Ever since I was a tyke, my ears have rung with prophesies of doom issued by wrathful soothsayers, ranging from elder relatives despairing this or that sad state of affairs and clergy at various school chapels hurling promises of hellfire, to handwringing ink-peddlers in the media and stern politicians decrying in the most urgent tones the sure cataclysm that awaits us if we neglect to submit to their will.
Lately, however, it seems the pace of this activity has picked up, and rather sharply at that. Whether this owes more to an actual increase in our risk of damnation or to outside factors, such as the proliferation of pulpits offered by the internet and the tidal effect of an impending presidential campaign season, is a topic for further dispute, but the fact remains that optimism about the future is at a low ebb, while the number of potential ruins we face multiplies with the speed of a climate-change computer algorithm.
Are we indeed nearing the end of days? Sure seems like it. Note:
Yesterday, traveling to Alaska to celebrate the restoration of Denali, our president launched into a Jeremiad on climate change guaranteed to instill quaking knees and simultaneous fever and chills into even the boldest skeptic, promising us that nations would drown while others baked in endless drought, that crops would wither and die as billions perished in global famine, that the permafrost would perma-melt, releasing trillions of tons of CO2, which would in turn further ramp up the flames of the inferno until eyebrows scorched, foot-soles blistered and every scalp became a flaming crown of retribution.
He did, however, allow that this can still be prevented, but, as always, was somewhat murky on the details, as the wheels of this particular juggernaut have been turning for quite some time, and even his recent carefully-phrased treaty with China seems to offer little reprieve for the next ten years or so from the emissions of that energetic and still-expanding industrial center. And India? Brazil? Well, certainly there is work to be done, but we must not, as we are frequently reminded, let the perfect be the enemy of good. But what if the alternative to “the perfect” is in fact not “the good,” but “that masquerade of rotten ideas?”
To requote an old friend, CfE,:
Few things are true. Wisdoms which inhabit a future that never arrives are many.
On another front, we have the emerging appreciation that the US is not alone in having an immigrant problem. In fact, it seems as if almost overnight the entire globe has been convulsed into one pandemic spasm of expulsion as large chunks of our more beleaguered nations flee in terror from their native lands seeking asylum in places that must seem exotically weird to them.
We haven’t witnessed this level of refugee flight since World War II, or possibly even the Great Flood, leading us to question what may have changed so radically and so powerfully, to produce such movement on so massive a scale.
Well, we don’t have to look far. The fact is, conditions endured in their homeland by most of these folks are so starkly horrific that even the prospect of death by drowning, or suffocation, or from slow-roasting in the packed-to-the-hatches holds of barely-floating derelict steamers, does little to deter them. They reason, quite properly, that whatever hell may await them in their transit, or however miserable the conditions they will encounter as and if they actually find whatever foreign shore they seek, these can be no worse than those they flee.
This cannot, however, inform their new host nations what actions they may take to absorb them. The result has been abysmal: tens of thousands dying en route, hundreds of thousands camped in filthy shantytowns, angry altruists demanding justice for the refugees and angrier citizens demanding an end to the torrent of strange people speaking strange languages and insisting on their right to asylum.
Here, no words of solace issue from our leaders — only a growing perplexity about how to address both the compassionate and the frightened sectors of their electorate. Which leads us to the final indicator that the apocalypse is indeed upon us.
We have pestilence and famine, we have war and certainly we have death. All that is now required is the emergence of the Antichrist — someone who, like P. G. Wodehouse’s Lord Ickenam, “would be up to some kind of hell that would ultimately stagger civilization and turn the moon to blood.”
Enter Donald Trump. Has any figure in memory risen so swiftly and so far in the eyes of the enlightened from harmless notoriety to a height of infamy rivaling Lucifer himself? Certainly the progressive element of society loathes him with almost breathless vigor, falling over itself in a concerted attempt to snuff out what started as a brushfire and has now erupted into a full-fledged inferno. Where his actual remarks themselves seem insufficiently outrageous, the righteous are pleased to infer or openly invent interpretations more scurrilous still.
But the facts are that Trump is saying what many people have in their hearts, but either fear to say or have not found a way to say it. Is Trump a racist, and by inference his followers too? Or is Trump refusing to let the threat of the “racist” brand silence reasonable and considered objections to lawless migration and the damage it may inflict? Is Trump a narcissistic con man with dictatorial tendencies and no regard for the harm that careless pandering to his base might cause? Or is that the other guy/gal — or even the incumbent?
Nor is it the left alone that may feel threatened by an ideological nightmare. Just yesterday, Kanye West announced at the VMA Awards that he was running for President — but in 2020. Which raises an interesting question: does Kanye mean to imply that the Democrats will lose in 2016? Because if they do not, the incumbent is unlikely to welcome a West candidacy four years later. “Well,” you may say, “West doesn’t expect anyone to take him seriously.” Did Trump?
All the portents seem to agree, therefore, that the seeds of our destruction, now long since sown, have sprouted and are beginning to flourish. Even the stock market, that sensitive and generally impartial soul, has been trying to tell us that the good times are over, and Pharaoh’s lean kine now stalk us. What can we do?
Here we have some words of counsel, again not our own, but from CfE. Don’t believe everything you are told.
Newspapers suggest what might be, and the reader elects the speculation to office. Does the poor consumer of dancing ink remember how often these plungers have been wrong? No. He can’t wait to sail out again on the next rubber boat inflated with the gas of possibility. Truths that are sold and consumed before they are true are not very valuable because they are not very true.
Our problems are real, and complex. But the solutions proposed are simple, and therefore fantastic. Things are not simple, and fixing them will take more than “the gas of possibility.” In the interim, the best choice may be the advice offered some time ago by Douglas Adams: