Sources of inspiration to survive the coming bad times

by Fabius Maximus

Summary: America’s social cohesion is fracturing. Social conflicts are heating up. Some predict a civil war. If we are to survive this, even win, we need to become tougher. Here are a few sources of inspiration to help us make the coming hard decisions.

“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous.”
— Words from one who knows about these things. From Mao tse-tung’s ”Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan”, March 1927. His words apply to all forms of intense social conflict.

Eye with flames in it.
ID 12139239 © Miramisska | Dreamstime.

While we cannot agree on what the future holds for America, many people believe we will have intense social conflict.

Some fear turmoil like that of the 1960s and the 1970s. Our cities burned in race riots, and each summer the National Guard occupied America’s ghettos. There were giant anti-war riots (e.g., the shootings at Kent State). Militant leftist groups set bombs across the nation, so that NYT called 1969 a “Year of Bombings” (e.g., by the Weather Underground). Other left terrorist groups were even more aggressive (e.g., the Symbionese Liberation Group). Some fear another Civil War.

The cause of this is obvious: we are squeezed between two powerful political alliances. Like cats and rats in city alleys, they pursue their agenda and leave each other alone. They chase weaker prey: us. The Right help the 1% amass wealth and power: tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of labor and environmental regulations, crushing unions, and building bigger cartels. The Left pursues their ever-more-ambitious social engineering experiments on us (their white mice). While they vie with each other for supreme power, taking turns slowing each down, their tag-team has no effective opposition.

We get to choose who abuses us next. The conclusion of both programs will destroy the America-that-once-was. The Left seeks open borders, radical education of children so that many are weak or mentally ill, crushing of free expression and association, and use of the government’s punitive machinery to force participation in their experiments. The Right seeks to create levels of economic inequality incompatible with democracy.

Of course, on the fringes there are people with bolder plans. Far-Left and Far-Right websites burn with predictions of coming violence. Begun, of course, by the demons among the Others – against which the Righteous must strike first in self-defense. An escalation of violence is a serious danger if we lose cohesion.

“You change the world with rivers of blood.”
— Saleem Igor Ulma, terrorist leader in “Truth or Consequences“, episode one of NCIS Season 7.

How might this play out in America?

The Roman people responded to the death of the Republic with resignation. The popular philosophies during the Empire were StoicismHedonism (including Epicureanism), and Christianity. But Rome’s 1% just wanted money and power. Our rulers have bigger appetites. How will Americans react as the pressure grows? With reform, rebellion, or resignation?

Watership Down
Available at Amazon.

Today we are fearful and easily bullied.  We are a gift to the powerful forces of the Left and Right. If we resist, it won’t be a contest unless we become tougher. Richard Adams gives an apt metaphor in Watership Down.

“What he had learned from all his experience of fighting was that nearly always there are those who want to fight and those who do not but feel they cannot avoid it. …He held down a great warren with the help of a handful of devoted officers. It did not occur to him now …that most of his rabbits were still outside; that those who were with him were fewer than those on the other side ….

“This sort of thing does not count among fighting rabbits. Ferocity and aggression are everything. What Woundwort knew was that those beyond the wall were afraid of him and that on this account he had the advantage.“

Sources of inspiration and insights

Whatever we do, we must make harsh decisions. Perhaps harsher decisions than we have had to make since the 1930s. Worse, we have not made harsh decisions lately, preferring to see life as a morality play by people for whom money means nothing. We live in a fool’s paradise. It won’t last forever.

As always, we can turn to our myths – books and films – for insights and inspiration to help us adjust to more difficult times. All of these have been criticized for posing harsh choices. It is the mark of a soft delusional society that people believe harsh choices are never necessary.

Making difficult decisions.

The classic story about making harsh decisions is “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin in Astounding Science Fiction, August 1954 (open copy here). The plot is best summarized by the Vulcan adage “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.” It becomes harsher advice when it calls not for heroic self-sacrifice, but the death of a young girl.

See Cory Doctorow’s critique: the unstated problem in the story is capitalism! Such things do not happen in frontier societies if they are run by socialists! It is an amazing analysis.

Leadership decisions.

UFO, volume one
UFO Season 1

A thousand films and TV shows describe the burden of command. None do so better than Gerry Anderson’s TV series “UFO” (From Amazon: Season OneSeason Two). In it, Earth has built precariously held defenses against mysterious alien invaders, who have superior technology but (fortunately) small numbers. Logistics rules, even in interstellar warfare.

Whatever the cost, every battle must be won. One bad decision by the commander of Earth’s forces might mean total defeat. Earth’s defenders see themselves as winners. The Commander rightly sees this as a “long defeat,” because eventual defeat is certain – unless the odds change.

Many of the episodes show not just how the aliens are beaten, but the cost of these victories. The commander sacrifices his marriage, his child, and (he fears) his humanity. In one episode, they detect a UFO and a civilian aircraft on their radar, but cannot tell which is which. They have only seconds to choose which one to destroy. The commander decides. An officer on the bridge prays that they got the UFO. The commander agrees, because if they destroyed the airliner “we let a UFO through.”

As usual in science fiction, “UFO” has strong female leads. The organization’s cover is a film studio, with the commander as its CEO. Miss Ealand runs the studio while pretending to be his secretary (a secretary you do notpiss off). Colonel Lake, one of the senior officers, is brilliant, decisive, and hard as diamonds.

When is it necessary to change leaders?

Armageddon: There Will Be War VIII
Available at Amazon.

The most important decision a people makes is the choice of leaders. Sometimes one person makes that decision for a people, as in “Day of Succession” by Theodore Thomas in Astounding Science Fiction, August 1959. It was in the anthologies A Century of Science Fictionedited by Damon Knight and Armageddon (There Will Be War VIII)edited by J. E. Pournelle.

When a spaceship enters the atmosphere over North America, General Tredway orders that it not be intercepted. It crashes into southeastern Pennsylvania. He surrounds it with armor and artillery units – and waits. The assembled scientists listen for transmissions, in vain. Slowly the ship cools. A hatch opens and a stem rises through it, the rose on top glowing with a violet light. Tredway orders the bombardment to begin, completely destroying the ship.

A second ship crashes 25 miles away. Tredway runs the same plan amidst an uproar from the great and wise at this unnecessary violence, Tredway is called to the White House. He explains to the President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House why he killed the aliens before there was any evidence they were hostile.

“They were the ones who landed on our planet. It was incumbent on them to find a way to convince us of their friendliness. Instead they landed with no warning at all, and with a complete disregard of human life. The first missile shattered a house, killed a man. There is ample evidence of their hostility. {Nor did they transmit a message before opening their ship.}”

Another ship lands, but a different general handles the response. He surrounds it with massive military forces and wait for the aliens to make the first move. Out comes the rose-like object. It emits an energy beam and in seconds destroys all the men and machines around it. As our supreme leaders stare shocked at the screen, news comes that a fourth object has landed near the third one.

The President admits that Tredway was right, and asks him what should be done next. The general explains that the aliens from the third object will move to protect the fourth. Our only hope is saturation bombing of them with nukes, hoping that one gets through. The President says “You are insane. I will do no such thing.” The Vice-President said “I agree with the president.” The Speaker says “You should listen to the general.” The story concludes with this chilling paragraph.

“The moment froze into silence. The general stared at the three men. Then, moving slowly and deliberately, he undid his holster flap and pulled out his pistol. He snapped the slide back and fired once at point blank range, shifted the gun, and fired again. He walked over to the table and carefully placed the gun on it. Then he turned to the Speaker and said, ‘Mr. President, there is very little time. Will you give the necessary orders?’”

Warnings about a coming civil war

Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?” by Robin Wright in the New Yorker.

How Ta-Nehisi Coates Gives Whiteness Power” by Thomas Chatterton Williams, an op-ed in the NYT. It is about “The First White President” – Mr. Coates’s blistering jeremiad saying that “White tribalism haunts even more nuanced writers.”

A scary article: “Birth of a White Sup:remacist: Mike Enoch’s transformation from leftist contrarian to nationalist shock jock” by Andrew Marantz in The New Yorker.

William Lind’s shocking book about the civil war and what comes after: Victoria: A Novel of 4th Generation War. Also from the Right’s perspective: Stop the Coming Civil War: My Savage Truth by Michael Savage (2014).

The Left’s perspective: American War by Omar El Akkad (2017).