Random Reflections On Civilization’s Decline

What is the point of making observations about the cultural significance of today’s mainstream pop music divas, mainstream Hollywood movies, mainstream social science and humanities professors, or mainstream politicians? These people and their effusions may appear deleterious to good taste and corruptive of morals or freedom, but this is not because of anything they do, in any active sense — they are not active forces at all — but merely because their prominence is a symptom of a mainstream that has reached depths of tastelessness and corruption far beyond anything these accidental byproducts themselves have to offer. Today’s popularly acknowledged avatars of music and the arts, academia, and politics are in truth nothing but the flotsam from a ship long since sunk.

Conspiracy Theorist.– Today, you are likely to be branded a conspiracy theorist, with all the mental health and political instability implications that description carries, if you believe that politicians sometimes lie to achieve aims other than the ones they claim to be trying to achieve. Or if you believe that large corporate interests with billions of dollars of potential profit or loss at stake might seek (and find) ways to develop and exploit connections to governmental agencies, politicians, or political parties to further their financial vested interests, while necessarily claiming to be serving the public good in ways that are at best questionable, and in any case beyond the conditions established by the workings of any representative government’s electoral processes. Or if you dare to cite well-known, historically undisputed examples of real political conspiracies of the past, within one’s own country and around the world, to support at least the possibility that such secretive actions might be underway in analogous circumstances, for analogous reasons, today.

Conspiracy Theory.– The problem with conspiracy theories as political explanations is not that political conspiracies have never happened, nor that conspiracies are not currently happening, nor that today’s public officials and financial elites are somehow above such things. (Far from it.) Rather, it is that jumping to conspiracy as one’s first explanation for events one dislikes, or for the decisions of people one distrusts, can quickly become a convenient and lazy mental habit, an attempt to find semi-comprehensible and emotionally satisfying answers for questions that may not, under hard scrutiny, turn up such comforting explanations. When conspiracy instinctively comes to seem, in the absence of blatant evidence, the most plausible answer in one’s mind, rather than the least, one ought to wonder whether one has lost one’s reality meter, or succumbed to a particularly dangerous form of confirmation bias.

If we are living on the downward portion of a civilizational arc, which I am fully convinced we are, then one may be forgiven for wondering, at times, what consolation may be found in these latter stages of man’s journey. What redeems the last generations of a human world surrendering its soul to suicidal blindness? The answer is evidence of resistance. I do not mean rebelliousness, angry shouting at the heavens, or other manifestations of futile denial or fury, all of which are merely symptoms of decay, rather than exceptions to it. I mean, rather, signs of a soul holding on, refusing to cede its eternal birthright to the temporal tyranny of ignorance and decadence.

Every time you argue on behalf of your party, your faction, or your school, you have rented your mind to others, and allowed your voice to be used at their whim. Perhaps you have good reason for doing so. But never forget that you are in fact doing so. This memory will help you make sense of things, at those inevitable moments when you suddenly find yourself wondering, with some discomfort and confusion, “Why am I saying this?”

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