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Nihilism, Futurist Traditionalism and Conservationism

Jumping into life, and the painful slap of reality

25 10 10 - 04:44

We stumble along, in a haze of media/friends/illusions, and then life slaps us in the face with a swinging dong:

During the years between the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, globalisation created common interests between all the world’s major powers. A world that had once been divided between capitalist and communist systems – and between a small group of rich countries and a much larger group of underdeveloped nations – was now united by a single economic system. For a tantalising 20 years, globalisation seemed to promise rising living standards for all nations, and a more peaceful world.

The economic crash of 2008, however, has changed the logic of international relations. In a new economic situation, the win-win logic that allowed the major powers to embrace globalisation is now being replaced by a zero-sum logic, in which one country’s gain looks like another’s loss. Both as individuals and as a nation, Americans have begun to question whether the “new world order” that emerged after the cold war still favours the US. The rise of Asia is increasingly associated with job losses for ordinary Americans and with a challenge to American power from an increasingly confident China. - FT

Yes, because it was always an illusion. Wait, what? But it worked for twenty years!

Twenty years is a millisecond to history. If you decide on a policy, and put it into action, you'll see only the barest hint of its long term survivability after ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred years. Even three centuries later, the full consequences may not be apparent.

It's like building a house. If you cut corners, everything seems fine for a while and then, two decades later in a high windstorm, those corner-cuttings get put to the test. Except that for nations, the time gap is even bigger.

The idea of a zero-sum world has always been the default, because the following things are finite:

  • Land

  • Resources

  • Energy

  • Time

And I'll add another, as a footnote. Even if all of the above were made infinite by some Jehovanian magic, our lives would still not be infinite. Oh, well, let's pretend that is fixed. Now you're immortal. You can still only have one first time to do anything, and while you might want to keep shooting for better and better results, after a thousand years you will have exhausted most of the possibilities. So experience itself is finite...

But we'd rather indulge in the happy illusion that the present tense is eternity, that we are God-like intellects and not just smart mice, and that by just giving everything away and spreading out the wealth curve, we're making a better/progressive/moral society. This is old school early Christianity, formed by a rabble of disaffected Jews (not the prosperous Roman-affable Pharisees, but the dipsomaniacs and web designers) to crush those above it through guilt.

This illusion takes many forms -- in fact, it existed before Christianity or Judaism, and will invent itself anew in any civilization because it's an easily stumbled-into logic trap like confirmation bias, parallax distortion or even "this fart can't be as liquid as it fee -- uh oh." Life is full of these little pitfalls. From the same article:

A western Age of Optimism between 1991 and 2008 was underpinned by a set of ideas, which might be called liberal internationalism.

Yes, we know. Internationalism is the idea that we're all the same under our different skins, and those really are the only differences between people, except for rapists and bankers who are just bad.

It's the fond hope: by ceasing to struggle against life for something higher in life, we can all just chill out and it'll all turn out OK. Evolution runs contrary to this statement, which is the worst form of clueless people adapting socially polite statements into unrealistic policy.

The end result of such delusion is a society of plastic, horrible, faithless people:

Relationship and life coach Donna Barnes said bedbugs are a creepy aspect to dating right now.

She advises not telling people on the first date you have bedbugs. She says that when the relationship is escalating, it's a good idea to inform the other person if you are bringing him or her into areas of potential exposure, Barnes said.


Handwerker, who was interviewed while out with friends at a bar, said "what an age we live in where people now are vetting you out to see if you have bedbugs first. He didn't even ask me if I had any diseases. He doesn't want to be eaten by bedbugs."


A man at the bar confirmed this, admitting "come back to my place" would be his response to an attractive woman with bedbugs.


One woman said, "I think there's enough excuses not to date someone in New York. ... Bedbugs doesn't need to be added to it." - CNN

The entire article is chock-full of this kind of hilarity. Tell me, in a non-zero-sum world, do we let the bedbugs, mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and lawyers just bite us and hold on as long as they'd like?