The Senate has changed the way democracy operates in the United States. Consensus, established by the Founding Fathers as a requirement for a free and united people, has been replaced by majority rule. The traditions which made this one of many have been gradually decaying, so the vote is essentially a formality in many ways.
It is also a fitting way to mark the end of the American Century.
As we celebrate a decade of Barataria, two trends stand out. The first is the three years down followed by seven years up for the economy, a slow transformational recovery which still leaves far too many behind. The second trend is the one which truly made the other one painful, a decade long descent into disunity, indecency, and idiocy.
It has been a century since the United States broke its traditional continental isolationism to “Make the world safe for democracy.” On April 6, 1917, the US entered World War I and started a cascade which lead us to where we are today.
Without this event, the US Dollar would never have become the global currency, and indeed globalism would not be as closely associated with Americanism as it is everywhere but here. The American Century began on this date and ends roughly where we are today, for better or worse.
The world, as we know it, was born.
In celebration of the first decade of Barataria in one week, I would like to present this post from 2009. It is dark, befitting the time it was written, but it is one of my personal favorites.
“The illusions which exalt us are dearer than ten thousand truths”
– Aleksandr Pushkin
Perhaps it’s the chill of December closing in on me, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Pushkin lately – and this quote is a favorite. Pushkin was, like so many Russian writers, a man who found nearly carnal pleasure in staring the essence of humanity straight in the eyes and reporting what he saw in a cold, clear voice. Normally, I don’t like translations that seem florid and over-wrought, but in this case it’s Pushkin. The warmth comes in the delight of distilling the essence into poetry, as any true romantic knows. It’s a glow that warms the heart of Russian fatalism, a crackling fire that accepts with a melting smile. It also represents the exact opposite of how we, as Americans, have come to see our own world.
Through the first decade of Barataria, one theme becomes clear. There is always hope, there is always a better way if we just figure out how to talk honestly about what’s wrong and how we have to work together. The exceptions to this theme are the most illuminating. This post is from January 2010, the low point in the recent Depression. The distinct lack of hope is a bit chilling.
What would make a recovery sustainable? If you ask an economist, they’d tell you that what makes any economy grow and prosper is, ultimately, what they call “productivity gains”. That’s the ability to make more with less that allows a people to propser. During the 1990s this was given as the reason why interest rates could remain low and we could have one Hell of a party – a sloppy, hazy bender. We live in the hangover that resulted, but have we really learned how intoxicating this one, simple idea is?
Continuing the look back over the first decade of Barataria, this piece is from April 2007. It outlines a disease which has since consumed us – an inability to accept the need to work things out.
“Politics” is a dirty word.
A common phrase in our world is that we “need to keep politics out” of a given situation. It seems to come from a noble intent, which is the desire to make rational decisions that are best for everyone. But what is it that we are trying to keep out?
There seems to be some greater conflict in the world, Everyone has a theory as to where the batle lines are drawn – liberal versus conservative, white versus non-white, Muslim versus infidel, young versus old. Not all of these can be right at the same time, which brings to mind two questions:
What is the “real” conflict? And why is it not obvious?
The battle, if there is a real one, is primarily a matter of general anxiety. It’s an internal conflict within many people who have lost a sense of hope for a better tomorrow. But outwardly, it manifests itself into a battle between stability and chaos – a conflict between the preservation of what order exists and a desire to wash it away in order to make way for something, anything else.
The US has turned inward. The nooze has become a high-caloried stream of confectionary nonsense from Washingtoon, spiced up with genuine budgetary horrors. The diversions keep coming, keeping everyone’s attention away from the real stories – possible treason and a lot of incompetence.
Meanwhile, Syria has become significantly more dangerous. In the very near future it’s reasonable that the situation will demand genuine leadership and careful negotiation. Given that this is nearly impossible, based on the narcissistic machismo which substitutes for leadership on nearly all sides, the potential for something even more horrible is rising daily.
But it’s hardly being reported at all.