Editor’s Note: It’s been a full year since I wrote my last Mailbag note, which is kinda pathetic. My excuses are:
1) we’ve got an amazing Comment section on the website, where both Rusty and I actively participate. It’s truly one of the best things we do and is the antimatter to every other commentariat on the Interwebs.
2) there’s just SO MUCH new stuff that I want to write about that I find it hard to revisit topics in a Mailbag note.
But as my father used to say, “Well, Ben, sounds like you have lots of good excuses but no good reasons.”
My father was always right in that observation then, and he would be right in that observation now. Reader comments and emails following our publication of Lucifer’s Hammer have been amazing, and it would be a disservice to the Pack if I didn’t collect some of them here.
Like this collage from reader (and cartoonist) Jonathan Plotkin.
And to think that until I got Jonathan’s email I was pretty happy with my homebrew adaptation of the traditional Ralph Wiggum Mailbag graphic to reflect what this note is all about.
So what is the skinny for Lucifer’s Hammer, and why does Jonathan’s collage capture it so perfectly?
Between Covid and the election and the cri de coeur of BLM and the anxiety of back-to-school and the West in flames and 10%+ unemployment and every other 2020 kick in the teeth, we are suffering a national nervous breakdown.
Many people, especially young men with delusions of ego amplified by rapacious social media platforms and their political sponsors, see this national nervous breakdown as an opportunity to shine as violent warriors in service to a mighty cause.
Our political parties, now incapable of seeing any issue except through the profoundly destructive Trumpian lens of zero-sum electoral competition, see this national nervous breakdown in exactly the same way, as an opportunity to “energize their base” and create a political “side” to every social cause and every national threat.
This union of political party advantage-seeking, social media platform profit-seeking, and individual fantasist violence-seeking creates a potentially apocalyptic comet of social destruction that will hit the Earth on Tuesday, November 3rd.
Neither the Democratic party nor the Republican party survives a defeat this November in anything close to their current form. I think a lot of people are starting to think about that.
But here’s what’s also true:
Neither the Democratic party nor the Republican party survives a victory this November.
And no one is thinking about that.
I’m going to start this Mailbag with a critique. Actually, most of the Mailbag entries are critiques.
May 1968 lasted 1 month and 3 weeks. Portland’s protests have dragged on for more than 3 months with zero sign of exhausting itself. Why? Because the protest is not fueled by some abstract desire for change but by very visible and visceral events on the ground.
Since the beginning, Portland has had way more counter-protester violence of any other city that I could recall. When the people involved were arrested, it was usually federal agents, not local police who brought them in. There may be an innocuous explanation for this division of labor, but it feeds into a strong common knowledge: not only are the police your enemy, the counter-protesters are their auxiliaries. It doesn’t help that there is a lot of video footage of police being far gentler with the militia groups than they are with BLM. All on top of indiscriminate use of gas and unidentified DHS agents.
If what happened in Portland happened in my city, I’d be out on the streets every night I could and f**k the curfew. Remember how you all felt when you saw that Navy vet getting clubbed until his hand broke? Imagine if you kept seeing that again and again.
“Fun” can keep a riot going for a month or two, but white-hot rage can keep a movement from going on for months even when all the participants are extremely exhausted, which they are. So what to do? Yes, we should definitely deploy the National Guard.
And at the same time, withdraw the Portland police, which are seen as an illegitimate occupying force, many of whom live outside the city and probably despise it.
This is the ET way, change always comes at the bottom-up. Ultimately, you have to rely on people’s love for their own city and talk to the stakeholders who have their skin in the game.
The idea that whatever Biden says or does matters … or whether Wheeler calls an election … that is the kind of top-down solution that just appropriates a local, urban conflict (protesters vs. police+counter-protests) into another widening-gyre political game. Wheeler can’t even stand up to the people occupying his city. They freakin’ gassed him.
The May 1968 case really did admit that kind of top-down solution because the protesters were spoken for by the opposition political party. Portland 2020 does not. Fin.
The fatal flaw in the Portland social justice movement and many other social justice movements is not that they have been co-opted by national politics or are somehow caught between top-down and bottom-up cross-currents. No, the existential problem for the Portland social justice movement is that it has allowed itself to be defined by others in terms of an undisciplined and inchoate conflict with that city’s police force, and – worse – it is how this social justice movement defines itself.
The sine qua non for any successful campaign where you are the underdog – whether that’s a business campaign or a military campaign or a campaign of resistance for social change – is *discipline*. If you’re the underdog and you do not excel in discipline, you will lose. Period.
By allowing violence to seep into this campaign for social justice, its organizers have failed their most crucial (and difficult) leadership task.
The violence genie is incredibly difficult to put back into the bottle. Your reactionary opponents will egg it on. Your members will want to hit back. Similarly, discipline is incredibly difficult to maintain. Why? Because discipline is not fun.
Once discipline is lost and violence emerges, your narrative fails. Not just the narrative that others have about you, but more importantly the narrative that you tell yourself.
Disciplined courage in the form of nonviolent protest is THE weapon of effective social justice movements.
Why? Because – to paraphrase your Miranda rights – anything you do can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion by a Nudging State that is extremely good at reframing your actions in a crushing narrative light. Once you lose that discipline … once you give yourself over to the emotional satisfaction of taking a swing at that smug bastard who’s been poking you over and over and over again … you WILL be framed as a criminal adversary to the public.
But if you CAN maintain the disciplined courage of nonviolence in the face of obscene provocation? Yeah, that works.
The highwater mark for the Portland protests, both internally and externally, was the morning after this Navy vet with a natural armor class of 23 took a beating from the goonsquad to stand up for the … wait for it … Constitution of the United States of America. This is how you lose a battle on the streets. And how you win a war in the hearts and minds of Americans.
Of course the rich white landowner thinks that nonviolent protest is the only answer, and anything else is going to cause some apocalypse-comet-level firestorm. Set down the pearls and give your hands a massage.
Your fear’s simply not true. The violence isn’t that big or widespread; there have been no Kent State-style police slayings (rubber bullets notwithstanding), and that idiot kid in Wisconsin, if you *actually watch the video*, acted primarily in self-defense, despite the fact that he shouldn’t have been there, just as those idiots shouldn’t have attacked him.
If burning down a few dozen (or even hundred) businesses is what it takes for the centuries-long genocide in the United States to stop, then so be it. I won’t be doing the burning, but I refuse to shed any tears over some property damage if that’s what it takes to move the needle in our society.
Ultimately though this isn’t the tip of the spear of some giant uprising, or even widespread *real violence*. It’s very easy to get caught up in your media bubble and think that Kenosha is burning to the ground or something, but it’s not, and any night you can count the dead on one hand is not something to start doomsaying over. – JP
If I were a betting man – and as a rich white landowner, of course I am – I’d be willing to make a substantial wager that a) JP is a young man in his 20s, and an even more substantial wager that b) JP has never been in a real fight in his entire freakin’ life, much less had a gun pointed at him in anger or seen deadly violence first hand. I bet he’s played a lot of Call of Duty, though, and has strong opinions about the efficacy of different caliber rifles for different missions. I bet JP is frustrated that the real-world organizations that he is associated with have been slow to embrace his superior insights, and that the online organizations he is associated with are much more appreciative. I bet JP believes himself to be a natural leader, and that he would thrive if the existing order were somehow turned upside down.
Honestly, I got all that just from how JP used the word “genocide”.
I get a lot of JPs who email me about my fear-mongering and doom-saying about Covid-19, too. The common denominator is the “count the dead on one hand” comment. The JPs of the world are fascinated with counting the dead and matching those numbers against some score they have in their head about how that count should be weighed.
The JPs of the world scare the hell out of me.
There are a lot of JPs.
And on a related note …
one group fights the power, one group IS the power.
The violence, albeit distasteful, is finally generating true examination of the inequities in society. What should be happening is all of the downtrodden groups, those that have been left behind, poor white and black, should be coalescing behind a push for change. Instead, many of those that are in bad shape have thrown in with the group that has continued to oppress them. Sad. – Boston Dad
No, Boston Dad, the violence is more than “distasteful”. It is more than counter-productive. It is an abject betrayal of the discipline and strength required to mount a successful campaign of resistance and social change.
I’d feel more comfortable about using the National Guard if the local police and DHS Goonsquad hadn’t acted exactly like children getting to LARP their favorite video game.
Agreed. Saving grace is that we all have news cameras in our pockets today, and their LARPing helps us construct a narrative that aids nonviolent social change.
On a related note, this was an interesting discussion about QAnon on Noah Feldman’s podcast – The Allure of QAnon — Deep Background with Noah Feldman – where Adrian Hon, the CEO of the gaming company Six to Start, talks about how QAnon is compelling to believers because it operates like a virtual quest.
QAnon as virtual LARPing is exactly right.
WALK DOWN STAIRS TO BASEMENT OF PIZZA PARLOR
>> THERE IS NO BASEMENT
>> THERE IS NO BASEMENT
“Carnival larping spirit”. Exactly!
Check out the Firing Line replay with Buckley moderating Dotson Rader and Arnold Beichman. The whole thing is an incredible prequel to where we are today. I hate to say it, but Dotson Rader has been exactly right about the real terms of engagement. The whole thing is filled with easter eggs, but I think you will find an the 2 minutes starting at 18:00 incredibly interesting because Rader articulates the same thing you describe. The 1968 French Revolution you mention is explicitly referenced later in the interview. Rader’s explanation of the imperviousness of the New Left to reason is unfortunately prescient (and equally applicable to the “New Right.”) – Andrew
These old Firing Line episodes are solid gold … the guests taking long drags on their cigarettes, stubbing them out in an ash tray just off camera. They’re also pretty hard to take sometimes. Geez, the smugness just oozes off everyone.
Worth watching all the way through, but yes, if you’re in a rush, fast forward to the 18 minute mark and hear playwright (and Parade magazine columnist – LOL) Dotson Rader talk about the sexiness of violent revolution. That I suppose he’s read about.
As a guy with a garage full of motorcycles, you almost lost me with “motorcycle gang”, but then as I read on the “gang” started to look pretty good by comparison.
I have been of the opinion for a long time that both major political parties were destroying themselves, and I have long desired for that to happen to create space for what comes next. I don’t have a crystal ball about timing, but the decay is irreversible. – Craig
I’m with Craig on this. Have been for a while now.
You know, all of my notes are like my children, so it’s hard to have favorites. But this is a favorite.
“So what’s the punch line? Why am I talking about all this in a cheery note about death and funerals?“
“Because once a Cooperation Game becomes a full-blown Competition Game, it never goes back to the way it was before. Once mustard gas is introduced into your trench warfare game, whether it was one of the other guys or one of your guys, it’s here to stay. Deterrence has failed. The cooperative Stag Hunt equilibrium is dead. I am, admittedly, still at Stage 4 of the Kubler-Ross scale on all this — depression — but we all need to get to acceptance ASAP. No regrets. No magical thinking. Just hard thoughts on how to design an operating system that can compete with and win against the billionaires’ operating system when the reboot happens. And who we want in our foxhole in the meantime. And how to build a gas mask.“
“Because there’s a pose that very sick farm animals sometimes take when they’re near death, where they lie down and twist their head way back into their shoulder in a very unnatural way. It’s an odd sight if you don’t know what it signifies, a horrible sight if you do. Both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are starting to twist their heads back into their shoulders. I don’t know if it’s too late to save them or not, but I’m increasingly thinking that it is. We need to start thinking about the funeral, who’s going to speak, and what they’re going to say.“
Several years ago, in the run up to 2016, I worked on a volunteer, web-based website with about 30 other people. As things got heated on the political front heading into mid-year, the ownership team was trying to figure out how to handle what was going to be a contentious election internally. There were plenty of calls to have no chatter in internal channels (email/Slack) about the election.
We didn’t do that.
We built a dedicated venue for people to talk about the election so it could be contained to one location, but still expressed so that the people, the participants could have their voice heard within the system, not repressed out of it. And then we didn’t allow conservation on the election outside of that locale. And I think this is analogous to what is recommended here.
The answer is to encourage the participation through channels designed to allow for self-determination, and actually allowing that change to take place if so demanded. But also, it’s about preventing the forms of expression that do not seek a true change, but just want to watch the world burn.
Create avenues for the will of the people to be freely and truly expressed, and then hold the line on this who do not actually wish for change but simply want to feel the rush of emotion attached to the moment.
To quote the Mandalorian: This is the way.
The trick – whether it’s politics or business or family or whatever – is to be a strong enough leader to establish these channels of self-expression and voice, to keep them from bleeding over into each other, and to abide by them if the self-determination that emerges goes against your personal interests!
==> “Portland mayor Ted Wheeler, who refuses to defund the police in the way that Portland protesters mean the word (i.e. abolish), should resign. AND he should run in the special election called to replace him. AND the Portland protesters should put up their own candidate who will, in fact, defund the police to oblivion. Then vote. Let’s do this next week. Let’s see who the people of Portland put into office. Either the dog catches the car or the car runs over the dog. Either way, the story arc of this particular protest narrative ends there.
We make it not fun by removing the thrill of the chase and the thrill of the fight – we contain the rioters and the night time looters – so that all that is left is the boredom of walking around and yelling into the wind all night. We accomplish this with numbers and curfews. We request the assistance of the National Guard – of course we request the assistance of the National Guard! – so that we have the sheer numbers of trained personnel to contain the bullshit looters and keep out the bullshit “militias”.
That’s how we work our way through this.
We accommodate protester voice through new elections/plebiscites, and we contain criminal tag-alongs with sheer numbers of trained public safety officers.” <==
Enough, let’s see if people really want to fully defund the police. Let’s see how popular zero police protection is as policy?
What I’ve seen all along is that almost everyone agrees with the non-violent protests against the specific police actions we’ve witnessed on TV and the idea of police targeting blacks. Away from some fringe crazies, I haven’t heard any public official say otherwise – or anyone in my all-over-the-political-map friends and relatives – not one.
So great, we all agree that bad is bad. What I haven’t seen is, until “defund the police” took off, any specific policy response ideas. It’s been protest as identity and virtue signaling that spiraled into violence and, yes, death and destruction. And for that, sorry, you can hate me and think I’m a T supporter (I’m not), I blame mainly the left. But now everyone’s getting in on the fun – sigh.
But still, what is the policy people want? Let’s have the first vote Ben suggests (and have it everywhere) – defund or not? Then, maybe, we can have more votes till we get to a reasonable response. I have my ideas, but they’re not important; what is important is that we find an answer within the system we have.
I’m not sure I fully understand the process of Ben’s BITFD, but I kinda think he says we make the political parties irrelevant by not playing their game. So let’s not play their game of violence-in-the-street to get them votes; let force real votes on real issues to get answers. – Mark Kahn
The answer to our systemic failings is not centralization and federalism, but decentralization and antifederalism. The answer to our political failings is not less democracy, but more democracy.
As for the police …
Demilitarize and Deunionize? Yes.
Ben, have the riots all stopped, or are we just not being shown any anymore?
Reporting on this went dark, quietly and immediately.
Good question, and I don’t know the answer. I THINK that the riots have, in fact, diminished because I THINK that the DNC has told every allied group to knock it the fuck off.
Was intending to write a big long response to this that even included an excerpt from a poem — but, upon reflection, I am deeply conflicted and confused by our current moment, as I suspect many people are if they don’t have the armor of rigid ideology, so I’ve decided to note one thing only:
I am so happy you used a specific historical analogy to make a point that was not the “US-as-Weimar” or “US-as-Roman Republic” — tropes that irritates me to an extreme degree.
It’s odd to me that the 1968 France analogy isn’t getting more play. For one thing, Charles de Gaulle was easily as weird as Donald Trump.
Thanks for what you’re doing with ET. It’s enlightening – though also depressing AF.
I recently heard an anecdote that I thought you may find interesting.
In my father’s village, in Croatia, fishermen would load a block of ice in the boats when leaving to fish. As they would catch fish, they would chip at the block to make ice and keep the fish fresh. We’re talking mid 20th century here.
But on very good days, that ice would not be enough for all of the fish. For these cases, they would keep a couple of big spiders in a jar. If they had fish they couldn’t put in ice, they would put them in a dry barrel, and then throw in the spiders.
The fish in the barrel would feel the spiders and freak out. That stress would keep them alive for longer than they normally would – long enough to bring them to port and put them on ice there.
For what weird part of today’s economy is this a good metaphor? I don’t know, but if anyone would, it’s you! – Gavrilo
It’s hard for me to believe that a fish out of water could be MORE stressed than suffocating to death, just like it’s hard for me to believe that a fish would find a spider’s touch to be particularly distressing, but I love this story so much that I’m going to believe it and repeat it without hesitation!
My god, if there is a better description of the political fear system that we fish are subjected to 24/7 than … big spiders in a barrel stressing us out to keep us alive long enough for the fishermen to get us back to shore and sell us for food … I’ve never heard it.
Predating Lucifer’s Hammer in my life was “A Boy and His Dog” by Harlan Ellison, but the impact was the same, or greater. The movie was no comparison to the book in my opinion, your mileage may vary.
Thanks for confirming my choice to withdraw into heirloom tomatoes and exercise for the time being. – Jeff
Pretty sure I’ve read everything that Harlan Ellison ever wrote, and totally agree on the book superiority of “A Boy and His Dog” … the altered ending!
But we did get the first major film role for Don Johnson, so there’s that.
Remind me Ben, how much did the Fed expand its balance sheet in response to the comet of Lucifer’s Hammer, and how much higher was the S&P 500 after the comet strike? – ike
If memory serves, the Eccles Building was either engulfed in a sea of lava or submerged under a mile of ocean when Lucifer’s Hammer hit the Earth. Either way, the Fed needs to update its disaster recovery protocols for comet strike!
Rusty and I started to keep a running tally of the “but Biden” and “but Trump” responses. I’d say the totals were unbelievable, but of course it’s totally believable.
To be clear, I blame Trump for our irretrievably broken political system.
Four years ago, when I wrote that I thought Trump would defeat Clinton, I said that Trump breaks us by turning every one of our domestic political games from a coordination game – where cooperation in the national interest is at least possible – into a pure competition game where that potential cooperation is impossible. He did. That’s exactly what happened.
And now here we are. It’s all trench warfare all the time. Mustard gas, flame throwers, whatever … it doesn’t matter now who was first. None of these weapons of war can be uninvented. None of these bells can be unrung.
So what. Now what.
Michael Ginsberg: I feel sorry for you.
Don Draper: I don’t think about you at all.Mad Men (Season 5, 2012)
It’s one of the best lines in a series full of great lines. It’s devastating. It’s cruel. It’s also the reality of our world.
Our political and corporate leaders don’t think about you at all. They’re ALL Don Draper.
Am I furious at Trump and his wanton debasement of the American Constitution – the most valuable piece of intellectual property of the past 2,000 years? Yes, I am.
Do I think that Trump has, time and again, betrayed his oath of office and the American people? Do I think that Trump has been an utter failure as President of the UNITED States? Yes, I do.
Do I think there’s a good chance Trump simply declares victory by fiat if the election is even arguably close, and that whether he is re-elected or “re-elected” there is an even better chance we enter a decade of domestic violence and secessionary impulses unseen in this country for 170 years? Yes, I do.
But guess what. I also think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that Biden and the Democrats accept a narrow loss to Trump, also with a good chance of triggering a decade of domestic violence and secessionary impulses unseen in this country for 170 years.
None of this goes away on November 4th. This isn’t just a bad dream. There is no saved game to access, no reset button to push.
So what. Now what.
Now we refuse to be Michael Ginsberg. Now we refuse to let these Don Draper high-functioning sociopaths into our heads. Now we refuse to take them – any of them – into our hearts.
Now we find our pack. Now we vote and we hope for the best and we prepare for the worst. Now we keep the flames of small-l liberalism and small-c conservatism alive in our homes and our packs.
Now we show the disciplined courage to engage in nonviolent protest whenever and wherever we see those principles of small-l liberalism and small-c conservatism violated by a rapacious, overbearing state … no matter what.
As a fellow Citizen disillusioned with our political parties I encourage you to contact Bret Weinstein regarding the Unity 2020 movement. I don’t have any illusions about our chances, but there is a plan to get a team on the ballot for president in all 50 states this election cycle. With the support of people like yourself, who already have an audience and the abysmal choice we are offered by the political parties. I think there is a chance to do some good.
I’ve had a long conversation with Eric Weinstein about this and lots of other topics. Sorry, but I’m passing on Unity 2020. Heart’s in the right place here, but this is a distraction and extremely … fragile.
Have you ever read East of Eden? One of my absolute favorite books. My favorite verse from my favorite character in the book reminds me a lot of you. I want to share it with you as a compliment.
“I hope they got there,” said Adam.
“I know. And when my father would tell me I would say to him, ‘Get to that lake— get my mother there — don’t let it happen again, not this time. Just once let’s tell it: how you got to the lake and built a house of fir boughs.’ And my father became very Chinese then. He said, ‘There’s more beauty in the truth even if it is dreadful beauty. The storytellers at the city gate twist life so that it looks sweet to the lazy and the stupid and the weak, and this only strengthens their infirmities and teaches nothing, cures nothing, nor does it let the heart soar.’ ”
Keep teaching the dreadful, beautiful truth. Keep making hearts soar. – TH
Haha! No pressure there! But seriously … thank you. Steinbeck is one of my all-time faves, but I had forgotten that particular passage. Absolutely beautiful. Absolutely correct. And I will.
Okay, four long reader emails to close out this Mailbag. No comments. No jokes. Just a heartfelt invitation to join the Epsilon Theory pack and engage in this conversation with me and Andy and Adam and Steven and TB about how to change our lives and how to change our world.
Because I bet you’ve got something to say.
I share your rage and empathy. I too have vastly changed my life, and that of my family’s to deal with the world in which we live. I feel really good about the work I am doing, and the community in which my wife and I have chosen to raise our family. Though I still feel very alone as someone who frequently moves to the meta to contemplate the world at large.
Much like when I read and am in contact with my old mentor, I love your work. While it stirs emotions that I sometimes try to avoid so I can go about my daily family life, your work makes me feel more sane in an insane world. It is a strange paradox of feeling less alone, because I am not the only one seeing and thinking about these things, but it also makes me feel more alone, in the sense that I don’t know anyone in close proximity to me that is thinking about these things.
I have written, erased, and rewritten this email to you a few times. I don’t quite know what it is I am asking for or what I am seeking. I feel a deep connection to what your and Rusty are doing, yet I feel distant from it and from you guys. I want to find others near me who think like this and want to engage in thoughtful discussion and activities.
I know that part of your mission is to empower others to create meaningful connection and packs. I believe pre covid, you guys were doing get togethers in your area and occasionally engaging people in other areas. I wanted to see where this stands. Do you guys connect ET followers in similar locations when possible/appropriate?
Long story short is that I appreciate the work you guys do. I want to be more engaged, but am not sure how/why to engage you and your work more. What is my role in all of this? I realize this is probably my own question to answer, but wanted to finally hit send on this email. – Andy
It’s been on my mind to email you again for months but I couldn’t bring myself to do it out of embarrassment until I joined the pack officially…finally got around to doing that today (sorry I’m a cheapskate). I sent you the email above over 2 years ago (!! wow) when epsilon theory had just begun to mean something important to me. You were gracious to respond then…I know your following and time commitments have gone up by orders of magnitude since then (congrats, well deserved). Importance of your (and Rusty’s) work for me has also gone up orders of magnitude.
I somewhat gradually realized this past year that I wanted to do more than just consume your work, but only recently really got started with any seriousness. Basically so far this looks like me flooding all my facebook friends, and real life close friends, with epsilon theory concepts, and generally just trying to build my pack. In my ‘old life’ I had been posting my Trump outrage on FB frequently but shut that all down in the months after I discovered ET and had you rock my worldview, basically became a social media recluse for 2 years until this summer when I decided to start trying to convert more friends to ET. I’ve also recently moved back closer to friends and family on the north-side of Indianapolis, honestly it may sound a touch crazy but the ‘build my pack’ mentality played a role in this decision to get closer to people who really matter to me and the family. I will continue to keep doing this building of my pack, but I am reaching out to you today in case there is more I can do. A few thoughts in this regard:
In particular it has been on my mind that, having spent 2 lonely years as seemingly the only person in my world who ‘got’ what you were saying, I have felt like it would be very nice if there was some sort of means for discovering other folks in my local area who are part of the ET pack. I believe you have alluded to such things before as, perhaps, part of your long term plan. Of course I know you also want to avoid anything too top-down which is a potential risk from beginning to ‘organize’ the pack. But if there was a way to start forming local packs and there are other members in the Indy area I certainly would be up for helping with that effort.
Another thing that has been on my mind is that, having consumed ET continuously for years now I feel quite well-versed in the various ‘tenets’ of ET…..but I’ve found that when trying to discuss ET with friends I am basically speaking a different language from them! Widening gyre, minimax regret, clear eyes-full hearts, BITFD, common knowledge game, missionaries, the list goes on and on! I love these concepts and use them all the time speaking/posting, but I personally think that just sending a random friend to the blog is sometimes not as effective as I would like it to be because of this different languages issue. So TL;DR, it has been on my mind that it could be useful if there was an ‘ET bible’ or something that tries to give a more easy-to-consume introduction to the language and concepts. I am curious if you have thoughts in this regard, and depending on those thoughts I would also be very happy to try to help contribute to building such a thing.
Lastly, I know you have mentioned in the past (pre covid I suppose) of a conference or something along those lines to bring ETers together. I am sure the time is not yet with the virus, but if this becomes a thing again it would be something else I would be happy to help with however I can if needed. (Indy is a pretty nice place for a conference! 😉 cheaper than most and centrally located).
Given my obsession with ET I imagine you will see me in the comments there now, looking forward to it, and thanks again for everything you do. – Adam from Indianapolis
I am a dedicated consumer of ET output and find it heartening and encouraging to read your and Rusty‘s thoughts every week. Thank you for doing what you do – it helps.
I thoroughly enjoyed your conversation with Grant Williams last week. He has produced an outstanding series of insightful episodes over the past month and your exposition did not dilute the series at all. Far from it.
I wanted to pick up on one point you (both) made which was to question if we could ever return to the world as we knew it before the descent into Griftism that is the hallmark of our crapitalist system today – endemic corruption and egregious displays of a self-serving kleptocracy. It feels like early stage fascism without the uniforms and the appalling music, but with the same latent undercurrent of a threat of violence against the unruly or the unwilling fomenting in the atmosphere. We have a a way to go yet and it won‘t look like the 30s but the results may be just as dystopian.
So no, we can‘t go back. But we can go forward and your work helps formulate one possible path to take. I think we will have to lose a few more battles yet and they will be painful ones. The countries we end up living in (you in the US, my family in the UK, me in Ireland) will not be places our parents will either recognise or want to live in, although I guess here in Ireland, if I stay away from Dublin, I will probably have the mildest version of whatever is coming down the line.
You voice your frustration at not doing enough and at the same time recognise the need to distance yourself from the grip of the sociopaths. This has always been the dilemma of the political warrior who finds him or herself on the wrong side of history. It is Cicero‘s dilemma and Coriolanus‘ tragedy and that of every man of either action or letters (or both) who has lived through the decline of mores and the slow collapse of a once civilised society into authoritarianism. What to do in the face of insuperable odds and a daily violation of those morals and codes of behaviour we thought were sacrosanct?
Well, I believe the answer is to be found in Alfred Nock‘s marvellous essay on Isaiah and the Remnant (Isaiah‘s Job, which I am sure you know). I was only half-joking when I posted in your aborted ET Live chat whilst waiting for you to go live that I supposed Isaiah to have been sent to enlighten the remnant and not hinder them from hearing the truth as the eponymous storm played havoc with your mobile infrastructure. When decadent civilsations begin their descent into chaos, as we are doubtlessly doing, then only a tenacious and ferocious adherence to an inner core of unshakeable ethics, a code of honour and agape, and if, as I am, you are of faith, to your God, will preserve you in sanity. What you at ET call Clear Eyes and Full Hearts. Isaiah‘s God knew that the decadent corrupt and narcissitic Israelite ruling classes were never going to listen to the prophet, but that was never the point of his intervention. The point was to keep the flame of hope alive in the remnant, that dispersed diaspora of men and women intelligent enough to see the truth and strong enough to live by it. And keeping their heads down and their families safe.
Your „community of truthseekers“ to which you alluded when I first came across you a few years back is a form of the remnant. They need you a) alive and well, b) out of prison c) able to write and publish, no matter where you are are, because you and others like you, are who the remnant need to understand that they are not alone, not mad and not without hope for a better world and a society that is once again built (perhaps on the rubble of the old) upon the values of honour and agape. So go where you need to go, don‘t look back, keep writing and thinking and know that with your PPE initiative you have already done more than enough. – Steven from Ireland
I’ve been reading ET for months now (maybe 6+?). Initially, I found it a bit extreme and sometimes abrasive, but I recognized there was something to it even if I couldn’t explain it. I continued to read, not religiously, but as I saw articles hyped on Twitter I’d consume.
I began reading more content as COVID-19 unraveled, and again, your stance seemed aggressive… until it didn’t, which, for me was earlier than most. I found myself starting to rant to anyone that would listen (mostly my wife), and even those that wouldn’t. My wife even told me, in early March that I was “acting hysterical” and “panicking”. She later realized it was warranted. I wish I had your foresight, but I’m thankful I had the open mindedness to continue reading and digesting your writing.
Last night I read your latest, “Bear Stearns And The Narratives Of Systemic Risk“. It all clicked.
I previously had no clue what you were talking about when you kept harping on “the process”. Last night I saw the light. – TB
Welcome to the Pack.
Oh, yeah, one last thing.