Hootie and the European Land War

It's only Neo-Fukuyamanism if it's from the violent return of History. Otherwise it's just sparkling late 90s nostalgia.

Hootie and the European Land War

Checkout aisle, South Carolina Home Depot, spring 2022. Darius Rucker rounds the corner on the hook, more soul in two cells of his diaphragm than in every human being sighing and scrolling in the checkout line. The lyrics? Deeper than I remembered.

We may not change the world, but
I'm gonna love you
The best that,
The best that I can

Right on, brother. I start humming it and weeks go by. Our next moment together is a Lidl, 8:30am, Saturday morning grocery run with the wife. "I Go Blind," a poppier cut from Scattered, Smothered, and Covered, floats into the airwaves of the warm dawn.

Every morning, I wake up
And I try, to feel alive
But I can't
(Every time I look at you, I go blind)

"Did you get sweet potatoes already?"

I hold a finger to her lips, pointing at the speakers above.

"I'm vibin'."

The love affair has continued to the present day, so it was with a not-small level of excitement that I stumbled upon a recent op-ed on Hootiecore and what it means for the wider historical age.

It's obvious enough that Hootie and his fellow travelers are connected somehow to Clinton-era surplus and the establishment of American hyperpower, but Douthat disagrees that the Hooties are Fukuyaman (that is, angstless.)

It’s not joy at the end of history, exactly, that defines the Hootie-DMB-Counting Crows aesthetic, but maybe it’s what you might call a sense that ordinary life suffices (a key stabilizing sentiment for a liberal society). That you can have a rich human experience, full of joys and sorrows, without the extreme premodern or 20th-century stuff, war and God and utopia and all the rest. (And without racial division, too: The multiracial makeup of the Dave Matthews Band and Hootie and the Blowfish is also important here.)

I'd add, nothing exemplifies "doing more with less" like crying over sports, probably the line/vibe that most catapulted the band's rise.

I think it's no coincidence that my love affair with the Blowfish began with my first year as a salaried member of the middle class, in a loving relationship with an enjoyable job. My own private Clintonian surplus, old dreams of God and utopia shrinking in the cracked rear view.

What's ironic, though, is that this lifestyle was made possible by crisis: quarantined remote work, fear and suspicion of the American public, a couple welfare checks that gave me the time and resources to learn how to code. A rather balmy sense of enoughness, coupled with a new belief in the power of liberal democracy and other wholesome things, brought about not by the end of history, but its return.

It's appropriate, then, to call this vibe shift a kind of neo-Fukuyamanism, hardened and refined by the turbulence of the 2020s. Fukuyama (or our pop culture shorthand for his thought) was right in the sense that there is still no viable alternative to liberal democracy; it was wrong in thinking that world leaders would be rational enough to recognize this indefinitely.

Oh, well. Glory fades and common sense survives, and what was old will be made new again. After being put into question more dramatically than it has for several generations, ordinary life suddenly feels like enough. I hope it does for you, too.

The Month in Great Power Conflict

Here by popular demand, via last month's choose-the-topic survey: a small harvest of news from the war in Europe.

Gen. Surovikin, Dr. Evil lookin' ass, was demoted from supreme commander of the Russian armed forces on the 11th, replaced with long-time flunkie Gerasimov. This is good news, as Evil, M.D. was doing a better job than the rest of them.

“They have taken someone who is competent and replaced him with someone who is incompetent, but who has been there a long time and who has shown that he is loyal,” said Dara Massicot, senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation in Washington.

The most common take for the move is that Putin is trying to keep Prigozin, the head of Wagner Paramilitary Company, away from undue influence on the armed forces. The deranged caterer that publically executes deserters with sledgehammers is apparently angling to succeed Putin to the throne. So there's that. Prigozin was buds with Dr. Evil and has repeatedly called Gerasimov, the re-installed commander, a f-word.

Beyond the musical chairs, the news of the month was Russian micro-advances and the tanks that will hopefully stop them.

As the Zombie horde began to once again gain inches, capturing the strategically inconsequential town of Soledar a little to the north of strategically inconsequential Bakhmut, the Western alliance decided it was a great time to broadcast dysfunction and feet dragging about additional armaments. Poland, who has no time for any of this, first warned they'd send their German Leopard tanks without German approval. The UK then sent their smaller Challengers over and Germany, by the 25th, relented. The US upheld its side of the deal by sending Abrams tanks, which are gas guzzlers and less interoperable than Leopards--but such is the price we pay to keep the Teutonic peoples less than gung-ho about mass militarization. The Abrams do take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. The memes have been good all around, really.

And it was a good month for embarassing moments with Putin. David Pressman, least based US diplomat, corncobbed the Russian government par excellence. The tsar is not a small man, the tsar reports. Please don't write in the newspaper that I'm small.

Meanwhile, rabid human thumb and flesh-based vodka container Dmitri Medvedev threatened the planet with nuclear apocalypse for the millionth time this year and posted through it on Telegram. It reminded me of a line Nina Khrushcheva quoted in BBC's podcast, Putin. "Russia is so patriarchal, even its first lady is a man."

By the way, you might've noticed the nuke talk quieted down a little after it reached a fever pitch in the fall. We have the Chinese to thank, it looks like. They're really redefining 'bare minimum' from aspiring global leadership during a genocidal war of conquest, but it costs nothing to say thanks.

Everyone is now waiting to see what happens in the Ukrainian spring counteroffensive. According to glow-in-the-dark Redditors they'll probably try to push into Melitopol, which will scare Russia due to its proximity to Crimea, and then use the resulting reduction in Russian manpower in Donbass to win back more of what they've lost there. But given the big brain strategery of Zaluzhny and co., it'd be just as wise to bet the opposite. Matter of fact, best to just go back to Russia.

As the always-excellent Lawerence Freedman wrote on the 18th, the question is not whether the new armaments can blunt the coming Russian offensive (they almost certainly will), but whether the ensuing Ukrainian counteroffensive will lead them closer to victory (and provide an argument for continuing to escalate NATO support.)

Fingers crossed that Kharkivian lightning can strike twice.

Toots and Murmurs

Add this to your sapient corvid dossier.

  • Why Not Mars - If you missed this beautiful post from last month, treat yourself. $8chan has been out of the news more this year and it's important to remember that there's a delusionally incompetent money guy at the center of it. Also, it's just neat--everybody wanna live on Marstopia, nobody wanna master the secrets of fecal dehydration.
  • The Most Hopeful Climate Stories of the Year - A real monkey's paw kinda thing, to quietly see the most important climate legislation passed in our history (along with major breakthroughs in fusion) in a year we spent worried about nuclear annihilation.
  • Tyler Cowen Interviews Audrey Tang - Tang is the future. A hero. Wish we had someone like her in our country. In every country!
  • III. Fuck You and Die - Vice - A history of Something Awful, the setters of tone for our modern world order. They had something called Goon Camp, which reminds me of vbe cmp, an internet encounter group I may or may not be attending this year.
  • Whyn Lewis Beautiful doggo paintings-- originally I saw these in a lovely Vashti Bunyan album.
  • gail.com FAQ - Cute.
  • Grain Farming Goes Indoors Grains and other staples are the holy grail of vertical farming (AKA "plant factories," which I like less as a term of art.) It looks like they might get there. For background, watch the incredible Exa Cognition explainer videos. They made me a believer.
  • Turns out you can outwit military AIs by hiding in cardboard boxes. Another win for the Metal Gear Solid universe, as someone on the Tabs Discord said.
  • Work-in-progress (2020) by artist William Cobbing And now, your moment of Zen.

No survey this month as I'm going to indulge the other participant in last month's with the next topic. Thank you for reading-- if you feel like commenting, I'm pretty sure Ghost makes it rather easy below. Would probably make my day, at any rate.