Time and History, Development and Regression
I don't know if I was ever susceptible to that idea... No, check me on that. Now that I think about it, back when I was a liberal, I mindlessly joined in with the pack, imagining, for example, that American Indians lived in a kind of innocent paradise instead of being violent and repressive Stone Age brutes. Their lifestyle has little to recommend to the space-age Raccoon.
It was my study of psychology, and by extension, psychohistory, that cured me of the tendency. You could say that collective development is analogous to individual development, in that -- obviously -- the further back you go, the more primitive things get.
And no, I am not devaluing or dehumanizing our venerable furbears, without whom we wouldn't be here. Rather, the opposite. You may recall that on any number of occasions I have said that I don't regard children as "defective," or partial, or somehow incomplete human beings.
Rather -- for example -- I look at my 10 year old and see him as a perfect 10. The purpose of being 10 is not to be 11, let alone 18, or 21, or 30. I never give him the impression that his life will really begin in the future, and that there is no intrinsic validity and dignity to his current life, just as it is. We never talk about college, as if it is a matter of great importance where or even whether he decides to go. If anything, we let him know that he will have to gird his soul if he decides to explore those endarkened precincts.
Indeed, I assume that in 10 years time, everyone will have seen through the malevolent silliness, the infantile fascism, of college, and the bubble will have burst. The University Snowflake movement is doing everything in its power to move up the timeline.
Well, take that same principle and apply it to history, prehistory, and even pre-prehistory, AKA mythology. People of the past are often rather childlike by our standards, but that doesn't invalidate their lives, any more than our lives are invalid in comparison to the enlightened ones who will be here 1,000 years hence.
In fact, one of the most important functions of religion is to make sure that our current being has full validity in light of future developments.
What I mean is that religion speaks of universal truths, i.e., truths that will always be true regardless of future discoveries and developments. It's just that we must take those developments and inflect them through the prism of timeless truth. Which is what we are always doing around here.
For example, just as our predecessors took Aristotelian or Newtonian physics and examined them in light of religious truth, we do the same thing vis-a-vis quantum physics, or chaos and complexity, or information theory. The truth doesn't change, but our way of conceptualizing and communicating it does.
Among other things, this assures us that our lives will always have the possibility of being "valid," validity presupposing access to a truth that never changes -- in which we can confidently place our faith.
Conversely, let's say you place your faith in science in the vulgar sense. This automatically condemns you to obsolescence, being that science is always changing. For example, what if you placed your faith in Newton in the 19th century? Oops! Einstein just obliterated your faith. It is no different if you place your faith in Darwin today.
Having said that, just as there is a proper way to be a 10 year old -- for example, you don't expect him to act like a five year old -- there is a proper way to be an 18 year old or 30 year old. You still have expectations, it's just that you don't project future ones onto the present. Which is why mature people don't condemn America's founders because some of them owned slaves.
At one time slavery was universal. Indeed, I would guess that there were more white slaves in the world in 1860 than black slaves. I myself am no doubt descended from serfs or worse, but I don't brag about it. I don't try to use it as an invitation to not grow the hell up and to become dependent upon the state. Jews are the most mistreated people in history, but you rarely see one on welfare.
Another critical point -- and one we've discussed in the past -- is that, precisely due to the conditions of modernity, we have so many more ways to be wicked. People of the past were just as vain and greedy and lustful and narcissistic, it's just that they lacked the means to act on their badness (or at least the damage was limited).
But thanks to Obama, we have Genghis Khan with nukes. Historically speaking, he has given to two-year olds what only 40 year-olds are mature enough to handle. Ironically, he has no respect for their culture, which is only running about 700 years behind ours.
Prior to evil modern capitalism there was the predatory state. "What was odd about northwestern Europe in the eighteenth century," writes McCloskey, was "that it escaped from 'predatory tendencies' common to every 'agrarian civilization' since the beginning."
So, to the extent that there are residual predatory tendencies in modern capitalism, it is because the tendencies are in man, not in the system per se. Indeed, the predatory tendencies are only worse with socialism, as we have seen in the Obama regime, which is one gargantuan macroparasite on the economy.
McCloskey reminds us that as a result of the long "European Civil War" of 1914-1989, "capitalism was nearly overwhelmed by nationalism and socialism." It was as if man had reached adolescence and decided to plunge back into childhood (which only happens all the time).
But a child's mind in a man's body is quite different from a man in a man's body. Regression to earlier stages of development is always possible, and indeed, this goes to the deep structure of the culture war between left and right. The left is very much like an immature child who will never get what he needs so long as he is getting what he thinks he wants.
Much to do today. To be continued...