Well, What Now? A Look at the Difficult Present Moment, With a Dash of Hope

If things here at 1P5 have seemed a little quieter than usual lately, that’s because they have been. Fewer submissions have been coming in, and I’ve personally struggled to find more things worth saying, leaving my pen keyboard a bit more unused than I’d like. If you’ve ever lived through a hurricane, the current moment sort of reminds me of the eerie, quiet calm after it’s finally gone through, where all you can do is walk around and look at all the downed trees and powerlines and debris and sort of marvel at what just happened.

If you’ll allow me to mix a bunch of metaphors and make bad analogies, I’ll try to sum up the situation. And if I do this right, maybe I’ll even offer a little bit of hope. This isn’t going to be a political post; not really. But we have to reference what just transpired to make sense out of where we are.

I think a lot of people are, as I said above, sort of dazed right now. I’m no exception. For those of us here in America, we thought we had a chance to keep our country on track a little while longer, but the chance slipped right through our fingers. Then we thought maybe we could prove that it was because the other guys had cheated. We failed there, too. We can argue all we like about the reasons why that happened, but the fact is, we didn’t prevail. We lost the battle for this country, and now the Empire (so to speak) is striking back good and hard.

As the Leftist media assumes with gusto its role as propaganda agent for the Political Left, Big Tech has now joined them as all-seeing eye of Big Brother and unofficial enforcer of Goodthink. Voices are being purged; individuals (and even entire categories of thought) are being deplatformed and blacklisted. All of this is happening for the pseudo-crime of having supported the wrong guy for president. The guy who already was president for the past four years (and who totally failed to take pre-emptive action on this exact thing for some reason). Somehow, this hasn’t happened to me or to 1P5 yet, but I’d be pretty naïve to assume it won’t. After all, the things Catholics have always believed are increasingly being re-categorized as hate speech. How long do we really have left?

I wrote an article here in 2019 about the escalating threat of this kind of thing. I said:

And now there’s deplatforming and shadowbanning — typically deployed against people who are insufficiently politically correct, who don’t bow and scrape to the prevailing and popular ideologies of our day. These practices have gotten so out of control that the White House actually set up a reporting form to let them know about violations — a form they’ve since had to close after receiving “thousands of responses.”

It’s no real surprise that the very members of the administration that tried to stop this particularly stifling form of political axe grinding were among the first to be disappeared when the balance of power shifted. In so doing, they’ve now made me look like a prophet. Here’s what I said two years ago:

On the receiving end, the powerlessness one feels when an automated platform shuts out your content is profound. As a content-creator, social media deplatforming doesn’t even make it possible to talk to another human being about why you can’t share your work with your painstakingly cultivated online audience.

You’re just…banished.

Advocates make it sound as though this deplatforming is happening only to people with extreme views, like neo-Nazis and racial supremacists (white ones, obviously; the other kinds of racial supremacism are A-OK.) But that isn’t really true. There is a spectrum of political and religious conservatives who run afoul of today’s thought police, with conservative comedian and pundit Steven Crowder being a notable recent example. In his case, his YouTube channel was just “demonetized” — basically, he can’t make any money from ads despite getting millions of views — until he stops linking to a t-shirt he sells that bears the phrase “Socialism Is for Fags.” Among other perhaps not yet defined hoops he needs to jump through.

In other words: “You will say what we want you to say how we want you to say it or we’ll wipe out your ability to make a living.”

And they have the unilateral power to do it.

They’ve certainly been flexing that power, haven’t they?

And while yes, social media remains an incredibly important tool for community building and getting good content in the hands of geographically dispersed people of like mind, I’m having an increasingly hard time seeing the downside in spending less time with all of this stuff. It’s doing something to us. It’s toxic, sure, but it’s also radicalizing people, and I’m not just talking about the Left. And it seems to be destroying what’s left of critical thought.

Twitter is an absolute battlefield. It’s a good place to get information quickly about a lot of things, but it’s also very difficult to navigate it without a thick skin and a hair trigger – and it has a tendency to bring out the worst in people (myself included.)

Parler, of course, long-touted as a conservative alternative to Twitter, has been taken out by the internet version of a tactical nuke. Other, less-popular and often issue-plagued third party platforms have sprung up, but they lack the potency or the staying power to foster discussion. They can also be de-listed from app stores or have their hosting cut off with virtually zero notice.

And then there’s Facebook: a place where everything of substance that I post seems to get hundreds of comments, many of them quite long and often, quite contrary. Sometimes the arguments between the people in the comments go on for days – long after I’ve moved on from my own thread and stopped participating. Often these people would never conduct themselves the same way in person — I mean, I know some of them in person and they don’t act that way — but getting in front of a screen and a keyboard seems to change folks.


Demoralization by Design?

I can’t say for certain if the effects of social media and the way they’re now controlling it like jackbooted thugs is a purposeful attempt to demoralize us, but they’d be hard pressed to find a better approach if they tried. We learned that this was how you communicate in the 21st century. Once they trained us to be keyboard warriors, flamethrowers at the ready, they showed us how easily they could take it all away, leaving people entirely unsure what to do except…go to social media and complain about it.

With COVID restrictions still putting a crimp in in-person socialization in many places, the shutdown or heavy-handed moderation of most of the popular online platforms is going to leave a lot of people feeling more vulnerable and isolated at a time when we desperately need community. If they can do these things to a sitting president, they can do it to you, and they want you to know it. I’ve personally lost over 1600 followers on my personal Twitter account, and we’ve lost another 1400 from the 1P5 Twitter account. That’s a lot of accounts that have just evaporated because, apparently, they’ve been deemed unacceptable by the luminaries of our woke-or-go-home age. On an emotional and intellectual level, the speed and scope of the crackdowns, the assimilation of sycophantic media into a new administration, and the ruthlessly efficient systematic dismantling of the past four years of executive action has been like a sucker punch to the gut. You’re left with that feeling of not being able to catch your breath, just trying, to no avail, to will the air back into your lungs.

The powerlessness, the lack of clarity on where we go from here, it all takes a toll. I know I’ve been battling malaise since late last year, but it’s even more than that. There’s this overwhelming sense of having been defeated in every battle that matters. We had already lost the culture. We’ve almost completely lost the Church. I think a lot of us poured ourselves into the political fight with little to no reserve because we felt it was the last stand. That was certainly the message Archbishop Vigano was sending, wasn’t it?

He spoke of the “epochal importance” of the election; he said that “the United States of America is considered the defending wall against which the war declared by the advocates of globalism has been unleashed.”

And the wall fell. It fell hard. It doesn’t matter whether you think they won by cheating or fair and square, the fact is, they won. They found a way to take home the prize, and it doesn’t matter, practically speaking, if it was a dirty win, because they outsmarted us, they outhustled us, they got the refs looking the other way on every critical play, and they came out on top with all the chips.

They’re in control now, whether we think it stinks or not, and they’re not going to let go.

Now, we have to face the reality. Now, we have to figure out what it means to live in an America where we will likely never see a major electoral victory again, knowing that even the Catholic Church doesn’t have our back. We have to figure out how to manage despite the purges, the crackdowns, the laws trying to force us to conform. And we’ve got to find a way to do it with our heads up, because moping around feeling sorry for ourselves is going to get us precisely nowhere.

I’m saying this to myself as much (or probably more) than I’m saying it to you. I’m trying to unfreeze my brain, clear the clouds and the cobwebs out, and start finding a path forward.

I’m trying to shake the tendrils of depression and despair that keep trying to snake their way into my heart and mind.

The world didn’t end this week. But it did change, and not for the better. Are we going to succumb, or survive?


We’re On Our Own

One of the most important lessons this week came in the form of yet another betrayal by our shepherds.

Somehow, against all odds, the American Bishops decided they were going to issue a statement pointing out that the second “Catholic” President has made public commitments that are in conflict with our faith.

The statement wasn’t overwhelmingly strong, but it was more than I expected. Evidently, it was also more than the Vatican expected, and they sought to stomp it out the first chance they got:

The U.S. bishops’ conference held back a statement on incoming President Joe Biden Wednesday morning, after officials from the Vatican Secretariat of State intervened before the statement could be released.

The statement, from conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez, took uncompromising positions on abortion, gender, and religious liberty, warning that the Biden administration’s policy agenda would advance “moral evils” on several fronts.


The statement was not released Wednesday morning, and bishops were informed by USCCB officials that it remained under embargo, even after one media outlet reported it had been released.

Sources in the Vatican Secretariat of State, others close to the U.S. bishops’ conference, and sources among the U.S. bishops have confirmed to The Pillar that the statement was spiked after intervention from the Vatican Secretariat of State, hours before it was due to be released.

The statement had been debated hotly late into Tuesday evening, but multiple sources say it was the intervention of the Vatican that led to its delay.


Conference sources told The Pillar that while Gomez’ statement might eventually be released, Pope Francis was expected first to release a statement on the Biden administration, at midday on Wednesday. Some sources said there was concern in the Vatican that a statement from Gomez seen as critical of the Biden administration might seem to force the pope’s hand in his own dealings with Biden, who will be the second Catholic president of the United States, and the first in 60 years.

The pope did issue a statement, and as expected, it contained nothing even resembling an admonishment, despite his stated positions in favor of things like abortion and same-sex marriage, and his intention to remove conscience exemptions from contraception mandates.

Archbishop Gomez ultimately published the USCCB statement after the morning delay, and though some bishops expressed their support, Cardinal Cupich wasted no time in pouncing on it:

“Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an ill-considered statement on the day of President Biden’s inauguration. Aside from the fact that there is seemingly no precedent for doing so, the statement, critical of President Biden came as a surprise to many bishops, who received it just hours before it was released.

The statement was crafted without the involvement of the Administrative Committee, a collegial consultation that is normal course for statements that represent and enjoy the considered endorsement of the American bishops. The internal institutional failures involved must be addressed, and I look forward to contributing to all efforts to that end, so that, inspired by the Gospel, we can build up the unity of the Church, and together take up the work of healing our nation in this moment of crisis.”

The entire affair was a stark reminder: the best we can hope for is moderate and tempered pushback from the best of our bishops; the worst will actively seek to suppress anything that looks like Catholic truth.

We are on our own. We have been for a very long time, and we will be for a long time to come.

We need to remember this. We need to hold on to it. We need to be motivated by it.


So What Do We Do Now?

This is, after all, the most important question. The tattered remains of Christendom are being set ablaze – quite literally in some cases.

Anyone who tells you they know the answers at this moment (beyond the standard Christian duties to pray and do penance) is selling you something.

We don’t know. Nobody does. There are no easy answers. I don’t see any obvious political solutions at this moment. I don’t even see the beginnings of a political path. But I do have some ideas on what where we can start, right in our own homes. We need to take time and reflect. We need to spend less time online, poring over news, arguing, wallowing in conspiracy theories or anger or bitterness, and spend that time instead with the people we love. Learning, thinking, and regrouping. Building up what we can, not just staring, useless, in abject horror at what is being torn down.

We focus on what we can do. We build communities. We raise our children. We study and teach the faith. We make art & music. Read good books. Write whatever we think might be helpful to others, and share it as long as we’re still allowed. (And when we’re no longer allowed, find new ways to share it.)

We need to figure out what has gone so wrong with our culture that we’ve strayed this far from our beginnings. We should study other such failures in history to see what we can learn. We must seek to understand how we became so desperate that we thought political solutions to moral problems could put the world back on track. Politics was never going to solve our problems. We all knew this, and yet, somehow, we all forgot.

But remembering — or perhaps more appropriately, re-discovering — is going to take work. And it may be the work of many years. Generations, even.

That’s hard to do if you’re walking around in a daze, or sitting on the couch just staring into space.

I’ve been reading a book by Scott Adams that I’m enjoying. Though he’s best known for creating the comic strip Dilbert, Adams has been one of the most interesting and insightful political and social commentators I’ve read in recent years. In the book, Loserthink, Adams describes a condition known as “couch lock,” where people get stuck, and feel unable to take a step to fix it.
“Your body is presumably able to get off the couch,” he writes, “and perhaps you want to get up, but you lack the specific motivation. It feels as if you are trapped in your own lazy body.”

He continues:

We’ve all experienced times when we wanted to get up and do something useful but we couldn’t talk ourselves into it. It can happen when you are tired, unmotivated, shy, anxious, or even depressed. Your body sits there like a bag of potatoes while your helpless brain thinks that getting up and doing something would be a good idea. For some mysterious reason, your brain can’t give the order to your body to make it get off the couch. You might know you need to make a phone call or take a class to further your life ambitions, but for some reason you don’t do it. Maybe you think you know why, and maybe you don’t. But the net result is that your brain can’t force your body to do the simple things you know you need to do to improve your situation. For all practical purposes, you’re locked in a mental prison of your own making.

Even if you don’t have a couch-related problem, you might feel paralyzed in major areas of your life. Are you thinking about changing jobs, applying to graduate school, moving someplace better, learning a new skill, or upgrading your love life? Your first step is figuring out how to cure your own impulse for inaction.

The secret to thwarting couch lock of any sort is to stop imagining everything you need to do, and start imagining the smallest step that you can do without much real effort. If you feel you can’t talk yourself into standing up and doing something that needs to get done, talk yourself into moving your pinky finger. Then move it. As you move your pinky, you will immediately regain the sense of agency over your body that had been temporarily missing. Moving your pinky finger is easy no matter how stoned, tired, depressed, or unmotivated you are. Do what you can do, not what you can’t. Then build on the momentum.

What you will quickly learn is that moving your pinky finger makes it easy to wiggle the other fingers. Then you can easily move your hand, your arm, and the rest of your body. You’ll be off the couch in about ten seconds.

A similar approach works for those big things you need to do in life that you can’t talk yourself into doing. Figure out the smallest step you can take and then do it. Then take the next microstep. Stop thinking about the whole project you have in mind, as that will overwhelm you and stun you into couch lock. Just do what you can easily do, and watch how quickly that action makes it easier to do the next action.

It sounds ridiculously simple, but it also makes sense. Not everyone reading this will need this advice, but for those (like me) who sometimes do, perhaps it’s worth trying. It’s really just a riff on the old proverb: “The longest journey begins with a single step.”

I think another key is to avoid falling into fatalistic thinking. “Welp, it’s over now. We’ve lost everything, and we’re never getting it back. We’ll be in prison camps by next Christmas.”

I think we need to be more realistic than that.

Are we going to see more fruits of the “Great Reset”? Yeah. I think we will. But I think most of it will happen in subtler ways than we might expect. Good dictators know that bread and circuses are better than gulags and firing squads. The goal is not to provoke the populace into fighting back. It’s to keep them just comfortable enough, just complacent enough, that they stay in their lane.

Now, that might sound bad to you — and in a way, it is — but if it’s right, there’s an upside. Hard totalitarianism doesn’t leave much room for anything but survival. But soft totalitarianism means we’ll have time to quietly rebuild what we can, so that even if we don’t win many public victories, we can live fruitful lives now, and pass the torch to future generations. And if they push too hard, then we push back. We just need to understand that it isn’t healthy for us to be on a constant war footing, seeing everything as a battle, always scanning the horizon for threats. We need to be vigilant, certainly, but too much of that kind of thinking can consume us and hollow us out. It can make us bitter, and cause us to de-prioritize things that matter (when you’re in an emergency situation, who has time for pleasantries?) I know I’ve experienced this in my 7-year-long battle with Francischurch, and I let things get way out of whack. The people I love most often got the least of my time, because there was always another battle to fight, and I took them for granted.

We were made for so much more than that. And for me, at least, this is the year I’m going to start fixing what I’ve neglected, and repairing what damage I can. I’ve failed my wife and my kids more times than I can bear. I’ve failed to love or take care of myself. It’s time to change that.

And in the mean time, who knows what unexpected things might happen that lead to change? Even if our present historical moment is a sunset, sunrise is sure to follow. Some folks are already making the case that we’re in the midst of an epochal change that will turn out better for us in the long run. Science fiction novelist and homesteading advocate Travis Corcoran wrote something very interesting on this the other day:

Friend, censoring dissident voices, building walls, and lying about everything is not what winning looks like.

That’s what terminal rot looks like.

When the Soviet Union was rolling out rural electrification and sending the barefoot sons of farmers to study math and engineering, they didn’t HAVE to lie about change and growth

The lies started later, when growth dropped to or below 0.

Compare the Soviet Union in 1955 to 1975 or 85. In 55 there were lots of true believers.

The Berlin Wall didn’t go up the day WWII ended.

It went up 16 years later.

For 16 years, the story that “Communism is better” was plausible enough that they didn’t NEED a wall.

The American Cathedral didn’t NEED to censor people say “the election was stolen” in 1976, because no one was credibly saying such a thing, and everyone believed in the basic morality of the Other Party.

The urge to censor, to crush, to humiliate, to silence … that’s not an urge that a strong, stable, self-evidently successful government needs to indulge in.

So I don’t worry that “they’ve won, for all time, and our side will never get a nostril above water again”.

This is the death throws of liberalism.

He argues that there’s a “new country without a name” being born right now, one that “is going to be far stronger and far more powerful than the US ever was.”

He goes on:

So what is this New Invisible Country?

More or less the inverse of all of that

* Competence is real.
* Results matter.
* Credentials don’t.
* Social lies are laughable.
* Moral bravery matters; following the latest trends is actively bad
* Family, marriage, children matter.

* Free speech is good.
* Rights are real.
* Producing value isn’t the ONLY thing in life, but it’s an important thing.
* Piety and decency matter.
* Western civilization has more good than bad.
* People who are willing to accept our culture are welcome to join our project .

I could go on and on, but lunch is on the table.

TLDR: don’t despair because the old corrupt system is failing; rejoice because we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, are building a new nation, right under their eyes.

And we’re succeeding.

It’s an interesting read, and there’s a good bit more than I had room to excerpt here. I’m not sure if he’s right, but I see the sense in what he’s saying.

And you know, even though I don’t always agree with everything Archbishop Vigano says, something he wrote in his letter to President Trump bears repeating here:

In the midst of this bleak picture, this apparently unstoppable advance of the “Invisible Enemy,” an element of hope emerges. The adversary does not know how to love, and it does not understand that it is not enough to assure a universal income or to cancel mortgages in order to subjugate the masses and convince them to be branded like cattle. This people, which for too long has endured the abuses of a hateful and tyrannical power, is rediscovering that it has a soul; it is understanding that it is not willing to exchange its freedom for the homogenization and cancellation of its identity; it is beginning to understand the value of familial and social ties, of the bonds of faith and culture that unite honest people. This Great Reset is destined to fail because those who planned it do not understand that there are still people ready to take to the streets to defend their rights, to protect their loved ones, to give a future to their children and grandchildren. The leveling inhumanity of the globalist project will shatter miserably in the face of the firm and courageous opposition of the children of Light. The enemy has Satan on its side, He who only knows how to hate. But on our side, we have the Lord Almighty, the God of armies arrayed for battle, and the Most Holy Virgin, who will crush the head of the ancient Serpent. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31).

These are good things to keep in mind. There are a lot of us, and even if we’re not always on the front lines, we plan to stand our ground.

For 1P5, I hope we can keep focusing more on educating and enlightening our readers on how the faith can best be understood and lived, even in times of persecution. You’ll no doubt have noticed that we’ve been doing a lot less news coverage and a lot more thought pieces. I feel like that’s the right direction, and I hope you’ll let us know if you agree. (I hope you’ll also financially support our work this month, by the way, because we are WAY short of our January goal!)

I encourage you to offer more ideas and suggestions in the comments. For now, at least, we’re still allowed to have free discussion here, and so I encourage you to make the most of it. I only ask that you try to keep it constructive. We’re all worried, I think it’s fair to say, but let’s build up what we can, and support each other in that effort.

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