“Inside the Dissident Fringe, Where the New Right Meets the Far Left, and Everyone’s Bracing for Apocalypse.” James Pogue goes to the American West to investigate how opposition to globalism has brought together a strange mix of nationalists and localists and preppers, some of whom are more traditionalist but many of whom are “very online,” into odd conspiracies, and/or quite wealthy. The overlapping movements he profiles are equal parts encouraging and terrifying. The basic story that unites them holds that “the relentless power of markets has worked its way into every part of our lives, breaking down traditional cultures and modes of life, forcing us to live drone-like lives ordered by our phones and credit scores, leading to the mass export of jobs overseas, the destruction of the natural world, an internationalist foreign policy that costs trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, and even the destruction of institutions like the American family farm. It is, like Marxism was once for the global left, a story that is a bible to all the other stories you need to understand the world.”
“The Edges Matter: Hedgerows Are Bringing Life Back to Farms.” Anne Marshall-Chalmers describes the multifaceted benefits that hedgerows can provide: “Native shrubs and trees lined a creek that ran through the walnut farm. Plants became boundaries between orchards and row crops—i.e., hedgerows—and it didn’t take long for the 450-acre organic farm to come “alive,” says Craig’s son, Sean McNamara, who joined the operation in 2014. Bees, owls, ladybugs, and many other creatures still routinely visit the farm. Just a few weeks ago, a bobcat strolled through the bushes along the creek.”
“Eagles Are Falling, Bears Are Going Blind.” Katherine J. Wu traces the consequences of a particularly deadly strain of bird flu that is spreading around the globe: “An estimated 58.4 million domestic birds have died in the United States alone. Farms with known outbreaks have had to cull their chickens en masse, sending the cost of eggs soaring; zoos have herded their birds indoors to shield them from encounters with infected waterfowl. The virus has been steadily trickling into mammalian populations—foxes, bears, mink, whales, seals—on both land and sea, fueling fears that humans could be next.”
“Following Jesus in Wartime.” Frank Mulder shares his approach to resisting the rhetoric of inevitable war: “If we accept that something is such an ultimate evil that there is no alternative to military response and weapons sales, we have chosen a path without end and will face heavy consequences later. We can’t control war.”
“How the Founders Read Montesquieu.” John C. Pinheiro reviews Joshua Bandoch’s The Politics of Place and situates its argument within the post-liberal debates over the meaning of the American founding: “the adaptation of principles to local circumstances through the use of prudence reigned. As Bolívar said, no matter how great it was in theory, the US Constitution was no more suited to Spanish South America than the Venezuelan constitution was to North America. Separation of Powers, yes. Universally transferable system, no.”
“America’s Culture Is Booming. Really.” Ted Gioia looks beyond the struggling legacy institutions and sees lots of cultural creators making songs and art and books and films along the margins. But the audience for such culture remains small and focused too predominantly on the celebrity artists: “In this stratified culture, millions of songs are released, but the rewards go to a few dozen superstars. Everything else is lost in the noise. It’s a culture by the elites, for the benefit of the elites.” Gioia sees hope, though, in new platforms that enable writers and artists to develop an audience for their work.
“Panopticons of the Interstate.” Trucker Gord Magill reviews Karen Levy’s Data Driven: Truckers, Technology, and the New Workplace Surveillance and delves into the ways that new regulations (often under the guise of deregulation) and technologies are making truckers’ lives miserable: “A warning to other types of workers emerges between the lines of Levy’s book, not only about surveillance technologies but also the bureaucratic and economic imperatives which drive them. How much surveillance is too much surveillance? At what point do these impositions push workers away, and will they be pushed away before the robots can be counted on to replace them? How much money is really being saved, given the massive expenses incurred in these technologies’ development? Given that ELDs have delivered on exactly none of their promised safety increases, can any of this other tech be counted on to deliver on its promises? What of older human solutions, like treating people better, such that they do not constantly leave the industry, necessitating the continuous recruitment of less experienced and less safe drivers.”
“Our One-Dimensional Schools.” Douglas Yacek imagines education rooted in genuine studiositas, or a deep love of the subject under study: “If we want to educate young people for something more than consumer life, then we will have to reverse the logic of the equipage mentality altogether. In a word, we will have to awaken their aspiration.” (Recommended by Scott Newstok.)
“When a Christian Revival Goes Viral.” Thomas Lyons writes for The Atlantic about the revival that has been unfolding at Asbury: “I live 20 minutes from Asbury and have spent nine days there since the revival began, and I see a paradox at play. The event has gone viral online—on TikTok, the hashtag #asburyrevival has more than 100 million views and counting. But its appeal is actually its physicality and simplicity. In a time of factionalism, celebrity culture, and performance, what’s happening at Asbury is radically humble.”
“Paul Kingsnorth on ‘The Machine’ and More!” To wrap up this week’s set of links, I’ll conclude with three audio or video conversations. Michael Martin and Mike Sauter talk with Paul Kingsnorth about the Machine and some antidotes to its structures.
“Working with Wood, and the Meaning of Life.” Krista Tippet talks with Nick Offerman about wood working, Wendell Berry, and edification.
“Right Ideas: Wendell Berry.” John Sailer from the National Association of Scholars hosted a conversation between Josh Hochschild and myself about Wendell Berry and his new book Need to Be Whole.