The State of the Tribulation Address

The State of the Tribulation Address

Perhaps only two-thirds of the nation were able to receive President Obama’s last State of the Union Address on Tuesday, January 24, in real time. Much of the electrical grid collapsed during the extraordinary solar storm of that day and the preceding day; elsewhere, cable or satellite transmission failed. Even where the president could be heard, the video component was often not available, or it was a flickering kaleidoscopic pattern of interrupted digital transmission. Many stations that could not provide video chose to display the rolling Aurora then visible over the cityscape of the local metropolis. In any case, one way or another, the whole nation had seen or read the president’s address by Friday:

My fellow Americans, I come to you tonight with the most grievous message that will ever be delivered by an incumbent of this office. I say this with sad confidence, because the sorrows that occurred in my predecessors’ times are already known, and I will have no successors.My fellow Americans, for some years the government of the United States, and the governments of other advanced nations, has possessed information indicating that hitherto poorly understood cosmological forces would soon trigger a mass extinction comparable to the Permian-Triassic Event of a quarter-billion years ago, a far more devastating disaster than the catastrophe that destroyed the dinosaurs 65-million years ago. The theoretical issues connected with this hypothesis were resolved in 2010; empirical study confirmed last summer that the process has in fact begun. I come before you tonight to announce that it will be completed in the final weeks of this year.

My fellow Americans, it is very unlikely that I will be living this time next year; I intend to remain resident in the White House no matter the course of events, though we know that the very shape of the continents will change. Similarly, very few of those listening to me tonight have as much as a year to live. But not none. I will now explain the transnational project to ensure that not just the human race but civilization survives, and also what steps government at all levels, and you yourselves, will be taking to offer some hope of survival outside that great effort….

It was an unusually long address, substantially over an hour. While the president spoke, there was not so much as a cough in the House chamber. When he was finished, he rose, gathered his papers, and walked up the aisle out of the unbroken silence.

The Final Address was much discussed in the following days. The odd thing was that there continued to be other topics of discussion. As it was in the days of Noah, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, even though this time they were very well informed about the Flood, and even though signs multiplied whose significance people understood very well.

* * *

Not least of these signs was a column by an exasperated Mark Steyn about an encounter with the American health insurance system, a column in which words occur that one would expect to come only from the mouth of some spine-softened evangelist for the Servile State:

I notice when you’re standing in line that the big difference between a trip to the pharmacy in the U.S. and one in the rest of the developed world is that in America the druggists spend virtually their entire time talking about not the medicine but the “customer”‘s degree of access to it.

As is so often the case with that’s-the-last-straw stories about the American medical industry, Mr. Steyn here had been acting as an advocate for a friend or relative; this one had become critically ill and then discovered that she had fallen between two stools when her employer changed medical plans. He does not, on this occasion, dwell at length about how public health systems infantalize their users. He does say this:

I don’t quite know what you’d call these rituals, but the term “private health-care system” doesn’t seem the most obvious fit. Indeed, as in so many other areas of American life — the Fannie-Freddied mortgage market, the six-figure college education — the main purpose of these dysfunctional labyrinths ever more disconnected from any genuinely free market seems to be to discredit the very concept of a “private” system and thus soften up the electorate for statist fixes.

The Soviet-era Left had a falsifiability problem. No matter how awful the Soviet Union or the People’s Republic of China or Kampuchea or Albania might be, you could always say that none of these was an example of “real socialism.” As the list of unsatisfactory Communists states lengthened, however, you eventually reached a point where it seemed that any actual Communist state would be unsatisfactory by the mere fact of existing. In the matter of health systems, the one in the US is the only example of a “real, existing” private health system in the developed world. If it’s a “private” system only with scare-quotes, then where do we look for the real thing?

* * *

Many reads of this space, particularly those involved in international finance, were pleased to see the return to strong growth that China reported around the end of 2011. But then there were spoil-sports like Ambrose Pritchard going on about China’s Very Mysterious Data:

I could not help noticing that China’s imports from Japan fell 16.2pc in December. Imports from Taiwan fell 6.2pc. [Graphs Omitted.]The Shanghai Container Freight Index fell 1.4pc to a record low of 919.44 in November, after sliding relentlessly for several months. It has picked up slightly since. The Baltic Dry Index measuring freight rates for ores, grains, and bulk goods, has fallen 44pc over the last year. Kasper Moller from Maersk in Beijing said weak Chinese demand for iron ore was the key culprit…rail, road, river and air freight volume for the whole of China fell to 31780m tons in November (latest data), from 32340m tons in October. Not a big fall, but still negative…So how did China pull off an economic growth rate of 8.9pc in the fourth quarter?

As we have noted here before, it’s a bit unfair to criticize official Chinese economic statistics. They are planning devices, not empirical observations. They are always fulfilled; there is always some way to move funds around in a way that registers as the mandated degree of growth.

One of these days, that point is going to sink in elsewhere in the world. As we have also noted here, the effect will be rather like what happens when Wyle E. Coyote finally acknowledges the fact he has not been running on the cliff for several seconds.

* * *

Despite the fact that the earth’s crust will fracture before the next presidential term can begin, we may at least take comfort in the fact that Mitt Romney is all but assured of winning the upcoming election. The Onion itself reports on growing Romneymania:

“The raw energy and enthusiasm Mitt Romney stirs inside people is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Youngstown, OH auto mechanic Chris Ritenour said Wednesday. “Everything he says resonates with Americans. His moving story of growing up privileged, his inspiring rise from moderate wealth to overwhelming riches, his thrilling work in the highest echelons of corporate finance–he really speaks to the heart and mind of the common man.”

Do not underestimate the likes of Mitt Romney; the future could well belong to them. He is the Fossil American, the end result of a process that turned the entrepreneurial frontiersman into the pure manager. This final form, unlike its Affluent Society technocratic predecessor, incorporates a great deal of America’s Masonically tinged spirituality, as well as a sincere and powerful sense of the public good, understood as the seemly grace of private fortune. His motives are, colorably, fundamentally dynastic, which is the best motivation to be hoped for in the age of the eclipse of the nation. Such people are authentically transnationalist in a way that the exotic late-liberal fauna of the charitable foundations and NGOs never were. Like his cousins in Mexico, he is comfortable with being an element of a gentry caste which is ethnically and linguistically diverse from the lower strata of society, but from which it is by no means segregated or impervious to rising talent.

In The Hour of Decision, written in the depths of the last Great Depression and published just after the Nazis came to power, Oswald Spengler reviewed the political classes of the major Western countries and considered whether they could reform themselves into becoming ruling class fit for the mature phase of Western Civilization. About America and its money-mad, “intellectually primitive upper classes” Oswald had grave doubts, but then he was a Gloomy Gus.

Romney is scarcely a proto-Caesar, of course. He is not going to be elected anything if he does not stop offering to fire people.