The Alternative

We once went on a seaside vacation back in the USSR. There were 10 of us sharing a room. And it wasn’t a ballroom. It was half the size of my current bedroom. Or probably even smaller.

But here’s the kicker. Everybody else enjoyed it. People had fun.

Except me. I was pissed. I was incandescent with rage the whole time. Because it’s ridiculous to share a room with nine other people. But more than that, I was angry at the people who enjoyed the vacation. I’m still angry.

I spent the first 22 years of my life choking with anger because nobody else seemed to mind the things I did. And if nobody minds, nothing will change. Every summer, hot water would be off until Fall. I was mad! But everybody else went, “yeah, but that’s how it always is.” I could have bitten their heads off. I never went back but something tells me that the poor buggers are still sitting there, feeling perfectly fine with no hot water in the summer.

And the habit of rushing into the subway car without letting anybody leave first. God, that made me mad. It’s the least productive way to get on a subway car but everybody still did it, every time.

And when we started having electricity shortages, those damn sheep were happily chirping about how much fun it is to just sit and talk in the dark. In winter! In the freezing cold! I wanted to throw heavy objects at these people!

I’m not trying to make any point about the current political situation in the US, by the way. I remembered that vacation because N said that people are only unhappy with things if they have experienced the alternative. But I was extremely unhappy long before I knew there was an alternative.

By the way, is it me or is it true that rage is the only emotion that never fades?

Avoidance

I can’t even watch the debates because I don’t like feeling so disappointed for two whole hours.

I also don’t enjoy simultaneously feeling afraid these people will lose and worried one of them will win.

Where are the candidates for normal Dem voters who aren’t interested in these clown acts we keep seeing onstage? Elizabeth Warren is making Marianne Whatever sound reasonable. It’s ridiculous, they are all ridiculous.

No Compassion

Before we dump all over Williamson for not having any compassion for the terrified masses, we have to remember that it’s easy to feel the pain of these poor sufferers until they Antifa you or MAGA you (although there’s no record of the latter ever happening) out of a job.

Williamson was hounded by a crowd of sensitive creatures who mistakenly decided that their anxiety was caused by something Williamson said. Williamson lost the job but the snowflakes’ anxiety didn’t abate. They went on to hound others because it’s too much to expect that they would realize their method isn’t working and try something else.

It’s all nice and well to feel bad for these folks but they can do a lot of damage because their fear is real and their capacity to understand its causes is non-existent.

What I Find Contemptible

As I said, I don’t despise people who are disturbed by globalization. I don’t despise people who can’t just “pick up and move.” I don’t despise people who can’t speak several languages, make good money, or beat addiction.

But I do despise – with a passion that scares me sometimes – folks who say “I’m not going to read Williamson because he’s a libertarian / he writes for National Review / I read a quote from him on Twitter that sounded offensive. It’s perfectly fine not to read Williamson, of course. Everybody should choose their own reading matter based on their preferences. But making these huffy statements about rejecting people who are not sufficiently ideologically pure is, in my view, contemptible.

The Shared Fear

Those who keep proclaiming that Trump supporters are “scared / worried / disturbed because the country is changing” are absolutely right. What they forget to mention is that they are just as scared. Only very terrified people keep screaming, “I’m not scared, you are!” for years in a row.

The slogans of “build the wall” and “open the borders [aka babies in cages]” originate from the same fear. “Send her back because she’s hurting me with her words” and “fire them / ban them / prevent them from speaking because they are hurting me with their words” do, too. And so do “let’s hound people for not saluting the anthem in a certain way” and “let’s hound people for using the wrong pronoun.”

The problem, says Williamson, is that these scared people are doing a lot of damage as they thrash about in terror. They try to barricade themselves from the randomness and unpredictability of fluid existence (which Williamson clearly digs) with elaborate speech codes, imaginary border walls, ritual expressions of tribalism, and even actual uniforms.

But what about those of us who are not scared? Why should we be hounded simply because we find the pronouns, the hats, and the pledges of tribal allegiance ridiculous? Why should our capacity to enjoy fluidity be curtailed by the terrified whelps of the dumb and mentally deficient ochlos? Says Williamson, obviously, and not me. We all know I don’t call anybody rabble.

As obnoxious as this way if putting things is, there is a question worth exploring here. A bunch (or two bunches, rather) of confused and scary folks are stampeding over civilizational advances that took a very long time to create. (Freedom of speech is one example especially dear to both Williamson and me). They will eventually calm down and accept their fate but what about the stuff they destroy as they thrash about right now?

And… I still haven’t gotten to the actual book. Next post, then.

See? This is why I like Williamson. He talks about things that matter in a way that makes me want to talk about things that matter.

Who Likes Fluidity?

As I said before, Kevin Williamson is my ideological opposite but I love reading him because he’s very talented. He recently published a book titled The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics, I beelined to the bookstore to get a copy and I wasn’t disappointed when I read the book.

When I say Williamson is my ideological opposite, I’m talking about the way we see globalization and fluidity. Unlike me, Williamson is enthusiastically and unreservedly into both. Philip Bobbitt, in an early and still one of the best treatises on the phasing out of the nation-state model titled The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History, said that many people will be overjoyed about fluidity because it brings incredible opportunities to some (while completely confusing, displacing or rendering useless many more, obviously).

In his great books Cool Capitalism and Neoliberal Culture, Jim McGuigan similarly points out that fluidity is very seductive. The lifestyle of fluttering around, chasing opportunities, branding oneself online, shedding every attachment as a used Kleenex when it stops being exciting, having no obligations to anybody but your Instagram followers, trying on identities like costumes, and treating oneself and others as a consumer good is invigorating. To some people. And those people tend not to care about what fluidity is costing to the less psychologically agile. They protect themselves from caring by erecting a wall of steely-eyed contempt between the victims of fluidity and their own, very fluid selves. Somehow they manage to convince themselves that fluidity will not end up washing that wall away and that they’ll always be young, mercurial, healthy, mobile, and comfortable with loneliness.

Williamson is not particularly young but he’s brilliant, talented, successful and understandably impatient with those who are not. He’s aware that many people are confused and hurt by fluidity and correctly attributes the rise of both Trumpism and the slobbering, sputtering Resistance to the high psychological costs exacted by fluidity. Those who scream “MAGA!” at Trump rallies and those who scream “Trump is the worstest!” on Twitter are equally traumatized and thrown out of balance by the enormous societal, political and economic transformations we are experiencing. They seek refuge in tribes from the isolating currents of fluidity.

While these two scared and angry tribes of confused idiots, says Williamson, ground each other into dust, those who can’t belong to any hysterically ululating tribe by virtue of having a fully functional brain are in danger of being stampeded over. Those thinking individuals who find both Trumpies and Resisters to be insufferably dumb are the heroes and the target audience of Williamson’s book. I’m not the intended audience because I don’t despise people who are scared of fluidity but I do understand why some manifestations of this fear can be very contemptible. Even though I’m very much a “move and learn to code” (and obviously I’m speaking metaphorically) person myself, I think it’s quite ridiculous to demand, like Williamson does, that everybody adopt this recipe.

OK, this is running too long and I still haven’t said anything about the actual book. I’ll continue in the next post.