Frequently people argue that our society was just chugging along fine until technology came along and destroyed us. This proves to be a clever way of letting us off the hook for our bad decisions, and joins bias against the Rich,™ anti-Semitism and blaming climate change as a variety of scapegoating.
Scapegoating technology is convenient because it guarantees that nothing will ever be done. We benefit greatly from technology, so asking us to drop it all and move to mud huts is something few want to do, not to mention the geopolitical reality that any society which does so will be invaded and conquered by those who did not drop their tech.
If we are honest, we will place the blame where it belongs, which is in the thread of individualism running from The Renaissance™ through The Enlightenment™ and finally getting voice with the French Revolution, in parallel to the events in ancient Athens that ushered that formerly-promising civilization into the dustbin of history.
We can see this rationalization present in a discussion of the sexual revolution and the negative impact it has had:
My own research points to a more straightforward and primal explanation for the slowed pace toward marriage: For American men, sex has become rather cheap. As compared to the past, many women today expect little in return for sex, in terms of time, attention, commitment or fidelity. Men, in turn, do not feel compelled to supply these goods as they once did. It is the new sexual norm for Americans, men and women alike, of every age.
This transformation was driven in part by birth control. Its widespread adoption by women in recent decades not only boosted their educational and economic fortunes but also reduced their dependence on men. As the risk of pregnancy radically declined, sex shed many of the social and personal costs that once encouraged women to wait.
These forces have been at work for more than a half-century, since the birth-control pill was invented in 1960, but it seems that our norms and narratives about sexual relationships have finally caught up with the technology. Data collected in 2014 for the “Relationships in America” project—a national survey of over 15,000 adults, ages 18 to 60, that I oversaw for the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture—asked respondents when they first had sex in their current or most recent relationship. After six months of dating? After two? The most common experience—reported by 32% of men under 40—was having sex with their current partner before the relationship had begun. This is sooner than most women we interviewed would prefer.
It is always easier to blame something external like the birth control pill, but the grim fact is that sexual liberation had already been increasing for over a century thanks to earlier forms of condoms, diaphragms and other more complicated but still reasonably effective means of birth control, and that this was part of a larger movement of female liberation from traditional roles that included the ability to vote, own property, and most importantly, to have jobs.
A woman with a job is no longer dependent on moving from the house of her parents to that of her spouse. She can get herself an apartment in the city, where she is anonymous, and behave however she wants, knowing that it will not be remembered when it comes time to get a spouse. She can lie about her sexual past, and then have the best of both worlds: she can have her fun and get married later, a sort of sexual Pascal’s Wager.
The so-called “good news” that divorces are declining conceals the fact that the main reason for this is that fewer people are getting married. Courts favor the woman, and so for a man, there is nothing but risk. He knows instinctively that women who have more sex are less likely to form lasting bonds, and she can easily get a job and move out, so he will be left paying alimony and child support while she goes on to have more sexual liaisons. For a man, the only winning strategy is not to play, unless he is fortunate enough to find a traditional woman.
Her job quickly becomes the most important thing in her life because it is a lifeline which has replaced her parents and any future family she might start. With the job, she has money, so she can have an apartment and live on her own, a bold and independent woman! Interestingly, the world wars contributed the most to this mentality, because for the first time many women were working.
The job appeals to the narrative of personal power that modern people adore. In an age of individualism, nothing is more important than making choices that reflect your personality and interests. For women, this makes them more powerful than men, because they control access to reproduction, and therefore, have men dependent on them. This is why they keep these jobs even after marriage, despite having to shove the kids into daycare and then school days crammed with make-work.
But like the other Leftist social changes, it takes decades for the effects to shake out, but now we see that women having jobs results in mental instability for their children, a cost passed on to society that lessens the chance of that child, in turn, having a family:
Ms. Komisar’s interest in early childhood development grew out of her three decades’ experience treating families, first as a clinical social worker and later as an analyst. “What I was seeing was an increase in children being diagnosed with ADHD and an increase in aggression in children, particularly in little boys, and an increase in depression in little girls.” More youngsters were also being diagnosed with “social disorders” whose symptoms resembled those of autism—“having difficulty relating to other children, having difficulty with empathy.”
As Ms. Komisar “started to put the pieces together,” she found that “the absence of mothers in children’s lives on a daily basis was what I saw to be one of the triggers for these mental disorders.” She began to devour the scientific literature and found that it reinforced her intuition.
When we replace the family with the workplace, children suffer from neglect and an enduring sense of being unwanted. This in turn makes them more likely to carry their mental instability into society and pass it on to any children that they may have.
We could try to blame this on technology, but like many things, it is a symptom or an enabler, but not the cause. As individualism has risen, the individual has become more important than the evident mathematics or nature, called “natural law,” or social and cultural values. At the same time, cities and social mobility have made people more anonymous, with their bad acts forgotten.
This creates a “tragedy of the commons” where people rush to exploit what society offers, knowing that there are no consequences to them personally. From this comes the condition that, as the saying goes, we cannot have nice things. With the rise of individualism worldwide, this can be seen in non-Western societies:
In China, where there are some 16 million shared bikes on the street and MoBike alone now has over a million, the authorities have been forced to clear up ziggurats of discarded bikes. Residents of Hangzhou became so irritated by bikes lazily dumped by riders, and reportedly sabotaged by angry cab drivers, that the authorities were forced to round up 23,000 bikes and dump them in 16 corrals around the city.
“There’s no sense of decency any more,” one Beijing resident recently told the New York Times after finding a bike ditched in a bush outside his home. “We treat each other like enemies.”
We either have social order, or we have equality, which guarantees individualism by separating the individual from the consequences of his actions against the larger social, natural and cultural order. Technology simply accelerates the power of the individual and the anonymity, allowing this to spread any further.
If we want civilization back, and now that globalism has failed and with it cast doubt on Leftism and democracy, we will find the necessity of unraveling individualism and replacing it with a sense of obligation to nature, social order, culture and heritage. We have seen the other possible direction, and it leads to horrors and misery.