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To some degree, the problem with civilization -- and its culmination in modernity as the finalization of its death cycle -- comes down to numbers. One person can always find a course of action, even if it's a compromise that ends badly, and can work to refine that course of action; something that starts stupidly can, through a process of scientific method/natural selection called "furthering what works, and abandoning what doesn't" become intelligent. Get two people together, and agreement is harder, unless they're hardcore in love; get twenty together and it's impossible. 200 million? You're screwed.
What causes this? The simple fact of numbers is the essence, but this can be overcome if they're all willing to pull together in the same direction, and to cede some personal authority in exchange for a wise course of action. Your twenty people in a committee meeting are doing fine if they are surrounded by a society that tolerates some mistakes, and gives them a clear-cut mandate to do good; when their commanding and unifying authority is to be popular, or to make money, they drift away into a private reality and start scheming against one another. "What will my compensation be?" and "I don't want to get blamed for this mess." But even more than methodological concerns, there are also qualitative concerns; one stupid person in a committee will make every vote so tedious that soon the goal becomes to get the meeting over with, and damn the consequences.
We humans are afflicted because our freedom/individualism/choice causes us to come into friction with one another, and without a dominant voice -- a philosopher king, a poet, a sage, a god -- telling us exactly what to do, individual preferences take over. The programmer wants to write code, so instead of making the computer work better, he writes a 3-D rendering program. In itself, it's a good contribution; on the level of the whole, it's a failure, because what was needed was operating system refinement. "But that's not as much fun!" and "That's boring; I wanted to express myself" -- epitaphs, not mission statements. We overwork ourselves, exhaust ourselves with the needs of others, and then make radical, destructive compromises. Because dysfunction has set in, we make a habit of manipulating each other. Soon we have created ten thousand layers of middle management, even in our own minds (morality), and therefore are miles distant from seeing the realistic needs of a situation. And then we're defenseless against the parasites.
Some would say it makes no sense to be harsh on parasites. Why come down on the van that drives around selling ice cream to kids, if it's "not harming anything"? Simple answer: because "not harming" is not enough. It needs to work with the society toward simplifying its task and reducing the hours we spend on it. You want less work? Have more order. The more parasitic tasks like selling ice cream to children that you permit, the more your order becomes bloated, calcified, confused, and thus the more time you'll spend fixing it and working around it. If we tolerate deviation, we actually become less free because we spend time compensation for the lack of a clear direction.
The citizens are caught between two oppressive forces: leaders, which can become abusive, and their fellow citizens, who through unintentional selfishness can impose so many parasitic demands on a civilization to drag it down or at least make participation in it a tedious and aggravating task. How many more generations do we need to pack off to jobs they hate, dealing with moronic coworkers and incompetent bosses and bitchy customers, to realize that we're oppressing each other? It's commonly accepted as truth that our problem is oppressive leaders, but if we look deeply into our motivation, that's mainly to obscure the latter force (parasitism of crowd demands) because we all secretly want it our way and hope that we can just cheat a bit on reality... pretend it's not there... make ourselves comfortable, even if at the expense of the whole.
Once upon a time, people of European descent were more intelligent, more attractive, and more likely to work together. Because they worked together, they worked less: they spend almost no time dealing with internal adversity, they had no perplexingly cross-purposed tasks before them, and they had few parasites. Parasites arose first from within, and then invited others in to share the blame and increase the power of parasitism; at first it was those who wanted wealth but did not deserve it, then it was the masses they riled up to get their "equal share," and finally it was immigrants and new religions and special interest groups each with its own weirdness. We are all penalized for these people, and yet get nothing out of them.
Two thousand years later, the suffering of this individualistic iconoclasm has reached a peak. Thanks to the internal combustion engine, we live so comfortably that we can pretend not to notice our parasitic existence, so long as we don't wake up to how bad basic services are, how dangerous our cities are, how moronic our culture is, how much time we wait at red lights, etc. We get to immerse ourselves in our own drama - what do I want to watch? What is my spiritual direction? What different, new weird thing can I do today? -- but these don't make us happy; we eat constantly but are never full. We even get to cheat on the requirements of life, since even our "hard working" jobs are easy tasks with lots of breaks, plenty of shuffling paper and talking to people, using phones and email. But we're going to spend eight hours at the job and two in the car.
You've been sold a bill of goods, people of earth. They told you that you could have it easier; instead, all of us work harder. They told you that you could have it "your way"; instead, you have your way as interpreted through mass tastes (e.g. total dumbing down). They told you that you could be anything you want, but now you have a society based on the morality of false humility so any attempt to find something that isn't instantly cognizable by the masses is a money-losing project and thus dies in obscurity. They told you that you would be an iconoclast, but instead you're another sad puke with a hobby and a day job. Sure, there are a few rock stars and CEO robber barons, but they're the minority, and most of them die miserable. What's your direction, modern human? Answer: toward self-destruction through excess and descent into the third world.
Only the intelligent, the Kaczynskis and Nietzsches and Vikerneses and Huntingdons, see this pattern and they're an unpopular minority because it's offensive to most people to see someone so much more intellectually gifted than they be given power for that reason alone. "But they didn't work for that!" say the wise masses, slyly scheming any way they can to tear down those above them. (They know little more than what they read and see on television, oblivious to the fact that all of these "information" sources are motivated by the same idea: tell as much of the vivid news as you can without getting into the ugly truths beneath the surface. Intelligent observers note the similarity between mainstream and underground media as proof of this nearly identical motivation; even subversive newspapers must gain an audience, and to do so, both cannot offend and must provide titillation, since everyone is so overwhelmed that only !!!screaming extremes!!! grab their attention.)
The human experiment may turn out to be a failure, especially since it keeps growing without finding a better direction. All of the hysteria over global warming and gas prices is temporary; the long-term crisis is a reduction in quality (intelligence, strength, beauty, honesty/realism) of human beings. If there's no one smart left to notice that we're living in shit, well then, this is the best shit on the planet! It doesn't get better than this. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, listen to the fear and sycophant ease on television. It'll all work out for the best. The apocalypse is not a big explosion, but a slowing of time into identical actions repeated with "new" faces over and over again, getting nowhere, and each iteration slowly grinding us closer and closer to being dumb, stimulus-dependent, pleasure-seeking brutes incapable of the beauties and heroics that once distinguished us from apes.
May 25, 2006