Modern society is the antithesis of health

modern_civilization_consumes_usIf you are are a conservative, you oppose modern society. This will come as a shock to European rightists, who see themselves as modernists, and American rightists, who visualize their goal as one of defending the state. But the fact is that conservatism originates in the time before the French Revolution and carries on those values.

Very few people know the root of the term conservatism. We normally point to the Latin word conservo, which means to preserve, conserve and maintain. However, the nominative definition only tells part of the story. To know the full story, we have to look to the process of conservation.

If you want to conserve a family home, you have to do a number of things, most of which are not obvious. The obvious tasks include painting it and mowing the lawn. The less than obvious tasks involve research. How was it constructed? To keep it from falling apart, you’ll need to understand that method and its goal, so that you can replicate it.

You’ll also need to get philosophical. Do you maintain the house, or just make another one that looks just like it, using modern technology? Modern technology has some advantages, but so does older construction, which seems to hold up for a lot longer than the buildings we recycle every three decades.

At some point, you will need to make additions to the house to accommodate other generations or expanding needs. You want them to look good, so you’ll build them in the older style. How would someone back then make something for which, at that time, there was no need? You’ll end up studying similar archetypes and peering into those.

There are pitfalls. Newer types of paint may eat away wood treated in the older style. If you run air conditioning ducts or new wiring, or even ethernet cables, you will want to find the best way to do that without wrecking what you have. For example, the crawlspaces may serve additional ventilation functions that you can obstruct with ducts.

In other words, to “conserve” is to study the past and why things were done the way they were done. This involves a study of consequences, or the results of actions taken in the past and why those actions were preferred to other possible actions.

Further, the process of studying consequences — consequentialism — requires an analysis of goals. If you’re designing a house for the next two weeks, almost any construction will do. For the next three decades, you have to be a bit more specific. But if you want it to last for centuries or millennia, you build it with a great deal more care.

This care extends not only to worksmanship, but to materials. Even more, it extends to design. A house that needs to last 30 years can have certain forms, but one that needs to last 300 requires a much bigger infrastructure and many more contingencies addressed, since it will endure almost all possible events over its lifespan.

For this reason, conservatives are intensely concerned with goals. We like picking the optimum strategy for long-term use because even if it is more expensive in the short-term, the results are better over a longer time so it ends up costing less and delivering more value, which is enjoyment of life and existential experience.

When you hear people talking about Plato’s maxim of “the good, the beautiful and the true” you may have heard a reference to this. We are concerned with the best possible life, and the best in life, not the utilitarian “that’ll do” that marks empires on their way downward. We aspire, not do what is merely adequate.

It is for this reason that conservatives will forever clash with liberals. The liberal ideal is to pick the short-term solution, which involves gifting the individual with immediate gratification and using the money “saved” by not implementing the long term solution to pay for it. In short, sacrificing tomorrow to have more drama today.

Modern society is based on this notion of putting the individual first. It makes people happy, in the short-term. The problem is that in the long-term it deprives them of a context in which their actions could be meaningful, like culture, shared values, a goal or even nature itself. They are imprisoned within themselves.

The result is loneliness, isolation, and alienation, which causes degeneration of the individual and then the species:

Researchers found that people who were more lonely showed signs of elevated latent herpes virus reactivation and produced more inflammation-related proteins in response to acute stress than did people who felt more socially connected…”It is clear from previous research that poor-quality relationships are linked to a number of health problems, including premature mortality and all sorts of other very serious health conditions. And people who are lonely clearly feel like they are in poor-quality relationships,” said Lisa Jaremka, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University and lead author of the research. – “Loneliness, like chronic stress, taxes the immune system,” by Emily Caldwell, Medical Xpress, January 19, 2013

Another form of stress is early life stress, which while this article studies child abuse, isn’t limited to child abuse. Any abusive situation will do, including an abusive society. The stress creates genetic weakness which is then passed on to the next generation, as if nature installed a kill switch on species which are out of control:

Earlier studies linked physical or emotional childhood abuse to suicide, but the Sackler team found that childhood abuse amongst suicide victims was associated with a distinct epigenetic mark on the DNA. The discovery represents a huge step forward for epigenetics—the study of how environmental factors change gene expression—and holds the promise of better understanding suicide and, perhaps, new treatments. – “The Legacy of Child Abuse,” by Mark Reynolds, Headway, Vol. 4., No. 1

Without a strong central values system guiding a society, it becomes focused on the individual, which thrusts individuals into competition with one another and deprives them of any larger identity, purpose or context. The result is a society composed of people acting for personal pleasure, which leads them to neglect others and their own families, and abuse each other out of aggressive competition for social status.

Modern society is the antithesis of health. Its focus on the short-term created problems that have now come due. After the 20th century, its age is particularly showing, so that now many conservatives are realizing the depth of the problem: we either beat liberal society, or it becomes the means of our suicide.

24 Responses to “Modern society is the antithesis of health”

  1. Ecgwine says:

    I agree with much of what you say. But, as a European, I cannot help wonder about the dichotomy between the terms “conservative” and “liberal” as they are now used in America. I believe these are not antonyms, and the division is mostly artificial. You say “conservatives will forever clash with liberals”. Now the opposite of “conservative” is not “liberal”, it is “progressive”.

    Granted, if your “conservativism” is pre-Revolutionary, true feudalism, and involves restoring the House of Burbon in France and the House of Windsor in the American Colonies, as well as revive the trans-Atlantic slave trade, there is no way you can also be “liberal”, which term basically means that you do not think people should be co-erced into anything unless there is an excellent reason for it. The meaning of the term “liberal” is basically, “minimal government”, translating into “maximal personal freedom” (which includes the freedom to live with the consequences of one’s own bad decisions). It was the “liberal” Republicans who abolished slavery against the opposition of the anti-liberal Democrats. The slaves should be freed to pursue their own happiness, but if they failed to prosper, there would be no magic “affirmative action” to save them from relapsing into wage-slavery.

    Now I know this isn’t how the term is used in America today, but you should ask yourself how this strange inversion of meanings could have happened. Especially after the thought you put into the term “conservative”, the dreaded “liberalism” should receive the same attention.
    In Europe, you even get people who self-identify as “liberal conservatives” (albeit rarely, and what they mean is they are conservative in social values but liberal in economic questions).

    • I think the only idea common behind all liberal movements is that of the individual coming before all else, and thus requiring a social group arranged around egalitarianism.

      On the other hand, conservatives are those who embrace the principle of the whole, and not the individual alone. To a conservative, reality is most important, and the individual fits into that; liberals reversed that equation using the idea of moral progress to justify hypotheses being used as principles of leadership.

      Conservatism is organic because it’s common sense, it’s the way things were always done for a reason (liberals cannot accept evolution when it contradicts their own beliefs), and it relies on the whole and not deconstruction.

      These things are consistent across all continents.

      • lisacolorado says:

        Brett, all the talk these days from Barack and MLK is about “democracy” and “we the people” and “serve each other.” In their minds the liberals are the great caring ones. But I get what you’re saying about the individual coming before all else, too. They’re so liberated they can dye their hair all colors and pierce, scar or tattoo anything they want to show how individual they are.

        Each side has faults but all the conservatives I know, when they make a mistake or do something wicked, feel bad about it and repent. The liberals I know, when they’ve made mistakes, they just go, “oh I didn’t mean for that to happen, sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings.” They don’t judge themselves.

      • Ecgwine says:

        The things themselves may be consistent, but terminology is not, and this leads to much misunderstanding and error in judgement.

        Also, I do not want to choose between putting “the whole” above all else and putting the individual above all else. I want to embrace the Aristotelian ideal of avoiding excess on either side.

        I do agree that societies and ethnicities are real, are valuable, and a product of centuries of evolution that cannot and should not be brushed aside. This makes me “a conservative”.
        I also embrace the ideals of Enlightenment which recognizes that the individual has rights and a value and dignity in itself. This makes me “a liberal”.

        I do not want to return to medieval feudalism and serfdom in the name of tradition. But I also do not believe in egalitarianism, because, duh, people aren’t the same.
        There are fundamental rights that should be granted to the individual. But there is also the right of a society to pursue its self-preservation. I do not want to give up freedom of religion just because some people cannot handle this freedom, because they are stupid or because they are extremists (mostly these two go together). But I also believe the West is selling its soul by making postmodernist ideas of relativism and self-loathing the dominant ideology. So you decide whether this makes me “a conservative”, I don’t know if it does. I suppose I mostly believe in using common sense to balance conflicting ideals against one another with the aim of a sane and strong society. What I am objecting to are not your ideals, and certainly not your criticism of post-1970s “modernity” (postmodernity), but your claim that there is a clean-cut divide and you necessarily find yourself on either of two opposing sides, possibly even dictated by your “brain structure” or your genetic makeup.

        • lisacolorado says:

          (clapping hands)

          I like that and am finding right now in the US, if I talk to someone who voted for Obama and tell them what it’s like to be a Republican right now, how alienated I feel about it, I find nonetheless a wall. They got theirs. Very content to be where they are at right now. Satisfied. Keeping me in my box in their minds.

          I need to stop talking to them, don’t I. They have no idea that what’s going on is forcing a big leap forward for anyone who will accept these changes. Changes with a small c. I don’t know where I’ll end up but it feels like escaping a shipwreck.

          Barack–the last president of the Titanic? We shall see.

      • crow says:

        Good stuff. Beyond good. I have many things to say about all this, but I am not going to say them. Not yet, anyway.

  2. Endwatcher says:

    Conservatism only reduces societal entropy, it cannot stop it. Man is just simply flawed, fallen nation after fallen nation proves it. Conservatism is still the best we can do though, it provides people with the best opportunity to seek out liberty and do good.

    When we were more conservative free speech for Christians was better preserved, now even to say the name of Jesus in a positive light in public is an invitation to be destroyed professionally in the least. Military chaplains are disciplined or booted out for this, which is a direct 1st amendment violation.

  3. George says:

    How would we apply this to our everyday life?

    My thoughts are to try and basically do, in general, the opposite of what mainstream media and culture supports. This is based on the idea that modern culture is essentially an inversion of the good.

    1. Generally avoid heavily populated areas (as is possible according to work / family / etc.) and seek rural environments – e.g. Rednecks good, City-dwellers bad.
    2. Avoid multiculturalism and seek areas of mono-culture for long-term stability and sense of community.
    3. Avoid modern/mainstream food sources (McDonalds, Wal-mart, etc.) and seek local, fresh, seasonal, “organic” (otherwise known as traditional non-cancerous).
    4. Avoid competing for material possessions and on terms of newness. Cherish well-built possessions that will last as long as possible.
    5. Avoid women’s careers, fake make-work obligations, etc. Try to have children as early as possible as opposed to waiting. Have a large family.
    6. Avoid public schools, seek private and non-mainstream sources of education.
    7. Avoid recent music, film, news, etc. Seek timeless forms of cultural enrichment or from a better age. Classical music over pop, classic literature over modern, classic morals over modern, etc.

    Could go on, but it is a general rule.

    • I think avoidance is part of the battle, but here’s my rejoinder: if we don’t fix this, it runs the West into destruction and the task gets harder.

      So my response is this: live in the suburbs, work to be powerful, and use that power to reclaim mainstream politics from the fools who occupy it.

      I think most people in the USA look at the Republicans and say, “Wow, these guys really failed to stop the liberal advance in the post-war period” and so reject them. A more sensible response might be to realize that there’s an opening for someone who can do better, and that any persons attempting that will need competent supporters within the party. Don’t avoid; take over.

      However, all of what you mention is good advice. Stick to the classics, raise healthy families, stay away from the broken, diseased, insane, a/k/a “the norm.”

  4. Endwatcher says:

    Good list, but sometimes life throws the curve, per usual :) My advice is to read the Bible and reverence God, that steers you clear of most of the garbage of modernism/liberalism. Outside that, learn to think as much as possible. Too much of life is assumed to be as given, and automatic.

    First part of point 5 is huge. Women in general will try to fill up your schedule with make work just to control you. Women’s careers will place you in contact with female bosses who do just that.

    7 might be the hardest one to achieve, yet modern media might be the most controlling aspect of the modern world, poisoning and numbing you.

    • Women in general will try to fill up your schedule with make work just to control you. Women’s careers will place you in contact with female bosses who do just that.

      My experience is that women in the workplace are generally displaced from essential roles and as such, are inclined to make the job a substitute for what they actually need.

    • Missy says:

      Reading the bible, esp. the new testament, willl have you in a mighty universalist frame of mind. That’s what’s done us in. Universalism = liberalism = rejection of traditional identities and inherited values.

      On the other hand, your statement that we assume too much of life as given and automatic is absolutely correct. We have to think outside the box (horrifying cliche, I know).

      • Elijah says:

        I think this isn’t the Bible’s fault, as many argue, but primarily a problem of leftist’s picking and choosing (e.g. ignoring where it isn’t fond of gays or where Jesus tells his followers to take up weapons for self-defense). Secondarily, I think it is a lack-of-context. The Bible readily assumes it should be interpreted in the light of what were considered common-sense conservative values at the time. It is only fairly recently and rapidly that even the common-man’s well known values have been completely inverted in mainstream media.

  5. NotTheDude says:

    We who have become or are in the Conservative thought bracket already do most of what is on that list. I have been looking at some other blogs lately from my part of the world, the UK, that have many good ideas though sadly are either leaning center left or just a smidgen too far to the leftbut on the right though full of truth. One concerns the idea of Regionalism, which if tweaked, could be a worthwhile cause, somewhat inkeeping with this blog’s vision that has become quite dear to me. But I don’t know if the USA and other ‘newer’ countries have the regional history, culture and will for it to be part of it’s future.

  6. NotaReaganist says:

    I live in Japan. We agree that the governments job is to help the people because we pay taxes to the government. The government doesn’t often do a good job of it, but they do fairly well as things go. Even the “conservatives” here stand behind the government. We believe in helping each other and being helped, the system works here, maybe not everywhere. We also feel we don’t need any weapons or any religion to be free. You can get a weapon if you so choose and you can practice religion too. You can do basically whatever you want, but you have to be polite and respect your neighbors. This is not a US only matter, it is universal.

  7. Jack says:

    I have quite a few problems with the opinions listed here. Modern technology actually has the ability to do things which old practice could not have done regardless of how much work would be put in. A structure with the amount of torque that a building suffers would never be built with old tools. It’s impossible. The foundation would be too fragile. No civilization has ever built a skyscraper. The pyramids get the closest, but because of their geometry they don’t suffer from torque pushing on the foundation. They made their center of mass as far from edges as possible. In a skyscraper, the center of mass is at the center of the building with regular geometry. The center of gravity is closer to the bottom half than the upper half. With that said, a skyscraper has to deal with torques caused by Earth’s gravity.

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