Very few sources in our time will document the existential stress of living in a dying age. When you think the path to the future is clear and your civilization is thriving, a certain peace of mind comes to it, and without it, neurosis and angst haunt the soul.
Part of that stress comes from the fact that our societies have been destroyed. They are ethnically different, therefore with anti-culture instead of culture, and the psychology of the people there has been altered by the effects of democracy.
Long ago, I diagnosed this core as individualism, or a preference for the self above all else. Culture including social hierarchy is the antidote, but this makes small people feel small and big people feel the weight of duty, so it is not very popular.
Democracy intensifies individualism by farming out the roles normally played by community and culture to government and commerce. This sets people free from duty, but also strands them in wells of themselves, which since they are mostly empty, eventually become pathological and manic.
Plato wrote about the psychological consequences of democracy 2400 years ago:
Well, I said, and how does the change from oligarchy into democracy arise? Is it not on this wise: the good at which such a State aims is to become as rich as possible, a desire which is insatiable?
The rulers being aware that their power rests upon their wealth, refuse to curtail by law the extravagance of the spendthrift youth because they gain by their ruin; they take interest from them and buy up their estates and thus increase their own wealth and importance?
To be sure.
There can be no doubt that the love of wealth and the spirit of moderation cannot exist together in citizens of the same State to any considerable extent; one or the other will be disregarded.
That is tolerably clear.
And in oligarchical States, from the general spread of carelessness and extravagance, men of good family have often been reduced to beggary?
And still they remain in the city; there they are, ready to sting and fully armed, and some of them owe money, some have forfeited their citizenship; a third class are in both predicaments; and they hate and conspire against those who have got their property, and against everybody else, and are eager for revolution.
That is true.
On the other hand, the men of business, stooping as they walk, and pretending not even to see those whom they have already ruined, insert their sting—that is, their money—into someone else who is not on his guard against them, and recover the parent sum many times over multiplied into a family of children: and so they make drone and pauper to abound in the State.
Yes, he said, there are plenty of them—that is certain.
The evil blazes up like a fire; and they will not extinguish it either by restricting a man’s use of his own property, or by another remedy.
One which is the next best, and has the advantage of compelling the citizens to look to their characters: Let there be a general rule that everyone shall enter into voluntary contracts at his own risk, and there will be less of this scandalous moneymaking, and the evils of which we were speaking will be greatly lessened in the State.
Yes, they will be greatly lessened.
At present the governors, induced by the motives which I have named, treat their subjects badly; while they and their adherents, especially the young men of the governing class, are habituated to lead a life of luxury and idleness both of body and mind; they do nothing, and are incapable of resisting either pleasure or pain.
They themselves care only for making money, and are as indifferent as the pauper to the cultivation of virtue.
Yes, quite as indifferent.
Such is the state of affairs which prevails among them. And often rulers and their subjects may come in one another’s way, whether on a journey or on some other occasion of meeting, on a pilgrimage or a march, as fellow-soldiers or fellowsailors; aye, and they may observe the behavior of each other in the very moment of danger—for where danger is, there is no fear that the poor will be despised by the rich—and very likely the wiry, sunburnt poor man may be placed in battle at the side of a wealthy one who has never spoilt his complexion and has plenty of superfluous flesh—when he sees such a one puffing and at his wits’-end, how can he avoid drawing the conclusion that men like him are only rich because no one has the courage to despoil them? And when they meet in private will not people be saying to one another, “Our warriors are not good for much”?
Yes, he said, I am quite aware that this is their way of talking.
And, as in a body which is diseased the addition of a touch from without may bring on illness, and sometimes even when there is no external provocation, a commotion may arise within—in the same way wherever there is weakness in the State there is also likely to be illness, of which the occasion may be very slight, the one party introducing from without their oligarchical, the other their democratical allies, and then the State falls sick, and is at war with herself; and may be at times distracted, even when there is no external cause.
And then democracy comes into being after the poor have conquered their opponents, slaughtering some and banishing some, while to the remainder they give an equal share of freedom and power; and this is the form of government in which the magistrates are commonly elected by lot.
Our founding fathers envisioned a Constitutional republic in which democracy was limited so that the competent would rule. Over time, the post-WASP inhabitants of the USA chipped away at that, and so now we see the neurotic and narcissistic Crowd doing what it does best, namely destroying everything.
Tags: democracy, pathology, plato, psychology