The last days of the Western World
By Mike Meyer
We are cursed to be living in a very interesting age. The shock of BREXIT and then Trump has left us stunned and gasping. It’s been two years and we are even more stunned. Things that were understood to be dangers that needed to be addressed such as the Great Recession of 2008, the rapid rise of China as a world leader, the collapse of Turkey into very traditional dictatorship, permanent war in the Middle East, Israel becoming a rogue state, Italy screwed up politically (but when has that not been the case?), the steady collapse of US two party system in a race to incompetence, were all big worries but all being worked on. Things just needed some refinement.
Instead a significant minority of the Western World population went insane. Is there any other way to put it? Suddenly we were faced with actions and reactions that were thought to have gone away fifty or more years ago. In the US the Civil War was suddenly alive and looking to be fought again. The lead societies in the Western World that were setting the examples for all of us were suddenly dealing with rapid xenophobia in a fully open European Union. Politicians sounding like early twentieth century fascists were drawing crowds and getting dealt with as if they were new.
A bumbling, low grade con man took over the Republican Party and with blatant social media manipulation by the Russians, of all people, got elected as president. And no one knew what to say or what to do. After two years it is the same. Nothing has happened except the growth of fear that we are at the end. But it’s too soon! We weren’t finished! Why did the house lights come on destroying the illusion of our tattered and cheap sets?
The trouble is that many of us thought we knew what would happen with accelerating change to a data networked world. This was supposed to let the things that most everyone had long dreamed of come to pass. There would be some rough spots and we have a lot of people, even in the lead states of the Western World, who didn’t really learn much in school. But we thought they had learned enough and their kids, at least, would be ok. That has been partially true but now it’s becoming obvious that it is not nearly enough to save us. We grossly over estimated our mass competence.
In all parts of the Western World there are signs and they are not going away. In America the forces of justice are beginning to tighten around Trump’s neck and his cohort are starting to fill jail cells. Most of Congress and all of the Republican party are criminals with no shame. The terrible realization is dawning that with the death of John McCain the last legitimate Republican is gone. He was at least respected by his peers but was so morally crippled that it is impossible to ignore. But that is all we have and there is no one else to look to.
The death of McCain and the childish bullshit reactions of Trump were sickening. The conviction or guilty pleas of Trump’s lead goons should have started the impeachment process and cleaning of a very dirty house but nothing has happened. Entangled with this dark and disgusting theme is the realization that somehow 40% of America supports a mentally damaged idiot and does not care at all that he and everyone around him is a criminal. No, this can’t be.
Somehow the pretense that this is normal continues as wild accusations and the steady stream of lies and idiocy flows through our media. A completely bogus trade war with no purpose other than attention getting is considered as if it is of some importance. Ironically it is important but only in terms of damage that we will suffer. Countries, Mexico and Canada in this case, are trying to salvage something from NAFTA and because Trump wants the attention they are negotiating something. It appears to be a minor adjustment to NAFTA, but now by a new Trump name, that has wasted months and who knows how much in losses. It’s all that anyone can do to pretend to pretend that this is somehow real. It’s not. It’s bullshit and we all know it.
So what’s really happening? It is becoming clear that we really are at the end of the road for the Western World. I’m using the term ‘Western World’ here to stand for the socio-political-cultural complex that is the evolved basis of the great Western Civilization. This was able to unify the planet over the first three hundred of it’s roughly four hundred year history. It’s fall has been worried about for the last hundred years. These things can be seen if people with enough knowledge look at the structure and trends. These things happen over decades and centuries. But everything comes to an end.
All of the stuff that is eating away at us as we descend into different forms of depression is the realization of being witnesses at the death of our civilization. The white supremacists are right in a way but completely wrong in understanding the reason. All of the stuff in the paragraphs above are signs of weakening and the creeping failures that can’t be reversed as civilization slips toward death. Everyone reacts differently to the approaching loss of a family member or friend who is just not going to make it. We know what it is but we work hard, some of us, to not admit the obvious. Others avoid the reality because it is just to sad to face. Some realize that what they had always depended on is not going to be there soon. How can we live without what will soon be gone? It’s unthinkable when a civilization fails.
Death as an analogy of the decline and collapse of a civilization is only accurate in terms of the suffering and loss at the final end of a organizational entity. It also changes historically as we and our societies evolve. I’m using the death of the Western World as a model for the failure of significant key concepts and attitudes as structures common to the Western dominated world. These are what are failing and will be replaced but only after they are gone. That’s the hard part because something will replace this but what will it be?
I think we are being shown more and more clearly the parts that are failing and those are what are being mindlessly clung to in desperation. The insanity of the most affected part of our populations are the result of anticipated grief and the fear of what will replace what is already almost gone. Some of these things most of us will be glad to see go and some we thought were already gone. These parts were obviously dysfunctional but are being desperately hung on to by the most stricken. Other things are not at all comfortable for any of us to give up. And some are outright frightening because what will replace them challenges profound assumptions of what we are and what we should be.
At this point all I can do is suggest points of failure and points of change. There are stronger and stronger hints of what is becoming successful but we need to remember that all of this is the result of decisions that we, as a species, have made. And the irony is that as part of the lead cultures and states of the disappearing world these decisions were decisions we made and paths that we chose to follow consciously or unconsciously.
So, the key points are technology driven. We are becoming a fully networked and electronically integrated species. That is what is killing the old Western World. Why?
The West selected to be individual above all relationships. We gave authority and independence to individuals based on assumptions of free will. From that we built social systems that encouraged individual gain and individual denial of whatever we didn’t like. This became the most extreme in America built on the ideal of individual freedom able to act without regard for others or for our social obligations. Our ideals are cowboys and pioneers in America, explorers and individualists throughout Western Civilization.
We see that extreme individualism as pioneers and frontiersmen. That extreme is radical in America and as a result America is now failing faster and more disastrously. No obligation should stand in the way of individual freedom. There is always talk of responsibility and, even, duty but those are after thoughts and don’t really have a place. Somehow we owe no one anything and if we succeed it is all for us.
Education carries a strange role in our civilization. Knowledge is a moral thing that justifies us and makes us what we should be by exposure to it. It was too entangled in ancient religion so it is not the process of learning but the presentation of the truth of that learning that carries weight. And because the process is not valued and understood there can be alternate truths. It is really only a flag you wave and not a way of constantly learning the world around us. Now we have to many claims to bogus truth.
The other side of this is our extreme economic system that is destroying itself. Greed is the only virtue and money, whatever that is, is what we seek above all else. Those that have are free. Those that don’t have are morally despicable. Because there are no real social obligations there can be no justification for poverty. You are poor because you are not strong enough to take. The poor cluster together in poverty while the rich are all individuals.
Yes, this is exactly what our antiquated moral systems teach as wrong, but notice that this is not called sin, an ultimate wrong, it is only a wrong that comes from the moral failure to be rich. The only justification for poverty is that you may have chosen not to succeed. Your freedom is sacred, still, as the only value in your lack of wealth. Hence the use of the term liberty in America to mean ignorance and denial of success for others. These things are all known and well argued but it makes no difference as it is all disintegrating under new forces of change.
What has happened? We are a electronically networked set of integrated societies in a population moving from seven to eight billion individuals. Our societies are all consuming. We have been evolving to urban life for ten thousand years. We are now there. Within the next fifty years we will become nearly completely urban. The unsocial loner is a very different thing in an urban society than in a rural one. America, for many reasons, pretends to be a rural society because that is the ideal but current generations know that is not what life is about. The distortions of the American political system are caused by the delusion of agrarian aloneness.
Now we are in constant communication with our various communities where ever they are. We are under constant surveillance. We are constantly in search for information. We are being recorded in ways that we may not even understand. This has been increasingly uncomfortable and, we think, maybe wrong. Our individual “freedom” is to be the unknown loner. A recorded and contactable individual does not fit the model. We are ceasing to be individuals. Our old societies are defined as loose collections of nearly unknown individuals. That has already disappeared.
Again the American model of the loner with a gun and a horse who appears when needed. Not the indigenous populations who were nothing but obstruction to true ownership and the loner amy help with killing those obstructions. But you can’t simply call the loner with gun because he doesn’t have a phone. You wouldn’t want to anyway. He must appear when needed and disappear when finished. But we are now always ‘there’ in our virtual world.
The tendency, more broadly in the West, is to define our selves by our privacy. The strong silent type is the American image. Our personal inviolability is our right to secrecy and aloneness. We own our space and defend it. The complete idiocy of ‘stand your ground laws’ are indicators of the collapse of this self definition. We are driven and cannot resist communicating and making ourselves in the images that are constantly portrayed to us on our phones. We are unsure how to define ourselves in this new world so we are frightened and angry. We want the old world back but not really. No, not really.
Our ability to deny anything to everyone else, including life itself, is sacred in America and America’s failure to thrive is directly the result of these dying modes of thought. That America will not survive and the Western World that it has strongly defined will not survive either.
What is the rising civilization? The rising power is China. Is this by plan? Chance? Things are changing drastically and Western World citizens are marked by xenophobia and/or racism. Vicious competition is the ideal as if we could all become billionaires. But we can barely maintain a middle class living even if we are white and blessed with more ‘rights’ than any other group. Too many of us are lost in bigotry as the only way we can excel. That is why we always fall back into racism when we can’t explain our failures.
China has maintained urban life for centuries although it was classically an agrarian society. It is no longer. Spend some time reading Chinese history and the concept of culture in Chinese philosophy. It is very different. Is that what will make us happy? Is a lie that is the horrible police state that we have fought in our entertainments for most of the last century?
China is 1984 with the state recording everything and watching everyone. But is that bad? Perhaps that is the route to new individual integrity in a world where we must rely on the protection of our government. Is a government that watches us but holds no responsibility for our well being and ignores our silent misery what we need? Is a state that provides what we need and allows room for growth and development a better way? Money is not happiness but what is happiness in a rewarding life? The Western World has only given us the chance to be as rich as we can but offers almost nothing else.
The new Chinese generations love individual options and luxury. They also understand that more comes from a supporting state architecture in crowded urban world than comes from one with no obligation except to the very rich. They do not see a vague commitment to democracy as useful. What is that worth? The modern government is an intimate part of our life and will be more so as we must maintain sustainable use of our planet. How else can we do that? Not as individuals with no obligations. Maybe that is correct.
We assume that the increasingly brutal and destructive world of the West is the future. It obviously is not. But what do we want? How do we get there? The West expanded around the planet but how will we manage and protect our planet and all of us? That is the question that we need to ask. In any case that question is being answered everyday in ways that do not fit our Western World and that world is crumbling around us.