The Long View 2008-11-02: The Inner Emigration


This blog post of John J. Reilly’s from the 2008 American presidential election should be a good reminder that the craziness of recent years is an extension of things that were already happening a decade ago.

The Inner Emigration

There are people who call me a barbarian because I drink instant coffee. There are other people, even more pretentious, who affect to dismiss my opinions because I have read very little Dostoevsky. I refuse to give up instant coffee, but last week I bought a copy of The Brothers Karamazov. The story is surprisingly zippy. However, that does not change the fact that the book is a little over a thousand pages long. As I read, I console myself with the thought that finishing this book will take so long that it could keep my mind off pretty much the entire upcoming presidential administration.

It is a bad sign for any political system when this sentiment becomes widespread. The phenomenon is called inner emigration. The term is most famously associated with anti-Nazi German intellectuals who chose to remain in Germany during the Hitler period, but it has some applicability to any situation in which thoughtful people live under a regime they find repulsive, but which they are powerless to change or even criticize. (A condition of the inner emigration is that the regime allow a modicum of private space, something that not every 20th-century tyranny was always willing to do.) Whoever wins the presidential election on Tuesday, I’m afraid, we are going to see a great deal of alienation of just this sort.

Movement conservatism seems to have been as thoroughly refuted as a constellation of ideas can be. A decisive victory of Senator Obama over Senator McCain would seem to clinch the point; “conservatism,” as it has been understood since the Reagan years would no longer be tenable even as an electoral strategy. Nonetheless, self-proclaimed conservatives now propose not just to learn nothing from their brief time in power, but to systematically forget everything that conservatives have learned since Edmund Burke. The modern conservative version of the inner emigration is to Go John Galt. In that strategy, true conservatives would withdraw their indispensably productive and creative selves from the entrepreneurial sphere entirely.

Well, as we say in New Jersey: “Write home if you get work.”

Meanwhile, no less a person than Erica Jong predicts bloodshed and civil war should Senator Obama lose (or appear to lose, since a genuine loss is unimaginable). There have been numerous media reports about police departments making preparations for “disorder” on election night. When the media, particularly NPR, report on these preparations, they try to give the impression that disorder is to be feared no matter which candidate wins. Reasonable people may find this hypothesis improbable.

In any case, the question is not so much what happens on election night as in the years afterward. The Left in the US has more and more resembled the Russian Raskol, perhaps the paradigm case of a subculture that became more nihilistic the more it became politically irrelevant. (And yes, I had heard of it before I started reading The Brothers Karamazov.) Whatever we may think of the American Far Left today, the Obama campaign has been like an outing for a shut-in: they may appear awkward in public, but a little sunlight and some fresh air can only do them good. We can only wonder what dark thoughts they will harbor if, against all expectations, the defeat of their savior rudely shoves them back into their den of ill health?

Regarding predictions for the election itself, I think The Onion this week got it exactly right:

Unless citizens throughout America keep him in their thoughts, say his name to themselves over and over, and otherwise believe in him with all their might, Barack Obama may cease to exist, the candidate warned supporters Thursday.

Nonetheless, though I have no intention of emigrating, internally or externally, I must confess that this story (hat tip to Jayson) gives me profound misgivings about the coming administration, any coming administration:

Zeppelins, the giant floating airships used to carry passengers and drop bombs until the 1930s, haven't been seen in American skies for more than 70 years.

Now a California company is bringing the iconic aircraft back to the United States, with plans to offer aerial tours of the San Francisco Bay area in a newly built zeppelin. It's one of just three in the world _ the others are in Germany and Japan.

As we have often noted, airships are a Fortean technology, whose presence is symptomatic of a perturbation of the local timeline.

Only 950 pages more to go.

Copyright © 2008 by John J. Reilly

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