The current kerfuffle between Congress and President Obama with regard to the budget, taxes, and the national debt is amazing not so much for what is happening – the usual posturing and bluffing – but for the fact that very few people see, or want to acknowledge, the total insanity of the situation. The full story of how, and why, our economy was brought to this sorry state has yet to be written – and I think it's at least partly because of the sheer enormity of the problem. But it's also because, beyond a certain point, people simply can't perceive things of this magnitude – they are not equipped to do so, and any feeble attempts invariably result in bafflement, if not despair. And yet this is not all that exceptional in our time; the most superficial perusal of current events reveals any number of equally insane things that, it would seem, add up to a “perfect storm” for our society... the economy... the American system. Consider, if you will, just a preliminary list of the most obvious bits of craziness which confront us on a daily basis:
o The economy in general, but in particular the national debt and deficit spending
o The endless and rapidly-multiplying wars we seem helpless to avoid starting or becoming embroiled in
o The “war on drugs”, with all of its colossal failures and terrible side effects
o The balance of trade, and the mass exodus of industries from our shores
o “Gay marriage”
o The outsized role that the mainstream media have acquired
o The ceaseless attacks by the media and the “entertainment” industry on the values held by average, normal people
o The marginalization of religion, and its virtual banishment from public life
o The perpetual “energy crisis”, and some of its delightful side effects – like nuclear waste, “fracking”, oil spills, etc.
o The death grip that Wall Street, the banks, and international finance have on our economy, and therefore on our life, and very existence, as a society
o Our grotesque subservience to Israel when it comes to foreign policy
o Environmental crises, man-made disasters, and the war of ideas regarding “global warming”
o Intractable racial tension and strife, and the terminal condition of our “inner cities”
o Paralysis and total lack of principles in our court system
o The cowardice of Congress whenever it is forced to confront the president on any issue, large or small
o The rule of the country by various rotating gangs, rather than by men of merit and virtue
o Parallel governments based in the “intelligence” services
o The many and varied tyrannies of “big agriculture”, “big pharma”, and the medical establishment
o Our continued reliance on the internal combustion engine, and the bankruptcy of the rail system
o (you can fill in your personal favorites here)
The point I'm trying to make is that these are not just minor irritations, or natural processes that are part of the evolution of society, or part of some sort of dialectic. They are, singly and in the aggregate, symptoms of collective insanity. Any one of these would have been, in an earlier time, ample justification for revolt and revolution... and yet all we see are feeble protests, if even that. Can it be that we are, as a people, so used to this level of madness that we fail to see it for what it is? And if so, is that not a reason to consider ourselves mad as well?
The situation is not unlike that in overwhelmingly large, totalitarian societies throughout history – and it seems to me that the sheer size of government causes a kind of alienation and numbness among the people. We wake up one day and find that we're helpless... and no one can figure out exactly why, or how it happened, or whose fault it is. All we know is that we are living in a bizarro world, where everything is upside-down and inside-out... and that collective madness and massive denial are the norm. And it is certainly not beyond the capacity or willingness of government to capitalize on this – to repeat the Big Lie and all of its component lies until we find ourselves cognitively and emotionally burned out. Dictators down throughout the ages have known that a big lie is much more effective than many little lies, because the big lie is beyond people's comprehension – it short-circuits the natural ability we all have (or should have) to discern right from wrong. It is, in other words, a metaphysical assault on our senses and on our thinking – and when combined with the perpetual State of Fear renders us confused and helpless. So we see all of the things listed above – and many more – on a daily basis, but we don't really SEE them. Understand? We become like people in shock from too much stress – paralyzed and, basically, blank and unthinking. Whatever inkling people might have that something is terribly wrong typically takes the form of pathetic and half-hearted protests, because we can't, or won't, wrap our brains around how bad the situation really is. So when we hear talk about a national debt in the trillions of dollars, and increasing every day, it's like trying to visualize a light year... or the number of atoms in the ocean. We didn't evolve with the ability to consider things of that sort, so they become abstractions – and this, also, is something the Regime takes advantage of to the fullest extent. The human tendency is to see that which is visible and right under our nose, and we can handle multiple problems up to a point, but beyond that point we turn into zombies.
I used to hear stories about primitive tribes whose counting system went as follows: “1-2-3-many”. That was it. Any more than 3 was “many”. This may have been apocryphal, or an exaggeration, but the principle is valid – and it's clear that as societies and governments become overwhelmingly large, more and more things will fall into the “many” category, and will therefore be beyond the ken of most people, who will gladly retreat to what they know – what they can see and touch, without the aid of statistics, charts, projections, and government pronouncements. So in this sense, “small” is not only beautiful, it's an absolute necessity if we are to live as human beings rather than as very small cogs in a very large machine. The forces of tyranny will always try to overwhelm us with numbers, and with crises, and with fear – these are their stock in trade.
So we look upon the insanity in all of its myriad facets, and rather than risk becoming insane ourselves, roll up in a ball (figuratively at least) and turn all the decision-making and power over to someone else – which is exactly what they want. And yet the magnitude of this offense against nature – against the human person – is itself rarely acknowledged. Is not the natural state of man to be able to return home when the day's work is done, and sit under one's own vine and fig tree? Is this not a worthy aspiration – something that man naturally evolved to do? And is it not also the basis for civilization, properly defined? But that is the one thing that is not allowed. No, we must be troubled all of our waking hours, and in our sleep as well, by fears, problems, and “issues” that we can do absolutely nothing about – nothing, that is, except to demand that government become ever bigger and more powerful so that it can “make it all go away”. But it will not go away, and government will certainly not make it go away because government is the source. So we take refuge in the crude and the carnal... in games and circuses... and become “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs” while the people who are running the show sit back and relax, and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
I should mention that I took the title of this post from a chapter title in Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged". She was referring to something else, namely a boycott of a terminally corrupt and degenerate society by the producers -- the creative people. But I think it's appropriate here as well, especially as we seem to be living very much in a pre-"Atlas Shrugged" time in history.
The first and foremost insight that should be gained from all this is that there is a limit to the size of human organizations, human society, and government... and that we have exceeded those limits by many quanta at this point. “More” will not take care of the problem; only “less” will – but “more” is what those in charge want. (It would be good, for example, if people would become re-acquainted with the venerable Catholic social teachings of distributism and subsidiarity.) So the situation seems hopeless – except that we can at least cling, as an article of faith, to the notion that there are historical cycles, and that the biggest empires (including those of the mind) inevitably fall. It just takes time – more time than any one of us has. Are we seeing the beginning of the next great fall? Can it happen in our lifetimes? It's hard to say. Right now it seems like one of those fevers, that reaches a peak just before it breaks. Certainly this is the case when it comes to the national debt and deficit spending. We are running out of options, and even the great and powerful are being forced to dig deeper into their bag of tricks. And the Regime, of which I have had much to say, is, after all, made up of people, ultimately – not space aliens (not that I know, at least). Their sheer power serves to mask their failures... propaganda masks tyranny... “word smithing” and “spin” mask massive deceit. How long the charade can be maintained is anyone's guess. By any reasonable criteria, it has become an insane world... and our society seems to be at the heart of the insanity. How much is planned... how much is accidental... how much is based on the unwritten laws of history and of the evolution of human societies... these are all questions worth pondering. My counsel would be to simply remain awake and aware. And try to stay sane. Despair might make sense in the short term, or the medium term – but I say again, as an article of faith, that this too shall pass, as it must.