What Is to Be Done? – UPDATED

Let’s say you can see the future. Not perfectly, in every detail, like Biff with his sports almanac. But the big stuff, like you’d just aced a rigorous history exam. What would you do with it?

To simplify things, let’s pick a significant historical date and work forward. Let’s say it’s January 1, 1914. You know what’s coming. What do you do?

Most of us would probably say something like “tell that dork Franz Ferdinand to hang a left at Albuquerque,” but on a moment’s further reflection, we know how futile that would be. Does anyone think a failed assassination attempt on the Archduke would’ve prevented World War I? All of the major European leaders wanted war. Hell, the vast majority of the European population wanted war, and the overwhelming reaction when it finally came was one of relief. Let’s get this over with!!

The fact that it started in 1914, instead of, say, 1905 or 1911 is epiphenomenal. Bad as it was in 1914, a World War I delayed into the 1920s would probably have been much, much worse. If it helps, think of America’s nullification crisis. The Civil War would’ve been far less devastating, and the peace — whatever it turned out to be — much more secure, had it been fought in 1833 when it should have been, and not put off until 1861.

Could World War I have been prevented? The question is a category error. One can imagine all kinds of scenarios in which a general European war didn’t break out — plague, asteroid strike, the Second Coming — but “prevented” implies human agency, and it’s doubtful even the wholesale replacement of the entire European ruling class would’ve “prevented” something like World War I from happening sooner than later. Marx was right, that bastard, as he was about so many things:

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.

Indeed, this is, perhaps, the primary emotional fuel for those people who feel — as we all do, from time to time — that there really are mysterious Forces of History moving us towards predetermined ends. Something out there seems to want what it wants, and though lots of people — perhaps the vast majority of people — would’ve said “no” if you’d asked them, on January 1, 1914, if they wanted a war, the very briefest glance at their world proves otherwise. War was in the air, and though of course they had no idea how horrible it would be when it came, I hope none of us here are so naive as to think that knowledge would’ve stopped anyone from going to the trenches….

What, then, would you actually DO if you fell into a time machine and found yourself alive, knowing everything you know now, on January 1, 1914?

If you find yourself in Belgium or northern France, move. If you’re in one of the soon-to-be combatant nations and of conscription age, move. Hoard gold maybe? Try to play the stock market from Switzerland? There’s just not much you can actually do, even with complete, perfect foreknowledge. What’s coming is coming, and unless you actually land in Flanders fields, as an individual you’re basically powerless.

That goes triple, of course, for people who don’t have perfect foreknowledge, as of course no one actually does, and hope springs eternal. Even if you know war is coming, maybe the armies will go there instead of here. Even if it’s likely they’ll come here, maybe the battle will happen a few towns over. Even if it’s coming to this town, they won’t come to my neighborhood. Even if they come to my neighborhood…

This is the situation in which we find ourselves today, kameraden. What’s going to come of the electoral mess? Nothing good, as we’ve discussed ad nauseam. The likely outcomes — the ones produced by humans, excluding meteor strikes and plagues and other acts of God — range from “bad” to “inconceivably horrible.” There really aren’t any Forces of History, my friends, but something out there wants what it wants, and what it wants, apparently, is rat utopia, the kinder gentler police state, Karen uber alles. Even the increasingly unlikely event of a total Trump victory in the courts only delays it a few years, tops. We all know which way the world is heading.

So… what do we, as individuals, DO?

Tend your gardens. Raise your children. Be loyal to your friends. Pray. Meditate. Read the great books, view the great artworks while that’s still permitted. Enjoy your time in the sunshine, because that’s all any of us ever really get in this world. Amor fati.

CLARIFICATION, for the record: As y’all know, I had high hopes that Trump would win this one outside the margin of fraud, and while I never for a second thought we could vote our way out of this, I was hoping for four more  years of peace with my family. But even though I of all people should know better, I underestimated how shameless the Left is.

It doesn’t matter how the courts rule. If the Left is shameless enough to rig an election as it’s happening, on camera, while laughing about it, why on earth would they abide by anything the courts say? And that’s assuming the courts rule Trump’s way. Which they won’t, because as we all know — see “gay marriage,” the Obamacare “tax,” and every other damn thing — the Constitution says the Left gets whatever they want, because reasons. “Mr. Justice Marshall has made his ruling; now, let him enforce it.” So sayeth the Left.

The only way Trump is President of the United States come January is if he goes Full Pinochet right fucking now. Which he won’t. That’s not to say he’s not a fighter, or courageous, or an honorable man. He’s all three. But so were the millions of young men who went over the top into the machine guns. The war is a useless con, fought only for profit…. everyone knows this, but we go anyway, because play up and play the game for the Old School Tie, old chap.

We’ve been wondering what the John Brown Moment would be. This is it. I just wish it wasn’t Appomattox, too.

UPDATE: There are, of course, practical steps one can take going forward that don’t amount to quietism. The social contract has been broken; the consent of the governed has been withdrawn, forcibly, by the government. Henceforth I’ll do nothing I’m not compelled to do by an agent of the State. I will take every possible exemption to every possible statute. I will preemptively disqualify myself from any jury, for example, and if compelled to serve, I will rule in favor of the White party no matter what. I will vote in no election. I’ll join Colin fucking Kaepernick, and kneel for the goddamn “national anthem.” It’s like the Delta House guys said – a situation like this absolutely requires that a stupid, futile gesture be made on somebody’s part.

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26 thoughts on “What Is to Be Done? – UPDATED

  1. Pickle Rick

    The Cassandra paradox.

    I’m getting the distinct feeling the Vichy Right has, as usual, preemptively surrendered. “Fighting” in the courts will be useless, as our enemies simply ignore laws and court rulings.

    We’re not voting our way out of this, we’re not lawyering our way out of this, and quite obviously, our “leader” doesn’t want to fight our way out of this. I’m not a martyr. I’m too damn old to be an outlaw. So internal exile it is.

    1. Severian Post author

      There it is. Yeah, “the courts”… what difference, at this point, does it make? As always with the courts, the Left either keeps litigating until they win — see “gay marriage” — or they just ignore the decision. The only way Donald Trump will be President of the United States next year is if he marches into Washington DC at the head of a conquering army. And since that’s not happening….

      Internal exile for the win. I’m not going into a fucking boxcar. If they come for me or mine, I’m going out blazing. Other than that, I’m going to tend my garden and enjoy the sunshine. It is what it is.

  2. contrariandutchman

    We make our own history, and yes, Marx has a point that we do so much influenced by where and what we are as we do so.

    Its january 1914 and I know what I know now, but am I in a position to tell the Great General Staff to immediately start preparing the railway tables for the Ostaufmarsch? And to tell the guys at Spandau I want more machineguns pronto?

    Now, I’ll mostly just observe events, after all I still plan to write the Fall of the American Empire.

    1. Severian Post author

      I’m not in a position to tell anyone anything. They wouldn’t listen if I could, anymore than Franz Ferdinand would if I told him not to turn down that side street. In fact, my protests would make the Powers That Be even more certain that they’re right, because they’re The Experts and I’m just some lunatic with a Cassandra Complex.

  3. MBlanc46

    You answered the “January, 1, 1914” question about as well as it could be answered. If you were of military age, try to find a place to lie low. And invest every penny that you can beg, borrow, or steal in munitions. It’s the last paragraph that matters. I’m 74. It certainly wasn’t my intention to spend my last decade watching Western civilization collapse, at an accelerating rate, around me. I know that I’m not alone. Almost half* the population and I are in general agreement. But, even together, there’s little that we can do to stop the runaway train. Therefore, I’m going to try to make the most of the time that I’ve got left. Today, I’m going to take Candide’s advice: I’m going to tend my garden. Well, take the fencing down and put the tomato cages away, anyway. Tomorrow, I’ll get the tiller out and turn the ground over, in preparation for next year. Who knows, perhaps we’ll yet have a chance to right the ship. Perhaps not. But savor every moment, because, before you know it, there won’t be any more moments for you.

    * Maybe even more than half, but we’re not the half with the power.

    1. Severian Post author

      There it is. There are little kids in my family, 3-6 years old. I’ll do my best to give them the best world I can. We’ll read books and sing songs and tend our garden. I’ll help them to make their way in this world as best I can. It’s all I can do. Life goes on…

      I have a new appreciation, though, for those old duffers who watched the younger generation march itself off a cliff and into the trenches. Someone born in 1875 saw the Victorian World at its absolute apex; they undoubtedly spent the 1920s, 30s, and 40s muttering “what the fuck did we do to deserve this?”

      They carried on, and even thrived. We will too. It’ll be colder, smaller, poorer, shabbier than the world we grew up in, but that’s not our fault. We did what we could. It’s their life to live; we can only help them as we can.

    2. The Right Doctor

      We are kindred, MBlanc. I’m retiring from the practice of medicine after forty years next month. In my earlier days I would have anticipated travel and visiting various friends acquired over the decades who now live all over the country.
      But now, I have no interest at all in seeing many of these ‘friends’, based on what my wife says they put on Facebook, which I have avoided so much as ever glancing at, and I’m so disillusioned by the end of what was once (long ago) man’s last best hope on Earth. I’m going to be doing artwork and tending my garden as well.
      One difference between us is that we’ll be planting our tomatoes next month. That’s what Arizona does for you, turns some things around as we are all seeing.

      1. Severian Post author

        The historical sense is helping me right now. This has happened before and will happen again. The Roman Republic, Athens, Victorian Britain… they were the best and brightest, and they’re gone. Despotism and kleptocracy are man’s natural state. The wonder isn’t that America collapsed so fast; the miracle is that it lasted as long as it did. Nothing good can stay….

        There’s an upside even to this, though – war with China is lot less likely. Joe can just cut the contractors in on the scam.

        1. MBlanc46

          Sev: Despotism and kleptomania. Among other things. After a Goldwaterite early adolescence, I morphed into something of a Lefty during the later 1960s. That wasn’t all that unusual. I met quite a few ex-Goldwaterites in “the movement”. There was anti-statism in both. A couple of things kept me from going full-bore Lefty. I could never accept that Happy Rockefeller was the oppressed and that I was the oppressor. And I could never accept that homosexuality was anything but an unfortunate behavioral affliction. But I also paid attention to actually existing (and past) human behavior. The unavoidable conclusion is that human beings are very scrappy primates. They are capable of great marvels, but they are also capable of unspeakable violence upon each other. The amazing thing is that we’ve managed to keep the aggression bottled up as well as we have done. But it is there. It is going to come out. One way or another. Even if we could breed the violence out (which isn’t likely), we’d almost certainly breed the marvels out, too.

        2. Some Guy

          The more I think about this the more I see China being heavily involved in at least financing this stuff. Considering Trump’s trade policies and the whole Hong Kong thing which is being openly backed by the west it would surprise me more if they weren’t involved.

      2. MBlanc46

        TRD: I did know that tomatoes are a winter crop in AZ. Good luck with yours. We still have plenty of home-made sauce in the freezer, and I roasted quite a few over the summer and early autumn, so at least we can enjoy them in some form over the long, cold, Chicago winter.

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  5. The Kaigat Of Wands

    Well, as Mrs. Kaigat Of Wands says, we shouldn’t be too surprised, third-world countries get third-world elections………

  6. Maus

    What many of you are describing, right down to the gardening advice, is how I conceive the so-called Benedict Option (caveat: i haven’t read the book, only reviews). I find the history of the Desert Fathers and the early monastics fascinating because it is a window into the lived experience of people who experienced the decay and collapse of a massive empire. When I reflect on my own life, the daily routine, the occasional moment of awe or the simple joy of friendship happens just often enough to hedge off the clamor of a world gone mad. An honest inventory leads me to conclude that while bad things are unquestionably happening undeservedly to some people, that has not (yet) been my lot. About the only thing missing from any practical attempt to live as those dark age renunciates did is the difficulty of finding true quiet. Media is noise; whether it entertains, informs, cozens, lies or harangues. The biggest fear I harbor for the children of the future is their unwillingness, sliding into inability, to put down their damn smartphones and unplug. Hell, I didn’t have internet ’til I was in my mid-thirties and only bought a smartphone in 2013; yet they have sunk their tendrils into my psyche like some baneful ivy. Nothing good awaits those who boast that they never read books or who can’t muster more than five minutes of sustained attention to anything. Pascal nailed it when he diagnosed the dire problems of rejecting quiet time in a room alone.

    1. Severian Post author

      Forgive me if this brings up anything uncomfortable (because I realize you are an EX-friar), but what would you recommend for spiritual solace in these times? I always enjoy reading Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation, and of course Aurelius and Epictetus for the heathen perspective. I also enjoy Zen poetry.

      There’s a monastery within driving distance for me. If it weren’t for this stupid virus (lots of old men in the cloister), I’d go up there for a weekend and just unplug. As it is I need to find it where I can get it.

      1. Maus

        No worries. But I’m probably not the best guy to be recommending consoling spiritual reading. Consolations and desolations are too Jesuit for my taste. There is no Dominican spirituality as such; just a core commitment to truth seeking that finds profit in many things. It is summed up in Aquinas exhortation: contemplata aliis tradere, i.e. to hand down to others the fruits of one’s contemplation. I read for understanding rather than to achieve an affective state; then I dwell on what I’ve read. Personally, I never got much from the German Dominican mystics like Suso or Eckhart, though I liked the sermons of Johannes Tauler. I rather enjoyed the writing of Thomas Merton, too. I typically turn to the psalms or to the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, or the Gospel of John for meditative reading. I find that I prefer writers who rely heavily on an aphoristic style. Give me a pithy sentence or two from a Desert Father or Pascal’s Pensees and I can chew on it for a half hour or so, then get back to whatever I’m doing.
        I don’t imagine any of this is all that helpful as a general recommendation. I’ll reiterate that the more important effort is first unplugging and letting the resulting stillness create an opportunity to be led to some refreshing activity that will be grounded in your own personality and preferences.

    2. Codex

      Raise them not to want the smart phone. Our household has one that we share out for tasks and trips that need it.

      Though none of us go anywhere without a book or a sketchbook, and you can disappear into those much harder than the electronic doo-hickeys.

  7. Southern Belle

    Well, I don’t really have any epiphanies, revelations, or insights. I’m just disgusted with the whole thing, enough that being a shield-maiden would make me feel good about myself right now. However, I’d go about it not with guns but with other methods. Food or drink with a special added ingredient, lethal but undetectable, for special people. Another scenario includes a geologic expedition to the San Andreas Fault with something that could cause a satisfying shift in American politics. Yes, I am aware of the migrations, but my fantasy has to have a starting point.

  8. Martinian

    Oh ffs, it hasn’t even been half a week and you guys have already written it all off as over and done. Geez…

    1. Severian Post author

      Isn’t it? Let’s say Trump wins all his lawsuits. Do you think the same Left that openly rigged an election while it was happening, laughing ON CAMERA the whole time, is really going to respect some judge’s ruling?

      If the Left wins a court case, they win. If the Left loses a court case, they keep litigating until the case comes before a Leftist judge — aka the majority of judges at all levels — and the Leftist judge declares the Left the winner, because reasons.

      But let’s say by some miracle Trump wins all his lawsuits, and the Left stands down (after a few weeks of rioting, of course, but since we’re fantasizing here let’s just assume). What happens then? Who goes to prison? Unless the answer is “everyone from Joe Biden on down,” and the prison in question is of the federal, pound-me-in-the-ass variety, what happens? Is the GOP — currently to be found absolutely nowhere as the election is stolen from “their” candidate — really going to pass some kind of comprehensive voting reform? How will they get it through Congress? Who will make it stick?

      1. Martinian

        No, it’s not over.

        I think it’s reasonable to have a “wait and see” attitude. You spin out a fine story of your fears, but as an academic historian you should know not to underestimate the power of unexpected events.

        So I prefer to wait until Trump says it’s over to come to such a definitive conclusion. That could come in several weeks, or it could come tomorrow. Either way, it’s infinitely better than shrugging and saying, “oh well, I guess they’re too strong after all” and garnishing the shit sandwich with lurid rationalizations.

        That said, I’m not trying to crap on your reasoning, or at least not completely. I mean, I come to this blog because it’s intelligent and thought-provoking. It just occurs to me that there may be an enormous amount that’s going on that we don’t know about. In the absence of that, yes, I think you make a good case for pessimism. And everyone without a case of cranial-rectal inversion knows you’re spot on about the quisling GOP. But I also recall that not more than a month ago, lots of people who are also in the pessimist boat were moaning about the inevitability of being back-stabbed on the Barrett nomination and, well before that, about the whole Trump presidency.

        Anyway, wait and see. I refuse to give the opposition an ounce of satisfaction before I see rock-solid proof that Trump is done fighting. They’re dead-set on making my life a living hell and destroying all I care about, and so I think all your comments about preparation for the future are wise and well-considered regardless of the outcome of the next few months. But why should I make it any easier for my enemies by rhetorically admitting defeat now? What is gained by that, esp. when I think I’ve read frequently on this site the argument that the main reason we’re losing the overall war is that we don’t show anywhere near the degree of conviction that the Left does?

        So even though I agree that you have a realistic point to make, I nevertheless repeat, what do we gain by cooperating in their demoralization when it’s clear that our main representative isn’t even close to giving up?

        1. Severian Post author

          I take your point. I AM demoralized. The people who can organize the massive Trump boat parades, bike rallies, etc… where are they? 50,000 people – which Trump got in Podunk PA a week before the election – would make one hell of a statement in Harrisburg…

          ….but alas, the mayor would deny them a permit, and we can’t be protesting the subversion of representative government without a license.

          For that matter, where is the Left? They can have people halfway across the country within a day any time some Jogger forces a cop to dust him, but they’re doing *nothing* to help their cause right now? No fucking way. They’re on very strict orders to stand down. If the fix weren’t massively in, they’d be out “helping.”

          But again, I take your point. It’s worth fighting it until Trump himself gives up. It wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, and it’s not over now.

  9. H I

    Since no one commented on the title of the post, I’ll bite. So, is it a reference to Lenin’s 1902 essay? That one argued that the way forward is through a dedicated core of radicals, as opposed to a larger and more moderate group of social democrats. The radicals became the Bolsheviks, the moderates (so to speak) the Mensheviks. I don’t know though if you’re making a similar argument with the title, since the post is about something else.

    1. Severian Post author

      One could interpret it that way, yes. The title suggests one way forward, but the post suggests the opposite. Such will be communication in our brave new world of online samizdat – multiple levels, plausible deniability…

      …or I just like using that title as a joke, considering that we’re about to go under the heel of goddamn rat-fuck commies.

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