When a Russian general wanted to fool an Empress, he constructed fake villages that showcased an idyllic life for their inhabitants and concealed the less pleasant actuality. Culturally, the world has accepted a Potemkin village as the concept that those in power can craft a fake reality in order to dissuade oversight.
However, we live in a postmodern age. Starting with Nietzsche’s critique of language in On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense, and accelerating through French interpretations of that idea, postmodernism is defined by the lack of a narrative. There is no one truth. There is no king. There is no culture. There is only personal whim and group need.
What makes this fascinating is that it induces us to create our own Potemkin villages. Like a good salesperson, the postmodern state tells us all about our “freedom.” This fills our heads with visions of joys, pleasures and distractions. We then do what we are told is necessary in order to achieve that end.
As time goes on, we realize this world is a Potemkin village in that it is false functionality that isn’t even needed. To include everyone at the office, we have divided jobs into tiny roles. Because we have made tons of regulations, so that anyone can just follow the instructions and do almost any job, it is a mind-numbing maze of the stuff that makes life least fun: paperwork, explaining difficult concepts to disinterested people, confrontation, waiting. How many of these jobs are necessary? How many could we combine into one, and send everyone else home? And yet money is freedom, so we all want them, which makes them pay less and thus, makes each one require less engagement from us.
What about our great society? Its art is a wasteland. Its culture is products for the distracted. While there are many good people out there, they appear as a minority while we circumnavigate the selfish, distracted, delusional, resentful and hopeless cases who wander around like ghosts. Where are the great joys of this life? Were all of those good things part of the Potemkin village?
Yes: they got us to look in the wrong places. Joy does not come from social interaction, nor from owning things. Work is not what other people tell you to do, but what you notice needs doing. Public behavior is not about what you can get, or get away with, but how to make sure you get what you give, and thus that you give enough to have goodwill wherever you go.
Once upon a time, we had a single society. Appearance fit reality because the purpose of that society was to tie parts of reality together using concepts of divinity and natural order. Then our egos rose up, and we decided that we wanted no order to rule over us, even a natural and detached one, and so we came up with a civilization based on every person doing what they want. We sold it to each other with Potemkin images, symbols, language and concepts.
It ended up being fake like all other such illusions. We believed because we wanted to, and now in the span of only two centuries we have seen our societies go from elegant to crass, our people from stout-hearted to craven and resentful, and our daily experience of life from real to a fake and meaningless repetition. Clearly, we outsmarted ourselves.
When you were young, as they buttoned you into your coat to go to school, some parent or other oblivious well-meaning wooden adult figure probably told you to go to school, work hard and “be nice to others.”
Like all language, or all tokens if you think about it, the problem isn’t the sentiment of the sayer. It’s the receiver being able to interpret it correctly. Like Bill Clinton’s famous line, “That depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”
What does “nice” mean? I submit it means two entirely different things: to leftists, it means that you are socially polite to others and refuse to obstruct their dreams. To the rightist, it means you care about results.
The right is a complex philosophy. It is organic, and thus not an external ideology. It is based in the idea of consequences being more important than intentions. To that end, it works by comparing known consequences (history) with what is desired, and picking the right tool for the job.
That leads us to wonder what direction we should actually take, which conservatism answers with optimums as opposed to ideals. A liberal will talk about Utopia; a conservative will talk about, given the limitations and conventions of reality, what is is likely to occur and how to make the best of it.
The two definitions of “nice” are completely incompatible.
A leftist will thus value someone who is totally dysfunctional but deferential to others and who avoids stating unpopular truths. Liberal “nice” involves how you interact with others socially, and outside of the individual and the social group, is oblivious to consequences.
A conservative will value someone who states something unpopular, so long as it is true, because conservative “nice” involves avoiding bad outcomes. It puts individual feelings, judgments and desires, and group snowball effects of the same, secondary to outcomes, and defines “nice” as avoiding bad results.
So what is “nice” behavior? It all depends on what the meaning of “is” is.
At this point in history, it’s disingenuous to equivocate at all: the West is plummeting downward. In both Europe and the USA, governments are overspending on direct citizen stimulus as a means to wealth transfer. Long-term problems are unpopular and they are ignored. Art, culture, etc. have become trash.
The death-signs are obvious. The more they appear, the more people go into denial. In order to justify their participation, they claim that the system is thriving, and in fact has never been better. This backward reasoning allows them to “prove” the validity of the system by their participation in it.
However, the cold sweat of doubt rests heavily on our foreheads. Even if we cook up a whole bunch of computer models to explain away the economy, use pluralism to justify avoiding long-term problems, and invoke relativism to claim that our “art” and “culture” are valid, a simple problem stares us in the face.
Daily life in the West is hell.
People keep hoping we won’t mention this because it stares us in the face. We have options and know how to do better, and yet, we do not. The West is grinding itself into oblivion in part because daily life is so ugly and emotionally poisonous that people are disconnecting and becoming revengeful.
Think about your interactions with people on a daily basis. Do they attempt to act honorably, be helpful or even just not be a hindrance? No: their agenda is to act in such a way that makes them feel good about themselves, which includes pushing you around and then pretending they’re innocent. They enjoy exercising authority on others, or having a reason to go first in line (think of all the “proud moms”), and generally, slaving away for their egos, without a care for the consequences to society at large, nature or the human endeavor.
Actions speak louder than words. Think about what people do, and how it contrasts to what they say. They talk about good intentions, but what this boils down to is token acts like sending money to poor people so that they feel justified in acting selfishly the rest of the time. Do they show care for your possessions, or their own? What about for nature? Everything is a means to an end, and the end is themselves.
What about what they do for fun? If everyone’s having fun, why are they always strung out? At the recycling center, I see the cars pull up (awkwardly, parked selfishly, people checking watches to remind the rest of us that they’re important and in a hurry) and dump load after load of wine bottles. Who has time to drink all of that? At at least $10 a bottle, it’s not cheap either. But it’s how they make it through.
They spend too many hours at the office. I’m not sure it can be called working, what they do, since it’s more a rote process than actual mental labor. But they’re always there, obsessively, even. Do they develop any important activities outside of this? Not really; there’s not enough time to do anything impressive, so they have “hobbies,” including, apparently, drinking. They are creatures of function.
Modern people also get nervous when there isn’t constant noise or distraction. If left alone, they have no idea what to do with themselves. They rely on the radio, TV or other people to fill their heads with chatter and push out those dark thoughts or empty moments. Much like the wine, they rely on it because too much clarity is an enemy. How does that reflect any kind of health?
And communication — we should communicate honestly, we all agree. But none do. When confronted with a logical argument, they construct little evasions. Either take part of the concept for the whole, redefine a word, leave out some information, or build up a division between false extremes. They aren’t arguing for a point, they’re arguing to get off the hook. All they want to do is introduce doubt, conclude the truth can’t be known, and go about doing whatever they were doing before.
Countless examples exist and in isolation, none are important. That is how we are fooled: “oh, it’s just a little thing.” But people steering their carts recklessly at grocery stores, like they want to hit you in the legs, or inventing nonsense tasks to excel at on the job, or driving too slow or too fast just to prove they’re in control; these all add up. They add up to a consistent pattern of the same behavior in different contexts.
Yes, the stench of death is on the breeze. It’s sad, because so much good has gone into this, but the majority no longer care. They think they are islands, and society isn’t needed for them to pursue their selfish ends, fetishes, drama, and/or parasitism. This death is easily reversible, but for all the political arguments against it, none are more than wordplay.
The real argument is that individual people do not want to change their behavior. Even though it is bad behavior, and doesn’t make them content or pleased with life, they claim they are “happy” and are militant against change. They’re taking the rest of us for a ride. For the pretense of these individuals, we all must ride the corpse down.
Recently, someone shot up a school. This happens on a regular basis, and it always makes us uncomfortable, because we have this nagging feeling it’s a reminder. Like that last item we forget at the grocery store, or that strange feeling of having forgotten something before we discover we’re late for an appointment.
When kids shoot up schools, there are a number of reasons joined by a single salient fact. School shootings are terrorism. Terrorism works for the same reason it worked with al-Qaeda or with the Viet Cong: once the images get on TV, the fickle and spoiled voters of modern democracy start begging their leaders to do “anything” to stop the carnage.
Voters, you see, react to image and not reality. If they see dead bodies, it’s a travesty. If the bodies are pitched into mass graves and covered with Potemkin villages, preferably while a speech about democracy plays in the background mingled with multicultural world music, the voters zone out and forget.
Therefore, our society is comfortable ignoring all of its problems until the moment the first precious snowflake walks into a bullet. Then, the media descends. The school shooter is examined from every angle. Heck, you couldn’t even buy publicity like this. It’s like having 30 minutes of SuperBowl advertising.
This is why they do it.
If you’ve decided your life is over, and you’re reaching up to blow out your own candle, you might stop and think. There could be a more efficient way. In fact, you can get revenge on all the people who made your life miserable, complain about everything that was wrong, and end up being a big shot for a week or two of prime-time CNN.
Don’t just blow that melon with your own brains in it. Go to school, past the administrators who see only what they recognize, and start blasting. It’s like a video game at that point, because the body count determines how famous you are. If you bag three, you’re nobody. Get 35 and you’re in the big leagues.
This is why people shoot up schools. It lets them get attention. We give this this attention with our fawning media, our panic, and our absurd demands like gun control or cops in every classroom. Because we are running around looking pathetic, scared and confused, they (the shooters) look like towering giants.
This brings me to the vital point about modern society: we get the government we deserve. If we, the voters, are panicked sheep who are prone to moral transgression and instead of owning up to it, we become corrupt and hide what we’ve done, we create a situation where the only person who will get elected is a callous manipulator.
We betray ourselves, the voters. We don’t understand how to rule, so we demand “results” and confuse them with methods. Thus what we think will get us what we want does not, and thus we spend every election cycle fighting out the same issues, wasting trillions of dollars on non-solutions and ignoring solutions under our very noses.
One of the biggest ways we betray ourselves is emotion. There are two types of emotion: (1) a positive emotion, formed by yearning for something or feeling a deep connection to something; (2) a negative emotion, meaning not that it is angry or disapproving, but that it is based in fear of something or an out-of-control reaction to something.
The first type is like the love that lasts a lifetime, or patriotism, or conservatism or any desire to do right, create beauty or uphold truth. The second is like the panic or lusts of an animal, more a spasm of the nerves than the calculating process of a brain that, through the mysteries of nature, separates its software from its hardware and becomes unpredictable.
This country is awash in emotional spasms of the second type. A school shooting prompts a week of talk about gun control; this has no relation to the shooting, and everyone knows it. It’s just a chance, in a weak moment, to blame the Other and then use that policy stance to demand more power and that people have nothing with which to defend themselves against you.
School shootings reveal more about us with every detail we dig up on the shooter. We know nothing of ourselves. The more of them we find, the more we see that we’re grasping at straws, trying to find anything to blame that can keep us from looking into the abyss, and seeing that it’s us.
The grim truth about politics is that it’s a translation of a translation. People set out ideas about how we should rule ourselves, and then to make them palatable to the masses, we dumb them down and turn them into the mechanics of a football game.
Conservatives are at the disadvantage here because conservatism is not political, but a choice of way of life. It is not something you can write down as an ideology, rage about at the polls, vote and then consider yourself done. It is a way of looking at life that pervades everything you do, and it’s organic because it is based on your inner moral compass.
Politics obscures this truth. It does so because in order to mobilize a mass to do anything, you need to provoke them with fears and pander to them with promises not about what will happen, but about what they want to happen. The disconnect between cause and effect is complete because cause/effect is more complex than symbol and group.
The result is that our politics neatly hides complex truths under simple cheerleading:
- Individual moral decisions are more important than state policy. The liberal wants you to believe that every person is equal, thus we are all blank slates, and we only act in certain ways because we are “forced” to by our circumstances. This is self-serving apologism that seeks to let liberals off the hook for their own bad behavior. The truth is that a society is defined by the behavior of its individuals. If they are all oriented toward healthy and constructive behavior, society thrives. The more of them aren’t, the less it thrives. Social institutions have almost nothing to do with this, except that by making excuses for people, they encourage them to not struggle to make moral decisions.
- Individual incompetence is the enemy of human civilization. We are taught by media to blame government, bankers, kings, popes, etc. but the main enemy of humankind is its own bungling. Most people get most things wrong most of the time. When put in committees or worse, companies or social organizations, the bungling is hidden by the group and it intensifies. The reason we have strong governments or corrupt bankers is that most people, being incompetent, create a need for strong and deceptive leadership to ensure society’s basic functions continue.
- There is no conflict between religious and secular thinking. All thinking is done by individuals. A smart individual will come up with a reality-based interpretation of religion or non-religion. A dumb individual will turn anything, even the most sciency science, into a type of primitive mysticism based on superstition. Religion and secularism describe the same world, which if it is the work of an omnipotent God, reflects His order. Thus we’re running in circles describing the same thing using slightly different language, where if we apply intelligence to the situation, we arrive at the same answers regardless of which road we take.
- Evil is not a demon below, but commonplace narcissism and refusal to think about the consequences of our errors in reality. Evil is in fact the most common and least interesting thing in the human world. It occurs when we deny reality in favor of our own wishful thinking. In doing so, we create consequences that are destructive for others, either as individuals or as a group. Most evil is accepted as “normal” and so people give it a pass and grow increasingly resentful for reasons they cannot articulate. Very rarely is evil deliberate, meaning aware that it is evil. It is usually people being opportunistic and taking what they want, in denial of any consequences, because this is the easiest path for them at the time.
- Most people can be wrong and in fact, most people are wrong at any given point in history. We are told there is strength in numbers and wisdom in crowds. The truth is that crowds follow trends because when a new idea comes about, every person in the herd is afraid of being left behind in case this new idea really is powerful, so without proof of its veracity they adopt it and use their new-found status to beat up anyone who hasn’t adopted it. Thus ideas spread like diseases, and usually they are wrong, because in all but a few cases the people dreaming them up aren’t thinking about reality, but how they want to see themselves. These ideas are thus limited to the short-term human individual viewpoint in terms of feelings, judgments and desires.
In the translation into politics, these truths got lost. It then became profitable for them to stay lost, and so we got liberalism. The more we orient politics toward simple and clear truths like these, the quicker we can do away with the pretense and pandering that makes modern politics turn away from any real issue as soon as it is stated.
When thou seest an eagle, thou seest a portion of genius; lift up thy head! – William Blake
Like black clouds of war, our fears of the unknown perpetually haunt us as if they are looming in the sky. Terrorism, death, accidents –- how does one combat such things? Men on the ground? Education? Awareness campaigns? Preemptive strikes?
Forget about whether or not there is more terrorism or less terrorism than there was a month ago or a year ago. The question is not even can we get rid of it or not, the real question is: how would we know? A sign in the sky? Every man woman and child on the planet checking in at the World Bureau for their official statement and brain scan?
Much like a desire for quintessential knowledge, we desire a definitive and absolute answer that we can understand in human terms. We desire it because we fear the unknown. The unknown must be exterminated. Nothing can be left to chance. We must have a final solution.
Just like terrorism, the question is not whether we have more knowledge or less knowledge, or even if we can acquire a sort of perfect knowledge. The question is how we would know when we have perfect knowledge. Knowing about knowing is something altogether different than knowing. Socrates did not say that he knows that he knows. He said that he knows that he does not know.
Strictly speaking there is no sign of a sign. That would just be a sign. There is a sign and there is not-a-sign, but there is no ultimate sign of signs. Knowledge is always one category removed from manifest reality. If there is anything we should be superstitious about, it is knowledge!
This is not to imply that “conquering” the unknown with knowledge is bad. Solving problems is what we do, but there is no way, under the sign of knowledge, to know when enough is enough or even what problems do not need “solving.” Everything begins to look like a problem. Preferences and values become arbitrary and irrational under the assumption that there is an explanation for everything. Even if we do not know it now, eventually we will, we assume. We must continue to wage war against the unknown!
Once again, the problem is knowing definitively. If a person says they voted for Mitt Romney, does that prove they voted for Mitt Romney? No, they could be lying. If a person says they are not a terrorist, does that mean they are not a terrorist? How does one definitively prove one is not something? What evil lurks in the heart of man? One thinks of Looney Tunes when the bad guy is thwarted by Bugs Bunny and he says, “I don’t know how you’s done it! But I know you’s done it!”
Similarly, what we fear about death is not so much death, itself. Death is probably very peaceful in fact. What we fear is that we do not know when it will come. It is unknown. Death is not so much an objective destiny as it is a rendezvous. As we run away from our fears, we actually run toward our fate.
We all ask ourselves big questions. “What is the meaning of life?” “How do I become happy?” One might suggest that the closest we can come to putting this into words is: to be comfortable with the unknown.
If you saw an eagle flying in the sky, high above you, what would you say to yourself? “Why is he flying?” “How does he fly?” “Where is he going?” But now he is gone. Why would you even want to explain it? The eagle in the sky is manifest reality and the “knowledge” of it pales in comparison.
So, the ultimate battle is a cataclysm between Knowledge versus The Unknown. Ask yourself a question: if we were somehow granted perfect knowledge and if all the world’s “problems” were solved tomorrow, would you still have a purpose?
The collapse of a civilization is a big deal. Carry off everything you can, or form small secessionist retreats, but you face the problem of what the rest of the people escaping the failure will do. Most likely, they charge en masse and then kill you and take your stuff.
There’s also the lost learning. We won’t cry over the past fifty years of non-literature, non-art and non-learning, but there are a few exceptions, and the greatness of the past. Nothing stops this from being lost, especially if people need toilet paper or some tinder for a fire.
Always there is the possibility of escape. But to where? We’ve covered the world in civilization, and even moving into the dense dark jungle just means that someone will construct a freeway toward you, probably just to kill you and take your stuff.
Re-civilizing an area seems like the best course of action, but this will be a frail and delicate civilization for its early years. This includes both internal factors and external: internally, you need to find a culture or vision that binds you together; externally, the formerly-urban zombies will attack, and there’s no guarantee the crops will survive.
Many of the people who are not served well by the current system want to burn it down, tear it down, and destroy it. Like the liberals they apparently are emulating, they see destruction as a form of renewal and cleansing. In symbolism and emotion, this sounds good. In reality? It brings on a mess.
The industrialized world, and especially the West, has divided itself into two incompatible camps. The first wants realism and a functional unified culture as is needed for civilization, but the second wants a social subsidy and pluralistic non-values, to the point where reconstruction is impossible:
The social, cultural, moral and political revolutions of the 1960s, against which Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan inveighed to win their 49-state triumphs, have now captured half of the country.
The 1960s were the era of the left’s great gambit. The children of the people of the 1930s, who were trendily rebellious in flirting with Communism, took up the cries of the French revolution — equality, internationalism, socialism and inversion of social roles — and made them a mass-media social product that spread like wildfire among the Baby Boomers who were desperate for a way to not only fit in but be important.
Fifty years later, this virus has sickened the host and accomplished its goal. Both the EU (sorry… Europe) and the USA are split by this divide. There is a huge liberal population that is generally young, foreign or dependent on the state, and then an indigenous substrate that wants to be reasonable but is basically pulling in the other way.
This indigenous substrate exists without a media blitz because it doesn’t need one. It is generally composed of people with more experience than the other half, both in years and responsibility. These people want conservative values because they know from experience that conservative values work and make healthy families, cheerful communities and thriving nations, where liberal ideas slowly drain all resources.
Resource drains of this nature transfer money, energy and social focus from constructive use into subsidy for those who will not replace those resources with more. Unlike the wealthier-than-average, who if allowed to keep their resources will make more of them because that’s how they got to above average wealth in the first place, this group represents the end of the line.
The result of this split is massive social alienation, dysfunction and paranoia:
And Americans are already seceding from one another—ethnically, culturally, politically. Middle-class folks flee high-tax California, as Third World immigrants, legal and illegal, pour in to partake of the cornucopia of social welfare benefits the Golden Land dispenses…People gravitate toward their own kind. Call it divorce, American-style.
The 1960s, like the 1789 revolution in France, ripped the heart out of the West. They replaced culture and nationality with pluralism and diversity, using relativism as a way to justify the absurd contortions of social Marxist thought used to keep the dysfunction afloat. Those who wanted to succeed within the system had to choke it down and regurgitate this dogma in order to be accepted.
What’s most interesting about this is that, like all revolutions for people power, it was a solution in search of a problem. It never had any legitimacy because it was a power seizure, not a righting of wrongs:
Louis XVI, too, was a basically decent and capable individual – believe it or not. France could have thrived under him and his heirs to the present time. Indeed France without the Revolution – any European nation without the Revolution – would be the greatest nation on earth today. America not excepted.
Think about the modern West. We have followed egalitarianism into the grave. Since the 1960s, our social programs have expended vital resources on eliminating poverty, with zero success. In fact, there’s more poverty now than there was then, and our wealth wave while strong in some areas has diminished.
Even worse, our societies are divided and cannot function as a unified whole. The first strong external threat, and we will have trouble bribing all of the different groups and lifestyles to work together to fight it. Even a strong internal threat sends us into a tailspin, as this most recent recession shows.
What we are seeing here is the failure of the liberal democracy model. As time shows us, with universal voting, the voters form self-interest cliques including the most destructive clique of all, which is the no-existential-challenges clique who want cradle to grave support from a government. This is the same impulse as socialism, and it kills nations by ensuring that people don’t work together, but work against each other.
In every human group ever created, abilities fit on a standard distribution with most of us in the middle, and lower numbers of outliers on the positive and negative extremes. When the left side of the chart (below average) declares war on the right side of the chart (above average), what results is a destruction of the productive means of society itself. What follows is a tumble right back down the evolutionary ladder into the early days of primitive human group living.
The West as a whole has been trying to buy off the takers by taking from the makers, and the result only delays the inevitable clash:
This allows us to see exactly what we get in return for national income distribution. It provides a tenuous and temporary cease-fire. Otto Von Bismark described his contributions to Germany’s social welfare state as an act of “stealing the Socialists’ thunder.” While most of what he enacted is standard fare in the modern employee’s benefit package, meeting the mob half-way only made them clamor for more.
The West as a whole is in mortal decline. As the first article quoted in this post says, perhaps a Republican win would have delayed the abyss, not stopped it. And as we see above, buying off the liberals with taker-entitlements will only delay things as well.
What is needed is first and foremost for us to face this problem and admit that secession is but one symptom of a larger underlying problem. Liberalism has split the West in two. Once we face that, we can start looking at practical solutions to this separation, so that in the process of our little spat we do not level our civilization which took so many centuries to build and will take even more to re-create.
Since the great egalitarian explosion of the last two centuries, there has been only one publicly acceptable morality. If morality were not so assumed to be universal, it would not be off our radar, and we would squeal about how oppressive it is that our society tolerates only one.
The social morality of our time is egalitarianism. This means everyone is equal, which leads to pluralism, or the idea that everyone should be able to do whatever they want and if this causes social disunity and unrest, we’ll pretend that’s a good thing. Pluralism in turn causes dysfunction, which creates a need for a police state, which makes society so scary that most people want a socialist safety net. At that point, the deconstruction of a civilization is at hand.
However, it all starts with the assumptions and underlying values that we use to interpret politics (and other things). As a wise man once said, “there are no facts, only interpretations.” However, thanks to its popularity, we have one and only only morality which we can discuss in the context of politics.
This morality contains a number of sub-headings. The first is the notion that because everyone is equal, if unequal results occur, it is through oppression. Another is the idea that we are heading toward a future Utopia through Progress. Yet another is that compassion is our highest goal, which requires us to “lift up” those “below us.” The essential ideal boils down to all of us owing every human an existence, and whatever choices that human makes should have no consequences from civilization at large.
Despite their good intentions, and who really cares about intentions when you have results to measure, the path on which this morality puts society is one that goes away from “find the right answer” and gets closer to “any answer is fine so long as you say it nicely.” The result of that is a society geared away from achievement. It is a civilization of those who do not challenge themselves.
This is not to speak an endorsement for Ayn Rand-style social Darwinism, where everyone has to work as hard as possible and earn as much money as possible and put their souls on the shelf. Our society has already tried that, and it is a result of our egalitarian morality. When society is chaos, people become desperate for money so they can buy their way out of the disaster.
I propose a different social morality: we go with what works. As part of that, we have to know what we’ve done in the past and how it turned out. That way, when someone speaks about their latest wishful thinking, we can say, “Last time, that ended in the collapse of a nation,” and then see what they say. Our new morality should not be about how we want to feel, judge or desire changes in our situation, but the consequences of those changes.
It’s a subtle shift. Most people would barely notice. But over time, it would shift society from a system of takers penalizing makers to a system where makers would be given the ability to use their powers for good. Takers, who are by definition incapable of making a systemic good, would be isolated in their own spheres of (small) influence.
The next political revolution is not going to come from policy decisions or speeches. Politicians have a job to do in keeping the system working. What can help them out is if we create a cultural change, and then send a clear message to our politicians, so that everyone in unison desires the same idea.
Much like the great shift leftward in the West during the 1960s, the result will be pervasive and silent. It will spread through oblique channels, altering attitudes, so that when those people return to questions to which they formerly knew the “answers,” they will re-interpret and end up in a radically different place.
It won’t come easy — we’re talking about altering at least 223 years of history, and probably a few centuries more. But this could stave off the inevitable disaster of social dysfunction as well as the potential disaster created by sudden or radical changes to a political system.
The right has always tried to be a big tent because we acknowledge that within a certain range of reality-based behaviors, there’s more than one way to do it.
For example, you do not have to be religious to be a conservative or even a traditionalist. This upsets a lot of people who tend to repeat the idea that without religion, we are moral-less wanderers without purpose.
This quest for an inherent truth negates the fact that even a truth written in stone is interpreted differently by different people, and the only way to find out the actual truth is to test their “truths” against reality itself. It’s natural selection, filtered through language.
As a realist, I recognize that both religious and secular people have a home on the right. To many religious people, that makes me “secular,” where a better term might be “neither” or “both.” In fact, I’m gunning for the latter: I acknowledge the utility and beauty of religion and metaphysics, but don’t think it should be mandatory.
I am not alone in this. Others have found themselves wanting to divorce conservatism from a necessary religiosity, and some have wanted to dispense with religion entirely. For example, there’s the powerhouse blog Secular Right:
We believe that conservative principles and policies need not be grounded in a specific set of supernatural claims. Rather, conservatism serves the ends of “Human Flourishing,” what the Greeks termed Eudaimonia. Secular conservatism takes the empirical world for what it is, and accepts that the making of it the best that it can be is only possible through our faculties of reason.
Part of the reason that people want to swing the pendulum away from liturgical topics entirely is to escape the public perception of the right-wing, as grimly illustrated by Charles Murray:
Republicans are seen by Asians—as they are by Latinos, blacks, and some large proportion of whites—as the party of Bible-thumping, anti-gay, anti-abortion creationists. Factually, that’s ludicrously inaccurate. In the public mind, except among Republicans, that image is taken for reality.
However, it’s probably unrealistic to consider that anything other than a public image problem of the sort that comes about when 90% of your media slants leftist to the point where “truthfulness” is an afterthought to dogma.
One way to fight back against that is to try to drop the offending parties. However, that brings you closer to being like a clone of your opposition. It might be strategically more sensible to instead choose to emphasize the big tent nature of conservatism, which is that it’s where religion and agnosticism can co-exist peacefully.
That leaves our other option, which is “both.” How can you be both secular and religious? Some secular people will scream out that you are religious, and some religious people will scream out that you’re secular. But therein is the value of this approach. It unites all people who can think pragmatically and tolerate both secular and religious, and filters out the fanatics of all stripes.
For example, it would be highly offensive to liberals, which immediately makes it interesting.
From the “both” category, an interesting explanation of selective secularity from a gifted theologian:
I believe that it is entirely possible to live a moral life without Christianity as the guide. The belief that a person cannot reach the conclusion that certain things are bad for them (e.g. sexual liberation) without the context of God is absurd. I am above all a consequentialist. That some actions had negative consequences and should therefore not be engaged in is a logical conclusion. That most of the world seems to continue to engage in behaviors that lead them to ruin is a function of human denial, not a lack of God.
This point is worth repeating: morality is not defined by the inherent truth of the universe. It’s defined by us looking at how the universe operates, and realizing we can (roughly) predict the outcome of our actions based on past results. This means we can act in a way to achieve results that we want.
At this point, we only have to compare the different possible results and see which ones turn out well. We can’t make someone want a good outcome, just like we can’t convince heroin addicts to quit shooting up and can’t convince the average person to bypass the junk food for a solid but less-exciting meal. But we can unite all of us who want a good outcome on the logical, scientific and historically-accurate method of comparing outcomes.
From the same post:
This is why I believe that the only way to change the world is through a logical approach. It worked with cigarette smoking. We all know the consequences of smoking on health. The same is true for a number of sacred cows in the world: premarital sex, cohabitation, gender and race equality, world peace. These holy icons of the modern age need to be slain and they can be so destroyed through the employment of logical thought.
This is what New Right thinkers refer to as a “metapolitical” view: a wave of cultural change alters attitudes, and through those attitudes we filter our political vision, such that we don’t try to shift society politically, but shift the ground on which politics and social institutions stand.
It is this type of view that can benefit from a “both” approach to secularism. We don’t need another generation of fanatics dividing lines between our people. We need a common sense approach, and common sense is what unites the secular conservatives with the religious ones.
I’m told there was another lugubrious school shooting. I refuse to read about it, because there’s nothing I can do except make myself miserable.
Even more, I’m ignoring the political blather. Gun control couldn’t have stopped this, because if we can’t stop marijuana from invading the country in giant bales, making guns illegal will ensure that any kid can buy one for $60 in the hallway of his high school.
Instead, I’d like to make a point here: the people who do these things have made bad moral choices, but they’re crests of the wave which is the ongoing degradation of our values, morals and conscience in this society.
In order to tolerate everyone equally, we threw away the idea of reality itself and replaced it with pluralism, or, “whatever you want to think is good, we’ll endorse as good because it supports freedom,” which as you know is what terrorists, Nazis, kings, and those who smoke menthylated cigarettes hate.
Let us explore why school shootings happen:
1. I am talking and no one is listening.
It is easier (always) to go into denial. That lets you keep doing what you wanted to do, instead of forcing you to wake up and pay attention. This applies to personal problems as well, or even tasks we’d rather procrastinate (yes, I’m thinking of my own lawn mowing denialism here).
Not everyone who claims the end of the world is near is right. In fact, most are wrong. What matters is that any of them can be right, and so we have to compare that assertion to what we know. Who among us actually feels like the West (EU, UK, US) is headed in a positive direction?
We know that’s not the case because we’ve seen the degeneration, but even more, we daily see the total lack of purpose. There is no goal here. We’re all materialistic, but that’s not the cause. We’re materialistic because we want money to buy our way out of dystopia that results from purposelessness.
It’s easy enough for adults to do that. The choice is upon them. For kids, it’s a horrible thought: the future just gets worse and you get forced into a meaningless world that does exactly what all the literature you’ve read in school says not to do, which is living for convenience and wealth at the expense of the soul.
Kids are under more stress than an adult ever could be. Imagine your parents pushing you slowly into a wood chipper. That’s what it feels like, and the more they get to know adults, see what denial they’re in, read the news, etc. the more kids just want to die.
Might as well take a few out with you while you go.
2. Society is incompetent and we’re cruising on the past.
It doesn’t take a sensitive nose to realize that this society is decaying from within. In addition to the aforementioned lack of goal, there’s an ongoing process of losing cultural memory, losing competence in social institutions, and losing standards of behavior.
People can’t even socialize, drive, communicate or be considerate. They are so fixated on their own desires that they have shut out the world. Most of them are oblivious and/or stupid and take great joy in obstructing others. This means that our society systematically discriminates against the intelligent, who might want to shut such people out.
When I go to the grocery store, every single process takes longer because people have nothing in common. They treat each other as impediments to their own good time, and take revenge by being deliberately slow, obtuse, incompetent, etc. It only gets worse when you give them power at a job, a car, a computer or a phone.
Even more, almost nothing works. We are told the opposite is true, but go ahead and try to get something important done in a hurry. Most machines are semi-functional if not non-functional at any given time. Traffic jams clog the city at random. Often whole fields are inaccessible for bureaucracy or dysfunctional reasons.
3. People will pay to make these unsettling truths go away.
The simplest example of this is people rushing to the store to buy a book about a mythical reality in which everything is simple and clear.
You think this is about religion? I’m talking about Twilight, or any of 11 billion self-help books, or all the “academic” books that good middle class intellectuals read to convince them that our problem in society is foot odor, not collapse from within because we have nothing in common.
Any time a problem is mentioned honestly, the ostrich crowd comes out to sell us sand beds for comfortable head resting.
To a child, this says that problems exist, they’re so huge that no one can deal with them, and adults are using their freedom to ensure they never have to deal with them. The name of the game is to die before the results of these lies come crashing down.
In fact, modern people behave like other people are a form of hatred to them. There’s what I want to do, and then everyone else, who’s in the way. The best revenge? Destroy society, but in a passive-aggressive way like saying I’m “doing it for the children,” so I get a nice life and everyone else gets the shaft.
That’s basically the mentality of the Baby Boomer generation right there.
School shootings happen because people are deranged, make morally bad choices, and probably should have been shot dead by their own families, but only sometimes. Sometimes it’s desperate kids. Something the shooter is only the vehicle of the desperation, like an inverse scapegoat who picks up on the misery of it all and is too broken not to act.
Among the school shooters in the past have been many intelligent, sensitive kids who had a lot to offer.
Society is failing, we’re refusing to face it, which just grinds us more into the stress of denial, and means the tragedies will come more frequently from here until the end.