One Big Thing

The trouble is, everything’s wrong, all at once.

At the beginning of Covid, Isaiah Berlin’s hedgehog ruled by daily bludgeon. One big thing was wrong, and kept being wrong day after dreary winter’s day. Now you drink your tea or coffee, or carrot, celery and ginger detox, you stare at your screen and you see that you cannot win. The Fox has filled up the internet with insurmountable odds.

Late capitalism, wicked, insidious inflation, rents you can’t afford, yes yes yes, all that. Quick! Raise interest rates! Stop this damned moment when workers dare to jostle for an edge. Kill jobs and that will show them. But feverish rent- and profit-seeking is a problem we’ve had for a time.

Populism going mainstream? Silvio Berlusconi was first elected Prime Minister eighteen years ago, so bring me your Trumps, Bolsanaros and Melonis and tell me what else is new.

But a land war in Europe(!) you say? Even that has been going on for over half a year now, a baldly ignorant geopolitical move that somehow, 144 million Russians who can’t make it to queue in the Caucasus mountains can’t be troubled to denounce.

The melting of Antarctica? Ditto that. What’s a foot or two of coastal flooding – maybe even while you’re still alive – among Instagram users?

No, never mind about all that. Here is what is really important, an epochal change that is happening in this month, in this year. The real one big thing: September 2022 is the last month in the history of the world when people will pay much attention to England. Or the United Kingdom, Great Britain, the British Isles, you choose what to call that confused island set before it winks out before the eyes of the rest of the world.

Though the unending self harm of Brexit provides fresh reasons to sneek a peek through your fingers at the horror show (and shows every sign of doing so for a long time to come), the death of the queen marks the moment with perfect symbolic resonance.

God save the King is a pretty odd thing for any nation of well-educated grownups to say, and mean, in this century. Give it off to collective dynamics. Maybe. Still, they did it all very, very well, and I bow, curtsy and genuflect as best American guy can. Never again shall we see the chills-producing majesty of that awesome (in that word’s true meaning) march down the 2.64 mile, 360 plus year old Long Walk to Windsor Castle. The anachronism of the British monarchy went out with a perfectly choreographed flourish. And that is this month’s true and enduring historical event.

2 thoughts on “One Big Thing

  1. Rather than argue the truism that “there will always be an England,” I have opted to study Isaiah Berlin instead. And by study, does 10 minutes on Wikipedia count?
    If so, Berlin sought to “divide writers and thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (examples given include Plato), and foxes, who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea.”
    Do you suppose the foxes will continually invent ways to exclude the working man from elevating himself?


    • If you’ll give me that ten Wikipedia minutes is worth about an hour and a half of The Joy of Macrame on YouTube, then yes, I’m gonna say ten minutes on Wikipedia qualifies anybody as an Isaiah Berlin scholar.

      I suppose the hedgehog’s one big idea, its money, and how to preserve it, won’t be upended from the arc of history anytime soon. The working man is gonna have to rise up. But it has ever been, and remains, thus.

      As a fox, I expect to remain ineffectual. I will continue to fret about this Bolsonaro thing down in Brazil next weekend, and how evil any coalition Meloni can cobble together might be, and (hand wring) oh my, Norway is now guarding its pipelines with soldiers, and is that pipeline explosion further Russian subterfuge or what, and I hear there are demonstrations against the pro-European government in Chisnau and can we undermine Russia’s little outlying colony of Serbia and can William Ruto grab traction as a self-styled hustler in Kenya, an evangelical Christian in east Africa between fellow evangelical Abiy Ahmed in Ethiopia to the north and Muslim Samia Suluhu Hassan, to the south, and will Turkey’s Erdogan hurry up and relent to Finland and Sweden in NATO or is his ultimate price the US F-35s he has coveted and been denied for – as a NATO country – buying air defense capability from Russia, and what about this whole Taiwan thing!?

      By the time I work through all my fears, that asteroid, or Swiss glacial melting, or the injustice of a World Cup built on slave labor – just a few months away – may have done us all in. Or so I fret.


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