Friday, June 24, 2016

The Book That Will Get You Through This Year

The same British friend I mentioned in my previous posting reminded me about the classic book "The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam," by Barbara W. Tuchman. It describes the supremely self-destructive, irrational jags (aka unforced errors) societies always seem to take. It's not a wryly aloof catalog of horrors, but more of an attempt to understand...or at least to learn to calmly spot and endure them without constantly rubbing eyes in disbelief.

Our world, never terribly wise, is in a spasm of particularly virulent idiocy right now*. If you read one book this year, let it be this one (you can find it second-hand for 1¢ plus shipping in all the usual places).

I'm not suggesting The March of Folly so you can be more insightful, or more eruditely informed. It's not so you can hear some egghead's theories about humanity. It's that you'll need this for your psychological well being. If you don't read it, this annus horribilis of Trump/Brexit will make your wheels stressfully spin day after day, as as you flail for rational explanation; for solid ground to stand upon. The book gives you context, sweet context, so you can wearily absorb the latest and get on with it.

These periods have happened before, and will happen again. It's something humans sometimes do, much as cats vomit hair or chimpanzees rip faces off. It's a nervous tic in the macro, a bad that must be expected along with human good.

I read The March of Folly during the debt ceiling freezes, in much the same way that elderly church ladies look to the Bible for consolation and wisdom.

* - I date this current spasm to the Cheney administration's invasion of Iraq. Even aside from the $2 trillion cost and 500K+ Iraqi dead, nearly every American foreign policy problem either stems from or was exacerbated by that debacle. And the neo-cons who perpetrated it have been forming Trump's foreign policy inner circle, even though he's excoriated that war.

Bonus Indignation: Three Brexit links from interesting angles: "The downfall of David Cameron: a European tragedy", "The improbable revolutionaries (England’s vote for Brexit exposes the anarchic streak in an otherwise pragmatic people)", and "Why Brexit is grim news for the world economy".

My feeling? Forget for a moment the moronic self-infliction of this calamity. There are ways to mitigate it. Just because there is not at the moment a precedent for a European country to efficiently work and trade with EU from outside doesn't mean ways won't be found. It's to everyone's advantage to find such ways. I think it's a mistake to assume EU is a static thing that can't/won't alter its structure and gravitational field in response to this event. Ten years from now, the relationship may have been tacitly reinstated under a different name, as the boring bureaucrats on all sides - who attend to unsexy details - quietly work to normalize. They’ll hit hard political limits on banner issues such as immigration, but those are a small slice.

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