The Coming Storm

It’s already here actually – the storm is. It caught up with us when we weren’t paying attention, too focused on ourselves, our narcissism playing second fiddle to no one – even the destitute. When I mean “the storm”, I mean we’ve marched resolutely into the past. The greatest humanitarian catastrophe since World War II; yes that war after which we set up an entire world order to make sure never again would humanity fail itself. Refugee agencies caring for people forced to flee their lands for political reasons; food agencies so there is no more famine, at least; international courts trying to end war; conventions and resolutions and declarations – joint advocacy, the power of the great nations thrown against the despots to tell them in a single voice that we weren’t gonna have it anymore, that those days were over.

Then the fall of the Soviet Union and finally the last piece of the puzzle – the end of un-freedom. “The end of history,” as Fukuyama once said. A world exploding with NGOs accessing at last even the final quiet corners of the world with the message of prosperity and liberty and that foreign idea of “rights”, hardened by the kiln of a millennium of western experience in blood and violence.

Then we stumbled – something happened. 60 million refugees on the move; famine like we haven’t seen since WWII; new totalitarianism emerging in unlikely places like Venezuela; the death march of the unfree is accelerating, again – Freedom House calls it a ‘democratic recession’ but that is too polite.


It wasn’t supposed to be this way, why are we here? It’s not that we turned inward, as some complain. We didn’t. And it’s not that we didn’t care. We did. I think maybe we lost confidence – in ourselves, that we were still the “shining city on the hill”, ironically because while we doubted this, to the world we are still the last best hope for mankind. We lost confidence in our faith, our families, our history, our past no longer buttressing and interpreting our place in an increasingly complicated world. And we lost confidence in our institutions; not just the post-war ones but our own, those built by Jefferson and Madison to make sure that we – at least – we always free; were always prosperous. All surrendered to the know-nothings product of our civilizational insecurities. What did we rely on instead? Money – good money after bad, redistributed in greater and greater quantities until our collective debt passed $200 trillion, and continued. A debt is a mortgage against the future – but what future are we mortgaging? Has anybody asked that?

Yet despite the figures, it’s a silent storm, isn’t it? We are still at an apex of human history – when it comes to technology, medicine, freedom, purchasing power. “A life more abundant”. Food enough to feed the world; knowledge enough to end most diseases. Of course there is inequality, which the know-nothings whine about constantly; but they aren’t talking about the refugees or the byproducts of the ‘storm’ – they are talking about themselves. It’s not that 5 million Syrians are sitting in the cold on foreign soil, but that the know-nothings are a jealous little bunch, measuring themselves against those who they consider their peers – not against the war victims or the refugees or the hungry.

Which is why the ‘storm’ is accelerating – our aforementioned lack of confidence turned against ourselves has given way to a system, a world order unable to make the important decisions which will stave of the apocalypse. Incidentally this is why I write – and work – and worry. You see I have a little boy – but even he is not safe in a world that has turned its back on reason and compassion and human dignity. It is said that a hurricane can be started by the flap of a butterfly’s wings across the oceans. And I wonder if the butterfly wasn’t already flapping away twenty years ago in Congo – or East Timor or Kosovo or Tunisia. And I wonder when, and how, and where the storm will end.

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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3 Responses to The Coming Storm

  1. Phil Breault says:

    “It wasn’t supposed to be this way, why are we here?”

    You’ve already alluded to it – it’s history. The denizens (and nations) of the world have always been fighting, for lack of a better term, cancers. Take the past one hundred years. Treating a cancer (European imperialism) ended up causing or aggravating other cancers (Progressivism, Communism, and extreme nationalism) in the early 1900s. The treatment (WWI) almost killed some patients and left them weakened.

    Then other cancers (National Socialism, Facism, and Japanese Imperialism) were stimulated though overzealous post-treatment (Treaty of Versailles in the case of the first) and risky behavior and neglect through the 1920s and 30s. That ended up with another round of expensive and disruptive treatment (WWII).

    An existing cancer (Communism) metastasized and then had to be treated, but toward 1960s until 1980, the goal evolved into not curing the cancer, but keeping it manageable (the Cold War) by using pain reducers (social programs and redistribution) while ‘making bank’ off the treatment program.

    Where are we now? The patients are exhausted, weakened, addicted to painkillers, and refusing to change detrimental lifestyles. One cancer was cured, but variants have metastasized and unrelated others long dormant have been triggered. The ‘science’ used to treat cancer is, as you said, at its peak in history. It’s the human factor that isn’t. Some patients think the resulting treatment should be other than prescribed, or that it’s better to simply stay on painkillers, or that there are no (or there are other) cancers present, or that a particular cancer is actually beneficial.

    I apologize for the length. Please feel free to delete it, or just reduce it to this: There are no answers, at least not comforting ones.


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