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.)

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.)