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By Charlie Johnston

I was in seventh grade when I began seriously studying historical societies on the verge of catastrophic collapse. Obviously, I was looking to see patterns that would hopefully give me insight into how to avert such catastrophes if possible and how to weather the storm if not.
It is easy to see the causes of collapse in hindsight but very difficult to see them before the collapse comes. Only a tiny sliver of people in such historical situations have foreseen accurately the devastating trajectory their cultures were on in advance. This is largely because the symptoms often look very similar to the rough and tumble of ordinary daily life. If the disorders are primarily administrative – how best to accomplish shared goals – there is little danger of collapse. If it is systemic, that is that the goals themselves have diverged dramatically, rarely can collapse be avoided. When the means of accomplishing fundamentally shared goals are in dispute, the rough and tumble of negotiations and “win some, lose some” political fights will suffice – and are usually best. It is a time for negotiation. But when the goals themselves have diverged, negotiations are fruitless: one side must prevail and the other be vanquished.
Many things complicate our ability to see what our trajectory is clearly. Even healthy cultures are sprinkled with hysterics who regard every dispute as an existential crisis. These hysterics are tiresome people with their ridiculous cherry-picked charts, graphs and narratives. Few take them seriously except fellow obsessives. Ironically, though, they help to clear the ground for the sort of collapse they are ever warning against because they are like the boy who cried wolf. People get so weary of their alarmist hysterics that they are anesthetized against genuine signs of danger. On the other hand, normalcy bias leads most rational people to compare the sorts of tumult associated with systemic decline with mere administrative disputes they remember. For example, during the early days of the events leading up to the Holocaust, many Jews underestimated the danger primarily because they were accustomed to cyclical pogroms against them throughout Europe. It was tempting to see Germany as more of the same because it started so similarly to what they had seen before – and it was too horrible to contemplate the depth of the evil involved. You have decent but myopic people vested in trying to prove that the horrible thing unfolding around them is not as bad as it seems – and this often paralyzes other good people from action when it would only take a serious (but not impossible) effort to change the trajectory.
Complicating things further is a great paradox: in seriously tumultuous times you have the most crackpot conspiracy theories floating around – but you also have the most real malicious conspiracies happening. Earnest people too eagerly glom onto things that don’t hold water in order to emphasize how bad things are getting. Meantime, malicious people use these things that don’t hold water both as distractions from what they ARE doing and to simultaneously discredit people who see clearly how bad things are, even if those don’t quite understand how it is happening. It is critical to become both rigorously discerning in order to filter out bad information and bold in speaking out on solid information. That is a dual discipline that is very demanding. Even the best will err sometimes. You must work to be brutally rigorous in your outlook AND to fully and openly acknowledge when you are wrong, then keep at it despite the storm of shrieks you get from the malicious. Many people fall by the wayside because they are incapable of admitting candidly when they have erred or because they can’t withstand the firestorm that comes when they do. Authentic Christianity in tumultuous times is not for wimps.

It finally occurred to me that America – and some of the rest of the world – have a powerful weapon that was not available to all the previous societies that had undergone catastrophic collapse: a religious and industrious middle class. The closest any previous society had come was post-World War I Germany. Its middle class had been decimated, though, by the war it lost and the extraordinarily punitive stipulations of the Treaty of Versailles; stipulations that led to the massive runaway inflation and economic collapse of the Weimar Republic which paved the way for the rise of Adolf Hitler and absolute tyranny. Every other society I studied had, effectively, only two significant classes: The elite rulers and the massive have-not class which served those rulers.
Even as this signal insight came to me in my junior year of high school, I realized that the bulk of the middle classes were largely disengaged from politics and generally cowed by the pseudo-intellectual pretensions of the elite classes. Some random folks from the middle class would make up the bulk of volunteer political activists as precinct committeemen and county chairmen, but it was a hobby to them rather than a career or an obsession. The various nutty enthusiasms of the credentialed classes seemed pretty nutty to most regular folks, but they would generally shrug their shoulders, figure it was irrelevant to their lives, and get on about the business of raising their families and working their careers. The attitude was that if it was as dumb as it sounded the “intellectuals” would outgrow it as they had to forge their way into their own livelihoods, and that maybe it had some merit in a counter-intuitive way and time would show that – but that whatever the case was, it did not stop the middle class from doing what they had to do. The middle classes mistook the credentialed classes’ malice for the mere folly of youth – and the “intellectuals” mistook the middle classes’ indifference for timidity.
Fear of loss is one of the great motivators in life. I realized that these mutual misunderstandings were setting up a slow-motion collision of titanic proportions if they were not checked. The “elite” classes in our world were not elite in any objective sense of the word. Rather, they were smugly convinced of their own superiority, mistook a credential for actual expertise, and were utterly power-mad – getting stupider by the day as the quest for power sucked everything else into the darkening vortex of their lives.  The middle classes thought the elite’s pretensions as mere folly and play-acting, completely misreading the malicious power-mad obsession at the heart of it. If the elites were mosquitoes in the 60’s and 70’s – a mere annoyance – left unchecked they would eventually become voracious velociraptors. I trusted for a long time that once the elites’ madness grew great enough to threaten the lifestyles that the middle classes had built for themselves and their countries, those middle classes would rally to their own defense and that of their countries – if not the governments the elites had likely seized from them.

In fact, my entire political career was a feeble effort to check this ongoing collision. A handful of my candidates actually perceived that, as hard as I worked for them, I had some other agenda of my own going on. When one would bring it up, I would candidly admit they were right, but that my agenda could only be served if I was steadfastly loyal to their aims in the particular project (campaign) we were embarked upon together – and if that ever changed, I would be duty-bound to resign honestly rather than to undermine anything. Since I was so openly committed to giving them sound information – even when that information was damaging to me, the three that perceived this while I was working for them accepted that. Fortunately, I also had a secondary agenda: if this collision could not be checked, to use my work to identify solid faithful patriots who would be useful later in manning the ambulances and forming an alternative to a dying polis.
Now, it is the Canadian truckers who are mounting the first serious battle between the middle classes and the credentialed pretend elites. They are the tip of the spear in a battle that is rising throughout the world. The credentialed classes are throwing everything they can at these noble truckers. The crowdfunding site, GoFundMe tried to steal $9 million of the funds raised for the truckers and give it to leftist groups instead. After threats of investigations and prosecutions from several states, the crowdfunding site gave automatic refunds to donors, but still stopped the funding source. Fortunately, a relatively new Christian crowdfunding site, GiveSendGo, stepped in to fill the gap. As of yesterday, it had raised nearly $6 million for the truckers. The officials of Canada’s Capitol City, Ottawa, started frantically making up laws to try to kill the convoy – and police started stealing fuel from the truckers and threatening to arrest anyone who brought them fuel or supplies. A judge ruled yesterday that the police must return the fuel they stole and stop harassing people bringing supplies. Taking a page from America’s J-6 Committee, leftist Canadian officials are trying to declare the peaceful truckers’ demonstration to be a “violent insurrection.”

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