The Western Museum of Antiquities

A civilization at a decision point is almost by definition walking the razor's edge between two futures.  One future may lead to a catastrophe whose survivors must begin again from scratch.  The other choice leads to a radical improvement in the human standard of living and greater potential for all. It would seem an easy choice. But the characteristic of a system in institutional crisis, which along with the lack of new energy sources and a failure of public education create our "world in disarray", is that the right choice is impossible to make. You can't choose the future, only variants of the past.  Any road away from perdition requires huge political risks that are difficult to overcome.

The poisonous atmosphere in today's politics illustrates how bitterly established interests will fight to protect their "gains".  They will literally kill to preserve an agenda.  For example GOP House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot and seriously wounded by someone "distraught" over the recent Republican electoral victory.  "The man suspected of opening fire on Republican members of the congressional baseball team early Wednesday morning was distraught over the election of President Trump and traveled to Washington in recent weeks to protest, his brother said on Wednesday."

The shooting comes after months of increasing political hostility which include but is not limited to, pitched battles between activists at universities, the forcible eviction of speakers from campuses in the name of safe spaces, veiled calls by "comedians" for political violence and general name calling and incivility. The Hill reports that lawmakers are now receiving anonymous threats from voices which accuse them of betraying a political ideal.

The office of Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) said they received a “disturbing” email with the subject line “One down, 216 to go…” following the shooting.

The person who sent the email began by asking, ”Did you NOT expect this?"

"Did you NOT expect this? When you take away ordinary peoples very lives in order to pay off the wealthiest among us, your own lives are forfeit. Certainly, your souls and morality were lost long before. Good riddance,” the email said.

Expect more, not less of this.  The natural impulse of a political system in institutional crisis is to dig in.  Too many institutions in the West remain decades after their birth, frozen in the moment of their creation. NASA, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the university system and the United Nations rule us from the past.  Public life has become a museum of memes from which nothing can escape without a mummy hand dragging the fugitive back into the darkened interior. It is perhaps no coincidence the two most popular leaders of the Western left, Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, might credibly impersonate Boris Karloff.  They are here to lead us back to 1968.

Be grateful it isn't to 1848. Glenn Reynolds described how the timeless arbitrary now rules the roost.

Watching the ongoing clown show in Washington, Americans can be forgiven for asking themselves, “Why did we give this bunch of clowns so very much power over our nation and our lives?” ...

the prerogative powers once exercised by English kings, until they were circumscribed after a resulting civil war, have now been reinvented and lodged in administrative agencies, even though the United States Constitution was drafted specifically to prevent just such abuses. But today, the laws that actually affect people and businesses are seldom written by Congress; instead they are created by administrative agencies through a process of “informal rulemaking,” a process whose chief virtue is that it’s easy for the rulers to engage in, and hard for the ruled to observe or influence. Non-judicial administrative courts decide cases, and impose penalties, without a jury or an actual judge. And the protections in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (like the requirement for a judge-issued search warrant before a search) are often inapplicable.

Of course these "clowns" have their own preferred brand of comedy and will go to any lengths to keep their jobs. Hence the stasis; hence the institutional crisis. The bureaucratic model needs to be replaced by the flash mob paradigm, where eternal bureaucracies give way to the task-oriented, time-limited endeavor. As one friend of mine put it, the most amazing thing about the cathedral builders is they disbanded themselves:

Imagine the modern world recast (but with modern technology) to the middle ages guild system. Deconstruct modern corporations. It's time for them to go. You want to build something? Issue a "casting call" via an app.

"If you wanted to build a cathedral you sent out messengers far and wide: "Five year project. Room and board and competitive pay. Looking for masons, wood workers, a master builder, etc. References from your local guild required. Bring your own tools. Show up from June 15th to June 30th and we'll hire the best"

Flash mob for building a cathedral.

No Cathedral building corporation, Inc.

Our modern institutions will never self-disband; that's the problem. They have become historical projects, ends in themselves, destined to fulfill some idealized future that was new in 1917. They are condemned, like Sisyphus to roll the same old rock up the same old Hill with the same old result. Of the two roads along the razor's edge our world finds itself choosing, the institutions in crisis can't pick the path to prosperity and potential. That's not in their repertoire.

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Books:

The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis - and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance, by Ben Sasse. In this book, Sasse diagnoses the causes of a generation that can't grow up and offers a path for raising children to become active and engaged citizens. He identifies many of the coming-of-age activities that have defined the American experience since the Founding that young people should pursue but have skipped altogether - hard work to appreciate the benefits of labor, travel to understand deprivation and want, the power of reading, leaving home to start a family, becoming economically self-reliant ― and explains how parents can encourage them. The statistics are daunting: 30% of college students drop out after the first year, and only 4 in 10 graduate. One in three 18-to-34 year-olds live with their parents. Sasse believes these phenomena are an existential threat to the American way of life.

Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam, by Mark Bowden. The first battle book from the author of Black Hawk Down, Hue 1968 is the story of the centerpiece of the Tet Offensive and a turning point in the American War in Vietnam. Using war archives in the US and Vietnam and interviews with participants from both sides, Bowden narrates each stage of this crucial battle through multiple viewpoints. The battle, which included the most intense urban combat since World War 2, played out over 24 days and ultimately cost 10,000 lives. It was the bloodiest of the entire war.

The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler's Atomic Bomb, by Neal Bascomb. Based on a trove of top secret documents and never-before-seen diaries and letters of the saboteurs, this book is a chronicle of a brilliant scientist, a band of spies on skies, perilous survival in the wild, sacrifice for one’s country, Gestapo manhunts, soul-crushing setbacks, and a last-minute operation that would end any chance Hitler could obtain the atomic bomb - and alter the course of the war.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your 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, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free

The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age

Storming the Castle, why government should get small

No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.

Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific

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