The internet is amazing because every person on it is a cheerleader. They’re out there shouting their truth so that you think they’re cool even if they’ve kind of failed at life.
Many agree humanity’s in trouble; most awakened only when this temporary recession hit, and their consumption and defecation was interrupted. Here are some of the reasons they give for our downfall, and some hilariously obvious refutations:
So none of these make sense. But what do they have in common?
They’re all external to the speaker. Finding a conspiracy under the bed is a high mental complexity version of saying, “It’s not my fault; the nearest authority figure is oppressing me.”
If we look deeply into human psychology, we can see these people are self-deceiving because instead of looking honestly for a cause, they don’t care about the cause — they’re looking for something to blame.
What is the root cause?
Since 1789, Western Civilization has steadily been adopting the idea that liberal democracy is the best system of government, and with that comes the idea that all individuals are equal and should be able to choose their own lifestyles. Nowadays we call that “consumerism.”
We could if we were honest point out that while individualism is vital to the West, as it keeps us from groupthink, too much of it leads to an ever-widening circle of egalitarianism and through it, conformity.
In short, individualism becomes groupthink based on individualism, which has been re-framed as avoidance of obligation to civilization in exchange for demanding the same right for others. It’s a virus.
This egalitarianism leads to the overthrowing of hierarchy, and replacement of leadership-based social organization with the idea of “bottom-up” organization and “invisible hands.” The market. Democracy. Public opinion. Education of the ineducable.
The result is that equality invents democracy which in turn invents consumerism and that in turn invents the ugly utilitarianism of the modern time. If most people like it, it’s the best answer. Or at least the most profitable.
And why are we so profit hungry? Well, in order to support that egalitarianism, we had to do away with hierarchy, so now everyone needs to scramble for money and not offend people in order to keep their families alive.
With hierarchy and sacred roles, of course, there was not only more protection but more obligation to get a task done right even if it upset a small vocal minority who felt it infringed on their “freedom.”
But this virus, like all good viruses, doesn’t work for us. It works for itself, and it only needs us as long as it needs a host. Then it can kick us aside, and replace us with something easier:
Let me begin with an extreme and provocative point to get the argument going: Francis Fukuyama’s famous essay “The End of History” may have done some serious damage to Western minds in the 1990s and beyond. Mr. Fukuyama should not be blamed for this. He wrote a subtle, sophisticated, and nuanced essay. However, few Western intellectuals read the essay in its entirety. Instead, the only message they seemed to take away from the essay? The end of history is the triumph of the West.
Western hubris was thick in the air then. I experienced it. In 1991 I heard a senior Belgian official, speaking on behalf of Europe, tell a group of Asians, “The cold war has ended. There are only two superpowers left: the United States and Europe.” This hubris also explains how Western minds failed to foresee that instead of the triumph of the West, the 1990s would see the end of Western domination of world history (but not the end of the West) and the return of Asia.
There is no doubt that the West has contributed to the return of Asia. As I document in my book, several Asian societies have succeeded because they finally understood, absorbed, and implemented the seven pillars of Western wisdom: namely free-market economics, science and technology, meritocracy, pragmatism, culture of peace, rule of law, and education.
Notice what is missing from the list? Western political liberalism – despite Fukuyama’s claim that “The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism.”
The general assumption in Western minds after reading Fukuyama’s essay was that the world would in one way or another become more Westernized. Instead, the exact opposite has happened. Modernization has spread across the world.
But modernization has been accompanied by de-Westernization, not Westernization. Fukuyama acknowledges this today. As he said in a recent interview, “The old version of the idea of modernization was Eurocentric, reflecting Europe’s own development. That did contain attributes which sought to define modernization in a quite narrow way.”
The above gives us a good view of history. Surprisingly, it agrees with Spengler and Plato, who were both conservatives of the mentally flexible sort, and like biologists, acknowledged human history not as a series of free wills, but biological and sociological imperatives working en masse.
Liberalism sounds good, and its defining characteristic is egalitarianism; conservatism doesn’t recognize the individual as having such “free will,” but sees us all as having different abilities and so requiring a hierarchy where we do not exceed our abilities. The most extreme expression of conservatism is aristocracy, caste systems, a militant meritocracy organized by a ladderlike hierarchy, and a shared social, religious, philosophical and cultural values system.
The West launched into liberalism, and in a blur of self-delusion, exported its functional techniques to others while neutering itself. This isn’t new — as Plato documented, this happened in the past, when Athens got democracy and so got morally self-important and its citizens essentially competed on the basis of ever-increasing social altruism, while enemies grew at the gates, until finally Athens died the death of a thousand cuts: many smaller wars and unending social problems at home.
They killed Socrates for pointing that out.
One of the major themes of this blog has been separating appearance from reality. Appearance is how things “sound” to us on an absolute hierarchy, where all things are on the same level and so we have no context or depth. Reality is not measured in a single instant, or from a single point of view, but is an analysis of how that appearance fits into the process of life around us, which is singular but has many components.
As more voices are joining the chorus, we are seeing that the West has gone too far down the path of liberalism — a path reinforced by our utter solipsism as individuals, since in an egalitarian society we can filter out any recognition of our shortcomings, and our utter narcissism as a culture, where we get so accustomed to selling each other stuff by appearing to be good guys, or talking girls into bed by appearing to be great egalitarians, that we believed our own marketing. It’s like a politician taking his own speech as gospel.
The more we believe what’s going on only in our heads, the farther we drift from reality. And the more that happens, the closer we come to self-destruction — a fulfillment of Fukuyama’s seminal thesis, which was based on Nietzsche’s concept of the “last man” or purely materialistic, beliefless, cultureless, and ideal-less person that an egalitarian society tends to manufacture.
Politics is tricky because once we get out of the vernacular meaning of the term, which is how you flatter the senate subcommittee or curry favor with industry while not offending the civil advocacy groups, we’re looking at a study of the design of societies and how they fare through history — which is truly the only lab of politics.
Sometimes ideas once adopted take centuries or millennia to show their true colors. In Fukuyama’s nightmare, we’re seeing the end result of liberalism for the West. This in turn explains why we are surrounded by so many people blaming so many different conspiratorial forces, and none are right.
The blame is within. The problem isn’t our institutions or large corporations or shadowy religious-political groups. It’s the attitudes we’ve adopted, and the people we’ve produced by rewarding sycophants and manipulators instead of honest and forthright problem solvers. We are not victims of some external process; we are agents of decay.
The instant the West faces this truth, the decay will begin its reversal. And it all takes is for the 2-5% of our society who are active in both practical and mental spheres to agree on what’s going on, and reject bad ideas while replacing them with good ones.
But right now, as in all dying societies, the taboo on truth is tightening not loosening. Because people cannot think outside of the paradigm we’re following, and that paradigm is our doom, they think the best response is to more emphatically pursue that paradigm — and to crush dissent. But that’s just a symptom of a dying civilization; they all have it, and the actual belief doesn’t matter so much as the knowledge that it’s delusional.