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We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism [Hardcover]

John Derbyshire
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)


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Book Description

September 29, 2009
To his fellow conservatives, John Derbyshire makes a plea: Don't be seduced by this nonsense about "the politics of hope." Skepticism, pessimism, and suspicion of happy talk are the true characteristics of an authentically conservative temperament. And from Hobbes and Burke through Lord Salisbury and Calvin Coolidge, up to Pat Buchanan and Mark Steyn in our own time, these beliefs have kept the human race from blindly chasing its utopian dreams right off a cliff.

Recently, though, various comforting yet fundamentally idiotic notions of political correctness and wishful thinking have taken root beyond the "Kumbaya"-singing, we're-all-one crowd. These ideas have now infected conservatives, the very people who really should know better. The Republican Party has been derailed by legions of fools and poseurs wearing smiley-face masks.

Think rescuing the economy by condemning our descendents to lives of spirit-crushing debt. Think nation-building abroad while we slowly disintegrate at home. Think education and No Child Left Behind. . . . But don't think about it too much, because if you do, you'll quickly come to the logical conclusion: We are doomed.

Need more convincing? Dwell on the cheerful promises of the diversity cult and the undeniable reality of the oncoming demographic disaster. Contemplate the feminization of everything, or take a good look at what passes for art these days. Witness the rise of culturism and the death of religion. Bow down before your new master, the federal apparatchik. Finally, ask yourself: How certain am I that the United States of America will survive, in any recognizable form, until, say, 2022?

A scathing, mordantly funny romp through today's dismal and dismaler political and cultural scene, We Are Doomed provides a long-overdue dose of reality, revealing just how the GOP has been led astray in recent years–and showing that had conservatives held on to their fittingly pessimistic outlook, America's future would be far brighter.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to embrace the Audacity of Hopelessness.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Derbyshire, a columnist and contributing editor for The National Review, confronts the "mendacity of hope" in this irreverent-sometimes-inflammatory screed. Appealing exclusively to American conservatives, Derbyshire impresses upon his audience the necessity of maintaining a pessimistic view of human nature; happy talk, he says, is for children, fools and leftists. Derbyshire, a Brit by birth, identifies himself as a "metrocon," a conservative city dweller, and his views embrace traditional American right wing beliefs (big government is bad; immigration is a threat) with a few notable aberrations (he's not religious) and a few universally off-putting stances (he's against female suffrage and approvingly quotes Hermann Goring on culture). Those who enjoy Derbyshire's work in The National Review will enjoy this harvest of provocations delivered with a witty, light touch, however heavy their implications.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Where will a more intelligent, hence pessimistic, yet sprightly conservatism come from? You are holding in your hands part of the answer."
—George F. Will, Pulitzer Prize—winning columnist and author of One Man's America

"John Derbyshire contends that a comprehensive pessimism is the natural home for realistic conservatives, a breed that understands human nature better than utopian liberals and 'happy talk conservatives.' His argument is wide-ranging, erudite, and invigorating, but, paradoxically, delivered with cheerful panache."
—Judge Robert H. Bork, author of the New York Times bestsellers The Tempting of America and Slouching Towards Gomorrah

"Just when you thought there was nothing to American conservatism but a bunch of blue-blazered fuddy-duddies who talk about global democracy, here comes John Derbyshire, who reminds us all of the place of pessimism and skepticism in the Western tradition. Not a moment too soon."
—Taki Theodoracopulos, cofounder of The American Conservative and editor and publisher of Taki's Magazine, takimag.com

"A funny and brilliant call to pessimism, Man's last, best hope for a tolerable life. Pessimists are not only the only realists; they have all the best jokes."
—Theodore Dalrymple, author of Not With a Bang But a Whimper and Our Culture, What's Left of It

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Forum; First Hardcover Edition edition (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307409589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307409584
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.6 x 10.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #634,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
86 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Sense of Despair October 10, 2009
Format:Hardcover
Most American conservatives, especially since Sept. 11th, exhibit signs of brain damage. And John Derbyshire diagnoses the problem: too much happy talk, too much optimism and not enough pessimism. There are limits about what man can do with himself and the natural world. Humans are not blank slates that can be remade to fit whatever utopian scheme can be dreamed up. Conservatives are supposed to know this and see things as they are. Liberals are there to take care of the happy talk and wishful thinking.

Now this is not an all purpose gloomfest. Derbyshire acknowledges all sorts of apocalyptic possibilities of the natural sort - resource depletion, climate change, and asteroid strike, but he doesn't talk about them. Rather he restricts himself to the social and political disasters that await America in the future. And he talks directly to conservatives. Wipe that smile off your face, he tells them. Get your mind around the fact that America does not and cannot exist outside the currents of history, that America has not been given a pass by God to do whatever it wants without horrible consequences.

And the particular delusions of optimism Derbyshire attacks? Diversity is not our strength, quite the opposite. It corrodes national identity. That presidents and legislators are not deserving of the respect, power, and money we give them. Harry Truman had to borrow money to write his memoirs. High culture has produced nothing of value after the 1950s. Pop culture has produced little of worth. A world of female empowerment is a world nudged closer to totalitarianism. Women are generally fanatical and unthoughtful about their politics. Education has become a cultish object of worship which assumes any child can become anything - if enough money is spent.
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66 of 76 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed February 13, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a fan of John Derbyshire; I regularly listen to his "Radio Derb," and I generally appreciate his perspective. I was, however, disappointed with this work, for the following reasons (I read it in a Kindle edition on my iPhone, so I won't give page numbers).

1. First, oddly enough, he is too optimistic! He attacks Mark Steyn on a few statistical issues for Mark's views on overpopulation, but Derbyshire's own views are hopelessly rose-tinted. Steyn argues that the population collapse of the western and industrialized world guarantees social chaos and cultural catastrophe in the years ahead. I think he is right. Derbyshire has the notion that some technical advance in Japan or China will solve the problem before we get there. This is nonsense. There is no technical advance that can solve the problem of having a tiny base of young adults supporting a massive population of aging, non-productive, and increasingly needy seniors. No technical advance can solve the problem of there being too few consumers to buy the next generation of iPads and other consumer products (this will create enormous economic problems). Derbyshire seemed to enjoy picking a few little holes in Steyn's work, but in the big picture, Steyn is right and Darbyshire is dead wrong.

2. Derbyshire goes on a rant against "Islamophobia." His main point is that he considers any belief in heaven, be it Christian or Muslim, equally absurd. So, he says, he has no reason to prefer one superstition to another. This completely misses the point of our current crisis. Whether he believes in any supernatural reality does not matter where the issue is public policy and the survival of our culture and civilization.
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52 of 61 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
In "We Are Doomed", John Derbyshire asserts that the American conservative movement is in peril because it abandoned its healthy pessimism about the world, the same pessimism that undergirded the nation's founding, and embraced some of the wishful thinking about human nature, life, and the world normally found on the Left. This led, he believes, to critical errors in fiscal, foreign, and social policy that he believes will likely lead to a diminished future for our country over the next few decades.

Derbyshire discusses many of the problems extant in the country today that are symptoms of a lack of healthy pessimism, such as the desire for diversity merely for diversity's sake, the decline of our culture, the seemingly intractable problems in our educational system, and the scourge of illegal immigration. The author opposes the notion that the immigration of today is similar to the immigration of the early part of the last century and lists the reasons why today's immigration is destructive.

The author includes absorbing chapters on religion and the nature-nurture conflict in regards to human nature. The author makes a good case for taking the nature side of this conflict, although one can think of some individuals, such as Theodore Roosevelt, who took on the fierce challenge of essentially transforming their personalities by relentlessly attacking their weaknesses.

Derbyshire examines the debt time bomb our country faces, and if you have seen the figures concerning government debt, corporate debt, and family and individual debt, they are sobering indeed. However, some futurologists such as Ray Kurzweil (whom Derbyshire mentions in the book) think that the pace of technological change in the twenty-first century will be exponential, not linear.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars John Derbyshire has a humorous-yet-powerful writing style that kept me...
Having read Derbyshire extensively on Taki Mag, I wanted to see what his first book was like. I was pleased with the book, if not the message. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Tim Mullen
5.0 out of 5 stars Societal Forecast
A realistic forecast for American society: We are all going to hell in an handbasket. Prosperity will soon be a thing of the past.
Published 29 days ago by James M Stiles
5.0 out of 5 stars Doom Has A Silver Lining: Really
Derbyshire's point is that conservatism and the rest of the planet are definitely doomed if it continues to maintain a naieve optimism in the face of the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by jtrolla
5.0 out of 5 stars Lean, Mean Realism
When the harsh winds of revolutionary liberalism wear away the soft religious beliefs of Conservatives, what remains is a hard, steely realism, and it is in this mode that John... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Radial Symmetry
5.0 out of 5 stars I quit
Abandon all hope, yee goyim who enter here. A masterpiece of biological truth in for the land of extra strength pearl drops teefus polish. Isn't that enough?
Published 5 months ago by Barry
4.0 out of 5 stars A toung-in-cheek apocolypse
Derb points out that the end of civilization is at hand and backs the idea up with tons of evidence. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Gregory Adams
5.0 out of 5 stars You Have to Read it
Derb demolishes the diversity argument in the first chapter. The whole book is worth it for this chapter alone. Of course there's much more.
Published 10 months ago by Franklin Hilliard
5.0 out of 5 stars A genial Prophet of Doom
Derbyshire is one of those British polymaths who can write rings around most American pundits. And he has a wicked sense of humor.
Published 11 months ago by Gerard D. Casale
4.0 out of 5 stars The Conservative Disposition
Derbyshire is an engaging writer who argues for a return to the true conservative outlook that seeks to counter the liberal meliorism by confronting the brute facts of human... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Matt Metevelis
4.0 out of 5 stars The world is going to hell, and I feel fine
Derb brings up a lot of good points in the book. You don't have to agree on all of his positions, but honest men can't deny that there was indeed too much "happy talk" under... Read more
Published 15 months ago by D. STANLEY
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