The frenzy around the Christmas holiday conceals deeper currents running through advanced techno-industrial societies like froth on the surface of a raging river that surges with dangerous, hidden flotsam. We’re informed that the next James Bond might be a transsexual. But, you see, it’s not just that Hollywood is running out of gimmicks for its floundering “franchises,” but rather that there has been no place for men these days in the struggle to prevent civilization from drowning. The lifeguards are cancelled. All that’s left in the commotion of the flood is the shrieking of women.
Thus, the hysteria over Trumpism. America actually needed a rescue operation and, defective as he was personality-wise, Mr. Trump rose above the surge and called for exactly that, and was pulled under for the effrontery of saying so. It was a bad time to be a man standing out among men. The torrent is in charge now, not the people bobbing and flailing in it. Ride it out, if you can. By and by, the flood will subside and the survivors will be cast back on shore. The shrieking women will also subside, because the men will tell them to cut it out. And then the men and women will go forth reconstructing the human project here in North America.
The landscape will not look the same and we will not act like we did before, when we were just carried along helplessly in the flood. There will be fewer of us. All the giant things, too large to save themselves — the corporations, the institutions, the agencies — will be swept away, but we’ll back on dry land, with a lot debris to sort through, some of it useful for rebuilding a way of life. We’ll be too busy for any more shrieking and hand-wringing, and crybabies will get whapped upside their heads.
That is what you can expect in the decade ahead. For the moment everything is just froth and noise, and most everybody is in too much of a panic to make sense.
Humans don’t do well without sense-making. What makes sense is having a roof over your head, something to eat, some purposeful activities to provide those things, some other people to exist with and care for, and some ceremonies to honor our efforts and declare our gratitude for being here in the first place.
Christmas, most of us understand, is as much about the world descending into cyclical darkness as it is about the birth of a religious figure who signifies our recognition of the very light that makes darkness visible. You also understand, of course, that demons and monsters dwell in the darkness, that they spawn in it. This year, the darkness seems darker than any darkness we remember, and so we may be astonished when the light returns to our world. Eventually, we’ll memorialize the monsters and they will frighten children for generations to come.
I know it’s hard to even imagine generations to come at this moment in history. There is even some question whether human beings will able to reproduce after the dastardly things we’ve done to our own chemistry. But this isn’t the end of us, not yet anyway. Let’s act as if it’s not, at least. We don’t know for sure where our story goes from here, but we have some say in it depending on what we do. Just knowing that there is a difference between story-telling and story-making is a good start in rediscovering what men are for.
One thing men are responsible for is bringing order to the world. They don’t always succeed, but it must be their duty to make the effort, and it’s not wise to distract them with histrionics when they attempt to do that, or shame them for trying. You are not excused from your duty in any case, American men. It’s not okay to pretend to be women to escape your duty. The women must not allow the men to hide among them and pretend to be them. They must insist that you be men.
One of your duties as men is to oppose false realities to preserve meaning, and you do that first by insisting on being upright yourself and speaking of things as they really are so that you can do with them what you must do. And this is the meaning of authority, which has been submerged in the flood we’re riding on, this flood of false realities drowning the meaning of everything.
I know this makes for a harsh Christmas. It is where we happen to be: the flood-tide of darkness. Do what you can with it, knowing that it marks some kind of turning. I promise you, the light is coming.
By James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is a renowned author, social critic, and public speaker. He has written several books including “The Geography of Nowhere” and “The Long Emergency.” He has written for Rolling Stone Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine, and has lectured at some of the most prestigious schools in the country, including Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth. For more from Mr. Kunstler, please visit his website.