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Ed Driscoll

Interview: Mark Steyn on After America (Transcript Added)

August 8th, 2011 - 1:22 pm

     MR. DRISCOLL:  Hi, this is Ed Driscoll for Pajamasmedia.com, and we’re talking with Mark Steyn of National Review in the States, Macleans Magazine in Canada, frequent guest host for Rush Limbaugh, author of the New York Times bestselling 2006 book America Alone, and author of the brand new book, After America: Get Ready for Armageddon, now out at Amazon.com and your local bookstore, if you still have a local bookstore.

And Mark, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today.

MR. STEYN:  My pleasure.  And I think there are still a couple of local bookstores.  I like the way Borders decided to close down rather than be faced with the indignity of stocking my book.  Who can blame them?

MR. DRISCOLL:  Well, Mark, your book arrived from your publicist on Wednesday.  The next day the stock market dropped 512 points.  The following day, America’s credit rating gets devalued by Standard & Poor’s.  Now, that’s some serious publicity.  How did you manage to pull that off?

MR. STEYN:  Yeah, that is an ace publicist, to be able to arrange, on the weekend before launch, a 500 point drop in the stock market and the downgrade to AA status.  You know, I mean, that’s the — that’s the difference between a skilled publicist just one of these inept types.

MR. DRISCOLL:  And I swear, when I was at the gym on Friday night, on the TV monitors above the treadmill, on one monitor they had the 2002 Hollywood remake of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, and on the other, CNN — a CNN roundtable panel blaming S&P, the Tea Party and everybody but President Obama for ruining America’s credit rating.

MR. STEYN:  Right, right.

MR. DRISCOLL:  In After America, Wells’ futuristic race of “Eloi” play a prominent role.  And in your book, who are the twenty-first century Eloi?

MR. STEYN:  Yeah, I think — I think it’s interesting that — that Wells — because when you’re writing about a futuristic — even just futuristic by kind of mid-decade, which is really what After America is, because I don’t think we’re talking about the twenty-second century or even mid-century.  I think we’re talking about 2015, by the time all this stuff starts to kick in.

But just to get a kind of feel of things, I went back and reread the big futuristic dystopian stuff, Orwell and Huxley, because these guys were pretty — they all saw elements that came to pass.

But the book that really tickled my fancy on that was H.G. Wells, The Time Machine, where he — his Victorian gentleman climbs on a time machine and propels himself forward 800,000 years, when mankind has divided into two species, this kind of soft, pampered, smooth, vegetarian elite, and then these dark, feral, unseen, Morlocks.  And I think Wells was brilliant.  The only thing he got wrong that it wasn’t 800,000 years in the future, it was basically the best part of a century in the future.

Because I think if you look at the kind of people who’ve run America into the ground and run most of the Western world into the ground, they are a soft, pampered, for want of a better word, metrosexual elite, who, like the Eloi, have lost all contact with the idea of how stuff is made, how stuff gets done, how things happen.

And this — in your great State of California, these people who somehow expect to continue to enjoy an advanced Western lifestyle, while voting to ban everything from the irrigation canals for their beloved arugula, to any new dam construction to deliver water to their homes, these people, like the Eloi, have lost all connection to how stuff gets made.

I love that line that Wells uses, which I quote in After America, “Futile prettiness”.  Wells compares them to the sort of cattle lowing in the field and says, “Like the cattle, they knew no enemies, and like the cattle their end was the same.”  And I think the Eloi and their sort of — our American Eloi and their appalling pampered complacency have done terrible things to this country.

MR. DRISCOLL:  In The Time Machine the Eloi were transformed futuristic humans.  And similarly, you have a chapter in After America that’s best summed up by a question that Thomas Friedman recently asked in a New York Times headline:  Can Greeks become Germans?

MR. STEYN:  Yeah, that was Thomas Friedman’s question:  Can Greeks become Germans?  I think the problem is, is that sufficient numbers of Germans have become Greeks, and sufficient numbers of Americans have also gone down that path.

I think — I think Thomas Friedman almost gets to something there.  And it’s fascinating to me, by the way, because he’s the big globalization guru who thinks — who, for twenty years now, has been peddling a view of man as homo-economicus, that essentially, you know, if some guy in a — if you put a factory in the jungles of New Guinea, and fill it full of guys with grass skirts, then they start to look at things in the way that a mill worker in nineteenth century Massachusetts would.

And what that headline, “Can Greeks become Germans” tells us, is what Angela Merkel and German taxpayers well understand, is that the problem in Greece is not the Greek economy.  The problem is the Greek people.  And culture trumps economics.  Culture trumps economics every time.

And that’s why the productive class in America, the people who go out to work every day, who want to build a business, they don’t have — they don’t want to do it through a get-rich scheme.  They want to do it through going to work.  They want to do it by making or selling a good product that people genuinely want.

And the government and the unproductive class, the government class and the dependent class, throw these huge obstacles in their path.  And so — and so essentially, you have a productive class reeling under a backbreaking burden imposed on them by the government class and the dependency class.  And eventually you get — reach the Greeks situation, where there’s simply — the other side is just too big and is too crushing.  And like the Ancient Mariner, you’re staggering around with this huge great dead albatross of government around your neck, and you can never straighten up from it.

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