December 29, 2010
The arc of US development this past hundred years once again teaches us history’s hardest lesson: A nation can survive anything except success. Mid-20th-century America’s stupendous success engendered the softness, idleness, and lack of seriousness that was perceptible to me in 1975″though the nation I came from was only a decade or so behind.
We are now 35 years further along Wussification Highway. In 1975 schools still had shooting clubs, murderers were executed, skyscrapers were built in a couple of years, and wars were still, or had recently been, executed with massed flights of bomber planes pulverizing the enemy’s cities. Professional football teams played in the snow.
Now we are a soft, cringing, fearful, lawyerly, girly nation. Shooting clubs are becoming extinct”the nearest one to me is twenty miles away. School shooting clubs are unthinkable. I built a treehouse for my kids, but neighborhood parents wouldn’t let their little darlings go up there: too dangerous! A legal system of infinite punctiliousness makes capital punishment impossible even where it is theoretically available. If you want to build a skyscraper, set aside a decade for the regulatory and environmental red tape to be hacked through. War has been reduced to a sort of missionary endeavor, bringing light”democracy! rule of law! free markets!”to the heathen.
Life’s great law is that poverty and hardship build character; prosperity and security destroy it. This isn’t anybody’s fault; it’s merely a natural law, like gravity. Nor is it anything particular to America. Any other nation afflicted with such colossal success will fall into decadence as we are doing. History offers many examples.
Face it: Our fathers and grandfathers were ants. We are grasshoppers. Middle-class Americans even wave aside their sacred laws, letting hungry Third Worlders come in illegally to mow their lawns and mind their kids so they can live like aristocrats. Laws? Hang the laws. Externalities? Hang the externalities. Peel me a grape, Juanita.
We lose ourselves in opium dreams, in absurd fantasies of universal attainment and equality. Everyone will go to college! Everyone will own a house! None will go hungry! Meanwhile, rich and poor drift further apart. The slums and jails fill up. Cities go bankrupt. Futile wars sputter on, to what purpose nobody can say.
But never mind, there is still opium in the pipe. We turn our faces away from reality. We hate reality. Surely the dream will last a little longer!
It’s nobody’s fault, only the law of life. It’s what human beings are. It’s always been this way. “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” That didn’t end well. Neither will this.