“Autocracy versus democracy” does not usefully describe the moment. It feels like a discarded line from some kind of late-night brainstorming session. … No, it’s not about democracy versus autocracy. The wheels are coming off. Our predecessors bequeathed to us a period of unprecedented tranquility. They were not infinitely wise in getting us here — no wiser than we are. But we grew up used to it in ways they could never imagine. We assumed order was normality, that peace was what naturally arose when power-hungry hyperpowers minded their own business. A better and more just world was there for the taking, if only we were moral enough to push for it.
An exaggeration, perhaps; and yet, I find myself wanting to respond to the unfolding global disorder by just doubling down on my effort to focus on my regular daily life—work on client projects, get the kids to school and back and to appointments, clean the gutters, winterize the sprinklers, wash the dishes, sweep the floor. There is a lot to be said for the mental and spiritual health aspects of focusing on the now and just doing what one can. But at the same time, I have the nagging sense that there is more global disorder and disruption to come, that the U.S. government has been so hollowed out by partisan efforts to incapacitate it that it would not be able to respond, and that the U.S. economy would not be able to handle a major conflict in Asia—to say nothing of the military, which would be undersupplied due to the lack of a sufficient domestic production base.