Remember the Climate Apocalypse?

Remember climate apocalypse? The little girl lectures, scowling in hatred at the leaders of the free world because they refused to do what they were told?

Those days almost seem quaint and comical in the mess that 2020 has become.

And you’d be forgiven if you, like me, are experiencing a certain degree of whiplash. We went from Greta’s adolescent tantrum-based apocalyptic environmentalism to COVID-19’s viral end-of-days to the re-emergence yet again of the Robespierres attempting to convince us that ‘original sin’ exists (which most of us believe) but it is actually a genetic trait, and one that justifies the destruction of public property and theft of random strangers’ hard earned things.

The Gramscians in our midst never cease, we know that – this is not news. Always anxious to seize on a random occurrence or a pandemic to attempt to make their case for more state power, but only if they control the state. Control, that is the only word – to build utopias for the faithless who are so miserable and angry and jealous they can only grasp desperately to that ancient refrain “misery loves company” in the hopes that somehow the violence will be for them a balm, a salve over their aching burned souls filling the emptiness where God should be. Except it never is, and therefore the destruction can never be enough.

If anything, we learned that in history. Most recently in Venezuela, where the felling of a statue of Columbus announced a coming suicide, one that has continued on in a never-ending spiral of violence unto famine.

Dónde está la estatua de Cristóbal Colón que fue juzgada ...

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I have ordered a new book, if the mail ever arrives. I will review it properly once I have read it, but it seems sufficiently important to comment upon more than once, given its topic (the ‘progressive’ use of environmentalism as a bait and switch) and the fact that when the pandemic is over and electoral-violence-encouraging is over when this election is past (whoever wins), the little Swedish girl will be back bored and energized and with visions of epic climate-lockdowns dancing in her sweet little head. And this book is especially important now because we are entering a new era of state power. The global economy has faltered; our China-based model of “They make our cheap crap with their slave-labor which we buy at Walmart” is has been debunked, probably for good. Debt is the order of the day, piles and piles of bleeding red refuse under which we are all being crushed. Governments are again the major players in our private economies, owning the airlines and ‘strategic industries’ and control a few mega-corporations (Amazon, for example) – setting the stage for a “Road to Serfdom” moment as grand as anything Friedrich Hayek could ever have imagined.

Enter onto the stage Michael Shellenberger and his new book, “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All”. Again, I have not read the book – I just ordered it and I will give a full review when I have the chance. But I have read with interest his article “On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare”.

Several points are important. The first one is just how far down the logical fallacy trap humanity has gone. Shellenberger feels it important to include in his presentation of the book his own “leftist” credentials, including time spent with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua (not something I’d brag about, I too have spent time in Nicaragua – not with the Sandinistas) as a defense against those who would criticize him for not being leftist enough: or in “logical fallacy” terms an “appeal to authority” to counter the “genetic” fallacies to be hurled against him. But does one fallacy counter the other? Never-mind.

The second point, however, is that he is right. Not in the “logical fallacy” way or in the “he ticks all the right boxes” way in his pedigree and voting record, but it would seem he actually has looked at the data and come to the right conclusions. This is not to say (at least by the appearance of his article, I’ll let you know when I read the book) that he is a climate denier. Instead he has found the discipline to be a true environmentalist, not an armchair warrior looking to steal people’s stuff through “carbon credits” and wealth redistribution efforts to corrupt despots where the dictators get jets and the United Nations bureaucrats overseeing the transfer get expensive vacations and we get nothing. No, a true environmentalist in that he sees that it is deforestation in the third world that is the greatest problem (poverty is the greatest polluter, as Indira Gandhi once said); that while the climate gets hotter (probably because of sunspots) that will lead to a re-greening of the world (if we let it); corollary to this is that the greatest threats to species on this crowded planet is us and our murder of animals; that industrial agriculture is much ‘greener’ and less intrusive on agriculture than the poor farmer in the Chad basin attempting to coax a maize chute out of a barren land beside a desiccated lake; that carbon emissions are coming down in the rich world – and more!!

Now my own “logical fallacy”, an appeal to emotion (though I certainly don’t have the right pedigree to avoid assault – I fought Hugo Chavez at every turn and in every way I could imagine). I’m not an environmental denier either. I have walked through jungles in the Congo eerily absent the cacophony of animal life; the shrieks of the tiny jungle elephants and the screeching of the chimpanzees and the squawk of birds all stilled and silent, having been hunted out and killed to adorn the tables of the poor and the rebels. I have watched the last tree in the Sahara being chopped down for under its precious shade it once gave respite to the jihadis. I too fear the plastics; I too sorrow when my son (my little non-Greta) says he wants to be a marine biologist and I worry there won’t be much left for him to study.

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All this is why Shellenberger’s work is so important; we must get this right!! We cannot afford to lose time on facile answers by the nouveau Marxists who use environment as a bait-and-switch to steal and destroy. I repeat, it’s too important, for if we allow them to control the narrative we will find ourselves, in another several decades, having pulverized our cities and destroyed our industries, eliminating the wealth we need to restore our world – while having done nothing for the little animals.


I am cutting and pasting here the summary of conclusions from Shellenberger’s own article:

  • Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction” 
  • The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”

  • Climate change is not making natural disasters worse

  • Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003

  • The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska

  • The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California

  • Carbon emissions are declining in most rich nations and have been declining in Britain, Germany, and France since the mid-1970s

  • Netherlands became rich not poor while adapting to life below sea level

  • We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter

  • Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change

  • Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels

  • Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture

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Born Defeated

“I want to tell you that you did not win, as you believe, because despite having been born defeated, I still dreamed.”

And with those words I ended my first play. Because there is nothing wrong with being defeated, as long as we dream – to walk free, to live an un-coerced life, to think what we will without fear of those who tell us we should not.

“Dreams of the Defeated” I wrote for political prisoners. Channeling Zamyatin in “We” or Rand in “Ideal”, this is a play about a struggle, perhaps futile, but nevertheless what else can be done? Because the people I’ve known, those who – though defeated – still dream, deserve to have their voices heard.

Incidentally I wrote this play about China. The great tyranny of our age, the people of whose land will be free. Hopefully they won’t squander their freedom, as I fear we have ours…

Finally, for those interested, I sort of took the format for my play from Sleuth with Jude Law and Michael Caine. Not that I think anybody will ever make it into a movie. People who have surrendered their freedoms cannot find it in themselves to ever understand why.

 

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The End Of It All

An unsteady stillness has fallen across the once-hallowed battlefields. The blazing has not stopped, but for the absence of its most-prominent belligerent it might even feel like the glory days of yesteryear when medals were earned and careers made in contests not at all existential for the victors, though not so the vanquished. But not anymore, for we have gone home. Oh not physically, we still have our bases, our outposts and our tremendous presence in the imaginations of men. No, it is in our motive power for positive change where our absence is felt most acutely.

It was the Great War in Europe that finally ended that continent’s ambitions; the old land’s imaginations laid to rest in canals of carnage and trenches of despair. The war after the great war was just an afterthought – through which the leavings of a continental experiment were at last purged away and burned through, displaying a continent spent and adrift, no imagination of itself or its role in a world it was no longer prepared to shape.

These are the days of our exhaustion: I can feel it in the empty political campaigns; in the culture wars become stale of ideas and which resonate only with resentment, envy and rage. We have lost our faith in our democracy, because we have lost our faith in each other. Our once-invigorating legendary intercourse has retreated behind masks real and fake as we recoil in fear of each other, fear of which the virus is only the most recent and bold manifestation. It is not a great suicide we are perpetuating, epic acts of stupidity and destruction in the hunt for the elusive utopias of always. Our utopianism has also come to an end – now we only want retribution for perceived wrongs from perceived offenders in bronze and iron, unable to defend themselves as they stare resolutely into a past that they defined backs bent away from the future in which they have no role. Unforgiven, for they were imperfect – cast aside by today’s imperfect in perpetual victimhood awaiting the imperfect of tomorrow. Except that no statues will be made of these for future generations to tear down; for they inspire no temerity.

Yes, weary are the days in which we live. The hubris, the ephemeral power paid for by plastic and bubbles blown one within the next until they all popped and the reverberations echoed in decreasing power from buildings no longer occupied by moral men. Ours was the generation of bean-counters pretending to be experts, of peddlers of fake loans and of faulty ideas said to be philosophers – slathering contempt atop a prosperity oh-so-brittle to be laid bare by an ancient force not un-awaited but for which we certainly were unprepared, shocking only in that it should not have been so.

In the days of yesteryear I was accustomed to selecting from the unending roll of inquiry like a connoisseur of fine wisdom and arcane knowledge; careful for the malinvestment in the waste of precious column inches down my computer screen, always to be eschewed. The tyranny of technicalities are what they in fact were; of how to order our world, how to empower our titans while defending the defenseless while we advance as the missionaries of old that most-perfect ideal of self-government into dark and distant lands corrupt and violent and harsh.

Now we are seemingly at the end of it all. The ticker-parade of half-truths marching resolutely down our Facebook feeds or Twitter accounts or the online journals which no longer even demand that most ancient of trusts required by ink on paper and the pounding of the ancient machines rumbling beneath monumental buildings, upon which we counted to impart to us knowledge from places far-away and truths hidden – these I find no longer even interesting; experts expounding this or that or the other pubescent opinion in binary fashion while the world burns upon bottomless piles of fiat currency set aflame by a people who no longer accept good faith and credit of the states which have finally abandoned any attempts at consent in the bosom of their sacred covenant to us – “To build a more perfect union”, become instead “to steal more than thee and thine, and to make you pay.”

It should not come as a surprise, for the exhaustion was deep. Just as Britain never recovered her empire after her tremendous victory in the wars, a victory which exposed a model that the people could no longer find it in their imaginations to defend, even upon the shoulders of so great a man as Churchill – how could we be any different? To carry the weight of the world, that was ours for a season, a feat which despite the engendered prosperity of our order only inspired ingratitude, outrage and the bloodletting of a thousand small cuts increasing in ferocity until at last a sickness laid bare the final throes of empire. It is inglorious and uninteresting; a sad draught pounded with the pestle of suffering and mixed with bitterness of unrealized expectations. But so all utopias fall away. And there is nothing wrong with that. For while our technology might improve, human nature, human condition and the human story remain the same and the rise and fall of great civilizations is part of the epic tale of men upon this ancient spinning orb.

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Many Types of Lords

“Joel D. Hirst’s masterpiece is a worthy best-selling novel brimming with poignant lessons about idealism, culture, and religion. It begs us to examine the current state of the world today, a world so divided by different idealisms and misruled by many types of lords. Hirst uses language as flavorful and vibrant as the culture in the Sahara but without giving in to unnecessary theatrics. The result is an extremely satisfying literary experience.”


Riveting from start to finish, Lords of Misrule is a must-read from a master storyteller, Joel D. Hirst.

The BookWalker


Read the whole review here.

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Timbuktu

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America’s New Aristocracy

Most people have trouble thinking. It is a simple sad fact about humanity that I have been forced to come to terms with. To be sure learning does not come easy, requiring effort and patience and nuance. People prefer pre-cooked ideas, pre-digested notions coming from pre-packaged prejudices. But who is doing the packaging, did you ever consider that? How about the cooking? The aristocracy; it is always they whom you will find if you pull back the curtain – desperate as they are to hold onto a diminishing power. These days, for years in fact theirs has been the careful manipulation of outrage and powerlessness. America’s aristocracy has for decades been – as Angus Deaton has said – “…raising the ladders as they ascend”. Or, if you prefer, throwing up speed bumps behind them as they race forward. These come in the form of privileged zip codes, of licenses and diplomas and certifications and regulations; of clearances and of minimum evaluation factors and minimum wage laws. All traps to stop those who might power ahead of them through a greater talent and work ethic and spirit.

Have you not noticed who are the winners and losers of the great pandemic? For that is not by accident either. Things were getting so much better for people of all colors and creeds; more equal, a weakened aristocracy fighting tooth and nail, but losing. But it was ephemeral, not yet solidified. These things take time; hence the justifiable frustration of a hard-working population having an arriving prosperity so viciously snatched away. Who wouldn’t be angry? Of course that prosperity was the main fear, wasn’t it – of the aristocracy? Truth of the matter is inter-generational elasticity is the lowest its been in America forever, and that is by the design of the few. It goes hand in hand with inequality; also the design of the few. These same people have spent a few years out in the cold and, scheming always only about how to return think they have found a recipe; by pitting American against American. But that is only the path to violence and hatred and the road to serfdom. Hatred is a force that does not build; it is only a force for destruction. So it’s time, at last – after everything else has failed – to think. In fact, its the only way to avoid America’s arriving serfdom.

Joel D. Hirst's Blog

Every morning, here in West Africa, as I prepare my little boy for his school – the gym and the recess and the library, PE and science class and field trips – I look through the window of my kitchen out over the manicured lawns, the play ground and the swimming pool and through the concertina wire to the Africa outside Elysium. There too, in the shadow of privilege, a little one-room school house has sprung up, built in a park that was quietly seized one night by the entrepreneurial homeless, a homestead in which no government official will interfere. Upon broken down benches and with no electricity, writing in pencil upon cracked paper, sharing aging yellowed books, West Africa’s urban poor hope for a better future which is, quite literally, just over the wall.

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Privilege and inequality, those are the words of the 21st century world. We in…

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After COVID-19

Monumental moments in history often follow great conflagrations. Four-hundred years ago Europe, exhausted of her wars, and seeking to put an end to the 30 years war which was only the latest in the conflicts which had stretched back forever signed the Treaty of Westphalia. In doing so, they set our planet on a trajectory toward great prosperity. They took away the political power of the church, which had corrupted her making her carnal and base; they ended (or at least began the end of) empires, putting in place geographical limits upon plots of land which defined national interests and limited what could be done outside those confined – and purposefully confining – spaces.

In the aftermath of the Second World War the League of Nations (and then the United Nations) also attempted to define a “world order”; not only limiting national geographies but introducing restraint into what could be done even within national boundaries. “Absolute monarchy” was over. Breton Woods setting in place monetary and fiscal guidelines to guarantee world economic order, to be followed by poor and rich alike.

These of course are not the only examples. The industrial revolution which both led to and ended the previous world order – that of serfs and their lords – and which led the world into World War the first, the war to end all wars, which didn’t. That war, finding an enfeebled and corrupted monarchy in Russia set in her ways and resistant to even basic change found a perfect toxic mix of ‘modern’ economics and ancient resentment, a corrupted church which no longer inspired and a bright, shiny new idea – socialism!! – which plunged the world into another seventy years of wars and famines. Until that too was over.

It is said the Black Plague before this ripped Europe from her malaise in the Middle Ages. The death of so many enslaved peasants risked pushing the gentry into poverty, and they were forced to transition from slavery to innovation to retain their wealth. The upward distribution of wealth as property was consolidated in a third (maybe half?) fewer hands created prosperity which allowed for an overflow into the patronage programs of Renaissance (starting in Italy) but which led us directly to the reformation and a rediscovery of God.

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Does our current pandemic rise to the bar of these epic events? For to be sure, there have been others. The Spanish Flu of 1918. The HIV/AIDS crisis of the 80’s and 90’s. It is said that COVID is the re-enactment of the great Russian pandemic of 1889, which too was a corona-virus although that one of bovine origin. Maybe the Indians are onto something… SARS, MERS, the list goes on. I myself have been Ebola quarantined, making COVID not my first rodeo – not a lot of people can say that…

But none of those pandemics was world-altering. Stressful, catalytic, to be sure but nothing like the plague. Except that these types of things do not happen in a vacuum, and therein lies the threat – and the opportunity. COVID has arrived at a moment of great Western angst and exhaustion. Our model, declared to be the “End of history” (no, I will never stop picking on Fukuyama. He might have destroyed the world, and with that Pied Piper the children who found his message so appealing, for it was soft and easy – and who doesn’t love that?) is unraveling. Breton Woods has been dead a long time, replaced with “Good faith and credit” first and now just “Let the presses roll!!!!” The United Nations has been unable to solve conflicts between the great powers, nor serve as a forum for collective dispute revolution in a world become small. To say nothing of her agencies, bloated and corrupt. Whose idea were those?

People’s faith in democracy is low, because people’s faith in each other is at an all-time low. They blame “fake news”, do those who refuse to recognize their own role in the mayhem. Without restraint they lash out, blaming their abandon upon others. We have become obese, addicted to Opioids, loose of lips and quick to insult and take offense. We have ceased reading, the study of history to know the experiences of those who came before and the great wisdom of those who invented it, before they too lost it. We have no more great men and women, no names which resonate, none who can stand tall and look into the face of the almighty and ask “What is now to be done?” Instead we have put our faith in scientists, weaselly little men in lab coats as a bait and switch, to no longer consider a great God in our contemplation of what man can do without the corresponding question of what we should do. We have forgotten that while our gadgets might improve, following Moore’s law, humanity itself remains the same.

A pandemic reminds us of all this. As we watch the numbers tick up the chart, the deaths mount and we realize that even our greatest minds are powerless against an invisible little bug – and at the end we just have to let nature take her course, a nature that is as old as our ancient planet – we rejoin the river of history.

So what will happen next? Will we just hold ourselves in suspended animation, floating atop a river of “stimulus” payments and red ink? Or will this be a reset – and if so, towards what? Roman England, which collapsed along with the empire, hosted great roads and epic cultural events and tremendous prosperity. A population of over four million. By the time King Alfred returned history to that ancient isle, four hundred years later, the population had halved. Not by plague, though there was that, but by hardship, of lives lived with no protection from the weather and the petty violence that mars lands no longer governed. Is that our future? An unraveling, hitting the ‘pause’ button for a season while those who still have guns lord over us and those who have means safeguard our precious antiquities for the days when they might again be of value to a world that wants to remember?

Or perhaps we can recognize our hubris and our foolishness, that which brought us to this moment, and take steps to rectify our precarious position. Not new steps, there is nothing new under the sun. Old steps – a return to communities, a shuttering of our ‘social media’ accounts which gave us only envy and hate. A compassion found as we care for those in our midst. Instead of demanding from a corrupt institution dealing itself favors from atop an old swamp, we realize that all the power we give them returns to be used against us – shackles fastened upon the slaves marching down the “Road to Serfdom“, the chains of which are very difficult to break, especially to the weakest of these – who we are said to want to protect.

Maybe we can even think beyond that, not a return to prop up structures which no longer serve us. But we can re-think governance. Not the dominion of the technocrats and the tyranny of their ‘experts’, who have given us only war and pandemic. But instead a new Renaissance of men and women who see the world and all her glory and potential in full color.

I once entered a contest for a group called Global Challenges Foundation. They were offering $5,000,000 for an innovative idea to reshape our world order, specifically a new model for the United Nations – which we can all agree no longer responds to the functions for which it was intended though the forms do continue, and those in triplicate. My idea was a “Council of Humanity” which recognized the sclerotic nature of world government and divested the power of peacemaking from them, for peace is rarely in their interests, while adding a new pillar to the governing body of humanity – the Council of Industry. AKA, those who make our food and the clothes which we wear. I wrote my idea in the form of a short story, because I am a storyteller. I didn’t win, shocker – though the effort was fun. I was superseded by our world’s worship of technocracy, and somebody who thought to try and use blockchain as a magical solution to the problems of humanity won the prize. But of course a little virus doesn’t care about blockchain.

When it was clear World War I would change everything, President Woodrow Wilson called together a council of elites, business moguls and media personalities and academics, to envision a new world order. This institution was called the Council on Foreign Relations, with offices right beside the Eisenhower Building in DC (I myself was a visiting fellow at CFR, a remarkable institution). Now, I am not Wilsonian, to be sure. There is very little utopianism left in my soul after so many years fighting our world order’s forgotten wars. But I do acknowledge the remarkable effort and the enduring legacy of a group of people free from politics and hashtags who can begin to consider what comes next. It is from such councils that new orders are born. I’m also not saying that will be a solution – rarely do solutions of the future emerge from the institutions of the past.

A parting thought. In the run-up to the 2016 American election, there appeared an online publication called the Journal of American Greatness, which hosted some of the great minds who were willing to see that the world order represented by the “Stronger Together” crowd were only ushering the world toward destruction. Writing in aliases, they explored the problems with the order as we knew it and offered solutions to arrest the entropy. In the fullness of time, I think that it is apparent their efforts came too late – the decay was too far advanced, laid bare by a pandemic. But it was at least nice to know there are still great minds who know who Edward Gibbon is and still can think realistically about our world. Maybe now is again a moment to reassemble them.

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On #BlackLivesMatter

Apropos of #BlackLivesMatter, I first arrived in #Africa in 1999, beginning my work of ten years living on the continent trying to end four different civil wars. Two of the wars still rage, two have found a shaky peace – though the violence continues in all.

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I wrote a novel, after it was over – at least for me, at least for now – and an exhausted soul wanted to settle the experiences in time and place. “I, Charles, From the Camps” is my attempt to distill the decade of walking through the camps, ducking from bullets and sheltering from bombs; of sleepless nights worrying about my teams and the extraordinary frustration of an enduring violence into one story, written from the POV of a young man born into the camps. No haters please, for I have left so much of myself in Africa, and in turn she has burned her indelible imprint upon my consciousness and will always be with me that it is a story I have earned the right to tell. It is my lasting ode to the tale of her birth-pains upon that oldest of continents, and represents my best work; how could it not? I invite you to read with me, if you don’t have the means drop me a message and I’ll get you a copy. Its more important now, as #covid destroys so delicate as was her emerging prosperity and a new hopelessness returns to haunt the land. Because #AfricanLivesMatter too.

And finally, “Why?” you might ask. Why would I choose to do this? Why would I spend 50% of my adult life in hard sad places trying to make them better? The Lord has said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” – Matthew 5:9. If you want to be a peacemaker, you must charge toward the sounds of the guns.

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Eulogy for Resistance

One of my wife’s former colleagues passed away yesterday. He was working from his unpleasant extended-stay hotel in Bogota where he had taken refuge after being forced to flee his country; locked down by COVID and still carrying on with the enfeebled tasks of defiance against his dictatorship, unable to release the leavings of a once-great resistance long after history passed him by. His family, so far away across the large water was unable to hear his heart give out, unable to see the paleness in his face, the trembling of the hands that announced the approaching calamity and he died alone.

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That really is not the eulogy anybody seeks. Life is like a wave, and we the tired surfers must develop wisdom. Which is the right wave to try and ride? If we pick one too soon, without having ourselves the right experience or training, or one which is cresting far out to sea we might be pulled under or the energy might dissipate mid-way through the ride leaving us lying flat upon our board looking foolish. When we have carefully selected our wave, we must ride it with experience and confidence, avoiding rocks and shoals – and do so with flair and panache. Elegance, that is what’s missing in our world that has become shameless and base. The hardest thing to do, perhaps, is knowing when to release the wave. We have been having a great time, after all. The sense of meaning and purpose, the tremendous applause when it tunnels and we push through, the hope that ours will be a prize-winning effort, we tend to hang onto the wave longer than we should to be crashed upon the rocks or worse – infinitely worse – be deposited into a tide pool to sit there on the sand playing with the remnant of the waters which have receded as we attempt to recreate the days of glory.

My wife is sad now too, but that is something which is common these days. So much to be melancholy about in 2020. But hers is an older sadness, a deeper sorrow – a country lost to the communists and their criminal conspiracies and never regained. The fallen friend was one of her last connections to the old days, the plans discussed over WhatsApp “When the dictatorship is ousted, here’s what we need to do,” and “What needs to happen now is…” The favorite pastime of the those on the outside: Cubans, North Koreans, Chinese, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and more – loose conjecture that inspires the imagination and soothes like a balm the open wound of stories torn from their notebooks before they were finished to remain unpublished in the chest-of-drawers of the defeated.

Truth of the matter is that life is a melancholy affair. So much is out of our control – that at least we should recognize in these our world’s days of mayhem. We often-times have one moment of great significance, maybe two in a world with seven-billion souls; and if that is so, we should feel lucky for most people sit on a solitary dune in Africa minding their goats or in a broken-down fishing vessel searching the sterile seas for the now-elusive fish which were the livelihood of their grandparents as the currents of world history pass beneath them unperceived while they wait for the moment they are sure will happen – but never does.

Powerlessness, it’s hard to be weak when there are so many great names marching across the ticker of China News Network (CNN); when there are so many people who we think are important and assume are in command of their tremendous wealth and prodigious sense of purpose, until like a pastry-chef turned philosopher they take their own lives responding to impotence and the terrible vacuum of meaning which they had sought to fill with empty words and undigested reflections. Or worse, through an oh-so-great a vigor of delivery that they hoped the emptiness did not ring through, an emptiness that nevertheless resonates like steel drums played by a toddler with a stick they found in the yard after a rainstorm. Hopelessness, that is what most of us are desperately trying to avoid. The silence into which we all are eventually immersed and in which we must sit, and – quietly, with only our own thoughts to entertain us – accept.

But all is not lost. We return to our faith, when we realize meaning is meaningless. It is not a crutch, for faith is where we began our journey as hopeful children in the first place. And we give our aching souls back to the hand of a graceful God. And that is how it should be, in the end.

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The Mountains

I am haunted by mountains, ancient and immutable, unconquerable and mysterious fortresses to the past. Sinews and muscles attached to bone, enveloped by a thin layer of skin, ripping upon contact with a rose thorn or bramble; that is not a substantial substance upon which wisdom can be written, it would seem. But a mountain, which experiences the passing of time as waves of snow and drought, of thunderstorm and lighting washing upon her only to move on, leaving her unchanged. Perhaps that year with a greater sparkling of white upon her crown, perhaps this year lesser. But the solid rock upon which is found to be written the passing of an age, that material at least does abide.

I’ve been passing my days in the mountains, waking under the supervision of one to travel high up into others on my search for peace; peace which is always to be found high above the madding crowd. Hiking into the snows with my little boy to leave a snowman up there somewhere upon a crest, an oh-so-fragile reminder to the mountain that thereby we passed, as fleeting as the seasons while the mountains are eternal. Wading through the frigid mountain streams products of the runoff from the melting of this winter’s bountiful snow, to feed the streams and brooks and rivers below which irrigate the plains and re-green the alpine meadows with their delicate little wild-flowers where the shepherds bring their flocks; protecting them in the mountains against marauding armies that traverse the valleys in the brief summers or the wolves and bears that stalk too-close to the ancient misty forests.

There was a great Georgian writer once, Aleksandr Kazbegi – Kagzbegi for Mount Kazbek high upon the spine of the great Caucasus mountain range dividing Russia in the north from Eurasia in the south, which stretches itself like an imposing wall from the Black Sea to the Caspian and through which, upon the Georgian Military Highway, an extraordinary feat of engineering, did the Russians conquer the Caucasus. Kazbegi was a novelist, one of Georgia’s great novelists, who wrote from his heart deep within the mountains filled with the rebellion of the harsh places and the indomitable spirit of those who can make the mountains their home. Silence and thought lending his rebellion depth and meaning and understanding; lending his violence purpose for it was not wanton and vicious but emerging as it did for a rebellion well-considered. It is said that once a hiker from Paris on a sojourn into quiet places seeking respite for his own soul came across an alpine Caucasian valley wherein a simple shepherd watched his flock high upon the roof of the earth, and was stunned by this shepherd’s command of an almost perfect Parisian French. For Kazbegi was also the son of a lesser noble who had studied in Tiflis and also in Russia, and had traveled the length of Europe before retiring for seven years up into the mountains in disgust for what he had seen and with only his pen and his sheep to keep him company – returning to pen “The Patricide”, his final act of immortal revenge.

I like these mountains, as did Kazbegi of old – and though I myself cannot imagine wandering the alpine plains alone for seven years I do see the draw. The cocooning silence, the depth of wisdom walking upon the ancient silken road where before travelers arrived on the way from India or from China or from Persia with their wares to off-load in the ancient port of Batumi or trekking across highlands of Anatolia to Constantinople – that greatest of all cities which has sat astride world history like a colossus forever. And I find comfort in them today, as I’m sure Kazbegi did in his days of resistance, knowing that the more things change in the world outside, the more technology advances convincing men they have somehow improved on the flesh and sinew, the more we forget the ancient fortresses of our past, the more rapid will the nonsense fall away. And watching it fall away, I must say there are worse places than nestled within the memories of the olden mountains that whisper to me of yesteryear and of what is to come after fires purifying return a more natural order to the world and wisdom to her people.

And I know it will be fine, for the mountain tells me so.

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The Arriving Ordeal

Our arriving ordeal is now upon us: “It was in fact a world disorder we inherited, we who came after and which we have bequeathed to our own children. “During the 1960s, as is now clear, America began a slow but unmistakable process of transformation. The signs hardly need belaboring: racial polarity, educational dysfunction, social fragmentation of many and various kinds.”

But what comes now?

“Europe, at least in the way that we have known it, has begun to vanish. And with it, the West itself…” Again Robert Kaplan writes – bookending the post-cold war period…”

Joel D. Hirst's Blog

The Harmattan billows above blotting out the sun, dust coalescing with diluted traces of the acrid garbage fires that warm the ditch beyond the potholed road and the wood smoke from the last trees of the plains burned to cook beans and rice and the occasional dried fish from desiccated and barren lakes. A black plastic bag escapes the flames, parasailing the harsh winds over the ten foot wall crowned with concertina wire to lodge itself on a carefully pruned pine tree. I walk the compound pulling my dog on her leash, imported beer in hand brewed in a place cold and clean and shipped in to be sold for more than the value of a day’s labor. Back and forth and back again in a restless, trying parade. She was a gift to my wife, my dog was, a tiny pretentious little thing, a historical memento from days when…

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