Fentanyl, Inc. updates Sam Quinones’s seminal 2015 Dreamland, about the American opioid epidemic, focusing on the synthetic opioid fentanyl, the use of which has exploded in the past five years. No doubt, increasing drug use is a very important topic for the future of America. Unfortunately, Ben Westhoff’s book covers it in a disorganized and blinkered fashion, where the author shrinks from obvious conclusions. The title itself shows the problem. It implies some fictional central entity controls the fentanyl trade, and points the finger at imaginary “rogue chemists.” A much more accurate title would be Fentanyl: How the Chinese and the Mexicans Are Deliberately Killing Americans.
A review by me of this book has been published in the excellent journal IM-1776. The first paragraph, and a link to the entire review, and the journal itself, can be found below. America is already a low-trust society, and with good reason societal trust is rocketing further downward. Yet Americans still, by and large, trust medical institutions — perhaps more than any other set of entities. The pseudonymous Paracelsus, a practicing physician, in his book with the deliberately ironic title First Do No Harm, narrates how we are foolish to trust the medical profession, what is really the medical industry. Published by Calamo Press, First Do No Harm tells us, in short, that the two words that characterize American medicine are not “health and healing,” or even “science and rationality,” as one might think, but rather “corruption and oligarchy.” . . . Read more at IM-1776!
It has been a long time, a millennium and a half, since Ethiopia was a relevant player on the world stage. But I sometimes wonder if, as the present age grinds to its stupid end, the time of Ethiopia, with its ancient, self-confident Christian civilization, has come round again. Out of the corner of my mind’s eye, I see the Ethiopians sweeping northwards to dominate the Middle East, then replacing much of what is left of the decayed Europeans, perhaps linking up with their Orthodox brethren, expelling the Turks, and returning most of Eurasia to the Christian fold, igniting a new syncretic civilization. Probably not, but why not? That’s what we’re going to explore today.
Who rules? That’s what we all want to know. The Managerial Revolution, James Burnham’s still-influential 1941 book (the subject, for example, of recent pieces by Aaron Renn and Julius Krein), gave that eternal question a fresh answer. Broadly speaking his was, we can see eighty years later, indisputably the correct analysis. Burnham agreed that capitalism, private enterprise as the engine of the ruling class, was dying, the usual opinion in that tumultuous time, but made the entirely new claim that what would replace it was not, as most assumed, socialism, but a new thing. Namely, the ascent of managers, a new ruling class, who would hugely expand government and use it to mold society into new forms for their own benefit.
To defeat your enemy, you must know your enemy. Therefore, we must know what the Left is. I use a consistent core definition—the Left is those who follow the prime commandments of limitless emancipation and forced egalitarianism. You can further define the Left by example, beginning with the revolutionaries of 1789, and drawing a line through the Paris Commune, the Bolsheviks, Mao, and the cretins of 1968. Where does that line extend today? At this moment, most would say it has emerged as “wokeism,” the self-given catchall term for those consumed by the latest iteration of Left ideology. Quite a few on the Right fear wokeism and predict its dominance in apocalyptic terms. I am here to preach the opposite; I will explain why wokeism (which I will call late-stage leftism, or LSL) is no special threat, rather merely a manifestation of the centuries-old scourge of the Left, and a devolved, last-gasp one at that.
How will our current regime fall? That’s what we all want to know. For those who have eyes to see, it is obvious the American regime is extremely fragile. It awaits only the inevitable crisis for it to collapse. I am staking my reputation, such as it is, on this claim. But because we cannot see precisely how this will come to pass, many believe, against all evidence, that our regime can grind on for decades. Reading Stephen Kotkin’s analysis of how Communist regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed in 1989 offers us insights into our own immediate future. Uncivil Society does not offer total clarity about the future, for nothing can do that, but it confirms many of my own thoughts, and so it must be an excellent book.
Are you often disheartened by the world around us? Do you see almost nothing but enervation and cowardice displayed in public life? Of course you are, and you do, or you’re not paying any attention. But it does not have to be this way. Read, instead of your Twitter feed or the latest regime propaganda, this book—the story of how, four hundred years before Christ, ten thousand Greek soldiers, free men all, through determination and vital energy extracted themselves from the disastrous situation in which they found themselves. You will then perhaps remember that all ages, most of all the current Age of Stupid, come to an end, and you will see what spirit must be reborn to remake the world as it should be.
Not long ago, as I wrote, I was listening to a playlist on Spotify (I listen to music when I write, but never when I read). It was Spotify’s weekly list of suggested songs based on listening history—for me, a mix of genres, heavy on thumping EDM (electronic dance music), my preferred writing music, but also indie folk. One song caught my attention—“Cold Missouri Waters,” a haunting song about thirteen smokejumpers dying while fighting a forest fire. I was interested enough to look up the song, and found it relates a true story, equally haunting—the Mann Gulch Fire, in 1949. And from there I found this classic work, now thirty years old.
A hundred years ago, Booth Tarkington was probably the most famous and successful author in America. But today, even in Indiana, his birthplace and the state with which he is forever associated, and where I live, Tarkington is forgotten. Purdue University has a dormitory, Tarkington Hall, at which my late father was a faculty advisor. Pathetically, the Hall’s website says of Tarkington only that he was “a Purdue student of two years who as an alumnus, made multiple generous donations to Purdue.” Time has left Tarkington behind. Perhaps this is fitting, though, because he was entranced and bound by nostalgia, an understandable but ultimately pointless guiding principle.
Digital communications technology is yet mostly a formless thing, still being born, upon which we moderns imprint our fears and our hopes. Some dreamers see it as an unalloyed good, which when grown will let us slip the chains of our humanity. Others, more grounded, see it as a genie best stuffed back into his bottle and dropped down a mineshaft, for otherwise its acid will corrode all that is permanent, melting it into the air. James Poulos takes neither approach; he is the apostle of creating the new way of human flourishing, finding the narrow path that threads between false utopia and catastrophe. “Which way, Western man?”, asks the meme. Poulos has an answer for us.