Sunday 20 October 2013

Foolishness about the collapse/ non-collapse of The West


There are some really foolish people around. I mean those who look-forward with a positive relish to the collapse of the West sometime soon (timescale years or a few decades - unless we repent) as a time when the Left will get their just punishments.

Such people either have a limited imagination - or maybe they are young, strong, healthy, unmarried and without anybody they care about in the world - and look forward to engaging in some some untrammelled selfish exploitation.

But even more foolish are those who argue that the West will not collapse anytime soon (timescale many decades or centuries to go), and that those who anticipate collapse are engaged in wishful thinking


I find it hard to comprehend the foolishness of any decent person who looks forward to the collapse of Western civilization. While it is inevitable that a self-hating,  self-destroying, anti-religious and pro-nihilistic society that organizes against The Good - will rapidly weaken itself until it begins to fall apart and can be overcome by its enemies; and while the destruction of organized, coercive purposive evil may be necessary; the this-worldly consequences of such a collapse would very probably be horrific beyond anything even the twentieth century witnessed.


So, on present trends, the West will begin to collapse sooner rather than later - indeed the process has already begun but is disguised by the credulousness and ignorance of our media-addicted population who successfully re-label destruction and chaos as creation and progress.

What state the West will collapse-into, I do not know with any specificity, nor does anyone else - because there is no precedent.

And the degree of collapse is not pre-determined - because humans have free will and may repent and do something to combat, rather than aid, collapse. The sooner and more fully this happens, the less-bad the outcome would be (probably).

At present I see no sign whatsoever of societal repentance, indeed the opposite - but it is not ruled-out at any point.


However, the concern about the possibility of imminent collapse beginning to be undeniably obvious on a timescale of years (or days) is perfectly reasonable, sensible, prudent.

Just because the (external and internal) enemies of the West have not yet seriously mounted a take-over, for whatever reason, is no cause for complacency when they are getting-stronger; while The West's understanding, honesty, will power, resolve and courage (and wealth, capability, efficiency) are all getting weaker.



Anti-Democracy Activist said...

I don't "look forward" to the collapse of the West. Then again, I don't believe that one has to have ones eyes pointed forward in order to find it. I agree with William S. Lind, among others, in their assertion that in August of 1914, the West put a gun to its head and pulled the trigger. Everything since then has been the long, slow process of the corpse hitting the floor. There's nothing "imminent" about the West's collapse - we're already a century into it.

That said, the desire of some to see the West finally hit the floor and be done with it is neither sadism nor masochism. It is most akin to someone who, watching a loved one waste away in constant, unutterable agony from a terminal and incurable disease, just wants it to be over.

That and, well... what about the Western civilization is really worth saving anymore, exactly? I mean as it is now, not as it was in years long past.

Speaking of being saved: yes, as a Christian, watching the rampant decadence and dissolution that accompanies this collapse is horrifying, but let's not forget that the West needs God in order to continue, not the other way around. Christianity has outlasted many a nation, many a mighty Empire, and many a grand civilization - and it will outlast ours, too.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ADA - In Europe, a collapse could begin to accelerate rapidly (it has already begun) today - or it might be delayed some time (a couple of decades?); but it is *potentially* imminent for sure. These processes are not linear.

But the style of your comment comes across as glib - you do not give any impression of appreciating the gravity of wholesale chaos, war, famine, epidemics, violence, enslavement and the like.

A person of genuinely advanced spiritual attainment might be able to regard the prospect of vast human suffering with equanimity (although I doubt it); but otherwise equanimity just looks like a defect of imagination: stark insensibility, as Samuel Johnson called it.

dearieme said...

Last time, Byzantium lingered on for a good while. Where will the new Byzantium be?

Titus Didius Tacitus said...

Re: wholesale chaos, war, famine, epidemics, violence, enslavement and the like.

Let them all come sooner rather than later and to me personally first and worst, if only it will mean that we will not perish.

Bruce Charlton said...

@d - Salt Lake City.

@TDT - Could you redo your comment, but not directed personally?

Titus Didius Tacitus said...

dearieme: "Last time, Byzantium lingered on for a good while. Where will the new Byzantium be?"

The answer to that question is the same as the answer to the question: which are the major centers of Neanderthal values and culture in our post-Neanderthal world?

The Continental Op said...

In Revelation Babylon is a great evil empire--evil because it is opposed to God and Christ and therefore attacks Christians. It is an anti-Christ.

Ch 17 describes Babylon.
Ch 18 describes God's judgment of Babylon.
Ch 19 (beginning) describes the rejoicing in heaven as a result.

Thus, if God executes judgment on an evil--that is, anti-Christ--empire, that is a cause to rejoice.

Your assumption that things will get worse are a purely materialistic reductionist, therefore modern, view. Yes, they may very well get worse materially. So? What good is it if a man loses the whole world yet regains his soul? Much good that is!!

If the West has become anti-Christ, then when God executes his judgment on it we should rejoice with all the hosts of heaven.

Titus Didius Tacitus said...

"That and, well... what about the Western civilization is really worth saving anymore, exactly?"

Western civilization is white people. It could not exist without them, and where they are, it is, even in North America and Australia and in the Falkland Islands.

A mere history of whites once having lived in a place does not make that place part of Western civilization. Haiti, after the genocide of the whites who used to live there, is an excellent example. When white people are gone, whether killed off, driven off, prevented from reproducing or blended out, Western civilization is no more.

Think of everything in history that anyone who was white had a hand in, and remember that the genetic legacy that enabled all that still exists (give or take a temporary intelligence dip), which means it can all be done again, better, for many millions of years, not a mere few thousand of accumulated creativity, as long as the white race is saved.

Who is in a position to comprehend the entire beauty and creativity of all whites past, present and future, and able to pass a valid judgement that this race has no right to exist?

What moral mountain will they stand on that is so tall that they can look down on the genocide of the white race?

How fine is anyone's artistic judgement today, that they could look forward to a future where the distinct artistic geniuses of every white nation from France to Italy to Russia were wiped away, and validly decide that that would not be too great a loss? And how would that judge of fine arts do in every other field in which whites have participated? And in every other field in which they ever could participate? Because that's what it would take to have a valid view on the matter.

Is it possible to study the sculptures of Bernini and the plays of Shakespeare and the poetry of Dante and the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas and the science of Newton and all the rest, and decide validly, with full comprehension and authority, "there is no need for any more like them, forever"?

And how would anyone come by a valid, independent, external perspective, above all genes and culture including one's own?

And if the first thing that this judge's lofty perspective above mere race told them was that white genocide is OK, why should I or anyone think that was evidence of their superior understanding?

Bruce Charlton said...

@COp - Yes but you are getting mixed up here.

Think of the sufferings of Christ, especially think of the suffering which human suffering caused Jesus - think of how He felt when He took upon Himself the sins of the world and was cut off from His Father; think how these sufferings will have affected His loving Father.

Human suffering causes unimaginable suffering to God and to Jesus Christ; and we are talking here about vast human suffering.

This is not something we should allow ourselves to discuss with equanimity on the basis that it will 'all be for the best' in the long term, or something.

Suppose you were asked to watch someone you loved undergo a week's solid torture (real excruciating pain and suffering), or for a year, ten years, a lifetime - on the basis that it would in the end win them a place in Heaven.

Would you regard that prospect with equanimity, would you *rejoice*?

Heaven is *not* rejoicing about human torment, that is indeed a monstrous idea; why on earth should we try to rejoice over the prospect of human torment - *whatever* its outcome may be?

Bruce Charlton said...

@TDT - However, the age of genius seems to be over - including among those of European descent.

So, whatever happens, for the foreseeable future, I do not believe there will be anymore geniuses of the world historic stature you describe.


One of the interesting aspects of this collapse debate is that most of the West is outside of North America, and the billion or so in Europe are *much* more vulnerable to, closer to collapse than the ?one-third of that number in North America.

Anti-Democracy Activist said...


Glib? No - grim acceptance. Last stage of Kubler-Ross's process. It is what it is. So say the Serenity Prayer and keep a stiff upper lip. I am no more glib about what's happening than Benjamin Guggenheim was about the Titanic sinking around him. There's nothing glib about understanding that the reality of the situation is that the ship is going down, there is no escape or rescue, and that the best you can do is to make sure the world knows that you died like a gentleman. What's the alternative? Scream? Shout? Cry? What will that accomplish? I don't wish for what's coming in the next hundred years, but I didn't wish for what was coming in the last hundred, either. They will come whether I wish them to or not, just as the water came to Ben Guggenheim whether he wished it to or not.

While I see the Spenglerian Cycle as unavoidable and unstoppable in the long term, I do agree with you that it can be sped up or slowed down such as to give a civilization a few more or a few less centuries in its lifespan. It can be, but that doesn't mean that it will be, and the more time goes by, the more difficult, drastic and draconian the steps needed to arrest the decline become. I just don't see it happening. If I were Emperor Of The World, I could change that, of course. And if I had wheels, I'd be a wagon.

I believe that the last chance God gave the West in this regard was 1991, and the perfect, practically bloodless victory over Communism we saw in that year. Having been spared from the threat of nuclear annihilation, shown the joy of deliverance from the horrors of Marx's inhuman dogma, and had it demonstrated that these things could be rolled back and decisively beaten, we had an incomparably perfect chance to take another, better path. God could not have given us a clearer, better opportunity. Ironically, only Russia seems to be taking God up on that offer. They have a long way yet to go, but are slowly reconverting, and with God's grace may recover fully before too long. The rest of us have spit in God's eye, and we'll see where that will get us. Or rather, we are seeing where it's getting us.

Samson J. said...

But the style of your comment comes across as glib - you do not give any impression of appreciating the gravity of wholesale chaos, war, famine, epidemics, violence, enslavement and the like.

Cut some slack here, guv'; I think most of us armchair sociologists *don't* appreciate what we are talking about when we talk about "collapse". In the mind of the average alt-righter, "collapse" means "economic hardship just bad enough to re-ignite traditional values, and no worse" or "collapse - of the Leftist nanny state". And, as you say, it would be worse in Europe, but in N America this doesn't tend to occur to us.

And the degree of collapse is not pre-determined - because humans have free will and may repent and do something to combat, rather than aid, collapse. The sooner and more fully this happens, the less-bad the outcome would be (probably).

Personally, I think what's keeping the West afloat thus far is a strong element of "for the sake of ten..."

New Byzantium... Salt Lake City

If this were to come true, I wonder how widely it would be heralded as a token of Mormonism's truth.

One of the things I haven't seen you write much (anything?) about, with respect to your views on Mormonism, is the role of the USA in history. Outside the USA we tend to roll our eyes at any idea that the USA *has* a "special role" in biblical history, or that it is mentioned in scripture - but clearly this might need adjusting if Mormonism were true.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SJ - Before I was a Christian, my main interest - my fundamental belief - was in systems theory; and I spent a long time thinking about systems, how they work.

When a system is very complex and interdependent and its parts are highly specialized - it can cope with change up to a point very well (and much better than simple systems - which is why complexity evolves); beyond that point it collapses - with failure in one part leading to failure in another, and so on (like human aging leading to death).

The collapse of the Western Roman Empire was like this - and the Dark Ages which supervened. It probably took Britain about 1300 years to get above the organizational/ civilization/ capability level of the Romans.

I am not talking about preservation of Western Culture, genius, or the gene pool of European peoples - I am talking about organizing the necessities of life - defence, order, food and drink, sewage and transport - stuff like that.

At present we have gone beyond not-even-trying, onto active sabotage and systematic destruction of anything good, productive, useful, constructive: our civilization is insane.

Nothing can happen until sanity is restored, and that means religion.

That is the way humans are made - and if we still can't see that, then we never will - because the evidence of the twentieth century was overwhelming.

Unfortunately the Christian churches have almost been as thoroughly corrupted as the other social systems.

(Note: the CJCLDS is not, at present, corrupted in this way and at present there is no trend towards its corruption. In this, as in many other respects, Mormonism is an exception)..

The corruption and weakness of most of the churches makes everything much harder for Christians; but it makes no difference at all to the fact that Christianity is the only possible future for the West, and no difference at all to what real Christians must do.

I don't know if Christianity can revive, but that is the priority. It is the only cure for insanity, and sanity is the pre-requisite to anything useful.

Anti-Democracy Activist said...

I'm not saying that the collapse of the West will be a joyride, but neither would I worry as much as some people do. The sun rose just fine on the morning of the 5th of September, 476. On the first day without the Roman Empire, the world kept turning, and people got on with their lives. And, most importantly, the churches were open the following Sunday. The "Dark Ages", if not a complete fiction of the Enlightenment, is at least a serious exaggeration, and Gibbon should be taken with an appropriate grain of salt.

Anyhow, Prof. Charlton, I wonder if you've read some of the collapse theorists and their ideas. If you haven't seen it already, this piece by Ugo Bardi of the University of Florence is excellent. I don't agree with every single one of his points, but the in the main, his ideas are well worth reading:

Bruce Charlton said...

@ADA - Come, come:

"The sun rose just fine on the morning of the 5th of September, 476."

That's an incredibly silly thing to say, or attitude to take, in relation to this topic. The same could be said of anything that ever happened anywhere at any time - it always takes time for the effects of causes (even the biggest catastrophes) to work through.

It was 'only' the Western Roman Empire that collapsed - and not the capital of the Empire; but the effects were vast, various and extraordinarily long lasting (I recently read a book about the devastating economic and trade decline; which can be measured fairly exactly.)

But the modern world has about seven billion people - an excess of billions compared with the past - and with this surplus sustained by modern technology, organization, trade, medicine etc. Take them away, and the population goes back to what it was through most of human history, or less.

Anti-Democracy Activist said...


Of course, what I meant by that is that the Fall of Rome really wasn't as bad as all that. There was no mass famine, nor cataclysmic war, nor all-consuming plague. It wasn't an extinction event. Fate was far kinder to the last of the Romans than the Romans had been to the last of the Carthaginians. Most of the remaining Romans in the 5th century ended up leaving the city and drifting out into the countryside in search of some good land to work. This will happen to us, too - lots of iPhone-stroking London and New York urbanites will end up celebrating their 80th birthdays on a humble rural farm.

Consider this: in a collapse, trends start at the margins and move in towards the center, so if you want to understand what's coming, look to the margins. In America, huge numbers of black people - always the country's most marginalized population - are moving out of the big industrial cities and back to the rural south. Expect this trend of the reversal of the 20th century's massive urbanization to accelerate, and to move off the margins towards the center.

As for the "excess" world population disappearing, that too is already well underway (as Spengler predicted, incidentally). Europe is leading the charge in the population crash, but the rest of the world is following apace. America's population growth is sustained only by massive immigration. Japan and Korea are demographic disaster zones. China will soon find itself wondering how to - or if it even can - turn its population-reduction machinery off. Even much of the Muslim world is seeing declining birthrates. We're hitting the peak of a lot of things at once, and peak people is one of them.

Neither are the technological innovations of the West going away completely, any more than Rome's bridges, stadiums, and aqueducts all disappeared on September 5th, 476. There won't be any more moon landings, electricity will be spotty in many places, journeys will be shorter and take longer, but it's not like mankind is going to de-invent steel or penicillin.

A decline of the West that is relatively slow - taking place over the course of many decades and accompanied by a natural de-urbanization and population decrease - will be uncomfortable but not catastrophic (certainly not in the sense of plagues and famines in the West). I believe this will be the case - like I said, I believe us to already be a hundred years into this process. How long was it from Commodus to Romulus Augustulus?

Bruce Charlton said...

@ADA - I'm sorry to be harsh - but this is sheer foolishness. If this bucolic moonshine is representative of what people believe would follow a collapse, then I am not at all surprised that they fail to repent!

I shall just link to one authoritative projection of population trends before closing this exchange:

If an extra 800,000,000 people in the next couple of decades counts as a global population crash - then I don't have anything more to comment.

Bruce B. said...


Jim Kalb doesn’t seem to talk much about imminent collapse and he seems to have a keen understanding of society as a complex system. Do you think his view of our future is at least possible?

Bruce Charlton said...

@BB - Jim Kalb is simply taking a more gradualist and constructive attitude than me. Jim is also much more optimistic about the possible benefits of reasoned debate, persuasion, evidence etc. whereas I regard Leftism/ Liberalism as immunized against these. But so far as I know we do not disagree substantively.

J. B. said...

Bruce I agree with you and I share your exasperation. Since I've been married (two years and a bit) and now with our first child on the way, the collapse of Western civilization is my chief long-term anxiety. How will I protect and provide for my wife and kids? is the question.

I can't assume that everybody with a rosy outlook on the future is childless, but I find it hard to understand otherwise.

Samson J. said...


(As an aside, I find it a frustration that the blog lacks a "recent comments" sidebar - entries seem to fall off the radar too quickly here.)


I also have young children, and in my saner moments I believe Bruce is correct about what full-scale "collapse" would actually entail.

But, I think that the future - *any* future, but *especially* one full of uncertainty - holds a lot of promise for individuals that are a) family-centric, and b) bold, strong and willing to make the life that they want. These are qualities that originally made the USA great.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SJ - "One of the things I haven't seen you write much (anything?) about, with respect to your views on Mormonism, is the role of the USA in history. Outside the USA we tend to roll our eyes at any idea that the USA *has* a "special role" in biblical history, or that it is mentioned in scripture - but clearly this might need adjusting if Mormonism were true."

I do have views on what I understand to be 'God's plan' or God's hopes' about the destinies of some nations - but there is no possibility of persuading other people of the correctness of my beliefs, and it would be dangerous to try.

I believe that the way God works in history is to support the best possibilities as they emerge through human choices; but people often, usually, choose wickedness - later if not sooner.

I presume that the focus of world Christianity was the Roman Empire and its continuation in Constantinople then Moscow - but that God foresaw how this was crumbling toward a level of near destruction in 1917. I believe God also supported some of the manifestations of the Reformation including the early Church of England translations of scriptures. I also believe that God enabled and has sustained the Mormon church - and its 'timing' to emerge as so many other Christian churches are crumbling and dying.

So in this and other sense it is clear that the focus of Christianity has roots, but also has moved - especially in relation to anything which is or may become a Christian empire.

In this sense I think it likely that the USA both has been and was meant to become the focus of world Christianity - at least since the apostasy and de facto secularization of the British Empire.

This kind of thing has various indices - but missionary activity is one of them. Britain was the main source of missionaries until this 'role' was taken over by the US - and Britain has been a major recipient of missionary activity since the mid-20th century.

So I am sure that there is divine providence, but not destiny - Men may sabotage almost anything Good, if and when they choose evil. While I am not sure I understand it, neither am I convinced that other people understand it better than me - especially when they clearly display hard-heartedness, lust for destruction and domination, and hatred in discussing these matters, as do so many supposedly orthodox or traditional 'Christian' bloggers.

I am also sure that we need to do our best to understand the broad workings of providence - or rather than understand, to *feel* the workings - by the discernment of the heart; especially so as not to sabotage providence by fighting against God's plans/ hopes.