The World is as it normally is

William Gibson

The world is divided between those who believe, with what they consider eminent reason, that things have never been so bad, and the rest of us, who think the world is as it normally is.

On the one side: eco-catastrophists, anti-Trumpers, Remainers. You hear them at every dinner party, in every coffee shop, and in a continuous stream on CBC. On the other: people who think things are not unusually awful, that change is occasionally necessary, that adaptation is required. On this side I firmly place the geo-strategist George Friedman, whose motto I have borrowed for my title.

I came across a typical expression of the other side this morning in The New Yorker, in article about William Gibson, the science fiction writer. [His austere visage is pictured above as snow falls on his rhododendrons.] I confess to continuing befuddlement about the catastrophizers: I don’t know what they are going on about. But they sure do attract media attention, which is hardly surprising, as catastrophizers constitute 97% of the media, it seems.

After mentioning how Trump’s election and Brexit paralyzed the writing of his book, Gibson explains:

“Every so often—and I bet a lot of people do this but don’t mention it—I have an experience unique in my life, of going, ‘This is so bad—could this possibly be real?’ ” he said, laughing. “Because it really looks very dire. If we were merely looking at the possible collapse of democracy in the United States of America—that’s pretty fucked. But if we’re looking at the collapse of democracy in the United States of America within the context of our failure to do anything that means shit about global warming over the next decade . . . I don’t know.” Perched, eagle-like, on his barstool, he swept his hand across the bar. “I’m, like, off the edge of the table.”

Collapse of democracy in the United States: do you see any sign of it? I see a vigorous if unhealthy partizan slug-fest between branches of government and the two legislative chambers. Is Nancy Pelosi under indictment? Hiding from police? Is Adam Schiff in fear of his life?

As to global warming, it was -22C in my nation’s capital this morning. If the IPCC proves correct, there will be a one or two degree centigrade increase in “global” temperatures in this coming century. Is this a “climate emergency”? Is this why we should hand over all power to government to allocate scarcity, or cease burning hydrocarbons, as some have suggested?

My attitude towards the anthropogenic global warming scandal is identical to Conrad Black’s as seen in his interview by Rex Murphy. The idea that AGW is the number one problem in Canada is “one of the stupidest enunciations of public policy I have ever heard”. [See the interview of Conrad Black by Rex Murphy at minute 27:15, when the question is asked.]

It takes a measure of courage to face this world and declare that, regardless of anything you read or hear, it is behaving normally. That would suggest that the world is normally close to chaotic, that struggles for power are continual, that wars are endemic to humanity, that people often die friendless and unattended, that children starve, that the unequal distribution of intelligence is the invisible gravity governing human behaviour.

I do not believe we are at the beginning, middle or end of the equivalent of the fall of the Roman Empire. In fact it is likely that the United States has yet to attain the zenith of its power. I do not think that the Chinese government will be our overlords, though if we do not watch out that might always happen. I do not think that the introduction of managed trade under Trump, and the end of free trade between the US and its trading partners,are the disasters that free-traders insist they must be. Nor do I think that if America gets a grip on illegal immigration, that it will signal the impending fascist state. I do not believe that Britain’s impending departure from the European super-government signals the end of the enlightenment, or of constitutional government in the United Kingdom. And if Scotland and Northern Ireland separate – which I do not believe they will – they will be rapidly forced to get real and stop living off subsidies from England, in the same ways as Quebec would if it separated from English Canada.

I do not think Greta Thunberg marks anything important except the madness of crowds. We will be at pains to remember who she was in twenty years, she is a cork tossed up on the foamy ocean of fashion. In short, the real catastrophe is the horde of intellectuals,their hangers-on, and half-baked savants who have lost their minds. The world is as it normally is, including them, too, unfortunately.

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re: possible collapse of democracy in the United States of America

It is always amusing to sit across from somebody in a bar in Manhattan and for them to calmly state that we are now living in a fascist state and that Trump really is Hitler. If that was really the case they would be hanging from a piano wire somewhere. It reminds me of high school when you were always trying to act cool with shock value.

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