The Structural Collapse of the West
By Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ December 7, 2020
America’s hope for restoration in a new/old Biden administration is struggling to ignore structural failure. Of course, that failure is denied by all those who sense the American Empire's terminus but cannot imagine anything but what has always been. They see the end but cannot say it because our language has lost the concept and words for any alternative.
This produces the Biden transition's disturbing urgency that is easily blamed on Trump’s narcissistic rage and psychopathy. As almost everyone understands, Trump is irrelevant except as an unconscious agent of cultural destruction identified as a vehicle by authoritarian, anti-democratic political opportunists.
For Trump’s cultist followers, this is the desire to punish the state that has dispossessed them. They take him as their agent of power, tricked by an aging criminal’s instinctive ability to substitute the con for what they desire. That con always comes to an end, and the sucker’s money must be taken quickly to forestall complete loss. But this is a tragi-comic leitmotif that distracts from a far larger, human planetary drama.
That drama is the accelerating disintegration of Enlightenment pseudo-representative government with completely unsustainable capitalist economics. This has not yet been admitted, but the crumbling infrastructure is becoming impossible to ignore. The escalating climate warming disasters are the visible breakage of the planet.
Organizations, cultures, and civilizations require that the paradigmatic rules that constitute organizations' infrastructure must remain hidden. These are foundational assumptions about reality and people that must be shared for effectiveness and efficiency. These are the ideals of the citizen, the courts, the selection of rulers, and the state's goals that justify the members of that state’s contribution to it.
When these weaken to the point of breaking, it can become the equivalent of a compound fracture. If you suddenly see the bloody end of the radius protruding from your arm, you have a structural disaster, and immediate repair is required.
The analogy holds if a broken bone is only crudely braced and the person continues to function, there are increasingly dire consequences. These consequences are crippling limitations on function and become an indirect or direct cause of death.
To bridge the dynastic cycle, these are the structural failures that result from ruler abuse and follow patterns of decline, temporary resurgence, and collapse with a full replacement. While this is an important political theory in Chinese history, it applies to all large, regional, or planetary dominant empires. In a general sense, it applies to all human hierarchical social organizations.
The applicability of Chinese history's dynastic cycle has gradually become accepted as the working model of empires' rise and fall. While elsewhere, and occasionally in China, empires fall to foreign invasion, China is the oldest culturally continuous civilization and the clearest example of internal imperial rise and fall.
Modern Western civilization has been built by great scientific and technological success supported by abstractions such as capitalist free markets and representative government's Enlightenment ideals. These are the infrastructure of modern, Western empires culminating in the US now in a terminal decline with all the longest-serving members of this paradigm, including Great Britain and India as the most notable.
However, the critical assumption that came to dominate all planetary governments, however they chose to respond, was citizens' role as the source of government and administration authority. Representative government acting in the name of the citizenry was the justification of power; however, that justification was manipulated.
The pretense of a representative system regularly checking with the citizenry to renew or select new representatives was not a discussion on policy by the people except at a great remove. After two hundred years, this has only expanded the ruling elite's size in the most successful case.
The most effective accomplishments have been manipulating a population's plurality to support their own exploitation by an economically predatory, shrinking elite. An adequately sized plurality can be easily claimed as a majority within the late 20th and 21st-century governments' distorted framework. The Enlightenment ideals are now tissue paper thin.
Great cynicism by the entire population typifies the oldest Enlightenment model nations. The manipulated plurality is able only to identify feudal style rule with the hopes of obtaining a larger share of any loot brought in by a powerful leader operating on tribalistic greed. The better-educated population who understands Enlightenment principles are driven to cynicism by the others falling for propaganda and conspiracies.
The absurdity of the Trump and Trump Party‘s coup attempt embodies all aspects of a full paradigmatic structural failure. That this is being allowed to continue as something between poor performance art and a national convulsion that must be endured is more frightening than all four years of Trump's disastrous rule.
Despite millions of words and constant discussion, nothing can be made of this. It exists beyond our abilities to categorize, let alone understand.
It is a critical fracture of our Enlightenment skeleton. The shattered and bleeding bone now shoved into our awareness is the irrationality of a significant part of our population. To maintain our representative system's pretense, we must see all citizens as aware and rational. They are not capable of that.
How we decide to deal with this will mean our success or failure in facing our other hyperobject problems. We must solve this human problem, or our civilization will self-destruct.
Over the last hundred years, we have conditioned ourselves in America to forget any other way of seeing human societies' management. In this specific case, these ideas are fully entangled in distortions of the concept of freedom, human rights, identity. Those distortions have destroyed the concept of communal wellbeing as a universal goal. This is an ideal that is not instinctive beyond basic species survival. It appears that we may have lost that also.
The erroneous base assumption of human intellectual equality at the social, organizational level leaves in worse shape than Plato’s allegorical Ship of Fools. We have expanded the concept of the citizen in the democratic sense to include those who cannot be relied on for rational decisions while allowing arbitrary racist, ethnic, or wealthy elites to maintain power by manipulation of that same population.
This calls into question the very concept of citizenship. Either everyone has it, and the opportunists are prevented from dangerous manipulation tools, or we allow human rights to be destroyed at the whim of an arbitrary elite. This is a far more complex requirement than was presented in the early Enlightenment thinking on replacing a monarchy with some form of representative government.
Put simply as possible, one size does not fit all, and we have many decades of the growth of failures in representative governmental systems to show that. Our planetary complexity requires far more sophistication in the process of administering our societies and our planet.
Even democratic socialist countries are having growing problems, and they are the most sophisticated implementation of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment Western ideals. China is moving to the lead on this planet based on the success of development and improved wellbeing of the great majority of its population. But that success is based on tradeoffs in human rights that are still very concerning. We must be able to do better.
To do better, we must be open to all and put all of our past assumptions on the table to look for ways out of this dangerous dilemma. At other times, I have said that I think humans are not able to administer the civilization we have evolved on this planet. We cannot remove our personal, group, and tribal biases from our emotional responses to manage the complexity that we have created. But how do we go there? What must we give up?