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July 06, 2022

Wednesday Morning Rant [Joe Mannix]


The Impossible Dream

In the limitless realm of human delusion, there is a recurring theme as old as time. There is one concept that people repeatedly - even perpetually - try to make real despite its perfect track record of failure. It fails every time regardless of era and at every scale from the personal to the global, without notable exception. No, I am not talking about socialism but about something much older: the concept of status quo ante.

The concept that after a conflict we can go back to the way things were before is intoxicating. It never works. It cannot work. Conflicts have costs. The costs may range from hurt feelings and wounded pride all the way up to the fall of empires, but those costs must be borne by the survivors of the conflict. There is never a way to go back. You cannot unlearn what you learned in the conflict. To borrow an old cliche, you cannot unring the bell. The concept of status quo ante may be a manifestation of boundless human optimism, but that doesn't make it possible.

The last several years have been a time of continuing existential conflict and this is now being recognized by more and more people. The intellectual class has been exposed to be craven and stupid. That cannot be undiscovered. The global power class has been exposed to have nearly limitless power and zero regard for morality, righteousness or honor. That cannot be unlearned. The social and cultural institutions have demonstrated that they are at war against the wider populations worldwide. This cannot be forgotten. Perhaps most important of all, the political system has been exposed to be hopelessly corrupt, from the basement mail room all the way to the highest seats of power. This cannot be unseen.

Because of this exposure - because of what we've learned and what they have demonstrated - it is no longer possible to go back. The idea of restoration - that the damage can be undone, that the malefactors can be punished, that the institutions can be repaired, that the government can be fixed and returned to republicanism (concept, not party) as we knew it - is another in a long line of hoping for status quo ante. What comes out of this existential conflict that is gripping the world will not be restoration any more than the NT crowd's expectation that the conservatives will come back to the plantation in the post-Trump era will be fulfilled.

What will come out of this will be the same thing that always come out of a major conflict, military or otherwise: something new. What the world looks like after all this is settled is a mystery, but the only thing of which I am confident is that it will be something different. The institutions, offices, countries and the like may all have the same names (they probably will), but they will be in a new real form. The postwar world in which most of us grew up is ending and will no longer exist. It will vanish as completely as the prewar world vanished.

We have some control over what comes out on the other side of the conflict, but it will not be the restoration of the world as we knew it. Status quo ante will be as impossible for us as it was for our ancestors.

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posted by Open Blogger at 11:00 AM

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