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Saturday, Oct 14, 2017

What is the half-life of a nation?

The fact that humans despise one another is how we spread across the globe.

A s every schoolchild knows, plutonium-239 undergoes spontaneous fission, releasing an alpha particle as it embarks on its 24,100 year trek through the periodic table toward its final destination, lead. No force can stop it from decaying because it is inherently unstable. It is a force of nature.

Our minds are forces of nature as well, and follow the same general principles. Psychological elements have half-lives and slowly change into more stable parts of our makeup.

Take guilt. Everyone has felt the deadly radiation that a guilty person emits. Carry guilt too close to your heart and it can affect your health. But guilt is unstable. It decays over time, transmuting into resentment.

What Happened It Was Trump
Hillary Clinton's latest book

Hypocrisy too undergoes spontaneous fission, passing briefly through corruption, where it emits brief flashes of light before ending up as dull leaden stupidity. Harvey Weinstein's career fission may be a sign that when the chickens come home to roost the mice will get up with fleas (or however that saying goes), but those flashes of light are the only visible evidence that the corruption ever existed. Once they fade away, the Geiger counters of our news reporters stop clicking. Only the decay products remain.

Another case in point: Hillary's leaden prose in her latest book What Happened? Oh Wait, It Was Donald Trump, Wasn't It? Never Mind!, which I plan to read any day now.

The Democrats literally prayed that Trump would be the nominee, just as some Republicans once prayed for Obama, on the assumption that the American people would never be stupid enough to elect him. Well, we sure fooled them!

Hillary's 50,000 millicochran warp bubble even sucked in many Republicans. Though she has now become radioactive even to Dems, the flux of Clintonian tachyon emissions set off alarms throughout the blogosphere quadrant. Even Dems knew: don't make her angry. You wouldn't like her when she's angry. And she's always angry.

Governments are natural phenomena too, and they follow the same principles of nature. The traditions and shared history of a nation are the glue that holds a people together. When they are discredited, the natural dispersive energy of humans is released. It's in our genes—the fact that we despise one another is how we spread across the globe.

Moderating elements such as tolerance, free speech, and thoughtful criticism are not just nice to have; they are essential to the stability of society. The 20th century was, in one sense, a giant morality play that compared two strategies for dealing with dispersive energy: you can forcibly repress it or you can channel it into creative energy. We saw that forcibly repressing it invariably leads to implosion.

Yet the left wants a do-over. Paul Krugman seems to be having a breakdown over Trump, the NYT is running a misty-eyed remembrance of communism, NPR is running a history of the Vietnam conflict from the communists' point of view, and our academics are toying with the idea of rewriting the Constitution. Although they're all clothed in a quasi-moralistic fervor, in actuality these are signals of a yearning to relitigate the use of repression rather than resolution and accommodation.

(Well, except that first one. The Romans had the public spectacle of gladiators fighting for their entertainment; we get to watch our commentators slowly going nuts.)

Is this mere sentimentalism, searching for inspiration in the 1901 anarchists and of the 1960s in the hope of re-inventing themselves, or are they getting ready to reveal their true ideology?

If the latter, the red-blue divide could trigger a serious secessionist movement (unlike, say, the fake secession movement in California). The idea that Lincoln settled the cause of secession is only a myth: laws and institutions do not create the forces within a country, nor can they indefinitely contain them. They also do not reflect the public morality; they are mala prohibita. If people are driven to the point where they can no longer live together, they will find a way to live separately in spite of anything Lincoln said or did.

All organizations need a clearly defined procedure for dissolution. If it's easy to sign up but difficult to leave, it invites the Grass is Greener syndrome. If it's easy to leave, people will face the chilling possibility of life without a net. Institutions must provide a safe path for fissiparous energy to be released harmlessly, or they will be fragmented by it. Better not to create the energy in the first place. But don't tell me; tell those other guys.

oct 14, 2017, 4:55 am

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