In the Waiting Room of the Apocalypse


Don’t think of an elephant. The elephant, that is, in the room.

Okay, we’ll play this game. The United States is careening toward a catastrophe that might make the Great Depression look like a head-cold, and, as Eric Levitz reminds us in New York magazine:

Americans live in a society that warehouses more than 2 million people in penitentiaries rife with state-ordered torture and unpunished sexual abuse; a society that lives off the “essential” labor of workers who have no right to vote, and whom the state reserves the right to deport; a society that allows hundreds of thousands of its people to go homelessmillions of its children to go hungry, and dozens of its Fortune 500 companies to go untaxed; a society that condemned much its Black population to enslavement for 246 years, Jim Crow rule for a century after that, and underinvestment, underemployment, and overincarceration ever since; a society that abets the war crimes of Islamist autocraciescollectively punishes the populations of adversarial regimes, and undermines global action on an ever-deepening climate crisis that threatens the global poor with mass displacement, if not mass death.

Eric Levitz, “‘Defending a Free Society’ Requires Radically Changing This One

That’s on a good day. And this is most assuredly not a good day. We haven’t had a lot of those lately.

On this blog before we’ve quoted Winston Churchill’s words (later quoted by Reagan), spoken in 1941 to a terrified and battered Britain, that “the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits — not animals. There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”

The people who have faced job losses, homelessness, hunger, police brutality and sickness unto death still went out into the streets and demanded a better life in June 2020. They understood that there is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space.

Yet our greatest literary lights and intellectuals are focusing their attention on Cancel Culture, in a laughable letter published in Harper’s magazine. The clear and present danger, while western democracy slides into the bottomless pit of nihilism, is that some people were mean to JK Rowling on Twitter. Some people who are very much admired by the writers and editors of Tropics of Meta — Noam Chomsky, Arlie Hochschild, or Paul Starr, for example — put their names on the letter. So did some people very much not liked by us; we can always pass the time during the Quarantine by playing Six Degrees of Jeffrey Epstein.

History will record, with the greatest astonishment, that the writers, artists, and thinkers with the greatest insight spent this wondrous and horrific time in the life of humankind…. sulking. As Dirk Calloway once said, “With friends like you who needs friends?”

But we knew that already. We are all alone together in this world, and only we can save ourselves. No one else is going to do it for us.