Sunday, January 15, 2006

Slouching towards Betlehem

I don't believe that there is a plan and ultimate goal in history - it may have a logic, but it is a logic of chaos. Structures have of course a lifespan, a certain independence of their own but they interact with each other randomly, unpredictably: they are not at all in control of their environment. The only thing that might have change this uncontrollability of history would be our changing, our becoming collectively aware and rational. Our stopping these panicky, murderous reflexes. This seems a very remote possibility. So while I am tempted to say that the awful horrors of the 20th century put the enlightened, liberal West out of its natural course, I really can't. Nevertheless I am struggling to say something dangerously much like it while trying not to posit a universal plan and predetermined course to history. This is no doubt very esoteric but what the hell: let us make a try. So, what I what I would argue is that within the local structures of our civilization, within their limited logic, we do have become unmoored, dissociated from the foundations of our culture. We have the forms of liberalism left, but not their content, we have no conviction left. It perished in the massacres. The solution has been to turn towards pure, empty materialism: to making, selling and buying things. Bad citizens have become good consumers - religion and ideology have been replaced by the entertainment industry. History ends at the mall.

Except that it doesn't. The blind struggle goes on: the world is in a constant state of chaotic change and bloody power struggle. Some core natural resources are running out, the climate looks like changing rapidly, weapons of mass destruction spread and become more sophisticated, irrational fundamentalisms flourish. What we in the West possess to now to counter this seems to consist solely of trust in the invisible hand: the markets will adapt, supply and demand will take care of the actions that the elected governments are unable to execute. To me this seems the purest of follies, the most typical of confidences before the fall. We have had a fairly functioning global economy for 50 years now, before that the system almost collapsed in gigantic, unpredictable convulsions. These are unprecedented times: the only thing we can be sure is that all will change, all familiar structures will come to an end at some point (and judging from the past it is only decades or at most a century or two that we are talking about). And if our trust in enlightenment reason and liberalism, if our conviction of them is already this shallow, this non-existent, what are the chances of their continuation for long? And how likely it is that they will be replaced by something better with these murderous, panicky instincts in control?

3 comments:

Mistress Occultress said...

how sad and true the only reality is suffering, suffering of suffering and so on.
I enjoyed the depth of your articulation. I happen to believe that these are the real dark ages.

Liimatainen said...

It's true, that the world is more dangerous place than mum said and there is no Holy Father who controls everything. In spite of all, I fell myself relieved. The Europeans have finally stopped kill each others. There is one superpower which is democratic, in the world.
Business cycle fluctuations affect unemployment, poverty and at worst political instability and genuine misery. But, are business cycles harsher at present than at the era of more controlled markets?

stockholm slender said...

Well, I think that we might have now peaked in the West - maybe during the 80's. I'll write something more about this but I do believe both that we live in the dark ages, and that the earlier ages were in many ways even darker. The only hope lies in the future...