Wars of Nostalgia

Things move slowly, for a long time, and then very fast. Europe has long become a museum to its own past; which is why we love it. We walk the cobblestone streets; dine in the ancient taverns under empty castles drinking wine that was made when life was lived then, raging all around and not in the rear view mirror. When people looked to the future, not the past for their ideas of the west.

But that museum has become volatile. We are aging, all of us. France and Italy and Japan; Russia and China and – yes – the United States. Democracies reflecting the voters around them; dictatorships mirroring society, octogenarians with their bent fingers on long-unused buttons, finally being pushed. What do we have to lose? Just our order, which is over anyways. We all know that, it has been announced over and over and over again. In literature, movies and articles – long gone are the days of Verne, looking to what man might achieve. Or of Maugham, sanding over the jagged edges of empire. Now we read Kass Morgan, those who read. Most don’t, preferring to watch “Resident Evil”, stockpiling food.

Civilizations rise and fall with ethnicities; some of which become powerful and dominate the world, before they fall away usually in an explosion. These are not once-and-done, but reflect ambition unto strength unto complacency unto decadence in a rise and fall as systematic, as predictable as the sun. Parthia and Persia and Assyria; Greece and Rome. America. China won’t make it, the numbers outpaced the ambition – demography and debt writing the epitaph long before the imagined glory had arrived.

I am reading “Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere” by Lev Gumilev, a Russian Soviet writer who spent 14 years in the gulag, son of Anna Akhmatova the famous poet. Likely the book that radicalized Putin; about where civilizations come from and how they are to be defended. But the Russian is, like the Italian or the Japanese, a geriatric civilization on the wane. There are now almost as many Muslims in Moscow as Orthodox; just like there are more in Brussels than Catholics. Paris is a city of Africans, outside the ring where we all go to drink expensive wines of yesterday and buy used books imagining the days of Hemingway and James. Gumilev outlines the rise and the fall of ethnicities, and the special vital energy – he calls it passionarity – that gives them transcendence.

We don’t like to talk about ethnicities anymore, it smacks of something we don’t think is quite kosher.   

The young people gave us that, the few that there are anyways. They are searching for meaning. For a fight of their own – for a war of their own. Nobody wants to sit in front of ROKU watching stories of their parents’ wars – wars to defend museum continents, wars of ethnicity that marked the apex of our elders’ generation. No, they want no part of the old men’s wars, memories and nostalgia weaponized not as a pathway to greatness but the last violent gasp of a dying way of life which too was violent. Instead they envision utopia – who does not? I was utopian, at one time, as were you. Utopia, according to the scarce young, is to be found in undoing any ethnicity, once and for all – ethnicities that caused wars past (and, yes, present). They are post-religion, so no need to fight any reformation, any counter-reformation. They are post-ideology, socialism is accepted as our states become massive, confusing, intrusive, and the inequality they created gives us a permanent aristocracy. Well, post-ideological, except the perpetual ideology of race which they are desperate to eliminate. Race, not ethnicity, because ethnicity has very little to do with race – it is instead about geography and experience and mutual protection; joint language; unified destiny. A permanent, global mono-ethnicity of the aggrieved; that is the young people’s war and it very well might go hot.

Except, for now, they do not control the red buttons. Those are controlled by Putin – Xi – Biden – Trump. Men from another age sending soldiers to die for a memory.

Everything is changing very quickly now, it is not liberty or prosperity that is what we strive for. It is order. The enemy is not the gulag, it is Mad Max. A wild, workless, workerless, ungoverned world that creeps closer as the anarchy inches in from the peripheries hic sunt dracones towards places once cold and clean and now where one does not care to venture out at night. War returned to Europe, starting in Armenia and extending, a slow creeping across the continent taking with it lives of the young people, who don’t seem to have a future anyways. A great replacement is in full swing, but it’s not on purpose, it’s not a conspiracy – it is an ethnogenesis, as Gumilev states; one order replacing another just as Rome replaced Greece, not ending the Hellenistic but absorbing it into something else. Something greater? Or something more depraved? Only time will tell us that; and it is not that it may not be guided. We are not the pawns of fate – we do have a hand in our own destiny, we do have a role in the world we build. We do have free will; limited thought it is by our means, our environment, our geography. How will we guide that which is just over the rolling edge of the horizon? That is the important question of today.

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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