An Intriguing Perspective on What’s Ahead

Sunni's picture

My friend Peter and I have discussed the speculation surrounding what may lie ahead for this country, and those who live here, a fair bit. Being a much better multi–tasker than I, he has offered a stimulating perspective in a new essay, American Winter. It’s fairly long, full of cogent observations and asides, and I barely finished skimming it before starting to tell you nine about it—so I don’t have any deep thoughts of my own to offer at present.

I will say that my immediate response is that his words help provide me a context for understanding my own ... not ennui, but an almost academic, disengaged mental state in some ways, regarding the future. My primary concern is not for myself, as my life is most likely more than half over and I don’t expect to be around when it all plays out (which it will not, as Peter’s essay tangentially makes clear). It is for my children: yet, not knowing what may lie ahead, how best to help them be ready seems more challenging than anything else I’ve dealt with so far in my life.

A large element of that is knowing that political processes yet to unfold will shape the course of events; and in the face of those decisions, I feel utterly powerless. Is it madness to try to raise freedom-loving, responsible individuals in these times? It’s starting to feel like it to me. I’m feeling engulfed in madness, an urgent insanity that, in looking for answers, isn’t even asking the proper questions.

No wonder I feel so removed from it all. But that is no answer either.

Warming of the Historical Cycle

That was an intriguing read, thanks for pointing to it, Sunni.

In the beginning, I never got the feeling it was doom-saying for the sake of doom-saying, like soooooo much of what one can read is. Instead, the observations of the book he was exploring laid a foundation of legitimacy on which these rational predictions could be built. Frankly, that kept me from skimming and yada-yada-yada'ing through the rest of it.

While his descriptions of the schisms in our culture were pretty apt - though quite oversimplified - the generality of those archetypes (New Agers v. Evangelicals) share a very common theme: Orthodoxy. The New Agers (sometimes referred to as liberals these days) and the Evangelicals both have tunnel-vision in regards to their respective orthodoxies, as evidenced in the health care debate and defense of marriage debates, respectively. It is not enough to consider alternative viewpoints; the groups must view such affronts to their tunnel with scorn or conceit. The whole structuring of society in such a way, along these ego boundaries (a la Butler Shaffer) is as much the problem as collectivism, misguided individualism, or devaluation.

Understanding all of these seasons seems to be tracking symptoms, while the fundamental nature of the celestial bodies goes unexamined and undetected. We are essentially, to stay in the metaphor of seasons, still in the era of the Earth-centric solar system. All of this is not to say that his observations and predictions are not valid. I think I just mean to say that his essay is wholly in the sphere of symptoms and seasons. Perhaps it is time for more astronomy to compliment the climatology.
(I had better quit before this tortured metaphor supernovas in my face!)

PoS

Murphy's Bye-Laws

Free kids, or content sheep?

I know how you feel about raising your kids; knowing what is probably in store for their futures. I was actually writing a little about that very subject yesterday- to be posted on my Examiner column when I finish it.

Strauss & Howe: The Fourth Turning

Good book. I read it perhaps as long as ten years ago, shortly after it came out. LFB was selling it at the time. I liked the book and I should reread it again, maybe after I finish Black Wind.

I feel utterly powerless. Is it madness to try to raise freedom-loving, responsible individuals in these times? It’s starting to feel like it to me.

No, not madness. Raising responsible individuals may be one of the sanest responses to current madness.

I’m feeling engulfed in madness, an urgent insanity that, in looking for answers, isn’t even asking the proper questions.

Presumably you refer to current events. If so, one good thing about current events which leaps out of the news stories, is what seems to be the lowering of respect for elected office holders, bureaucrats and agents of the state.

Did you know ... ?

... after I finish Black Wind.

Did you know that Paul considers that his best work to date? Much as I’ve liked some of his other books (Sims comes to mind), I’m hard pressed not to agree with that assessment.

[O]ne good thing about current events which leaps out of the news stories, is what seems to be the lowering of respect for elected office holders, bureaucrats and agents of the state.

Yes, I’ve observed that; but what strikes me most is that many seem to think the problem lies in those individuals, rather than the coercive nature of the state.

I think I need to go for a long walk on a beach, or in the woods ...

Black Wind

I read somewhere, maybe in his comments included in Aftershock and Others, that he thought Black Wind his best. I'm enjoying it. I really liked Sims too.

As for popular realization of the coercive aspects of the state, that does seem to be rising too, but slower.

Maybe ...

It could have been in my interview of him.

F. Paul Interview

I read his assessment more recently too, but certainly read it in your interview.

I bought a paperback copy of Black Wind at a favorite local book store (Frugal Muse) shortly after reading your interview. But I started reading it recently after reading Aftershock and Others, and By the Sword.

Far, Far From Madness

I'm sorry that my little rumination on America's near future has caused you to feel powerless. I often try ideas on for size; I found a fairly good fit with Strauss & Howe's perspective, but I don't think that their book or my review of it provides the last word. In particular, I think it is never madness to become a sovereign individual, or to encourage those we love to do so. The skills we learn and the powers we exercise thereby -- clear thinking, responsible choices, effective action, passion for life and for freedom -- stand us in good stead no matter what the season in society at large. I do think that winter is on the way (or already here), but it is during times of cold and dark that one most needs strength of character and the courage of one's convictions. So carry on, dear snake! You are doing God's work. (And I say that as a complete non-believer.)

Oh, definitely not you!

I'm sorry that my little rumination on America's near future has caused you to feel powerless.

It didn’t—it just helped me recognize and give voice to a growing swirl of unease. And I’m not sure I did so very accurately. Perhaps I’m just cycling through a winter mood.

Thank you very much for the support; I do appreciate that a lot.

SAD?

A winter mood, eh? Perhaps you have a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder? ;-) It's only natural, I suppose, but such things are outside my span of control so I try not to let them get me down too much...

No, not SAD.

That was just my feeble effort at poetically tying my feelings to the theme of your essay. I’ll go sit with The Foamy One in the section for metaphor abusers now.

The Group M Bench

Welcome to the Group M bench, Sunni. Here you'll find washed-up poets and thinkers who are still trees, birds, and leaves of grass, stuck in an endless loop of littering metaphor all over the place(and causin' a disturbance).

PoS

Murphy's Bye-Laws

Madness

Is it madness to try to raise freedom-loving, responsible individuals in these times?

No more than in other times.

I would say that the madness was in having children. As we both did the only thing we can do now is raise them the best we are able. Teaching them freedom, responsibility, etc, is in fact the best way. It will give them the necessary tools to deal with whatever is coming and, assuming they are not sociopaths, still be able to look at themselves in the mirror.

In today's world they have a lot of options. To start with they do not need to stay in the US. If they do stay there are many tools they can use to remain free. I am sure many more tools will be developed.

I read the book many years ago and was not convinced by its arguments. Nor am I convinced by the New Age vs Evangelical argument. It is far too simple to describe what is going on. If I have to over simplify my preference is Parasites vs Producers. Basically a Randian view.

I do think we are entering an age where Parasites will dominate. Unfortunately, I see this happening all over the world. But it cannot last forever. I am helping my children develop the mental tools they need to get through it and come out the other side healthy, honorable, and prosperous. To me this means that they need to be able to identify and learn useful skills, be flexible enough to react to changing circumstances and be able to resist the temptation to become a Parasite.

This may be the most difficult thing in the near future. Government is already the largest employer (in every country) and will just keep getting bigger. The temptation to take the easy way out may be great. A big part of my job is to convince them that this path is not an option.

I hope this did not ramble too much. In closing, do not worry about being mad or helpless. You are neither. There are plenty of other things to be concerned about, but not these.

Producers and Parasites

Hi Jorge, I tend to agree that the New Age vs. Evangelical distinction is too simplistic. Because I'm a libertarian, I too lean toward the distinction between producers and parasites. But that will need to be the topic for another essay, because although my intellectual foundations are Randian I also think that the concept of the Atlases shrugging misses the mark. The core of my objection is that you don't need to be an Atlas in order to be a producer (Rand too often conflated first-raters and first-handers). Perhaps I'll title the essay "Willers Shrugged". :) Indeed, at the "Tea Party" protests most of the participants are regular folks, not great inventors or captains of industry. I think there is a reservoir of respect for freedom among the common people of America. Whether that will make a difference remains to be seen...

Rand

Despite having name our first daughter Ayn, neither Annie nor I are Randians. As I said

If I have to over simplify my preference is Parasites vs Producers.

But this is an over simplification, just like New Age vs Evangelical.

I can’t agree, sorry.

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Jorge; I’m sorry that I don’t have time to respond fully.

I would say that the madness was in having children.

While I understand some of the thought underlying such a sentiment, I cannot agree. I used to think that way, and that was part of why I didn’t want to have children; but both of the snolfs have enriched my life so much that it makes the stresses and headaches of childrearing worth it. And to the degree there is any meaning to life in a broad sense, reproducing is it.

Hmmmm

It seems that the smiley was necessary after all. Here it is :)

I do not consider having children madness. Given the choice I would do it all again, even with the hassles.

A bad case

My apologies, Jorge. I have a bad case of SBS, or Slow Brain Syndrome, it appears.

I think I'm burnt out on worrying about the future

Hi Sunni! I realized as I was reading your essay and The Saint's that I'm having trouble even concentrating on possible future scenarios. I think the whole global warming scare pushed things so over the top for me that I just detached from worrying about those types of uncontrollables. And also, I guess I have this underlying feeling that dealing with problems is part of being human ... there's something brought out in us by difficulty that might never be stimulated in a perfectly easy world.

I want to be the same kind of parent no matter what's coming ... and whether it was crazy or not to have a kid, it's so worth it to me! Mine is half Costa Rican so we may join Jorge someday if things get too wonky here ... but in the meantime, the Harry Browne ideal of living free wherever you live is what I have in mind.

I do believe you nailed it.

Ellen, you’re definitely tapping in to the base of my feelings. In addition, I am so frustrated and weary of all the political–economic uncontrollables. Those who push the levers in those systems aren’t willing to leave us alone to live free wherever we happen to be.

Parenting

I want to be the same kind of parent no matter what's coming

I agree with this, but the specific actions we will take depend very much on the circumstances around us.

If Police State USA becomes very real for you, you may move to Costa Rica, if it does not you will do something else.

Living free means different things in London, with all its CCTV cameras than it does in, say, Montana. It also means different things to different people.

If you do come here be sure to get in touch.

Absolutely!

That's so true ... I could see situations where I would have to make major changes in some details. On the other hand, there are fundamentals as far as being a parent that I think stay pretty core for me no matter what ... like not seeing myself as the owner or boss, but more as a guide ... like not having ultimatums and punishments ... like expecting myself to treat kids with the same respect I'd give to adults. It's hard to sum up in a few words, but what I mean is I have a fundamental way of viewing the relationship, which I don't see changing whether there's an economic collapse or martial law. I can see martial law making me very careful about opening my big mouth about politics anywhere public, but I don't see it making me say something like "as long as you live in my house, you will not read such and such a book."

The Road

This reminds me of the relationship and parenting exhibited in Cormack McCarthy's The Road. In a post-apocalyptic world he still struggled to instill right and wrong as well as the appreciation of (rare) beauty in the world and life itself. That the boy somehow knew it better than the father is kind of the point, right?

PoS

Murphy's Bye-Laws

climate vs. weather

I'm reminded of a quote I used to see regularly:

"Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get."

(Variously attributed to either Heinlein or Twain)

Many people in the US are (imo) rightly concerned regarding the climate of the times. The essay addresses those climate-type issues and I find value in that. Many other purveyors on the web speculate more on the specific weather one might expect - also valuable but inherently more speculative in nature.

The quote I mentioned used to be on the top headers of the local fedgov weather forecasting website - but I've always thought the remark was useful in wider applications. It captures some of the interplays involved in the general business of forecasting.

What is Freedom Exactly?

The truth is that there is no freedom. We are bound by a multitude of conventions that are completely out of our control. We only have control over ourselves; freedom lives in our hearts not in our external existence.

Raising responsible children is any parent's responsiblity. Teaching them that this moment is all any of us have is teaching them freedom and responsibility.

Let's not waste the all-too-brief moments of our lives fearing and dreading our futures when those moments are full of potential for joy.

Welcome, Merry!

And what a way to leap in to the conversation here!

I'm on vacation, and typing this reply on an iPhone. It doesn't even offer all the characters I need to code anything, like links for example. I mention this because my reply is of necessity uncharacteristically brief.

While there is some great wisdom in your words, I don't agree that there is no such thing as freedom. Yes, there are constraints upon one, including those of the physical world; but limiting ourselves to the social and cultural realms, we have a lot of choices regarding how to respond to the expectations (or even demands) of others. I would like to explore our differing perspectives more: but that's best saved for when I can hold up my end of the conversation properly.

For any of The Nine who may want to respond, Merry is a friend of mine. I'd appreciate it if you keep that in mind.

No freedom?

Ok, I took off my big, hairy spiked boots... [big evil grin]

That statement really puzzled me too, but I have to agree with the rest of what was said.

Freedom is making your own decisions (and mistakes) and doing what you think is right. That can happen under ANY set of circumstances. Remember that someone can hold a gun to your head and force you to comply, but they can never force you to consent.

No guarantees.

Tomorrow is always going to be a surprise, one way or another (especially as you get older!). So, the only rational thing is to make the most of today, what you have to work with, then make the best plans possible to make use of unknown future opportunities. If we've been diligent to learn from the past and our own mistakes, we'll have about the best we can hope for.

Or maybe not... s**t happens. No guarantees, remember?

Oh Merry Merry

... so close and yet so far. Of course there is freedom; freedom is the default position of the living, breathing being. "Freedom lives in our hearts, not in our external existence"? Of course! You do understand. But freedom in our hearts is not "no freedom"; it's the whole of freedom.

"Let's not waste the all-too-brief moments of our lives fearing and dreading our futures when those moments are full of potential for joy." Yes! You understand! Then why begin with that odd statement: "The truth is that there is no freedom." Not so - freedom is all there is, and it drives the tyrants so crazy they spend their lives trying to stamp it out, a futile effort.

A Fitting Name

"Merry" seems to fit your outlook well. Is your middle name "Optimist"?

Anyway, welcome to the conversation!

PoS

Murphy's Bye-Laws