Humankind thinks of its world in terms of categories. We say that an object belongs to the category “pens,” and therefore has certain attributes like being able to write and leaking ink in your pocket when you forget it there and take an international plane flight to flee the tax collectors.
Nature operates on a much finer scale. Objects are what they are, composed of littler and littler bits until we get down to atoms, subatomic particles, and then one level where we think things are like waves or graphing equations, a gradual and varied manifestation over time.
In other words, nature operates via cycles. An object forms from the pattern to which its material is shaped, begins, expends itself, and then returns to the chaos. The pattern remains, encoded in the fabric of the reality around it, and manifests again when relevant to the ongoing action.
This means that we humans tend to think of things as universal, absolute, and permanent in the state they are in this moment, but really, they are passing to the degree of the completion of their cycle. So it is also with civilizations.
A civilization is born, comes to rely on the methods that have succeeded, forgets why it does them, then stops doing what made it great, and gradually slips into successive levels of decay until you find small bands of people, living in huts, surviving on subsistence agriculture and hunter-gatherer foraging, with low IQs, a matriarchal society, and low life expectancy. This is how nature keeps humanity in check: it works constantly to destroy us.
When a civilization hits a certain point of decay, normally, a group of the few who figure it out start to indicate without speaking clearly on the topic that they recognize what is going on. One morning, all of the unsung heroes of figuring stuff out with depth are gone.
They have moved on to a new location. They give up on their property, take what they can, and move to a new land. This both selects for the sane and wise, and filters out the weaker ones who cannot make the journey, setting up the new civilization with good raw material.
Western Europeans (Nordid-Cromagnid-Dalofaelids) have been doing this for hundreds of thousands of years. We roamed Europe, Eurasia, Asia, and the New World in small groups, then wintered together in caves. In the new year, the best of them chose others like them and set off in newly-constituted bands.
Through this method, we conserved our raw genetic material while improving it. We avoided outbreeding with the various offshoots of humanity which genetics will someday reveal were just our cast-offs breeding with nearby species. The weak got left behind to a third world lifestyle.
Whether our group was born this way, or evolved to it, really does not matter. They avoided Darwinian degeneration — the loss of traits not used regularly — by keeping their lives plain and relatively hard, and not having labor-saving devices or organized institutions to keep all of them alive.
We call them primitive now, but this is mostly compensatory, because we know that they were something we are not. They lived without the cloying and suffocating weight of the need and guilt-bullying of other humans. Those who deserved to live, survived; those who did not were forgotten.
Eventually the world became crowded, and these groups settled in rugged Northern Europe as a means of preserving their connection to nature. They encouraged reckless behavior to eliminate the weaker. They lived without opulence.
Unfortunately for them, time means that things accrue, including knowledge. As wisdom piled up, methods took the place of being able to figure out unknown situations. People had only to do what their neighbors did and they would have farms, families, and even towns and later cities.
With the rise of cities, life became even simpler. People needed only get some kind of employment and pay for goods and services. Anyone with a high enough tolerance for tedium and their time being wasted on others could survive and be comfortable, and so deleterious mutations and weak people piled up.
On the other hand, this enabled technology, and with it, a substitute for those vast open lands: the oceans, skies, microscopes, cyberbia, and space. This tradeoff showed us how we could get to our next stage, that of separating from the vast accumulation of humanity, most of it mediocre and much useless.
About a thousand years ago, we began rediscovering the technology of the ancients from the first few iterations of this cycle, and started both growing in power and decaying. Groups of humans tend toward pacifism and compromise, which further obscures the why behind what we do, and the mixed terror and freedom of approaching the unknown, having to derive elemental principles, and figuring out how to master it.
Within a few centuries, a new system appeared: government by compromise. This had been tried before and had a deservedly bad reputation, but by 1789, it was poised to take over Europe and the New World. This new system, democracy, made us all equal or uniformly entitled to city-style jobs, contracts, and earnings.
With the advent of the first world war, this system completed its conquest of aristocracy, or hereditary rule by our most competent with a social hierarchy of the same. With the advent of the second world war, the notion of personal freedom won out over civilizational freedom, and the world united on liberal democracy.
On the surface, it seemed like we were not in decay. We had more technology and wealth than ever before, and could explore the skies, seas, and space. After that, the digital world and that of the microscope expanded as well. It seemed that nothing could stop humanity.
Cynics like myself noted that this cannot have been the first time that this happened. Artifacts of technology, delicate as they are, would not survive the ravages of time that blunted the pyramids and eroded the faces of statues of the ancient gods. There is more to history than we recognize today.
If you want to see the decay, the literature of the 1920s through 1970s shows it to us most clearly: on the surface, we had chrome and gold, but underneath, dark existential doubt. We might even call it existential entropy, the anomie that arises from no choice being significant.
The first signs appeared in subtlety. Fewer of the very intelligent had children or even bothered to get married; people became self-destructive, and the “cool” (apathetic, selfish, individualistic) anti-hero replaced the heroes of old on our aspirational scale.
After 1945, the world system became standardized, as Francis Fukuyama noted, only undergoing its final stage in 1991 when the USSR exited history, leaving a hybrid of liberal democracy, socialist-style entitlements, civil rights, and an ideology of narcissistic individualism behind.
This system showed even more cracks. Culture died and was replaced with commerce, which was easy because “freedom” means that each person is accountable to nothing but his bank account, making him into a financial unit in a fungible sea of others. Equality means uniformity and replaceability, like the interchangeable parts in our machines or the laws that rule us instead of exceptional men (and Margaret Thatcher).
At this point, the die-off accelerated, finally getting really ugly in the 1960s when society decided that its ideology needed to outlive its people. Borders opened; social barriers fell; standards dropped like a stone. A new pop culture of prole ideals and entertainment swept aside classical culture.
After the Soviet Union died, it seemed like a golden age had dawned. You could do anything with your life, so people wanted a hybrid between making money and doing “meaningful” things in the eyes of others, in other words, social success. Technology made anything appear impressive with enough cash.
At this point we were living in a surface age. Movies no longer told stories because all that mattered was the booming THX soundtrack, the special effects, and the unique visual appearance and contrived setting and personality affections of their characters. Vapidity became the new profundity.
Some called this postmodernism, after the movement that said that there were multiple ways to view any event, none of which was an absolute, shared, and universal truth, value, or communication. This was replaced by postmodernism lite, the idea that individual perception was such a truth.
That made life largely pointless. Perception and appearance mattered above all else, and actually doing something significant or powerful was forgotten. Even technology devolved into repetitions of the same basic ideas, always improving but never leveling up.
That brought us to the election of people like Barack Obama and Angela Merkel, whose goal was above all else to do what was popular, which required caring nothing for the consequences.
Some years later, we still find ourselves picking up the pieces. It turns out that people in groups avoid the controversial while seeking that which imposes the least restrictions upon them, essentially creating anarchy where the most outspoken anti-hero wins all the girls, money, and renown.
That created a society even more empty, alienating, lonely, melancholic, navel-gazing, perverse, and self-destructive — possessed of an impulse to destroy in rage at its emptiness, including even the self — than the last days of Rome or Athens. Most people could not see this because of the Dunning-Kruger limits on their layer of the IQ Bell Curve, but the smart were dying out rapidly.
At this point, a cultural revolt against the existential entropy picked up its pace after having been dormant for three centuries. Life had become pointless, and so people began to reject modern life and aspire to something like the greatness of the past.
It also became clear that, instead of being intelligent beings purposively choosing the best outcome, we had simply accumulated things that had not violently failed. It turns out that these, instead of being the best, are merely the least restrictive on the individual, producing slow but inescapable decay.
This brings us to the sea change of our era. We face a human evolutionary leap like none taken before. In this we reject appearance and social importance, and favor instead a connection to the external reality around us and our inner, intuitive, and existential desire for this life to have meaning.
Simultaneously, we threw out the last of the new old religion, which suffered for being written and therefore interpreted individualistically, meaning to the advantage of the individual. Game theory says individuals will try to suppress others with nonsense rules, intend to break the rules themselves, and try desperately to hide that fact. This way, you get everything, and everyone else gets nothing, which in an egalitarian society where we are solely economic actors, provides the only thing close to “victory.”
What we see happening with Brexit and populism cannot be confined to one person, one country, or even one year. We are seeing an ongoing exodus from modernity (roughly: egalitarianism) which like all things natural, runs in a cycle, and so it will take some time to pick up momentum.
The Left appears strong right now because they are at the end of their cycle. The idea of Leftism (also, roughly: egalitarianism) opposes order and meaning in favor of tyranny by individual whims, which in groups form collectivized trends, demanding anarchy and free stuff from the West.
That is bad enough, but the fact that nothing changes of significance in this society, everything is slick and nothing is significant, existential entropy makes choice pointless, and obedience to the System determines just about everything has made people want escape from this dying world.
While the Left has control of the media, bureaucracy, academia, entertainment, writing, and much of industry, this reflects the desire of individual economic units to pursue whatever trend is winning. Most of these are mediocre, so they are chasing the trend of last century, not the future.
That they are desperate, attempting to steal the biggest election on Earth in order to bring in tens of millions of third world voters, crush a thriving economy, vault China to world control, and obliterate what is left of the group that can tell this is pointless and destructive, tells us that their cycle is ending.
Across the board, without saying so in as many words, people are acknowledging the end of our previous era. These people are conspiring to bring down modernity by removing its lockstep control and draining its institutions, giving us a chance to invent something else. They stand with Trump and Farage.
The next couple weeks will be exciting. We are going to see Donald Trump attempt to prevail in the courts, and then begin the process of ripping out the entrenched bureaucracy which supports the twentieth century over the twenty-first. This is only beginning, and it will get gnarly.
We who hope to survive this must visualize in our minds the sea change that is occurring, embrace it, and realize that it is already a done deal (more than the Biden “the fix is in” done deal of the election). All we have to do is be open to it, and it will come our way.
Have faith in Team Trump as they navigate these treacherous waters, and in your minds fix on the truth of things, which is that modernity has faded and populism is rising to open the door to what comes after modernity. Trust in this cycle, and focus your conscious attention on seeing it manifest in reality.
None of us have anything to mourn for in what is passing. It faded long ago, is already dead, and we are attempting to finish the burial now so that there are new places to conquer, including the skies, seas, and space. As with all things in nature, change has a duality: both frightening and full of hope.