The Queen of Light took her bow,
And then she turned to go,
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom,
And walked the night alone.
Oh, dance in the dark of night,
Sing to the morning light.
The dark Lord rides in force tonight,
And time will tell us all.
Oh, throw down your plow and hoe,
Rest not to lock your homes.
Side by side we wait the might
Of the darkest of them all.
I hear the horses’ thunder down in the valley below,
I’m waiting for the angels of Avalon, waiting for the eastern glow.
The apples of the valley hold the seeds of happiness,
The ground is rich from tender care,
Repay, do not forget, no, no.
Dance in the dark of night,
Sing to the morning light.
The apples turn to brown and black,
The tyrant’s face is red.
Oh war is the common cry,
Pick up your swords and fly.
The sky is filled with good and bad
That mortals never know.
Oh, well, the night is long, the beads of time pass slow,
Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow.
The pain of war cannot exceed the woe of aftermath,
The drums will shake the castle wall,
The ring wraiths ride in black, ride on.
Sing as you raise your bow,
Shoot straighter than before.
No comfort has the fire at night
That lights the face so cold.
Oh dance in the dark of night,
Sing to the morning light.
The magic runes are writ in gold to bring the balance back.
Bring it back.
At last the sun is shining,
The clouds of blue roll by,
With flames from the dragon of darkness,
The sunlight blinds his eyes.
– The Battle of Evermore by Jimmy Page & Robert Plant
Have you ever been on a vacation where you can completely escape from your life? For me that place is Mauritius. It’s a short four-hour flight from where I live. It’s beautiful. Forested mountains, white beaches, warm water, friendly people. The hotels make you forget about the outside world. You don’t have to think about a thing. It’s all taken care of. The guy who never stops smiling fetches you from the airport and before long you’re sipping piña coladas at the infinity pool served by another guy who never stops smiling.
And then a week goes by, and you’re thinking, “man I reckon I could do this forever.”
Two weeks go by, and you know you could do it forever.
And then sometime in the third week, something changes. You get a yearning in your gut for something real. Something meaningful. Something purposeful. Dare I say it, something difficult. And then the guy serving you piña coladas that never stops smiling suddenly stops smiling. Maybe his niece died, or his boss just gave him the hairdryer. Or maybe he’s just tired of serving your lazy arse. But it reminds you there’s a real world, with real stuff to overcome and real battles to fight. Real pain. Real sacrifice. Real exploits.
And the thought is exhilarating.
You know it’s time to get back on that plane, wave goodbye to the smiling faces and the piña coladas and the infinity pool and do something meaningful again. Something outside of just yourself. You can’t wait to get out of paradise. To fight again.
You have a battle to fight. It could be yours alone or one you fight with many. It might be a battle against your demons, your weaknesses, your pain, your dependencies. It might be a battle on behalf of others. A battle for your authenticity. For freedom. A struggle to survive. A war of ideas. A fight for love.
The question is, will you show up to the battlefield or run away?
There’s no peace in running. Your foe will pursue you relentlessly, growing more vicious, more emboldened to subject you. There’s no Shire without a journey. No home without work. No progress without pain.
Travail precedes birth. Effort comes before reward. Saving before prosperity. Resistance before strength.
I don’t believe there’s any lasting fulfilment off the battlefield. Each time you run from your fight, you weaken. Your muscles atrophy. You weary. I’ve been there. But each time you face the dark riders, your heart enlarges. You strengthen your mind. You grow in capacity. I’ve been there too.
Us humans keep trying to ensconce ourselves inside walls and comfy pillows and safe spaces. But these things mean nothing without a battle. As the old saying goes, a ship is safe in a harbour, but that’s not what a ship is for.
In thinking about how to kick off The Macro Outsider, the word that kept popping into my head was conflict. There’s a war going on, and in case you hadn’t noticed, you’re required to participate in it.
I know we all think we’d like to leave the battlefield. Crack it big and retire early to some pretty place you can’t find on a map. But think about it. Is that really what gets your pulse racing? Knowing that you’ve squirrelled away enough to go become utterly irrelevant somewhere no one cares about?
Outsiders are making the next Renaissance. Those who saddle up and fight for personal, financial, political, and economic authenticity in a world running away from its battles; running to hedonism, nihilism, fatalism, victimology, dependency, economic free-lunchism, and political shortcuts. That doesn’t mean Outsiders are strong. Heck, it doesn’t even mean they win. It means they take their place on their battlefields. Day in. Day out. Because the alternative is running scared. Capitulation. Hopelessness.
Relationships, financial success, business building, economic growth, freedom – these mean nothing without authenticity, resilience, justice.
Yet, so much around us screams synthetic, fragile, unjust.
Our political systems are institutionally corrupt, our financial systems keep rewarding recklessness, and what little economic growth we can muster is done so under pain of more and more debt.
How did we get here? I guess there are quite a few good reasons, but mostly I think it’s because too many of us have abandoned our battlefields and abdicated our responsibilities. Sure, rights are great, but they mean nothing when you outsource your responsibilities to The Meddling Class. Those grand narcissists who think they can bend society according to their vision. The something-for-nothing hucksters. The peddlers of fauxtopia. Of spending without producing. Lending without saving. More pay without more productivity. More welfare without more wealth creation. Commands without persuasion. Legislation without public will. Rhetoric without action.
Growth without sacrifice.
They pervert cause and effect and then wonder why their schemes fail. They replace organic price formation with the contrived engineering of their anointed technocrats. Their central banking mandarins create financial moral hazard. Their 1000+ page bills let loose the law of unintended consequences. Their taxes corrode productivity. Their subsidies subvert thrift. Their debt crushes dynamism.
And their Keynesian ‘remedies’ only make it all worse. Massively distorted global asset prices, enormous clusters of error in capital allocation, chronic unemployment, a growing wealth divide, and economic stagnation. But our Meddling Class tries to cloak it all in a veneer of normalcy, using ever more debt and lower interest rates and more printed money and longer legislative bills to try to suppress reality and delay the consequences. What’s more, they gloat while their policy palliatives merely delay pain, and then have the gall to vilify ‘unfettered markets’ when the ugly symptoms of their meddling inevitably recur, before promoting their next consignment of policy snake oil.
What was so encouraging to me about the Brexit and Trump tremors in 2016 was not that those things by themselves will right Britain and America, but that they revealed a deep dissatisfaction with The Meddling Class. People no longer swallow the propaganda that their mega-stimulus ‘saved’ the world and that we should still trust those responsible for the financial crisis to lead us out of it. We viscerally understand that overindebtedness is a slow but fatal toxin, that more laws aren’t helping, and that printing money to goose paper wealth is just another shell game.
Try as it might, the political machine could not suppress Britain and America’s ballot box populism that I think was fundamentally a manifestation of a desire to restrain The Meddling Class and restore authenticity, resilience and justice. People are starting to leave their vacation from history and realising they’ve got to get back in the fight before the fox runs amok in the henhouse.
2016’s political events were just the beginning of a long process of wrestling back what we’ve ceded.
The Meddling Class and their acolytes and dependents – the Insiders – won’t give up easily. They love their system. They want more of it. More of their unconstrained vision. But I think the Insider system is unravelling under the weight of economic stagnation, political illegitimacy, technological disruption and the democratisation of knowledge. As this system atrophies, I expect its huge distortions to correct in intense, uneven but ultimately positive ways. This presents significant risks and opportunities. Our task is to stay wide awake to both.
That means staying engaged in the battle. It means sorting yourself out before blaming someone else. Taking responsibility for your wealth, health, and freedom. It means fighting for authenticity, resilience, and justice wherever you find yourself stationed. It means taking refuge only to refuel for your next battle. No checking out.
That’s how we take this thing back.
So here’s to waging your Battles of Evermore…
…and to vacations in Mauritius.