Friday, March 26, 2010

Black Swan?

There are occasional commenters on righty blogs who suggest that revolution, including possible violence, may be in store for us. I have little patience with this, not because I find it horrible, but because I find it silly. Yet it occurs to me that my reasons for thinking it silly are no better supported than the reasons other find it likely. A Man from Mars would likely say "I don't see that either of you are offering very convincing reasons for your premise." So the likelihood revolution, in the sense of "dramatic change in how we live" rather than "guys firing out of windows," seems worth considering. The guys shooting out of windows part seems too incredible to me to consider, and so I will pretend for the moment that it is so incredible as not to be discussed. There is a nagging thought at the back of my brain that says "it seemed incredible to many who had it come upon them nonetheless," but I bury that. This is not that sort of country, where presidents get assassinated or enemies blow up our buildings.

As usual, I will clear up some debris first. Violence tends to come off the left instead of the right in this country, and in most western nations. The usual pattern is that people who believe themselves gentle make excuses while thugs get violent. Then the incidents go down the memory hole. It is not always even true lefties who commit the violence, but any member of the grievance lobby who believes The Right is responsible for their unhappiness in some way. And as progressives certainly believe that is true, at any rate, they give encouragement to such, even folks with very illiberal values. The enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that.

Nonetheless, there is a strong defensive posture of violence on the right, touchy and suspicious, saying "We'll be ready." This is felt by those on the left as similar to peasants with pitchforks, or storming the Bastille, but that is almost a complete misunderstanding by them. It is likely a projection, in fact - a supposing that their anger must be like my anger, and my anger goes on offense.

Yet other revolutions, less than stormings but more than realignments, may be more possible than I would have thought. In NNT's The Black Swan, Taleb relates that Lebanon was thought to be a balanced and stable place despite the conflicts around it. When political upheaval came, many Lebanese tooked up temporary residence in hotels in Cyprus to wait it out, expecting a return to the normalcy that had prevailed for centuries. They are still there in hotels, decades later. (Excerpt)

So. Inertia is powerful, and Washington tends to run on as it always has, suggesting that this is all just a lot of noise and things won't change much. That's first-class proof, isn't it? Second, people have been predicting imminent cataclysmic changes as long as I can remember - likely race wars, class wars, Christian apocalypse, environmental destruction, population explosion, currency meltdown, oil crises, you name it, someone has looked at it and announced that doom is nigh. So that proves... okay, no it doesn't, but it suggests... well, even that's a little strong. What it suggests is no one wants to look stupid by predicting disasters that don't happen, so it's socially safer to predict no disaster is coming.

Third, we've had politicians who lie before, so we can live through that. And we've had economic crises, so we'll get through that. And we've had enemies and gotten through that, and we've been divided and gotten through that, so, so... I mean, this is nothing new. Americans argue about things and sometimes we have wars and depressions and stuff, but...

Fourth, America is destined to be around for a long time, right? And so far it has been. It was here yesterday, it's here today. Won't God just make sure that whatever we do, He'll keep us going, because He really needs America in order to... do...something. And fifth, a lot of those people predicting disaster are clearly weird, so we don't have to believe them.

History does not, in fact, repeat itself. Some actions tend to produce certain results, and it is wise to know that, but this precise combination of events has never occurred. Not in ancient Greece, not in Medieval Venice, not in the USSR, not in any of the American decades. Each day is new, and uncharted.


Brent said...

Several months ago, on a long drive up to New England, my wife and I were listening to Thomas F. Madden's history of medieval Europe. When he described how people at the time had no idea, even for a century or two afterward, that Rome had fallen for good - that if asked, they would have said the Western Empire was still a going concern (albeit with a few problems) - we looked at each other with wild surmise.

Sam L. said...

It's "Look what you made me do!"

jaed said...

"God watches over fools, drunks, and the United States of America."

This is hardly a complimentary sentiment, but nonetheless I take comfort in the thought at times.