Herb Ruhs: Time Running Out

Anderson Valley

Sixty five years ago, when I was born, the United States was seen as the white knight saving the world from expansionist tyrannies that believed in economic expansion by means of aggressive war and torture as instruments of state policy.  Now I must confront the exquisite irony, sixty five years later, that the United States supports aggressive war, the greatest of all crimes according to the Nuremberg Trials that saw the execution for this crime of some of the highest placed leadership of the Nazi regime, AND torture as legitimate policies of the state.  My parents and many of my relatives fought, some died, to rid the world of aggressive war and torture and it turns out that they fought and died for nothing.  An even greater irony is that the elder population by and large, in their moral confusion — which is the product of high tech propaganda — the survivors of that very same war to free the world of these things, now tend to support what they fought and died to stop.

Compassion dictates that we seek to alleviate suffering when we can, but where does compassion have a foot hold here? I guess it is a character weakness of mine, but I have a hard time being compassionate toward mass murderers and torturers and the clueless hypocrites that support them. I would like to be compassionate toward my country, fallen so far in the moral universe, but to what use?  Is there any evidence that this tide of depravity in the US can be turned? Doesn’t seem so, but I would love to be wrong about this.

On the other hand, I now have the opportunity to commiserate with those liberal and progressive elements of Weimar Germany that watched helplessly as their country turned into a mass insane asylum.  It is with great sadness that I am encouraging my children, and anyone for that matter who will listen, to emigrate NOW while the opportunity still exists. Just as in Weimar Germany, it seems like there is an active struggle between decency and degeneracy, but it is an illusion, a false image of a struggle that no longer exists in any real sense.  There is no convincing evidence that the remaining decent US citizens (actually a large majority  I suspect) have the capacity or willingness to resist totalitarian oppression. Just as in Weimar Germany pre-WWII, there is a lot of whistling in the dark, a host of fantasies of how it will all turn out right, a lot of contempt shown for the ignorant followers of demagogues like Palin and Beck, but all this is for naught because insufficient strength of decent elements to change the situation.

Sometimes realism can be mistaken for defeatism. Please don’t think that I am defeatist, that I am giving up on decency. It is just that, as things stand, I don’t expect decency to show itself again until after the total destruction of the country, just as happened in post-WWII Germany. Decency always arises after an orgy of depravity such as we are experiencing — decency rising like the Phoenix from the ashes. The real question now, in light of climate destruction and a host of mortal ills associated with industrial culture, is not whether we can reconstruct decency in society. The question of decency reasserting itself is moot, if, as many informed people now believe, we have indeed come to the end of our rope as a species… if human decency will die a permanent death along with our species. If depravity continues its conquest, its final victim will be our species itself, which extinction we will have well earned as the most destructive species ever to evolve.

If we fail to resist depravity, undoubtedly, life will continue on a devastated Earth and reassert itself with a new array of advanced life forms, maybe even forms as “intelligent” as our own.  Likely archeologists of that far future time will uncover our bones and decide, as our contemporary archeologists have done in showing contempt for the extinct dinosaurs, that humans just didn’t have enough brain capacity to adapt, so we became extinct. Just as school children are taught now that dinosaurs only had brains the size of walnuts, future classes of similarly intelligent young may well be taught contempt for a species that only had a brain the size of a cantaloupe.

It may be yet the case that humans come to their senses in time to save ourselves from a richly deserved extinction.  If this turns out to be the case it will be because we, the decent citizens of the world, en mass, decide to reassert morality as the key to our being and not just an elective course we can function without, and something irrelevant to the political process.

The Golden rule seems so benign, but it is not. Those who fail to follow it take a path to self destruction.  Or as Groucho Marks said, “Time wounds all heels.”


Herb, I am curious to know what countries you are suggesting people emigrate to. I’ve been looking into emigration for the purpose of writing about the topic, and it is both revealing and sobering to discover how difficult it would be for a regular Todd or Jane or family of such to emigrate to Canada, France, England, Australia, Sweden, and many other countries, unless one is either extremely wealthy or can provide some extremely valuable technological skill sought by the corporate powers of those nations. I share many of your feelings about the state of America and the world, but I’m not yet convinced there is any better place than these hinterlands that will have me.

Herb, I’m touched by your latest two pieces.

I remember a Bill Mauldin cartoon, from Brokaw’s greatest generation. Joe says to Willie, “The hell this ain’t the most important hole in the world . . . I’m in it.”–

That was then. This is now and then–I’m older than you, and therefore perhaps I owe more to the U.S. of liberal A. than you do.

I’ll just keep on trying to help my children & grandchildren get as good a deal as I got & am getting, here in Mendonesia.

I favor repeal of Article 1, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution. What about you?

Cheers & Merry Xmas,


Oh! I didn’t know what came of this. Didn’t realize I had a blog.

Oh well. Canada is a possibility for us if they let my wife claim citizenship since her parents are Canadian.

Daughter has skills that could allow her more choice. New Zeeland, India.

I think I could flee to Viet Nam. Have thought of seeking political asylum. Wrote the UNHCR. No response. This government doesn’t allow me to work in my profession, which usually applies.

The Constitution has already been repealed unofficially. So much like Republican Rome. Oh! Right. The Constitution was modeled on Roman principles by classically educated Enlightenment aristocrats.