Your waifu?”

“Yeah, she’s the best Pokémon master! Nobody can beat her!”

Brie broke back into the conversation in a tone of annoyance mixed with exasperation. “Waifus aren’t real, and they’re a totally unrealistic vision of womanhood!”

“She’s real enough for me” he grumbled, with a manner that made me sure this wasn’t the first time they’d had that conversation.

And in fact, she was real enough for him. Neither Psycho Dish nor anyone else in the family could find any evidence that he’d ever been on a date or kissed a girl or even had a crush on a female of the 3D variety. It wasn’t that he was fat or ugly. Psycho Dish had married and divorced a Chinese girl, and his son was the sole lasting product of their union. Biracial children often look very much one race or very much the other, and he bore the unmistakable features of his mother’s East Asian side of the family. He grew up to be thin, a bit slight, and not very tall, but by no means would he be unattractive to the opposite sex. And he wasn’t gay, either – he’d made that clear enough through his objections a few years earlier when his mother got caught up in the zeitgeist of the age and made a clumsy attempt at trannying him up for attention – one that fortunately came late enough in his development that he was able to successfully resist it. No, it was simply that, as with school and work, he couldn’t find a way to get interested enough in women, or anything other than his games, to seriously pursue them.

For a fleeting second, I wondered how many plastic water bottles he had gone through in his life and what a blood test might reveal about his testosterone levels, but then turned my mind back to the task at hand. I had him take a couple of the smaller bags of clothes out to the car, then gave charge of him back to his father and drove off to make the donation on my own.

When I returned to the house, I spotted a man and woman coming back down the driveway toward me, having apparently just talked to Janet, who was still standing by the front door.

“Who were they?”, I asked.

In an almost-disgusted tone, she answered “Flippers.”

“Huh?”

“House flippers, like you see on TV. They just bought a house down the street and they figured out what we were doing here somehow. I guess it’s their business to know things like that. Anyhow, they made me an offer on the house. It’s lowball, but they said they’ll take it as-is, which would save us a lot of trouble. They said they could make it into a lovely little starter home for a young couple.”

She took a long look back into the living room before continuing.

“A starter home? My dad lived in this house 60 years. He raised four kids here. He carried his bride through the front door and they stayed here till the day she died, right in that bedroom you’re cleaning, and then to the day he died here on the front porch. Whatever happened to moving into a place, making it your own, getting to know your neighbors, becoming a part of your community? If I sell it to them, they’ll flip it, then five years from now whoever buys it will flip it to someone else, and they’ll flip it to someone else a few years after that. Nobody puts down roots anymore. Nobody takes pride in where they are. They just wait for the day when they can flip what they’ve got and buy a bigger house with a bigger garage where they can park a bigger car.”

She took a breath, then in a resigned tone said, “Well, I told them I’d think about their offer, and I will.”

Saying nothing else, she went inside, and I followed close behind.

Back in the bedroom, I started taking boxes down from the top shelves in the now much-cleaner closet. The first box, a small one, contained his and his wife’s passports, and a couple of envelopes full of assorted foreign currency. He’d built a fine career with RCA’s defense division, but after the Cold War ended and contracts started drying up during the Clinton years, they’d offered him a pension buyout and he’d retired a few years early. It wasn’t quite as much as one might think, but through some careful investing, he’d managed to build it into a healthy retirement fund. For almost 20 years afterward, until his wife got her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, they’d lived the American Dream in its golden years – doting on grandchildren, gardening, dance classes (with an AARP discount, of course), and travel – all manner of “bucket list” places in summer, and ten-day all-expenses-paid cruises to warmer climes in winter. A quick look through the envelopes revealed Euros, pre-Euro currencies from maybe a half-dozen countries on the continent, Japanese yen, Hong Kong dollars, Turkish lira, Mexican pesos, Korean won, Thai baht, and Egyptian pounds, among others. They’d sure gotten around. Good for them. I put the box aside.

The next box revealed an Audubon Society guide to birds of the northeast and an older, but respectably prosumer-level, set of Nikon binoculars in a very nice nylon case. A fine choice for birdwatching… and also for assessing accuracy in the type of long-distance target shooting I’d lately been doing. When Psycho Dish came by the bedroom to see how the trip to the Salvation Army had gone, I handed him the case and in a quiet voice said, “Hey, do me a favor… tag this for me.” He gave me a sly smile, replied “Sure thing, dude”, and slapped a blue Post-It on it. Thus was I remunerated for my day’s labors.

The third box was indeed the charm, and this was where I began to strike paydirt. Here lay the first part of stamp and coin collections, both presumably quite valuable, and both claimed by Psycho Dish’s youngest sister Chrissy before her father’s body was cold. Box after box contained binders that held proof sets, foreign stamps, old half-dollars, canceled envelopes, and authentication papers. I decided to find Janet so I could report my success.

I discovered her in the kitchen, sitting at the table with Psycho Dish, his son, and Brie, in the midst of a conversation.

“…and I was able to talk them into taking the uniforms back, but they said they weren’t sure they’d ever be able to make use of them.” Janet said, as she stared down into a cup of coffee with a sad look, “In fact, they said that the mayor and the council have been thinking of replacing the volunteer department with a full-time professional one. The town has grown a lot over the years and, well… people don’t volunteer for things like that as much as they used to. I guess the pace of life is faster, and we all don’t have as much time for it anymore.”

“What about the awards?”, Psycho Dish asked.

The awards he had received over his lifetime covered an entire wall of the hallway – lacquered wood plaques with brass plates that had his name and one of his many accomplishments listed on them, mostly bearing the engraved shield of the fire department shield or the visage of a fireman, interspersed with a few from his church or the Navy or RCA. Each one was a monument to decades worth of patriotism, hard work, civic involvement, and community-mindedness.

“No, they’re too personalized”, Janet answered. “They can take his name tags off the uniforms pretty easy, but the awards are different. They couldn’t do anything with them.”

There was a short silence, which she broke without being asked.

“If there were only one or two, I’d take them myself. But there’s so many… I just don’t have the room.”

I knew – they all knew – that everyone there had been thinking the same thing. After an awkward moment, Brie offered them an honorable out.

“If nobody can think of anything else to do with them, I know someone who’d take them. One of my friends at school is a fine arts major. She mentioned once that people in her department look for old plaques like that in thrift stores all the time. They strip the brass off them and use the wood as display bases for art projects – y’know, like small sculptures and such. I mean, at least it’d be for education, and it’s better than…” she cast a dramatic glance at the kitchen garbage can “…the alternative.”

Janet suddenly looked a bit less burdened. “Well, your great-grandmother was an artist, and your grandfather was a great believer in education…”

If anyone was going to object, they would have then. None of them did. I said nothing, as I was not a member of the family and it was not my place to. But my own experiences in graduate school meant that I knew what had been coming from fine arts departments lately. I could not restrain myself from imagining an award presented in recognition of long and hazardous service as a first responder for the people of the community stripped to become the base of a two-foot-tall sculpture of a vagina.

“Yes, dear” Janet continued, “why don’t you go ahead and give your friend a call?”

“Sure thing”, Brie replied, and with this left the room to start dialing.

With that issue solved, Janet turned her attention to me. “And what have you been up to?”, she asked cheerfully.

“I found the coins and stamps. There’s a whole lot of them.”

Here Psycho Dish broke into the conversation: “So, remind me why we’re just letting Chrissy walk off with those? I mean, dad didn’t specifically leave them to her, and you’re executrix of the will. You don’t have to let her claim all the valuable stuff.”

A faint smile came to Janet’s lips. “I thought about saying something to her about it, but then I did a little research. The truth is, stamp collecting has absolutely collapsed as a hobby over the past couple of decades. Young people just aren’t into it at all.”

I glanced over at Psycho Dish’s son, whose nose was buried in his Switch, spending a few precious moments of his break from clearing out the garage with Cynthia. Maybe if they put Pikachu on a postage stamp he’d be interested, but not otherwise.

“Stamp collections that would have been worth thousands of dollars back in the 80s or 90s are now just about worth the paper they’re printed on. There’s simply no demand anymore. And coin collecting is only mildly better. Unless they’re really rare or made out of some kind of precious metal, they’re basically worth face value at this point. Even at that, silver dollars and the like generally won’t bring in much beyond their melt value. The bottom line is that the whole collection isn’t worth anywhere near as much as Chris thinks it is, so it just isn’t worth fighting her over.”

She continued, “Besides which, Chris didn’t read the will very carefully. It specifically says that if any of us decide to sell off something from the estate instead of keeping it, the proceeds are subject to the same conditions as his cash and investments – the profits get split equally between all four children, except for 10% that gets held back and donated to First United Presbyterian.”

A last tithing to his place of worship of 60 years – a respectable, middle-class, mainline protestant congregation in which he had risen to National Assembly Elder for his synod. And they certainly needed the money; declining attendance had hit them hard, made worse by splits over social issues that threatened to tear not just the congregation, but the entire Presbyterian Church in half. The Presbyterian church building just down the block from my own residence has a rainbow flag hung over the main entrance. First United didn’t have one yet, but now that the old generation was passing…

“I’m hungry” the son interjected. “When are we eating?”

He had a point. It was nearly 5:30 in the evening, and we had been working all day. There was nothing wrong with quitting now, having a good meal and a long sleep, and then coming back in the morning. The kitchen was a shambles, with pots and dishes and utensils taken out of cabinets, tagged, and put in boxes. After a short discussion, it was decided that everyone should fend for themselves when it came to finding their evening meal. Psycho Dish decided that we deserved a steak dinner, so he, his son, and I put on our jackets and headed out to the car for a trip to the local steakhouse.

As we pulled away, I took a long look backward. There was a man’s whole life; a life that exemplified the 20th century American Dream, and not only in its material aspects. Yes, there was the suburban house with the white picket fence. But there was also the patriotism that was reflexive without being showy, the civic pride and dedication to a high-trust community, the solid marriage and family life, the emphasis on education and hard work, even the middle-class hobbies like birdwatching and stamp collecting. All relics of a disappearing era along a path we will certainly only tread once; of a bygone America that now exists only in fading memory. It was nice while it lasted, but I suppose that nothing in this world lasts forever.

It was a good dinner. Steaks and beers and being free of our melancholy task for the night lightened our moods and loosened our tongues. Before long, Psycho Dish and I were deep in conversation about everything in the world.

But not his son, who somehow managed to eat his entire supper with one hand while playing Pokémon on his Switch with the other.

He never put the damn thing down once the whole time.

Bitchpilling

Of late from the Imperial Capital comes news of a setback; our President seems to have made an embarrassing political misstep. The consequences remain unclear, but seem as likely as not to be temporary and not very hard to recover from. The exact details are, for my purposes, beside the point – when you read this in a few weeks, or months, or years, the incident will be old news and probably forgotten. My object is not to look at this event itself, but the reaction to it, and why it bodes ill for we who cannot afford to lose.

The reasonable reaction to hearing about all this might have involved public expressions of disappointment. It might have involved legitimate, measured criticism – the President has made some real mistakes, he’s done some things with which I seriously disagree, and by no means am I saying that he should be beyond reproach. But all too often, it has involved “blackpilling” – hysterical, screechy proclamations that Trump has “cucked” and we have all been betrayed, along with mopey, effeminate whining about how all hope is lost. This has even crossed into the bizarre suggestion that the pro-white right would be better off supporting a Samoan hard leftist because she has been mildly critical of expansionist foreign policy, and a Chinese socialist, apparently because the white race will be rendered far better prepared to face its future as a despised minority in what were once its homelands by becoming hopelessly dependent on government welfare.

As for me, I am perfectly satisfied with Donald Trump’s performance as President. Unlike those who breathlessly proclaimed him “God-Emperor” three years ago with the exact same fervor with which they now denounce him as a traitor, a “Boomer”, a “cuck”, and a villain, I approached Trump with low expectations, which he has consistently met or exceeded. I never expected that he would be the solution to all of our problems; merely that he would buy us some time while we prepared for what is coming. Since that seems to be approximately what is happening, I see little reason to be despondent. Here I think some important factors separating me from the blackpillers are at play.

One is that many of the blackpillers had never been seriously involved in politics until Trump piqued their interest in 2016, whereas I have been following politics since I was a teenager in the mid-1980s. The “God-Emperor” talk reflected their unrealistic expectations of what a single political figure – even in the highest elected office in the government – might actually be able to accomplish. The President isn’t Sulla marching through the Colline Gate with an army at his back – he has to deal with political opponents (including opposition within his own party), the courts, the bureaucracy, and endless institutional inertia, and can’t simply order a Centurion to cut the throat of anyone who doesn’t like it. My own observation of modern political history (here meaning, roughly, the post-FDR era) tells me that even presidencies that are considered successful generally get about a third of what the candidate promised before he took office done. This holds true of both parties – Barack Obama got very little passed in his eight years in office, especially considering that his one signature achievement, Obamacare, bore little resemblance to the much more ambitious government takeover of healthcare that he had in mind, and that his supporters expected, when he was on the campaign trail. The bottom line is that politicians – left, right, and center – always promise more than they can really deliver. Whether it’s intentional or merely reflects the candidates’ own honest underestimation of the difficulty of getting anything done in Washington is immaterial. It’s been that way for ages, and it will continue to be that way for as long as the current system stands.

Related to this is a deep naïveté on the part of the blackpillers about how the political game is played and what needs to be said and done in order to get even the third or so of his agenda that a President can get through enacted. This may seem odd when describing people who take such joy in the edgy nihilism that blackpilling offers. Yet one anonymous critic on the My Posting Career forums got things exactly right when he noted:

“The dissident right’s ‘plan’ all along was that someone like Trump would seize power and fix everything while they cheered along from Twitter and racist podcasts. As outsiders they never had the first clue what was necessary to wield real political power, or really how serious the situation truly was. No friends, no skin in the game, no experience with real life, way too much internet exposure… They would rather have a politician they dislike but feel emotionally disengaged from, because this leaves their comfortable pathologies undisturbed. If they were not losers they would have some focus in their lives other than the internet and Trump, and would be more sanguine even in this period of chaos. I have yet to see a man with a family blackpill like a morose child, but I have long ago lost count of the permanent singletons and divorced crybabies who have done so”.

In short, the alt-right spends too much time inside its online echo chambers, where it has come to believe in the Super Saiyan theory of politics – that any political fight can be won if only one gets really, really, REALLY angry about it. This political tone-deafness has led the alt-right to disaster after disaster, such as “Heilgate” and the infamous Charlottesville rally, from which they have consistently refused to learn a damn thing. Evidence of it was also seen in their hostile reaction to the President’s 2019 State of the Union address, in which nice things said about legal immigrants, Holocaust survivors, WWII veterans, and working women were among the many normie-friendly platitudes that are completely uncontroversial outside of alt-right echo chambers, and which helped lead to a 78% approval rating for the speech among the general public. Here our anonymous MPC writer continues:

“Trump has made references to legal immigration going back to the campaign; you can believe what you want about his actual thoughts on legal immigration, but in any case Trump is grossly outnumbered and needs some room to maneuver. What Trump could do if he had control of every party organ is an academic question. Perhaps he would still be in favor of it. But it doesn’t matter because he has to have something with which to perform feints and other maneuvers that get him closer to other goals. And legal immigration might be a patch of territory he has to cede in order to win a larger battle… One might also mordantly note that the screams about legal immigration followed Trump’s maneuvering on the wall construction, which we were ALWAYS told by the blackpillers was the real enchilada, the only thing that mattered.”

The upshot is that the blackpillers of the alt-right have been losers at the political game for decades because they don’t know how to play it, or even seem to see why they should have to. They consistently overestimate both their numbers and their intelligence, and even if they didn’t, they would still lack any understanding whatsoever of why anyone in that position should need to employ virtues like diplomacy, patience, or restraint. They don’t grasp the importance of slowly building and shrewdly spending political capital, and they effectively place their desire to be edgy over their desire to actually get anything done. A fine example of this is Ann Coulter, a shrill, impetuous moron whose inability to self-censor or employ any tact whatsoever led her to lose the ear of the President and any of the precious influence she might at one point have had on him and that might have helped her preferred policies to become reality. This is how habitual losers operate. To quote our MPC author again:

“The dissident right’s feelings about Trump reflect its own unacceptable feelings about itself: that it has largely been a failure, that it doesn’t understand what is going on, and that it has no access to real power… Naturally they resent the only politician who has done anything on their behalf. If you’ve ever come across this sort of failure in real life, you know the type: the minute you try to help him with anything, his resentment toward you builds until it reaches a meltdown. This is because the effort to help him exposes his personal flaws and threatens him with responsibility for his own failure… It pours from their bitter, derisive rhetoric about Trump, who has made the mistake of going to battle – literally risking his life and fortune, if you know anything about our establishment – on behalf of these losers.”

Those who can, do to the best of their ability – often stumbling along the way. Those who can’t, critique – offering endless bitter complaints and Monday morning quarterback suggestions about what could have been done better. But the problem with any culture of critique, and blackpillers certainly count as one, is that they do nothing to prove themselves worthy of power. People know this instinctively, which is why nobody is very enthusiastic about giving power to those who offer nothing but critique. And this, in turn, is why power plays by cultures of critique always end up either in them being crushed, or in them taking power by default during a period of chaos, followed by an era marked both by extreme tyranny and tragicomic incompetence. When I have pointed this out to blackpillers, I have often been told (particularly when it came to the Yang Gang/Clown World memes currently fashionable in their circles) that I “wasn’t getting the joke”. But I’m not here to joke, and we have no need of unseriousness from those who would style themselves leaders of our movement and our people. To survive what is to come, we must become strong and worthy. With that will come a renewal of dignity, self-respect, and ultimately, hope. But we will achieve none of it by begging our current elites for scraps from their table (something that, since they hate us and want us dead, would be suicidal anyway). Neither will we achieve it with despair, which is a sin for a reason. Nor either will we achieve it with snarky joking or ironic nihilism. None of these things help us, and I am tired of having my time wasted with them.

I have also often been told by blackpillers that I am not facing reality. Quite the contrary, I believe it is the blackpillers who have consistently failed to be realistic about the nature of the situation we find ourselves in and what will be necessary to get through it. They tell themselves that Trump has “cucked” because that is the easy, comforting thing to believe. It means that they can lay the blame for the fact that our problems aren’t getting solved on one man who they can imagine failed because he just didn’t try hard enough. That allows them to continue to deny the terrible truths before us: that our entire corrupt, sclerotic, rusty late-imperial system is beyond saving, that one man can’t make a difference no matter how much he wants to, and that we’re not voting our way out of this, so we’d all better start preparing for what comes next.

In this, I do have some small measure of sympathy for them. Someone once described conservatism as the desire to have the world always be as it was when you were ten years old. I was ten in 1983, growing up in a Great American Suburb right when the Reagan era was hitting its stride. People born too young to remember those times for themselves just can’t imagine how different – and how much better – things were then. I wish they really could be like that again – a couple of minor tweaks aside, if you offered me the chance to live in an eternal 1983, I’d take it in a heartbeat. But I know that can never happen. As great as it was while it lated, we can tread that path but once.

By directing their blame and anger at Trump – the one figure in the entire system who has ever genuinely tried to help them – the blackpillers allow themselves the hope of believing that if they just elect some mythical non-cuck someday, the system can be saved and the world can go back to being normal, like it was when they were ten years old. What this shows us is that, far from being the edgy radicals that they want to believe they are, the blackpillers are still just normies at heart, whose disillusionment still hasn’t shaken them enough to stop holding on to the normiest of goals. Even the so-called accelerationists believe that if they can only cause a big enough crisis, the facade of Modernity will crack and shatter, revealing – like a game show host opening Door #1 to display a fabulous prize – blessed normalcy hidden just behind it. Of course, beyond the fact that throughout history unimaginable ruin has been caused by people who took risks on horrendously stupid ideas because they just couldn’t imagine that things could possibly get worse than they already were, and that if we really do reach a point of collapse nobody will follow the leadership of anyone who they believe contributed to making things worse, there’s the fact that the prize they seek cannot be granted to them – not by Donald Trump, nor by anybody else.

To borrow a phrase from Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Trump movement is indeed a bus that we should be prepared to get off of when we reach our destination. But we’re not even close to our destination, nobody seems to have a more realistic plan for getting there in the foreseeable future, and only a fool gets off a bus in the middle of nowhere, miles away from whatever it is they’re trying to reach.

In short, all of the hysterical fools who are blackpilled on Trump are victims of their own lack of perspective and realism. Trump is on balance a positive force, but he was never going to be able to bring back normalcy on his own. The blackpillers thought it would be as simple as voting for the right guy, and then they could then go back to being normies, worried only about their lawns and how the local Little League team was doing. So they elected Trump; now a couple of years into his presidency, they look around and see that we still have problems, and this fills them with anger and frustration. So they direct all of that at Trump, telling themselves and anyone within earshot that the reason things aren’t back to normal must be that he is a cuck or a fool. But the harsh truth is that he’s neither. He wouldn’t get anything more done if he got angrier, or made more strident speeches, or were any more dedicated to our ideals than he already is. The real problem is that this is as much as the current system will allow him – or anyone else in his position – to accomplish. Trump was the best the system could do and its last hope. But by now it has to be obvious to anyone who isn’t fooling themselves that the system cannot be saved, and entirely other options must be explored. I’m sorry, I sincerely wish I could tell you all different, but we’re never going back to normal, and things will never again be the way they were when you were a kid. So what’s the plan now?

The truth is, the blackpillers don’t have a plan. Nor do they seem very interested in devoting their energy to coming up with one or implementing it. Complaining is easy; planning is hard, and doing is even harder. Many deny that hard times are coming at all; not because deep down they really believe it, but because acknowledging that it’s coming and preparing for it would require effort and initiative, and they’d rather just sit on their asses indulging in fantasies that some politician will come along and save them – maybe by smiting their enemies, or maybe by handing them a welfare check. This is only partly explained by them being delusional. The other important element to this is that deep down they just don’t have the stomach for a long, hard fight. They are not happy warriors; they are normies in wolves’ clothing. When the going gets tough, they retreat to the internet to post clown memes and beg a Chinese socialist for a handout. Whether they honestly believe that a system that hates them and wants them dead will actually pay them $1000 a month to sit in their basements and post Nazi memes on social media is anyone’s guess. But if they do end up getting it, I suppose it will at least be enough to lay in bed reminiscing about the good old days, fantasizing that Nu-Hitler is coming to the rescue, and waiting to share in the fate of the Boers – which is all they seem to be willing or able to do.

So to the blackpillers I say: You have proven that you can’t lead and you can’t follow, so get the hell out of the way. Stop poisoning the well with your mopey, pointless doom and gloom; let men with chests and a measure of vision come to the fore. And to the rest of you – and to myself – I issue this challenge: Tell me your plan. Give me your answers. Keep in mind that a useful idea can be either big-picture or personal. It’s useful to tell me how to build a functional society for our people when the opportunity comes, but it’s also useful to tell me how an individual, a family, or a small community survives what lies between now and when we establish it. As for me, for now, it means that that not only do I speak up, but I armed up, left Silicon Valley after 25 years of living there, and am headed for a homogenous small town in a red state. My progress in becoming more prepared and my thoughts on what a better, more sustainable society would look like are things that I plan on sharing in this space. So continue to check in, dear reader, as I contribute what I can to the cause.

Green Tea Among Snow-Covered Mountains

Twenty years ago, I lived in a small town in the mountains of central Japan, where, through a nationally-administered educational initiative called the JET Program, I was employed teaching English in the local middle school. I was in my mid-20s, and off on a great exotic adventure – a romantic one too, as through some luck and ingenuity I had managed to find a way to bring with me a certain young lady of whom I was quite fond. It was not only my first time living in a foreign land, but, as a child of the Great American Suburbs, also my first time living in the countryside anywhere. It was, as small towns tend to be, the sort of place where not only does everybody know everybody, but everybody is vaguely related to everybody as well – there were a handful of local surnames that I’d guess between them hung on about three-quarters of the people there. The local barber had, in his younger days, been a sailor on a cargo ship and had come home with a Filipina wife, but other than her, my young lady and I were the only non-Japanese there. As one can imagine, we made quite an impression on the place, as it did also on us.

Japanese schools work differently from American schools in a few important ways. Among them is that in America, students shuttle around between classrooms all day, while in Japan, students stay at the same desk while, every class period, different teachers come in for each of their various classes. This is why there are no lockers in Japanese schools – students there simply keep everything at the desk at which they sit all day, every day. It is also why the common American phenomenon of a teacher taking over a certain classroom as their own personal fiefdom and storing all of their stuff in its desk never happens in Japan. Because of this, teachers in Japan spend a lot more time at their desks in the staff room, which is where they come between classes and during periods in which they have nothing scheduled, to grade papers, plan lessons, or relax a bit.

My own desk in the staff room was nose-to-nose with that of Yukari-san, the school’s office lady. Office lady (OL for short) is a job that doesn’t exist in America, or even in the West as a whole, but is a fixture of Asian business settings. It is, in truth, a job that the egalitarian feminist sentiments of the modern West would not permit to exist here. The function of OLs is simply to make the office comfortable and comforting. Yes, they often do some minor functional tasks like making copies or shuttling papers from one office to the next. But the main things that they do during their workdays are to make tea (oh, the endless cups of tea consumed in Japanese offices!), to ensure that the electric hot water kettles that office workers use for instant ramen consumed at their desks are full, to offer cookies and snacks to those too busy even for ramen, to greet guests, to be pleasant, to look nice. Most of them are attractive young women who are expected to, and do, quit after a few years when they get married. Most, in corporate settings, wear smart-looking uniforms – universally featuring skirts, not pants – and pretty but businesslike high heels. They make offices – in which Japanese workers spend far more time than their American counterparts – a more warm and welcoming place.

Yukari-san was not in her 20s, and though she had obviously been quite pretty in her younger days, age and care had faded her looks. She wore no uniform, but came to work in the nicest clothes that her modest circumstances would allow. Hers was not the “Pretty Young Thing” approach to making the office a brighter place, but a motherly one. Quite literally, in fact, as two of her three daughters were students at the middle school (the third and oldest had just moved on to high school, which, as is common in the countryside, was farther off and shared by two or three nearby towns). She had been a widow about ten years, her husband having been killed in a wintertime wreck on one of the twisty, narrow roads that led out to the highway. She had never graduated high school, had no marketable skills, and after the accident had been left with three young children and enough money from savings and life insurance to get by for perhaps a few months.

In a small place like that, word gets around fast. The town, as a whole, made up its mind to do something to help her. Meetings were held at town hall. The mayor got involved. It was decided that a job would be found for her, marketable skills or not. Budgets were adjusted, and a modest sum per year was come up with. The Board of Education was consulted; suddenly there was an opening for an OL at the middle school, and only one candidate was ever considered for it.

In the West, the answer would have been to send Yukari-san to the welfare office, and to hurl her into the void of those who become lifetime wards of the system. She would be left to shuffle through the dehumanizing bureaucracy of the welfare state, filling out forms in dreary government offices, and then to return home to sit on the couch in front of a television set, getting fat on EBT-provided, high fructose corn syrup-laden junk foods, until diabetes or hypertension took her to an early grave. Or perhaps, as has become so common in America, someone would clue her in on how to get an easy prescription for opioid painkillers, and they would slowly consume her until, inevitably – by choice or by accident – the inevitable happened. But that is not how small-town Japan works. They find a way to take care of their own, and not just by giving them free processed junk food and a shabby Section 8 apartment. They came up with a way for Yukari-san to continue to be a useful member of the community, to have a purpose in life, to have a reason to get off the couch, to have pride in every bit of money that she was paid.

For Yukari-san, the job was perfect. She wasn’t well-educated, but she could make tea and snacks and photocopies and she could keep electric kettles full. The position allowed her to keep an eye on her daughters – the elementary school and the middle school were separated only by their shared baseball field, which meant that she would be near them all the way from when they began kindergarten to when they were teenagers headed off to high school. The pay was not lavish, but for getting by in a small town it was adequate, and since the staff in Japanese schools eat the same meals that students do, a few meals a week for both herself and her daughters were had at no charge. And most important of all, she could hold her head high with self-respect and say that she earned her keep.

Was that really quite true? Was the service she provided worth what the town was paying her in cold economic terms? Most certainly not. But despite the protestations of Ayn Rand, not all societal good is measurable that way. Was it cruel to make her work for her money instead of simply handing it to her and asking for nothing in return? Bleeding hearts would insist that it was, but it never seemed that Yukari-san felt that way. She didn’t feel demeaned – either by feminist sensibilities telling her that the job was beneath her or by a sense of entitlement telling her that she was owed something for nothing. She was only grateful that her community had found a way to take care of her, and she was equally grateful that she could contribute something back to it.

And as for me, I was simply happy to have a hot cup of green tea waiting for me whenever I came back from teaching a class. To this day, I can’t drink any without thinking of Yukari-san. The memories – of looking out at snow-covered mountains beyond the school windows while warming my hands over a steaming cup – are faded, but surrounded by a glow of distant happiness. By helping to create them, Yukari-san added something of value to my life that I feel even all these years later, in ways that are beyond the capability of economists to quantify.

And, though she was never a teacher, she did manage to provide me with a lesson in how a community can best take care of its needy.