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“The Weimar dynamic is a simple one. The Left and Right polarise; the middle collapses; inflation takes off, unnerving everyone and discrediting government; and at some point, as liberal democracy breaks down, voters are asked to choose between the extreme Left or the extreme Right.”
So sayeth Andrew Sullivan, in his recent Unherd piece, Why I’m Voting Republican,
He’s right, of course.
Among the many lingering side-effects of the pandemic has been a noticeable shift in the national mood. What’s developed since the toilet paper hoarding, mask and vax shaming, the ridiculous plexiglass cubicles, the forced closure of businesses, the January 6 obscenity, and of course the summer of George Floyd–whose single greatest accomplishment has been to allow lunatics and actual extremists a permanent seat at the table–is a meanness, a pre-occupation, a kind of selfishness visible from the grocery store checkout aisle to the public library. But there is something familiar in it, and I’ve been laboring to put my thumb on where I’ve seen this thing before. I realized, last week, while driving through the desert to a remote sheep camp for a story, that this mood—this strange recipe of self-righteous suspicion, impatience, anger, and hair-trigger virtue, this weird willingness to actually denounce our neighbors–leaps from the pages of the Russian masters. That’s where I’ve seen it before. It fills the world of Pasternak’s Zhivago, of Grossman’s masterpiece Life and Fate, of Akhmatova’s Red Star.
Lockdowns, the 24 hour media terror machine, a love-affair with dangerous criminals, and a broad cultural experiment in the power of the administrative state have cratered faith in our neighbors and institutions as perhaps never before. Is this by some grand design, or is it the result of an unwitting sort of conspiracy? The latter seems more likely, and even more dangerous, because it operates on a terrorist model–cells that don’t know each other, don’t work together except in a general direction, and are therefore much more difficult to kill.
The truth is, one thinks, that the snakes actually have no head.
In Life and Fate Vasily Grossman writes of a Soviet functionary—Grishin—a man responsible for giving out passes–a permit to live in the closet of your own collectivized house, or for securing a can of meat, or for a new pair of shoes–a perfectly realized bureaucratic stooge forced to account for every sheet of paper he uses to the local commissariat, and who sits smugly and immovably in his office while endless queues of people clamor for justice in the new regime. He wrote: “While all this noise was going on, Grishin himself couldn’t be heard at all. He didn’t once raise his voice; it was as though his visitors were shouting and making threats in an empty office.”
This is the full realization of “equity’–a far different notion than “equality”. Equity is where merit goes to shout at the walls, where up is down, left is right, and the arson that burns your house down is officially declared “a warming fire.”
We seem to have re-animated that sort of Stalinism domestically and can see it in the store manager who is proud to have no answers, in the suspicious eyes of a stranger—a countryman, after all–on the sidewalk–can hear it in the bloody mood that drips from the maws of political candidates, seeps through the awful masticating of their official news organs, and worse–the horrific television ads where they make absurd claims, offering themselves up as the one true messiah. We can even see it in routine commerce. My truck, for instance, is subject to a recall for a fuel pump part. I recently phoned in for an appointment to have it fixed. The receptionist told me: “They are only sending us one part a month. I can put you on the list. You will be number 123.” So, according to Comrade-Grishin, in 123 months I can have my fuel pump fixed.
Reading the Russians I am reminded that the excesses they illustrate are not really the result of some single person or singular event—it is the result of widespread uncertainty and the rapid spread of suspicion, selfishness–and unleashed government agency–that follows. Vacuums are created, and filled by strongmen. In our era, in our country, it results in the bizarre hoarding of daily commodities, a commandment to stand six feet away from your neighbor, vehement and viral denunciations, a diktat that your loved one will die alone in a hospital, and on and on–a perfect storm of fear created by fundamental, monumental, and possibly irrevocable cultural upheaval, a monstrous cataclysm imposed and enforced by political peer-pressure, by threats, by intimidation, and by the actual incarceration of those without sufficient revolutionary zeal.
We were, just recently, arresting school children and church congregates for not wearing masks, or for holding faith-services in a parking lot. We were firing people and destroying their livelihoods for refusing an experimental vaccine for which the makers are absolved of all responsibility. We shuttered and destroyed small businesses–on purpose. We did all of that in the name of collectivization–which requires submission to The Party. The Party is assumed to be correct, and it brooks no dissent whatsoever. The Party demands, and must ensure, a monopoly on true lethality. The virus, wherever it came from, tapped directly into many of our worst instincts, made actual monsters out of people in power and, with all due respect to the dead, it is this lingering side-effect that has proven it’s worst and most lasting symptom–the true meaning of Long Covid.
There is a moment in Life and Fate, which is a novel built around the battle for Stalingrad, in which Adolph Eichmann visits a newly completed gas-chamber. His host, Obergruppenfuhrer Liss, surprises him with a meal in the cold concrete of the actual chamber. They sit down to eat in that monstrosity and after a while Eichmann smacks his lips and says to the assembled: “Well, Gentlemen? I call that excellent ham.”
Grossman reveals the ideological extremes that created Stalingrad as the political monsters they are, mirror-images of brutality and terror, grinding each other to bits in the rubble of the Tractor Factory.
We are having our Weimar moment. We are becoming desensitized to the rhetoric that spills from the fringes of the political parties. We’ve grown accustomed to knowing that no one, on either side, is telling much of the truth. Physical violence–thus far at a low hum–is now a routine part of the equation, but one can be forgiven for wondering where, and when, we will face our own Tractor Factory. It seems certain that no matter the outcome there will be election-deniers, more denunciations, more violence, and more ludicrous claims and slanders pouring in from all points of the compass.
I mentioned that I was out on the desert recently. One reason I love the desert is because so much of the noise, the sturm and drang, is carried away on an alkaline breeze. It takes a minute to acclimate, to embrace the quiet and the rapid deceleration of time, but with focus and practice it can be done. That first night I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep because my head was a parliament full of shouting voices. I turned on my headlamp and opened my book and kept reading about the denunciations, the disavowals, the collectivization that sent physicists, and kindergarten teachers, and musicians, and nurses, and farmers, and cobblers and doctors, and train conductors into the Dalstoy to dig coal, to mine potassium, copper and nickel, to fell the trees and to build the railways in Siberia, Murmansk, and Archangel. Denounced, they were packed up on trains and sent to the endless east. Evidence was not a requirement. They were guilty when charged–denounced for a bread ticket–and even still, even when their enthusiastic mistake was no longer deniable, many went trudging through the snow in filthy wrappings and felt-bottomed boots clinging to belief in Comrade Stalin and the collective. They would die hacking in the very camps that faith made possible, devout to the last bowl of sawdust, devout even as their lungs filled up with blood.
Grossman wrote: “Such is time: everything passes, it alone remains; everything remains, it alone passes. And how swiftly and noiselessly it passes. Only yesterday you were sure of yourself, strong and cheerful, a son of the time. But now another time has come—and you don’t even know it.”
I read until I heard an owl in the warm October dark. He was somewhere out on a juniper limb turning his head on a swivel, watching the ground for sage rats. I turned off my headlamp, closed my book, and closed my eyes. A cougar went bending through the rocks. A meteor streaked through the big dipper. A badger peeped out of his hole. A coyote stopped his endless trotting to pee on a slab of granite. The nightbirds threw a side-eye at the moon. A giant vulture, sitting alone on a fence-rail, stretched his wings in a black zephyr. And then I fell asleep in the sage.
Countrymen. I ask one thing of you, and one thing only: defend the middle.
Great piece, Craig!
Craig Rullman says
Greg Waddell says
Thanks, loved the piece. I’m just looking to join the common sense party. It must be out there?!
If ever there was room for a third party or independents, it is now. Both sides have lost their moral compass and degenerated into unthinking sound bites as platforms. I am weary and have lost my faith.
Ugly Hombre says
Its a very good article kudos to the man for writing it and pointing out the facts about the destruction the Democrat’s have inflicted on his country. Seems he woke up and smelt the Java.
“Over the past few years, violent crime in DC has been rising fast. Last year, the murder rate was the highest since 2003, and this year the death toll is slightly higher so far. Carjackings are up 36% and robberies are up 57%. Almost all this hideous violence is inflicted on African-Americans, including many children. It permeates outward, creating a deeper public sense of insecurity and out-of-control crime. Tent cities are now all over the city. People suffering from mental illness patrol the streets. You feel the decline in law and order, the slow fraying of the city, every day.”
The Democrats lied about defunding the police when they realized that the carnage they created was impossible to deny.
“Just before the crime explosion took off, the DC mayor had “Black Lives Matter” painted on the street in letters so large you could read them from a plane, and allowed “Defund the Police” to remain next to it. That summer, woke mobs were allowed to harass anyone in their vicinity, yelling slogans that vilified all police — and the MSM took the side of the bullies. After the summer of 2020, the DC police force dropped to its lowest level in two decades.”
Should not have been a surprise before the 2020 election the Democrats made it a platform point, Biden was all for it.
“Biden effectively told us to get lost. He championed the entire far-Left agenda: the biggest expansion in government since LBJ; a massive stimulus that, in a period of supply constraints, fueled durable inflation; a second welfare stimulus was also planned — which would have made inflation even worse; record rates of mass migration, and no end in sight; a policy of almost no legal restrictions on abortion (with public funding as well!); the replacement of biological sex with postmodern “genders”; the imposition of critical race theory in high schools and critical queer theory in kindergarten; an attack on welfare reform; “equity” hiring across the federal government; plans to regulate media “disinformation”; fast-track sex-changes for minors; next-to-no due process in college sex-harassment proceedings; and on and on it went. ”
Yelp- again no surprise Democrat Policy.
“Worse than this bait-and-switch is the condescension that came with it. Think of the absolute assertions by the Biden administration and their media flunkies: The border is secure. Covid vaccines prevent infection. There is no CRT in high schools. The lab-leak theory and Hunter Biden’s corruption were disinformation. There is no medical debate about fast-track, affirmation-only, sex changes for minors. Inflation is caused by corporate greed. Women in college always tell the truth; and men always lie. A president can forgive student loans by fiat. Debt doesn’t matter. A woman can have a penis. The people who attack Asian-Americans are all white supremacists. The idea of individual merit is racist. Can you think of any social issue where the Biden administration hasn’t taken the position of the illiberal “social justice” Left?”
No I can’t. Its a short list of the epic destruction and constant bullchit stories inflicted on the country by the Biden and the Donkeys. Surprising to me that his hate of Trump is such that should Trump run again he will vote against him and let the destructive Democrat tide wash over the country again. Trump was bombastic and told some bullchit stories hurt peoples feelings by speaking uncomfortable truths but he did not do anything to hurt the Republic and its people. The left morphed Trump hate into Goldstien rage straight out of Orwell- I could and would vote for Trump in a second . The destruction of the Democrats policies and their rule is to in your face to deny. Trumps period compared to Biden? Put some gas in your car buy some vittles check the state of the union and check your six.
My family member who we brought into to the Republic legally finally got her citizen ship first time voter- she just texted me went to vote for the first time. Proud of her.
Off to the polls-
John Galt says
Sadly the middle is gone and probably never coming back. Not without great exertions.
Excellent read and spot on! And since it’s November 12 as I write this, a follow-up article would be much appreciated… the parallels are …interesting as well as concerning.
Eric Petersen says
A little research into actual science would be good. Vaccinations and clean water have extended life span more than any other factor in recent history. We no longer fear measles , mumps, small pox, rabies and many other maladies. We may discuss policies but hard science is what it is.
J. E. Salk says
If I’m not mistaken, hard science, being what it is, is based on testing of a hypothesis and retesting with sufficient time, control groups, and other factors to prove or disprove a theory. I was under the impression such rigor takes years in many cases to develop, test, retest, and proof of efficacy for vaccines. It’s pretty clear the various COVID vaccines did not meet the initial and stated goals. Was this for lack of testing or lack of honesty?
Craig Rullman says
Perhaps those John Birch fellows were reading tea leaves in 1971?
FOURTEEN SIGNPOSTS TO SLAVERY
1- Restrictions on taking money out of the country and on the establishment or retention of a foreign bank account by an American citizen.
2- Abolition of private ownership of hand guns.
3- Detention of individuals without judicial process.
4- Requirements that private financial transactions be keyed to social security numbers or other government identification so that government records of these transactions can be kept and fed into a computer.
5- Use of compulsory education laws to forbid attendance at presently existing private schools.
6- Compulsory non-military service.
7- Compulsory psychological treatment for non-government workers or public school children.
8- An official declaration that anti-Communist organizations are subversive and subsequent legal action taken to suppress them.
9- Laws limiting the number of people allowed to meet in a private home.
10- Any significant change in passport regulations to make passports more difficult to obtain or use.
11- Wage and price controls, especially in a non-wartime situation
12- Any kind of compulsory registration with the government of where individuals work.
13- Any attempt to restrict freedom of movement within the United States.
14- Any attempt to make a new major law by executive decree (that is, actually put into effect, not merely authorized as by existing executive orders.)
Eric Petersen says
True to all the above. We may never know how many would have died without the covid vaccine. Hard to prove a negative. It is regrettable that we have so little faith in the people that should be working to better our lot
Ugly Hombre says
John Birch was executed by the Chicom’s after being captured while on a mission with the OSS working with the Nationalist Chinese. Birch spoke Chinese and had helped to rescue the Doolittle raiders. Worked under Chennault, in the AVG. He pegged the Chicom leaders early as “hypocritical thugs” Seems things never change. A good man imo. A old school American Patriot. A Anti-Communist who knew what Communist rule meant.
The Birch slavery list is the standard Bolshevik and Neo-Bolshevik playbook we are seeing some of it at play here at home today. Many of the 14 points have been put into effect here in the USA already. E.G. Biden is always hollering about banning guns point #2 except in Chicago where the Black Community is under siege by armed criminal and dope gangs and the carnage is worse than Iraq. Ask the Jan. 6 morons about point #3.
Recently in Urumqi about a dozen people were burned to death after the Chicom Zero Covid “Da Bei” white suited goons wired or welded them into their apartments- a fire broke out they begged to be rescued but the fire fighters could not get to them. Recorded it went viral and enraged the Chinese people. Protests broke out all over China lead by students. Chanting “liberty or death”, “step down Xi!” “free Xiang Jiang” “End dicatorshop! etc. All sure tickets to hell in Communist China.
The Chicom/Democrat lackys in the MSN are spiking the story and Biden the big guy wih big pockets has nothing to say- why? You can see it on twitter if you care too. Emperor Poo won’t like it- up to you.
J.B.S. and Birch were right about many things seems they read the tea leaves of the past to look into the future.