The Renaissance marked the end of the age of faith and the birth of the age of reason. In the process, Western civilisation abandoned the spiritual truth as the pivot of its axis in favour of the material truth. It follows that the process itself must have been a success insofar as society could arrange itself around the material truth. The scientific progress of the last five hundred years speaks for itself in that regard. But what does it mean to arrange a society around a ‘material truth’?
Well, it basically means that you value everything in the society according to its material worth. So we might say that man is a materially composed entity, able to affect the environment to a certain useful degree, and insofar as his contribution is materially meaningful to society, he gains a material reward for his efforts.
However, in order to think in the age of reason, one must be objective. In order to be objective, one must know what one is measuring. The only way to establish the worth of a thing in a purely materialistic society is to give it a price. Capitalism as a socio-political model developed out of this idea and the rapacious commodification of every aspect of human life in the modern neoliberal world and the social Darwinism that goes along with it is the unavoidable outcome. Because, after all, everything has a price.
And that’s where we’ve hit a bit of a snag, because this paradigm only works if the average person is economically useful to society. When the average person can no longer make a meaningful material contribution to the system, life becomes cheap. Those lives that cannot contribute at all become worthless.
When scientific, capitalistic progress renders human labour uncompetitive, the paradigm breaks. After all, who’s going to pay minimum wage to a human worker when they can get a robot to do the same job for half the price? Who’s going to earn enough to buy all the loads of consumer goods that drives the world economy when the robots are the ones making everything? If you try to build a society on the lie of an unworkable paradigm, the inevitable result is societal hysteria.
Trump, Brexit, SJWs and the alt-right are just hysterical symptoms of the much greater problem facing Western civilisation. The problem is one of legitimacy. If the rules that dictate how the pie gets divided up say that I don’t get any of the pie, what incentive do I have to follow the rules? Rules can be backed by threats of violence one might reply, but if not gaining access to the pie means starvation, what do I have left to lose that a threat of violence would prove persuasive? What we’re seeing on a worldwide scale is the start of that frenzied conflict as the various players try to preserve their share of the shrinking pie. The pie is shrinking because we’re in a global debt bubble and trying to load more debt onto the world economy isn’t leading to growth like the establishment models have said it should. And the ugly truth is that it’s only going to get worse from here.
Nearly a decade has passed since the great financial crisis and the global economy is still stuck in the doldrums. The global establishment itself is still too busy trying to keep the system together to do much more than throw platitudes and MSM propaganda at the people suffering on the fringes of that system, and the closer the people on the fringes come to ruin, the more desperate they become, and the more fiercely the status quo is defended. What was once a virtuous cycle has now turned into a vicious circle as instability itself tears the system apart.
It’s actually Generation Snowflake that I feel for the most. I mean, yeah, they come across as a bunch of whiny babies, but they’ve been inculcated into this fantasy more or less from the day they were born, with every last moment of their lives scripted according to this faux narrative. Jack your self-esteem up to the heavens, be your unique and precious self, go out and find your destiny as the star of your own show (though only if you look to systemic authority to solve every conflict you have), and come out the other side as a productive consumer of whatever hollow crud is being marketed this season. Is it any surprise that after all of this indoctrination, when they’re confronted with grim reality, and they’re exposed to the desolate desert that is our economic wasteland that they have a meltdown and throw their toys out the cot? Wouldn’t you do the same if that’s the way you were raised?
To those of you who still plan to be alive two to three decades from now, I would say that this issue ought to sit in the centre of your political portfolio. It certainly sits at the heart of mine. We really don’t have time to wait until cataclysmic disaster finally strikes before we react. The planet needs to be ready so that when that moment hits, we can transition into something that holds a bright future for all of us.
The only way we’re going to dig ourselves out of this mess is to come up with a completely new orthodoxy, replete with a conceptualisation of human value that doesn’t render the majority of the population worthless. And the only way we’re going to come up with that system is if we start having a very serious discussion in the public space about the problem and how one might potentially solve it. As one who is brimming with ideas, it’s a conversation I’m looking forward to.