Ask Me Anything (7/28-8/1)
Between now (7/28) and next Monday (8/1), I will answer questions you leave in the comments. Good questions will be pulled from the comments and posted here, along with their answers, and really good ones I will expand on in a Q&A podcast.
Note: Well, it’s been less than a day and there are over 400 comments. Considering that I can’t seem to answer most questions in less than 500 words, this is going to take me a while. HOWEVER, I will get to them all. I’m dedicating all day today to answer questions, and will answer more during the UFC fights tomorrow evening. After that, I’ll spend an hour or two a day until I get through them all.
Q (from Mikhail): What is your recommendation of "10 Books Must Read"?
A: Very hard question without breaking it down by topic. Off the top of my head, though, I'll give you a "top 10 books to read if you want to understand where Darryl is coming from" (in no particular order):
Man, I haven’t even gotten into… ah well. Ten is not nearly enough, but there you go.
Q (from Christopher Holtkamp): You gave me a shot of self-awareness when you mentioned telling your wife a story that digressed into an ever-deepening back story that becomes necessary when explaining a complex topic (especially one you’re interested in and have researched exhaustively).
Given this, personally relatable, aspect of deep diving while researching topics for your shows, my question is related to the cynicism that is an inescapable byproduct of such in-depth study.
How do you reconcile things like lifelong patriotism, pride in service to the US, and reverence for founding fathers/documents, when as the truth becomes more apparent, you find out that much of the principals we hold are more of a veneer on an increasingly corrupt political system?
I find myself questioning my service in Iraq & Afghanistan in light of recent events like the disastrous withdrawal and the Freudian slip from former President Bush, that remove all doubt that these wars were based on lies. If ignorance is bliss, then what is our personal and moral responsibility of knowing the truth, and what actions can we take to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again in an escalating geopolitical climate?
A: You have nothing to be ashamed of for serving your people and your country, even if that service was put to a cynical use.
In Bill Moyers's interview of Joseph Campbell, Campbell mentions that being a scholar of world mythologies gave him a perspective on the nature of religion that was unavailable to the person locked into the religious framework in which they happened to be raised. The cost, he said, is that he would never know the depth and richness of the profound or mystical experience available only to a person fully-immersed in their native tradition. Naive patriotism is like being infatuated, both are built on uncritical adoration. But there is a mature appreciation of one's country that is more like being in love after many years, after you're perfectly aware of your partner's faults and humble enough to know that you're still lucky to be with her. The former is may be more intense, but the latter is more durable. It feels good to wave the flag and cheer for the destruction of our enemies, and in a way it hurts to give that up. But it's like giving up childhood to become an adult.
History is history. Your people called on you to serve and you answered the call. That you're able to reflect on your experience critically does not diminish the value of that service; if anything, it adds to it.
Q (from Artie Duncanson): I believe you said that you worked on the DOD for 20+ years. Then at the beginning of the "Thoughts on Ukraine" podcast you said "For one thing, I don't like war. I'm over that stage in my life," followed by a quote from anti-war activist Scott Horton (later doing an interview with him). I would be very curious to hear about the mental journey you took regarding your position on war.
A: When I was younger, I liked to fight. Today, I think back on some of the pointless beatings I gave people, and how lucky I was that I didn't run into the wrong person at the wrong time, and I have trouble explaining it to myself without resorting to a plea of insanity. It's similar with war. Maybe I'm just getting soft in my old age, but I no longer see tanks, soldiers, and trenches when I imagine war, but instead see women with their legs blown off and kids with no fathers. I was 20 and already in the Navy when 9/11 happened. I was in my libertarian phase, and my politics had been shaped heavily by the Waco massacre, so I was more prepared than most to withhold judgment on the war fever of the Bush administration. But still, terrorists had blown shit up in America, and like all of the people around me I wanted to find and kill anyone who had anything to do with it, or even thought it was a good idea. If I hadn't already been in the Navy, I surely would have joined the Marines. As it was, I tried for two years to get approval to go to SEAL, EOD or SWCC training (denied due to my NEC being considered critical, and they'd already spent too much time and money training me on radars and electronics, so they said). But over the years, like everyone else, I had to face how cynically we had all been lied to. I thought about the people I might have killed, or the people on our side who were killed, over a lie. Then, being a history nerd, I came to understand that the Iraq War & GWOT weren't unique, that there arguably hasn't been a war in American history that wasn't based on a lie at the time, and told as a lie today. When I was young and full of piss and vinegar, I would have snarled at the quip that war is just a bunch of rich guys sending poor kids to die to line their pockets or stroke their egos, but that's what it is and has been. That said, I still think military service is a noble calling. There were many Native Americans in the late 19th, early 20th centuries, who joined up to fight America's wars despite knowing full well the nature of the beast. They did it because they were warriors, and warriors have to go where the war is. I have always respected that mentality. A young man who doesn't have some part of himself that wants to smash and kill and stand over the ruins he's created is not fully healthy, IMO, and a young man who channels that into a vocation that, right or wrong, his whole society is telling him is good and righteous, deserves respect.
Q (from Devon): Can we just settle the Nazi/Alt-right thing? I've been following you for years now, and you're a hard guy to pin down belief wise. To be clear I like that about you, you seem complex. What "left wing" beliefs do you hold? What "right wing" beliefs do you hold? Why oh why did you start your controversial interview series in decline of the west with a white nationalist? and why didn't you continue with the rest of the planned guests? I'm perfectly capable of separating the art from the artist but it helps to know what potential filter the art might be coming through. Thank you for introducing me to blood meridian BTW. Cheers.
A: My beliefs are usually worn on my sleeve, I think. It's just that I take a mix of positions that don't often go together. Sometimes, I take what seem like right- or left-wing positions for reasons that seem to come from the other side. For example, I think mass democracy is a bad political system (right wing belief?), but the reason is that I think it's too easily and inevitably coopted by plutocrats and fails its stating aim of providing people with representation (left wing belief?).
Having spent a lot of time around the world, I know how easy we have it in America. I also know that this thing of ours is fragile, and impossible to put back together once it's broken. Regular people need stability and order in their lives, but the people who run our society are insulated from the consequences of disorder and instability. From their safe distance, disorder and instability seem cool, and they're very cavalier with the community norms, social institutions and economic stability that regular people depend on for their lives. These are people who cheer on riots while the poor people who live in the affected neighborhoods hide in their homes praying for the National Guard. Those people are my enemy. I grew up in ghettos, barrios and trailer parks, with a stint in rural Montana. Those people are my friends, and most of politics derives from outrage over how they're portrayed and treated, and a fighting urge to slap a bully on their behalf. That could be right wing or left wing, depending on what decade you're talking about. In this decade, when "right wing", as far as I can tell, simply means "not insane", I guess it puts me on the right.
As for the aborted Decline of the West series, I should elaborate for people who don't know what you're talking about. Several years ago, I had a very short-lived podcast series called Decline of the West - a more conversational podcast about contemporary topics with an author I knew at the time. My co-host dropped off the map for a bit, so I was trying to think up topics to keep things going until he popped back up. It was 2016, and people were talking about the Alt Right and BLM, terrorists were driving buses over crowds of people, etc, and so I had the idea to interview four people considered extremist identitarians: a white nationalist (Greg Johnson, who runs the Counter-Currents website), a black nationalist who runs a small organization (now defunct AFAIK) down south, a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK, and a very serious religious Zionist settler in the West Bank. I had the first three lined up, and someone was setting me up with the fourth. Greg Johnson ended up being first because he was the easiest to coordinate with, so I interviewed him about white nationalism. It was the first interview I'd ever conducted. I thought it was as simple as just hitting record and talking to someone, but I learned there that interviewing is a skill, one I hadn't yet developed. Johnson is a very polite gentleman, and it's in my nature to be kind to people who are kind to me, so the podcast came off like I was just shooting the breeze with my white nationalist buddy to let him sell his ideology to my listeners. To be clear, I think the intent and approach of the series was sound, in general, even if not perfectly executed. If I had it to do again, I would not treat it like an adversarial interview or an interrogation, because that's not the purpose I had in mind. But after that one came out, I decided my co-host probably wasn't coming back any time soon, and I was already seeing a lot of criticism of the Johnson interview, so I decided it was best to just take the whole series (5-6 episodes down) and move on.
Q (from Nick P): The senate has appointed you as emergency Dictator for six months to get America back on track. Jocko is your Master of the Horse. What is your ten point plan?
A: Point One: Arrest and execute the Senate for treason, since they empowered a dictator
Point Two: Seeing as there is no longer a Senate, extend my term as dictator indefinitely…
Q (by CT): I've been re-listening to some episodes and re-reading some books, especially some of the israel-palestine stuff and Keith Richburgs Out of America, and just find myself wondering...what does it really take to make the jump from tribal identity to national identity and why do some places seem to do this easier or more smoothly than others? Or maybe I'm mistaken and they don't, maybe they all go through similar pains with this transition it's just some are more well documented than others?
A: Like diamonds, group identities form under pressure. Facing a challenge that can only be overcome through cooperative collective action provides the opportunity to scale up, but it doesn't always happen (see: Native Americans facing European conquest) so maybe there's a special ingredient as well - namely, the presence of a great personality to collect and channel the collective energy until it becomes a habit.
Tribal societies and societies with strong extended family networks have a bigger hill to climb toward strong national identity than societies built from nuclear families. The tribe and extended family are political units, at least on the local level, and competitors with the larger society for the loyalty of members. Nuclear families are not durable political units, and do not present such a big challenge. It's a huge topic, though.
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