The root of our problem

cat_caughtWe the people feel the push of a gigantic media empire and a massive public trend — perpetuated by fellow citizens of yours, people like you or me — to conceal the truth about human self-governance. This would seem like a conspiracy theory to say this, except that its advocates do not conceal themselves. They work in the open.

They advance a simple idea:

The question of human governance is decided by the right choice of ideology, institutions, leaders and laws.

They want you to think is that, if there are problems, the solution can be found by looking at the public forces that unite us as a society. They worry about the external things, like institutions and ideologies, that we use to explain our society and convince us to work together.

For example, many of them worry that we demonize some part of reality into an Other, or that we discriminate against majorities. Others look at practical questions: do we have enough police? The right system of government? The right theory for law and economics?

I propose a more radical theory: almost none of this matters, except that some methods are more efficient than others. What matters is the level of self-discipline and clarity of values system of the individual participants in a society.

Let me tell you a brief story about an “accident” in Goiânia, Brazil. A hospital changed buildings; a bureaucrat, acting to preserve his interests, prevented them from moving a piece of equipment that used radioactive cesium to the new location. This was probably to gain power, a bribe or to — in classic union style — frustrate business so that more cash flowed to the employees and their bureaucrats.

The hospital, after issuing strong warnings, hired a security guard to watch over the old building. He was doing fine until one day, he decided to call in sick to watch Weekend at Bernie’s. While he was gone, two itinerant thieves/scavengers showed up and stole the piece of equipment that used radioactive cesium. They took it to his home about a half-mile away.

At this point, they decided they’d hit the jackpot and began taking apart the equipment. Despite having dizziness, nausea and vomiting, they persisted, as if driven onward by demonic forces of stupidity. One of them even got a burn in the distinctive shape of the opening in the equipment. Apparently unconcerned, these workers sold the equipment to a scrapyard.

The scrapyard owner saw the object glowing and decided it might be a valuable. He invited over friends and family to play with the strange radioactive blue powder. His wife became ill; the next day, he sold the equipment to another scrapyard. Finally, his wife noticed that everyone around her was ill, and took a sample to a hospital. At that point, the emergency response slowly kicked in.

The point of this story is not that radiation is dangerous or any other simple homily they would teach you at school. It is that without a sense of shared values and goals, people are destructive. They are in fact driven to a stupidity which far exceeds their biological stupidity. It is a moral stupidity. They are driven by a demonic urge to destroy.

If you think about this as a biological metaphor, it makes sense. A population exposed to a sudden source of nutrients will breed out of control, exhaust all nutrients, and choke everything else around it — that’s a red tide, the bloom of red algae that kill whole seashores of fish. A tree growing in a confined space will eventually constrict itself and die.

Human populations thrive when they’re going somewhere. When they’re pointed toward a set of values and the goal is to uphold those and get better at them, for example, humans feel a sense of purpose and thrive. When the only value system is to uphold pluralism or “we are all equal and all do our own thing,” people feel resentful and become self-destructive.

The Goiânia story shows people acting more than stupid, and more than morally bad. These are aimless people, self-destructive people, who for a few small rewards — fun glowing stuff, a few bucks in salvage money, notoriety, or watching a movie — will pass on potentially catastrophic consequences to other people and to the environment. Their lack of goal has turned them inward, into a force that like demons knows no bounds, and only seeks to destroy.

It’s not that they just don’t care. This is more pathological than that. It’s that they are raging at their own purposelessness, and in the absence of a positive goal, have found a negative one. They are programmed to destroy. And that, not institutions or choice of laws, is the problem of our modern society.

20 Comments

  1. Endwatcher says:

    It isn’t popular to say, but the root is sin, specifically rebellion against God. All that we observe is simply it’s symptoms. A society that follows Jesus just doesn’t tolerate a government or a nation that allows total permissiveness for depravity. Families remain strong, so the community remains strong. Obviously people are flawed so we wouldn’t have utopia even with our best efforts, but we wouldn’t have America 2013 either.

    The solution however brings despair, people are not willing to tolerate even conversation about religion, they either get angry or shut down due to discomfort. I blame education and pride for much of it, they teach you only the material matters, and no one wants to look the fool by believing.

    Everyone believes something though, everyone makes a choice even if it is a choice to sit on their hands. Does your choice build a life, family, and society or does it lead to destruction?

    1. unkempt says:

      Christianity isn’t the answer. Following the words of Jesus as he said, it’s a pacifistic death cult. Summed up, he who suffers most with a smile on his face is rewarded most in death.

      Matthew 19:29 “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall receive everlasting life.”

      Is this the sort of thing that encourages one to build a strong family?

      Matthew 13:30 “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.”

      Does this not say in effect: suffer evil among you until the tribulation?

      The teachings of Jesus must be twisted and reinterpreted to in any way become a decent foundation for society. For an individual with no family depending on him, with shitty life hoping for better in the afterlife, its fine, but for people who love what is good and despise what is bad here on Earth, its useless.

      1. Elijah says:

        You’re falling for the same trap as liberals and attempting a materialistic-reductionist interpretation of texts which are supposed to point to a heightened spiritual awareness.

        Matthew 13:10-11 “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

        He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”

        Where the text appears to call for specific action, you must keep in mind it is not a material, political or societal plan, but a specifically individual challenge to obtain a higher perspective and understanding of God.

        The parables, just like pagan myths, allude to transcendental realities.

        1. crow says:

          When people are unable even to understand parables, they are beyond any communication at all, let alone anything transcendent.

          1. Over the years, I’ve learned that metaphor is the most flexible form of conversation, and may in fact represent the highest level of abstraction that is also still tied to reality.

            Parables are a form of metaphor, like all stories. Very few stories are actually about what they’re “about.” Almost all contain a story within a story, a journey within a journey, a meaning within the words.

            It’s why we return to literature: it’s a game, a code and a way of communicating that isn’t easily co-opted by those who want to turn the words around to mean exactly what they do not, and then to use that “science” or “theory” to argue for the usual destructive stuff, i.e. everyone do what they want and we all gang up on anyone who disagrees.

      2. The teachings of Jesus must be twisted and reinterpreted to in any way become a decent foundation for society.

        I think this is true. However, I think any teachings may already be twisted and re-interpreted, albeit in a different way.

        Let me explain how Naked Lunch taught me to read books:

        The normal way to read a book is linear. You encounter detail 1, 2, 3… etc. and you create a narrative linking them together so that you get from page 1 to the last page in the book.

        The way I’ve learned to read: read everything in the book as granular objects, then figure out the journey undertaken from point A to point B (independent of page count), then string objects together so that they fit that narrative.

        I think both Nietzsche and religious texts need the same approach (with the exception of the Bhagavada-Gita, which clearly unites its linear and abstract narratives in the beginning).

        Nietzsche famously speaks out of both sides of his mouth on all issues; it’s only until you’ve read enough of him to get his “trip” that you can go back and, like stringing beads on a necklace, make sense of where those opinions fit. In many cases, he has a major and a minor opinion on each topic. The major opinion is the direction, the minor opinion the modifier that prevents it from going too far. If you encounter a seemingly pacifistic opinion in Nietzsche, and later on a warlike one, it’s likely the warlike one is the major opinion and the pacifistic one a restraint on that to keep it rational, although this isn’t always the case.

        I’m writing a lot here because I have sympathy for your position and think you are ultimately right. Our society’s current interpretation of Christianity is broken; then again, our society’s current interpretation of just about everything is broken. It’s as if we inject the French Revolution into every text we read, image we see, or idea we encounter. I call this Crowdism as you may well know (I’m getting repetitive here; should’ve used a parable).

        What I find hopeful is that 99% of Christianity is compatible with Hinduism, Greco-Roman paganism and Euro-Paganism, mainly because those philosophies/religions had something in common: esotericism. They were based on the idea of a rational interpretation of reality that found a metaphysical dimension to it, and developed its religious metaphors based on that. Even the notion of God or gods is at this level a metaphor.

        It’s the 1% that got injected by greedy priests and pandering fools that, in the hands of a greedy majority that panders to the Crowdist impulse inside all of us, became the focus of the religion.

        Jesus is not a pacifist. No one with strong opinions is. You do not change the world by saying “Hey guys let’s be rational and stuff here, come on, please be nice.” People are fundamentally illogical and unrealistic, impulsive and individualistic. You preach to the ones who have working brains so that they take over and guide the situation toward sanity.

        Anyone who writes in the current time is expressing more of an anarchistic idea, without the modern state, than one that hopes to find a solution within the state. Humanity is ultimately composed of individuals, and when they find solutions, they re-direct civilization from its lack of goal, which defaults to subsidizing itself and growing like a cancer, and instead point it toward a values-based goal.

        As you stated above, the important part of this quest is to re-interpret religions so that they are compatible with a values-based goal, instead of the circular goal of civilization subsidizing itself.

    2. Rebellion against God? The majority of people out there are rejecting reality itself, including the possibility of a God. But their real sin is rejecting reality.

      1. Elijah says:

        I would argue that they are the same!

  2. Endwatcher says:

    Matthew 13:30 is the Lord speaking to the angels, they are holding back until the end. Christians are to fight darkness in high places til that day. The passage has nothing to do with them though really.

    Matthew 19:29 is a promise of reward for people who leave the riches of this world behind to serve. The families left behind were unbelievers most likely. Later in the NT there are passages that are for husbands, wives, and children which means that believers still had them and there was nothing wrong with that. Bishops were also able to have a wife.

    Both quoted scriptures are out of context.

  3. unkempt says:

    According to Jesus, Christians are to fight nothing and await rapture. He that lives by the sword shall die by the sword, if a man smite thee on the right cheek turn to him the left, right? You shall be scourged and tormented in my name, in desolation at the end of days run to the hills.

    The Bible is a fine book. The Old Testament is a book of Hebrew history and law and some good stories on the theme ‘some dickheads are abusing the Jews, so some Jew takes strength from the god of Abraham and ruins those people’ which is cool. The actions of men with the aid of God make things better.

    But then you get to the Gospels, the part where Jesus is actually alive and talking to people, and he says ‘give up your everything, suffer all abuse cast upon you, and wait for God to fix it all.’ Its a total 180, and its exactly what Christians actually did until Constantine and the Merovingians later embraced Christianity as a pretext for war.

    A lot of people don’t like the idea, but I reckon it would be fine to just cut Jesus out of the Bible. Christianity accomplished everything it has defying his words.

    1. crow says:

      Ha. I’ve long felt that the only really important content in The Bible is all contained in Genesis. Deep mystery, not-quite impenetrable. The basis for living productively in contentment. What else does anybody really need?

    2. Elijah says:

      Again, you’re taking what extremist liberals claim the Bible says at face value to dismiss it.

      1. crow says:

        I’ve noticed that people see what they expect to see in any given text.
        If they expect to see gobbledygook, that is what they will see.
        If they expect corroboration of their already-held views, then they will see that, too.

        Take, for instance, a verse by Lao Tzu:
        “When a country descends into chaos, patriotism soon follows.”

        Leftists see that as proof that patriotism is bad. Yet it is not said that it is bad. It is an observation that patriotism arises most noticeably from a descent into chaos. Which is an observable phenomenon.
        Notice how many readers, here, display distinctly patriotic views.
        This is a natural result of encroaching chaos.

        1. Lao Tzu is incomplete. Patriotism exists before the descent into chaos. What happens with chaos is that patriotism shifts from loyalty to race/nation and its founding idea, to loyalty to a political regime.

          1. crow says:

            Lao Tzu incomplete? I hardly think so. What he does is pare away the superfluous and extraneous, reducing things to their simplest forms.
            But I can not speak for others, and so I will report only my own experience:
            Patriotism, and politics, were unknown to me, until chaos observably threatened the established order and traditions of my culture. This threat gave rise – in me – to the unfamiliar notion of love-of-country. Displaying this tendency to hold my country in high esteem, resulted in my political persecution by members of my own country, against me, as if, by caring about my culture, I was suddenly some dire criminal.

            Thus I was forced, in self-defence, to become familiar with the workings of politics, in order to make some sense of events.
            You see, my prior reference to patriotism, had no relation to anything political, until after the fact.
            Indeed, in my own experience, the prevailing political regime was, itself, responsible for the chaos that gave rise to patriotism, as well as being responsible for the persecuting of any and all who became patriotic as a result.

        2. Elijah says:

          Yes, I find it incredible that large groups of people can seriously claim Jesus wanted everyone to be pacifists because of a small quote taken out of sentence and context. As others point out, it is far more likely these people first decided “I want to be a pacifist, because it is an easy excuse” and then extracted the justification from scripture.

          Even an entirely literal reading, which was preceded by a passage telling his disciples to purchase swords, says “Don’t kill these people right now. This isn’t how I was meant to die. If I wanted, I could easily bring down an army of angels and defeat them all, but being crucified is part the plan.”

          He never even says “you have sinned” or “you have done wrong by chopping this dudes ear off”, instead just “this is not how I was meant to die.” And even if one was to take up the sword as a warrior and die by it as a Medieval Knight could have, He nowhere says this would be a wrong path either, just not for God’s Son. Joseph Smith on the other hand was shot and killed in a gunfight, instead of being crucified, yet was the successful prophet of a large Christian denomination.

          And if we want to better understand the meaning of the cross, and why a cross, Rene Guenon’s “The Symbolism of the Cross” would help. Each element of the story has a crucial meaning beyond the literal.

    3. Elijah says:

      You are right in that the manifestation of Christianity you attack is incorrect. Yet it has also been a long-held belief that evil would call itself “Christian” towards the end if times, and we look these are dark times indeed for truth, goodness and beauty. Dark times for the Church which has lost its power and now serves secular “politically correct” forces.

      To begin with just a literal reading of Christianity to serve most people, we can see how far awry the modern interpretation is. For example, the injunction “love others as yourself” is to come from a transcendent spiritual point of view. Imagine that view of God or Jesus himself, who loves the good in you but hates the evil in you. He loves you and wants what is best for you, but will condemn you and curse even your kids for treachery or evil ways. So it would be the duty of a Christian to fight evil and promote good, both within themselves and in society. That is the Islamic “Greater and Lesser Wars.” You could also see this same thought in the teachings if India and Arjuna – his lesser self did not want to fight his neighbors and family members – but is true duty to good commanded that he must.

      The insane modern interpretation seems to be “love your neighbor more than yourself, and let yourself be abused.” This is a completely anti-Christian and evil teaching. While you should forgive mistakes and hope people will see the light, you must also actively fight evil and it would be for good to stop evildoers. The ideal of Medieval Knight is one of the Christian symbols, par-excellence. One who serves the greater community, and “good” with all its meanings.

      In regards to “turn the other cheek” how is this read as “let people rape and kill you” – that is completely twisted. If you want to take it in a literal material sense, you understand it means only that – to forgive and ignore small slights. The sort of spiteful stupid stuff that causes multi-generational family feuds among neighboring clans.

      These rebukes did not come to teach weak, self-hating, pathetic modern man. They were to teach prideful pagans who would slaughter each other for minor offenses (i.e. the slap). How low modern man has sunk!

      1. unkempt says:

        I get that, I’m probably wrong to attack Christ so viciously as a teacher of martyrs and lion food instead of a society of capable and strong people. Lately I’m pretty caught up in more earthly, bloody, and tangible matters than the personal development of transcendence.

        I still maintain that guys like Moses, David, Odin, Thor, Hercules and Odysseus are superior role models though.

  4. Dark Underside says:

    mCivilization arrives as Spengler implied when all possibilities have been exhausted, when a culture had reached a state of rigor mortis. Gone are the creative periods, the music of Mozart, the grand Cathedrals, the Parthenons, after that comes civilization everything turning on economics.

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