If the world had a plotline, you would have to guess it. Just exactly what the series finale will be is a closely held mystery, though the show's been running for a long time. What we have in place of clear main narrative arc are a succession of subplots, all mixed together. There are cliffhangers episodes: who will Israel elect as prime minister or why did Putin disappear? The resolutions to cliffhangers like these are soon known. Their purpose is to hold our attention intensely for a moment and pass. Then we are back to the main plot.
In them are woven long running dramas, such as the Hillary Clinton story and the yet unfinished saga of Barack Obama. These involve characters we love, or hate, as the case may be, whose fates we are interested in. Just when we think we have them pegged some episodes into the series, producers suddenly reveal an even deeper malice or perhaps a more redemptive side to them and we come back for the next episode to see what happens next.
Yet these characters, with their personal crises are not central to story. Despite their claim to bestride events, the main characters like us live within a vast, incomprehensible canvas which we often call "history". Though they hold lofty titles there is the sense that they, in common with other mortals, are swept along by happenings. Things occur like meteors falling from the sky. Burma and China exchange threats and who knew that could happen? Russia rattles its saber in the Ukraine portending war maybe. The Saudis warn they will get the Bomb if Iran gets it first. But such threats occur with such regularity we hardly pay attention. Yet we know, or sense, that when the time comes the producers will bring one of these background events to fore in the future. In the meantime we forget it until that anticipated episode comes around.
Even the leading characters are just going through the motions of trying to control things. Joshua Muravchik argues in the Washington Post that our leaders have decided that its better to do nothing and just hope for the best. In the case of Iran the Obama administration apparently decided long ago that inaction was the better part of valor.
National security adviser Susan Rice declared at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference before Netanyahu’s speech that “a bad deal is worse than no deal.” So if Iran will accept only a “bad deal,” what is President Obama’s alternative? War?
Obama’s stance implies that we have no choice but to accept Iran’s best offer — whatever is, to use Rice’s term, “achievable” — because the alternative is unthinkable.
But should it be?
Why is the alternative unthinkable? Because history is out of our main character's league. Like the rulers of ancient cities they climb to their towers and consult the stars. And then they descend on the morning to look wise. But to act? That is unthinkable. So they focus instead on controlling backyard barbecue smoke emissions, suspending 11 year olds for bringing leaves that only look like marijuana to school. That is more their speed. When they feel their oats our greater leaders take drastic steps like censoring speech on Facebook or enact speech codes to shut out the world. Andrew McCarthy writes that our civilization is seeking protection from danger in denial. Even though certain immigration trends have manifestly created certain effects, thinking about them has been effectively banned. McCarthy writes:
We need to understand that, contrary to Obama administration suggestions, what is at stake is not just speech that almost all of us would agree is in bad taste and that would not be missed if it were barred. What is at stake is the ability to tell the truth. What is at stake is the ability of a free society to engage in robust discussion in order to develop public policy, particularly security and crime-prevention.
"What is at stake is the ability to tell the truth." But we can't handle the truth. And what holds true for Islamic immigration in Europe holds true for many other things. So as ISIS continues to destroy churches and towns across the Middle East, as it expands into Africa as the "strong horse", we just pretend it isn't happening, just as politicians make promises and pretend they are going to fulfill them.
The Diplopundit notes that out of a billion emails trafficked through the State Department, only 41,749 were for the record. "The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi had 993 record emails compared to US Embassy Islamabad that only had 121 record emails preserved. The US Consulate General in Guangzhou had 2 record emails while USCG Ho Chi Minh City had 539. It looks like the US Embassy in Singapore with 1,047 record emails had the highest record emails preserved in 2013. The frontline posts like Baghdad had 303, Kabul had 61, Sana’a had 142 and Tripoli had 10 record emails in 2013." Speaking of Hillary's record during the Benghazi consulate incident Trey Gowdy noted how sparse were the secretary's official utterances.
"If you think to that iconic picture of her on a C-17 flying to Libya, she has sunglasses on and she has her hand-held device in her hand," Gowdy said, referring to a photo of Clinton that became a popular meme. "We have no emails from that day. In fact, we have no emails from that trip. So it strains credibility to believe that if you're on your way to Libya to discuss Libyan policy, that there's not a single document that's been turned over to Congress."
The main characters in our drama know you'd better not give history an official statement lest it turn it into a knife and shove it in their posterity. So our leaders don't do change. Hope at the outside. Perhaps they hardly even know where they are in the stream of things.
Which brings us to perhaps the most entertaining elements of the world show: the random ridiculous events and the walk on characters. We learn for example that "ancient relics looted by ISIS in Iraq and Syria are showing up on eBay". We are reliably informed that the most popular man on Iraqi Youtube sites is Abu Azrael, AKA the "angel of death", a former university lecturer turned Shi'ite militiaman whose trademark is dealing with ISIS prisoners with an M-4 carbine in one hand and axe in the other. What does he do with the axe? I'm afraid to axe.
Perhaps the absurdities and walk-ons, the cameo characters, are the most real things about the world. The bearded bravo on Youtube, the 3,000 year old coin on eBay seem as ephemeral as ourselves. It's not a surprise to learn that in this uncertain world religion is making a comeback since it never really left, just had itself re-imagined. Like modern Hollywood history apparently does only sequels. The Wall Street Journal describes the latest re-make, noting that environmentalism has become a religion, calling it a "perfect remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths". Except Christian myths stop being myths when they are recast in environmentalism.
Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.
There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe...
Perhaps humans need religion, even in the debased form of environmentalism, because we suspect the essential truth of Leo Tolstoy's story in War and Peace; that no individual appears to get what he deserves; that good men die without apparent purpose and tragedies can strike down noble households without rhyme or reason. That above us there are only the clouds; ever the clouds and still the clouds roll on to watch other men toil beneath them.
On the Pratzen Heights, where he had fallen with the flagstaff in his hand, lay Prince Andrew Bolkonski bleeding profusely and unconsciously uttering a gentle, piteous, and childlike moan.
Toward evening he ceased moaning and became quite still. He did not know how long his unconsciousness lasted. Suddenly he again felt that he was alive and suffering from a burning, lacerating pain in his head.
"Where is it, that lofty sky that I did not know till now, but saw today?" was his first thought. "And I did not know this suffering either," he thought. "Yes, I did not know anything, anything at all till now. But where am I?"
He listened and heard the sound of approaching horses, and voices speaking French. He opened his eyes. Above him again was the same lofty sky with clouds that had risen and were floating still higher, and between them gleamed blue infinity.
Who can get from cradle to grave on Obamacare and foodstamps? Your body might survive, but our soul keeps asking the same question as Prince Andrew "Where am I?" Or alternatively, what happened to Hillary's emails?
Why Andrew -- you -- we are on earth where great men strive to lift the smallest stones while pretending to move mountains. We are still in the middle of the same drama you left long ago when Napoleon walked the earth. We are still in the story whose ending is uncertain. As for Hillary, Barack Obama, Putin and the principal actors of our age, we shall see whether they fare better than Napoleon. And as for the clouds, now -- they're different. Climate change and all that. And come let us leave the Pratzen heights to bid on eBay for the bits of our civilization, or pray to Gaia for rain in California and to Xenu for the speedy return of the mothership.
Recently purchased by readers:
Arduino Cookbook, programming microcontrollers
The Company She Keeps, New York bohemia in the 1930s
Hercules, My Shipmate, by Robert Graves. Yes THE Robert Graves.
Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific