On not throwing in the towel

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As we walk through this modern life, the great temptation is to look at it with honest eyes — to see the deception, manipulation and selfishness of humanity as it gains the upper hand through Crowdism — and to think the cause is lost and the only solution is to tear it down and to burn the remnants on an altar of hatred.

But, as the ancients warned us, destruction knows no brotherhood. When you ally yourself with destruction, you have launched yourself toward the removal of all order. There is nowhere to go but down. This is separate from creative destruction, which is the replacing of things with other things that work better; a form of re-arrangement.

As mentioned in the past, this is a quality-versus-quantity debate. To destroy what is, is to want another thing that is; this is the same impulse behind anarchy and wanting a second mystical world where all is pure (dualism). To improve what exists takes more emotional and mental effort, and is an issue of quality: to gradually improve what is so that it surpasses itself.

The quantity argument is based in the fundamental human error. This solipsistic fallacy insists that the self is greater than the world, so if something is wrong with the world, the world must be replaced, usually with a human order. A more naturalistic view is that the world is many things, and we can organize the world according to its own principles to improve what is. The human is transparent in this view and the possibilities of order shine through that diaphanous actor.

A quality-based argument would recognize that at this point we have a lack of quality in the West. Our leaders are idiots; our mass culture is garbage; our social standards and public morality are crass and parasitic. But we need those things, which means that what we need to do is improve them. Throwing them out and hoping to re-invent them would not achieve this result.

It is tempting to wage pure war on this society. To let the rage take over, and to seize axes and torches and embark on a crusade to cleanse the world of it entirely. To destroy, to level everything, to be left with nothing but heaps of ashes and charred bone, and to begin again. But in the sober light of morning a different reality emerges.

Begin again, with what? We need something to function like government, money, law, morality, socializing and other familiar functions. Barring some ability to quickly invent better alternatives, we’ll end up with versions of the same things we have now. Thus “beginning again” starts to resemble “rebuild the same stuff.” The quantity-based argument goes nowhere.

Re-creating a society is harder than people like to think by a magnitude of thousands. Every detail of the average day leads to an intricate piece of infrastructure which must not only be built, but be built in such a way that it meshes with others. It takes centuries if not millennia to do this, and all “new” societies over the past 5,000 years or so have built on an archetype of the society from which they broke away.

Look over the history of alternative societies, communes and managed communities. Most fail because crucial elements of their infrastructures failed, or they simply drifted apart because there wasn’t enough to hold the members together. That path leads to either re-creation of the society that was rejected, or trying ideas that were thrown out because they failed long before.

Do a thought experiment. Look around as you go through your day and think about what you would throw out and what you would keep. Beethoven — better keep that one; Justin Bieber — yeah, we know. Look at every person you know. If the decision were left up to you, would you want this person in your society? Soon you will have two mental stacks, and you’ll find the “keep” stack while small is not insubstantial.

Keep in mind that your “keep” heap is artificially small. This is because the smarter and better people in our society tend to escape notice. This is in part deliberate; they have realized how crazy most people are, and know that the best way to deal with crazy is to be off its radar. As a result, you don’t find them on TV, or in positions that trumpet their importance. Instead, they’re behind the scenes doing what good people do, which is to maintain and enhance aspects of life.

Let’s look at the math. How much of this society is toss? What percentage of the people, institutions, laws, customs and culture do we toss out? If you look at it honestly, it’s far less than 90%. It seems to me to be (at most) about 40%. The grocery stores work OK, but I’d toss out the crap food. The roads mostly work. Cops generally do a good job with the daily theft, assault, murder, and rape. Most people strike me as fundamentally decent if confused.

One word about people: they can improve, and they do improve. If the basics are good, and they are pointed in a good direction, they will steadily keep going in that direction. The same is true of societies. When bad is encouraged, people follow the path of bad to their own degradation. Encouraging good reverses this and in a few generations, puts the society back to order.

There are really only two approaches in this world. Either you want to make something beautiful of life, which requires acknowledging the order inherent to it, or you want greater personal control, which requires obliterating that order. Those who wish to walk in the light are those who want the truth and so they pick the former because the latter is a lie.

Our ancestors told us that “beauty is truth, and truth beauty.” A corollary: truth produces beauty. When truth is revealed, the path to improving what exists until it is beautiful becomes clear. With this principle we liberate ourselves from the herd, who rely upon a lie in order to feel a sense of personal control over reality, which no one can control.

It is the same in fixing society. Some want the decay to continue and those who wish to burn it all and start over are, by not following the truth of the situation, joining the forces of decay. Others want to rise above, to ascend and walk in the light of truth, and they recognize that we fix this situation like any other: salvage the good, throw out the bad, and begin the work of restoration and improvement.

9 Comments

  1. crow says:

    These awful pictures scare people off. Are they really necessary?

    On the subject of not throwing in the towel, here is a description of some of the ways I see society:

    Imagine building a skyscraper. You build foundations, as strong as you can make them. Then you build the skeleton, as strong as you can make it, out of the strongest materials you have.
    Even using the best materials you have, in the best way you can, there is an upper limit to the height you can go. At some point, the weight of the building exceeds the strength of the supporting structure.
    Thus, the skyscraper, like a society, or civilization, can only go so high, and last so long, before its inherent limitations come into effect.
    At some point, everything fails. It can be repaired, it can be patched, but it will fail. It will fail all the sooner, if continuous ‘growth’ is the goal.

    Maybe it is more expedient to keep patching the structure, rather than doing a controlled demolition, and starting over. Maybe not. One has to wonder if perhaps the very concept of skyscrapers is flawed. And perhaps the very idea of civilization, whatever that word actually means.

    1. crow says:

      Ah! Thank you for changing the picture :)

      1. Iron Gospel says:

        Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood crow but wouldn’t controlled demolition be the same as “salvaging the good and throwing out the bad?” Controlled demolition after all does acknowledge that there are surrounding elements worth preserving.
        Either way cheers to you for the creative analogy.

        1. crow says:

          Oh, save what you can, for sure. Anything else is vandalism.
          Move that Steinway out before the roof falls in.
          It’s like the great upcoming West Coast Megathrust Earthquake.
          Nobody knows when, but the if is no longer in question.

          Sometimes it can be really good to be wrong.

  2. EQN says:

    This article speaks to me. In my daily journal I lamented the fact that it seemed this society is on an unstoppable trajectory downward, only because that is what society “wants,” i.e. until man learns from his mistake and finds the path forward, we are naturally inclined to chaos and fracture. Most men strive throughout their lifetimes for acceptance and success, invariably steering us toward herdism which ultimately puts us at fatal odds with each other. This well known quote from Thoreau sprung to mind:

    I heartily accept the motto,—“That government is best which governs least;” and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe,—“That government is best which governs not at all;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.

    —Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

    The key line here is : …”and when men are prepared for it”

    Our failing is that we look through a very narrow keyhole when observing the problems we’re currently facing and not through the lens of the totality of mankind. We’re tied to our nation, our people, but don’t seem to consider the whole of mankind and the progress we make, irrespective of nations, states, borders, and customs.

    There is no doubt…in my mind…that we are experiencing the downfall of OUR civilization. Can we stem the tide? I honestly doubt it. There is just too much inertia behind “crowdism” and a shift towards totalitarianism. Once you’ve opened the flood gates, the inevitable follows. I don’t wish for it, but my inner being screams that we are close at hand…the lives that we’ve enjoyed will not last forever.

    1. crow says:

      I love Thoreau :)
      That narrow keyhole you refer to, is all that man is capable of when his vision is cut-off from The Divine. Intellect pales into pathetic insignificance in comparison to reverence for Divinity. It can’t see two feet in front of itself. It is, in all respects, a complete oaf.
      Yet man reveres his own intellect, as-if it ‘understands’ the workings of the cosmos. As-if it is on a level with his pitiful understanding of ‘God’.

      I am inclined to feel as you do, about the fate of the Western world. I would be very happy to see it come to its collective sense before The End, but fail to see how this is even remotely possible.

      Everything comes and goes. Joni Mitchell made that line famous, but it was famous long before her. Everything does come and go. Always has, always will. The only thing that endures is Dharma.

      1. EQN says:

        Agreed. Your comments and writing have a very Theosophical ring to them, though not many people understand what that means.

        I thoroughly enjoy your posts.

        1. crow says:

          Appreciated :)

  3. 1349 says:

    Very good article, thank you.

    To salvage the good and throw out the bad you’ll need some kind of political coordination.

    Still, what if this – theirs –

    all “new” societies over the past 5,000 years or so have built on an archetype of the society from which they broke away.

    - is the only way out? (To take a spark from the dying hearth to make a new hearth elsewhere.)
    Is it not? Have you thought about that?

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