Friday, 23 March 2012

Are 'things' getting better, worse, or staying the same?


Most people in the modern world believe in, that is live by, progress. They believe that things have been and are getting better.

They especially believe things are getting better in relation to morality.

For example, they believe that societies without slavery are better than those with slavery, and not better ceteris paribus but better full stop. Abolition is a very recent thing in human history, so these people believe in progress.

Similar arguments apply to the belief in pacifism, or the belief that capital punishment is wrong, or that equality is a good thing; recent ideas, geographically restricted.


'Progress' should not - properly - refer to material progress - improvements in societal capability power, comfort, prosperity (or, to do that would be to re-write the meaning of progress, to change the subject about progress): rather 'progress' should refer to The Good.

The Good is a unity of Truth, Beauty and Virtue - from the above we see that modern people believe in moral progress. But moral progress entails progress in Beauty and Truth also.

Yet we know that both Beauty and Truthfulness have declined; have declined over a times span of decades and in our own personal and direct experience.  

Thus we know that Beauty and Truth have declined, and yet our society acts as if Virtue has increased...


The conclusion is that Virtue has of course declined; and we have merely re-labelled decline as progress (moral inversion - the essence of political correctness) - just as the professionals of 'modern art' assert progress from the music, paintings, architecture and poetry of the past up until now by re-labelling.

This kind of artistic 'progress' assumed by modern art entails 'discovering' that deliberate ugliness by talentless charlatans is actually Beautiful; just as a belief in the progress of Truth entails 'discovering' that the vast and hourly invasive world of advertising, public relations, propaganda and media manipulation is, somehow, Truthful.

So, we really have to drop the idea of progress.


But are things perhaps staying the same - is the world just as Virtuous now as it ever was, only the balance of Virtues is different - is Virtue a homoeostatic mechanism whereby progress is one area is exactly matched by decline in another area?

Have things always been - overall - the same as they are now?

People often say so - that things have not changed, complaints are the same in all ages, swings and roundabouts etc... but what an absurd idea!

Whence came this supposed homoeostatic mechanism that somehow keeps society as good or bad as ever - or makes Virtue oscillate about a mean such that excesses in either direction are self-correcting?

In fact, this belief in homoeostasis simply serves as an instruction to ignore the past and future and accept the present - which, as alienated creatures, we simply cannot do. It is a counsel of existential despair - and one which is arbitrary and groundless.


So we are left with the conviction of decline. Decline in The Good: in Truth, Beauty and Virtue.

Behind the local and temporal oscillations, a long term decline...

This must be true from our experience, and was, indeed, common knowledge for centuries.

It is a familiar view to all who have read the greatest and most enduringly popular work of modern times: Tolkien's Lord of the Rings

So that is the answer: things are getting worse.



Dale James Nelson said...

I agree. The relentless removal of Christian ethics, knowledge, and symbols from the public square in the past century and today is unprecedented. It must be emphasized that much of this activity has proceeded from within the churches. Along with this destructive activity we have the "invasion," with the cooperation of the various governments themselves, of persons who do not merely fail to affiliate with the Christian faith but who are bound to try to replace it. Surely this too is unprecedented. Finally, we have the official sponsorship of alternative "morality" and art. Never till modern times, surely, have states actively, aggressively, sponsored the Bad, the False, and the Ugly as they are doing now -- out of the pockets of wage earners, etc.

Nergol said...

I would assert that in the modern world, two ways of looking at history exist: Marxist and Spenglerian.

The Marxist view of history is not practiced exclusively by Marxists, and is by far the more popular of the two views. In short, it is the belief that all of history is moving inexorably towards something - usually towards some kind of perfect or utopian world. Even "conservatives" of the American variety believe in this: witness the revival (via Glenn Beck) of Cleon Skousen's ridiculous "The 5000 Year Leap", with its idea of America as the realization of all of history's promise. But yes, leftists are the most likely to believe in it. Being "Progressives", after all, implies belief in progress *towards* something. It explains their fetish for evolution, which moves creatures towards a more perfected state. It explains their disdain for tradition, which they see as the desire for something other than the inevitably-coming utopia, and religion, which they see as offering an alternative to it. Both take people off of the path towards it. They see every step that society takes towards their policies as a step towards this goal, and they claw towards it like a man clawing his way out of a pit. That it will never be reached is unthinkable. Just as Marx taught that all of history was a march towards the inevitability of Communism, so they believe that all of history is a march towards it. And the sooner the reactionaries are driven off, the sooner we will reach it.

So, to them, of course it's progress. And of course it's good.

The Spenglerian, ever the gloomy gus, points out that civilizations rise and fall cyclically - that's what they always have done, and there's no compelling reason to believe that they ever won't do it. The pattern is predictable and recognizable. The western civilization, which mortally wounded itself in the summer of 1914, is fairly far along in the last act. Paradise on Earth will not happen. Not soon, and not ever. The "progressives" are fooling themselves, and of there is any comfort that the Spenglerian may take from all of this, it will be the cold schadenfreude of watching them proven, finally, undeniably wrong by history.

The Christian Spenglerian, of course, always looked to the Kingdom of Heaven for his paradise, and thus the fact that it will never appear here on Earth is of no concern to him. Of greater concern is the actions of the "progressives" themselves, who, not understanding the wise adage about the perfect being the enemy of the good, gleefully destroy what was once a good civilization in a doomed attempt to create a perfect one. Unfortunately, the destruction is too far along to be stopped now. What to do, then? Spengler himself had the answer:

"Already the danger is so great, for every individual, every class, every people, that to cherish any illusion whatever is deplorable. Time does not suffer itself to be halted; there is no question of prudent retreat or wise renunciation. Only dreamers believe that there is a way out. Optimism is cowardice.

We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man."

Be honorable. Tell the truth. Stand your ground. Pray. It is all you can do, and it is what you must do.

Kate Phillips said...

Interesting take on the question, are things getting better or worse? I recently wrote a post on the same topic, with a different conclusion:

I agree with you... partially, but I don't think it's the whole picture.