This is an exercise in pure speculation. I invite all here to bring their own notions to the table.
An old friend of mine visited me last Saturday to catch up on things. We walked my dog and began a long conversation that ended later in my backyard over coffee and tea.
Bob is fascinated by history, and has been a long-time contributor to print and online history publications. So our conversations often veer off into that realm. Because we have developed a years-long habit of riffing on whatever thoughts come to our heads, we never know where one of our history threads will go.
We were discussing the dark ages, which not only were characterized by the disintegration of the Roman political order, but also the loss of an immense store of practical technological knowledge: agricultural practices and implements; construction techniques—it would take until the 19th century for Europeans to match the Romans’ road-building prowess—war machines; distribution and warehousing; science; art (which in Roman times was the realm of artisans, not self-absorbed “transgressive” pricks).
I said that I think we are headed for a “soft dark ages.” That took him aback. “How are we headed there,” he asked, “and how would they be ‘soft’?”
I answered his last question first. They would be “soft” because unlike what happened in Roman times, we have the ability to store gigantic amounts of information in small spaces. One person can carry around encyclopedic knowledge on a flash drive. Multiply him by the millions, and you have a vast repository of recoverable knowledge that is private, widely dispersed, and replicated many times over. No matter how determined or persistent this era’s barbarians—Marxists, Muslims, Democrats, unionists, academicians—they simply would not be able to track down and destroy all modern technological knowledge.
But beyond furtive individual efforts at hiding and protecting the knowledge we would need to create a New America or a New West, there would be vaster, more organized, more collective efforts to protect knowledge until better days. I suggested to Bob three institutions or concepts that would become the next dark ages’ hallmarks: The new castle fortress; the new monastic life; and the new Europe.
1. The Return of the Castle Fortresses
If the United States, Europe and China disintegrate, as seems likely, there will be a scramble for political power among the remnant provinces, states, and regions. Most power will be wielded by Marxist thugs and old-fashioned warlords, so it would not be surprising to see China devolve to its pre-Qin Dynasty pattern of warring neighbor states, or America’s big cities—Chicago, Detroit, Washington—and its Mexicanized rural regions, become brutal satrapies run by the people like Jesse Jackson, Bill Ayers, La Raza, ethnic mafias, and the like.
Europe could begin a too-late, doomed-to-fail ethnic cleansing of its Muslim underclass, but would probably slip either into fascism or dhimmitude. Poland, the bravest of the European nations, might be able to escape either fate, although that would be doubtful given its lack of firepower and its closeness to the greatest of all the European barbarian states, Russia.
But the barbarians would not win everywhere. Just as Old Europe in the dark ages had its bright centers of learning, protected by force of arms, there would be parts of the world that would not succumb to the new barbarity. They would become mankind’s new castles, fortresses of resistance where decency and unpoliticized science might still flourish.
These new fortresses will not have thick walls and deep moats, although their means of protection metaphorically will be the same. Their moats will be the ability of their computer geniuses to resist and thwart attacks upon their databases, and their walls will be heavily and well armed soldiers and citizens who will unhesitatingly destroy any physical threat to their sanctuaries.
Where will the new fortresses be? Either in lands that can protect themselves or are far enough away from the barbarians that they will be difficult to invade and hold. In the former case, Texas and Utah come to mind, states whose populations are already armed and whose economic infrastructures already lay upon solid technological foundations. More remote places, like New Zealand, Alberta, Baja California, could set up defendable dark age redoubts if they were properly armed, including with nuclear weapons.
There would be secret places, too. Large nations and corporations have set aside fortified places where they can stash tools, seeds, patents, rare materials, genealogies, and other irreplaceable items. Assuming that some of them will not be expropriated by the new barbarians, these vital repositories of knowledge could be available for a later renaissance.
2. The New Monastic Life
If the fortresses hold, they will become the new monasteries. Instead of patiently copying barely understood manuscripts from a fallen civilization, the new monastics will preserve the old science that they already well understand and attempt to build on it.
The ends they pursue will be the advancement of medicine (especially countermeasures to the barbarians’ chemical and biological weapons); the protection of personal data against spying or theft; the subversion of the barbarians’ computer and weapons systems (think Stuxnet); and the preservation of seminal texts that will one day replace the adulterated, denatured literature of the new emperors.
In contrast, the science of the barbarians will, because of barbarians’ nature, focus on predictable ends: refining the capacity to deliver death, whether it be through abortion, euthanasia, or mass murder against political opponents; improving methods of surveillance and the control of communications, “education,” and literature; honing tools designed to hunt down wealth or knowledge and expropriate it; and finding ways to increase the lifespans and sexual abilities of the rulers.
3. The New Europe
In the old dark ages, Europe itself was the physical locus of quiet scholarship and the preservation of old knowledge that later flowered into the Renaissance. In the “soft dark ages,” ones cushioned by the existence of fierce armed “monks” in well-defended freeholds, the New Europe will be a state of mind. In some ways, it will be how the Catholic Church sees itself: No matter where you go or what language you speak, there are the universal constants of the Mass and the Magisterium.
Similarly, wherever our new defenders of knowledge and decency find themselves — Patagonia, the Outback, the remote Rocky Mountains, the bowels of Obama-ite Chicago — they will share a common love of truth and real science. They will know how to detect falsehood and be indifferent to the barbarians’ enticements. Whatever secret handshake they develop, it will be something that the barbarians might know exists, but will, like their Vandal and Mongol forerunners, never understand.
How long will it take for the soft dark ages to run their course? Who could tell? My concern is that there remain a core of people who will resist the thugocracy, bloodlessly and not, until the thugs’ own fatal contradictions do them in. The United States defeated the Soviet Union because the USSR not only lived a lie, but because it had long before killed off its best and smartest people.
That pattern will repeat itself among our Marxist, Muslim, and academic brethren. But while they will be doomed to repeat a history of failure and debasement, our destiny will call for us to recreate the wonderful things that men once called “the West” and “America.”