The Black Longhouse

“You’re feeling the oppression of Christian hegemony in conflict with native animism,” he said. “Self-righteous, puritanical men seized this land. You’re also feeling the eyes of the vultures evaluating the sweet texture of your skin. The eyes of many animals. Animals endure.’

~Laird Barron, ‘Worse Angels’

What follows is a symbolic manifesto of sorts. Take from it what you will.

In a world built on bones there is an entire hemisphere that is especially shattered by abrupt displacement. On the northern continent of that hemisphere is the seat of a degenerating world-empire. Within that empire are a people unmoored from the reality of the ancient land beneath their feet even as it dies because of them. They cling to the ideologies of a failing state despite these very beliefs having brought them to this point. The universal idealism of a simple moralistic world and one set of values to make sense of it has not just failed them-it has made everything worse for everyone. The ubiquity of their communications networks brings what was once left at the pulpit of the puritan into an unceasing daily bombardment of affirmation for collapsing monoculture.

But there was a time that lasted far longer before the coming of Christ and Cotton Mather when these lands had no such grifters. Tribes existed and fought each other as humans always do, but had no concepts of messianic religion, ‘biological’ race, or the glorification of victimhood. These many diverse peoples were wiped out by an unprecedented hemisphere-encompassing apocalypse where smallpox and plague took the majority as a prelude. Then came shattered bands of survivors still alive in a time where the recently dead outnumbered the living by multitudes and were forced to respond to an alien invasion of technologically advanced extremists. They went down in a hell of a fight that took centuries and their descendants are still live today, despite the odds.

In their place came a civilization that broke all contact with this past and rushed to fill the vacuum with their own inheritance…but not all these things were a sensible fit for the new locale. Despite the cultural disconnect of most of its inhabitants, its earthy chaotic gods sleep much closer to the surface than the long-buried and fully domesticated pantheons across the sea. This is not a land of mellow meadows and shires, but of earthquakes, blizzards, tornadoes, and towering thunderstorms. This is a land that scorns weakness.

The newcomers could breed to the point where they were immune to native syncretism-avoiding the natural fate of conquerors. This further cut off the northern reaches of the hemisphere even beyond that of the rest. We live in their world now. But now, in the early 21rst Century, we see their world view cracking under the strain of its own hubris and excess. The opportunity to build something new is opening before our eyes. Something that fits this place better. Something that can at least bridge some of the gap between the incongruous ideological imposition of today and the natural state of a beautiful and terrible land.

There are those of all backgrounds and persuasions who find no tribe amongst the degenerating postmoderns of our time. They find the amplification of faddish superficial issues a distraction, the busybodies of the commentariat and consumer as the front for a past-prime ruling class in crisis. Witch hunts are everywhere as the fearful and ostensibly secular descendants of those original puritan settlers and conquistadores blame heretics for their own inadequacies.

Those who reject this status quo may find themselves walking in the woods as they travel apart from the trends. Let us say in the northeast or Great Lakes region-though it could be anywhere. The new growth forest of the woodlands hacked down and re-grown is filled with underbrush and small trees. Ticks lurk everywhere as un-predated deer strip the biodiversity as they spread like locusts.

Eventually these travelers make their way to a place deep in the woods. Giant ancient trees tower above in the old growth grove. Here, the underbrush is lighter. Flowers bloom again. Sharp unseen eyes raise their hackles as they know the deer tread lightly in this place for fear of predation. At the center is a longhouse. Those redoubtable large bark clad structures that could house many people and supplies. But this longhouse is different. It is jet black and angled as only a modern construct could be. It draws from the forgotten past but is no slave to it. It would seem incongruous to those who came across it accidentally, but not to our band our travelers.

On the inside they find the interior lit only by the fire pits. The shadows cast about imply a structure far larger than seems from the outside. There wait for them masked figures-wooden shamanic grotesques with distorted and leering features. Beneath this they wear well-tailored suits. They tell the travelers that to accept the uncertainties of a new future is to draw strength from a different past. The pipe is passed around as the masked ones speak of a land people belong to, and not a land belonging to people.

‘Mankind sought the death of Coyote, an animal once confined to the plains and Rockies. His attempts to kill it made it breed and migrate outwards. A century after this campaign began it has unintentionally spread the animal over the entire continent. Here, in the east, it has bred with Canadian wolves up north before moving south. It has thus grown in size and pack mentality.

‘The coyotes were misfits, but they came together to survive and perhaps for revenge. Now, they thrive while we decline. Be like this beast. Adapt to the new by breaking old bonds of safety. Your mouth must be red with venison for the flowers to bloom again and the ticks to recede. Face your fears directly and make them your allies against your foes. Come together at decisive points in time and scatter when countered. Always help to sabotage the complacently powerful and their defenders.’

These travelers realize their personal differences do not need to be ironed out-the diversity strengthens them. Here they can debate the most taboo subjects openly, shrouded from view of the puritans by the walls of the Black Longhouse. They have something more important now: common enemies. The missionary, the financier, the complacent monoculture that upholds them all.

As the travelers dance around the fire they revel in being both distinct and as-one. They know that their odds are low but that such difficulties only increase the glory of the fight. The future they want is yet un-defined but by taking the first step away from a failed consensus the mere possibility to building something new has been created. All of them now carry the Black Longhouse inside them.

The travelers walk out of the old growth region, through the moat of the striplings, and back into the roar of modernity. But rather than be sad as before, they see now that within this degenerating world is an abundance of new opportunities. Every decaying town is a chance to rebuild not in some nostalgic way for what it once was, but a new way to that leans forward and draws from a different and much neglected past. Many peoples, gods, and cultures united against a common old order and its increasingly hysterical defenders. What were the covenant chains of past entities on this land before colonization but the agreement that difference and divergence was fine, and could all serve a struggle against a common enemy? Such was the thought of people who lived in older longhouses. Already, one can hear the sounds of this new synthesis of forgotten old and dynamic new if one listens.

Somewhere inside a tacky suburban home at night, a clergyman (either of faith or of human resources and professional management) spots something outside the window. He peers through the glass to see the leering face of a coyote with wolf-like dimensions. The lights go dark and he screams, fumbling to bring them back on. But against one who sees in the darkness as if it was its own form of light…

In a time of monsters be the biggest baddest monster of all. And bring your friends. This ancient land demands no less of you.

So Far, Only North America is a World-Island

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I always had two historical loves which won out over all the others. Sure, there isn’t a time and place I can’t not find interesting or even devote significant amount of time to reading up on, but my true loves that beat all the others are Eurasian nomads and Native American studies. So it has been since my teens, and remains so to this day. Just today I realized a concept I learned in the study of one might make more sense applied to the other.

When I made the transition into International Relations I became aware of geopolitics. There was a lot to disagree with as well as agree with and parsing through the gems from the coal became one of the purposes of this very blog. Even the founding article of the field, Mackinder’s ‘The Geographic Pivot of History’, is so full of holes a knowledgeable person can leap through with space to spare. But this first halting step did create new and interesting discussions in policy circles back in its original context of rampant Russophobia in Britain and the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and Russo-Japanese War which was occurring at the time of its publication. Though that war would show that the Romanov Dynasty had feet made of clay and that Germany was Britain’s true rival, the core thesis had one very stark and obvious insight: that Eurasia was rich in population and resources and the closest thing we have to a super-continent right now. Thus if one power could dominate it, it would truly be unstoppable and quite possibly unassailable. If anything, Soviet defense in depth and being able to shuffle resources back and forth from frontiers with Germany and Japan in response to changing circumstances lent the theory some real world credit in the Second World War. It certainly interested Cold War strategists in the NATO world.

Nowadays, it has spawned a quite bizarre, almost theosophist-mystic form of geopolitics in Russia. Alexander Dugin, a kind of Blavatsky-Evola-Rasputin hybrid creature, waxes poetically about Russia’s need to directly annex a variety of countries and regions and apply them to some kind of fascistic definition of Eurasian solidarity that would have made the tolerant and flexible Mongols he claims to idolize sneer in contempt. But that is a different subject from this post. Brzezinski’s book ‘The Grand Chessboard’ shows the American take on the subject is still here as well. The point is, whether for good or ill, World-Island Theory (the term for Eurasia’s central role in geopolitics) is still strong. And while I hold the central observation of Eurasia’s massive importance to be largely correct, I dispute that it has yet to achieve its potential. North America, on the other hand, already has.

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In a great irony of prehistory, the horse, which first evolved in North America, would end up going extinct there while the Eurasian migrated branches of the species would survive, thrive, and go on to play such an important role in human history. The Americas, by and large, are severely lacking in indigenous domesticated animals which can be put to human use. Jared Diamond’s ‘Guns Germs and Steel’ and Charles Mann’s book ‘1491’ goes further into detail into the science behind this observation, as do many other works. The point is, lack of such beasts hampered both mobility and disease resistance, as this is mostly acquired through close contact by living with domestic animals. As it was, when horses returned they quickly went wild, almost as coming home. The Plains tribes rose to a massive gain of power projection and living standards practically overnight in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries due in no small part to these creatures. All this despite already have suffered through waves of depopulating plagues. By that point it was too late to undo the effect of thousands of years of their absence, but the rise of the Comanche Empire, which would humiliate the frontiers of New Spain and then Mexico for over a century despite a calamitous demographic situation for the Native population speaks volumes.

Imagine, if you will, a world where horses never died out in the Americas before being reintroduced by the Spanish.The percentage of the land taken up by the Great Plains is far larger, proportionally, than the great Eurasian Steppe, where the nomadic people there did so much to spread trade and technology from one end of the land mass to the other. One suspects it would be a realm of large empires and thriving trade cities connecting the eastern forest and river peoples to groups far further afield than they otherwise would have direct contact with, such as the Tlingit, Haida, and other Pacific Northwest peoples who had probably the highest living standards of the pre-industrial world and (possibly) a few tenuous trade links to Asia. The greater effort of technology and commerce travelling north-south as opposed to east-west (due to more shifting climate zones) could be overridden by the massive interconnectedness of the Great Plains under nomadic empires. As it was, even with the tragic and utterly unnecessary genocide and driving to the periphery of the Native peoples of North America, a small collection of fractious colonies on the eastern seaboards of both the US and Canada would find a rapid expansion followed by an intense interconnections of resources and peoples-first through rail and then through interstate highways. Now, cheap domestic flight seals the deal.

As with all things geopolitics, this is not permanent. It is the interplay of social sciences with the physicality of geoscience and geography that really make the discipline when it is being thorough. One dominant state in the center of the landmass with cordial relations with its two neighbors is not a permanent situation…but it is so far the most ideal conjunction of forces for the wielding of great power politics on a global scale than has ever so far existed. Control of the North American world-island means the security to build bases and dominate trade routes around the entire planet. The British had no defense beyond their navy in a multi-polar Europe, the Mongols were a small minority who ruled with a relatively light hand, and the Spanish came into such a glut of wealth they suffered hyperinflation and became prey for other countries’ pirates. So far, out of this group, only the United States has equaled if not surpassed the Mongolian geopolitical achievement.

Good North American strategists see that it is the ocean that is both the highway and the fortification protecting this remarkably secure and wealthy apparatus from Arctic to Panama Canal, bad ones overextend themselves dangerously into Eurasia and Africa. For North America (specifically the United States as the core of this order) to re-learn the strategy it has lost through smug complacency since the fall of the USSR, some kind of American Maritime Focused Hadrian figure is necessary. Right now there is no such thing in the running for leadership…though Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard points to a distinct possibility for the future.

It seems such a waste for such a conjunction of positive forces to be squandered on nation building outside of core maritime connections. Not to mention the human cost of many of these ill-fought out interventions. Perhaps in the future I can write a post about what allies are actually critical to the American edifice. North American geopolitical thinkers also need not fear about Eurasian unification, it is much larger, much more divided (both geographically and culturally) and could only be unified under circumstances that do not presently nor could foreseeably exist in the near future. Eurasia, in the end, is actually a super-continent build for balance-of-power politics, not so much hegemony. After all, when various Chinese dynasties were the leading scientific and technological forces of the world, they still could not meaningfully exert this dominance too far afield. So long as powerful maritime states exist outside of Eurasia, they cannot make such an attempt in the future. The large populations of South Asia and East Asia are not coming together anytime soon, and even a demographically challenged Russia is still playing the game. And even a Eurasia-dominating empire would no longer necessarily be able to overtake a stable North America that retains its decisive role in South America. The cumulative sea-surrounded landmass of the Americas, no longer as hampered by climactic variation and choke-points as it once was, could verily be the real super-continent for strategist of the future to ponder on.

None of this is to say that North America will never split apart. The Washington DC hegemony splintering or becoming a Byzantine rump state is always a possibility, causing the political geography of North America itself to create its own states in the Northeast, Appalachia, Southeast, Plains, Rockies, and northern and southern West Coasts-to say nothing of Quebec, Mayan populated parts of Mexico, and all the many other possible conjunctions. States are like people, they have various and finite lifespans. And like the super-continent cycle itself, division and unification of landmasses under specific rule comes and goes from one to the other. This should make it all the more important that strategists in Washington, Ottawa, and Mexico City make the most of what they have now and not through it away on an altar of faddish economic and political theories which exist to self-congratulate the ruling class. The present order of world affairs is not a product of such forces, but rather of smart strategy applied to fortuitous geography. A world-island, if you can keep it.