Ben Sasse and Max Boot recently published books about the current division in the body politic. Sasse is a Republican senator in the wannabe Kennedy mold, tall, clean-cut, handsome, extremely literate, from a small town he idolizes and dreams about, while hunting power in the biggest of big towns, Washington, DC.
I know little about Max Boot other than his sourness about those 63 million people out there in the great beyond who voted in Trump, and not some cultivated RINO like Jeb! Max who? Well, you might ask. He advised Bush, McCain and Romney – losers in other words – and was one of the clearest voices advocating for sending the young men of the flyover states to war in Iraq. That’s Max Boot. He is mourning “our” conflicted state, by which he seems to mean that we’re all RACIST.
This duo of exiled right-wingers was joined in the New York Times last week, by Arthur Brooks head of the American Enterprise Institute, who claimed our inalterable loneliness is causing us to hate each other and we have lost community and cohesion.
The song of division and heartbreak is sung by cerebral brainiacs in every generation. Gone, they cry, gone our collegiality, gone our small town love and care for each other. Gone our religious spirit. Now, we have alienation and desperation and loneliness.
Equally, on the left, the splendid Joel Kotkin just published an essay “proving” the gig economy, upon which an increasing number of us live means desperate meaningless lives for all. Weirdly for one so independent of thought, he cannot see how fast the gig economy is growing, how tantalizing it is to be your own boss. Doom awaits us all in the future as jobs are automated, claims Kotkin.
First, though I’d like to ask any of these men and women, publisher or writer, have they ever lived in a small town, and not one they planned to escape as soon as they could grab the right scholarship. My guess is nopers, it’s all fantasy. Because small towns are famously gossipy, mean-spirited, feud-ridden and outright exclusionary. I live in one of those towns now and grew up in one even smaller.
Try the “community” of an upper-class boarding school. An elite newsmagazine. The fashion community in Paris. Soho bohemia in 1985. 19th Century Ontario. The medieval Church, the Highland clans, the revolutionary cadres of Africa. Like the dozen or so communities I have lived in since childhood all are or were riven by jealousies, competition, hysterics, anger, and backstabbing, always backstabbing.
One of the many gifts of modernism is that we no longer have to put up with the sneaking viciousness of the human in relationship. We can live anonymously, and choose with whom we associate. If people aren’t nice to us, unlike in a rooted-for-life existence, we can wave buh-bye. And the digital revolution has given us all just that.
I personally have never felt less lonely. I live on the edge of the world but am in contact with people all over the world, in places I have never been. I can disappear into the hills and forests, and the moment I get home be talking to a friend in South Africa or London or Hawaii. I can keep in contact with the people I loved from the age of six. The wealth of association given to me by the digital revolution is pretty much never-ending, the stimulation and opportunity are the same.
Right below the surface, where Sasse, Boot, and Brooks have clearly not looked, an entire new culture is forming. Every sector is revolutionizing, and connection is growing so fast you can hardly keep up. Spirituality? Booming. Food innovation? Also booming. Small town and small city restoration? Booming. Local nature conservation and restoration? Booming. Innovation in health? Booming. The gig economy? Doubling every year. Education? You can learn anything from anybody at very little cost. Housing innovation? Exploding. The arts? Ok, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to the arts, but nearly every village and town boasts a varied, rich arts community, which can only improve. The point is that none of this innovation is coming from the corporate sector, the government or the universities. It is all from unaligned individuals creating their own worlds out of the glare of Boot, Sasse, and Brooks etc.
Richard Florida’s cool mega-cities have morphed into a morass of tumult, disease, lack of unity, violence, fear, noise and unending stress. Out in the forgotten tundra, North Americans are doing what they have been doing since the founding. Creating freedom through individual innovation.
The state of our community has never been stronger.
Charles, the future sovereign of the English-speaking peoples, turned 70 yesterday. He sails into this stature trailing an almost unimaginable privilege and wealth, well-deserved mockery from every segment of the polite and impolite worlds, and a spectacularly dead wife, for which most hold him responsible.
Over the past weeks, we have been blessed with a tsunami of PR, a masterfully conceived and executed campaign to burnish his image including a trip to colorful Ghana and two flattering biographies, these biographies, moreover excerpted in newspapers with massive world-wide circulation. Google has uploaded a detailed google-eye view of his gardens at Highgrove and official residence, Clarence House. There have been television profiles and documentaries, multiple photo sessions with and without grandchildren, wife and fetching daughters-in-law and a host of print extolments from every still-reputable publication. If you are a Royalist these days, you are rolling in clover.
I tend towards the republican view of the Royal Family and particularly of Charles who seemed to me to be a thorough-going putz. This view is influenced by a ridiculous encounter, where I was forced by my employer to attend a private lunch and polo match to be capped by a formal introduction to the great man. I dutifully climbed into a designer suit and went off to a Palladian mansion with an attached polo field, ate, and flattered my way through the assembled aristocrats.
Charles did not want to meet me, as it turned out. He wanted to insult me. After the match he roared up to our viewing tent, my guide pushed me into the scrim and through a preposterous fifteen minutes, I was shoved towards him, and he abruptly turned his back to me. Like, over and over and over again. Shove, angle, the Royal back. Shove, angle, the Royal back. If I hadn’t been in shock, I would have been in stitches.
Sometime after I realized he was deliberately insulting me because our sister publication, People, sold another million copies every time they put Diana on the cover. So they did so. A lot. And he was truly incandescent with envy. Charles had called me down to the Palace a few months prior and offered me, through his licentious PR Dickie Arbiter, an exclusive, if he could have the cover of Time. Time was unimpressed by this offer. He was a snore to the brainiacs at Rockefeller Center. Never mind that I could have an exclusive with Diana for Life Magazine, the holy grail of 90’s journalism if they gave him a profile in Time. Nope. Nope. Nope.
So he decided to insult me the only way he could. After which he roared off in his Aston Martin, top down, feeling fine.
Understandably he earned me as an enemy. Further, an enemy who thought he was ridiculous. The silly elitism of his stance on Global Warming cemented my view. I pitied his agonies over his dead wife, his unpopularity, his commitment to “the Rottweiler”, nevertheless, I thought he was an arrogant, ridiculously privileged putz without an ounce of intellectual rigor.
Until I saw the gardens at Highgrove and was instantly seduced. There is nothing man-made more beautiful on earth than the Highgrove gardens. It is a visual representation of the English soul. I don’t care if he had endless money to build them, it was his vision, and he has created an astonishing tour of the most developed aesthetic I have seen and I include all known cultures, the hanging gardens of Babylon being unchronicled. The English have persisted as a dominant race because they methodically integrate every beautiful and useful creation of other cultures. Illustrated, most recently, by the Windsors’ adoption of a half-black Hollywood starlet and possible yacht girl and elevating her to Duchess.
Other elites exclude. The English ravish.
The Highgrove garden may be the final argument for the monarchy and more for Charles’s future Kingship. As curator more than ruler, Charles is an example of a leader who has gone through the fires of hell, repented his sins, and recreated the garden.
The Windsors represent. Long live.
“What you call ‘salvation’ belongs to the time
If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after?
The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten—
that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an empty apartment
in the City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next life
you will wear the face of satisfied desire.
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