The old American Experiment is on some troubling tracks. Here are some thoughts on what we can do.
While there are a great many topics we tackle on ISG in order to frame an actionable plan for our readers, there are some topics that loom over us that we’re powerless to stop. As you, dear reader, already know, our approach is to create pragmatic, capable citizens who are less reliant on government so we can be more helpful to our tribes and communities. That’s a boon when emergencies strike, but what about preventing the emergency?
Wouldn’t that be better?
The answer is a complicated one, and ultimately will force us to reconcile one major problem:
What we can do isn’t going to change anything.
The Train Analogy
Regardless where you find yourself politically in the 202X’s, we can pretty much all agree that there are some flagrant, systemic, and endemic issues going on with our government and economy. This last week has seen a wild amalgam of moral nihilists, investors, meme culture, and regular citizens, cheering on ‘little guy’ stonks in a game of financial chicken that’s nearly bankrupted multi-billion dollar hedge funds… and just about everyone is cheering at the idea that some billionaires might have to go shopping for Ramen noodles soon.
Within the ISG circle, we’ve been discussing the nature of class struggles, their roots, and the history of great societies. We also laugh at the absurdity of it all and wonder if this is how a Roman Soldier felt watching Constantanople glow in the distance as it was sacked and burned.
The truth is, there probably is no direct comparison to a historical example – this American Experiment is it’s own thing, and it’s nuanced enough that we shouldn’t expect it’s following an exact trajectory… however, what we can say is that the gravity of the problems bearing down on us are massive.
If you found yourself wide-eyed and gritting your teeth while watching the news in the last 12 months, you’ve probably wonder “what can we do to correct this course?”
We’ve all tried to ‘vote harder’ for at least the duration of my adult life.
As we’ve written about, we firmly believe the types calling for Civil War or insurrection are *wildly* misinformed regarding how those events look and who benefits, and we believe this is the worst outcome.
We can appeal to the better nature of our government agencies and citizens, but they largely live in worlds as different than those of the move-making billionaires and the people working retails storefronts desperately trying to make rent. Our political caste has so many Marie Antoinettes, we aren’t even mad when they tell us to eat cake.
In short, trying to stop what’s coming would be like trying to stand on the tracks and demand a train stop because you don’t like where it’s going or what it’s hauling. It’s a behemoth of energy that we’re powerless to do anything about.
Worse, we have some vague idea of what it’s delivering and where the tracks are taking it.
Standing on the Tracks
If you’re a keen student of history, you’re going to see patterns in our current national attitude that reveal some of the competing dogmas at play, and their manipulations that are vying for influence. It becomes hard not to fixate on the train, and this keeps us from focusing our efforts on life away from the tracks.
From the January 6th frenzy that resulted in the House of Senate being overrun, to the months long violent protests and clashes between police and activists, these patterns are meant to remind us that we need to live in perpetual fear of one another.
The reality behind that sentiment is that most of that perception is manipulation designed to weaken resolve, dissolve bonds of citizenship, allot more power to the people who need it the least, and of course, encourage a culture of tattling.
You can’t really stand on the tracks and hope to stop the train in time to avert a disaster. The train has too much momentum, and it stands to lose nothing if you get hit… and it’s doubtful any of us who are being affected have any idea how to sit down and use the controls.
Folly, Intentional and Otherwise
In 1896, William Crush arranged a spectacular way of decommissioning some aging steam locomotives; He would have them race down the tracks towards one another and collide. 40,000 interested souls packed into the area near West, Texas to witness the event.
Predictably, when the trains slammed into one another, debris was thrown hundreds of yards, people were maimed and killed, and the event went down in infamy. That didn’t stop it from being a profitable success, however, and Crush was fired immediately and rehired the next day for his hand in the carnage.
People have always been stupid, folks. This isn’t anything new. Union General George McClellan was fired, rehired, and refired by Lincoln for his strategic train wrecks.
So what should we learn from this? Well, the people making decisions are utterly blind to the citizenry. In their view, solutions can ONLY come from their social circles, and they’re perfectly satisfied to fire and rehire the people causing the problems in the first place.
When there’s an organized train wreck, avoid the temptation to watch, and focus instead on being outside the range of flying debris, because there’s good news:
We can be blind to their idiocy, too, for the most part.
The bad news is it requires effort, and the near-superhuman ability to tune out of the “panem et circenses” propagated by hyper-denisities that congeal at the top of the social pyramid. Their power and ability to impact our lives is largely contractual – if we allow their influence, they have their influence.
In short, as the Soviet adage goes, “Power perceived is power achieved.”
The train bearing down on us might be a disaster. It might be a collision or a derailment. It could just be a bumpy ride.
But here’s the thing: There are ways we can get off this ride.
Grow your own food. Talk to your neighbors. Be active in local politics and help shape the fate of your community. it doesn’t matter if we agree with your political views or not – our Republic is meant to be a laboratory. What matters is that when mistakes are made, or outcomes are worse than we anticipated, we learn from and correct those mistakes. We don’t over-play the hand.
On that note, I’ll give a rare opinion:
Our Republic, and our concept of open market capitalism isn’t broken. It works. It’s brought tremendous prosperity. It’s brought openness about it’s own flaws, such as the era of the Robber Barons and the hideous immorality of slavery.
It took time to correct those ills, but we didn’t have to discard the political system – we just had to ensure it was working right.
To be sure, it is NOT working right, at present. But it can once again, as long as we don’t give up. If we do, ultimately the abandon husk of this American experiment will be reclaimed by nature, as other powers emerge to take her place.