I’ve made several allusions to societal drift toward nothing – I find it the most horrifying plague on our society. It’s worse than the debt crisis, worse than genocide in the Middle East, worse than the environmental catastrophe, worse than the erosion of personal freedoms, worse than the non-existent integrity within the wave of sex scandals, in fact, it’s the cause of all of these things. A lack of ethics a key thing to blame.
Society is drifting toward nothing. The refusal to engage in critical reflection is a wrong darker than death or night. The forces of control, but control by nothing in particular, are winning the war against truth, liberty, and beauty.
There are four areas of societal decay that I find shocking:
Journalism – I need hardly spend much time writing on the prominence of fake news to a group of libertarians. Anecdotally: some years ago, I sat down to watch news coverage over an incident that occurred on my watch at a local university. It was filled with half-truths, aimed at sensationalism rather than accuracy. It filled me with rage at first, however, upon further reflection, I was filled with horror.
The ten minutes that I watched was so misleading, it told a non-story. The horror is in multiplying this filling of minds with non-information by six to get a full hour of news, and then by 365 to get a year’s worth of news. The final product is a mind filled, but filled with nothing at all – zero positive, actual, content.
It’s akin to a little bit of lead in one’s water, harmless at first, but over time it becomes horrifying.
Ethics – the rise of virtue signaling.
Virtue signaling is the hollowing out of ethics, the victory of presentation over substance, the photoshopped Tinder profile pic. It’s the environmentalist who demands others change their practice or business, but they themselves change nothing. It’s the feminist and gay-rights advocate who turns the other way when their favorite politician has a Saudi Arms deal. It’s the conservative who preaches morals and ignores sexual assault scandals against their favorite politician or pastor.
In times past if someone was opposed to slavery they would risk life and limb in an underground railroad or a war to end it. But now, the most vociferous anti-slavery figures have looked the other way when Barack Obama partnered with people who would knowingly bring it back in Libya.
Being an environmentalist isn’t having an opinion, it’s a radical life-altering change.
Being a feminist is having nothing to do with Justin Trudeau or Hillary Clinton.
Being an actual conservative is taking a stand when Donald Trump walks into women’s changing rooms.
Currency – it’s predicated upon debt.
A dollar or a euro is a promise to pay, and it will be paid with another promissory note of debt. It’s nothing at all. It works because people believe it works – it’s belief without reason.
People will work eight hours a day for nothing. 50% of all transactions in our society is with nothing.
Entertainment – gone are the days of wine, women, and song. They were once replaced by pizza, beer, and movie night. Which itself, was replaced by Netflix and chill. This too has been replaced by vain attempts at pursuing likes and avoiding dislikes. The pursuit of lifelong memories is gone, even in the bar the pursuit of selfies wins out over the pursuit of happiness.
In Las Vegas, I couldn’t help but notice some people were having a fun time. I also noticed others were having a sad time – old ladies at a slot machine spending their lives putting quarters into a machine. Apparently, their psyche was guided by random positive reinforcement – they occasionally had a payoff and their brains wanted the higher of winning. Facebook, through likes, operates on this same principle. It’s not a small collection of old ladies, now it’s the whole society that’s gone mad.
Former Facebook executive, Chamath Palihapitiya, is on the record as saying, “the short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mis-truth.”
We live in a world where our minds are governed by lust and our desires are governed by logic – the inversion of everything holy.
A world where entertainment is politely clapped at rather than experienced. Meals are treated to rhyme and reason with the proper knife and fork while a pastor’s metaphysical speculations are meant to be emotionally moving and a political commentator’s acumen is replaced with their ability to make unintelligent people laugh or convince people they care.
The heart and the mind have perversely switched.
Nothing has replacing something. And it’s dangerous. This is C.S. Lewis’ abolition of man, wherein our technological conquest over nature, nature has conquered us.
Everything that makes us human is replaced with everything that makes us animals. Short-term feelings and desires replace long-term consequences. Liberty, however, is our way out.