We live in the middle class bubble. That is, we try to bring in income and avoid offending people, and hide death behind layers of justifications and confusion. This provides us with a comfortable life, even if the things we suppress re-emerge as lingering, destabilizing doubt.
Most people simply want a comfortable life, but their unstated desire is also to have a significant life. If you live in a dying society, where any good you do will be buried under an avalanche of stupidity and greed, you have no faith in your world, and start dying inside.
In this way, they serve two axes of power: they want comfort, but also meaning. This hearkens back to the old division between Athens and Sparta. Athens was too comfortable; Sparta was too dogmatic, or too much committed to meaning and devotion to order.
We are still looking for a middle path on that one.
As an empire ages, meaning declines and comfort increases. This upsets the balance. Meaning requires interaction with the world, not simply dedication to the self, so as the world that people live in decays, they rely less on meaning and more pursue excesses of their appetites and desires.
That ultimately fails for them because none of us are infinitely fascinating, nor can we find meaning in our own activities alone. Books need readers, music needs listeners, products need people smart enough to appreciate good engineering, design, and workmanship.
Societies that fall never see it coming. Things get a little bad, and they accept that. “Man up!” they tell their young men. “Every generation complains! Just go ahead and work hard, pray hard, pay your taxes, and raise a family.”
The next generation finds things have become a little worse, and they get the same speech. The voters, now dedicated to comfort, adopt the bourgeois perspective that civilization is a service they pay for, and quality has simply declined, so they accept it and move on.
After all, the paychecks are still rolling in and there is enough money for a nice house and maybe even something exciting like an RV. They worship the doctrine of “work hard” not because it is effective, but because it provides distraction from the absurd world of failure around them.
No one pays attention to the understructure, or the conspiracy of details that makes a society run. They look at what relates directly to them, like jobs and crime, and fail to see that problems there have causes far removed from where the problem manifests.
The middle class bubble only pops when society collapses. Until then, the middle classes just keep laying out more money for taxes, private healthcare, tutors, homes outside the ghetto, cars that are not junk, organic food, and other details of working around the decline.
They miss the point that their society has gone down a wrong path because now it has a wrong idea, which is that meaning is found in people and not interaction with the world through purpose. It has gone inward.
Civilizations do this when their lower castes — those who can work in factories, but not successfully run them — become numerous because of the wealth of that society. These revolt, seize power, and promptly run everything into the ground.
Ironically, mass revolt means more powerful leaders, since with the loss of social order, government must fill in for caste, family, faith, customs, heritage, and accumulated wisdom.
A society can avoid this fate by carefully thinning its population of proles. The best do this silently and invisibly, with secret groups who go around picking up useless people and putting them on boats to somewhere else far away. The point is not to punish, but to protect us from them.
Our civilization is in the midst of failure that became formalized with the French Revolution, and lives on in the steady advance of Leftist ever since. Even when it loses, Leftism comes back stronger, because it is popular with proles and neurotics, and they have the time to make it happen.
Finally civilization collapse has hit the mainstream, with Ann Coulter reminding us that Rome 2.0 will fall no matter how much wealth, technology, and media it has:
It seems as if progress is inevitable, that things always get better and never retrogress. But the Roman Empire had philosophers, literature, science, great buildings, statues and works of art. It had advanced communication, plumbing and transportation systems. It had a universal set of measures, laws and rules.
And then the Dark Ages came. In the blink of an eye, all that was lost. The people no longer had the technological know-how even to repair bridges and aqueducts built by the Romans. They had lost the ability to make cement. They lost many of the works of Aristotle. Roads and plumbing fell into disrepair. Statues crumbled. Nikki Haley would be happy!
Only centuries later did civilization begin to reassert itself, barely climbing back to the accomplishments of several centuries earlier.
Nothing can protect you in a fall. Not your air conditioning, nor the shiny glass and metal buildings, and not even the huge military. No amount of laws can survive being misinterpreted or twisted. Modern medicine has no drug to make a society stop disintegrating.
Societies have designs, it turns out, in the sense of plans for their structure. More than a blueprint, this is some general set of ideas around which they are arranged, so that if you run into a question you defer to the principle above you.
These are intangible and amorphous. We can use terms like aristocracy, nationalism, homeostasis, and futurism, but really we are describing a spirit to a place with multiple dimensions. It likes hierarchy and reality over human chaos and the merchants who offer to rule “in our best interests,” for example. It idealizes the quiet life of contemplation, where people discover themselves, and the family, instead of the constant distraction of the city.
Big changes are coming. Enough people know that Rome 2.0 is falling fast that they are organizing to find an alternative before the pavement comes rushing up to meet us. Right now, much of our dialogue involves what the future should look like, since we know that it is inevitable, as is our doom.