I was planning/outlining a little essay in late November titled “Does the election portend the End of the Republic?” Sure, it’s a bit of hyperbole (but not THE Hyperbole), but I thought it was a valid question, in fact one that (End of the Republic part anyway) I’ve been thinking about for several years.

So it’s not specifically because Trump lost and Biden won, but rather perhaps a late empire question, brought into stark relief by the election. Even if Trump had actually won – which he may have in fact, if not practice – he would have won by a relatively small margin. So either way we are confronted with the fact that we live in a society with a fundamental split about the  nature of the relation between the state and the individual and the nature or even the existence of individual sovereignty. So in reality, modulo trust in institutions, who actually won is in some ways irrelevant.

Can we “agree to disagree” and have a “civil discussion” when the  other side’s entire point is that they have the right to lock me in my house, make me wear a mask, not be allowed to make a living, not be permitted to express certain points of view, and adding insult to injury, take my guns away?

After our “civil discussion,”  I go back to my whiskey, read a book, or build a spice rack. My counterpart across the table goes to lobby others to pass laws and pull guns out to make me conform to their vision of the relation twixt state and individual. How do we maintain a civil, stable society in the face of that?

My, perhaps naive or uniformed, idea is that, until recently, there was a fundamental agreement in the population in the value of individual liberty, free speech, free markets; obviously some disagreement on the edges about implementation, but not in the basic premises of the enlightenment. So I figured I’d try to explore those ideas,  including questioning the premise itself – does someone actively opting to support the left/Democrats in this day and age in the US really imply a abandonment of the enlightenment ideas regarding the individual – i.e. it’s clearly not obvious that a vote Trump is a vote for individual liberty and contra, though there’s probably a weak correlation there?

A month or two later, seems a bit anti-climactic; the behavior of the  left (and a significant portion of the population and ‘elites’) makes me more interested in the immediate question of what can be done in our current situation? How do we react and what’s our strategy?

I think responses can fall into 3 categories:

  1. Keep your head down, hope it goes away/we struggle through.
  2. Some active peaceful approach.
  3. Number 2) minus one word.

I’ll leave 3) alone.

Option 1 consists of basically continuing your life as it is. Perhaps being a bit more quiet about politics and philosophy, certainly in the work place, keep your online presence to funny cat and family pictures. In the past, e.g. in the Obama administration, I didn’t really feel the urge to keep quiet or duck. Today, if pursuing this option, that might not be the best approach.

One question arises – does this approach work? Do things get better? It’s a mixed bag historically. In our country (and the west in general), yes it does seem to. FDR died and we didn’t fully abandon the concept of a free society. Jimmy Carter went away and went on to do better things out of office than in. Bill Clinton tacked to the center. Obama continued the status quo – to a degree, but we seemed to accelerate the shift in the culture away from individual sovereignty.

Perhaps the root was in Bush II, or likely earlier. But it seems that with every enroachment, every assault on the enlightenment, liberal ideals, the standard shifts a bit more to the collective side of things. So it’s not clear that it will continue to work forever.

In longer term history, there are plenty of cases where it did not work. To belabor the obvious, keeping your head down or going with the flow didn’t work out well for the Jews in Europe in the middle of the 20th century. It did not work for Russians, Ukrainians,  etc. leading up to the October revolution and beyond – “At what exact point, then, should one resist?” – Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago. But it’s always hard – impossible? – to figure out in advance at what point it will no longer work and it’s probably too late once you figure it out.

Do we believe Pol Pot in Paris and act accordingly, or assume that will not happen, things will get better? “It” can happen here, the SS and Gestapo were human beings; the Gulag guards and NKVD were human beings; the Khmer Rouge were human beings. The Maoists who conducted the struggle sessions were human beings. We too are human beings and are capable of the same atrocities. We’ve been protected by our institutions and a polity steeped in the enlightenment, once that no longer exists or is corrupted beyond recognition, option 1 may carry more danger than option 3.

For my part, I’m an asshole, so I’m looking at 2) for the most part, with a bit of 1) admixture.

Here, there are many options about what “some active peaceful approach” means. I’ve put aside the idea of seeking political office. In the first place, I can’t think of many things I’d like less than participating in politics, and second, I don’t think there can be much impact;  the cultural stage is set much earlier.

Which leads a second option, education. One might be able to teach “the youth” and try to inject some sanity, not necessarily by proselytizing, but by example and providing a counter to the narrative. I know there’s a common thread in some of these discussions that the issues go back to the “Long March Through the Institutions”; so maybe  the only way out is to have a “counter march”.

I think there’s some logic to that, even though it would be a long term solution. So I’ve started looking at retiring a bit early and going into teaching. I have a background in physics and math, so it might be a possibility. One barrier is of course the teachers’ unions (ain’t joining a union) and credentialism, specifically requirements involving certification via the education establishment. Ain’t interested in that at all. So my options are private schools (in some states – some require state certification in private schools as well) or tutoring in an informal home school sort of organization.  That’s something I’m researching.

A third tact in option 2 that I’ve fully adopted is – I’m not backing  down (i.e. complete opposite of Option 1). When someone, work colleague or otherwise, brings up conventional Covid “wisdom”, whether masks, asymptomatic spread, lockdown, etc. I won’t stay  silent and I’ll work hard to have the facts to back it up and even broach the issue of whether the subjugation of individual liberty to the collective “good” is warranted even if the narrative is accurate (it’s not!).

If conversation shifts to  ‘systemic racism’ or ‘white privilege’ or ‘the patriarchy’, I will not stay silent but will challenge the assumptions and stake out a position based in individual rights. I think, especially in my field, this carries some risk of ‘cancelling’ – but the risk of staying silent to my psychic health must also be weighed.

Of course option 1 and 2 (with the exception of speaking up!) are not exclusive. I’m also in Option 1 whereby I’m searching for land in more remote areas of South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming  so I can get somewhat isolated from the coming (possible) shitstorm. That ‘keep your head down’ approach would include seeking new work poisoning the minds of the youth that might help the situation in the long run.

And of course I’m investing heavily in boat futures.

What are you approaches?

In the spirit of music links: Most libertarian song ever? Probably not, but it’s good!