I'm reading and about 40% through Charles Dickens' Bleak House. What strikes me most is that there is in Dickens' mind such a minute and detailed accounting of character that it's rather frightening to consider how little we might do in comparison. Much of Bloom's criticism inflects my perception to trust the story more than the author but one cannot help but notice how perceptive one must be to manage all the recondite nuances without prejudice. I am comparing and contrasting with my almost recent going through of the Father Brown and Sherlock Holmes mysteries as examples of Victorian literature in pursuit of a more thorough going understanding of our mutal history, much of which was spurred on by my less recent review of Stephenson's Baroque Series. I expect that this interest will continue as I feel less and less bound by contemporary social and political imperatives - I'm ready to unbelong.
What matters then is character somewhat limned by deportmant, but character over all.
I am writing, and may finish today some reflections on Neal Stephenson and his Neo-Victorianism and implications of.. well let me do that because there's little sense in writing more about Bleak House until I complete it, which won't be for another week.
Stephenson holds my attention because he is, like I am, invigorated by the lacuna of modern self-sufficiency and looks to history to reconstruct that bit of human knowledge which our contemporary conveniences have obviated for the sake of the masses. I am certain that he has seen, via Anathem, the value of a monastic discipline in education and what a social lack of that produces. He, better than most writers I have ever encountered understands the value of practical knowledge - what the Enlightenment has done and how a lack of disciplined education will undo. It will not undo humanity, but the Humanities. And so in that gap which arises from the failure to mass educate, he inserts his literature, and lately a corpus of tools that go beyond literacy.
As a backgrounder, understand that I strongly believe that the masses and those who lead them for better or worse will fail to correct their failures until they are lying in its detritus. The wasteland must be upon us for our bearing to adjust - and that is born of the beeline for convenience which has been the impetus for the vast majority of our social change in the 19th and 20th centuries. We have educated without enabling and have left it to the Lords to oversee. But they too have been outstripped and do not, I assert, with any constancy maintain the integrity of their realms. And so we live on the brink of disease and disaster amongst a lot of men who have forgotten not only the recipe for survival, but indeed how to be men. We have gone beyond feral motorcycles to zombies. We know that the motors will not survive.
Like my old friend Charles Cameron, I'm paying attention to the millenarians and listening intently to those people who believe the world is about to end, or atleast collapse in parts of Europe and the United States. It might be a bit corny to say so, but I think that all such Westerners with a bit of motherwit are going to survive very much more like Guy Ritchie's version of Sherlock Holmes than any Mad Max. I say in fact that there will be a style and a virtue and a power in the post-industrial man which will very much resemble that of the pre-industrial man. We will eat better and have better hygene, but I think the NeoVictorian is the model.
To the extent that I don't believe the Vickies will be the model, Stephenson has me again. It will be the logistics of the swarm that rule the next generation (which is not necessarily an evolution) of organizational dynamics. IE Mongolian hordes. The Khan model of assymetrics will dominate, but (and the new Mongoliad is out this week) OMVI tactics cannot be far off. The individual tactitian organized in the small group of multi-thinkers will have advantages I think cannot be overcome by those driven to complete selfless devotion to battle. But it will be a good fight one way or the other.
So I am preparing myself and my family, armed with Peasant Theory, books and swords, and some Mongolian organization dynamics, amid the view of Dickensian London for that which might devolve here in the US, understanding that cities may seem 'unlivable' by today's yuppie standards, but the woods will be much, much worse. So how is a gentleman to survive? The model is already out there. Victorian manners are survival skills. So the future doesn't seem too bleak to me at all.