Friday, March 6, 2009

Richard Fernandez on our predicament

I've followed Belmont Club for several years and I continue to be impressed by Wretchard, a wonderfully intelligent man, a man of faith, a man who writes so beautifully that I'm always grabbing a piece of a paper to jot something down. This is a clear thinker and today there are not many of those. What follows are two comments that I had to set aside so I could, and hope anyone who comes here, will take to heart.

There are no “Good Men” of Action, they are all immobilized by the PC culture

There’s still us and while we can’t do much, we can do a little. We can begin by keeping our heads and our vision clear. No panic, no wild conspiracy theories. Just plain common sense. And that can’t be discounted. I have a little story. In the late 1980s I was in a building when a major earthquake struck. There were about 70 people in an open plan office. About three or four of the people in the office went into a total panic. Fell to the floor, started kicking in their air in hysteria. About 63 or 64 people stood rooted, immobile to the ground, wondering what to do next. About three people remained standing and you could see they were absolutely cool. They led everyone to safety and had the hysterical people carried bodily out of danger. Why? It was nature. I figure this is a universal distribution, and that in any crisis about 10% of the people will go nuts. Ten percent will know what to do. Eighty percent will stand paralyzed but will act when they get reasonable leadership.

So keep your cool, which I know you will. Don’t worry too much. Sanity is a great virtue. If things go bad you’ll see a lot of weird stuff of all kinds. Crazy stuff. If you keep cool, the majority have someone to follow. If not to safety, then at least not over the cliff. And that’s no small thing.

I don’t think we’ll ever see a Hitler again, not in the sense of a guy with a postage stamp mustache and abrupt gestures bleating out speeches. But I think the same passions which inflamed the 40s inflame men of every generation, simply because they are people too. During a time of discontinuity, there are always those who see their chance. And we would be ill-advised, I think, to assume it will this or that person beforehand. However as a general proposition, periods of crisis are times when things can go either way.

In a crisis, the opportunity aspect of the moment is often ignored, or as in the case of Rahm Emmanuel, misunderstood. He thinks it’s a chance to implement a pre-existing agenda. No. Opportunities in a crisis are windows in which we can recognize the new. Not the old. It’s the time when we see the future sail into view as a Black Swan. Rahm Emmanuel, if I understand him aright, thinks it a chance to do what he always secretly wanted but never had a chance to do. What a small man.

The real chance of greatness in crisis is to be open to the right opening doors and to ignore the wrong ones. You can’t approach the future aiming to control it. Only to say ‘yes’ to the right things. So I am consoled by the idea that we are, despite all the troubles, on the verge of a better world. But not just yet.

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