The river that was so wide and deep (the one we couldn’t cross when we got here in March) is down to a small stream…as if a fire hydrant had been opened upstream.
And every drop of it needs to be shunted off to water the onions or the alfalfa.
The alfalfa is ready to cut and bale. We begin at the northern field…and keep going…day and (sometimes) night — leaving round bales in the fields, spaced out as if they were practicing some kind of social distancing of their own.
Then, we start at the top again. This continues, almost without interruption, for about six months — cutting, raking, baling…until we have picked up some 3,000 bales.
Or until the water gives out.
We make sure no water is wasted by carefully shovelling out the canal — by hand. A crew of 13 paleadores starts at one end…and keeps going for the next four days — digging a total of about two miles’ worth of trench.
Then, the river is blocked off, forcing the water into our two major irrigation ditches, one on each side.
The water flows for a week at a time. After seven days, we break up our dike so people downriver will get some of the precious liquid.
It’s mid-spring. And we’re still here — in Northwest Argentina — with a quarantine tighter than ever. The Argentines have used the toughest ‘lockdown’ approach in the world.
We are in an extremely rural area, much like Nevada or Montana. But even on our dirt road, there are police roadblocks every 20 miles or so.
The lockdown approach seems to be able to delay the disease, but not stop it. Every time the door is opened, in it comes. Then, a ‘spike’ in cases causes the authorities to slam the door shut again.
How long this can go on is anyone’s guess. Thanks to government policies over the last 70 years, the gauchos are far from rich. Many are sinking into extreme poverty.
Back in the early part of the 20th century, the Argentines were about even with Western Europeans, in terms of income per capita. Now, the country is number 68 on the list, below Russia and Romania.
And now, Argentina’s economy is in a depression, with the peso falling like a stone in a well. It was on par with the US dollar when we first came to the country 20 years ago. Yesterday, on the black market — which is where most of the money gets exchanged — it was at 181 pesos to one single dollar.
It would be a marvellous time to go out to a fine restaurant. A thick, delicious Argentine steak…a bottle of the best wine on the menu — the meal would cost barely more than a visit to McDonald’s in Baltimore.
That is a curious and surprising consequence of an economic catastrophe; it has its advantages.
Alas…the restaurants nearby are all closed…
What a marvellous place to be quarantined! Always beautiful…always interesting…and always on edge.
And we feel as though we are getting a preview of things to come in the US, too.
But back to our US election preview…
Two poor candidates
The two surest ways to wreck a great nation are war and inflation. Donald Trump failed to stop the former (though he had promised to do so and, as Commander in Chief, had the power to do so). Instead, he actually increased funding for the warmakers.
In domestic matters, too, Trump did nothing to bring spending under control (he didn’t veto a single spending bill).
Au contraire, he brought spending, deficits, and ‘inflation’ — the money printing necessary to cover budget shortfalls — to a level never before seen in the US. In 2020, the budget deficit hit a sh*thole country record — at 18% of GDP.
Trump did one other calamitous thing worth mentioning. In response to a health challenge — the coronavirus — he allowed his bureaucrats to put the country on a war footing…taking on extraordinary powers that are normally limited to matters of national survival.
But as unsuccessful as he was, we’ve also seen that his opponent is unlikely to be any better.
As far as we can tell, Joe Biden never met a boondoggle that he didn’t like. He is likely to back scams and bamboozles — green programs, universal basic income, expanded free medical care — far beyond those of Mr Trump.
If Biden has his way, the feds’ printing presses will probably run hotter than ever.
So what will happen?
First, who will win?
Most likely, Biden will win. But not because his policies are better. Nor even because he is the overwhelming favourite of the deep staters.
Both candidates are socialists. Both are committed to a large role for the government in the economy. Both will continue in the Bush/Obama/Trump tradition…less freedom, more control, less prosperity, more inequality, more fake money.
But our guess — and it is only a guess — is that the marginal voter is a little tired of the Big Man. Trump has dominated the news cycle for the last five years, beginning even before he was elected.
He captured the headlines largely because he was willing to say ‘outrageous’ things — many of which were true.
Back in 2016, for example, he said ‘all lives matter.’ And of course, they do. But now, you’re not allowed to say so without being branded a ‘racist’.
Then, hardly a month ago, he urged Americans not to let the coronavirus ‘dominate your life.’ The core of the message was little different from the advice of the Harvard Medical School in March — ‘Don’t let coronavirus anxiety take over.’
But coming from Trump’s mouth, it was deemed too dangerous for public consumption. The press went wild with indignation. Health ‘experts’ branded it ‘irresponsible’.
A few months earlier, an interviewer, hoping to lure the Big Man into another sensational headline, touched on the California forest fires. The Donald was invited to opine on whether or not the fires were caused by man-made climate change.
‘I don’t think science knows,’ the president responded.
This, too, was right on the money. Of course, ‘science’ doesn’t know. It has hypotheses that, in the fullness of time, are sure to be amended and updated.
As of today, nobody knows for certain which way it will go…nor what really is the cause.
But while this maverick approach was welcomed…and captivated the media and the public for 60 months…now, the lumpen electorate seems to have gotten weary of it. The voters yearn for a return to normal.
Trump’s unkind epithet for ‘Sleepy Joe’ Biden, may have backfired. Sleepy is what the public wants. People want an anaesthetic president…a dreamtime leader…who will put the bitter conflicts and sour dramas behind us.
Reality is now tough enough. The recovery is stalling. The rich are getting much richer; the poor much poorer. And the coronavirus shows no sign of going away, suggesting that we have gotten ourselves into another unending, unwinnable war.
Many people blame the president — even for things that aren’t his fault.
But if they pull the lever for Mr Biden, what difference will it make? Can they nod off…and make yesterday’s mistakes and today’s challenges…disappear?
The deficits? The jackass programs? The deepening swamp? The growing debt? The widening gap between rich and poor? The 76 million baby boomers in need of pensions and medical care? The crisp new bills — albeit in electronic form — flying off the printing presses?
Nope. Things — at least the things that matter most, war and inflation — will go on, much as they have for the last 20 years.
Appreciate what we lost
But let us, uncharacteristically, depart from our usual doom and gloom. Yes, of course, the American empire is on the downslide. And no…there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
But between the dimming light of today and the crack of doom tomorrow is at least a little time…
Like the once-rich families on the pampas, there will be time to light candles…time to enjoy the dusky scenes…to reach into our once-bulging liquor cabinet and pour out the last drops from a bottle of Highland Malt that we bought when we were flush…
…and time to sit at an ancient table…as the last rays of the southern sun steal through the cracked windowpanes…the old wallpaper peeling down…
And finally, at peace after so many guerras inutiles…so many battles fought trying to hold the line against waste and foolishness…so many fights lost against lunatic enemies…
…there, finally, there will be time to appreciate the fruits of a civilization that is no more.
Yes, enantiodromia works both ways. It casts down…but it raises up, too. Sleepy Joe might win…but the ‘conservatives’ might reawaken.
When in power, people become proud and practical, eager to take advantage of their opportunity to punish their enemies, reward their friends, and steal whatever they can. It is usually a sordid spectacle.
That is why winning a war…or an election…is often one of the worst things that can happen to a people.
The Romans had won so many battles for so many years that they began to believe their armies — although composed largely of barbarians — were invincible.
In the 5th century, rather than protect the homeland…their armies remained deployed at the fringes of the empire — often fighting each other…
…until the Barbarians marched into Rome…raped the women…slaughtered the men…burned down the city…and carried off anything of value.
The Germans handily defeated the French in 1870…and took away the idea that they could so again. (The French learned nothing.)
In the next war, Germany — following essentially the same strategy — was ruined…bankrupted…with two million of her young men dead.
And wouldn’t the US have been better off if it had had its butt kicked a little harder by the Vietnamese?
Instead, its military considered that the withdrawal was a ‘political’ decision. And then, eager to regain its pride, led by Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf, it attacked Iraq in 1991.
Wouldn’t it have been better if it had lost there, too?
Most likely. Then, it never would have thought it could pull off a Second Gulf War.
Our point is that you learn more from failure than from success…you think more clearly, too, when the boot is at your neck.
Failure, especially if it is indisputable, excites the brain. And the first thing you realize is that war is not always a paying proposition. Minding your own business becomes a virtue, not a sign of cowardice. Conservatism — learning from the past, sticking with the traditional rules of an honest, open society — pays.
As for the warmongers…the world improvers…the activists and empire builders — you begin to see them in a different light…as the clowns and numbskulls they really are.
And you realise that these morons who are ruining the empire are actually doing us all a favour.
And so, dear reader, looking on the bright side, as usual, we see a blaze of glory at the end of the tunnel…
Defeated, we will be a smarter, nicer race.
Humbled, we will be less inclined to try to boss others around.
Broke, we will spend our money more carefully.
And out of power, following a Biden win, our erstwhile ‘conservatives’ might suddenly come to their senses and eschew war, deficit spending, grandiose scams, fake money, giveaways, tariffs, phony interest rates, meddling in the economy, restricting, confining, controlling…and all the flimflams and swindles of both parties over the last 50 years.
The born-again conservatives might even regain the clarity and courage to prevent the Biden administration from doing more harm!
Yes, we see much better things ahead.
After the crack up…of course.
For The Rum Rebellion