Tuesday, January 27, 2015
and certainly not for internal American politics.
US House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress "on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life".
This is of course pure obstructionism typical for the political decline in the present Late Modernity, see Decline... A decline characterizing both parties. There is no reason to expect better behavior from the Democrats when they go into opposition.
But what is worse, such acts affect a large part of the world, the Middle East, which is already filled with problems. It is like an area with multiple tornados:
1) The remnants of the Oriental civilization are fighting for survival, see The Middle East...
2) The last barbarians outside all civilizations in the form of truly uncivilized and brutal groups like Boko Haram, Islamic State (ISIL), and Pakistani Taliban, who in their barbary outrage even radical Islamists.
3) The Oriental nations are becoming Westernized and thus need territorial coherent areas, which leads to ethnic cleansing and rips states apart, see Ethnic...
4) The eternal conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and other Arabs.
5) The old opposition from Shiites in both Iran and Iraq toward the USA.
6) Oppressed Shiite minorities and majorities fighting for freedom.
7) And as a spillover from unintegrated criminal Middle Eastern (and converted) youngsters in the West, who are alienated from both the West and their parents, hardened by the brutalization in the Western Late Modernity and drawn into radical parallel societies of the typical Middle-Eastern ghetto-type nations, we also have home-made terrorists.
If American politicians do not take care, they risk that all these conflicts unite with the Americans being seen as the common enemy. The tornados would merge and become an anti-American desert hurricane. So unreflected use of the Middle East as a playground for internal policies is dangerous. The repercussions can be irreparable.
Instead of uniting Middle Eastern forces against the USA, a policy of Divide et Impera would be wiser.
And concerning Iran: A comparison of president Rohani with Stalin or the Devil is grotesque, but in connection with the fight against Islamic State or ISIL, I will quote Winston Churchill:
"If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons."
A monster-blizzard threatens New York.
This snowstorm, its consequences or the fact that the alarm turned out to be false, is not the point here (even though the alarm sounds a bit funny for Scandinavians!)
The striking thing is the wide coverage the blizzard received all over Europe and elsewhere, also in serious news media like the BBC World Service.
A clear omen. 1) More and more the media outside the United Sates act like they were American, focusing on the same events in the New World as were they happening in our own countries. And 2) New York is the likely future capital of the World united under US control.
Friday, January 2, 2015
In memoriam Wolinski
Besides terrorism one of the most worrying developments these years and decades is the growth of populist parties and groups all over the rich countries, which for long have had stable democratic systems with responsible parties with reliable backings in the populations. This development threatens to destabilize the democracies and is a symptom of deep political, mental and cultural changes, which unlike what happened in the thirties are not caused by economic hardship.
In this long post these developments are put into a wider context, which is the whole of our modernity.
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
This could have been said in the last decades, but it is a well-known quote from Socrates.
The older generations have always tended to see the youth this way. And since the start of our modernity with its revolutionary thinking the youth really has been more radically anti-tradionalist than their parents. Will this continue? No. In the last decades much point to a reversal of the trend, the youth now being less revolutionary than the former generation.
CHARACTERIZATION AND SUBDIVISION OF A MODERNITY
The modernity of a civilization follows after the classic period, which is also the period of absolute monarchy (or the equivalent in England and old Greece). A modernity lasts about or somewhat more than 300 years. After a modernity follows the caesarian time with the rule of one person and most often one country. Examples of modernities (all years are approximate):
China I: -550 to -221
Greco-Roman civilization: -350 to -30
Oriental-Arab: 750 to 1071
Mesoamerica: 1000? to 1400?
The West: 1789 to 2100
Modernities are the most uncommon condition in which individuals and societies can exist. For us who live in this period it seems perfectly natural and as the ideal. But even though it takes a civilization 8 centuries to get there, and they last 3 centuries, modernities have in the preceding civilizations disappeared very quickly and been replaced and forgotten very fast.
A modernity is characterized by rationality, a belief in ideas not given by God or authority. Old ways of thought and tradition are questioned. New radically different thoughts are conceived. Everything is being reflected upon. This process often takes the form of revolutions breaking the gradual evolutionary proces of change typical before modernity. There are numerous experiments in art and the ways of living.
Modernities are on the international level most often filled with intense competition and wars between fewer and fewer powers, which gives them their other names: Warring States or Time of Troubles. This is not the focus here. Instead I will look at developments within the states.
A modernity is not a unitary and certainly not an eternal phase. As also implied in the concept "late modernity" by Giddens and others or the concept "postmodern" by for example Lyotatd, we are now in another subphase or phase. Whether we see this as a part of modernity or something entirely new is partly an arbitrary decision. I prefer to see it as a late subphase because it continues many modern trends and because it is propably relatively short.
I divide modernities in 3 parts, each lasting about one century. Here they are described as they appear in our Western civilization:
1) Early Modernity. The building up, where the remnants of the previous premodern phase still exist, are being fought and still resist. In the 19th century in Europe the dominance of the old nobility and absolute kingship competed with bourgeois and radical socialist revolutions.
2) Middle or Mature Modernity. In the 20th century despite Fascism and Stalinism modern democracies developed with balance of power between parties and between societal forces. "Mature" does not mean stable or well functioning. Modernities are per definition unstable. Rather it means fully developed modernities. If at all "stability" can be used, then this is the case only for limited parts of the involved countries and limited periods.
3) Late or Declining Modernity. The third phase is characterized by declines within a number of spheres, which will be described in this post. These developments are interwoven as a whole, but for systematization and convenience they are here handled separately under headings. Some at length, some more briefly.
I have earlier commented on the decline of politics. Here I will put this into a wider context in time and space. The other declines concern the public, the elites, the media, individuality and culture. These developments are typical for the late modernity of civilizations, and they have hitherto in earlier civilizations converged in a dictatoric caesarian system with the known world under rule from one country. If we are not aware of the danger the same will happen to us, the Western civilization covering almost the whole world. Another decline, a quite unpleasent one, is of civilized behavior, a certain brutalization that marks the late modernities.
These declines are characterizing the last phase, the last century of modernities. In our case they are reinforced by certain trends in the development to and through modernities. These will be treated in the following before we turn to the declines not treated as part of these trends.
IMPORTANT TRENDS IN MODERNITIES
In every modernity there is a GENERAL trend to radical changes in thought, lifeforms, art and politics. Religion is replaced by rationality, stable political absolutism by revolutions and traditions by quick transformations and transient fashions.
Many civilizations also change SPECIFIC aspects of their inherent character to the opposite when they are in their modernity. Both the general and the specific changes become more and more pronounced over time and often are mostly outspoken in the late modernity. But some show up early. I will mention 3 of the specific trends.
China and the West as well as the Mayans were characterized by a strong historical sense. Old things were valued and kept. History was very important. Calendar systems were developed and used heavily for historical dates. Through modernity this sense and veneration of the old is lost in these civilizations.
In Europe earlier the nobility built artificial ruins in their parks because everything old was valued highly. Now we expect a new version of Windows or iPhone every second year. And if we go from the Western to the old Chinese modernity, the King of Qi is quoted by Mencius as saying "I am unable to love the music of the ancient sovereigns; I only love the music that suits the manners of the present age."
The culmination of un-historic sentiments in the first Chinese civilization was the burning of "old books" under the first emperor carried out in 213 BC by the infamous prime minister Li Si. This happened at the transition away from modernity to the very historically minded Han dynasty, where the loss of the books was deeply deplored.
Also for the late Mayas and other Meso-Americans the historic sense seem to have diminished in modernity. The notations in the otherwise very precise calendar system were simplified to just numbering katuns as for example Katun 2 Ahau. This gives great uncertainty in finding the exact position in time of an event. Also completely new revolutionary calendars like the French in 1793 were introduced showing disrespect for the very old and universally venerated Mayan calendar system. Perhaps the burning of Aztec historical codices by King Itzcoatl in 1428 was an event similar to the Chinese burning in 213 BC. Izcoatls act was also soon very deplored in the caesarian time in the Aztec empire.
The West is in essence very dynastic. This is without doubt coupled to the strong historic sense. Many dynasties have been very long lasting. This has in modernity been replaced by republican democracy as anti-dynastic sentiments have grown.
The Mayan city-states in the Classic period had dynasties lasting centuries. In their modernity in Yucatan after the ecological disaster they seem to have gone to a more republican or republican-like rule. The Aztecs ending the Mesoamerican modernity again had a more and more absolute hereditary monarchy.
Greco-Roman civilization was clearly un-dynastic. Already in Archaic times the kings were weak and easily replaced. After this there was republican democracy in the phase where we had absolute monarchy. In their modernity the Hellenists had long lasting dynasties, the Macedonians, Seleucids and Ptolemaiaeans. Even though caesarism is almost per definition dynastic, the Roman empire had very short dynasties. Under the adopted caesars and the chaos in the third century, there were no dynasties.
The West is inherently elitary. Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Mozart, Beethoven were for the few. Only Louis XIV and his nobles went to the theatre and watched pieces by Moliere. Politics were decided by the very few. As Louis XIV said: "L'état c'est moi".
This continued up through the first century of our modernity, the 19th century. But then it began to change. With Jazz began the popular music, which after interesting journeys through experiments has ended in todays mass-produced commercial pop. Only the few went to concerts with Beethoven, but everybody went to Woodstock. And everybody watch the same films in the cinema.
Also in politics un- or even anti-elitist viewpoints have followed the anti-dynastic trend. Social mobility increased. Elites were despised. Democracies were formed. Now in the Third phase of our modernity the elites are finally becoming submerged. This is treated further below.
In the first Chinese civilization in its Classic period before 500 BC, the rulers and administrators came from the feudal elite. In the Warring States period, modernity, politicians came from a broader basis. The quote above from the King of Qi also points to an anti-elitist sentiment. Chinese classical music was no longer enjoyed.
And when we look at the period after modernity, the Han dynasty, a very clear elite was build, the future Mandarins, the Confucian literates. From these the administrators came. The distance from this elite to the people was marked. Very clear elitism. The existence of this class is an important part of the explanation for the endurance of the Chinese culture despite of barbarian invasions.
The classical Mayas were clearly elitary. The nobles and the priests were even distinguished by the form of their head. In the modern post-classical period also people with normal heads are pictured.
The Greco-Roman world was inherently popular, un-elitary. Seen apart from the slaves, in the Classic period, culture and politics were for all inhabitants of the the city-state or polis. Everybody went to the theatre and voted for Sophocles or Aeschylus. Everybody could become judge or politician. This is the explanation for the establishment of democracy in a time which corresponds to the absolute rule in the West. In the modernity phase, Hellenism, art, philosophy and religion often became esoteric, only for the few. Democracy was overruled by kings and elites.
After modernity there were Roman Caesars, but they went to the same gladiator-plays as everybody else. And there was no established stratum from which the administrators were drawn. Therefore the culture of the Greeks and Romans vanished as the Oriental and Germanic worlds arose.
As is clear from the above the trends turn back after a modernity. China, Meso-America and the West again become historic, dynastic and elitist like they were before modernity. The Greek and Roman world became un-dynastic and un-elitist like before modernity.
As promised, in the following I will treat some developments marking modernity with emphasis on the declines in the West in the last phase which we have entered.
The loss of elitism can be treated further as part of the first heading:
THE DECLINE OF THE PUBLIC AND THE ELITES
Many modernities are in their last phase characterized by a decline in the political consciousness of the public. In Rome there was a strong political interest from the population in the third and second century BC, first and second phase of modernity. The two main parties, the Optimates and the Populares, and their policies were the important thing. This changed into a focus on persons and scandals in the first century BC, third phase.
In the West a parallel development is all too clear. Through the 19th century the peoples made peaceful and violent revolutions to achieve democracy, first phase. As this was achieved in many states in the second phase, the 20th century, there was a lively interest in using it, not only in voting and campaigning, but also in membership in parties and organizations and trade unions, usage of a press system feeling obliged to propagate and discuss political matters. Vote patterns were quite stable based on social background and stable political viewpoints and politically minded medias.
Today all this has changed with the transition to the third phase in the end of the 20th century. Once again single persons and scandals are viewed as more interesting than politics. Media stars are more followed than politicians. People leave political parties and trade unions. Of the papers, TV-channels and Internet-sites those concerned with gossip and media stars are preferred over serious alternatives dealing with politics etc. Serious papers are now difficult to sell.
The interest of the public in politics generally culminates in the first two decennies of modernities (1800 - 2000 / 300 BC - 100 BC). Then the decline sets in.
In the West the decline is also reflected in or strengthened by the postmodern views that everything is of the same value and the death of the great narratives (Lyotard).
The above treated un- or anti-elitism in our Western civilization strengthens this decline of the political interests of the public further. Generally spoken people are guided by their elites, be it party leaders or trade union leaders. The majorities below the elites are largely dependent on these elites and the medias like the press of the political parties and organizations in shaping their opinions. Now as elitism is broken down even more, there are no real elites to guide people.
The declared anti-elitism was from the start of our modernity in 1789 a part of the democratic ideas. It gradually becomes implemented through the 20th century, first in culture. With the third phase of our odernity this disappearance of elitism reaches its maximum. Everybody becomes part of the mob-like totality.
Large social inequalities like in the UK does not contradict this. The upper class though feeling far above the others can still act like a mob and read gossip. Un-elitism does not concern money, but culture. Also a high education does not mean that you are not part of the popular culture today.
So we have two declines:
- The public looses interest in politics and other serious matters as in Romme 2100 years ago,
- The elites become part of the people, not economically, but mentally. This last development is specific for our Western civilization. It is facilitated by the internet, but not dependent on this.
This submergence of the elites means a lack of demacation between quality and garbage, also in the media. What is important and relevant news and what isirrelevant gossip? Even large parts of the educated people and the formerly elitist media now find Justin Bieber etc interesting. There is no clear border between the masses and the former elites.
All this means that the media and the public together spirals downwards towards innterest in personal matters and gossip instead of politics per se and political ideas.
The tendencies toward cultural egalitarianism just seem to get stronger over the centuries in our modernity. In the first parts of our modernity it was a healthy development implying public involvement in politics, an approximation to democracy in the best sense of the word. In the first half of our modernity the anti-elitism resulted in a giant lifting of large parts of the masses through education and other kinds of enlightenment. This was unprecedented and one of the most remarkable developments in world history. Very promising. Anti-elitism is extremely positive when it is a general lift. But in the last phase in modernity in the West it is a general fall. Both the elites and the masses are declining.
As said in other posts democracy can only be stable and workable if people are guided by the elites through the media. But still the broad public has a real influence through knowledge and political interest.
This system functioned reasonably well in the middle of our modernity, the 20th century. But if as now the anti-elitism becomes even stronger and the elites in society and politics are declining and mentally becomming like the people, the guidance is lost. We now have a form of democracy where not the demos as the totality of elite and people, but the mob rules. It is unstable and characterized by shifting discontinuous policies.
THE DECLINE OF THE MEDIA
Earlier the medias were the forth power controlling politicians and acting as organs of parties and organizations with specific interests. Now it is more focusing on here and now scandals, sensations and simple gossip about irrelevant entertainment stars (Schimmeck and others).
Even for serious news channels like the BBC we see a tendency to focus on the destiny of stars like the trial of Pistorius and the death of stars.
Habermas has described the development of a bourgeois public sphere in the Western modernity. It follows the representative public in the period of absolute monarchy, where this public just had the purpose of representing the king and the state embodied in him. The bourgeois public consists of the public and its representatives in the media. It is debating politics, electing representatives and controlling politicians and parties. This public is these decades being diminished and dissolved and replaced by what we could call the
mob public sphere.
Tweets, Instagram updates and other expressions from anybody in the social media are treated as important as earlier the meanings of spokespeople, politicians and experts. As were they an expression of an informed and binding public opinion. Of course this is also a sign of the anti-elitist trends. Why is it interesting to hear the comments of people who often know too little to have an educated opinion and often come with stupid or heartless comments?!
THE DECLINE OF POLITICS
After revolutionary periods in the first century of our modernity stable democracies developped at least in parts of the Western civilization. Balance between the three powers of Montesquieu, between societal groups, parties etc. Policies were prepared through thorogh debates in the bourgeois public, between involved groups and people, experts, parties etc. in the media. Laws were then decided after thorough political discussions in parlaments again in discussion with involved people, groups and experts. The results were thoroughly evaluated by the same groups. If necessary only changed after lots of consideration. But still with enough flexibility to cope with necessary demands from reality.
This system was constantly threatened by crises and suffered reverses through dictators, and it only reached maturity in the mostly developped countries. Now after a century it is in the beginning of a systematic breaking down.
Politicians are in some countries old corrupt and power-hungry and in other countries young and inexperienced. In both cases opportunism dominates. Transient storms in the media change policies. In other cases we see stubborn inflexible use of the same policies no mater their usefulness under the here and now circumstances. Like expenditure cuts. The intransigence hindering decisions and legislation is also part of the decline.
These tendencies are affecting established political parties. This is strengthened by the growth of populist parties in Europe, like Front National or UKIP, often receiving 1/4 of the votes. Right now this phenomenon is one of the most worrying developments. It destabilizes the political systems and forces the other parties to follow irresponsible policies. Media storms and shit storms push all politicians in the same direction. American groups like the Tea Party represent the same trend.
The result of these trends is political instability. As cooperation between different parties and between these and societal forces and experts is ending, shifting policies follow.
If we very briefly include another of the reversals specific for the West, today the characteristic of lack of historical sense also contributes to the present decline. The diminished historical consciousness has been treated above. Here I will just add that this means that we do not learn from history. The continuity which contributes to stability has gone. This lack of historical sense is propably also one of the reasons why this blog has so relatively few readers.
In Rome the shift to the last declining phase of modernity started with the time of the Gracchus brothers around 130 BC. These reformers and their opponents started to use unconstitutional means up to murder as part of politics. A century of instability and violence started during which focus changed from political ideologies to personal power.
In our case the same shift probably occurred from around the presidency of the younger Bush. Since then the constitution is bent through abuse of signing statements and rule through decrees. Because of the political decline the use of such means will increase and must increase.
Fortunately we may hope that things in our case will not turn as chaotic and violent as 2100 years ago in Rome. Our civilization like the Chinese has greater organizational abilities and sense of responsibility than the old Greeks and Romans.
That politics are becoming more and more person focused is clear already. If people do not think critically and along ideas, the leaders leading the mob public have easy play. More and more executive power is needed to control the chaotic tendencies. Single persons in the top concentrate power in their hands. And through the interest of the public in persons and personal matters these top-persons are becoming the focus of attention.
These political developments are greatly facilitated by the loss of individual thinking, to which we turn now under the next headings.
DOMINANCE OF MONEY
Money are playing an increasing and worrying role. This happens in two ways.
1) Money has a rising influence in politics. Politicians use huge amounts to get elected. Only politicians with money or connections to people and businesses with money can participate with any chance in elections. Also between elections money play an essential role in making it possible to influence the citizens. Of course this goes through the media. Earlier the guiding of people through the media was a healthy part of politics. The bourgeois public sphere functioned through the papers, where meanings from people and politicians met in fruitful debates.
Now as the media and the public have degenerated, and money means more than ever in politics, politicians use more and more money to win the hearts of the mob by controlling papers, television and not least the new social media. Personal power and money more and more replace politics about ideas.
This also gives great influence to money people and big companies. Google and Apple etc. will not take over the transhumanist world (Kurzweil and other technofile prophets). But they will gain enormous political influence through their money.
The influence of money in politics was also very typical for the Roman republic. Possession of money determined elections to a very large extent.
2) Money also indirectly gets an extreme influence over the souls of people.
Like Kurzweil, Marx was wrong in his one-directional historical theories. But his analysis of the functioning of capitalism is more true than ever. Capitalism with its constant need for growth depends on the sale of goods. Everybody have to be transformed to consumers, or as we as an euphemism call it today shoppers. Marx describes how people in this proces become alienated. Through commercials and the whole consumer culture they assume a false consciousness. Through the media people are from early childhood broad up to the role as shoppers. They develop a commodity fetishism. A mighty drive for the possession of produced goods created by commercials and propagated through the whole culture. A Chinese city almost went into open rebellion. Not because they wanted freedom. No because the newest version of iPhone came on sale too late!
The craving for commodities fills the minds of people and has a role as one more of the factors replacing and repressing involvement in society. For many children words referring to brands constitute 25% of the vocabulary.
This is one of the ways that individuality is lost. This loss is the next topic.
DECLINE IN INDIVIDUALITY
A very important development which is difficult to trace in other modernities is a fall in the level of individuality. Civilizations may vary in the extent to which its people are individualized. But in all civilizations people become more individualized as traditions are reduced in importance up to and in modernity.
In the West individualism has always been strong, and in the first two centuries of phases of our modernity it reaches extreme levels. But as early as the fifties and onwards authors like Riesman talked about a new type of people who was other-directed as opposed to the inner-directed people of Early and Mature Modernity (my terminology) and the pre-modern tradition-directed people. In 1950 it may have been a bit premature to talk of other-direction, but from the eighties this term is very precise. Lasch and Ziehe contributed with analises of the new narcissistic character craving recognition. Recognition can be achieved by excellency yes, but excellency in what everybody wants. This means conformity. Today all this is greatly strengthened by the electronic social media. The others are constantly watching you through never ending mutual updates. Individuals do not exist in the symbiotic youth of Generation Z.
Democracy is based on people thinking ad deciding individually. Critical thinking and reflection disappears as everybody conforms to the group. And the tendency makes it very easy to manipulate people through exactly these social media, the Internet, TV etc. And as the elites are replaced by demagogues and mob leaders, this is very bad for democracy.
This group conformity also makes it difficult for those who do not fit in. Before they could become something special. It was okay to be er nerd. The spectrum of normality was wide. Now it has narrowed considerably. Earlier some young people were Existentialists and read Sartre. Now they can be Directioners or Beliebers.
Today the pressure to conform is enormous. Mobbing in the social media lead to suicides. Those who are not absolutely normal are strange aliens. Some of these end by comitting mass-shootings, killing the hated normals they cannot be like.
DECLINE IN CREATIVITY AND REVOLUTIONARY THINKING
This topic will only briefly be touched upon, but is nevertheless very symptomatic. As said in the start the firsst two phases in modernity has been filled with thoughts of a character radically different from those of the preceding (and coming) centuries. Experimental and revolutionary breaking all traditions.
This is the case in art and thoughts. But after two centuries of experimenting it is as if this drive has run out. As if nothing really new can be thought. As if every possible thought has been thought.
The sixties and seventies of the twentieth century was the last surge of revolutionary creativity and experimentation. The Wall by Pink Floyd in 1979 can be seen as the last milestone in 2 centuries of experiments.
Now only pop is left. Today commercial forces like MTV decide not only who is to succeed as stars, but also which styles are to be followed.
The last phase of a modernity is the disappearance of the experimenting in thinking and art. There will still be people thinking and acting experimentally, but fewer and fewer will follow and understand them.
After the end of this phase elitism will come back. The art preferences of the elites after modernity will return to the styles of the classical period before modermity. The masses will be fed with pop.
Panem et circenses.
THE DECLINE OF CULTURE AND CIVILIZED BEHAVIOR
Late modernity is not just an intellectual game marked by hyperreflection (Giddens), or a play with signs without content, (Baudrillard). For some it is, but for the majority it is rather a lack of individual reflection. Direction from others (Riesmam). And a lack of belief in ideas or Grand Narratives (Lyotard). And what may be even worse, it is also a decline in culture and behavior which contributes to the other developments. I am talking about a brutalization of thought and behavior typical for the late phase of modernities.
Before modernity in the Baroque and even more the Rococo the leading parts of the societies had developped highly civilized or cultivated behaviors at least between each other. Highly complicated tules regulating interaction between people and countries. Even the wars were polite.
These rules were mocked and ignored from the beginning of modernity both in the West and other civilizations. This explains the success of the French revolutionary armies, Alexander the Great and the rulers of Qin.
But the bourgeois stratum in the West having reached power restored highly civilized forms of behaviors. This was the case partly between nations and to a higher extent between people for about a century. The Victorian epoch favored very polite and controlled forms. The wars were few and often relatively small scale. From 1914 this changed radically. The next few decennies over 100 million people were killed in wars ignoring all civilizing rules. The plans for the next wars involved the death of billions. Internally the civilized attitudes were attempted upheld with a certain success even if pressed by wars and dictators. Of course we are here talking about the Northern hemisphere.
Now this is dwindling. Hitherto the uncivilized behavior of modernities mostly showed up in wars and revolutions. Now increasingly uncivilized and even brutal behaving and thinking is taking over in culture and parts of everyday life.
Primitive hierarchical behavior is spreading. Instead of solidarity with the weak, these are increasingly being despised as loosers, deserving their fate, yes deserving to be spitted on, to be mobbed. This is especially frightening on the Internet, where people are driven to suicide.
The trend is also very clear in entertainment. The Greeks watched theatre-pieces by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. The Romans saw bloody gladiator games. In the 18th century we were entertained by operas. Now we watch violent and raw films, where every fifth word is "fuck" or a derivation thereof. Probably the mass sacrifices by the Aztecs unprecedented in Mayan times, were a part of a corresponding development.
Within more sciences we see rising influence from evolutionary explanations and justifications of basic behavior. This too represents the development towards the animal drives.
Within politics the brutalization leads to a more uncivilized level of debate with personal attacks even though as said we will propably not reach the Roman level of violence. But as said mobbing downwards and fight for power replaces the fights for ideas.
And the result of centuries of civilizing refinement of thought and behavior is quickly being reduced. This happens in many civilizations in their modernities. Unfortunately the brutality continues after modernity - Nero! In our case the process is strengthened by the degeneration of the public and the elites into a mob. The revolutionaries of the last two centuries fought old rules and borders to liberate thoughts and creativity. In the end what was set free was the lowest in humans!
THE LAST CENTURY OF MODERNITY
In conclusion in civilizations the last century of the 300-400 years long modernity is marked by a shift. Before politics were internally in the states and internationally governed by thought, ideas and ideologies. Helping the poor, power to the lower classes, classless societies etc. or indeed the opposite conservative ideas.
In the Western civilization the last peak of the power of ideas was the sixties and seventies. Extreme creativity and experimentation in thought, arts and society. But these times were soon over. It was meant as the dawn of a new idealistic era, but in fact ended the power of ideas!
The reverse trend was clear from around 1980. As Reagan became president, some said that if they met Jimmy Carter, they would spit Him in the face. This was not just because of political opposition from the right. It was also a symbol of resentment against the whole influence of ideas on politics. Now both internally and externally the motif behind politics is more and more simply achieving power.
Of course this is aided by the above treated developments, that people do not care about politics, but prefer fashion, gossip and mob-behavior, where instead of in debth serious debate we often have shit-storms from the Internet mobs which include people from all layers of society. And the general postmodern disolving of the belief in the Grand Narratives.
In the states person cults and rule from above is characterizing the political parties more and more. Between the states fewer and fewer states are competing for hegemony, even though not everybody are able or willing to see it yet in our case, the West.
A few examples from predecessors:
China I, modernity ca. 550 - 220 BC
In Old China in the third century BC wars between the strong states dominated over the formerly so important political and philosophical discussions. The rulers of the winning state Qin did not care about political philosophy. Their favored way of thought, Legalism, flourished, but was less of a real ideology and more a practical remedy for centralization of power in the state of Qin.
Oriental, modernity ca. 750 - 1070:
In the same manner as the kings of Qin, the Seljuks in the 11. century did not give a damn about the sophisticated political arguments from the political and religious parties ranging from communist to reactionary viewpoints. Now more and more only power per se counted.
Greco-Roman, modernity ca. 330 - 30 BC:
In the civil wars after the Gracchus brothers politics in one century was transformed from ideology to personal power struggles. Sulla and Marius were still politically motivated. The Triumvirs only fought for power. It did not matter that Octavian / Augustus came from the left wing instead of right. The political parties had become followers of persons.
WHAT TO DO?
CONTROL AND EDUCATION
What if anything can be done to stop these changes? There are many intertwined developments which converge to push us in the same direction. And because most governments refrain from regulating and controlling the societies and leave it all to the market mechanisms, probably nothing will happen to stop it.
Some think that the availability of information on the Internet and the possibility for everybody to voice opinions on this net will change everything and start a new era, but what happens on the Internet is on the same level as what went on in the streets of Rome in the century up to Caesar.
But if nothing is done everything pushes us in the same direction as our predecessors. The possibilities for reversing the trends are limited by ignorance, political realities and mob rule. I only see two means, increased education and increased control.
- Control of the media
- Control of the public
- Control of the markets
- Control of political populists and radicals and also dictators.
Education will enable people to make informed choices and resist manipulation. The more education, the less control is necessary. The less we improve education, the more control is necessary.
Control sounds ugly, but is unavoidable. The choice is between more control and outright dictatorship.