Those who are least interested in philosophy need it the most. Our time, like any other time, is a marketplace of ideas. We are after all adventurers in a life made of dark mystery, choosing what we think are the best descriptions of our world and actions to take to adapt to it.
If you look through human history, most of it resembles non-stop confusion as we struggled to understand the basics of nature, then physics, chemistry, electronics, and even nuclear energy. Many lives were lost or destroyed along the way. We started with nothing; now we have more.
We still have a ways to go. Having conquered the physical world, we now need to understand ourselves, and especially civilization. It hit me about thirty years ago that I was in a dying civilization, and since then I have been fascinated by why civilizations die and how to make one that avoids it.
In my view, civilizations die from success. They struggle like mad to have functional economies, to beat back beasts and disease, and to fight off enemies. Then, they suffer under the slow process of inventing functional institutions.
At this point, however, the suffer from two things: (1) the suspension of natural selection and (2) the lack of a purpose that can keep people interested in life, now that all the monsters have been slain, mountains climbed, big inventions made, and so on.
What kills society is not that their people get soft, but that their best people encounter existential despair at the same time their lowest-capability people are surging in number, which they could not have done in nature, which tells you that this is a bad thing.
Hygiene, medicine, regular nutrition, heating, construction, running water, and other things favor the weak, who reproduce recklessly because they fornicate recklessly and are incompetent in avoiding pregnancy, which means that soon you have a lot of proles.
Proles are not outright doofuses. They can be highly competent in specialized areas. They lack the ability to understand broader reality, however, and require the narrowing of the task before them that society offers. Without it, they would flounder.
What makes proles dangerous is that all of their abilities have been placed into one specialized area. Maybe they are good at investing, or making products that sell, or even writing columns for major newspapers that are interesting.
They are not good at thinking, because thinking — of the proper sort, meaning the hard kind — is limited to those who are willing to understand the world on its own terms. This passage illuminates what this means:
A man’s way of doing things is the direct result of the way he thinks about things.
To think what you want to think is to think TRUTH, regardless of appearances. Every man has the natural and inherent power to think what he wants to think, but it requires far more effort to do so than it does to think the thoughts which are suggested by appearances. To think according to appearance is easy; to think truth regardless of appearances is laborious, and requires the expenditure of more power than any other work man is called upon to perform.
There is no labor from which most people shrink as they do from that of sustained and consequence thought; it is the hardest work in the world. This is especially truth when truth is contrary to appearances. Every appearance in the visible world tends to produce a corresponding form in the mind which observers it; and this can only be prevented by holding the thought of the TRUTH. The Science of Success, by Wallace D. Wattles
Wattles is channeling Schopenhauer here: the world is as it is, and our struggle is to make our minds understand its consistent patterns, so that we can see its wisdom and how to adapt to and take advantage of it without corrupting everything around us.
Most people reject any kind of thinking toward truth, which is shorthand for an accurate heuristic representation of the world in your mind. It can always get more accurate, but most do not even make the first step of studying the world to see how it works, and so are caught up in a “bubble world” of human emotions, shared between the individual and the group.
What such people crave is a declaration of equality — “my error is as good as your success” — so that they cannot be attacked for being delusional, oblivious, and selfish. Their fear is that people who know better will rise, and therefore stop those who are below them from destructive activity.
Egalitarians tend to emphasize universal tolerance, which leads to libertinism, promiscuity, over-consumption, and other human ills, simply because when the most extreme examples are tolerated, those closer to the center are safe from notice.
Your average prole wants us to avoid noticing his sins — cheating on his taxes, screwing the wife of his best friend, drinking a twelve pack of “Bud” Lite in a sitting, failing to achieve anything productive at his job for twelve years running — because he fears an attack by those who know better.
Proles love equality because it gives them a chance to unite all of the misfits, neurotics, drop-outs, schizoids, and other outsiders with the mass of proles, thus forming a mighty army, and therefore, forcing the tolerance of the libertine on society.
Inversion results in any attempt at equality; all attempts at equality take from the successful to give to the unsuccessful, because they cannot make the unsuccessful change their behavior to be more successful, and this results in fewer successful and more unsuccessful.
In fact, the sign of a victorious egalitarian movement is a society where everyone is equally impoverished except for a few at the top who are trusted to interpret and channel the ideology of equality. It resembles a cult, gang, religion, addiction, clique, trend, fad, or panic at this point.
The people who benefit from inversion are those on the bottom. The powerful have no need for it, and in fact shy away from it, but the proles who get any money desire it, since that way they can pretend to be kings by manipulating the group in the same way that made them money.
When you see a whole bunch of wealthy people supporting the Left or Communism, even, you can recognize that these are proles who had a talent for earning money, but are empty people otherwise, and so they crave power, and they will make the worst possible leaders.
For proleocracy to succeed, it must make war against realism, because the instant people start thinking in terms of the results of our actions instead of how those actions appear as symbols, make us feel, and therefore convey power from the crowd, they will reject the inversion entirely.
We have for two and a half centuries lived in a time of inversion, dependent on the herd for approval, and now we are returning to the idea of realism, or measuring our actions by their consequences.
This differs from utilitarianism, which means asking people if they are happy and whatever makes most of them raise their hand is the right answer. Utilitarianism measures warm bodies; realism measures how well something actually turned out.
Some say that at this point, we are heading back into an age of common sense:
The taking down of common sense that was once restricted to the cultural sphere has taken over the party Obama transformed—and the Democrats evidently believe America is ready to elect one of these new, post-common sense Democrats to the Oval Office. The only question that remains for them is to decide which one to choose.
There are, however, stirrings in another direction. America did elect Donald Trump, and Trump did run as a “common sense conservative.” So, did America by electing Trump take a step in the direction of becoming once again the common sense nation it once was?
The prerequisite to desiring common sense consists of wanting realism. Without realism, common sense has no utility. After all, who cares about what is wise and good when we live in a time of symbolic reality, where whatever most people like (and thus sells the most product) is the only good?
This article reads too much into the situation by comparing it to politics, in my view. Politics, like economics, reflects the ideas in the idea marketplace that people are willing to buy. Right now they are buying realism, and casting out their inversion products as last year’s fashion.
Across the West, we are experiencing a general shift from the symbolic and emotional — designed to flatter, cajole, entice, and lure a lowest common denominator of the group — toward the realist. We want real life again. We have spent too long questing for inversion and watching our lives slip away while we fight for ideology, symbols, dollar signs, keeping up with the Joneses, and other hollow imitations of life.
Early signs of this appear in subtle details and do not really threaten us, but Earth is changing. Humanity has spent two centuries in confusion after its last success, and now is looking forward to its next challenge. The marketplace of ideas has chosen the philosophy of realism