Throughout human history, the cycle repeats: a few innovators create something good, then the herd arrives, then the good thing becomes the same old thing, and then it becomes a ruin and “no one” knows why.
Like most cycles, this one repeats because the behavior that causes it is the same, sort of like how one might regularly trip over the shoes left outside the door the night before because that was a convenient place to take them off. Humans exhibit the same behavior time and again.
What is important about this is that the behavior is unintentional, meaning that its results were not intended or even considered by the participants. They did what made sense, and ended up at bad results nonetheless, but for some reason, cannot learn from the experience so repeat it pathologically.
If we dig down a bit, we can see that the problem is individualism, or the tendency to put self first before concerns for the right type of order and social structure in an organization. To defend this choice, individuals glom together into collectives to force the group to tolerate each of them or face their collective wrath.
In ancient times, individualism was seen as hubris. The ancients saw the world as having an intangible order of rightness, balance, beauty and truth. This was not truth in our modern sense of isolated facts, but truth in that it was an accurate representation of intuition and order of nature united through a type of creative imagination that “saw” the world in metaphorical terms.
Hubris was the violation of this order, which was not categorical in our modern sense of giving every object a single category identity and then filtering with a yes/no type of thought process. To the ancients, everything had its place, and when all was in balance, life itself could not be altered as in Utopian fantasies, but it could be gradually qualitatively improved.
For this reason, the ancients never changed the fundamental form of human civilization, which involves an aristocracy, caste system, ritual customs, strong symbolism, and a type of vision of reality that we might describe as “hallucinogenic” and “mystical” today. For the ancients, the world was alive, and we humans were just actors in a bigger drama that we could not possibly understand.
Individualism inverted all of that, by saying (per The Enlightenment™) that the order of the universe was the human being, and that what mattered was the material safety and comfort of the individual, and not having any things above the individual — heritage, culture, kings, gods — for which the individual must sacrifice. The ego won out in the battle of parts of our personalities.
But now, others are speaking out about the corrupting and destroying role of individualism in human affairs:
I see the curse of extreme individualism in so many areas. There is the fact that so many people who have been converted to our ideas prefer to remain anonymous, disorganized and inactive. There is the fact that the overwhelming majority of our people are so sunk in extreme individualism that they don’t care about our heritage or the fate of future generations – the most extreme example being the millions of women who have aborted their own children…More broadly, the American family and civic organizations in general have crumbled as a result of the triumph of expressive individualism in our culture since the 1960s.
Alexis de Tocqueville, the author of Democracy in America, once observed that the extreme individualism fostered by liberal democracy leads to extreme conformity. In liberal democracies, the common man doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of Public Opinion, which is his Almighty God.
And others have incorporated it into the anti-individualism position of the Alt Right:
The alt-right is against the free market and cares little for the constitution. Spencer opposes individualism and supports a version of the European Union, but has also expressed admiration towards the Soviet Union for protecting Russians against Western liberal democracy.
They are correct. The individual is the only God that modernity will accept. From the idea of equality, which states that all must be included and treated the same despite the wide variation in their contributions and sanity, to the notion from The Renaissance™ and The Enlightenment™ which states that man is the measure of all things and the human form — not content — is idealized, this era was defined by its worship of the individual. It has ended, as selfish things always do, in a cloud of debt, failure, corruption, insanity, selfishness and neurosis.
How to escape individualism? One can only escape a bad goal by finding another goal, because the state of having no goal always results in default human behaviors. One must desire something else, such as the desire to become good:
The mainstream modern assumptions are that the aim of life is hedonic: enhancing happiness, diminishing suffering – the main moral imperative is unselfishness, sharing.
…So perhaps the most valuable thing that could be done nowadays is to strive for sanctity, in oneself I mean.
…The world does not really need more people to ‘do good’, but for some people to become good.
This is consistent with the vision of the ancients, namely the observation that humans during a Golden Age were motivated by virtue instead of materiality, as chronicled by Plato:
When discord arose, then the two races were drawn different ways: the iron and brass fell to acquiring money and land and houses and gold and silver; but the gold and silver races, not wanting money but having the true riches in their own nature, inclined towards virtue and the ancient order of things. There was a battle between them, and at last they agreed to distribute their land and houses among individual owners; and they enslaved their friends and maintainers, whom they had formerly protected in the condition of freemen, and made of them subjects and servants; and they themselves were engaged in war and in keeping a watch against them.
Individualism is materialism. By training our minds on what we are now, and fearing its loss, we become defensive toward the world and thus try to control it, which in turn controls us because it makes us beholden and obedient to certain illusions. A better perspective is to fit the individual into a natural order, and to take delight in that role, because when we are where we belong, we not only do no harm but have our only chance for real excellence. Better to be an excellent janitor than an inept stockbroker or general!