There's a fellow out there on the Internet who has replaced the arch-Threeper as my prime coal-mine canary. There's no doubt he's on a list; a lot of lists. And I have no doubt that at some point in the frog-boiling process, his door is gonna get kicked in by Agents Of The State. What happens after that is liable to be somewhere on the spectrum from "Took an honor guard with him to Hell" and "...disappeared..." In the meantime, I monitor him, not so much for what he says but for when -- not if -- he either goes silent or makes the evening news.
'Cos that'll be a real bad sign. That'll mean it's time to jump. Or bunker down.*
His latest essay is all about "burning it all down." 'Cos, he says, it's rotten to core and headed for the Pit anyhow, and the only way to build a better nation/society/comity/polity/WTFever is on the ashes of the old one.
I have a problem with that. No, I have two; one's very simple, even crude, and the other is subtle.
Here's the simple one: I like indoor plumbing, electricity, telephones, the Internet, bein' able to buy good gasoline, fresh vegetables in Winter, fresh eggs without having to own chickens-- I like these things and I detest "roughing it." I've done it. I have shivered over a hole in the ground in snow higher than my rump, cooked over a fire, counted myself lucky to have good dry straw to sleep on and by golly, I aim to avoid it. Edison and Ford, Tesla and Einstein and the nameless, wonderful geniuses who invented fire-making multiple times (not to mention soup) were aimin' at something more and I'd just as soon they didn't work in vain.
The subtle one is actually the one that scares me worst. Okay, if I have to live like a bear -- or like a bear with a rifle, I hope -- I can do it. I'll gripe, I'll hate it, but I can do it. But it frets me every time one of these Internet commandos starts in on how The Gummit is one-hundred-percent Bad, Rotten, Awful and should be burnt to the waterline and rebuilt... And presumably, perfected. Presumably with the "bad element" removed.
Perfected how? Removed to where? Re-education camps? Do they become the core of the new prison population in a nation with the highest percentage of its denizens behind bars, a system that has worked so well that we've got about as much crime as any other modern industrial country?
The Founders and Framers did their level best to build, not a perfect system, but a system that worked despite having mostly-flawed people running it. Do you really think Jefferson and Washington were unaware of the chasm between their fine words about Man and Rights, and the slaves in the rude sheds behind their respective grand houses? D'ya suppose anyone -- including the man himself -- failed to grasp that Thomas Paine was so innately contentious that few people could stand him for very long? Do you really think those men didn't see in their fellows at least, the vanity, greed, concupiscence, quarrelsomeness, all the failings of mortal men? They knew the system would be gamed; they tried to keep the game fair (or, at least, fair for white, land-owning males who could keep their wits about them; but that's another sort of rant). They knew the system would be run by jerks; they tried to set it up
so as to get some work out of them -- and to keep them out of everyone
else's hair. They didn't try for perfect; they knew perfection to be unattainable.
You know who aimed for perfection? Pol Pot. Lenin. The Owenites. The French Revolution. Hell, GODWIN even the GODWIN Nazis claimed to be GODWIN reaching for the ideal. And every one of them ended in greater or lesser sorrow.
Is the system imperfect? Yes. Very. And it's getting more lopsided by the minute-- But you can't fix it by "burning it all down;" you'll only create a fresher, bloodier hell.
If there is any hope at all, it is in technology. The System is slow; The Establishment is inherently hidebound. The Internet, small-scale CNC machining and 3-D printing may have poked the established order full of holes already. Only time can tell.
Conversely, we may be riding an inevitable -- and long, slow -- decline. Republic may have to become Empire, and Empire sink slowly into to rubble, over and over again. Our culture's fates may be written into our genes and our memes.
But "burn it all down?" All you get from that is ash! Or ash and blood; ash and tears. "Carthago delenda est" didn't work out too well if you happened to be Carthaginian. It's a damn fool canary that asphyxiates itself for spite.
Yes, we've got a mess. It wants fixing -- or falling apart; but you don't need to push a man who's already teetering on a ledge. Some other folks are liable to get squished, too.
*If things get extremely bad enough, fast enough, I'm most likely to end up behind Federal lines, helpin' to transmit "news and official information" about evacuation routes and where the Red Cross kitchens are, hoping listeners/viewers can read between the lines. I have made my peace with that. --See, if any ol' crunch comes to call, my odds of ending up in a camp no matter who wins are close to 100%. I'm too contrary, awkward, opinionated, out of place. But I will by golly strike out swinging, not looking.
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
1 year ago