Allegorical Intermezzo


”If, however, as Pareto suggested… a governing elite is inevitable, then we are certainly under the wrong elites. Whether a circulation of elites can be completed in time to save the world economic system from ruin and the majority from destitution and veritable slavery is a question of no little urgency.” — Michael Rectenwald

Imagine that on an April evening in 1912, the captain of the RMS Titanic had announced a grand ball at which the male passengers were asked to wear their wives’ clothing and vice-versa…. That was approximately the condition of Western Civ verging on springtime in 2023: preoccupied with silliness while the iceberg awaits.

But who would have thought the sinking of civilization would occur with such fantastic comic ornamentation? Men, in more ways than mere costuming, pretending to be women… incompetence honored, feted, even worshipped… intellect reduced to anti-thinking… anything of value thrown overboard in some weird post-modern potlatch ceremony of twisted moral righteousness…? But the hour is late, the party is near its end, and the iceberg is struck. The rest of the story will be you holding onto a few valuables, including your life, while the lifeboats get lowered.

From here forward, things get pretty interesting. And from here on, nobody is really in charge. The vacuum of leadership we’ve been living in becomes impossible to ignore, and nature (it’s rumored) hates a vacuum. For the moment, circumstances are in charge, not personalities.

Look no further than the fiasco in Ukraine, engineered by geniuses of the US foreign service in some daft exercise to show the world who’s who and what for. And, remind me: what was the basic idea there? To hamstring and hogtie Russia so badly that her people would overthrow the only rational head-of-state in Christendom, a figure who makes the presidents, chancellors, and prime ministers of Western Civ look like a troop of gibbering mandrills, with painted faces and blue butts, the ass-clowns of geopolitics.

Something tells me that this gang will not make it to the lifeboats. They’ll be left on deck gripping bottles of single malt scotch whiskey, singing Don’t Cry for me Argentina as the band plays, while the whole wicked colossus slides beneath the moonlight-tinted green waves. All of which is to say: these perilous and confounding times we live in are coming to a climax. Events are afoot now, choices must be made, truths will emerge, no one will be untouched, be careful who your friends are.

We’re waiting for financial markets, banks, and monies to blow, as an engine will when submerged in water. It can’t not happen, though every known device has been deployed to keep up appearances. The credibility of finance was thrown overboard a long time ago. Capital was sloshing around in the bilges as the ship heaved and pitched in the angry waters, and it had to go somewhere. The next turn will be when you go looking for where it went and you discover to your nauseated chagrin that the capital is just… gone! Through some legerdemain of physics, it disappeared… turned into a kind of anti-matter… fell through a black hole (possibly ripped by that iceberg), or up the smokestacks, like it was never there at all.

When that happens, our collective attention finally gets galvanized as by no shock before. When capital is truly gone, transmogrified into a whole lot of nothing, the time for standing by making faces and whining is over. By the way, this is the way the world ends for the vacuum known as “Joe Biden” and the Party of Chaos he is propped up to represent. Chaos, we will be astounded to learn, is not your friend, is not the solution to anything, least of all a polity that is floundering in lifeboats over cold, dark, deep water a thousand leagues from dry land. What’s more, there are no ships coming to the rescue. Guess why they put oars in the boats. Get set to pull, me hardies!

Yes, we’re at sea now, without a compass. Yet the stars sparkle dazzlingly above, and some aboard can actually read what they say and what they point to. If safety and sanity will not find us, maybe we can pull together toward wherever they wait. My gawd, it’s going to be a long haul, but have a little faith — remember what that is? (It’s the conviction that all of us together stand in some meaningful relation to existence.) Even if you’re too mentally drained to believe it, act as if it is so. Or, in post-modern parlance, fake it till you make it.

Didn’t think it would come to this when you signed on to the voyage? I guess so. You were comfortably ensconced one winter night in the mini-McMansion, on the overstuffed sofa, entertained by some Netflix inanity, scarfing down the microwaved cheeze morsels… when the wife said, “Hey, let’s book a cruise!” Seemed like a good idea at the time, which is what everything in the annals of history is and was. And now, look at where you are!

Reprinted with permission from

A Monument To British Hegemony

The British Once Built a 1,100-Mile Hedge Through the Middle of India

This quixotic colonial barrier was meant to enforce taxes.

Atlas Obscura
  • Sarah Laskow

Read when you’ve got time to spare.


Map of India, c. 1875. Photo from the Public Domain.

In 1878, W.S. Halsey, Commissioner of Inland Customs, reported on the state of British India’s giant hedge. The hedge had grown to more than 1,100 miles long, he wrote, long enough to stretch from Berlin to Moscow. More than half of the barrier, Halsey reported, was made up of “perfect and good green hedge” or “combined green and dry hedge.” In parts, it was 12 feet tall and 14 feet across.

The British Empire had been working on this giant hedge for at least 30 years. It had, at long last, reached “its greatest extent and perfection,” wrote Roy Moxham in The Great Hedge of India. It was an impressive monument to British power and doggedness. One British official wrote that it “could be compared to nothing else in the world except the Great Wall of China.”

As he reported on the extent and health of the hedge, though, Halsey knew its time was coming to an end. That same year, the empire stopped all funding for the mad project, and it was not long before the hedge had disappeared entirely. When Moxham, an English writer, went looking for it in 1996, he couldn’t find a trace.


No one knows where the idea to build a giant hedge across the heart of India came from. It seems a little magical, like a fairy-tale hedge that sprouts, thorny and tall, to protect a sleeping princess before disappearing back into the soil as quickly as it arose. But there was nothing charming about what the British built. It wasn’t meant to protect anything except imperial revenue. It grew along the Inland Customs Line, a bureaucratic barrier that the British created to impose a high salt tax on the people living on one side of the line—the relatively saltless one.

The Customs Line was longer than the hedge ever was—2,500 miles, from Punjab in the northwest, snaking down to Madhya Pradesh, just south of the city of Burhanpur on the Tapti River. Sometime in the 1840s, British officers started fortifying this administrative line with thorny material to block smugglers from crossing the line and ducking patrols.

At first, the hedge was made mostly of dry branches lugged into place and piled high. But that proved a fruitless task, since it had to be replaced year after year. The line was divided into patrolled sections, and in some places the patrols started to plant and cultivate live hedge, with the idea of creating something more easily maintained and permanent.

Growing a live hedge wasn’t easy, though. The British tried using dwarf Indian plum trees, babool trees, prickly pear, thuer, bamboo, and many other local plants. In some arid places the trees just withered and died. Elsewhere, seedlings were swept away in floods. In other spots, the soil simply wasn’t rich enough to support the growth of anything beyond scrub.

But as the British do, they kept working at it. They dug ditches and brought in better soil. They built embankments to resist floods. They experimented until they found the best trees for each of the many climates that the hedge passed through. Eventually it grew long and tall and wide.

It was, in the words of Sir John Strachey, a lifelong civil servant in British India cited in Moxham’s book, “a monstrous system,” that had few parallels “in any tolerably civilised country.” Each mile required 250 tons of thorny brushwood and other organic material to create, and in one year the patrols might carry 100,000 tons of this plant matter to shore up stretches of dry hedge. In most places, the barrier was at least 10 feet tall and 6 feet thick, but it grew bigger in some areas. It became “a standing monument of the industry of our officers and men and an impervious barrier to smugglers,” another commissioner wrote.

But there were problems. White ants infested the hedge and could bring whole sections down. Bush fires incinerated miles at a time. Storms and whirlwinds could sweep parts of it away. Locusts invaded. Parasitic vines blighted the hedge, the trees died of natural causes. One section had rats living in it, and the patrol there introduced feral cats to combat them.

For all that work, the hedge, like most fortified borders, was only partially successful at stopping smugglers. There were gaps where no one could get plants to grow. Smugglers used the trees themselves as ladders. Sometimes they flung sacks of salt over the top to collaborators on the other side. The maintenance the hedge and enforcement of the line were constant struggles. When the hedge was abandoned in 1879, it was unmourned.


A view of Agra, India, c. 1835. Photo from the British Library/Public Domain.


More than a century later, the writer Moxham went looking for traces of this living monument to British hegemony and persistence. For him, the search began with the purchase of a used book, Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official, by Sir William Sleeman, which happened to mention the hedge. Other sources were few and hard to find, and as Moxham learned more about it he found that it had been almost entirely forgotten.

Still, he was determined to learn the story of this quixotic piece of India’s colonial history. Over the course of two years, Moxham searched along the old Customs Line for any trace—or memory—of the hedge. In most places, no one knew it had ever existed. Finally, he met an older man who remembered the hedge and took Moxham to the site where it once stood.

There, Moxham wrote, “Clusters of thorny acacias topped the embankment. Some were 20 feet high. Thorn-covered Indian plum trees barred the way .… We had found it at last.”

The hedge itself might have died, but the path it cut through the country was preserved, in a way. Later in India’s history, road designers looked at the long, flat embankments that cut through the country as an infrastructure asset. The hedge’s path was, in certain areas, transformed into a series of roads. Moxham had such a hard time finding any trace of the Great Hedge of India because its history had been paved over.