Belmont Club

Shapeless Narrative

One of the most remarkable passages in the Sherlock Holmes canon is the story about the guard dog that did not bark.

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

Consider the following selection of news articles taken from various media outlets. If you conclude that they resemble nothing so much as a jumble then maybe we should conclude: “that was the curious incident”.

It was the hegemon who gave shape to the narrative; and in fact, set it.  There used to be a predictability about things.  X happened and Y followed. Even in conflict you could tell how the sides would line up. But now Bernie Reeves, writing in the American Thinker notes a certain deflation among the the administration’s supporters. “What I’m struck by whenever I talk to fellow historians and to friends who are well-informed, most of them enthusiastic Democrats, all of whom voted for Obama both times, is a sense of disappointment.” Perhaps “disappointment” isn’t the best choice of words, “confusion” probably being a more suitable term to represent the turn of events.  And now suddenly, nothing makes sense.

Instead of being led into a bright world by their chosen messiah they find themselves in a world where nothing seems to add up, where all the angles are crazy and wrong. America appears to be lying on the floor, as if felled by a stroke, with no memory of how it got there uttering some gibberish about “Glbbl Warmmem”, “Kayee Jennr” and “mamsprdung” and all around it the order familiar to everyone seems to be dissolving into shapelessness.


Pamela Engel, writing in the Business Insider, notes that the brigands are out in force and the biggest bank heist in history is now under way in the Middle East, with raiders picking up the gold reserves, treasuries and arsenals of whole fallen states.  Where’s the sheriff? Where’s the sheriff?  Well maybe there is no sheriff.

By collecting taxes from residents and providing civil services in return, ISIS appearst to behave like a government, creating a greater sense of legitimacy for the group’s rule. But there’s a thin line between taxation and extortion in the Islamic State.

“ISIS makes most of its money from plunder,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, told Business Insider in May. “We’re seeing that over and over again. They go from one town to the next and knock over a bank or several banks and go house to house and extract whatever is of value.”

“It’s a racket,” Schanzer said. “And that’s how ISIS continues to survive and thrive.”

Maybe Europe hung up its shootin’ irons figuring that the sheriff would always be there. France and Germany went on a holiday from history, and armed with baguettes, struck east.  Then one unexpected day, as in Ferguson and Baltimore, trouble ensues and the distraught residents as ever call the cops.  And they wait and they wait and they wait. And no one comes.

There is a chaos abroad, one growing so complete even the narratives put forward don’t make sense. President Obama told an audience of community leaders from ASEAN that his administration has restored the Untied States as the “the most respected country on earth.”

People don’t remember, but when I came into office, the Untied States in world opinion ranked below China and just bareley above Russia, and today once again, the Untied States is the most respected country on earth. Part of that I think is because of the work we did to reengage the world and say we want to work with you as partners with mutual interests and mutual respect. It was on that basis we were able to end two wars while still focusing on the very real threat of terrorism and try to work with our partners in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s the reason why we are moving in the direction to normalize relations with Cuba and the nuclear deal that we are trying to negotiate with Iran.

Perhaps the president really does believe this, or is there in his dogged insistence something bordering on madness? The American presidency, was in its own way one of the last examples of a functioning monarchy.  Other  countries have had dysfunctional monarchs in their history but possessed institutional workarounds  to deal with them.

But America has no office of regent; no way, short of impeachment or removal from office, of governing with a mad king.  Thus the Western world is at present leaderless, in a holding pattern, waiting for a new narrative to emerge, collectively holding its breath.  The new narrative may come from the presidential election of 2016 or from somewhere else — such as out of the East, or Russia or China —  if as seems unthinkably possible, that not only Obama but America has ceased to matter.

Some, like John McCain, still seem to think that a restoration after the career of king Barry has run its course will suffice to bring back the old days.  But elect one decent Republican president and all will be back in the groove again.  Yet this is unlikely to happen. Just as mad King George III lost America forever, so too has the current occupant of the White dismantled the post-World War 2 order.

All that is possible is to build a new future based on whatever survives the unfolding crash.  As for the president — he’ll believe everything remains fine, just fine — all the way up to the moment the janitor folds up the empty auditorium chairs and ask if he knows the way home.

Recently purchased by readers:
Defense of Japan 1945 (Fortress), Steven Zaloga
Beautiful Maria of My Soul, Hardcover – June 1, 2010 by Oscar Hijuelos
Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms (Expanded Edition), Paperback – August 19, 2012 by Arthur T. Bradley
Forgotten Holocaust, Poles Under German Occupation, 1939-44 Hardcover – March, 1986, by Richard C. Lukas
Forgotten Warriors, The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, the Corps Ethos, and the Korean War (Modern War Studies) Hardcover – September 1, 2010 by T. X. Hammes
LBJ, The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination Paperback – July 1, 2013 by Phillip F. Nelson
The Next Decade, Empire and Republic in a Changing World Paperback – January 10, 2012 by George Friedman

Possibly worth buying:
Japanese Pacific Island Defenses 1941-45, (Fortress) Paperback – February 19, 2003 by Gordon Rottman
Leica 8 x 20 Waterproof Monovid Monocular
Poweradd™ Apollo 7200mAh Solar Panel Charger
Olive Drab Army Issue Foam Sleeping Pad Mat – 24 x 72 x 3/8, Survival/Camping

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
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