I never met her, though I wish I had. I do not know when the world will know her kind again. There are many kinds of people in the world: good, bad, and indifferent. There are few genuinely great people – great, terrible, awesome figures whose names will live far beyond not only their lives but our own. Which other senior figures from that great era, when the liberty of mankind was genuinely at stake, still survive? Kissinger, I suppose, but I struggle to think of any others. In my own youth, before I even knew it, I lived in an era of giants: Reagan, John Paul II, and Mrs. Thatcher. Now they are all gone. To modify a line from Almost Famous, I think that, when our ancestors look back on the days just passed a thousand years from now, they’ll remember them and not much else.
Why did Margaret Hilda Thatcher matter? I’m sure that more than a few people are asking themselves that today. After all, we live in an era where the memory of the past often barely extends to yesterday and it has been twenty-two and a half years since the Great Betrayal drove her from office. I’m sure to some she is little more than a half-understood pop culture reference, another name lost to the mists of time. One who, if she is known at all, is known through the snide remarks and insults tossed at her by a cultural elite that always professed to despise her, even as they enjoyed the benefits of her labors. She, and her great contemporaries, took office just as the West’s post-war fortunes reached their lowest ebb. Because of her – and others like her – the despair and decline of the 1970s became the pride and prosperity of the 1980s and 1990s. Against furious and fanatical opposition, Mrs. Thatcher, and the governments that she led, took a Britain that on the verge of the collapse – having already had to once turn to the International Monetary Fund for a bailout – and made it strong again. Defying the naysayers she, and her allies abroad, showed that the West still had the will to face down foreign foes.
How did she do it? Certainly, there are technical answers – the mix of economic and monetary policy popularly known as “Thatcherism” that wrung the neck of the persistent inflationary monster that had haunted the British economy for more than a decade. But, when it comes to Mrs. Thatcher (and President Reagan as well), there is a more fundamental answer. It all came down to faith and belief.
Faith that ordinary people, allowed to manage their own affairs, will do so in a competent fashion. Faith that the individual understands their own needs and can allocate their own resources better than some distant central planner. Faith that humanity has a natural desire and capacity to live in freedom. Faith, based on an understanding of both history and human nature, that man is a largely self-governing and regulating creature.
That isn’t what her opponents thought. Not then and not up through the present day. The philosophy that she so furiously opposed, call it whatever you like, is grounded in a conviction that people will be better off if every aspect of their lives if their lives are controlled by others and if resources are allocated centrally rather than organically. The proponents of this creed, then and now, have always held that theirs is the most noble and altruistic. Some opponents – to include, I suppose, Mrs. Thatcher – might have retorted that few, if any, are ever known to have held this system of belief who did not imagine themselves as either one of the privileged controllers or as otherwise a beneficiary of whatever alternate system of resource allocation was proposed. For some, she might have pointed out, the definition of a “shared sacrifice” is one in which you and I sacrifice and they share in the rewards. But, for today, let us judge not, that we not be judged.
Let us not dwell upon words here. As Mrs. Thatcher would point out, were she here, results are more important than words. But, that being said, there is no better judge as to the results than the words of her opponents.
No one can deny that, through her tenure in office, Britain was transformed from a nearly-bankrupt strike-ridden basket case into a rich and modern economy. The inflation, which ate the savings of millions and caused endless turmoil, was eventually brought to a halt. The inefficient and incompetent nationalized industries, which were a joke all over the world, were privatized and modernized. Millions of people were allowed to escape the perpetual cycle of government dependency through being permitted to become the owners of their own homes. What may be said in answer to that.
Some will object that the results were not shared equally. But, so what? As she herself memorably pointed out, such complaints make it sound as though some would prefer that the poor were poorer so long as the rich were poorer as well. Instead, most of her opponents are reduced to emanating a vague sense of nostalgia for a half-remembered and romanticized past, in the way that opponents of gentrification wail and rend their garments over vermin-ridden slums that used to sit where skyscrapers now stand. Instead of speaking to results, they will murmur and nod in agreement with each other as they charge that her rule destroyed “solidarity” or ennobled “greed” or other such unfalsifiable charges.
She was a rationalist, to be sure. After all she was, by education, a scientist. But she was also a believer. She believed in Britain, when others no longer did. She believed in the basic nobility of the British people. She believed in Parliament as an institution. These beliefs, to be certain, were rational ones – grounded in an observation of her heritage and the shared history of the nation. But they were also fundamental, having been imbued in her by the spirit of the land. It was upon the basis of these that she fought her last battle and left, perhaps, her greatest legacy.
More than any other person, Britain owes to her the efforts its absence from the single European currency and, therefore, its ultimate escape from whatever the results of that ill-starred project will be. In one of her last, and one of her greatest, speeches as the Prime Minister she issued one of the starkest rejections of the Euro-federalist project ever issued by an active politician:
The President of the Commission, M. Delors, said at a press conference the other day that he wanted the European Parliament to be the democratic body of the Community, he wanted the Commission to be the Executive and he wanted the Council of Ministers to be the Senate. No. No. No.
No. No. No. How rare it has been, in all of our long history, for such sentiments to be so plainly and efficiently conveyed. If, in the end, Britain is to be saved from the ultimately folly of the creation and likely collapse of a single European state, the salvation of the nation may be traced back to those days, in the last stages of her premiership, when she took so strong a stand against the whole European project as to instigate a rebellion within her own party. No foreign enemy ever mastered Caesar, but in her case, as always, the most insidious enemy was the enemy within.
I have not remarked, up until now, on what surely will be the first line in so many reports of her passing – namely, that she was the first woman to lead Britain. I will not dwell upon it, because I don’t believe, having read both of her biographies and much of what she wrote and said, that that is how she would have wanted to be remembered. I believe that she would want to be remembered as a great leader, not a great woman leader. Surely, she would argue, the fact that she was once – and possibly twice – the savior of the nation was more significant than her gender.
Yet, still, it is impossible to eulogize her without noting the facts of her life and marveling at them. For a woman to have risen to such heights – and in the old boys’ club of the Conservative Party no less – against such prejudices as existed in those days (and, in some cases, persist through to the present) is a truly amazing thing. It speaks to the singularity of the her will. When the Soviet press bestowed upon her the nickname of, “the Iron Lady,” they thought that they were insulting her when, in fact, they elevated and better-defined her. When her achievements are considered upon the whole – given both what she did and the obstacles that she had to overcome to do it – I find it hard to argue against the assertion that she was one of the greatest people who ever lived. In this world, there are many politicians and leaders, but there are few who genuinely deserve to be spoken of as having earned a place among the pantheon of the greats. Yet, in surveying her lifetime, it is hard to dispute that she belongs alongside Reagan, Roosevelt, Churchill, Lincoln, and Washington as one of the leaders of the English-speaking people whose memory deserves to be and will be preserved for all time.
Now, however, we are left without her in a time when we need her as much as we ever did. The curse of humanity remains that our bodies are frail and fragile things that will eventually fail us all. All of us will eventually pass from the Earth. We can only hope, as I am certain that she did until the very end, that the spirits of those who have lived and gone – their stories, deeds, and legacies – can live on as an inspiration to others. That they can can provide us with courage and encourage us to faith when courage and faith seem to fail. That we can endure, as they endured. That we may, as she said on that terrible fall day in 1990, fight on – and fight on to win. That is, after all, the debt that we owe to the dead and the promise that we have made to the future.
Adam Yoshida is the author of A House Divided and The Third World War: A Narrative History.
When I sat down to write a follow-up to my first series The Third World War: A Narrative History, I initially struggled for a topic. After writing a thousand-page epic story of armies of millions clashing across continents, almost any other subject seemed puny in comparison. I played with a concept called “The Tenth Crusade”, about an effort to carve out a Christian “homeland” in the Middle East but, after doing some research, that seemed to me to be a topic that could only genuinely be done justice after some years of research and some actual time spent in the area. So, I asked myself, what event looms as large in cultural memory – if not quite in scope – as the Second World War? With that as the question, the answer seemed quite obvious: the Civil War. Thus was born the first book in my new series, entitled A House Divided, which hit Amazon.com yesterday.
All of this lends itself to a simple question: is a Second Civil War actually plausible?
After five months writing about the subject, my qualified answer is: it’s at least as plausible as a Third World War and about ten thousand people and counting have paid to take that particular ride with me. The less-flip answer is that I believe that it is and, in fact, that it is a more-imminent threat than any continent-destroying mass conflict of the sort depicted in The Blast of War, A Land War in Asia, and A Thousand Points of Light. That is not to say that I believe that the Blue and the Gray are about to again meet on their old battlefields in Virginia or that we are upon the verge of seeing the nation torn asunder as it was during the first Civil War, with a group of states attempted to secede and to form a new nation. No. I believe, and A House Divided hypothesizes, that a Second Civil War would be likely to take a form radically different than the first, bearing more resemblance to the Commons versus Crown clash that was the English Civil War or to the repeats turnings-over of the state experienced during the civil wars of the final days of the Roman republic than the secessionist struggle of the first that, at one time, the Federal Government classified as the “war of the rebellion.”
In other words, instead of having a bloc of states attempt to break away from the United States, as is still the tendency in even most modern-day future civil war hypothetical fiction (think of the late, great Jericho’s Allied States of America for an example), the most plausible way to construct a Second Civil War is to create a scenario where multiple factions fight for control of the Federal Government. In other words, in seeking to answer the first question, we need not ask, “will an organized group ever attempt to again secede from the United States?”, to which the answer is almost certainly no. Instead, we need merely ask ourselves whether, especially in the face of extreme political polarization and amid the threat of national bankruptcy, whether we will reach a point where a constitutional impasse will be reached that it appears can only be settled by the use of force. Could such an impasse lead to a scenario where Americans are forced to fight one another? I fear it would.
Consider, for example, some of the wild and pseudo-Constitutional theories floated during the recent impasse between President Obama and the Congress over the debt ceiling. Many of the President’s more aggressive partisans clamored, throughout that fight, for the President to take aggressive and arguably extra-Constitutional actions in order to maintain the funding of the Federal Government. As the years go on and the financial demands placed upon the Federal Government multiply, does not the likelihood that some future crisis will spur some future President to take some spectacular action that a large part of the country – and the Congress – might consider to be a blatant violation of the Constitution? And might not, in such an emergency, a President – especially one whose political fortunes depended upon the goodwill of an impoverished and dependent mass of the people created by years of government spending, opt to simply defy the Congress (and perhaps the courts as well) and, counting upon the support of a large percentage of the people, simply dare them to stop them?
One need not look far away for examples of this in our own world. Many been told the sob story of the supposedly-benevolent socialist President of Chile, Salvador Allende, who was displaced by a military coup on September 11, 1973. What most tellings of that story miss is that while Allende was indeed democratically-elected in accord with the Constitution of Chile as it existed at that time, Allende had responded to the realities of an economic crisis and the fact that he was a head of state elected with a plurality of the vote without control of the Chilean Congress by attempting to bypass the constitution and existing law and instead to rule by decree. In fact, both the Chilean Supreme Court and its Chamber of Deputies had, prior to the coup, declared that the government was operating contrary to existing law and the Constitution but had found that, without any direct enforcement mechanism, there were no legal means available to bring a halt to those illegal acts. Hence the coup.
Perhaps, though, we ought to look further back for our model. We would do well to remember that the politics of the Roman republic were largely corrupted by two things: an increasing prosperity that removed the average Roman aristocrat from the simple and hardscrabble ways of the past and the willingness of certain ambitious Roman politicians to use their ability to pander to the ever-increasing mob by means of recourse to the public treasury. Now, some stalwart Roman statesmen attempted to force the latter genie back into the bottle by slaying the politicians who had set it loose, but it proved far too late to do so. As a result, with the ordinary political process disfigured by endemic corruption and mob violence, the Roman scene became a whirlwind of endless coups, plots, and civil wars. At one point a conservative General, Sulla, attempted to settle things by overturning the state and having himself installed as the “Dictator for the making of laws and for the settling of the constitution.” Sulla, having seemingly restored the old order by his actions during his service as Dictator, then emulated the best tradition of Cincinnatus by voluntarily laying down his office. However, by his extraordinary act Sulla had, even though he may have acted with the best of intentions, shattered the ideal of the Roman Constitution and opened up the possibility that the government might be overturned by force many times more. As a result, by the time of Augustus, the Roman people wanted stability more than liberty and therefore they were more than happy to accept the lifetime dictatorship clothed in republican garments that was offered to them.
In other words, even if you oppose a particular President or believe that certain extra-Constitutional actions pose a threat to the survival of the Constitution, it remains to be seen whether the Constitution, overturned once, could be actually restored or whether it would simply be subsequently turned over many times by whatever group might muster the strength to do so.
That is what I find so fascinating and frightening about the prospect of a Second Civil War. Because the trends pulling Americans apart are not being healed but, instead, made much worse by present events, there exists every possibility that we will eventually reach a point of no return for both sides. At some point, events will have been allowed to escalate to such a degree that both sides will face a choice between either offering their surrender or accepting battle with no guarantee that even a victorious outcome will save their vision of America and of the Constitution. I hope that the American people will come to their senses and accept the need to restore fiscal sanity and the basic principles of limited government before we ever reach the banks of that particular Rubicon.
On the face of it, a Canadian Civil War sounds like a supremely unlikely thing – verging on an impossibility. However, after finishing and publishing my new book, A House Divided, I must admit that it seems much more plausible to me than it did at the outset.
A House Divided features an East-versus-West Canadian Civil War as part of a story which describes events leading to a Second American Civil War. While this is a very unlikely possibility, I must say that I have also come to conclude, over the course of researching writing both A House Divided and my previous series, The Third World War, that such a catastrophe is possible not only in Canada but, in fact, throughout the whole of the Western world in the years ahead. Between the new book and the previous one, I’ve written about, in terms of internal conflict, a new American Civil War, a French Civil War, a Canadian Civil War, a very British coup, and an attempted revolt on the streets of the United States. While, obviously, all of these are fictional, all of them are, to one degree or another, made possible by the strained fiscal circumstances, undermined respect for institutions and the rule of law, and the extreme and divisive politics of our age.
The problem, as depicted in all of my work, may be easily understood: the governments under which all of us live have made fiscal promises that cannot be kept. Further all of those governments (both of the left and right, but primarily of the left) attain and maintain office through the dispensing of large-scale fiscal favors to client groups of all sorts. No government in the world is, in this day of age, noted for showing particular respect for constitutionalism or for the principles of limited government.
What the above means, in effect, is that as the demands for increasing public expenditures on health care, welfare, and public pensions, especially for the aging Baby Boomer generation but also for clients of the state who belong to other demographic cohorts, continue to increase beyond the ability of the state to pay for them using present revenues and available debt-based financing options, these governments will be forced to resort to increasingly-ruthless measures in search of vitally-needed revenue. Having already shown a generalized disdain, even under less-strained conditions, for the rights of individuals outside of their client base and having no particular regard for the concept of limited government, it seems likely that these governments will have little problem with overlooking legal and constitutional niceties in the course of seeking that revenue. Limited and constitutional government, in the best Anglo-American tradition, will be replaced by quasi-democratic despotism where a tiny and privileged elite uses its control of the machinery of the state to buy the votes of temporary majorities to extort from the rest of the people whatever resources that they believe are required to fuel the machinery of the state.
In Canada we have already seen a preview of this in the 2008-2009 affair of the coalition. Though it may be fairly said that the events of those days were legal, it can hardly be fairly asserted that they were even remotely in keeping with the traditions of Westminster parliamentary democracy. Never, anywhere in the annals of Canada’s government and its siblings, has there ever been recorded any example of so naked a grab for power by a defeated group. That conscienceless drive ought to be considered a preview of what might be expected if the present Canadian left were to ever attain power. I, for one, have no doubt that whenever the left next wins an election they will respond by using all of the powers of the state to attempt to use the public purse to secure new clients to maintain them in power eternally while also working to “reform” the electoral system by permanently twisting it to its own advantage.
Should Canada come to a point in its history where it finds itself buckling under the severe fiscal stresses of the decades ahead and under the rule of a government filled with a seething disdain for the productive private sector economy, particularly the resource-extraction element so firmly rooted in the West, does it not seem likely that that government would seek to solve its problems through a strike against its wholly-imaginary Western “enemy”? And might not a move like that, such as some resurrection of the hated National Energy Program, bring about a furious and utterly predictable reaction in the West? And does it not seem possible, even probable, that in turn a left-wing and anti-Western government in Ottawa would in turn respond to that reaction in such a fashion as would create a fearsome confrontation?
None of this is to say that I expect any sort of civil confrontation in Canada or that I consider it to be likely. Nor is it to say that, even under such circumstances as described above, I would welcome such a development. It is to say, however, that so long as we ascribe God-like powers to the state to equalize outcomes and to redress all wrongs, even those inherent in human existence, we run the risk of creating an evil situation that none of us would welcome but that would be made inevitable through the creation of a situation where principled individuals would be left with no choice but either to fight or surrender.
My new book, and the final volume of my “Third World War” series is now available.
After spending the last six months immersed in the world of The Third World War – and with the recent release of A Land War in Asia - I have a few thoughts that I’ve developed over that period of time.
The world system, as explored heavily in The Blast of War and expanded upon further in A Land War in Asia is a mess. We have a number of interlinked challenges:
1) China’s economic rise rests upon an insecure foundation:
China has severe demographic problems. First, there’s the obvious problem that the Chinese have a severe gender imbalance in its rising population as a result of the widespread practice of sex-selective abortions. This means that China has many more young men than it does young women, a proposition that always leads to political instability.
Second, China’s population is rapidly aging. Mark Steyn, as I am fond of quoting, likes to remind us that at current rates China will “grow old before it grows rich.”
Third, these factors mean that the existence of the present Chinese regime is dependent upon continued rapid economic growth. If the People’s Republic of China cannot generate the wealth to satisfy large cohorts of young men on one side and a growing population of geriatrics on the other then it will not be able to ensure the survival of the current government.
The government of the People’s Republic of China, having long ago abandoned any pretense of being founded upon any more solid ideological foundation than its ability to provide prosperity in exchange for freedom, is absolutely dependent upon continued economic expansion. When economic growth slows, stops, or reverses – as it must at some point – it will be a very dangerous moment for the world as the Chinese leaders must make a choice between attempting to sustain their own position through external aggression, internal repression, or some mix of the two.
In The Blast of War and A Land War in Asia it is China’s challenges that ultimately plunge the world into war. Faced with the choice between diving into the abyss of internal anarchy or hazarding the risks of war, China’s leaders choose the latter. I think that’s a reasonable calculation to expect that they would make under such conditions.
2) America’s greatest vulnerabilities are political:
Much as China’s greatest problems are demographic-economic-political, so are the vulnerabilities of the United States. Put simply, the American political system is broken. Not only in the endless deadlock between the parties in Washington, but in a deeper sense that the American people themselves are now very deeply divided by culture. The political chasm between Republican and Democrat, between Red and Blue, is increasingly divorced from ideology and instead resembles the partisan divisions between the Blues and Greens of the Eastern Roman Empire.
In terms of the Third World War, this has several deep implications. First, that the divisions within America weaken the United States in the eyes of the world and make it more likely that a potentially-aggressive power such as the People’s Republic of China will risk war with the United States under the assumption that America’s political leadership and the American people will be unable to sustain the level of unity necessary to fight a major conflict.
Even if, as in the Third World War, the nation were to have a President with the skill and the will to guide the nation into such a conflict, that means that the underlying divisions within the nation would create chasms that any foreign enemy would seek to exploit. Hence, in The Blast of War, the nation is kept from taking early action to avoid war by its own domestic distractions and in A Land War in Asia, the Chinese seek to exploit American disunity for military advantage.
The United States of today resembles less the end-stage of the Roman Empire than it does the late Roman Republic. The nation possess tremendous reserves of power that, for purely political reasons, it cannot fully access.
Is America’s spending addiction a problem? Absolutely. However, it’s something that could be addressed by a sufficiently resolute leader. Alone among the world’s nations, the United States possesses the technological capability to revolutionize warfare – which I have argued, both within the scope of my novels and elsewhere, is the best way to defeat the Chinese.
If the United States returns to its founding principles, than a limited-but-strong Federal Government in the Hamiltonian mode could ensure that this is a second American Century. If, on the other hand, the American Republic remains mired in bickering of the sort that is necessitated by the welfare state, then not only the United States but, indeed, the world itself is doomed.
3) Europe is irrelevant.
For some reason, when I look at Europe today, I recall the words of Stephen Vincent Benet in a very different context, “it is over, but they will not let it be over.”
As General MacArthur very wisely saw when he addressed the Congress some sixty-one years ago, the axis of the world has shifted to the Pacific and it will not be turning back anytime soon, if ever. Europe is incapable of seriously projecting power and the long project of European unification has turned the continent into an insular backwater. If China has a demographic problem, Europe has a demographic disaster. More than one European nation has fallen into a death spiral due to its tiny birth rates. If we accept that old bromide that the children are our future than the sad reality is that most of Europe has no real future. Instead, its a place where tiny bands of youngsters are going to expend their lives in the impossible task of attempting to care for an ever-increasing number of dependents. With one notable exception, I doubt if we will ever see Europe play a major role in global affairs in any of our lifetimes. Instead, perhaps, instead Europe will suffer the fate of the colonies that is surrendered and become a battlefield for other, stronger nations.
The sole exception I envision is Great Britain. This is, both for me and in practice, more a matter of sentiment than anything else. As the only European nation to have turned its colonies into something of real value, it seems possible that Britain will be able to survive the collapse of Europe by the residual goodwill that she holds among her former dominions, her position as a gateway to the rest of Europe, and the fact that she is the home of the global language. My hope – as laid out in the books – is that, once the European Union is dispensed with, a new union based upon shared heritage and language may be forged among the English-speaking peoples that would allow Britain to recover some of its former glory.
4) The Middle East can mess up your day:
One can make the case that the last ten years of war in the Middle East have distracted the United States from what may very well be an inevitable showdown with China. That is not my opinion, but I believe that it is one for which strong arguments can be marshaled.
However, as much as some days it is tempting to wish that entire region of the world out of our minds – a wish shared by almost every empire throughout history – the reality is that, while prolonged engagement there seems to only bring misery, to disengage from activity there seems to be to only invite the arrival of what Donald Rumsfeld called “unknown unknowns” – those sudden and utterly unexpected events that can really mess up your day.
I believe – and this will be explored further in book three – A Thousand Points of Light – and perhaps in a non-fiction companion work, that the best way to avoid a Third World War – and to win it quickly should it come – is for the United States to get the sort of political leadership that will allow it to bridge its domestic divisions and to access some of its latent power. This, of course, is a subject that merits its own essay and then some (I’m toying with writing a book on this subject alone), but what I will say is this: if we are to avoid disaster then we must be prepared to overcome our own prejudices and accept some historic truths about humanity. We need to accept the need to make military preparations in order to avoid war and, further, to internalize the basic truth that the destiny of man is forged by force. Further, we need to study and understand how a century of social engineering on a massive scale have created the social and demographic trends, both at home and abroad, that are driving us towards disaster. Though, as I’ve said, that’s going to be a subject for another day.
I’m not really one to pause and reflect. For myself, when I complete a task, the follow-up question is always: what’s next? Still, with A Land War in Asia now available on Amazon.com (indeed, someone managed to buy a copy before I could even buy one for myself) and with The Blast of War still selling well (and, as a way of promoting A Land War in Asia, temporarily free on Amazon.com), it’s worth taking a moment to speak on the process.
The first thing – the first question I always get – is whether I’m happy with the book. The short answer is that I don’t think I’ll ever be fully pleased with anything that I write. The longer answer is more complex. Here’s what I’ll say for both The Blast of War and A Land War in Asia: they’re not quite like anything else on the market today and, in my opinion, they’re better than any of the alternatives that I’ve read. Admittedly, I’m writing for a very narrow audience – I’m pretty sure that I own every “future history” book ever written and, combined, they take up about half of one shelf on my six double-stacked book cases. The truth be told, when the trilogy is finished – hopefully in the summer – with the release of A Thousand Points of Light I’ll have created a work that, when the combined paper edition is printed, will end up being a thousand-page Clancy-sized doorstop and I’ll have done it in a little less than a year while juggling many other things. I think that it’s a daring story – broader than pretty much anything I’ve ever read. If someone would pay me to to do it, it would probably take twenty years – by which time the projected events of the books would be in the distant past – to tell this story with the sort of detail that I’d like.
I don’t have the patience, I think, to follow someone like Robert Caro (who has spent thirty years writing his biography of Lyndon Johnson) or Shelby Foote (who spent about twenty creating his history of the Civil War). In general, when I go into a store and it appears that I’ll be waiting more than two minutes in the line, I’ll leave and shop somewhere else. The odds that I could maintain my focus while embarking upon a decade-long project is essentially zero.
Now, as to the second question – how’s business? Business is, in a word, fascinating. The Blast of War has moved a respectable number of copies for what it is and how it’s been marketed. One conclusion that I’ve come to from my experience with The Blast of War is that traditional marketing for e-books is pretty much futile. I’ve spent a little money on ads and the like and noticed pretty much no difference in sales figures. Instead, with an initial spike in sales when it was launched and another when I placed an article on the book in the American Thinker, it’s seen a slow-but-steady increase in its numbers. I think that it’s best to hold back exact sales figures, but I’ll say that the numbers haven’t been close to high enough to make a career of it, but they’re high enough to make me think through some tax planning stuff.
What’s next? Well, there’s the aforementioned A Thousand Points of Light to cap off this series. Having, really, gotten as much out of this format as I think I can, I’m looking to do something a little different next time around. However, alas, I’ve also realized that I don’t really do anything “small”. I have at least three fleshed-out concepts in my head:
The Martian Empire:
This would be military/political science fiction and, actually, might even be considered something of a distant sequel to my “Third World War” series. Where The Third World War was largely written in reaction to and out of frustration with military/political fiction where World War Three is narrowly avoided and the nukes don’t go off, the concept of the Martian Empire series is largely a reaction to the strange and pervasive idea that seems to be found in most science fiction that human unification of some sort is a prerequisite to major space travel. Yes, there are a few Baen books where different human “star nations” go to war with eachother but, in general, these (I’m thinking of the Honorverse and Starfire novels in particular here) tend to be far removed from the contemporary world. Also, I want to take a more realistic look at the long-term effects of technology and extended lifespans as well as some basic evolutionary questions.
The Martian Empire is probably something at least a little familiar to any good science fiction fan – it’s basically a single nation where the cultures and institutions of the English-speaking peoples have merged into a single political entity (the flag of Mars, as I imagine it, combines the Stars and Stripes with the Union Jack). Mars, however, is in conflict with much of Earth because Martians are descendants of colonists who have been genetically enhanced in various ways and who were, to begin with, exceptional people themselves. Martians believe themselves to be better than Terrans because, in an objective sense, the average Martian is smarter and stronger than the average Terran.
An opening book of this series, as I imagine it, sort of riffs on the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Iraq War, and sort of the First World War. I imagine a scenario where some Earth nation agrees to let an alien force station warships in Earth orbit, forcing Mars to invade the Earth to prevent alien forces from being positioned in a spot where they could threaten Mars, leaving Martians forces to attempt to occupy and reorganize the Earth.
King of Sparta:
The title is a pun. I don’t normally like puns, but I’m kind of enamored with this one. In fact, I might write this book simply because I like the title so much. This is about a twenty-something Army Captain who unexpectedly inherits his father’s fortune and decides to use it to “start the motor of the world.”
In other words, in a way that is entirely not meant to resemble any famous guy with a similar name, this is about a young billionaire forming a private army and trying to change the world for the better. Incidentally, he’s “King of Sparta” because his last name is King and he’s from a town named Sparta. I thought that was obvious but, often, I find that that isn’t the case.
I’m not sure where he’ll be using his private army. Originally I had planned to have the story be about my long-cherished dream of launching a coup in Equatorial Guinea, though increasingly I imagine it being set in my native British Columbia, if only because I have a concept for an opening title called “An Old Man in a Hurry.” In case you haven’t already noticed, I really like titles. That leads to my third concept.
The Memoirs of a Confederate Samurai:
This is really a case where it would all be on the cover: a Japanese guy, a disgraced Samurai, finds his way to antebellum Los Angeles, where he falls in with a group of soldiers in the local US Army garrison. When the Civil War breaks out, he decides that he is morally obligated to join the, and travels with them across Arizona and New Mexico to Texas, where he joins the Confederate Army.
I don’t have the whole story down – and I’d have to do a damned lot of research to have it done right – but I want to set it in the Western Theatre, which isn’t featured in Civil War fiction as much as it ought to be. I imagine him first being a personal friend of – and being directly advanced by – Albert Sidney Johnston. Then, after Shiloh, I imagine him winning the respect of and riding with Nathan Bedford Forrest until the end of the war.
This would be the hardest to write. And I’d really want to get this one right because, as I see it, it would have the potential to be a genuine bestseller. I’d just want to make sure that we really got the cover right.
Since I’m presently procrastinating from finishing what I hope to be the final editing of A Land War in Asia (the sequel to “The Blast of War”) by both reading about and watching television, I figured I’d take a few moments to put a few television-related thoughts into writing.
First, Mad Men. There’s a lot that’s already been said about the premiere and much more will be written as the season goes on. But I have one theory that doesn’t seem to have been raised in anything that I’ve written. Specifically, this deals with the story of Lane Pryce and the wallet.
Before I go on, it’s worth remembering that Mad Men’s favourite trope is to take a look at how attitudes about all sorts of social issues have shifted from the 1960’s to the present day.
Now, obviously, the picture of Delores that Lane finds in the wallet kindles some sort of infatuation in Lane and is meant to point us in the direction of a future adulterous relationship of some sort or thing along those lines. However, based upon a few clues, let me offer a prediction:
1) Many have already surmised, and I agree, that Delores is the “kept woman” of some kind of organized crime figure.
2) Based upon both the picture and the tone of her phone conversation with Lane, I suspect that Delores is going to turn out to be quite young… As in, if I were to guess, underage young.
3) I think that the name is significant – Delores. Specifically, I think that its meant to invoke Nabokov:
She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
I don’t think – probably – that the show would go the route of having Lane have an affair with an underage girl. The show loves exploring contrasts between modern attitudes and 1960’s attitudes but, at the same time, I think that audiences would find that hard to get past. Instead, I think that they’ll explore it by having Lane attempt to rescue her from her current status to the general indifference of everyone else.
Hulu is streaming the pilot episode of “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” – yet another example of a show that a network green-lighted with the word “bitch” in the title and then chickened out on before the thing actually made it on the air. I’m not sure if we can really say that this is a positive cultural trend. It makes me think of the scene in Lisa’s Wedding where Marge in the “future” (in a scene that, thanks to the unbelievable longevity of The Simpsons is now set two years in the past) comments that “Fox turned into a hard-core sex channel so gradually I didn’t even notice.” At the rate things are going, one has to assume that in another year or two the big networks will pick up shows with “bitch” in the title and not back down and that, in five or so years we’ll find out at the upfronts that ABC has picked up a sitcom named “Fuck Off” and that CBS has picked up another suspiciously-similar show named “Fuck You.”
It’s a pity, really, that the show – given that it’s debuting in April with almost zero fanfare – is all-but-certain to be cancelled. It’s actually a fine showcase for Krysten Ritter (perhaps most memorable as “Jane” in the second season of Breaking Bad, but also a stand-out during arcs on Veronica Mars and the Gilmore Girls in addition to a number of minor film roles), who is one of those actresses (the other two who come immediately to the top of my mind are Judy Greer and Paula Marshall) who is great in all sorts of thigns but, for some reason, has never quite broken through.
With a cast that includes Dreama Walker, most notable as Becca (the ex-girlfriend of Alicia son’s) on The Good Wife and James Van Der Beek (who, for some reason, is playing himself), Don’t Trust the B—– in Apartment 23 vaguely resembles CBS’s Two Broke Girls insofar as it’s a show about two young roommates in New York City that at least nods to the prevailing economic circumstances of the day. In each case a straight-laced young blonde who is forced by economic circumstances (actually, now that I think about it, forced by a Madoff-type fraudster) to move in with a cynical and street-wise girl with darker hair. But where Two Broke Girls largely uses the concept as an excuse to make sex and ethnic jokes that tend to played with a weird sort of stagey showiness by star Kat Dennings, Apartment 23 is sharper and smarter. I strongly encourage you to watch it before it gets cancelled.
So, there’s yet another teacher’s strike in British Columbia. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve seen this movie several times before and I didn’t like it very much the first time. Watching the traditional ritual unfold once more – stalemated “negotiations” in which both sides talk past eachother, prolonged minor labour disruptions, back-to-work legislation, and finally a brief spasm of public rage on the part of the teachers – one cannot help but recall Marx’s remark, after the coup of Louis Napoleon, that history is damned to repeat itself first as tragedy and then as farce. It strains the mind to wonder what exactly it would take to ever bring to a close BC’s endless educational Battle of the Somme.
It astonishes me that no one on either side seems to have ever stopped to reflect upon the cause of this intractable struggle. The BCTF and its supporters appear to believe that the government has a bottomless well of money somewhere that it can reach into in order to produce practically any amount on demand. This government – like every other BC Government in my lifetime – just wants the thing to be over with as soon as possible one way or another. It seems to have occurred to neither that the cause of the conflict is that the system itself is utterly and irretrievably broken.
Our education system is a relic of older ages. The 9-3 school day. with schools open for about nine months out of the year, is an artifact of the rhythms of 19th Century agricultural life. The tightly organized system of rotating classes and bells was meant to train the next generation of assembly-line workers for factories. In an age where only a handful of the kids graduating from BC public schools are ever going to even visit a farm, let alone spend a lifetime working on one and where those who end up working in manufacturing are more likely to have a Master’s Degree than they are to get their jobs by showing up at the factory gates a week after they graduate the current system is an absurd anachronism.
Most of the kids attending our schools today are, when they enter the workforce, going to be asked to do jobs that will require them to creatively use their minds. Using the same methods to train knowledge workers as you would use to train factory workers is worse than useless. We need schools that encourage best and most authentic form of diversity: namely that of the intellectual sort. We need to be creating a generation of original thinkers and future entrapanuers. I can think of no greater disincentive to that sort of education than bitterly clinging to a system that hires, promotes, evaluates, and pays teachers using methods dreamed up to improve the lot of 19th Century miners.
I think that teachers are great. I am certain that there are some teachers in British Columbia who not only deserve a modest raise but who, in fact, ought to be paid double or more what they are being paid today. However, I am equally sure that there are also many teachers who ought to find other careers who are being shielded by a system that makes defending mediocrity a higher priority than creating excellence.
If we ever want to move past the endless deadlock that has characterized education in British Columbia for longer than I have been alive, than we need the government, the public, and – perhaps most important of all – everyday teachers to realize a simple fact: the BCTF doesn’t have the solution to this problem, the BCTF is the problem. Teachers are, as any teacher you meet will surely be quick to remind you, hard-working, dedicated, skilled, and highly (and expensively) educated professionals. Bargaining with them as if they spent their days doing repetitive, unskilled, and undistinguishable labour – acting as though one teacher is a cog randomly interchangeable with another – is an insult to their skills and professionalism. The only people it helps are the relative handful of below-average teachers who are thus shielded by the union and the rent-seeking bureaucrats and NDP politicians posing as teachers who hold positions within the organization.
The way to improve education in British Columbia is to embrace the opportunities created by a century of technological change. We can find ways to use our schools year-round, instead of a third of the day for two-thirds of the year. We can embrace new methods of delivering instruction and free up teenagers to learn trades and gain other specialized knowledge. We can give both parents and kids an authentic choice about what sort of learning environment works best for each student. We can do all of those things, but we won’t do any of them so long as the BCTF is allowed to stand in the way.
The Liberal Party and its allies are, as of this writing, touting the fact that Elections Canada has reportedly received over 31,000 complaints related to so-called “Robocalls” during the 2011 General Election. I mention the Liberal Party specifically in this context because I first learned of this new number thanks to an e-mail from the leader of that party touting the number that contained a helpful link to a website where I could add to that number by filing my own claim.
I find the flood of complaints interesting because, according to Elections Canada’s own post-election report, it actually received fewer complaints in the immediate post-election period in 2011 than it did after the 2008 election. Surely I cannot be the only person who finds it highly convenient that no one seems to have noticed this massive and dark conspiracy, which if we assume that all 31,000 complaints to date are credible must have involved calls being made to hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of Canadians, for fully nine months after the election actually took place. Communications don’t travel by horse or wooden ship in this day and age – I have a hard time imagining that if hundreds of thousands or however many Canadians had received these supposedly obviously-malignant calls on election day that it wouldn’t have ended up being a trending topic on Twitter on election day itself. It seems impossible to believe that the opposition, with tens of thousands of campaign workers and supporters scattered all across this broad land, would only notice so massive and public a fraud nearly a year after the fact.
Of course, memory is a funny thing.
For around a decade, spanning from the mid-1980’s through the mid-1990’s, the public was shocked by sensational cases where day-care providers across the world were accused of abusing children in truly bizarre and sadistic ways. Prosecutors brought charges against daycare workers alleging, in multiple cases, that they had molested children while flying in hot air balloons and that they had committed other grotesque acts of abuse against children in the service of Satan. This didn’t happen just in a single place or on a single occasion – such cases were brought in Saskatchewan, North Carolina, Massachusetts, New Zealand, England, California, and Brazil.
What happened? Did the spirit of the Devil, for a period during the 1980’s and 1990’s, suddenly decide to stalk the world’s daycares, inspiring otherwise-normal adults to sexually abuse children with butcher knives while using his dark powers to ensure that the abuse did not leave a shred of physical evidence? Or did, as happens from time to time, otherwise-sane people, their senses overwhelmed by shocking accusations that they couldn’t cope with, simply lose their reason? I will leave the final judgement on that matter to you but, to prosecutors and jurors at the time, the charges seemed real and serious enough to convict multiple people and to send those people to prison for multiple lifetimes.
Almost all of the evidence in these trials came in the form of testimony by the children themselves. Most of these children were totally unaware that they had been allegedly abused until they were heavily interrogated by police officers and child psychologists who helped them to “recover” and “reconstruct” their memories. It was during these intensive sessions that the most wild allegations, such as hot air balloon molestation, were developed. Later, after many lives were thereby destroyed, courts would decide that these methods were pseudo-science and that almost everyone accused in the dozens of trials was innocent.
I would ask everyone watching the unfolding media coverage of this pseudo-scandal to pause for a moment and reflect. Which is more plausible: that a coordinated effort was made to phone and misdirect hundreds of thousands of Canadians and no one noticed for the better part of a year or that tens of thousands of partisan left-wingers, faced with overwhelming media coverage of a micro-incident, and bombarded with hysterical and hyperbolic commentary on the same from every available social media outlet suddenly “recovered” memories of ordinary phone calls that took on a malignant tone only after time, distance, and all of the other vagaries of memory took effect?
I am against any sort of “public inquiry” into this matter until some actual evidence – and the hyper-ventilation of Bob Rae does not constitute such – of actual wrongdoing comes forward. It would seem to me that if anything is worthy of further investigation here it is the conduct of certain opposition politicians, in particular the Interim Leader of the Liberal Party, who – being better educated as to the facts than the media-saturated general population – may be knowingly wasting public resources by encouraging the public to file malicious, false, and frivolous complaints with Elections Canada.
As someone who has been a supporter of Premier Christy Clark ever since she was my local MLA and I was a teenager it greatly pains me to say this: unless some immediate and drastic changes are made the NDP will form British Columbia’s next government. Yet it appears to me today, as it has for some days recently, that the present government has fundamentally misread the contours of the battlefield and is instead determined to maintain a steady heading on a course that can only lead to defeat.
Before we get into how the government can recover its bearings, we need to pause for a brief history lesson.
42.1, 41.5, 21.5, 39.5, 40.7, and 42.6 – those are the percentages of the vote won by the NDP in every provincial election in my lifetime. With the exception of the disastrous 2001 General Election, the NDP have won between 40-42% of the vote every time British Columbians have gone to the polls in the last three decades. The three times that the NDP have formed a government in this province they’ve done it with roughly 40% of the vote. In other words, there is a substantial portion of the BC electorate that is willing to vote for socialism but there has never, in the history of this Province, been a majority for it. This seems to carry over to the present day. In the most recent poll the NDP has a large lead over the government. What are the NDP polling? They’re polling at 42%.
If roughly two in five British Columbians are for socialism, what are the rest for? Most of the rest, leaving aside a tiny ultra-radical minority, are for the free market to some degree or another. We have plenty of Federal Liberals and we have an abundance of Federal Conservatives. In a lot of places there are still many old-time SoCreds. BC’s free market coalition has always been a discordant and dissonant group but, throughout its history, a common bond has united us all: the desire to, pace WAC Bennett, turn back the socialist barbarians at the gate.
This Province is incredibly rich in resources: natural, human, and geographic. We don’t need a government to create prosperity in British Columbia, we just need a government that is willing to get out of the way and let prosperity create itself. In recognition of this fact we have a long tradition, stretching back to the Second World War, of coalition governments that represent the interests of all factions who support free enterprise. Those who have served in these governments have represented different parties at different times, but, for the most part, they have done a workmanlike job of conducting our affairs and ensuring that business remans the business of British Columbia.
Every once and a while this coalition has a tendency to splinter just a little bit. That’s when the NDP gets into power in Victoria and makes messes that take forever to clean up. Forget talking about what the NDP did when they were in power in the 1990’s – much of the nonsense that they got up to when they ran things in the 1970’s, such as ICBC, haunts us still. As much as I am quite substantially to the right of the Premier I, for one, am ready to forgive a great deal so long as she keeps the New Democrats from running Victoria.
That is why this week’s budget is such a tragically lost opportunity for the Premier. If this government is to keep the coalition together is cannot tack to the centre: the NDP aren’t winning more votes than they have in any recent ordinary election and, conversely, the odds of getting any substantial number of people who voted for the NDP in 2009, 2005, 1996, 1991, and 1986 to vote for the Liberals next time around are essentially nil. If the Premier is to be re-elected she must tack to the right and win back those disillusioned supporters of the coalition who have defected to the nascent Conservatives.
To secure re-election this government ought to adopt a three-pronged strategy:
First, a major effort needs to be made to win over right-wing voters. This means more than hiring Federal Conservatives as staffers. It means new policies – tax cuts, reduction in the size of the government, and new privatization initiatives – to appeal to the right.
Second, the government would do well to recall another popular element of the historic platform of our coalition: building British Columbia. Our ever-growing Province still needs more infrastructure and a continued commitment to major construction projects will give the government a positive agenda to tout.
Third, it’s long past time to take the gloves off and go after Adrian Dix in the same fashion that the Harper Conservative shredded Dion and Ignatieff. Throw a million dollars at ads talking about the memo that Dix forged to try and cover up the misdeeds of Glen Clark and the late-night shenanigans involving bags of cash at the NDP headquarters that made Dix the leader. That’ll get people talking.
Something – anything, really – must be done and done quickly to ensure that the government comes to appreciate the gravity of the situation. Hundreds of thousands of disillusioned members of the coalition may still be rallied to the cause and we might be safe still – but the window is closing.
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