Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A Role Reversal Marriage on the Rocks

Another day, another role reversal marriage. One that is, unsurprisingly, not working. I don’t really have an answer to this woman’s problem. Neither does Carolyn Hax. The difference is, I know I don’t have an answer. Hax does not. She thinks that if the husband does not like being on his wife that can only mean that he has a neurological disorder and ought to be diagnosed.

So, here is the letter:

My husband just quit his job. Again. Third this year, sixth in four years. He's sort of a jack of all trades, but mostly works in restaurants. I've always been the higher earner, so we're stable enough and I don't really mind about the irregular income. But it affects everything at home, every time: He's unhappy in the job, which brings down the atmosphere at home. Then he quits and feels insecure and tense about being jobless, so everything at home is also insecure and tense. Then he eventually gets a new job and things get better.

Right now, we can't make plans to see family, for example, because who knows if he'll have to work and he won't have built up any vacation time. I tried to talk about this after the most recent quitting, but our conversations about it have been unproductive, because he's so tense and ratty.

We have no kids, and we learned from experience a few years back that he can't just stay home and not work, because that's so much worse than what we're going through now. Any suggestions?

For our part we do not know how old this couple is. We do not know whether they ever want to have children. We do know, because she suggests it, that she, being the breadwinner, cannot really take time off to care for children. If so, his inability to hold down a job is preventing her from having children. Or perhaps she does not want children. We do not know.

This means, if I daresay, that this couple is detached from reality and is playing out a struggle over ideology. It's an ugly picture.

Clearly, her husband feels unmanned. We do not know if her way of interacting with him makes him feel unmanned. But, we do know that he reacts badly to doing nothing. And we do know that he does not like the situation. We do not know how household chores are divided, but surely it is a source of contention.

Of course, the obvious solution is a separation. We do not like to recommend such actions, but clearly the couple is mismatched. If he were on his own or if he was with a woman who was not such a superior earner he might do better at his job. He might be more motivated.

So, as I see it, he is reacting like a man who has been unmanned, in part by his wife and in part by his inability to support his family. Evidently, he is looking for a way out of the marriage. If so, will he be entitled to alimony? We do not know.

So, what does Hax have to say? Why, she says that he is neurologically impaired. She implies that he ought to be happy with his circumstances. If he is not happy, then he must be sick. Of course, she notes that she is not licensed to make such determinations, but clearly she is making them anyway.

Allow her her uninformed opinion. Responding to the question of what the wife should recommend to the husband, Hax says:

A neuropsych screening, if he’ll agree to it. Your question pings like an old pinball machine — jack-of-all-trade-ism, job-hopping, restaurant work, anxiety, ping, ping, ping. I’d guess there’s a diagnosable condition in there driving a high need for stimulation and a low tolerance for tedious/repetitive tasks.

I’m not saying it’s ADHD — layman, not my place — but, an ADHD information site, has a good section on evaluations here that would apply to anyone with a possible neuropsych issue:

The point of a diagnosis would be less about fixing it and more to help him understand how his mind works and how to make choices that suit his nature better.

A job that has less repetition to it and more built-in novelty, for example, could hold his attention longer. If that’s a unicorn, then maybe a circuit of recurring seasonal jobs would allow novelty and stability both.

Did you notice the contempt? Do you wonder why men are angry? Do you think that Hax and the wife together understand male psychology and male behavior. If that’s the attitude that the wife is visiting on her husband, the best solution for him would be separation and eventual divorce.

Angry Young White Men

Another day, another mass shooting by an angry white male. This time it was at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California. The shooter, by name of  Santino William Legan, was of Italian and Iranian descent. By the racialist logic that so many people have embraced, he might have been considered a person of color. Nonetheless, for the sake of her argument Maureen Callahan labels him white and throws him in with the other angry white male mass murderers.

One understands that newspaper columnists do not have the time or the expertise to do a deep dive into the different motives for these killings, but lumping them all together under the heading: angry white males, does not do it justice. We will not belabor a point we have emphasized on many occasions, but many of these killers suffered from severe and untreated psychiatric disorders. Some are psychopaths. Some are schizophrenics. These are not the same thing.

Callahan explains:

Little is known yet about this shooter’s history — and I refrain from using his name, since infamy is part of what these shooters seek — but so far, he fits the profile of those who’ve come before, the rage-induced young men we first encountered through Columbine and later Sandy Hook, Aurora, Charleston, Virginia Beach, the STEM school shooting in Colorado, Charlotte, the Poway synagogue shooting in California, the Louisiana shootings in two parishes, the Sebring shootings in Florida (those last six this year alone), the Mercy Hospital shooting, the Thousand Oaks shooting, the Tallahassee yoga studio shooting, the Jacksonville Landing shooting, the Art All Night shooting in New Jersey, the Santa Fe HS (Texas) shooting, the Nashville Waffle House shooting, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS shooting — and far too many more to mention, but all with one thing in common.

One might mention, as a sidelight, that white people are not leading the nation in crime. I know that when a person of color kills a person of color, the media pretends that it's the fault of white police officers... but still.

Since Callahan considers angry white males to be the nation's biggest threat, she ought to have considered the threat posed by non-white male crime. She did not, sadly for her.

Besides, haven't we been told that climate change is the nation's biggest threat? Where's climate change when we need it?

One hesitates to mention the obvious fact, but, despite the mindless recent rant by Rep. Ilhan Omar, white people are far less likely to commit crimes than people of color. So fixated is the Democratic Party on white people that we are within our rights to imagine that they are running this con in order to exonerate the real perpetrators. Of course, if you exonerate the real perpetrators you are telling them that they have the right to riot and to rob and to kill. Didn't Rev. Al Sharpton provoke a pogrom in Brooklyn? Didn't he denounce the manager of a fashion shot for being Jewish... provoking a bombing that cost six people their lives?

For his degenerate behavior, Rev. Al is embraced by Democratic political candidates. He was welcomed to the Obama White House dozens of times.

And we also know that when people of color commit crimes, the correct response is compassionate understanding. They are oppressed and they are rebelling against their oppression. After all, didn’t everyone’s favorite young imbecile, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declare, just yesterday, that Palestinians are so oppressed that they must riot against the criminal Israeli regime. Crime is not crime when it is undertaken to advance a leftist cause... and to kill Jews.

I offer these examples to note, if only in passing, that white males are targets of a great deal of venomous hatred. They have become the new Jews.

After all, white people are the scourge of human civilization. They are the worst of the worst. Women and people of color are going to take what is rightfully theirs… and so on. So considering how angry people are with white males, do you think that this is producing a cohort of resentful angry white males. Consider how much rage was directed against white males by the #MeToo movement. Then, you might have an idea why some of these people are angry. 

If it is OK for one side to consume itself with anger, with anger against Trump, with anger against Bret Kavanaugh, against every white male who has ever trod the planet, then anger becomes America’s emotional currency. Ergo….

Better yet, we have a therapy culture that has proclaimed full self-expression to be therapeutic. This culture and its psycho practitioners have told everyone to get in touch with their feelings and to express them fully. Aren’t these angry white males doing just that?

Callahan continues:

From those mass shooters who have attacked the innocent before, we know it’s a specific strain of anger — deep, repressed, biblically vengeful — felt most commonly by young men, almost always white, who report feeling alienated, dispossessed, misunderstood, victimized and all too often rejected by women.

Their chosen outlet is the mass slaughter of innocents, carnage at places the rest of us once deemed safe — schools, hospitals, places of work and worship, concerts, carnivals — all meant to hold us hostage, in fear of the next reprisal we’re not responsible for and won’t see coming.

When people of color rebel, they are defended for being righteous. Why would these angry white males not think the same. Besides, if you ask yourself what white people have contributed to civilization, even to America, you will find yourself with a very long list.

Aside from the fact that there are many different kinds of white people, from Anglo-Saxons to Scandinavians, to Southern Europeans to Slavs, if we limit ourselves to the Anglo-Saxon tribe-- as Joel Kotkin labelled them in his book Tribes, written before tribalism became a bad thing-- we can remark that these white people produced the Industrial Revolution, free enterprise, parliamentary democracy, human rights and a multitude of scientific discoveries. This Anglo-Saxon tribe was instrumental in defeating fascism, Nazism and Communism. Heck, it even shut down the slave trade. 

In return, we are flooded with insipid nonsense about white privilege. The discourse imagines that white people have never accomplished anything, have never contributed anything to world civilization. It imagines that if people confer more respect on some groups than on others the reason can only be that the respected groups lied, cheated and stole their way to their privileges. And that they oppressed, abused and brutalized all non white people. You know, the people of color who are flooding across our Southern border to take what is rightfully theirs.

For its pains the Anglo-Saxon tribe is often denounced as an organized criminal conspiracy. It is denied the pride that would accrue to those who have contributed to civilization. Those who have contributed far less are pretending that their righteous anger against white people confers something resembling moral superiority. They are most appalled, as are the Palestinians, to see another group succeed where they failed.

Callahan fails to remark that the moon landing, which was an achievement, but not one of humanity’s greatest achievements, was mostly the work of white males. Thus, it could not really be celebrated, because the landing craft was insufficiently diverse. 

Last week, the nation celebrated one of humanity’s greatest triumphs — the moon landing, something once commonly believed couldn’t be done. Perhaps our next moon shot should, paradoxically, be more earthbound: a collective dedication, from the White House on down, to figuring out why young men in the world’s greatest, most prosperous country are so goddamn angry.

The rage for diversity has placed white males at a disadvantage. Besides, has anyone noticed that, what with the mania about white privilege, the students who are doing the best in America’s high schools and colleges are most often Asian.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

David Brooks Wants Men to Be More Like Women

David Brooks married his assistant, a woman named Anne Snyder, and found religion. Having disposed of his aging first wife, he found a younger model. Better yet, he found a way to blame it on God. And to write a book about it all, thus profiting from it.

Give him some credit for obfuscation. And for running an intellectual confidence trick. In a time when feminism led the way to destigmatizing divorce, lo and behold, aging men are exploiting the new rules to trade in their older wives for younger versions. Why feminism did not understand that destigmatizing divorce would disadvantage women is beyond me. 

Today, Brooks offers yet another sloppily conceived column where he explains that sloppy conceptualization is a sign of superior work/life balance. Better to write mediocre columns if that allows him to flourish… to go out and to smell the petunias.

You see, Brooks explains, feminism taught men, in particular, to seek more work life balance, to take more time off, to spend more time with the children, to sacrifice career ambition and hard work in order to… be more like women.

You think I am kidding. Here’s Brooks himself:

Furthermore, living a great life is more important than producing great work. A life devoted to one thing is a stunted life, while a pluralistic life is an abundant one. This is a truth feminism has brought into the culture. Women have rarely been able to live as monads. They were generally compelled to switch, hour by hour, between different domains and roles: home, work, market, the neighborhood.

A better definition of success is living within the tension of multiple commitments and trying to make them mutually enhancing. The shape of this success is a pentagram — the five-pointed star. You have your five big passions in life — say, family, vocation, friends, community, faith — and live flexibly within the gravitational pull of each.

You join communities that are different from one another. You gain wisdom by entering into different kinds of consciousness. You find freedom at the borderlands between your communities.

For his last paragraph we should award Brooks with a special prize for vapid pseudo-philosophy. What is the drool about different kinds of consciousness. Does he think that he’s a Hegelian philosopher? You do not find freedom by parceling yourself out to different activities. You find mediocrity. Or better, you do it because your new young wife told you to slow down and spend more time with her.

At least, Brooks does not have to worry about producing great work. You might imagine that he is rationalizing his own mediocre work by explaining that he is now living what he calls an “abundant” life. And he confuses abundance with pluralism-- meaning that he did not spend enough time thinking about what he was doing?

What is pluralistic abundance? One suspects that it is a cheap version of the normal psycho pabulum that promotes what is called flourishing. The word itself, as I have often noted, means flowering. If you flourish you are going to become vegetation, as in a flowering plant. Why this should be of any value, I have no idea. At the least, it is the therapy culture consolation for missing out on the promotion or even getting fired for being too lackadaisical about your work.

For the record, I have seen it happen. I did not make it up. What does Brooks have to say to the men who have been fired or who have not been promoted because they were less responsible and less reliable? Will he console them with the thought that they have better work/life balance? Or that they have mutually enhancing multiple commitments.

Trust me, if the order is not filled, if the contract is written sloppily, if the client cannot get in touch with you… you can whine all you want about multiple commitments or even pluralistic abundance. But you are not going to be keeping the job or the client.

Take an obvious example: you belong to a team that is competing for the championship. You are competing against another team. Which is the better way to train: to work long and hard to prepare, or to take more time off, to relax and smell the roses, to spend more time at leisure activities? 

I do not need to tell you that champions work to win. They seek victory, not abundance. If they slack off in training they are more likely to lose and are more likely to get injured. To imagine that they can console themselves after a loss by saying that they have a puralistically abundant life is rank nonsense. Try explaining that to the punters who have bet on the team.

If Brooks had spent enough time on his job he might have read Claire Cain Miller’s piece about gender differences and work/life balance. Last April, Miller reported that being a partner in a law firm requires one to be on call, all the time. No one is going to become a partner by copping out of important meetings to go home and change diapers. You might think that this is sexist bigotry. But it is also the reality of many people’s lives.

As for the couple in Miller’s report, the wife/mother spends more time with her children while her husband is out lawyering. Because paternal and maternal roles are not interchangeable. No one is allowed to say this in public, but still the truth is the truth. Hard work takes time. It takes a lot of time. If you want to succeed in the world, hard work is the key.

Brooks is leading men down the primrose path of dalliance-- to coin a phrase. It is not going to end well.

Anyway, Brooks opens his column with the examples of Auguste Rodin and Rainer Maria Rilke, a sculptor and a poet. They did not have work/life balance. But they produced great works. Eventually, he will denigrate them for not being nice people, even for being jerks. Think about that one: what has the judgmental Brooks gained by demeaning men who have achieved far more than he ever will? And what does he gain by flinging jejune schoolyard epithets at them? Aside from making himself look like a jerk.

Her is his opening:

Soren Kierkegaard asked God to give him the power to will one thing. Amid all the distractions of life he asked for the power to live a focused life, wholeheartedly, toward a single point.

And we’ve all known geniuses and others who have practiced a secular version of this. They have found their talent and specialty. They focus monomaniacally upon it. They put in the 10,000 hours (and more) that true excellence requires.

I just read “You Must Change Your Life,” Rachel Corbett’s joint biography of the sculptor Auguste Rodin and his protégé, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and they were certainly versions of this type.

The elder Rodin had one lesson for the young Rilke. “Travailler, toujours travailler.” Work, always work.

This is the heroic vision of the artist. He renounces earthly and domestic pleasures and throws himself into his craft. Only through total dedication can you really see deeply and produce art.

You will notice the sly underhanded critique of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule. Gladwell argued that if you have the talent-- it is essential to have the talent-- you must put in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become great at what you are good at. He is right. He expressed the point well.

Anyway, Brooks does not care that Rodin and Rilke produced great art. He judges them ill for having misspent their lives. Note well, Brooks is being highly judgmental here. 

He continues:

They were both horrid to their wives and children. Rodin grew pathetically creepy, needy and lonely. Rilke didn’t go back home as his father was dying, nor allow his wife and child to be with him as he died. Both men lived most of their lives without intimate care.

Their lives raise the question: Do you have to be so obsessively focused to be great? The traditional masculine answer is yes. But probably the right answer is no.

Brooks, who has never produced and will never produce works that come close to those of the two men, has no business telling us what it takes to do great work. Note that, in his currently woke state, he blames it all on traditional masculinity. He has drunk the feminist Kool-Aid. It has taken over his mind. Sad story, if you will.

He will tell us that a singular focus is not good for your work, and that you will do better work if you become more distracted. He does not use the term distraction, but it’s the  key to sustaining multiple focuses. One might suggest that he is trotting out a cheap trick: he wants us to believe that the team with more work/life balance will win out at the end. You see, you do not need to choose. You can have it all and you can do it all… and you will not only flourish, but you will succeed in the end. This is a ruse to dupe the gullible.

He quotes one David Epstein:

The people who achieve excellence tend to have one foot outside their main world. “Compared to other scientists, Nobel laureates are at least 22 times more likely to partake as an amateur actor, dancer, magician or other type of performer,” Epstein writes.

He shows the same pattern in domain after domain: People who specialize in one thing succeed early, but then they slide back to mediocrity as their minds rigidify.

Children who explore many instruments when they are young end up as more skilled musicians than the ones who are locked into just one. People who transition between multiple careers when they are young end up ahead over time because they can take knowledge in one domain and apply it to another.

A tech entrepreneur who is 50 is twice as likely to start a superstar company than one who is 30, because he or she has a broader range of experience. A survey of the fastest-growing tech start-ups found that the average age of the founder was 45.
For most people, creativity is precisely the ability to pursue multiple interests at once, and then bring them together in new ways. “Without contraries is no progression,” William Blake wrote.

People who do math and science excel when they are young. And when they put all of their energy into their work. When they live for their work. Such fields belong to the young. You do not win a Nobel prize for a body of work. You can win it for a singular achievement. And then, as you age, you will discover that you are not as good as abstract reasoning. Perhaps it’s about brain function. Blaming it on too much hard work is disingenuous.

As for tech startups, the names Gates and Zuckerberg and Brin and Page come to mind. They started their companies when they were very young. And when they were obsessed with working.

Clearly, an executive needs to have a broad range of experience and a broad understanding about the workings of his company. He will gain it through time and effort on the job, but rarely by taking time off for little league.

But then, after telling us that we can become great by having a multitude of interests, Brooks adds, in the first quote above, that producing great works is less important than living a great life.

We do not really know what he means by living a great life, but we would humbly suggest that you are not going to have a very great life if you keep losing out. Besides, didn’t Brooks consider that if you have the talent to write poetry and you let your talent wither because you refuse to spend the time needed to improve it… you are not going to feel very good about yourself. If you have the talent to be a great sculptor you are not going to feel very good about mediocre work, even if you sabotaged your work by spending more time with your comely young wife.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Big City Habits in a Small Town

Nothing very puzzling about this letter, sent via an online discussion to the Washington Post’s Carolyn Hax. I see it as a sign of the times and as an instance of the kind of bad behavior promoted by the therapy culture. As I read the letter, I see no indication that its author was ever in therapy. Still, her intervention, her effort to lean in, her offering a standard issue therapeutic interpretation leads me to wonder.

Consider the letter a sign of the times, a symptom of cultural degradation, or whatever you like:

Earlier this year, I moved back to where I grew up and reconnected with some old friends. My best friend from high school was especially excited to see me again, and we started seeing a lot of each other.

But she's really critical of my lifestyle — I like to job-hop and date around, while she's married with a 5-year-old and has a steady job as a medical assistant. I laughed it off at first, but her put-downs got meaner and meaner, and I finally lost it and told her off. I said her need to criticize my life meant she was defensive about hers, and that meant deep down she was insecure and unhappy.

Everyone who was telling me I shouldn't put up with her behavior is now telling me I went overboard, because she seems devastated. I want to say to her that she sure can dish it out but not take it, but our families are really close, and there are a lot of family connections between us (small town).

My mom has asked me to apologize at least for how I said it, if not what I said, but I'm not sure what I said was so bad. Where's the line between standing up for yourself and being mean?

I'm thinking the easiest thing would be just to pull up stakes and move again, but I really like the job I have right now, and I'm not quite ready to quit. What should I do?

Of course, she should apologize. Hax tells her so, forthrightly. 

She made a mistake by assuming that she could behave in a small town the way she behaved in the big city. We do not know what jobs the letter writers flits around at, but we suspect that they are on the level of waitressing. And we do not know what she means by dating around, but if she has garnered herself something of a reputation, she should know that residents of small towns, especially female residents do not look kindly on such dissolute behaviors. Not only is she setting a bad example, but women will understand, first, that their husbands might find this woman tempting, and second, that they themselves will suffer reputational damage by hanging around with a loose woman.

In short, her friend is trying to warn her. Her friend is inviting her to mend her ways. The letter writer, having apparently suffered too much therapy, refuses to accept that her own behavior might be damaging her own reputation… so she denounces her friend for being judgmental. And for doing what the therapists call projecting, or practicing projective identification. She has done no wrong. Those who think that she has need therapy.

In the big city it’s easier to avoid judgment, because you can more easily avoid certain other people. The big city offers the dodge of anonymity. Many people happily embrace it.

So, the letter writer should change the way she is behaving, lest she become the social pariah. Then, she will be obliged to move back to the big city.

The Boris Johnson Perplex

You can’t say it isn’t interesting. No, I do not mean President Trump’s latest Twitter storm. I am talking about the reams of commentary about the ascent of the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

For those who despise him and everything he represents Johnson is Trump redux. And yet, cheap analogies are the product of small minds, so we should take them all with an awful lot of salt.

To be obvious, Johnson is highly literate and highly educated. He has a solid command of the language and can speak articulately while in the midst of parliamentary debate. Few people would consider that Trump has anything like a mastery of communication… which is certainly forgivable… or would be if he knew that he had not really mastered the skill.

Anyway, for your delectation, here are a few prophecies about the Boris Johnson future. You will note that some people, those of lesser talent, seem to believe that they know exactly what the future will bring. They would do better to practice humility and stop forecasting an uncertain future.

Begin with Jonah Shepp, writing in New York Magazine. In a somewhat regrettable screed Shepp highlights a central gender issue. What with the abject failure of Theresa May, any potential Johnsonian success will make it appear that May was not up to the job… because she was a woman. If such is your political predilection, then you will have a stake in Johnson’s failing. If he, of a more boisterously manly character, cannot do the job of removing Great Britain from the European Union, Theresa May’s stock will rise. If he can do the job she couldn’t do, the cause of women’s empowerment will suffer a setback. 

Keep in mind that Western Europe has of late been led by the weak sisters, all of whose names began with M-- Merkel, May and Macron. Topping it off is the EU head of foreign affairs, one Federika Mogherini, an Italian socialist whose policy goal seems to be to submit to Iran. 

One might consider Boris Johnson to be the reassertion of manliness… even in slightly caricatured form… as a counterpoint to the Western European tendency toward kindness and gentleness. 

Herewith, Shepp’s analysis of the May-Johnson disparity. Note the contemptuous neologism: mansplaining:

Brexit, or the failure to deliver it, was May’s downfall. Like every other prominent Tory (and Trump), Johnson has spent much of the past year mansplaining to her how to manage Brexit, boasting that if he were in charge, he’d have those hated Brussels bureaucrats bending to Britain’s will in no time through groundbreaking tactics like yelling, making threats, and being completely unreasonable. May’s dismal tenure as prime minister was a great time for critics within her party, as it gave them a foil against which to compare their hypothetical leadership, without the actual challenge of governing. Johnson being the loudest of these critics, the most charismatic, and the most willing to pander to the basest instincts of his base, it’s no wonder he got the job.

As of now, we do not know whether or not Brussels bureaucrats will bend to Johnson’s will. Apparently, Johnson is willing to tell them to stuff it… so we shall await developments.

Then, Ian Buruma writes a peculiar piece in the New York Times saying that Winston Churchill would have hated Boris Johnson. One appreciates the level of perspicacity required to ascertain Churchill’s views. And one appreciates the superhuman powers required to converse with Churchill today.

Given that times have changed and that political alliances have been realigned we do not know what Churchill would have thought of Theresa May… or of Boris Johnson.

And yet, given that Johnson will have a far better relationship with Trump than Obama had with the Brexiteers-- who he refused to support-- one does not understand what Buruma is getting at here:

The idea of Britain’s special relationship with the United States was also very much Churchill’s. His mother was American, so there were sentimental reasons. And Churchill was a great believer in the greatness of the “English-speaking peoples.” But the relationship was born out of dire necessity. Churchill knew that Britain would not be able to defeat Nazi Germany without active help from the United States.

Roosevelt, who was no friend of British imperialism, was well aware of the danger posed to the United States by a Europe dominated by the Third Reich. But in 1940, most Americans were not at all keen to go to war to help Britain. The most fervent opposition came from right-wing isolationists, and some of them, such as the aviator Charles Lindbergh, had more than a sneaking sympathy for the Nazis. Their slogan, revived by the Trump campaign in 2016, was “America First.”

In truth, a man with a better command of political history would not have chosen to resurrect the slogan: America First. And yet, the Roosevelt administration must bear responsibility for refusing to engage with Europe or to allow European Jews living under Hitler to enter America. The America Firsters allowed FDR to escape all responsibility for America’s lateness at engaging with Europe. Winston Churchill had to camp out in the White House to persuade FDR to enter the conflict.

For his part Buruma must count as an internationalist. Thus, he holds nationalists in contempt. If Britain leaves the EU it will be weak and pathetic, unable to hold its own. He forgets that once upon a time Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, at a time when the rest of Europe had surrendered to it. We might also notice that Britain has relationships with nations like Australia and Canada, to say nothing of the United States. While France is imposing tariffs on American tech companies, Boris Johnson has begun negotiating a trade deal with the Trump administration

Buruma offers:

Mr. Johnson has pushed all these buttons. But the main thing most Brexiteers have in common is an obsession with national sovereignty, “taking back control” and keeping foreigners out — a yearning for that old British idea: splendid isolation.

Hence the fetish of the Dunkirk spirit, used to great effect in the Brexit campaign. Hence, too, Mr. Johnson’s rhetoric revolving around the fantasy of wartime derring-do.

When he promises that Britain will leave the European Union by Halloween, “do or die,” he is mimicking Churchill’s bulldog defiance of the Nazi foe. Like Trump, he has an exaggerated belief in national power and in his own country first, unfettered by international institutions or cooperative arrangements, even though many of those were set up by the American and British governments in the wake of World War II.

Trade deals are cooperative arrangements. Surely, Trump has worked long and hard to get better deals for America. As for the Iran nuclear deal, it was a sellout to the mullahs and deserved to be scuppered.

Despite  Buruma America still has serious national power. It does not need to bow down to the bureaucrats in Turtle Bay. But, Buruma sees a weakened Britain:

The idea that Britain, acting alone, can exact favorable terms from much larger powers such as China, Europe or, indeed, the United States, is a delusion. If it leaves the European Union, Britain will become a middling provincial country, whose fortunes will be subject to the whims of others. Trump probably won’t care. Churchill would have been horrified.

We will note that Great Britain is the epicenter of Anglo-Saxon civilization, the civilization that has had the greatest success over the past quarter millennium. Why does Buruma believe that without the EU it will shrink into irrelevance, or that it will not be able to make a trade deal with Donald Trump.

And then there is Andrew Sullivan, who offers a sane and cogent analysis of the Johnson ascent. In a refreshing burst of humility he declares that we do not know what is going to happen in Great Britain and that we should give Johnson a chance. Fancy that.

Sullivan describes Johnson:

He’s a very sharp man, deeply ambitious, and deserves a chance to prove himself. And in the two days since he went to the queen and became Britain’s leader, he has seized the initiative with familiar élan. His stance is clear: The British people voted to leave the European Union in 2016, and the Parliament has a democratic responsibility to enact their will. That means that Britain will leave on Halloween of this year, deal or no deal. The alternative is to turn British democracy into a joke.

The last is worth emphasizing. If the government does not respect the referendum results, it will be trampling on the will of the people.

Sullivan, like your humble blogger, was impressed by Johnson’s performance in Parliament last week:

Deploying all his rhetorical skills, he laid waste to a somewhat bewildered opposition, wrapped himself in Churchillian patriotism, predicted a new golden age for the United Kingdom, and declared himself supremely optimistic, casting the opposition as negative naysayers. He also delighted in exposing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s latest shift of position in favor of voting for Remain in a second referendum. 

Sullivan quotes Johnson’s put down of Labour leader Corbyn:

“I have to say that a most extraordinary thing has just happened today. Did anybody notice? Did anybody notice the terrible metamorphosis that took place, like the final scene of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers? At last, [Jeremy Corbyn], this longstanding Eurosceptic, the right honourable gentleman, has been captured. He has been jugulated, he has been reprogrammed by his honourable friends. He has been turned now into a remainer! Of all the flip-flops that he has performed in his tergiversating career, that is the one for which I think he will pay the highest price. It is this party now, this government, who are clearly on the side of democracy in this country."

Sensibly, Sullivan sets out some possible scenarios:

Here’s one scenario: Johnson calls an early election, portraying Labour as traitors to democracy, way too left, too persnickety, too negative, and far too pessimistic. He wins, and uses his majority to try and strike a new deal with the E.U. Here’s another: Johnson pulls off a no-deal Brexit, the economic impact is not as dire as most have feared, and he becomes a national hero, if only for putting an end to the endless nerve-racking limbo. And another: Johnson is stymied by Parliament, the E.U., and the Irish government, loses a vote of no confidence, loses the election and, with the Tory party in ruins, the U.K. remains in the E.U., led by the most left-wing government in Britain’s history.

My bet is on the first two. We’ll see soon enough. But this was a very strong debut. It was Churchill minus the brutal realism that Winston brought to the House in 1940. Which may be exactly what the British public wants, after years of indecision and deadlock and depression. It’s clear leadership of a kind we haven’t seen in a very long time. And the thing about leadership is that it can make things that previously seemed impossible reachable after all.

Stay tuned.