Blogger burnout: it's the end of the beginning
There's an interesting wave of fatigue running through the blogosphere. A lot of people are writing about it: The Anchoress is taking time off from politics, although not from blogging; Shrinkwrapped offers keen insight; Austin Bay opines, and Belmont Club weighs in with his trademark deep reflection.
The consensus is that a frustrating frustration is abroad in the land, related to the fact that the "easier" parts of this struggle have ended or are ending. Not that any of it has been easy, but Afghanistan and al Qaeda, and even to some extent Iraq, were clearer targets and tasks than the ones that lie ahead.
Still, they've been difficult, and are not clearly over yet, and people are tired. Tired of the struggle, tired of the bloodshed, and in some way tired most of all of the endless haranguing and vicious infighting here in the US.
But now we're facing even tougher problems. As Austin Bay says:
Al Qaeda is being defeated– it’s not dead but it’s on its way to defeat. Even Al Qaeda’s latest rants reflect an awareness that their great gambit has failed...There is also a growing awareness that Iraq’s long slog may well result in the emergence of a new, more open political system in the Muslim Middle East. It’s still going to take a couple of years for this to be evident –and the worst defeatists and naysayers will either go to their graves denying it– but all of the indicators are there...Iran’s mullahs are demonstrating once again the limitations of UN multi-lateralism– sharp minds on the left and right recognize this. A lot of people staked their hopes for peace and a better future on UN multilateralism. The Iranian situation also illustrates the limits of US unilateralism — how many times can the world’s superpower go it alone?...
I think Iran is indeed one of the biggest causes of blogger fatigue, combined with our lack of agreement on the seriousness of the problem--if we can't agree on the vicious intent and dangerousness of the Iranian leadership, what can we agree on?
Iran is a topic I've tried to wrap my mind around many times, and still it looms, unresolved and seemingly--perhaps--unresolvable. All approaches seem potentially either catastrophic or ineffectual, or both. So fatigue is an understandable reaction; the mind tends to shut down.
For me, personally, I think I faced something of this way back on 9/11, strangely enough. Not the details, of course; I couldn't possibly have foreseen them. But it came to me that day that we were in something that would be very long and extraordinarily difficult. Here were my thoughts, from my "A mind is a difficult thing to change" series:
[On September 11, 2001], I went to the ocean and sat on the rocks. It was the loveliest day imaginable. I had been alive for over fifty years at the time, and I cannot recall weather and a sky quite like that before. It added to the utter unreality of the day and my feelings. The sky was so blue as to be almost piercing, with a clarity and sharpness that seemed other-worldly. It made it feel as though the heavens themselves were speaking to us; but what were they saying?
All this clarity and purity was enhanced by the fact that there wasn't an airplane in the sky. There were boats of all types on the bluest of oceans, the sun beamed down and made the waves sparkle, and it all seemed to have a preciousness and a beauty that came with something that might soon be irretrievably lost...
Even on that very first day, as I sat on the rocks overlooking the beautiful ocean that I loved so much, I thought we had entered a new era, one which would probably go on for most of my lifetime however much longer I might live. The fight would be long and hard, and there would be many many deaths before it was over. Perhaps it would result in the end of civilization as we knew it--yes, my thoughts went that far on that day. This war would encompass most of the globe. I had no idea how it would work out, but I knew that we were in for the fight of our lives.
The legal actions of the past--the puny trial after the first World Trade Center attack, for example--no longer seemed like an effective response. It seemed, in retrospect, to have been almost laughably naive. The situation didn't even seem amenable to a conventional war. Something new would have to be invented, and fast. And it would have to be global. It would have to have great depth and breadth, and it would probably last for decades or even longer.
It's long, and it's hard. But fatigue is really not an option, although of course we all feel it. In the deceptively simple yet majestically eloquent words of that wily old leader, Winston Churchill, who knew what long hard struggles were all about, and who knew how to describe them:
This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
[NOTE: I just wanted to add that the fatigue I'm writing about here is certainly not limited to the blogosphere, nor even to the so-called right. In an earlier (and longer) version of this post, I made that clear, but when I shortened the post it became much less clear.]