We've all been hearing fears of civil war in America recently, and while I think those fears are overblown (as fears generally are), I want to address something that doesn't make the news feeds:
the fact that we can take this question seriously exposes a sick, degenerate status quo.
We need to be clear on this point.
Arguments Pro and Con
I don't believe civil war will come to America on any serious scale. My reason is a simple one:
I can see 5,000 hard leftists and 5,000 hard rightists going out to kill each other, but I can't see my neighbors pulling their guns down from their attics, dusting them off, and running out to shoot people across town.
Only the most irrational and agitated people kill over politics. Average people may waste oceans of time and money on politics, but they do not stab and shoot those who disagree.
Jonathan Logan, however (my co-author for The New Age of Intelligence), sees it differently. He makes a thoughtful, informed argument for civil war, and I think it's worth passing along. I'll have to summarize:
For young people to be susceptible to war (and it's the young, not the old, who fight), they must not be too settled, not too invested, not too satisfied, not too stable. And they must be dragged in by some motive, be it "making a name for themselves" or "fighting evil" or whatever.
Few young people in the West are willing to fight "for my country." (Approximately 12% in Germany and 20% in the US.) But when you ask if they would participate in riots against an unjust political order, the numbers shoot up. In Germany, it's 66%; in the US, it's about 60%.
For a civil war to break out, enough people must perceive the current situation as unbearable and be willing to use violence.
The police must be unable or unwilling to keep the two sides apart.
That's the theory. Here are Jonathan's observation:
There's a growing inability of "cultural progressives" and "cultural conservatives" to engage in dialog.
For a long time the "cultural progressives" had success after success. That led to the internal perception that they were not just right but also absolutely right… that only stupid hicks stood in their way.
Meanwhile, the "cultural conservatives" grew dissatisfied. They were pushed to the point where they had a hard time tolerating some of the things that went on.
Then came Brexit and Trump. Before those, progressives were absolutely convinced that they were right, that they would win, and that the future would be bright. This wasn't just an assumption; it was a conviction… like the sun rising tomorrow morning. And then they learned that they were wrong. That was more than just an unexpected failure; it destroyed their world perception.
The result is widespread post-traumatic stress disorder. The progressives didn't just lose; they were traumatized. They now experience anything not 100% on their side as being violent, hurtful, triggering. Their way to deal with this is to push more, to become more radical, to accept less compromise. They feel that everyone else is actually trying to kill them.
At the same time the cultural conservatives experienced something new: victory. Previously they had only lost. Still, when they see new pushes from the progressives, they remember all the times they were beaten, and they feel pushed back into a corner.
So, we have two groups, pushed into corners, and between them is… nothing. They are deeply polarized and don't have anything in common anymore.
And the problem is… it's the Millennials, a generation that knows they can expect nothing from the status quo. Furthermore, they lack tools for conflict resolution. Their generation is split between progressives and conservatives. And because they are neither the largest nor the most influential generation, they have no way to implement anything.
From this we get people on the progressive side who must radicalize, who must destroy the other side. If you look at the various progressive protests and riots, that's exactly what you see. They are desperate, hurting, hating… and feeling righteous all the while.
Concurrently, the conservatives are becoming afraid. They think that if this thing on the progressive side doesn't calm down, they'll have to defend themselves.
If these movements continue, Millennial conservatives and Millennial progressives will pull out clubs and knives.
At the same time, the police – because of the progressive/conservative stalemate in politics – are unable to decisively take sides.
That's how you start a civil war.
While I think Jonathan makes important points, I think, and certainly hope, the people who are currently so polarized will recover themselves and leave the paranoid extremes. (As we were waiting to publish, this wonderful letter came in, seeking to pull young people back to reason. I complain about academia plenty, but the professors who authored this get my heartfelt thanks.)
Here's something I wrote a month or so after Trump's election (and Brexit):
Where is the cool head that says something sensible? Perhaps like this: "Listen boys, this isn't worth tearing the county apart over. We may not like Trump, but he cares about this country in his own way, and he'll work four years to reach his goals. He's not going to sell nukes to terrorists, and he's not out to conquer the world. Let him have his turn."
The failure of my generation is that such cool-headed people are absent from the public stage.
The sin of the media complex is that they're stirring this up for ratings. If civil war does come, they will be the true villains.
As those of us of a certain age used to say, "It's time to split this scene." Politics is poison and rulership is barbarity. It's time to dump the status quo and to start building something better.
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A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:
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Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people's conceptions.
There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.
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