Decline is the Wrong Metaphor, A Storm is Better

There is a very important, unknowable question: Will the future be good, or bad?

It is, unfortunately, unanswerable, as are all questions about the future.  Past performance predicts future results—so far.   The Titanic was unsinkable, until it wasn’t.  All swans were white, as everyone knew—until some were black.

But the past is helpful in predicting the future most of the time.  If the line has been going down for the last sixty days, it will probably go down tomorrow.

And so, when we look around and we see a society getting worse, we extrapolate forward and see a decline.  And we are probably right.  Even if it doesn’t happen tomorrow, there are structural issues that show no sign of being fixed.  So if not tomorrow, next month, or next year, or decade, or century—who knows?  But we’re crusin’ for a bruisin’, that much we’re sure of.

But.  There is still more future left.  After the Big One (civil war?  credit crunch? earthquake?  tsunami?  nanobots?), will things get a) better, or b) worse?  How does the story end?

That’s an important question, because if it all ends in thermonuclear war, or even just eternal Mad Max, then what’s the point?  Why prepare for a future that won’t exist?

And so we come back to our original question,  and re-realize that it is

  • important (if ends badly, why waste all the effort now?)
  • unknowable (past performance is no guarantee of future results—although past performance indicates that we’re in trouble)

Taking a very (in my mind) rational view, Captain Capitalism has published a book embodying the look-at-things-so-far-stupid approach, titled Enjoy the Decline.  The thesis is that things are going downhill, so you might as well get as much out of life as you can in the meantime.

But can anyone really enjoy a decline?  I will certainly admit to an overly-developed sense of schadenfreude, but probably the worst thing about a decline is knowing that you’re living in a decline.  “What’s tomorrow going to be like?”  “Worse.”  “Oh…that’s, uh…great.”  As far as I can tell the EtD idea is to create a local pocket where things will be better each day, but only better as measured on a hedonism scale.  Trying to actually accomplish something is pointless, because any lasting good you might do will crash and burn with the stock exchanges.

But hedonism’s not good enough.  Man does not live on bread alone.  Humans require narrative—what is the point?   What is “all of this” leading toward?

 

“We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

 

Fight Club describes a bunch of men who, lacking belief in God but still needing a narrative to sustain them, have it punctured by reality.

Little wonder, then, that is produced by a society that no longer believes in God (at least not seriously), and is having its alternative narratives (80′s: Me!  90′s: dotcom! 00′s: hmm… 10′s: uh oh…) popped one by one.

The important thing to understand about Fight Club is that they were right.  In a world governed by Ikea catalogs (in other words: no narrative), the plea to start the world becomes relevant.  Bread?  We’ve got iPhones, we have bread covered (for now).  But a future?  We rejected (and probably fear) the Second Coming, Mars is too expensive…House of Cards in your pocket, now there’s a future we can all agree on.  This future is a) unobjectionable, and b) quite obviously hell on earth.

I mean, ignore the basement fighting and the corporate sabotage and the workplace blackmail and coordinated vandalism for a moment.  It’s how you respond to things that determines who you are, but we don’t care who they are, we care about what they saw and what they were responding to, because we can notice it and not be them if we respond differently.  The rain falls on the just and the unjust, so you can at least trust the unjust about whether it’s raining or not.

I’m not saying anything new here.  All I’m saying is: the discontent, at least the sophisticated ones, are right.  Basically right.  Democracy leads downward, the sexual revolution leads to disaster, race matters more than we (self included) would like to think, immigration is going to screw us over.  And there is no way to reverse any of these things.

So that’s the rain.

But there’s a difference between a world-ending flood and a storm.  The difference, when it’s raining, is which you think it is.

So which do we think it is?  Are we facing a survivable storm, or the end of the world?

Where I live, we get some OK storms now and then.  Nothing too crazy, but maybe enough to make you drive a lot more carefully during the commute.  And it’s pretty nice to be in your warm house when it’s pouring outside.

The Decline is temporary.  It is temporal.  It is part of the world, not the whole world.

We should take it seriously, we should prepare, we should be generally sober-minded.  But then we should forget about it.  I imagine Christ shaking his head, saying, “Look, I’m glad you understand the world better now, but don’t forget that I’ve overcome it.  Gethsemene?  Calvary?  Those were hard, you know, and the whole point of them was so you didn’t have to get super down about all this stuff, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t.”

So, let me spell out the future: a bunch of good and bad stuff happens, bla bla bla, then eternal happiness and immortality.  Not very exact, but certainly throws everything else into perspective, doesn’t it?

The other thing I want to mention is: the Decline does not drag every other narrative down with it.  You can not only play fun games and eat warm food during the storm, but you can write great novels and extend the garage.  It is possible to grow in the midst of rot.

Who’s dumber, the person who gets caught out in the rain and then frantically tries to get inside, or the person who, safe inside, concludes that the rain will last forever and commits suicide?  You don’t have to be either.

Of Good Report

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. ~ Philippians 4:8

Last night I found a video by the pseudonymous Millennial Woes, which video I can only describe as…lovely.

I’ll stop beating around the bush and just link it:

The channel author spends the first nine minutes reading aloud an article from The Imaginative Conservative depicting charity in the pre-war England countryside, and then the comments, interspersing his commentary in between.

The money shot is at 20:30, when, describing a world with a functioning social contract, he asks, “Is it not so nice?”

I think, sometimes, of all that’s possible with today’s technology.  We are rich beyond rich.  And yet…things seem to be going downhill.

What’s happened here is that, starting with an absurdity, we have reasoned ourselves into nonsense.  Our premise was that the purpose of economic activity is hedonism, ie, the satisfaction of human desires…But this isn’t the goal.  The goal, believe it or not, is to become better people.” ~ Moldbug

Virtue is the first, last, and only real safeguard any system of government has.  Even democracy works when it’s present.

And what is virtue?

Well, I’ll say it again: wise as serpents, harmless as doves.  A good king is both a) good and b) a king.

Seriously, when you get time, watch the whole video.  I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Two Useful Things, and It’s Sunday!

It is the Lord’s Day, and that is cause for rejoicing and contemplation.  

1.  Sic Transit Gloria

"Trooping through the streets of ancient Rome, conquering legions
under the standard of the eagle wheeled carts piled high with the
booty of war. Plundered were the treasuries of the vanquished. Gold,
silver, jewels, livestock and grain overflowed. Captured enemy
soldiers, their faces lowered in defeat and humiliation, were forced
at spear point to march past the cheering crowds of patriotic
patricians.

At the rear of the procession rolled Caesar?s chariot, equipped with
an unusual, human safety device. To prevent pride from consuming him,
the man of the hour had positioned a lowly servant at his side. His
sole responsibility was to temper the boundless enthusiasm expressed
by Caesar?s adoring fans with the three word warning, 'Sic Transit
Gloria.'

A literal Latin rendering of the phrase is translated 'Thus passes
glory.' A more fluent English version might be, 'All fame is
fleeting."

 

Now, seriously: Say "Sic transit gloria" out loud a few times.  To prevent you from feeling alone, I will say it, out loud, on my bed where I'm typing this:

"Sic Transit Gloria."

"Sic Transit Gloria."

"Sic Transit Gloria."

(Yes, I did say it out loud.  Did you?)

The additive part:  

"Sic" means "Thus," as in "Sic Semper Tyrannis" ("Thus always, to tyrants")

"Transit" means "passes" as in, well, transit.  

"Gloria," means glory, or fame.

(On this Sunday, if you are overflowing with joy, be perhaps a bit more contemplative, because it will pass; if you are laid down in despair, take hope, because this too shall pass).

Now say it again, and think yourself kind of cool for knowing a (very) little bit of Latin: Sic Transit Gloria

 

2.  One hotkey

I will win no prizes for changing your world today.  But maybe a tiny, small change.

If you're on a Mac: Cmd + Shift + f will move the cursor to the address bar and start a search.  

On WindowsCtrl + K will do the same.*

 

That's it.  It's Sunday!

 

*Note that I don't know if these work for Internet Explorer.  If you are using Internet Explorer, the nicest thing I can do for you is to say: do what it takes to get rid of internet explorer.  Email me if you need help.  There are others like you, and they're alright now.  Everything's going to be OK.

Done

This place attracts nerds.  You probably are one.  The main failing of nerds, to echo the linked post, is failure to provide value in the here and now.  

Nerds are good.  I am one.  They often focus on multipliers, and multipliers scale.  But there has to be something to multiply.

Neoreaction attracts nerds, and the whole movement/ideology/field of study is, I think, a giant multiplier.  So I think it has a great future.

It has a pretty crappy present though.

So!  As a nerd among nerds, a lover of multipliers among lovers of multipliers, I’m crossing the chasm.  Expect to see less theory here, and more mundane stuff.  How to change your oil.  Mnemonic tricks.  I’m aiming for stuff that will a)be useful to everybody b)will be easy to remember (expect a lot of mnemonics and movie references), and most of all, sparse.  I’ll be posting less, and posting better.

Have a good Thursday night.