What is happening right now, globally, in re the Chinese Flu, is an inflection point in human history. This is so, no matter what the facts might actually turn out to be – the facts medical, epidemiological,, financial, economical, political, cultural, you name it – which now all appear to all of us so obscure, and (we cannot but think) intentionally obfuscated and obscured, by those in the higher reaches of the global culture interested in this or that outcome, for their own purposes, rather than for the sake of the good, the true, the beautiful. It does not really matter what those facts might turn out to be. Ex post, they shall, certainly, tell. But, for the moment, being mostly unknown, they simply cannot; almost every datum is now somewhat masked by countervalent noise of some sort. So, we proceed all of us on the basis of what we know. And what we know extends not much further than our own households, and beyond that our familiar networks, intimately connected via the web despite their geographic dispersion.
So, the impetus of the present moment is to a massive, an enormous, indeed a categorical and so a basic change of focus, that values now of a sudden the local and the familiar over against the global and strange, which had for decades predominated, and indeed crushed, all adversaries. The clerk at my local Safeway is now suddenly my countryman, and my ally, no matter his other allegiances. We shall work this out together, because we must. The clerk at the Safeway in some distant city? He is a nice enough fellow perhaps, to be sure, and I with my local Safeway clerk wish him well; but because he lies incomprehensibly far beyond the ambit of our action, so therefore is he completely beyond the orbit of our potential concern, which is, and must be, entirely parochial.
Excursus: You can’t be truly concerned about what you cannot possibly act to correct. True virtue truly corrects – and, because we can any of us correct so very little and so few of the defects of life under the orbit of the Moon, true virtue is generally humble, and would rather not call attention to itself. For, almost all the defects that any of us might realistically hope to correct lie within ourselves. False virtue signals correction of defects that it cannot in fact hope to effect. To post a meme on Facebook about climate change, or about any other “crisis” whatever, is to advertise impotence, and foolishness. Fix yourself; then you can talk.
This goes especially for Kristor.
Why then do I presume to preach? God help me, I do not know. I see what I see, and I then say what I see. God help me. Perhaps my preaching is therapeusis; preacher, heal thyself: so, first, preach what ails you, as then to know what in you needs fixing.
God send me a right humility, in any case. And you, my readers, forgive me please my presumptions.
Note here, especially, the organic formation of novel notions (which of course turn out to be ancient, indeed immemorial) of what is especially ours. I know my local Safeway clerks – not their names, their conditions, or their histories, but a fortiori and most simply and most directly their faces, what those faces tell of their lives, and the histories of our entirely friendly interactions over the years. If any of them appeared at my door seeking aid and comfort, I would take them in. Some Safeway clerk from a foreign town, even five miles away? Not so much. And vice versa.
The change to notice then is to common attitudes about borders, strangers, and foreigners. Whatever the common attitudes about those things might have been before the Chinese Flu panicdemic hit, they are utterly defunct – for the moment, at least. What shall come next, to replace them, is radically indeterminate. We might of course go back to the attitudes we once took. That option is terrifically alluring; for, it was comfortable, and we rather liked it. But, that is now only one of many options suddenly on the table. Humans everywhere are now open to the notion that we simply cannot go back to our former default assumptions about how things should work.
Those assumptions tended to globalism. They are no longer at all reliable; they are indeed manifestly unreliable. They are, that is to say, obviously wrong. So it is on the table now, in the minds of all men, that globalism may no longer be an option. It may be simply ruled out.
If it is, then what? That is the question.
Now – this is key – notice that with globalism possibly ruled out as simply stupid, so is liberalism. Globalism is implicit in liberalism, and vice versa. Globalism is the apotheosis and fulfillment of liberalism. If the acme of liberalism, and its truest fullest implementation, simply cannot work due to the realities of biology, well then, liberalism is ruled out, root and branch.
How curious it is, then, that liberal regimes all over the planet are enacting exactly the same sort of authoritarian illiberal limits on liberty that we have been trained by our liberal teachers to expect only from horrible tyrants – and to abhor.
Here’s the thing: the global lockdowns now in effect are exactly the sort of thing we should expect from an authoritarian regime founded upon orthospherean principles. They are a gigantic, total repudiation of liberalism, and of modernism. They are liberalism in its fullest expression devouring itself. The clampdown is totally illiberal. It is also just what people do when confronting what they deem to be an emergency. It is the natural way for men to behave in dire times. So is it become obvious that liberalism is an unnatural way for men to behave.
The clampdown is also, let us all admit, just fairly competent and intelligent men and women thrown into a wild new predicament, all making it up as they go along, and doing their best; doing what seems right under the circumstances.
Which, again, is a radical repudiation of liberalism, and of its cult of the managerial expert. There are no experts. There are at most canny clinicians, talking to each other about what seems to work, as they jointly struggle to hold at bay the chaos that now particularly obtains.
I speak here as one familiar with just such clinicians engaged in just that twilight struggle.
What is it like to suffer a preference cascade, when the former order of things, that seemed for ages so changeless and permanent, is suddenly revealed to be somehow radically defective, thus wrong, in some critical presumption false, and so in its effects evil? What is it like, when the former order of things then, in response to exigencies (whether real or imagined), repudiates itself?
This, right now, is what that is like.
In a preference cascade, anything can happen.
Gird your loins, boys. This is likely to be a bit of a wild ride. Sure, it may end where it began, like a roller coaster. That would be comfortable, and a huge relief, no? But perhaps things will not turn out so very neatly.
I leave it to you to decide whether life is more like a tidily controlled amusement park ride on rails, or a chancy journey down a wild and dangerous river, through canyons deep and dark, where death looms always over each tiny decision.
I’ve done both; far more of the latter, than of the of the former. I’ll take the river in his granite canyon. That’s way more fun, for it’s a true adventure – and, for the boatman himself, far more under the span of his control: *not much*! But, far more than that of the “captain” of a boat tied to submarine rails.
I’ll take the river. It’s the only real ride.
OK, lads, here we go; down the great smooth tongue into the maelstrom of the cascade. We shall see where we end up at the bottom.