It’s Not 1968

Imagine if you will a certain business. It is founded by prudent men, and because of this, it grows and prospers. One of the effects of this prudence is that, as soon as the business is profitable enough to allow them to do so, the founders make sure that a certain amount of capital is available in reserve should they ever need it. Having been around the block a few times, they understand that any business hits setbacks, recessions come and go, investments sometimes fail for unforeseen reasons, unexpected crises often come up at the worst times, and that having a reserve to dip into when hard times come will allow the business to limp by until things get better.

Years pass, and the business eventually ends up hiring many impressively-educated but less-prudent young men. As they slowly rise through the ranks, some of them begin to question whether capital reserves are necessary at all, or if that’s just old-fashioned thinking that innovators such as themselves have rendered obsolete. They don’t understand why they should leave a pool of perfectly good capital sitting around doing nothing when they could pump up the business’s quarterly earnings numbers by putting it somewhere else that generates short-term profits (and increases their quarterly bonuses along the way).

Just then, a massive crisis hits the business, as a major investment starts to very visibly and publicly go bad. A shareholder revolt begins; they accuse the CEO (not unjustifiably) of having made this investment without having done due diligence, and then having dithered for far too long about what to do when it started to fail. The CEO resigns; a new one seems to bring things under control, but then gets caught in a scandal and ends up having to resign as well. Two more CEOs come and go in quick succession before someone is finally found who brings stability to the business. He begins to rebuild, including doing his best to refill the capital reserves, which were dipped into very deeply during the crisis. Many were sure that the business wouldn’t survive the crisis and, in truth, it was only the fact that the capital reserves were as deep as they were that ended up keeping it out of bankruptcy. Still, the damage done has meant that despite the best efforts of this new CEO, the reserves never quite get refilled to the point they were before the crisis.

A few years later, one of the impressively-educated young men ends up rising to the position of CEO, at an unprecedentedly young age. Like all of his peers, he seems to have learned nothing from the crisis other than the fact that smart, impressively-educated young men like himself should be running things instead of the dumb old fuddy-duddies who were in charge before. He believes himself smart enough that keeping capital reserves around anymore is unnecessary. Slowly, almost unnoticed, he begins to drain it away for use on other, more immediately profitable projects. For a while, this seems like a workable plan. Nothing comes up that would require the business to dip very deeply into the gradually shrinking pool of remaining reserves, and everyone counts on the idea that there will always be plenty left for the rare occasions when they need it. Some more years pass, a few CEOs of the younger generation come and go, and everything seems fine.

And then, over the course of a single horrible year, a succession of disasters hit the business, one right after the next. The last of these involves some underhanded boardroom maneuvering to oust the then-current CEO on a pretext of having put up a weak response to the year’s events (ignoring the obvious fact that none of the Board members could really have done any better). The irony of this is that he rose as a reformer, calling back to the greatness of the prudent founders and even trying to refill the business’s capital reserves. To what extent he ever did, it ends up being too little, too late. The Board installs a figurehead from within their own ranks. This is when they get a very unsettling message, delivered by an angry group of shareholders: according to their reckoning, the business’s capital reserves have just hit zero. If they had been as deep as they were during the first crisis, then perhaps, as happened back then, the business could have ended up barely scraping by to see better times. But this time, those reserves, which were never fully refilled after the first crisis, are gone, and with no credible plan to come back from the current crisis on offer, the shareholders are getting ready for a fight. Some of them go public, and the business’s stock price tanks – no amount of shilling from friendly news outlets is enough to stop it. Creditors start to send curt letters demanding to be paid. A bankruptcy court beckons.

Thanks to Charles Hugh Smith for this simple but effective visual aid.

* * *

As I would expect of you, dear reader, you have of course figured out that this is a metaphor for the current situation in which the nation finds itself. The first crisis is, of course, the 1960s, and the bad investment is the Vietnam War. The CEO who tried to rebuild is Reagan, and the younger CEO who failed to refill the reserves is Clinton. And the single horrible year is without doubt 2020. So far, so good – but here we reach the key to the entire metaphor: the fact that in our world, the “capital reserves” to which I’m referring aren’t of monetary capital, but of social capital, and the profits taken are measured not primarily in money, but in political power.

Well, political power is plain enough to understand, but what is social capital? Put simply, it is the bond that exists between people within a certain society; it is their sense of mutual trust, loyalty, obligation, and responsibility; it is what makes us say “We are one; we are all in this together”. These are the ties that bind a nation; that bind a people together. Once these bonds are severed – once the reserve of social capital reaches zero – then there is nothing that can hold things together but brute force. And this is where conflict begins.

Here it is worth noting that revolutions, uprisings, and civil wars basically never happen because of a single event or provocation from the government. It’s always decades worth of a slow build-up of resentments and grievances, some well-meaning attempts at reconciliation, compromises that worked for a while and then fell apart, disastrous misjudgments that seemed like a good idea at the time, false starts, heat-ups, cool-offs, points at which it looked like it would all blow over and everything would be okay, and many, many voices who were convinced that it was all unthinkable and could never happen. At each point of failure along the way, reserves of social capital were depleted a little more.

Again, this is a gradual process, and it is easy to believe that because a nation has made it through one crisis – or two, or five – by the skin of its teeth, that means it can make it through an infinite number of crises. In fact, many take exactly the wrong lesson away from making it through a brush with bankruptcy – either of monetary capital or of social capital. My dad once told me, “It’s not people’s failures that kill them; it’s their successes”. For example: someone might drive drunk once, wreck their car but survive, and decide then and there that drunk driving is a terrible idea and never do it again. But another person may drive drunk once, make it home safely, and convince themselves that means they can handle it just fine. So they’ll do it over and over again, each time a little drunker, and each time increasing the odds that they’ll end up dead a little more. Eventually, inevitably, the odds will catch up with them.

This is an essential part of the spirit of permanent revolution that drives the left. They understand that they made it through the first crisis with essentially no pushback at all – in fact, the crisis of the 60s only ended with appeasement. From abortion to Affirmative Action to mass Third World immigration to the abandonment of our allies in Vietnam, the Boomers and their parents bought 50 years of peace by giving the left essentially everything they wanted. If we had been wise and farsighted, we would have drawn the line early. But as typical, especially of those two generations, the nation went for short-term benefit and thought nothing of leaving their grandchildren stuck with the consequences.

But fanatics can never be appeased, and this only served to convince the left that their inclination toward permanent revolution – ever-more outrageous and insane demands – was an infinitely winning strategy. And so they pushed harder and harder, eventually demanding such once-unthinkable things as the extinction of the White race, the abolishment of all borders*, the de facto criminalization of traditional Christian teaching, and the persecution of anyone who speaks out against them. They have done so convinced that the reserves of social capital which prevented the rise of any effective resistance to them and the civic institutions that they had captured would never run dry. For a long time, it looked like they were right.

And then came the Great Crisis of 2020 – the lockdowns, the riots, and the stolen presidential election. To say that it has drained our reserves of social capital dangerously low would be an understatement. Finally now it is the right that is saying once-unthinkable things, as words like “nullification”, “revolution”, and “secession” ring through the air for the first time in living memory. And of course, in the face of this, the left has only intensified its drive for permanent revolution. At this point, nothing foreseeable could replenish a supply of social capital this low, and the only thing remaining in our elites’ bag of tricks – a foreign war – would only make things worse. We are very, very close to hitting zero.

Which brings us to perhaps the most important question in terms of your own individual readiness for what’s to come: Just how close are we? How long do we have until we reach the point of social capital bankruptcy, and the next step – be that war, balkanization, tyranny, or the rise of a Caesar – begins? The truth is that I don’t know exactly. Depending on your point of view, it may take more time than you’re expecting, or less. A year ago, I would have said it would take 20 or 30 years; now I fear it come much more immediately – anytime from literally tomorrow to perhaps, at most, ten years hence. But it will happen; what I can say for sure is that the events of this year have made what is coming inevitable, and sooner rather than later. We aren’t the country we were in 1968, and the 2020s just don’t have the social capital reserves necessary to leverage the kind of Great Cooling-Off that we had in the 1970s**. There won’t be any buying of two generations’ worth of peace this time – that trick worked once, but it won’t work again.

Prepare yourselves accordingly.

(*I do, of course, understand that mass immigration of immiscible people from alien cultures has had a terrible effect on our social capital as well. But is that a cause, or an effect of the depletion of social capital brought on by permanent revolution? Perhaps it is both. Either way, it is not the cause of our current situation, and only accelerates a process that has been underway for a long time now.)

(**Here I want to emphasize that I don’t expect a perfectly even, linear progression toward the inevitable. We will see flareups and cooldowns along the way, including some points at which things may even seem for a while be headed back to “normal” [whatever that might mean to you]. But these will be relatively brief – we’re not getting another half-century of calm, as our parents and grandparents managed to. The can will not be kicked very much farther down the road.)

What Next?

As I write this, it appears that the Democratic Party has successfully stolen the presidential election of 2020. There is no doubt that Donald Trump will mount an aggressive legal campaign against the massive, obvious ballot fraud that handed the election to his opponent. But that is unlikely to be enough to save his presidency. He simply doesn’t have enough friends in Washington at any branch or level of government. The entire town, including the establishments of both parties, just can’t wait to see Donald J. Trump disappear over the horizon so they can get things back to normal. Of course, some in his own party will make obligatory gestures of support, but in the end, nobody there will stick their neck out for him. He will be left wounded and alone, and the Deep State will finish him off. That will be the end of the Trump Era.

There will be many postmortems of this era written in the coming months, from people on all sides of the political spectrum, and you will be sick to death of reading them before very long. So I will keep mine brief. In the end, Donald Trump made the classic error of many brash reformers who arrived in a stagnant, corrupt capital promising to take on the system, and who ended up getting chewed up and spit out by it. He forgot that the proper sequence of events is: first you consolidate power, and then you implement your agenda. It seems rather obvious to say that before one takes on powerful, entrenched interests, one should take the time to fill every possible position in one’s administration with smart, loyal subordinates. They say, for example, that by the end of his time as Premier, Leonid Brezhnev had just as much power as Josef Stalin ever had, and that was precisely how he did it – everyone in any position of power in the USSR was a friend of Brezhnev, and thus whatever their friend asked them to do, they did. But Trump’s personnel choices were a chaotic rolling disaster from the beginning. He fired loyalists like Mike Flynn and indispensable men like Steve Bannon who had gotten him where he was, replaced them with mediocrities or traitors, and put up with them long after it became obvious that hiring them was a mistake. He would take to Twitter and publicly complain about people he had hired and had the power to fire for months instead of quietly explaining to them that they wanted to spend more time with their families and showing them the door. There were good reasons for the anti-nepotism laws passed after the presidency of JFK, who had made his younger brother Attorney General. Presidents must often say “no” to advisors, sometimes dress them down and remind them who the boss is, and occasionally even fire them – all of which is much harder to do if they have a close personal attachment to them. Trump kept his bubbleheaded daughter and her shifty, tone-deaf husband on as unofficial advisors with no government salary or on-the-books title, thus circumventing the letter of the law and ignoring the wisdom behind it. This led him into blunder after blunder that a man like Bannon would never have let him fall into.

In addition to this, Trump had the power to purge his enemies from every three-letter Deep State spook agency in Washington, but he didn’t do it, even after Chuck Schumer obligingly played Littlefinger to his Ned Stark by warning him not to trust them and telling him they had “six ways from Sunday” to get at him and remove him from office. Having survived one way from Sunday in the form of the failed impeachment attempt, he seems to have completely discounted the notion that there might be five more left. There is an old saying that “if you shoot an arrow at the king, you’d better not miss”. This is because if you do, the king has to behead you – if he lets traitors go without consequence, if he signals that there is no price to be paid for attempts to betray and overthrow him, then there will be no end of ambitious men who will take the gamble because it has no downside. In our modern age, of course, we do not behead traitors, but any president with a rational personnel policy would have conducted sweeping purges after the failed impeachment. His enemies even expected him to do this, and yet it really never came. Most of the people who challenged him never even lost their jobs, despite the fact that Trump had the absolute, unquestioned power to fire them. With an election he knew was rife for massive fraud on the horizon, he continued to ignore the danger before him. A cagier president would have made a point in early summer of strongarming Republican legislatures in swing states into not allowing mass mail-in voting at all, but beyond some angry Tweeting, Trump did nothing substantive about the issue, making the typical mistake among failed brash reformers of counting on his popularity among the masses to save him. This brings us back to Stalin, who famously once quipped that “It doesn’t matter who votes, but who counts the votes”. The fix was in, and now Trump is out – he still has the support of the masses, but short of the very unlikely (and very foolish) scenario of them deciding to march on Washington en masse to take the Establishment “À la lanterne”, there is nothing they can do to help him.

Trump’s failure to get Obamacare repealed during his first summer in office should have been a warning to him about the necessity to consolidate his power before attempting any more ambitious policy measures, but he seemed to have learned basically nothing from it. Thus he wasted irreplaceable time that he should have spent carefully building his power on achievable, non-critical “nice-to-haves” like renegotiating NAFTA and a brief spate of better relations with North Korea. There’s nothing in particular to complain about in these per se, but the price paid for them was too high. In the end, the Trump Era will prove to have been an exercise in “too little, too late”.

So where do we go from here?

It is worth pointing out that back at the beginning of his administration, I warned that Trump should be properly viewed as a temporary roadblock in the path of the Establishment, and that the primary value of his term in in Washington, whether four years or eight, was to buy precious time for us to prepare for what comes next. I hope you took the opportunity to do so; if you didn’t, there’s not much time left, and you had best get started immediately. To reiterate what I’ve said elsewhere, my recommendations are: Get out of the big cities, even if you have to take a massive pay cut to do it. Move to a 90% or higher white small town in a red state. Move toward working a blue-collar job or running your own business. Make friends in your community; do favors for people and become someone they’d want to stand up for. Buy guns and learn how to use them; get your concealed carry permit, and take reputable training courses when you can. Speaking of which, take a reputable first aid course, too. Stock up on food, water, and medical supplies. Learn how to hunt, fish, find (or make) clean water, and grow a garden. Start producing at least some of your own food. Learn how to do everyday house and car repairs on your own. Join a local church, make peace with God, and get yourself in a good place spiritually. It’s impossible to know right now exactly how or when what is to come will unfold, but these steps will put you in the best position to get through the highest number of the most probable scenarios.

As for political action going forward, it is now plain for all to see that voting was never going to save us, and that the current system will never be reformed from within. That said, I encourage all who can to continue to vote for as rightist a candidate as you can, for every position you can, in every election that you can. Just see it realistically, for what it actually is: a chance to throw sand in the gears of the Establishment; to slow it down as much as possible to buy us every possible moment to continue preparing. If there is one election that I advise you to pay particularly close attention to once you reach your new small-town home, it is the one for your local sheriff. It may be true that people you’ve never met and have no control over who live in a distant capital decide which laws will be passed, but it is the county sheriff who decides which of them will actually be enforced. This is no small thing, so make sure that the right man gets the job.

And as to those guns you’ve recently bought, some cool-headed counsel is in order. First, no matter how enraging the chaos you see on television may be, do not engage in any random or senseless acts of violence against any real or perceived enemy. Furthermore, do not go off to some big city with your AR-15 to confront Antifa or Black Lives Matter, or any other communist front group. I feel sorry for the people who live there, but they made their political and social choices, and now it is up to them to either live with the consequences of them or come up with their own remedy for them. Also, give up any idea that you’re going to be part of a “Patriot Army” that is going to storm Washington, DC one day to restore order and “make the bastards pay” for bringing us to this point. That’s a fantasy, and a dangerous one. Any use of force must be both local and purely defensive in nature. Be ready to band together with your neighbors to protect your own – your property, your family, your community, your liberty – from anyone who comes to threaten them. But don’t go off on a damn fool quest to rescue people who don’t want to be rescued, or to save an empire that’s in the early stages of finding out that there’s really no such thing as “too big to fail”.

As a corollary to this, remember that conquering America from without is essentially impossible, but making it functionally ungovernable from within is easier than anybody gives it credit for. The pattern of every dismal low-intensity conflict fought by a great power over the past century has been that the central government has controlled the big cities, but that its ability to consistently enforce its will has essentially ended at the city limits. There’s a reason why both the Soviets and the Americans derisively referred to their puppet Prime Ministers in Afghanistan as the “Mayor of Kabul”.

For this to be the case in the decreasingly-United States of America, the most important change will be a mental one. It will involve giving up the traditional American attitude toward government and replacing it with something more like the traditional Chinese attitude toward it. That American attitude has always been one of deep civic trust and duty; of participating in the system and abiding by the law even when you disagree with it. This is why the police and military in America have consistently been revered as heroic protectors of a legitimate order. But the Chinese attitude toward government has always been: “What the Emperor doesn’t know, won’t hurt him”. When word gets out that the Emperor’s Inspector General is coming to town, the streets are cleaned, the gambling dens are closed, the black markets where they sell all the things that the Emperor says you can’t have get cleared out, everyone puts on their finest silk robes, and when the Inspector General gets there, they bow deeply and proclaim their loyalty to the Emperor through teary eyes. The Inspector General is cheered and banqueted, everyone tells him how happy they are with the state of things, and his every order is obeyed immediately and to the letter. Then, a few days later, as the Inspector General’s carriage disappears out of sight down the road out of town, everything goes back to normal – the gambling dens and black markets reopen, the street sweeper goes back to drunkenly sleeping through his shift, those uncomfortable silk robes go back in the closet, and people remark to each other how happy they are that the jackass Inspector General sent by that bastard of an Emperor is gone.

This is a very alien attitude to Americans; civic virtue and belief in the legitimacy of our political system are more deeply ingrained in us than in any other people on Earth. It is a core part of our identity, and more than one observer has called it America’s true religion. Such things are not easily shaken. And yet, what we are going through now has undeniably begun to do just that. Make no mistake: no matter the outcome of the current legal wrangling over the election, and no matter the actions of the two men who want to be declared President, a Rubicon has indeed been crossed. And what does that mean? It is an act that can’t be undone, a point passed from which there is no coming back. No matter who ends up in the White House at the end of January, half the country will believe that they just saw an American presidential election stolen in plain sight right in front of them. The other half will believe that it came within a hair’s breadth of it – closer than they ever thought possible, and close enough to call any future election results deeply into question. Public trust in the system will end up shattered, and once that happens, it is near-impossible to restore.

For those of us who are of a more forward-thinking and revolutionary mindset, this is a good thing. We know that before the Great Divorce must come the Great Disillusionment. As in any divorce, the first step is admitting that the current arrangement is beyond fixing – that nobody is happy with it, and that there’s no reason to believe it will do anything but get worse. This involves a painful process of mourning for what was, and for what could have been, but won’t be. The MAGA crowd and the normiecons out there are just beginning this process. We who are farther along with it should be patient and sympathetic toward them. Right now, they’re in shock, still holding onto the hope that the system will right itself at the last second and that clever lawyers will undo this travesty in court. One is reminded of their faith that Jeff Sessions would put Hillary Clinton in prison, or that Bill Barr would prosecute the Russiagate coup plotters in the FBI, or that John Durham would do something-or-other that never ended up happening, either. After Joe Biden is sworn in, that shock will turn to anger. Donald’s Trump’s most lasting accomplishment – the one that he unwittingly sacrificed his second term for – will prove to be goading the Establishment into dropping the mask and showing the normies who they really are and how the system really works. This will be hugely redpilling; in time, it will change everything. It will give the normies the moral permission they need to stop following Washington’s edicts. As long as those were onerous but seemingly passed legitimately, the normies would grumble but obey them. But when the normie perceives that those decrees ended up in place due to outright fraud perpetrated by a crooked system, they won’t. That system only works now because the vast majority of people voluntarily obey the law even when they disagree with it. When an irrecoverable legitimacy crisis makes them rethink that, ungovernability begins.

As for you, friends, the most important thing you can do right now is to come to terms with the fact that life as you knew it a year ago is over. The country, the society, the whole world that you lived in a year ago is gone, and it’s never coming back. If you loved it, cherish its memory. But don’t try to hold onto it – that will be used as a weapon against you. Evil people will promise you that if you submit to them, they will bring that world back. But they can’t, and they wouldn’t really want to do it even if they could. I wish I could tell you that what lies ahead will be pleasant or easy, but it won’t be. You’ll need to be strong and sane in an insane world in order to get through it. But if you are, the distant future can be brighter. That much, in all sincerity, I promise you.

The Bumpening: A Tale of Modern Tyranny

As with millions of Americans, I take a few days of vacation every summer to calm the nerves and recharge the faculties. This year, I endeavored to brave the twin storms of pandemic and civil unrest to take advantage of the abnormally-low rates offered by hotels desperate to attract travelers in the midst of these troubles, and so I loaded up the car and hit the road bound for Cape Cod, where I passed a few peaceful days at Hyannisport, gazing out upon the ocean and contemplating eternity. (Thankfully I did not, to the best of my knowledge, run into any members of the disreputable Kennedy clan – a blessing for which my gratitude knows no bounds.) On the way back home to southern Appalachia, I took a detour to the rust belt town of Schenectady, NY, to pay a visit to my old friend Tony Martell, working class author and advocate for everything that’s good in the world.

Schenectady was once a thriving town known as the “Electric City” in honor of being the headquarters of General Electric, which ran an enormous manufacturing plant there. The prosperity that it brought to the place is obvious in the houses, once magnificent but now run-down and neglected, that line its pothole-cratered streets. GE closed down nearly everything at the height of the outsourcing craze in the 1990s, moving essentially all of its manufacturing to China. It’s easy to point the finger of blame at them for doing so, but the astronomical taxes and choking regulations imposed by New York’s leftist state government made it a near-inescapable decision. Schenectady has been slowly decaying ever since. In the 00s, the Democratic mayor decided to try to reverse the decline via a concerted effort to attract as many Third World immigrants as she could into the city, because PBS and the New York Times told her they were industrious and an asset to any economy. The results were, to say the least, not what the Times promised her they would be. Moving away is a favorite topic of conversation among most of the remaining blue-collar white population.

We arranged to meet for dinner at a bar and grill on State Street popular with that very same working class demographic. I arrived first, staked out a table, and was a quarter of the way through a Sam Adams when Tony walked in.

He seemed almost to charge at the table, a grim look on his face. Not pausing to offer a hello, he said: “Have you heard about Bumpy’s? They’re getting canceled. Black Lives Matter is protesting them right this minute!”

This was quite an odd thing to hear.

Bumpy’s Polar Freeze Ice Cream Stand and Snow Plowing Service is a mile or so down State Street from the bar. It is, in many ways, an exemplar of the hard work and ingenuity behind the American Dream. Every year, Bumpy opens his ice cream stand in May, serves up cones and sundaes until Halloween, then closes it down and takes a week’s vacation. When he comes back, he hooks up plows to his trucks, and he and a couple of year-round employees (the ice cream stand is mostly staffed by students doing summer jobs) plow snow in driveways and parking lots until April (in this part of upstate, snowstorms are not uncommon well into spring). Then he takes another week off, comes back at the start of May, and opens the ice cream stand again. This deft balancing of two seasonal businesses has provided him with a prosperous middle-class living. And it adds to the life of his community – many a dinner with Tony over the years has ended with the two of us reconvening at Bumpy’s after our meal, sitting at the picnic tables by the parking lot with a cold treat, talking about politics or philosophy or art until it got pitch dark.

How, I wondered, was it even possible for Bumpy’s, of all places, to have incurred the wrath of the outrage mob?

Tony sat and, after our orders were placed, told me the story.

The trouble began right at the start of the ice cream season. Coronavirus-inspired mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing orders had been issued by the Governor of New York, an arrogant lout with a room-temperature IQ who (like his brother the CNN anchor) only got his job through the name recognition he inherited from his father, a rhetorically-gifted but otherwise-incompetent Governor from the previous generation. These orders are supposed to be enforced by business owners, who the governor seems to believe he can involuntarily deputize in order to impose his unconstitutional, undemocratically-enacted diktats. They are expected to refuse service to, and expel if necessary, any person not abiding by them. But this didn’t sit well with Bumpy, who figured that his customers are grown adults who can decide for themselves whether or not they want to wear a mask and how far they’d like to stand from each other. No one was paying him to be a cop, he had no interest in refusing money from anyone willing to buy ice cream, and anyhow, this was a free country and he could run his business any way he liked.

He was about to get a lesson in the workings of the Current Year.

It began when a woman customer (it is always a woman, in such cases) dropped dime and ratted Bumpy out to the county Health Department. The Health Department, acting in the vindictive spirit so common to petty bureaucrats, showed up at Bumpy’s for a surprise inspection. Much to their disappointment, they found the place clean as a whistle except for one minor violation; a water hose draining where it shouldn’t have been. This is the kind of thing that would normally be handled with a warning and an instruction to fix the problem as soon as possible. But because Bumpy had openly refused to do the Governor’s dirty work for him and police the actions of the grown adults who came there to do business with him, they instead slapped him with a closure order and a $1000 per day fine until the issue was resolved and they could find time to come around and re-inspect it.

This was, of course, an utter outrage, and Bumpy treated it as such. What right did they have to close down his business like that? He was a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen, and this was a bald-faced abuse of government power! And so, with his defiant spirit not yet broken, Bumpy ignored the closure order and opened up again the next day as normal. When the Health Department heard about this, they returned and announced they were enacting a second $1000 per day fine against his business until he obeyed them, closed down, fixed the hose, and then called them back for re-inspection.

Bumpy was now losing $2000 a day in fines, but even at that he stayed unbent and unbroken. He kept his business open, started making arrangements for the hose to be relocated, and continued to refuse to tell his customers what to do with themselves in reaction to the coronavirus.

The powers-that-be took notice of this refusenik. And this is where Bumpy would encounter the newest aspect of tyranny in the 21st century: the Public-Private Partnership between the government, the media, and the outrage mob in shutting down anyone who dares to get on their bad side. A few days after the Health Department visit, for no apparent reason at all, a posting was made on a local Antifa-affiliated Facebook group. It included a picture of Bumpy’s, centered on the “Thin Blue Line” flag that Bumpy proudly hangs from its roof, and the sentiment: “If you flying Blue Lives Matter, we’re coming!”. Here it is worth noting that Thin Blue Line flags are not at all uncommon in the parts of town that remain white and working class. Many local businesses fly them. So why, and how, was Bumpy’s the one targeted? One does not have to be of a deeply conspiratorial mindset to imagine the answer. Elements within the state government are themselves more than capable of dropping dime to non-governmental players and making sure that a certain enemy ends up in their sights.

When Bumpy got wind of this, he was understandably fearful. It was now the first week of June. Violent riots were sweeping the country. Businesses had been burned and looted by the dozens, by the very same people now targeting him. He tried to think of what he could do to de-escalate the situation. Perhaps a bit of placation might work – some show that might convince these radical leftists not to target him? It was worth a try. And so, this being the beginning of Pride Month, the rainbow flag and the pink-white-and-blue transgender flag went up next to the Thin Blue Line at the ice cream stand. Bumpy hoped this might be the end of it.

But of course, it wasn’t. Apologizing or trying to appease the leftist outrage mob never works. Just the opposite – it only makes them sense blood in the water, and they will escalate until their enemy is crushed and surrenders unconditionally. Since Bumpy had not yet done this, it was time for the next phase of action.

As with the Facebook post, a Tweet mysteriously appeared out of nowhere that included what was claimed to be a screenshot of a text message exchange between Bumpy and one of his managers. It centered around what seems to be a pay dispute involving a black employee. It also seems to show Bumpy calling the employee multiple racial slurs (including The Word That Must Never Be Said), followed up by stating unequivocally that he doesn’t hire black people. Despite it having been tweeted out by a random, unverified account with few followers, and despite these things being trivially easy to fake, several local news outlets immediately ran salacious stories of racism at Bumpy’s based on it. One might wonder how they could ever have found an obscure social media posting like this without being tipped off to it by someone. One also might wonder why the story was run without any verification of the claim made whatsoever, or without calling Bumpy for comment, or without a single one of our erudite journalist class wondering how exactly it could be that Bumpy was having a pay dispute with a black employee if he doesn’t hire black people. It didn’t matter – they ran the story anyway.

What came next was, in the current environment, predictable (and needless to say, absolutely intentional). The very afternoon I had arrived in Schenectady, a mob of Black Lives Matter protesters had made their way out of the city center and gathered around Bumpy’s. They stopped traffic on State Street, causing a large traffic jam. They chanted threatening slogans which intimidated away all of Bumpy’s customers, and even caused most of the employees he had working there that day to quit on the spot rather than face what was doubtless coming when the sun went down. Things got tenser as the twilight grew darker.

But here, Bumpy had his first stroke of good fortune. To what is surely the great surprise of anyone who has spent the last month watching the police cower on their knees in front of angry mobs to save their own skins while the cities around them were sacked and looted, the Schenectady Police Department turned out quickly and in force. Perhaps the Thin Blue Line flag had done Bumpy some good after all. The SPD set a perimeter around the gathering, with barricades placed on State Street to ensure both that passing drivers would not run over any of the mob, and also, as anyone who has watched the events of the past weeks understand, that the mob would not be permitted to give them any reason to. The mob stayed and menaced Bumpy and the remaining staff until just after dark, when, with any possibility of getting violent thwarted and a rainstorm beginning to pass through, they packed up and left. By the time Tony and I drove by after dinner, Bumpy’s was closed and all was quiet.

And so Bumpy’s did not burn that night, as surely some person or persons had intended, and as it surely would have had the police not acted as they did. Nevertheless, Bumpy’s troubles did not end there.

The next morning, as I gathered my belongings for the drive home, I turned on the local television news. As I feared but expected, every station was running breathless stories about how peaceful protestors fighting for civil rights had picketed a racist ice cream stand. They did this knowing that it would ruin Bumpy’s business. That’s precisely why they did it. The police might have been able to stop the place from being destroyed physically, but they couldn’t stop this.

Driving down State Street toward the New York State Thruway, I passed Bumpy’s. It was still closed, and remains so as of this writing. The problem now is not only the closure order, but a lack of employees. The ones he used to have are gone, and there’s not much hope of hiring any new ones. What parent in their right mind would allow their high schooler to take on the risk of accepting a summer job there now?

A day and a half later, I was back at my cottage in the mountains of Appalachia – and needless to say, I was greatly relieved to be there. My little country town remains beyond the power of the kind of tyranny that is wrecking the life of an innocent ice cream merchant up in Schenectady, and I will do whatever I must to ensure that it will remain so. I got in a good night’s sleep and, the next morning, picked up my phone to check in with Tony and ask about the latest news in the case. It was not encouraging.

Two days of heavy rainstorms had caused the mob to stay home, but on the 1st of July, they were back in even greater numbers. This time they showed up before noon and, with the place closed and no employees around, there was nobody to summon the police. One of the neighbors must have called Bumpy to warn him about what as going on, because he quickly showed up to try to protect his business. As he drove his pickup truck down State Street toward the mob, they showed the early signs of swarming it. He got out of the truck with what turned out to be a BB gun (almost certainly the only thing resembling a weapon that this peaceful man owns), at which point the mob cried out that they were being assaulted and (one might think ironically for a “protest” touched off by the presence of a “Thin Blue Line” flag), immediately called the police themselves, demanding that Bumpy be arrested. And that is what happened, though here again his pro-police sentiment may have helped him, as they let him go with only an appearance ticket for misdemeanor menacing. They even assigned a couple of officers to stick around and make sure that the ice cream stand wouldn’t burn while he was being processed. Thankfully, at present, it remains intact.

Once again, wild, unfounded smears against him started flying on Twitter, the most colorful of which was that Bumpy is “a registered sex offender covered in swastika tattoos”. Once again, a round of stories in local media warned parents of the Nazi ice cream merchant in their neighborhood, lying in wait to dispense racism-tinged frozen treats to their children. And now the government has re-entered the fray – the county Civil Rights Commission has issued a formal request for the state Attorney General’s office to open a civil rights investigation against Bumpy’s; meanwhile, the Health Department has announced that it’s seeking a court order allowing it to padlock the place, leaving it closed indefinitely. If it ever opens again, it will be only after months of legal proceedings and tens of thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of dollars in fines and legal costs laid at Bumpy’s feet.

At this point, Bumpy had best hope for a really snowy winter, because the ice cream part of his business isn’t going to be generating any revenue to help pay his bills for a long while. In fact, paying his bills at all now hinges on the off chance that the tyranny Partnership doesn’t decide to target his plow business, too (which they almost certainly will).

Or he might just close it all up, take whatever he has left, and leave town, as everyone else has been thinking of doing. If so, it will be two more productive businesses closed, and one more taxpaying entrepreneur run out of the state. But not to worry – I’m sure all of those dirt poor immigrants will pick up the slack any old time now.

That is where things stand for Bumpy’s right now, and as appalling as it is, I wish that were all there is to the story. But it’s not – with Bumpy’s safely crushed beneath their heel, the Partnership has turned its sights on another target that might, to sane people, seem even more innocuous – Grace Baptist Church, across the Hudson River in Troy, NY. Grace Baptist’s transgression was to encourage the right of self-defense amongst their parishioners by raffling off an AR-15 rifle (one of the variety that must be crippled in order to comply with New York’s assault weapons ban). Self-defense against the violent arm of the Partnership must, of course, never be allowed, so the mob was dispatched to the church’s doorstep, to express the opposition to violence that the gun control movement claims as the core of its beliefs by assaulting and beating churchgoers on their way into Sunday worship. That this actually made the case for AR-15 ownership rather than disproving it didn’t matter. No dialectic matters now – no reason, no logic, no facts, no persuasion, and no “truth bombs”. The Partnership is not here to debate anyone. Their message is one of force and power: Obey us, or one or more arms of the Partnership – official or unofficial – will be sent to destroy you. And don’t you even think about trying to defend yourself, because we’ll ensure that will only make it worse for you. Comply, or else.

If you don’t live in Schenectady, you have almost certainly never had ice cream at Bumpy’s, and you likely never will. But its story is not merely a local news item – Bumpy’s and Grace Baptist Church are canaries in the coal mine in this dark time in our history. Experiences like theirs – of innocents attacked by the mob, smeared by the media, put out of business by the government or woke capital, and prosecuted for defending themselves on their own property – have been repeated nationwide. And the Partnership shows no sign of slowing down. Someday they will come for me, and for you. We are all Bumpy.

I have not, however, told you this cautionary tale to make you lose hope. The Partnership can be turned back. There are ways to put yourself beyond its power, so that they can only rage impotently at you. There are even ways to destroy it – and make no mistake, it will be destroyed eventually. But in order to fight it, you must know what it is and how it operates. Allow yourself no illusions, and make yourself ready.

True Bullshit

English is a wonderfully expressive language; far more than, for example, French, which for all its pretensions of sophistication is actually quite limited in its depth and precision. Much of this has to do with the anarchic evolution of English – nobody has ever really been in charge of creating or curating it. By contrast, the Academie Francaise has existed for centuries now as official arbiters of what constitutes proper French, and, as many such august bodies of credentialed academics have done in their respective fields, have progressively made their language worse by the formulation of rules that are eminently logical and completely wrongheaded. Perhaps the most important of their ongoing quests has been to streamline the French language by ridding it of redundancies – taking words that they deem to be essentially identical in meaning, choosing one to keep, and then banishing the rest from the canon of acceptable vocabulary. While this has made French a very efficient language (official logic is good at creating efficiency), it has also robbed it of much of its richness. In contrast, English contains many, many words that, while very close in definition, impart a very slightly differing shade of meaning or context from each other. Thus, in English, very fine gradations of meaning can be achieved with proper word choice, while in French, these distinctions either have to be explained in depth or left ambiguous. This is what makes English an excellent language for both science and literature, while French, for all its attempts at centrally-planned logical efficiency, is clunky and unwieldy at both. It has even been suggested that this is why French has produced many good authors, but really no great ones – nobody on the level of Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Poe, or Tolkien. Whatever their natural talents may be, the limits of their language simply don’t grant them the tools necessary to achieve such greatness.

A good example of the rich vocabulary that gives English its remarkable descriptiveness is the word “bullshit”. I am hardly the first to write about the depth and versatility of this remarkable word, which, so far as I know, has no real equivalent in any other language. The Academie would have banished it for being too close in meaning to “false” or “incorrect”, but that’s not quite really what it means. In fact it is entirely possible for a statement to be 100% factually correct, and still be complete bullshit. This happens when that factually correct idea is exaggerated, taken out of context, or otherwise distorted in order to be used in bad faith as a pretext for some action that would otherwise be rightly seen as immoral, unwise, oppressive, or absolute lunacy.

There has never been a better moment to contemplate this truth, as this juncture in our civic life is positively swimming in factually-correct bullshit.

Examples abound, both minor and major. Take, for example, the “gluten-free” craze that has almost certainly overtaken your favorite grocery store in recent years. It is absolutely factually true that there is a small percentage of people whose health can benefit from eating gluten-free foods. But unless you’ve been diagnosed as having a very specific and rare food allergy by your doctor, you’re not one of them. And neither are 99% of the people who’ve been buying gluten-free foods during this fad, either. They’ve simply accepted on faith an implied (though carefully never stated outright) claim that it’s better for them somehow, and certainly better enough that it’s worth paying a dollar or two more for. None of the people producing or marketing gluten-free foods to the general public have ever made any false statements about what they are or what they do. There’s no lie involved. But it’s also indisputable that gluten-free foods are bullshit, and the whole fad around them is no more than a pretext to squeeze gullible soccer moms into paying extra money for something that (unless they really are one of the tiny percentage diagnosed with a gluten allergy) is of no benefit to them whatsoever.

But this is merely a minor league example. Big league bullshit invariably involves much more powerful players.

For many years, my go-to example of factually-correct bullshit has been the Big Tobacco settlements of the late 90s and early 00s. Is it true that smoking is insanely unhealthy, and leads to horrendous health problems? Certainly. I was my mother’s caretaker as she died of lung cancer brought on by 50 years of smoking. It is not an easy way to go, and was not a pleasant experience for either her or me. I personally have never smoked, nor do I recommend smoking to anybody. That the factual claim used as the core of the push for the settlement is true and valid is beyond any reasonable doubt. But the reality of the settlement has been this: The public was promised that all the money it generated would go into the health care system, pouring billions into it in order to pull it back from the brink of a looming insolvency caused in no small part by the enormous costs of having to treat diseases brought on by smoking. Instead, a huge cut went to the politically-connected lawyers who negotiated the settlement, and the rest was poured into the General Fund so that politicians could waste it on all of the usual bullshit that politicians waste money on (most especially the thinly-veiled vote-buying schemes that masquerade as public charity in our democracy). So little of it went to actual health care, that within a decade we were all being told that we needed to pass Obamacare to save the health care system from the same onrushing insolvency that the tobacco settlement money was supposed to fix. The whole thing was a scam – the science behind it was all solid, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t bullshit.

Of course, they then moved on to Global Warming, which was rebranded as Climate Change when exceptionally shaky data made the “warming” claims into a weak leg to stand on. Despite this, I will be the first to admit that I don’t personally know for sure whether any unusual climate change is, in fact, happening, or what might be causing it if it is. Maybe all of their claims are true, and maybe they aren’t. But even if it is all based in solid fact and science, I do have one question about the matter for which I will require an answer before I regard it as bullshit: Has the left ever encountered a crisis which had a solution that involved the public handing less money and power over to them and their allies in the Public/Private Woke Coalition? Surely, logic would dictate that there would have to be just one out there somewhere, wouldn’t it?

Yes, it is obvious that George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis Police involved some serious misconduct on their part (though, frankly, there was probably no lack of it on his part, either). Yes, this indicates that there are serious problems with policing in this country. Yes, police training – both initial and recurrent – is uniformly awful, which has led to one appalling incident after another. But the idea that our cities burned for two weeks straight because of any of that is bullshit. It was simply a pretext for a communist (and yes, I used that word, because that’s precisely who they are, whether they call themselves that or not) uprising for which the ground work was carefully planned long beforehand, the goal of which is to help evict Donald J. Trump from the White House by any means necessary.

And then there is the coronavirus pandemic. My position on the scientific facts surrounding the disease and the proper response to them hasn’t changed one bit. I am still a moderate on them. Yes, coronavirus is a serious matter. Yes, it was worth shutting down the economy for a few weeks until we had a better understanding of it as a health threat and could get a proper handle on the situation. Yes, therefore, I think that the Trump approach was a reasonable one. But it has also become obvious that the power-hungry and dishonest in the Establishment have been using it as a pretext to take actions that help them achieve their goals. It does so in multiple ways. One, of course, has been to turn the economy into a kamikaze plane aimed squarely at the deck of the USS Trump, hoping to sink any chance that he has to retain power after the upcoming election. But a more important goal is to get the people used to taking immoral, unconstitutional, and tyrannical orders from the government after it has declared some manner of “emergency” (and you can count on the fact that once they are in power, they will ensure that a perpetual state of emergency exists so that your obedience will always be required). Everyone who has been following recent events has undoubtedly seen stories like this: gatherings of ten at a church are prohibited, and the police will be sent to break them up by force; meanwhile gatherings of 10,000 at a George Floyd protest are encouraged, and the police will even be instructed to allow the “peaceful protesters” to sack and burn their own station houses if that’s what they feel like doing. The reasons for this are obvious, and so is the conclusion to be drawn from them. It’s not that coronavirus is a hoax, that it’s “just the flu, bro”, or that it wasn’t worth taking seriously – it wasn’t any of those things. It’s not that we were wrong to take carefully-considered, appropriate steps to keep it from becoming a disastrous health crisis – we weren’t. It’s that coronavirus is bullshit.

From all of this, we can take a look at the bigger picture: “The Experts”, with all of their credentials worn prominently on their sleeves, are incessantly paraded in front of you in order to deliver condescending lectures on “the facts”, and especially on how “the science is settled”. And maybe it is. Maybe everything that they are telling you is absolutely, unquestionably, beyond any shadow of doubt, factually correct. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t bullshit.

Make sure you know (and can articulate) the difference.

Short Thoughts About The Long Emergency

Welp…

While I was gathering notes on my last piece about coronavirus and the post-COVID world, some inexplicable intuition told me that I ought to get the piece written and published ASAP, because its relevance was going to fade fast (That’s precisely why I don’t often write about current events, and prefer meta-level “evergreen” topics instead). And now here we are, at a point where the blaring headlines about coronavirus from a week and a half ago seem as distant as the news that the Titanic sank.

It feels as though I should write something long and detailed about the riots of the past few days, but the honest truth is that everything I’d have to say about it, I already said in my COVID articles. I won’t be so crass as to tell the world “I told you so”, but I will go so far as to say that those pieces have aged pretty well in the short time (which seems like a long time) since I wrote them, and that I stand by everything I said. So instead of repeating them here, I’ll confine myself to a quick review of my main points in light of what’s currently going on.

•Expect the Unexpected

Boy, who saw this coming a couple of weeks ago, huh?

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•Get Out of The Big Cities

Here’s Scott Adams, echoing the most critical advice from my COVID pieces.

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My aim here is not to try to bolster my point by showing you that a media celebrity agrees with me. It’s more that Adams is basically an elevated-IQ normie who’s slightly ahead of the curve, and represents what most normies are either thinking now, or will be thinking in six months. So if a normie barometer like Adams is saying that cities are over, that means this view has left the fringes and is headed toward the normie mainstream.

And here’s what the normies are waking up and realizing: The big cities will never recover from this. Not as places that smart young people want to leave the countryside and migrate to. Not as centers of industry and innovation, or of wealth and power. Not as anyplace that anybody wants to be if they can avoid it. The period from January to April of 2020 proved that most people can work remotely; then May and June came by and showed them why they’re really going to want to. The exodus from the cities, which was already well underway before any of the events of this year, is going to turn into a stampede for the exits. Everyone now understands that big cities are deathtraps during times of disruption. Don’t be the last rat left on these sinking ships.

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•When You Get To Your New Hometown, Become a Valued Member of the Community

Lone wolves won’t get as far as they may think when trouble comes; you’ll want to have friends to help you out.

Get As Self-Sufficient As You Possibly Can Be

You never know when a business you work for might find itself unable to continue to employ you due to unexpected circumstances…

…or when truckers can’t or won’t be making deliveries for a while for one reason or another.

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So plan to be as independent as you can manage to be.

•Stop Counting on the Government to Save You

Even if the government and their enforcers were reliably on your side, which they won’t be, they’ve shown that they aren’t even capable of saving themselves when things get bad. At this point, relying on them to be able to save you is suicidally stupid.

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•Things Aren’t Going Back to the Way They Were When You Were a Kid 

The fact that these riots dragged on for days on end with virtually no pushback from the government is not just troubling in and of itself, but as a sign of where things are headed. Here’s some wisdom from our forefathers: The real reason why no government can allow riots to continue is that they pose a direct challenge to the government’s core claim to legitimacy. People surrender some degree of their right to self-determination to a government in exchange for a promise from that government to maintain order. When it works, it’s a good deal, which is why having a government is basically universal among humans. But where a government allows chaos, it reneges on that deal; it ceases to uphold its side of the bargain. This means that citizens are left to come to the realization that they’re being ripped off – that they are continuing to surrender that degree of self-determination to a government that gives them nothing in return. This destroys that government’s legitimacy, and thus is dangerously destabilizing. No government that wants to keep existing can let this happen. But ours has.

I don’t think our current government has much time left in it. And no, I’m not talking about the election this fall.

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•Expect Anarcho-Tyranny To Intensify

Here’s 2020 in a single picture:

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This is just a small sample of what’s to come. As empires decline, the government invariably becomes simultaneously more incompetent and more oppressive. Rethink your relationship to the government accordingly.

•Buy Guns and Learn How to Use Them

Not swords.

Not bows and arrows.

Guns.

•Pick Your Battles Carefully

The “III%ers” seem to have decided not to play the designated villain role that the left had in mind for them during these riots.

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Not even when the left has tried to goad them into it (which they have been trying to do incessantly since the riots started).

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“And I’ll look down and whisper… no.”

The little we’ve seen of the III%ers has been at the edges of their own towns and neighborhoods, making it clear that communists and diverse peoples can smash and burn their own territory if they like, but that it won’t be expanding to anyplace under the Boys’ protection, cops or not. That’s precisely the right strategy to take. Defend what’s yours, but don’t rush in to save people who will only treat you like villains for your trouble. Again and again, conservatives have lost because they came in and cleaned up after the left made a mess of things, effectively shielding their enemies from the entirely predictable consequences of their own bad decisions. Not this time. Sort it out yourselves, just don’t bring it where we live.

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“Cleanup on Aisle Five!”

•The Most Important Election In Your Political Life Might Be The One For Your Local Sheriff

Because these are the guys who will decide whether to encourage you to defend yourself when necessary…

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…or whether to try to illegally disarm you in the middle of a riot for the “crime” of protecting yourself and your property.

So pay close attention to that election – just as much as you would to the one which chooses who will occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

(This also relates back to my point about the benefits of having friends in bad times. If one armed man tells the cops to fuck off when they try to disarm him during a riot, he gets led away in cuffs. If fifteen armed men tell them to fuck off, it’s a different story.)

•Stop Listening to Blackpillers

We’ve hit the limit of the practical utility of bitching and groaning about how the world isn’t fair for not handing us what we want on a platter. Complainers bring nothing useful to the table at this point, and despair is a mortal sin for a reason. We have serious, hard work to do. People who just want to wallow in edgy nihilism are nothing but time-wasters. Go be emo somewhere else.

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“Can I interest you in a tale of woe?”

I wrote this hurriedly and published it while the riots were still top of mind for everyone. Hopefully my next piece can be a bit more evergreen. Until then, stay safe, and start making plans!

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 that Drs. Birx and Fauci are operatives of the NWO.
•No, I don’t think there’s any large-scale intentional 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 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 among the “IIIers” 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 armed III%ers 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 III% 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 III%ers 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 III%ers, 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 IIIers 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 Happening or what kind of emergency food to have stocked in your garage for when it does finally happen. 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.

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 after 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 basic 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 after this crisis, either. Yet it is now obvious that Modernity has failed to keep its side of the bargain in which we agreed to give up our traditions, our culture, and our faith in exchange for cold rationality and empiricism protecting us from demons like plague outbreaks that we thought we’d left in the distant past. To the great mass of common people, the shock of watching this sudden failure of its social and political arrangements has been catastrophically disillusioning. 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.

Here I am not necessarily asking you to lead a 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. 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 Happening”, 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 all the wrong lessons from this. Those who believe that this crisis will change elite behavior in any sane, positive way – that it will shock them out of their pattern of greedy, shortsighted, and ultimately self-destructive actions – are fooling themselves. 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 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 a model that our elites liked. A lot. 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 have any sense knocked into them by 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.