THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE
JANUARY 01, 2023 AARON SMITH SEASON 1 EPISODE 43
Happy New Year! Today, in Episode 43, we discuss hope and despair coming into the new year and ask what the best response might be to challenges we face as a society. Complacency is the most fertile soil for evil to grow in.
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Episode 43:The Tortoise and the Hare
It’s 2023! Once again, “That old bald cheater, Time”, as the author Ben Johnson referred to it, has stolen another year from us. This rightly inspires some reflection and hopefully introspection. We set goals that we will likely abandon in several weeks unfortunately. We wonder how another year has passed us by and we may even believe that we catch faint glimpses of a black-robed figure, armed with a sickle, out of the corners of our eyes. This is Episode 43 of The subtlecain Podcast, The Tortoise and the Hare.
The New Year can be a celebration of possibilities or another link in Dickensian chains. There are myriad contributing factors to how one perceives it. Among these may be age, culture, religion, and just a general predisposition of personality. Our reaction to the circumstances we encounter in life are dependent on so many elements. The complex compounds that are each and every unique personality number in the billions. Eight billion, seven million, six-hundred and some thousand unique personalities as of the recording of this episode, according to the tabulators at the unimaginatively named worldometers website.
As you cast your gaze upon the horizon, does your heart swell with the hope of new opportunities? Do you feel discouraged by the past? Has the merciless, grinding machine of mainstream media worn you down to the point of anxiety? Maybe you feel punch drunk or even apathetic. Statistically speaking, anxiety and depression have either made an initial appearance in individuals or have increased in severity, at least here in the Western World. One of the most likely contributors to a dire outlook about the coming year is the constant focus of news being all the things that are either actually going wrong, or the predictions of manipulative prognosticators that intentionally leave you feeling on the precipice of some emergency or another. As I have alluded to in my last podcast episode, The Reason, there will always be some calamity or another, real or imagined, waiting just around the corner. There will always be those who are happy to take advantage of the fear that comes from uncertainty in order to further personal or institutional goals.
Recently, it appears as though the focus of the trauma-based entertainment has shifted slightly. I like metaphors as a literary tool. We had our friends over for supper last night and I was the one cooking. I had several different dishes that I had to prepare. I started boiling water for the potatoes and then moved on to the preparation of the steaks. I also had to juggle the asparagus and the lobster tails. It was quite a feast. We don’t eat like that often but we wanted it to be special. Making sure everything was done around the same time is a chore. Let’s pretend we’re speaking about a feast of globalization and technocracy. The pot of plague and pestilence has been shifted to the back burner to simmer for a spell. Don’t worry, it’ll just take a little twist of the knob and that pot can be brought back to a full boil in no time! I’d say war and nuclear annihilation is on a front burner because it needs a little more stirring right now, it’s taking up an awful lot of our resources. On our main burner, we have the delectable climate catastrophe and energy crisis. And in the oven is our fateful food shortages. All of these dishes go together quite well and complement each other masterfully. A technocratic feast is being carefully and lovingly cooked by the elitist chefs.
Before I torture the analogy beyond any semblance of reason, I will offer questions for consideration. What if the actual threat of all these things is so irrationally disproportionate to reality as to make the whole situation obscene? Is that possible? What do I mean by that? Could it be that the risk from climate-related disasters has actually been drastically decreased over time and not increased? The philosopher, Alex Epstein makes just such a case quite profoundly in his book, Fossil Future. He also has a website that covers the topic quite deftly:
What if more people have been lifted out of poverty than ever before in human history? That is the case, according to ourworldindata.org.(Are statisticians just incapable of creative names for their websites?)
I don’t want to minimize the fact that energy policies are being put into place all over the world which actually will plunge the world into poverty and cause massive environmental destruction. That is actually the case. Affordable energy is the linchpin that allows for the most alleviation of human suffering. So called “Renewable Energy” is unreliable, prohibitively expensive, and relies on strip-mining and child labor to even limp along at an unimpressive three percent of the energy produced in the world. I’ll let you venture down that particular rabbit hole if you feel so inclined. It is another example of how the “experts” have sold a bill of goods that not only does not accomplish what it set out to do, but actually makes things worse. Another booster anyone?
Just for the sake of argument though, what if things are not as bad as they are made out to be? Would that bring relief to a society so inundated by bad news? One would hope so, but I’m not convinced. I think a part of us wants the news to be bad. I think a part of us needs the news to be bad.
There is an almost palpable dread woven throughout the virtual world. To my eyes, there are armies of intransigent ideologues of all flavors co-existing online. The various echo chambers all bound together like an unstable radioactive isotope. It’s become much more easy to live in a bubble of comfortable agreement. We don’t have to associate much with those with whom we disagree. We don’t have to associate with many people at all, for that matter, apart from the superficial necessities of daily life, like going to work or to the store. We limit conversations to safe topics like pets and sports we follow. Discussion of anything more substantive is shied away from at the very first indication of potential disagreement. This goes for most people I encounter, even when they do agree with me. I have, on occasion, posited arguments that I disagree with for the sole purpose of testing this hypothesis. I admit it is somewhat deceptive to do so, but in my defense, I am also looking for my own biases when I do it. (Great! Now that I’ve admitted to that, no one will want to talk to me!)
Professor Mattias Desmet, the (in)famous Belgian psychologist who wrote the book, The Psychology of Totalitarianism, has recently been criticized for his theory of Mass Formation. This isn’t the initial criticism that it doesn’t exist. This is coming from the other side of the argument. The side that believes it does exist but that he doesn’t do enough to blame the ones perpetrating the propaganda to perpetuate the effect.
I can understand and appreciate the sentiment, but it is only that, sentiment. I believe that people should be aligned with Professor Desmet and applaud the work he has done to expose fatal flaws in society that allowed opportunists and ideologues to prey upon the public at large. Instead, we have a subset of people who would rather attack him for not pointing the finger directly enough at those they want exposed for their misdeeds. This to me is somewhat myopic and unhelpful at best. Professor Desmet is specifically addressing aspects of the individual life that led to a predisposition for Mass Formation. His work is not meant as an expose’ of the ruling class or their particular ambitions.
I deeply value the work brave people do to expose the machinations of the self-proclaimed elite. I’ve personally spoken to some of them and find their work to be invaluable to the cause of freedom. The situation brings to mind the old adage, “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. I am more inclined to focus on personal responsibility and less on the schemes of others, but I recognize the importance of investigative journalism. It’s a crucial element of a free society. I laud the people dedicated to bringing what happens in shadows, out into the light. My predisposition to focus on the individual and personal responsibility is mainly one of pragmatism.
Do I want the so-called “Global Leaders” and influencers to receive some sort of amnesty for the crimes they regularly commit against humanity? Certainly not, but what mechanism will we use to prosecute those in power? Do we reasonably believe that they will be held to account for their actions? Perhaps we can vote our way to freedom? I honestly wish it were that easy. What would it look like if we were given the ability to hold those in power accountable? Would it be institutional collapse? Would it involve gallows or guillotines? Do we imagine shaved heads and naked bodies, marching down the main streets like Nazi collaborators in France after WWII? Cathartic as that imagery is to me, I wonder, where would it end? Where would the line be between us and them, be drawn? Would we not simply transform from “The People” to “The Mob”? After the top of the food chain would we expand our search to include our neighbors and employers, our friends and family? Would we become the very thing we claim to detest?
Again, I will say that I value the hard work of those who expose the lies and schemes of the various Machiavellian cohorts among us. It is right and just to do so. I spend plenty of time here on my podcast discussing these issues because resistance to tyranny requires speaking up against it. I understand that we need to “pump out reason and pierce through the propaganda”. I think my track record speaks to my convictions in this area. I only advise caution and discretion, so that cooler heads may preside.
One must not confuse a call for personal responsibility with a desire to extend immunity to a class of criminal elites. One can advocate for personal responsibility and condemn the actions of the criminal. The two are not mutually exclusive.
This next part may garner some less than enthusiastic responses. The term virtue-signaling can be quite triggering to some people. It is, in fact, a less than tactful description of people’s often genuine intentions. Nonetheless, it is technically accurate. So many well-intentioned people of all stripes are doing what they feel is in their power to do by posting things online. Before I go any further, I will readily acknowledge that this is precisely what I am doing right now. I understand the pejorative manner in which the term is used and as inglorious as it sounds and as hapless as it may seem, this is another form of virtue-signaling. I am signaling through written and spoken word not only what I believe to be true, but things that I believe to be virtuous. There it is all out in the open. That Aaron Smith guy was online, virtue-signaling! The thing is, it is necessary and beneficial to speak out about what we believe, even when we are wrong. We’re going to get things wrong and being sincere isn’t enough. I get that.
I would like to make a distinction here. One between words and actions. You can’t know what my personal life looks like. I can say with a clean conscience that my words and my deeds are as aligned as my flawed and imperfect personality allows for. I do make a conscious effort to be the man I know I should be but all I can say about that is, “There but by the grace of God go I”, to paraphrase the Martyr, John Bradford. The virtue-signaling that earns our ire is more about the stolen valor we see amongst those who substitute words for actions. Those who believe posting the right meme or adding such and such to their profile picture somehow represents true change in the world as they go about their lives, indifferent to the actual work they could be doing to lift others out of suffering.
Here we take a quick break for some updates. First, The subtlecain Podcast is a value for value podcast. That means that you have the opportunity to return value in the form of time, talent or treasure is you feel that I have provided value to you. Yes, I cribbed that line from the No Agenda podcast, but it’s concise and I like it. There are links in the show notes for how to contribute financially. You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have started releasing Substack articles as promised, though the timing is still somewhat sporadic thus far. I will get better at that. Please see the link provided for how to subscribe to the, as of now, free newsletter. I will post a transcript of this show there as well. I have also, with some real trepidation, started a Twitter account. You can follow me @subtlecain. I know, I know. I’m not saying it’s ideal. I have to get the word out there though. We’ll see what happens. If I feel myself being sucked into a vortex of misery I might have to reconsider, but here we go. Let’s hope I can manage to stay on the right side of that particularly sharp two-edged sword. And, last but certainly not least, my neighbors are relatively resettled in a new home and are making the transition with remarkable grace. Thank you to anyone who donated to their givesendgo.org campaign or donated cash locally. Their struggle is far from over so I have the link in the show notes for anyone interested in making a difference. That’s that for now. Let’s jump back into the content!
What does it take then to realize real change? My wife and I are as different as any two people can be in many ways. I often jokingly refer to us as the Tortoise and the Hare. I did so this morning. In case you’re a little fuzzy on the context. The Tortoise and the Hare is a children’s story about a race held between these two animals. The hare is quick and can run like the wind in rapid bursts of speed that the poor tortoise can only dream about, but becomes easily distracted and overconfident. Conversely, the tortoise is as constant as gravity and has holds no illusion about its slow pace. The over-confident hare sprints ahead and arrogantly decides to take a nap along the way. The self-aware tortoise steadily plots along and never loses faith or becomes discouraged despite the odds being against her. In the end, the hare wakes up too late and the intransigent tortoise crosses the finish line first.
It should be obvious to the listener that my wife is the tortoise and I am the hare. She has taught me so much over the years and has modeled what true dedication and persistence, faith and determination are capable of. She has not only overcome the odds, but she has also excelled in everything she does. My path is one of intermittent vigor and apathy. Thanks to her example, I’ve been able to achieve some modicum of moderation. I suppose it’s fair to say that I did have the same thing modeled for me by my dad. A more disciplined man I have never met. Of course, I’m as stubborn as I am impulsive, so it took my wife to water and grow the seeds my father planted.
Okay Aaron, thanks for the unsolicited autobiographical narration, but what’s the friggin’ point? Good question, glad you asked. If you’re concerned about what you’re seeing in the world, you are probably paying attention, though things may not be as bad as they seem. So, what should be done about any of it? Another good question, and the answer isn’t likely to be, post a meme even if they are a great way to capture sentiment and use humor to fend off despair. There are a host of things each of us can do and because of the unique personalities we all have, they will vary greatly. The most meaningful and impactful answer or answers, all likely have to do with personal investments in the people around you.
We want to see drastic and rapid changes to the things we recognize as needing to be changed. We want the world to be a better place. The world is rather huge though. Sure, we can rage against the machine and we can burn brightly. We’ve seen how impactful a can of gasoline and a match can be over the last few years. That’s not how we win the race though, that’s not the kind of change we need. Fear begets fear and violence begets violence. That’s the way of hare, arrogant and impulsive. What we need isn’t an army of hares, sprinting around in bursts and then burning out like a flash in the pan. What we need is an army of tortoises, persistent and diligent. What we need is a steady and calm voice that speaks peace and invests their time and energy into their communities and the lives of those around them. That’s how we enact the change we want to see.
“What have I done to make the world a better place today?”, is the question we need to be asking ourselves. Make no mistake. I’m asking myself the same question right now. I hope that this new year inspires a sense of hope and renewal in you. It doesn’t pay to focus on our past failures. We will always fall short of the ideal version of ourselves. We can’t let that allow us to indulge in complacency though. After all, complacency is the most fertile soil for evil to grow in. Happy New Year!! May we all be the tortoises we need to be in 2023!!
For all you listening, you are valued, you are loved, and you are worthy.
God Bless and Good night.