Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fifth Stage of Civilization? Or a New Dark Age. The Choice is Ours -- Yours & Mine

It's true: I haven't posted here in quite some time. Some will say I've neglected this blog. I'd thought so myself, but then wondered: was I under an obligation to post on a schedule regardless of whether I had something useful to say that day? I think not. I've always been a quality-over-quantity person. Not sure if traffic dropped. I didn't check. It never was high (except, oddly, for the initial post). Getting ideas discussed seriously in the English-speaking world has always been like pulling teeth. But along with Albert Jay Nock & Isaiah, I'm satisfied that there is a Remnant out there. We intellectual bloggers don't know who they are for sure, or where they are, but if we deliver our best, we trust that they will find us.

We in the West need to further the conversation that will help us discover the Fifth Stage. One thing that means is exposing and then avoiding, as much as possible, the distractions mainstream media & mainstream politics are always throwing our way. What host Mike Adams (the Health Ranger) just called racial theater, its newest chapter opened by the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial, is a textbook case of a distraction. Helping further the distraction is the prevailing, politically correct mythology of racism in contemporary America. One need not deny that the U.S. has a racist past, or even that there are isolated incidents of racism in the present. But one of the prevailing premises of the currently reigning intelligentsia in the U.S. is that the U.S. is still fundamentally, systemically racist, because nowhere is to be found exact, politically-approved ratios of black-to-white, on corporate boards or in workplaces or in other centers of influence (which would include Congress). This leads to the further myth that blacks are systemically oppressed in America. What makes it clear, this is a myth? By the very fact of a black president in America (Barack Obama), a black attorney general (Eric Holder), black mayors all across the country, successful black entrepreneurs, wealthy black entertainers (think: Oprah Winfrey), black sports heroes (think Tiger Woods, although he partly self-destructed), etc.

Obama could not have been elected and then re-elected president without the willingness of the white majority to vote for him, whatever else one says about their judgment. Blacks only constitute a little over 12 percent of the population of the U.S., after all. That's not enough to elect a president. I tend to think Obama will go down as the worst president in U.S. history. For saying that I would be condemned as racist if anyone in the intelligentsia cared enough to spread the fact that I said it. My judgment, however, is based on his policies, not on his race (for whatever good it does to say this). He's furthered both the domestic and the foreign policies of his predecessor, protected the interests of the powerful and wealthy elite; his Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) will arguably ruin whatever is left of health care in the U.S., but possibly not before being exported elsewhere in some "free trade" agreement to come down the pike. Do I know this last? Of course not, but who really knows what is in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (for example)? The agreement is not available online, and all discussions--which Obama is pushing--are being conducted behind very tightly closed doors!

Enough of racial theater; it stands exposed for what it is, a distraction from our world's real problems. These range from spreading unrest all across the developing world, a product of the realization that the desire of peoples to be free is quite real however manipulated, and on collision course with the tightening authoritarianism of the global elites, whose home bases range from the City of London, Basel Switzerland, Brussels Belgium, New York City and Washington, D.C. A real question is whether we will ever outgrow our tendency to solve our problems--economic, social, etc.--by resorting to domestic force and wars fought on foreign soil (which, if our ruling elites were honest they would admit was over control of the world's oil supply). In the U.S., meanwhile, over 47 million people receive food stamps. This is an all-time high--additional proof, for anyone interested, that the federal government / Federal Reserve complex cannot micromanage anything as complex as the U.S. economy. While of course there are some who are probably abusing the food stamp system, the majority either cannot find a job at all or cannot find a job that pays sufficient wages. Where else are they going to turn?

This, of course, is a problem affecting all: white, black, Hispanic, and so on. The "American Dream" of a middle class existence working for a corporation is effectively dead whatever your race or ethnicity (for all except for those fortunate enough to have very specific skills the corporations want). What has killed the "American Dream" is a combination of factors. Too much government is the obvious killer of all genuine prosperity: too many taxes, too much strangling regulation, too much interference in our lives generally. Globalization hasn't helped. It has been the scene of corporations--many of which are able to write the rules enabling them to control governments--moving operations to where labor is the cheapest, and that isn't the U.S. Another factor, however, is more mundane: changing technology, which enables even smaller companies to be more productive with progressively less labor, meaning there is less and less work for human beings to do. Of course, if human beings are earning less, they have a choice of spending less or going massively into debt (at present we see both). A few writers are describing this as a structural flaw in capitalism as it currently exists--although I prefer the term corporatism for the prevailing economic system of the dominant powers of the First World (Robert Locke's short essay remains the standout explanation of corporatism, offering good reasons for thinking outside the set of boxes Marx's thought supplied). Whatever we call it, however, the flaw is there and will have to be addressed at some point in the future. The alternative is a world with a very small and very wealthy minority ruling over utterly impoverished masses--a future looking so much like our feudalist past that I call it techno-feudalism.

Recent events in my life, including materials I've gathered on entrepreneurship to presentations I've recently attended about financial markets and sustainable systems, and more besides, have made it even more clear to me the role Philosophy needs to play in evaluating the present state of affairs in civilization and working towards taking it to the next level: the Fifth Stage. (My book manuscript What Should Philosophy Do? is up to 35,000 words.) I recently had a discussion over just the need for ethics and its role in creating and maintaining institutions that are sustainable: self-supporting, growing, helpful, in harmony with their surroundings; and not self-destructive and destructive of whatever they touch (like today's corporate leviathans of high finance, as well as most of the world's governments). We don't need to delve into theory here, or even go deep into the theology (although I think a review of what Jesus Christ actually says in the Sermon on the Mount and in his Parables couldn't hurt us at all!) to develop what I could call a common horse sense ethics.

A common horse sense ethical system would consist of the following beginning with the old-fashioned Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Or to paraphrase Hobbes from his Leviathan: Do not exercise more liberties against others than you would want others to exercise against you. To some, such prescriptions will sound naive. To the extent they do, is an index of where we stand in our materialist world today, part of it still in the Third Stage but much of the culture in the Fourth. There are other ethical rules that can be logically inferred. Respect life, especially if it has the capacity to suffer (for you can suffer). Honor your agreements with others (for you do not like promises to be made to you & then broken). Do not see yourself as the center of the Creation, but rather live with humility: none of us is at the center of Creation. Realize that most people do need leadership, motivation, encouragement ... and to be held accountable. Be prepared to supply it when needed. Note that to err is human: forgive others; and also forgive yourself. Avoid conflict and the use of force--if your ideas are any good, that Remnant I mentioned will embrace them voluntarily. But do be prepared to unleash your inner warrior to stand on principle and defend the innocent.

Recognize cause and effect, however we cash it out. Ideas and actions have consequences; they affect others. Recognize, too, that the consequences of our ideas and actions do not manifest themselves all at once, or even in a few days or even months. The really important ideas and actions manifest themselves over a lifetime. They can affect many others, for better or for worse. Finally: reality always gets the last word. Results do not lie. The results we see around us, wherever we are, are the sum total of our premises, our thoughts, our actions, and their consequences--in aggregate. The laws of nature including human nature are what they are, but they allow sufficient flexibility to make it fair to say: we have shaped our world. If that is true, then up to a point, we can reshape it. That brings us to the choice before us as a civilization: forward, to a Fifth Stage, or continuing on our present course. In earlier posts I've attempted to characterize what ascension to a Fifth Stage will amount to. I've tried to do this in a particular fashion: learning and employing what we can learn from the previous stages while keeping the concept sufficiently loose and indistinct that it can continue to shape itself, in terms of events and developments none of us can foresee. Part and parcel of Fifth Stage Thinking is what I think of as bottom-up sustainability: we rebuild the systems of civilization, through entrepreneurship of various sorts, from the bottom up instead of from the top down, and we keep in mind the need for the long view: long term goals, including those which will take years to bring about, designing short term objectives as we work toward those goals piecemeal. The idea is to have systems that will sustain themselves with less and less effort on our part, as we ride in the direction we want to go. The country--indeed, the English-speaking world as a whole; the West as a whole--needs a re-examination of its philosophical first premises (including the materialist view of the universe & of the human condition) as a condition for assuming some control over the changes embroiling us all. If we assume control, I would hold out some hope that we can carry civilization forward to its Fifth stage, able to further the genuine unity of an ethically grounded international community, liberate people from the chains of authoritarianism, and build real prosperity (not the debt-fueled pseudo-prosperity of the mass consumption culture. That's the choice. For a while now, we've been at this crossroads. If the English-speaking world in particular continues on its present path of materialism, centralization, poor education based on outdated models, short term thinking, and distractions such as the present racial theater, it can look forward to what will prove to be a very long and painful dark age, and its peoples will have only themselves to blame.


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