I have written too often about ruin. About an anarchy just over the horizon. We are all flowers grown from the soil in which we were planted and found nourishment. Our lives, our moments of significance juxtaposed against the boredom oh so profound and the desperation of people in war; at least for me. And war is the one changeless pattern of human existence, something from which we will never escape. We the peacemakers are haunted by our wars; for there is rarely a respite and, unlike for those who prosecute the madness, there is little cushion found in the quiet upon which to recede into ourselves and the memories of best expended efforts and the futility of plowing the sea. Perhaps a word of thanks, a nod, a wink perchance, though rarely even that; a little award signed by somebody unimportant to frame and hang upon the wall, memento for so great an effort. I have worked on six wars, maybe seven depending on how you count them. I even ended two of them, though nobody noticed. They were sad little wars, after all – and who really cares, apart from those living in the camps? And when was the last time they were considered? I have written too much about suicide as well, because I have known suicide. Not self-mollification, an act desperate and stupid but instead national suicide, the same but infinitely more sad; the lights of civilization slowly going out after the bonfires of envy and redistribution fade for wont of fuel. I often have an argument with my wife; about which is the wickedest of all passions. To her, it is rage – but I’ve always found good use for rage, for it can be channeled into strength for a just fight. For me, it’s envy. Jealousy, and its nasty cousin greed. That metastasizing cancer that finds a place inside the healthy; that Kafkaesque metamorphosis of man into cockroach feeding upon the refuse of society after it has perished. Transforming the twisted wicked souls, death-eaters looking only to devour others, a meal which does not satisfy leaving the banqueter somehow both obese and yet more ravenous than before.
We all spend our time in echo chambers; and it is they who realize it that are today’s wise. In my wars fought in places desiccated and abandoned I have perhaps failed to perceive that mine was not the norm; that in fact the things which I lived might be actually the exception to a common rule, that of humanity’s improving lot. I am remedying that here, though with the fear even as I write that to speak of the bettering of our condition is hubris and punishable, for we are all superstitious, and apprehensive lest even a nod to our abounding prosperity somehow summon the miscreation awaiting unseen just over the next turn of the calendar page and I will have precipitated a tremendous evil. Nevertheless, and be that as it may, there are some things that – caveated with all the stipulations you might summon – are incontrovertible. One of these things is that humanity as a species has just finished its best decade in the history of histories. No need for me to repeat the statistics, Matt Ridley has done a brilliant job here; however suffice it to say we live better than the kings of old through whose palaces we who would be peasants now stroll in swelling numbers. We have turned the corner on our exploding populations, and the management of declining and aging citizenry is now the order of the day (and to wit, we did not starve; in point of fact our bounty has grown as never before). Our war on terror is over, “The emergence of ISIS and the horrors it wrought will likely spell the end of ideologically driven political Islamist movements in the Middle East…” as Kareem Shaheen writes. The third great totalitarian wave to challenge our modernity has crashed upon our shores and is now receding, Islam is secularizing after their dark night of the soul, as writes Mustafa Akyol – leaving the black flag buried beside the swastika and the hammer and cycle in the dustbin of time. And the nonsense of irrationalism? The soothsayers’ words no longer inspire and the dark red printed across manifestos is now unread and fades in the afternoon sun of plenty, abandoned by a people wiser and less inclined to Gramscian Fabianism.
Given so great a cellar (into which, to be sure, the finishings will still require some time and effort) to build upon, what does our so-great prosperity augur for the next year, the next decade? It would appear, especially given our ‘strategic reset’ (and God bless the electorate), that we are on the verge of great things indeed. We are soon to see the end of something old and transformational; for the internal combustion engine will this decade pass (mostly) into the past. Genetics is going to end common diseases. Prosperity is set to become mainstream, with opportunity for the majority. And in geopolitics? China, our superannuated nemesis newly discovered is even now falling victim to the great aging for which our century will be known. The great kingdom of the center will see its population half in my lifetime; what remains – will be old. And countries seeking to care for their elderly have no time for the adventurism nor the Sisyphean ambition of empire. In point of fact a China that shuns the stranger (immigrants being the reason U.S. will remain strong and headed to meet the Chinese population, assuming we can get the laws right) is no more a threat than the old-folks-home down the street from my sun-valley home.
And what else? It is undeniable that the next decade will be the decade of the cities and towns. Not as a weapon against our valleys and hills, in which we will always shelter our ideas of home. Cities need not be sanctuaries of stupidity, as Dubai and the return of our City States has shown us; safe-havens of corruption and depravity held against the pristine purity of familiarity and community suspended in gentle accountability. No, in point of fact our cities and towns are increasingly returning to their Tocquevillian condition as a laboratory for the pragmatic solutions which we require, and increasingly demand. As our global ‘institutions’ fail (not that they ever really worked), we return humbled to our home-owner-associations and our neighborhood councils which eschew the pristine creeds of now in favor of answers products of the rational mind. No longer do the diluted definitions of gender inspire ire or the oh-so-timorous philosophies of victimization occupy our energy, too busy are we with our prosperous lives and the problems so great a wealth has brought. Yes, just as Trump, BoJo, and Bolsonaro were the reaction against Ban Ki Moon and Kofi Annan; so too are they to be undone by Jenn Daniels and Sylvester Turner and in the end people like you and me, powerless in our wealth – and it is good. The return of the city state is the big story of the next decade; older and friendlier and more conservative (in the way that reads Tolkien and returns to church as the aged are forced to consider the end and realize that the God they defied in their youth and strength is still there when their bones begin to ache and their bowels cease to function efficiently). This of course will change everything; a world population that is no longer growing, concentrated in cities, coupled with ever-more elderly who do not spend, who consolidate their goods, switching to safeguarded investments (and planning to meet their God) as they downsize their houses and their lifestyles will put an existential challenge to capitalism – an economic model predicated upon growth. Oh sure America will be fine, we will keep absorbing the world’s most productive long after Japan and Europe and China turn to the shuffle-board table; but the empty towns around the old continent? They are here to stay.
Yes, we will have to adjust, but that too is good. Because the greatest of all our challenges in the next decade is to at long last turn our gaze to our tired old planet that we so love, which has hosted us and nurtured us and given to us so freely of her bounty. To care for the tiny turtles as they claw their way to the oceans; the bears in their shrinking habitats; the weeping thirsty koalas in their burned-out forests. The animals which make our lives worth living – these must be the focus of our next decade. I’m not talking here about ‘climate change’, that supra-national bait and switch in which the nouveau Marxists get power and prestige and the animals get nothing. It’s not about that for the Paris Accord crowd and their globalist ‘NGOs’; for they are part of that privileged tribe which flies private-jetted around the world eager to protect their climate privilege, eating fine caviar as they revel in the power. Though I’m not a huge fan of Greta, a scoldy tool of the totalitarian greens – dark forces the market does not control (and totalitarianism always seeks its own power and knows no debate and therefore no reason or accountability) – she does have a bit of a point, and who wasn’t at least a little satisfied to watch her lecture the fat socialists who have overseen the rape of the planet. Not that it is their fault, they never had the right tools even if they had the will; as I’ve said before the era of the supra-national is over. And good riddance. This decade we will be called to solve the problems ourselves. We who live in the cities; with our mayors and our governors. We, in America, who have reforested more than 18,000,000 acres of land in the last 20 years (not by signing a convention but by each and all of us planting trees and pushing for green spaces), will again lead the way; regrowing our old forests and reseeding them with life more abundant. Our companies, technologies and empowered citizens firmly in command – for it is not the American way to outsource our problems to third-world committees – we will help our own reversal go global. Indira Gandhi once said “Poverty is the greatest polluter”. On this, at least, she was right. But prosperity, that is the greatest friend of nature. So what will we do with our new-found prosperity? Just you watch, for it is already happening. We will plug it back into our rivers and lakes; solve our plastic problems (like we did our ozone, our deforestation, and every other problem); break our reliance on harmful fuels and return the balance to our world, a balance missing since the industrial revolution but a balance which is now in our grasp. This is the great challenge of 2020, and one in which we are all well equipped to participate. I know, I have droned on – but I am excited; there are many things that will happen over the next ten years and I feel privileged to live now in this age and to be strong for the fight. As Ray Bradbury once said “Stuff your eyes with wonder”, and in the 2020’s I intend to do just that.
That is my New Decade’s Resolution. Won’t you join me??