A late post this time, but it couldn’t be avoided. There’s been much to celebrate with the publishing of my book, Cultured Grugs–a collection of posts from this site, my American Sun articles, and some new material written for the book–as well as visitations from friends and family. You’d think they were excited about the upcoming birth of a baby or something.
Life has been good lately and God has been rather good to me. Our age of precarity puts the fear of the other foot pressing down in you but despite it one must stop and appreciate what is good. My mind has been focused on the good life and what it means to live one since I’ll have far too much to teach the next generation.
The music for this week’s post is Peer Gynt, specifically “The Death of Aase“. Most people will be familiar with a separate piece from this suite, “In The Hall of the Mountain King”, though they most likely don’t know the origins. Peer Gynt is both a musical suite and a play, Edvard Grieg writing the music for the play by Henrik Ibsen. The work is rooted in the fairy tales of Norway and Ibsen production with its accompanying incidental music among the most popular cultural works that Norway has produced.
There is a Faustian quality to the story but it retains its very Scandinavian character. After living a brigand’s life in the hills, Peer Gynt comes down to the mountains to be there as his mother Aase dies. He said he had something heavy to fetch. Children burying their parents is a certainty for most. What comes next is the mystery, something many never solve. Peer travels to North Africa in order to find himself. He never does, he’s lived his life as a troll. He believe himself lost. There is resonance here, as the soul of the northerner is always on the move but there is the fear he’ll never find himself. What we have traveled for our whole lives if we are nothing? The ending is ambiguous. For Peer Gynt, and for us. The heaviest notes however remain with the deaths of our mothers.
“Peer, we shall meet at the last crossroads, and then we shall see if… I’ll say no more.”
Some Kind of Heaven
We watched Some Kind of Heaven, the documentary about the artificially constructed Baby Boomer retirement community in Florida that is population to over one hundred thousand. It might have been a mistake. I don’t know how to describe it as other than a docudrama sequel of Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism with Jean Baudrillard as consultant. That might not make sense, but it’s weird to peer into this artificial bubble and watch these sad stories play out. It left me with a weird feeling I didn’t like as I’m allergic to the kind of “gawking at white people” entertainment that’s peddled by Jews, white liberals, and the vegetable medley of mediocre strivers.
I can’t really recommend it. For a documentary it’s got some beautiful cinematography and it’s nice getting an inside look into The Villages, but there’s just this miasma of sadness that settles over you while you watch it. We were bothered a lot after watching it. I can’t think of any other time in history when a people just retired to completely different part of the country en masse, especially one artificially constructed for that purpose with its own fake history. Seeing the Villages on the inside is like watching a pristine train set being run in a dusty attic in a house with no children.
Our parents often know more than they let on. I’ve had enough conversations with older relatives to know this is just a simple fact. The frustration that many in my generation feel is in some large part the result of the massive alienation we feel at not having any sense of country that our parents were able to take for granted and not really understanding the kind of cultural conditioning they underwent which was different from ours, but they do on some level understand. It’s an incomplete understanding though, and that may only frustrate people more.
Some of this results from simply how both radical and extremist my generation and the next are, whereas the Baby Boomers, for all of their propensity to say very actionable things, have a sense of security and stability they can recall and wish to go back to. When we watched Some Kind of Heaven, I was struck by how the design for The Villages was based on ‘the town squares we all grew up in’, or however exactly one of the people in the documentary explained it. That’s not a cultural memory that I can draw upon and I know that’s true for millions of my generational cohorts. It might go a long way towards explaining Josh Neal’s thesis in American Extremist about the different between radicals and extremists.
There were many parents who didn’t try, I know. There were many who did though, and if we had tried like them we would have failed too. We might have done worse, probably.
Bad news continues to trickle out of the states that were badly affected by the ravaging snowstorm that blew through a couple of weeks ago. In Texas you have thousands of people at risk as they can’t get water for their dialysis, in Arkansas they’re crapping in bags, and in Tennessee they’re sending water tankers to hospitals. It’s become a real spotlight on America’s infrastructure and the nation’s precarious relationship with its water. It reminds me as well that Michael Burry, the first man to foresee the mortgage crisis and bet against it moved onto water futures after that.
Collapse is always a difficult thing to talk about. All processes are difficult to talk about. There’s a certain simplicity people would like to have, and that’s understandable. Is the patient healthy or sick? Just break it down for me, doc, I don’t need the details on how the complexity of his nervous system works. Collapse works the same way and unfortunately this leads to both misunderstanding and a kind of binary thinking where people will believe that decline and collapse are so intrinsically different that you cannot call America a place in a state of collapse unless you have Lord Humungus from Mad Max 2 scouring a scorched wasteland and rummaging for catamites. Or they may believe that because the elites are perfectly fine and running their system then that’s indicative of its total health and ability to keep running. The irony that people in what is supposedly the greatest nation on earth are arguing what collapse means like angels on the head of a pin while cities are without water thanks to a bad snowstorm seems lost on some.
Excuses can and will be made that there’s nothing you can really do about catastrophic weather, it’s always wrecked countries and required places to rebuild and recover. The Devil’s advocate would say “was the San Francisco earthquake at the turn of the 20th century indicative that the United States was in a state of collapse?” It’s a fair question, which is why to understand the process one has to look at how the response is managed. Empires don’t die because they failed to prevent catastrophe, they die because they failed to manage catastrophe. The Roman Empire could have fallen in the third century, it was teetering on the brink, but the reforms of Diocletian restored stability and gave the empire a new life to continue. This crisis prefigured Constantine the Great, showing that proper responses to catastrophe does not give any empire a certain fatalist inevitability, that it will still be able to produce great men down the line.
Does America have that capability? I think if you were to present this as it is to people, they’d be hard pressed to say yes, or if they do would struggle to explain how. “Well, they’ll just think of something” is a common refrain. Maybe they will. Is that what you’re planning to bank on though? To paraphrase my father however, you can crap in one bag or hope in the other and see which one fills faster. From what I’ve seen people are beginning to give up on hope and are beginning to invest more in emergency kits and supplies. The worst it can do is take up some space.
Excerpt from Cultured Grugs
I’ll end this week’s post with an excerpt from now my available books, Cultured Grugs:
Finally, this society is intolerable. There is no other way to get around it. There is no other way to explain it. It is full of deceit and it is full of predators. It is full of malevolent sadists and it is full of people with no courage. It is disgusting on so many levels, and you’re absolutely right to reject it. And you will absolutely be punished for that. You will need to be careful over what you say and who you trust as this society has no honor and no sense of justice. It is ruled by hostile, evil people who hate and despise the normal people who live in it. People like your mother and I. People like you.
Now you know it. So what do you do now?
Some might say this is a horrible thing to be telling a child, but regardless of when you read this, if you’re old enough to understand the words that I’m saying, you’ll be old enough to understand how important they are. And you’ll be old enough to understand that we filled our home with love because the world is full of heartlessness. We filled your life with nature and art because there are many fine things worth fighting for, virtue most of all.