The public accepts the imminent death of the West

“Acceptance is half the battle,” they will tell you at therapy or addiction treatment. Once you accept, the theory goes, you can start to change.

Unfortunately the reality is that most people view acceptance as a kind of determinism: Oh. I’m a drug addict. Well, nothing to do but get right back to it. Are you using that spoon and needle?

Acceptance has a double edge to it. We remember the Greek tale of Cassandra like we remember most great literature and poetry, which is not because our teachers told us to, but because it’s just as relevant today as it was back then. These tales are eternal because they reveal something of the human condition, not the trends of the day or the condition unique to a single person.

Cassandra was a prophet who, thanks to the curse of a vengeful god, was doomed to have her prophecies be ignored by everyone around her. While some might blame the gods, in our modern analogue the fact is that no one wants to believe Cassandra because it’s more convenient for them personally to go into denial, say everything’s OK, and carry on with their individualist pursuits, which don’t require reality outside of commercial and social spheres.

In Cassandra’s case, as in our own, acceptance can take many forms. We can accept and ignore, accept and pretend we like it, or accept and recognize a need to turn our ship around and get on a better course. Not surprisingly, most are going to choose acceptance and inaction, because it allows them to continue being individualistic, even if they must adopt a self-pitying tone in order to justify it:

Looking down Central Park West, I’m thrilled by the necklace of green-and-red traffic lights extending toward Columbus Circle and the glittering tower of One57, that vertical paradise for billionaires. And as I walk past the splashing fountain in front of the museum’s south entrance on West 77th Street, I recall a sentence from Edward Gibbon’s ode to evanescence, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” in which “the learned Poggius” gazes down at the remains of the city from the Capitoline hill: “The public and private edifices, that were founded for eternity, lie prostrate, naked, and broken, like the limbs of a mighty giant; and the ruin is the more visible, from the stupendous relics that have survived the injuries of time and fortune.”

This is our fate. All the more reason to appreciate what we have while we have it. – “Is This the End?” by James Atlas, The New York Times

The tone of this writing reminds us of innumerable NPR broadcasts. Essentially: once things were good, now they are failing. But how fascinating they are! How exciting it is to live now! And how fundamentally depressed we are: we never expected anything different. Thus the end is to us comforting. It means that our own deaths do not go unavenged. Everything is doomed, so celebrate these brief moments, and leave nothing but ruins for eternity.

This is a sickness of the soul and a blasphemy against life itself. It reeks of cowardice and self-serving fatalism born of self-pity. In this person’s eyes, the work of centuries should be undone because his personal “world” (judgements, feelings, desires) does not feel like getting itself up off the sofa and fixing a few problems.

What we are facing here is not the hand of Odin or Zeus smiting us. It is the consequences of our own decisions. Like all choices we make, we choose based on past results as compared to what we want to occur. Like all complex choices, when we make a bad choice and go down a path that is getting increasingly worse, we can re-trace our footsteps to where we went wrong and go down a different path. All of this is within our ability to choose.

The strangest part of this futurechildrensensation is that if one said it openly even just a few short years ago, it may have seemed irrational and alarmist; now, with empirical observations and the grim predictions of most credible scientists firmly in hand, it seems more irrational not to hold the view that the paradigm in which we’ve been living is rapidly approaching its prophesied closure point.

This does not, of course, relieve us of the obligation to get up every day and keep trying to promote the values of peace and justice in our lives, communities, bioregions, and the larger world. The apocalypse is perhaps the ultimate “off day,” but that doesn’t mean it’s also a day off. Whatever the ineluctable combination of fate and free will has in store for us mere mortals, it remains incumbent upon us to roll up our sleeves and work to avert the self-inflicted cataclysm we’ve been relentlessly courting. Or, at the least, we might strive to appreciate the blessings we’ve enjoyed and pass through the eye with love in our hearts and a song in our souls. – “Giving Back to the Future” by Randall Amster, CommonDreams.org

The worst part is that those who are speaking about collapse are wrong on two counts. First, the method by which they see it arriving is wrong; second, the results they foresee are wrong.

Collapse happens from within. Even if global warming is as terrible as the worst case scenario pundits think, it is survivable. We will adapt and move on. Even if the financial crisis is totally apocalyptic, it too is survivable. Countries survive worse every generation.

However, these are surrogates for the true problem of our collapse. The roots of collapse are not the economy, the climate or military. The source of our collapse is that we no longer share values, which is what happens when you let liberalism turn your society into a pluralistic, relativistic and individualistic ideological state. There is no longer any real bond between the people, only political, social and commercial ones.

That’s where we went wrong.

Collapse is not a sudden event. Once prosperous first-world countries become a Brazil- or Iraq-like third world country where lack of shared values means a giant open-air bazaar policed by warlords, where hygiene, rule of law, learning and abilities are low. This doesn’t happen because they import third-world people (although that is symptom of their decline). It happens because they no longer have anything in common. Things just fall apart when there’s no actual bonds to hold them together.

We don’t need to secede. We don’t need to lament. What we need to do is as the second article suggests: hit reverse, go back to the last turn, and get on a saner path, and then start cleaning up the mess so future generations have something to look forward to.

20 Comments

  1. Thanatos says:

    It is not, as you suggest, individualism that is at fault,but rather tribalism. The same thing happened to the Roman Empire. All the people bound together in the Roman Empire shared no common values other than the state to which they belonged, you are correct about that part of your assumption. Where you go wrong is in assuming or imputing that each person,or even family, doing their own thing is what causes the dissolution. This cannot be the case, as each family individually working toward their own goal was what was responsible for the financial prosperity of the past in this country.

    To be blunt,as well as perhaps tactlessly transparent, the problem is African-Americans…….Chinese-Americans. Mexican-Americans. Cuban-Americans.Indian-Americans.Israeli-Americans and so on and so on.

    I don’t mean the problem is people of these ethnicities, or any other ethnicities. No, the problem is that these people are hyphen-Americans.Not Americans.

    Each of these hyphen-American groups is pursuing their own group’s interests, and they don’t care what the results outside their own little bubble are. That has to stop. If they saw their neighbor, and themselves as an American,whether than thinking to themselves “HE’S an Irish-American, but I’M an AFRICAN-American”,they wouldn’t be able to freely work against the interests of the nation for their own little group as all of them are doing simultaneously.

    That’s the problem. It’s not individualism. It’s these interest groups gutting all of us for extra goodies for “their” people, when the idea of America is that everyone here is “your people”.

    And why shouldn’t they think that way? People have them conditioned to believe that if you’re,say, a black woman, and your congressman isn’t also a black woman,then you’re not being represented! They don’t understand they’re supposed to tell the white man what their problems are,because HE’S THEIR REPRESENTATIVE.

    It doesn’t matter what color his skin is or what configuration of genitals the person has, if they get elected by you, they’re representing you. If you’re not being adequately represented, you either inform them where they aren’t adequately representing you or you vote them out, but you don’t put someone in there who looks like you on the off chance the resemblance creates some kind of Vulcan mind-meld between you and the representative. You’re both Americans,you probably at least come from the same state,presumably you both know what your area needs. But as long as the person in office is an American,just as you are, you are receiving representation!

    But,I’m rambling. This factor is what killed the Roman Empire,and it will kill us too. Deader than Jesus.

    You chastise people for inaction but 96% of the black vote shows the impossibility of getting even one of these groups to identify with a man as an American,rather than as a black. Let alone above or beyond as a black.

    How do we rescue the melting pot idea after it’s been so mangled by the multiculti suicide cult? People think this situation IS the melting pot. what we have on our hands is nothing more than an oligarchical clusterfuck.

    1. Thanatos says:

      *If they saw their neighbor, and themselves, as an American,rather than thinking to themselves… *

      Sorry. I don’t think my typing abilities are fully up to par in the morning unless I have my coffee goggles on.

    2. It is not, as you suggest, individualism that is at fault,but rather tribalism. The same thing happened to the Roman Empire. All the people bound together in the Roman Empire shared no common values other than the state to which they belonged, you are correct about that part of your assumption. Where you go wrong is in assuming or imputing that each person,or even family, doing their own thing is what causes the dissolution. This cannot be the case, as each family individually working toward their own goal was what was responsible for the financial prosperity of the past in this country.

      I disagree entirely. If they had been working together as a tribe, they would not have dissolved. Instead, as you pointed out, it was impossible for them to work together as a tribe because they were no longer a tribe: in values, in heritage, in culture and in direction.

      When people are individualistic, it precludes any chance for cooperation. That includes tribalism and any other form of collective action. The myth that people just “doing right by themselves” will somehow save a nation is a dangerous fallacy. Leadership must still exist, and without a unifying values system, “doing right by themselves” replaces doing right by the society as a whole, and it falls apart from internal rancor.

    3. Anon says:

      I think the idea of people identifying with ‘America’ is dated, and only truly relevant when that meant “Western European across the pond”. As soon as America had significant amounts of non-whites, and those non-whites began to form their own identity, the concept of being ‘American only’ became little more than a political slogan.

      I agree with Brett, I don’t think the problem is “tribalism” as you call it, but the loss of shared values which occurs BECAUSE people no longer identify along any meaningful lines. I submit also, as I think he does, that ethnic, religious and cultural, identifications are the strongest and most enduring link people can share, and the firmest base from which to build shared values from.

      The concept of being “American” or “Australian” or “Nation State X citizen” is a poor replacement for this.

  2. ??? says:

    Damn, you really nailed the essence of NPR! Bravo Brett, great post.

    1. Eric says:

      The depressing, or attempt at “happy”, yet awful music they play between segments on NPR says it all. It is just degrading on so many levels, and I suppose speaks volumes in some way.

    1. This is a great example. I keep hearing how drug legalization is a success in Portugal, but then when put in context, it doesn’t look so good anymore. Like many of our modern problems, that solution may involve transferring a burden rather than eliminating it. Shuffling the deck, in other words.

      The article makes another really good point:

      This allows us to see exactly what we get in return for national income distribution. It provides a tenuous and temporary cease-fire. Otto Von Bismark described his contributions to Germany’s social welfare state as an act of “stealing the Socialists’ thunder.” While most of what he enacted is standard fare in the modern employee’s benefit package, meeting the mob half-way only made them clamor for more.

      Trying to reason with the mob is never a good solution.

      I wonder how the French Revolution would have turned out had the aristocracy gone full fascist and crushed its nascent rise. Of course, it’s not in the conservative mindset to be cruel like that, but revolutionaries never have a problem with rivers of blood including that of children.

      What we’re doing now amounts to the same thing. Obama just bought off America’s underclass. Europe is trying to do the same. At some point, they will sabotage their own currency value and thus the buyouts won’t work anymore.

      Then what? Watts riots? Bader-Meinhof gang-style violence in the streets? Or a slow and pervasive social collapse?

      I don’t mean to imply that our problems are economic in nature alone. They are most assuredly not: the economic problems are a manifestation of our fundamentally selfish, delusional and narcissistic ways (if you want to substitute Biblical language here and say that wickedness has found a home in our hearts, that’s good too). Any society where most of the individuals are dedicated to an insane way of life is shortly going to follow them into insanity, and that seems to describe the industrialized world or at least the West.

  3. Decay, decline, downfall, collapse. They all mean the same thing. They are not limited to the economy alone, or socialism alone, or even the rise of liberalism. Decline and fall of the West is a process of entropy, or heat death, that erodes the once-vibrant civilization to a state of social chaos. Collapse studies like Easter Island or Angkor Wat (or even Babylon, the Mayans and the Aztecs) show us how the strongest civilization on earth can decline and fall within centuries.

  4. When I think about society collapsing, I think of it as if I’m going to be fine because I’m ready for it. It’s “those guys” who will be hurting, and I’ll be glad to see them suffer.

    But really, I’ll still be thinking about what we had and what we lost, wondering what I might have done better.

    Or… I can lend a hand to the better things coming in now. Times of destruction are times of opportunity as well.

    Thomas Sowell said: There are no solutions, only tradeoffs. I’ll give up my illusions in favor of new iterations of the good ways.

    1. I’ll still be thinking about what we had and what we lost, wondering what I might have done better.

      Me too. Best to keep building for the future. Idle hands, and all that.

      Collapse comes slowly, in my view. Everything gets a little bit worse every generation and then one day you wake up in a nation with third-world levels of hygiene, crime, disorganization, selfishness, corruption, etc.

      It’s Idiocracy more than The Day Man Lost.

  5. Elijah Bernbaum says:

    The collapse is imminent not because the left is wrong, but “leveling” is a fundamental leftist instinct. The desire to always bring down those who seem highest and mightiest, to level the playing field. Not all leftists even realize this fundamental direct, but the tearing down of society itself because no society can exist without “inequality” is inevitable part of the agenda. Destruction through violence has always and everywhere been a fundamental technique of the left.

    1. The collapse is imminent not because the left is wrong, but “leveling” is a fundamental leftist instinct.

      I agree. They distrust the end result of inequality, and confuse inequality as a method for achieving balancing with inequality as some sort of mystical, superstitious goal attributed to nature itself. As a result, they invent an ideology of “correcting” it.

  6. Jason says:

    I think it’s kind of too early to declare a loss of “western” culture.

    The internet is barely 1 generation old, birth control, women’s rights, gay rights, our clinging to our archaic education and transport systems, ridiculous drug laws, the specter of terrorism… obviously I could go on!

    Sure, we’re in a period of anomie, but I’m sure things will work themselves out for the better.

    1. Anon says:

      Hmmm….this is dubious logic at play here. A resurgence will not occur by letting things “work themselves out”. The default state of anything is to degenerate and to decay (see entropy comments above). This is the result of passivity, and one of the main factors as to why we are where we are with regards to our level of civilization.

  7. josef H says:

    just a side note: i’m sure iraq was doing quite well before ‘freedom’ was shoved down its throat. it always was a thriving country with homogenous people, as well as minorities, all living normally together. it wasnt just commerce that bound them. they were all iraqis, by cultural and historical background, living, working and being strong together. it was perhaps the most normal country in the middle east, a strong and prosperous one. sure when a group decided to sow some trouble, it was ruthlessly crushed but not all countries function the same as paragons of democracy like scandinavia or germany. now iraq is a divided sectarian and tribal hellhole, thanks to foreign meddling.

    keep up the well written posts. cheers (:

    1. I appreciate your readership as always. I think that what you write is true in that democracy-spreading seems to be a way of neutralizing foreign countries and bringing them under our financial control, where open warfare allows them to maintain an internal balance. However, after finding Saddam Hussein’s fingerprints on too many things, apparently the Bushes saw differently. The war was a classic Machiavellian move, which is that when you get hit from behind by someone you can’t identify, pick someone to beat down to scare others away from supporting the original hitter. It was also an attempt to deprive the middle east of the one power capable of launching Scuds toward Israel.

  8. ferret says:

    “Instead, as you pointed out, it was impossible for them to work together as a tribe because they were no longer a tribe: in values, in heritage, in culture and in direction.”

    True. Except the Islamic people in Europe.

    1. Are they working together as a tribe, or suffering from an inability to live under true tribalism? It seems to me diversity harms each group equally. Maybe that’s what “equality” means: we all suffer, and pay, for this great employment program dreamed up by liberal government employees.

      1. ferret says:

        I wasn’t clear, sorry.
        Unlike the Islamic tribes, many others are prone to diversity, losing cultural unity and traditions, and therefore are doomed.

        Perhaps we should study Islamic tribes winning in Europe and learn something useful from them.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mlxMndnlzw

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