I ran into an old friend at a NY party the other night, wealthy, conservative, and we had a polite conversation about his interests: hedge funds, corporate boards, the internet and the endurance of print media.
Then another friend came along, and the conversation became more frank. The first guy suddenly said, "I'm buying a 30.06 rifle."
"Why?" I said.
"It feels like all the rivets are popping off the system, I don't know what's going to happen next."
I said, "I think it's because you're in your mid-50s. People in their mid-50s think that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. It's always true of people in their mid-50s."
The third guy in the conversation agreed, but the first one shook his head. "OK but sometimes those people are right. Think what you'd have said in Germany in 1936. You'd have said, this doesn't feel right, and you'd be right."
The third guy then said, agreeing, "We live in dark times."
The third guy's comment got to me. I've always liked him. He's rational, balanced, and connected; he has a keen understanding of power, he knows how to function in the establishment. I thought, what does he know, what does he think. And then the conversation segued into whether the U.S. was going to bomb Iran...
When I left, I thought about John Mearsheimer. Mearsheimer has a dark view of history. He can point to many large problems in history that got a lot worse before they got better, and the establishment drove the car off the cliff. His book on a leading English establishment military journalist of the 1930s says that the guy got German military strategy completely wrong and thereby damaged the English response to Hitler's rise. History is fragile, Mearsheimer writes in that book; and I guess that is why he is standing in the street today, banging pots about the Israel lobby and the Iraq war and the Iran war plans and America's complicity in the occupation/apartheid. I always say everything's going to work out in the end. Maybe I'm wrong.