March 02, 2021

420

Well, it would be bad enough if America was just shooting itself in the foot, but it looks like it's hell-bent on blowing its brains out. It all started in the obscure circles of postmodernism, which was more of a French intellectual fashion than anything serious. There is no such thing as truth, everything is a text, all texts are equivalent, and so on. Then it made its way across the Atlantic, and as American academics are just like all Americans--empty, and in need of an ism to fill the soul--it got hopelessly lionized. ("Give us the Word, Derrida!" cried the faculties of Yale and elsewhere.) Slowly, it spread to the culture at large. For the masses, Holocaust denial was as legitimate as solid, Holocaust evidence. Wearing sweat shirts that said "Camp Auschwitz" was offensive to some, but it's possible that millions were OK with it. "Stop the Steal" was more legitimate than the lack of any evidence of fraud in the 2020 election. Or, for millions, equally legitimate. In my last years of undergraduate teaching, students had no idea as to what the difference was between an argument and an opinion, and even my grad students at Johns Hopkins (circa 1999) were not quite sure what constituted evidence. (I knew it when I was a junior in high school.) For most Americans, if you're on the side of the 'angels', you must be right. Of course, different people had different angels--a bit of a problem, that.

I'm sorry, but when a nation has reached this point, it has nowhere to go but down the drain.

-mb

February 17, 2021

419

Well, nothing new under the sun, as Ecclesiastes told us. Trumpi acquitted, maintains hold on many politicos and a large % of the American people; covid destroying many of those people, along with the economy; QAnon alive and well; and the sad, pathetic trollfoons continue to take the bait I taunt them with. And then the larger picture: the country continues to descend into violence, meaninglessness, and stupidity. Decline is clearly on the rise. Wafers watch, shake their heads.

-mb

February 07, 2021

418

Wafers-

Not much to say this time around...I'm still excited about the possibility of Jewish space lasers, their relation to deli meats. Other than that, I suggest we continue our observations of a nation in process of disintegration. I'm intrigued by how a congresswoman can urge the assassination of the Speaker of the House, and how members of her party can feel OK about standing by her. What could possibly be more proof of a nation without a future? Also, Trump may have lost the vote, and technically lost the election, but wow, his influence remains a powerful one. His upcoming trial in the Senate is a farce, and he may well be in a position to run again in 2024. America is indeed a house divided against itself; how long, then, can it stand?

-mb

January 31, 2021

417

"The sun never sets on the British Empire." Well, in the fullness of time, it did. For eventually, it sets on all empires, and our turn is now. At least from the point of view of an historian, this is nothing to get excited about. It's essentially a neutral process; no civilization has escaped this fate. But evaluating an empire, a civilization, or even a nation, is not a neutral thing. The great historian, Marc Bloch, claimed that the way to make such an evaluation was to ask whether that empire etc. "delivered the goods," i.e., made its citizens happy. Which citizens? I suppose we might ask. The majority? And how are we to decide what "happy" means? Did America succeed? Did it make its citizens happy (whatever that means)? In the waning years of American civilization, it might be useful to sit back, and take stock.

-mb

January 22, 2021

A Nation Going Nowhere

Good Day, Waferinos-

We watch the progs jumping up and down with joy over Biden, while we know that none of the changes he is proposing are structural ones. And unlike the progs, we understand that only major structural changes can save us, and that these will not come to pass. Of course it is good that he is fighting covid (unlike Trump), and all of us want to see this scourge defeated (although I predict that viruses and lockdowns and masks will be with us for a long time to come, especially as mutant viruses emerge). But as I said at the end of the last thread, Biden is no FDR, and even Roosevelt's structural realignments were fairly mild, all things considered. I keep coming back to that line from W.H. Auden, "We would rather be ruined than changed." Well, amigos, we are going to be ruined; we will be the cause of our own destruction; and the possibility of reversing this downward trajectory is nonexistent.

Pain is a great teacher, said a Buddhist monk to me years ago. For a very few Americans, our disintegration will be a significant learning experience. For 99% or more of the population, it will be no learning experience at all, just rage and hurt and violence--the tantrum of a spoiled child, although so many are taking the route of drugs (coke, cell fones) and suicide. At every stage of our ongoing defeat--Vietnam, (the mess we made in) Iraq, 9/11, 2008--we could have learned something and failed to do so. There is no motivation for us to do anything different, and we lack the intelligence to do so in any case, so our national suicide will continue on its sad and perilous journey. I can only echo what I imagine Native Americans have said for so many years: "I told you so, but you just wouldn't listen." (Sitting Bull: "Possessions are a disease with them.")

"Have a nice decade"--mb

January 14, 2021

Banana Republic

Wafers-

As I write this, the inauguration of Senor Biden is only 6 days away. How things have changed! In order to insure the safety of the event, it will be guarded by police, the National Guard, and whatever other military forces are necessary. What must the other nations of the world think of us? This is standard procedure in a lot of so-called banana republics, but not in the holy, almighty, United States of America. And yet, here we are: a sad, dying empire, trying to preserve itself by force, which History tells us cannot be done. Despite all our bluster, we are not exceptional, and we shall not escape our fate.

One way to look at this event, as well as the riot of Jan. 6, is to see it as sad. Because this denoument of America is sad. We had so much potential as a country, and we pissed it away in fraud, greed, hustling, and corruption. In Ben Franklin's time, you could drink out of the Schuylkill River; now much of our formerly beautiful country resembles a cesspool. And it has also become a cesspool of the mind, in which extreme individualism is celebrated, and helping others is regarded as weak. Well, I could (and have) go on and on, but you all know the drill: Last Exit to Brooklyn, get out while you can.

-mb