Friday, November 10, 2006

The Journal of Winston Smith: The Non-Collapse Of Civilization

The Journal of Winston Smith posts an interesting begining to a series on "The Non-Collapse Of Civilization" over the last half century in face of pessimistic preditions from Objectivists: "

“In short, it is not just that civilization did not collapse. It is the vision of civilization as being on the verge of collapse that has collapsed—or at least, it ought to have collapsed.

“The problem for Objectivists, unfortunately, is that our intellectuals, who ought to be in the best position to observe and explain this phenomenon, have generally not done a good job of recognizing the non-collapse of civilization. For the most part, they are still too busy worrying over the imminent collapse of civilization to notice, study, or explain the actual trends in the other direction.

“For as long as I can remember, the typical final paragraph of any review of the state of the world by an Objectivist writer or speaker has gone something like this—which was aptly paraphrased in a recent note from a reader who had noticed the same pattern: "Western civilization as it exists today is doomed to destruction; I only hope I don't live to see its fall. Only then can a new future be built upon the philosophy of Objectivism." Over the years, the pattern has become so reinforced that I see it everywhere, in posts on Objectivist discussion groups, and in letters like the one I received recently from another reader, who lamented thatTwenty-first century America is still riding on the historical momentum of the Enlightenment, which rested on a strong (though flawed)…foundation. What is the health of that foundation today?...”

I question why Objectivists’ frequent predictions of civilization’s demise under other ideologies should be any different than leftists' predictions of America’s collapse under Republicans. Every ideologue measures social success by how aligned it is with their own ideology. When their view doesn’t dominate society, of course the ideologue is pessimistic. It’s not rocket science.

Civilization flourishes because the productive lessons of mixed bag ideologies like Christianity or post-modernism generally dominate their destructive aspects. Universally, people pick what makes sense out of their ideology and largely do what they feel anyway. And despite the flaws of both Christianity and modernism, they’ve proven capable of evolving to generally promote good behavior and weave together productive societies. Objectivism plays a part in their evolution in America now, but as members of other social systems, we just take what we most want and move on.

Despite ups and downs within societies, I’m unconvinced that civilization has rarely if ever been headed toward collapse. That kind of frustrated myopic venting from obsessed ideologues is just background noise to productive discussion.

5 comments:

Ronald Barbour said...

You hit the target right in the center, Bill! We are all victims of own mindset.

Bill said...

Hi Ron. It figures a former intel guy would and I would see eye to eye. Thanks for posting.

Ronald Barbour said...

USASA and USAINSCOM -- "God we trust, all others we monitor."

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