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02 August 2016

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David Lentini

Many good points. But since when is religion outside of reason? As Mr. Somkuti points out, our "rational" society isn't looking so robust these days. Perhaps our abandonment of religion, at least Christian religion, wasn't so productive—and therefore not rational—after all.

Indeed, since all of Western culture: music, art, literature, and even science, are derived in no small part from Christian thought, our current predicament only shows the foolishness of the so-called Enlightenment, which elbowed out God by taking credit for the very civilization raised by the Church out of the ashes of the Roman Empire, a civilization that lasted far longer than our "scientific" age.

VietnamVet

Balint Somkuti

Excellent Article.

The 2003 Iraq Invasion started the whirlpool. The regime change campaigns in Libya and Syria sped it up. But, the Ukraine Maidan Coup and the start of the Cold War 2.0 is spinning things apart. The desperation of the ruling class to keep control of Europe and North America in the face of spreading inequality, wars, refugees and austerity is smashing through the propaganda. The Western Alliance is splintering. The only way to halt the breakup is to overthrow the ruling neo-liberal ideology of free movement of people, goods and capital. Restore the rule of law by sovereign democratic states for the good of the people. The alternative is the continuing return of the Global Losers to their tribal roots for safety and meaning; a New Dark Age.

godfree roberts

As George Orwell, who'd lived though one, observed of declining empires, "Their tragedy is that they can only hire people who deny that the empire is declining".

michael brenner

The old saying is: plus ca change,....That's to say, things must appear the same so that the necessary constants remain in place. In the United States, and across the Western World to a less acute extent, we have experienced the opposite. Everything appears to stay the same: democratic institutions, mechanism and procedures. Yet, we are evolving quite rapidly into a de facto plutocracy. In the process, we are undoing the great socio-economic achievements of the post-war era which brought unprecedented domestic peace and prosperity - as well as peace among those states so constituted. Our dedication to undoing that historic accomplishment calls into question all of that. It also raises the questions as to whether there are any limits to human stupidity.

Nightsticker

Balint,

A very good article.

Someone asked me recently "what was the most
provocative, interesting question posed
to you at university"?

I answered that in a 1st year Philosophy class
test I was asked "how would an educated gentlemen
in 450 AD in Europe know that a Dark Age was coming"?

I can't remember my answer but I have pondered it
ever since.

Nightsticker
USMC 65-72
FBI 72-96

PeterHug

Thanks for an interesting analysis!

What makes me truly worried, is that the developments you project (and I agree with most of what you suggest) will not happen against a neutral backdrop - it's very likely that Global Warming and a number of fundamental resource limitations will combine to make things a good deal worse, a good deal faster than most people expect.

The disruptions of the past that have happened since the rise of Civilization, have taken place against a relatively constant climate background (a few exceptions such as the Mayan collapse are educational in themselves).

I know I sound like a nut when I say this - but I would not automatically assume the continued existence of a global commercial civilization in any plan that extends past 2035 or so.

Wonduk

Great article! But there's no clear telling whether we're in a 260 or 450 like situation. Diocletian, somewhere someone?

divadab

@Peterhug- excellent point! I agree in general but I think the unwinding of the energy feast will take a good deal longer and in a patchier way than you propose. Never underestimate the forces of order! While Bangladeshis (for example) and other people who live 100 feet or less above sea level will have to move, and this will be chaotic and violent and terrible, much dying, most people in the less over-populated world will make out, albeit at a much lower material standard of living.

Our great-grandchildren may well be homesteading on Baffin Island.

That the political class is completely avoiding the ramifications of climate change is unsurprising, devoted as they are to the status quo. Nonetheless if we continue to elect as leaders the stupidest least offensive most attractive pleasers with their hands in our pockets and their eyes on the main chance we deserve to go extinct.


readerOfTeaLeaves

Agree that changes sometimes seem to come suddenly, at least to those who have not been paying attention.

Perhaps my perspective is somewhat unconventional, but it seems quite likely that the problems of the late Roman Empire were significantly affected by soil depletion, which resulted in diminished food quality. If interested, google 'late Roman empire soil depletion' for a quick overview of a topic that is endlessly fascinating. It was first brought to my attention by a professor of Roman History, whose emphasis was Roman military history.

Soil depletion (particularly deficiencies in iron and B12) would have affected the nutritional quality of the food supply for both plants and animals. Those nutritional deficiencies then impacted the health and fighting ability of the Roman legions.

We currently live in a land awash in endless varieties of potato chips, Fritos, Doritos, and fizzy sugared drinks; meanwhile, billions are spent in the US (and globally) on medicines for diabetes and related health problems that probably originate in large part from overconsumption of 'junk foods'. Those of us who 'pay extra' for organic foods are, in part, seeking higher nutrient content from foods grown and grazed on healthier soils.

Soil health may seem a boring topic, but it has enormous implications for the health of a population. Food quality (and quantity) is also likely to affect the resilience of the population during times of stress and change.

As for the central banks having lost control, we seem to be on the brink of such a 'crisis'.
Given the potential chaos ahead, we should all be tucking into plates full of fresh veggies, and nice thick steaks, to sustain us. The problem will be finding the correct currency to pay for it all.

One of the changes that I see emerging is related to people's personal health: farmer's markets, community supported agriculture (CSA), and locally raised meats and eggs are well established in my region. Agriculture and the food supply are already showing signs of change, and these changes are directly related to personal health.

Another change that I see in my area is the increased membership in credit unions, and people closing out accounts in banks; these shifts are significant and happening across all age groups.

IOW, it appears that many people are open to change, due to concerns that present methods are not healthy, nor sustainable. People seem increasingly curious about where their food comes from, and where their money is -- both shifts seem to be part of some very quiet, interesting social changes that are already under way.

Balint Somkuti

Mr Lentini
Being a religious person myself I think faith is irrational. I can not rationally justify my belief in God. It is an axiom. How can we comprehend omnipontence?

I see the pre-Reason age as controlled mostly by blind faith in the Holy Scripts (btw creationists and islam are still in that phase in my opinion). The prority of science on faith is just as foolish IMO, as the opposite. We are talking about two different things with very little connection. Even if I dont believe in gravity the apple will fall from the tree eventually.

You say that our culture is derived from christian thought. Yes indeed. But the incorporation of the antique greek (and later roman) thought has made christianity what it is. I believe it was the work of the Holy Spirit and not a coincidence. But this does not change the facts e.g 25 December was a pagan feast (Sol Invictus).

It is the arrogance of modern times to think that we can be equal to God. But wait isn't it the story of Adam and the Eviction from Paradise?

Balint Somkuti

Agreed.

Question is can these democratic sovereign states learn from history and not start wars again for a better good of their own people at the expense of other sovereign states' people?

Swerv21

Without reason or functional institutions you will have to return to the family unit. I would imagine the next stage if this analysis is correct is something like corporate feudalism. For an analagous situation one would only need to look at the structures of power operative in the Levant- power and privelege in the hands of families and structures derived to fill the vacuum of in the wake of institutional collapse.

In our own history, it would be a bit like the America depicted in 'There Will Be Blood' Except turbocharged, and with even less compassion.

Balint Somkuti

I see the reemergence of the need for transcendency. A notion almost forgotten by most and almost banned, but definitely ridiculed by the science worshippers. But humans need transcendent experiences. Right now most people find it in drugs, or in odd, obscure or outright bizarre cults. In my opinion the return to patient, and tolerant faith and the search for spirituality can be the next ideology.

What are your experiences and thoughts?

Balint Somkuti

There is an excellent train of thought along that line in Robert Graves' Count Belisarius where an aristocrat living in IIRC Thracia in the 6th century AD laments the collapse of Rome (and calling himself somewhat funnily a roman) reciting the battle of Adrianople in 378 AD.

Oswald Spengler was right when he wrote about the collapse of the western world in 1914. A hundred years later we see he was right, but that process was hidden by the mundane joys bought by the developing economy. Westerners lived better but much shallowly consuming the foundations of the future.

johnf

I notice you make an exception of Brexit. I know Brexit was a result of Britain's arcane and labyrinthine political system, difficult to copy in other countries, but it does present a way of facing or setting the Borg against itself.

Essentially Brexit decisively switched the nation's centre of political and economic gravity from London and its elite to the provinces and us great unwashed. Any would-be Borg leader of the future knows that if they are going to gain power, they are going to have to do it through the route of the long-ignored provinces. Above all, by providing meaningful and long-term jobs to the deep pools of unemployment and poverty which scar our country. Manufacturing industry is going to have to pre-dominate over the dark satanic mills of the City of London.

We have a new Prime Minister (and thank God for our obsolete political system which has always been able to change leaders so swiftly) who obviously recognizes the new realities. As I've noted in another recent post, Theresa May's domestic policies are likely to be dominated by the Tory/Socialist policies of Joseph Chamberlain, her foreign policies are likely to be far more "realist". (I know she has, for political reasons, kept neo-cons in her cabinet like Liam Fox (who is already re-miring himself in scandal) and the buffoon Boris Johnson (she has a particular contempt for Bullingdon Tories and will keep him on a very short leash)).

But she is not going to be able to just perform a few crude pro-Brexit gestures and then revert to her inner Borgism. What isn't realised is that her position is equally as precarious as her Labour opponent Corbyn. Half of her backbench MPs are fanatical Brexiteers. She is going to have to seriously serve the Brexit voters - through curbing immigration and increasing provincial manufacturing jobs longterm, if she hopes to survive.

The Labour opposition is likewise split - between, in their case, Borgists and socialists (while, ironically, Theresa May nicks Corbyn's socialist policies). The Borgist rebel Labour MPs cannot rely on any popular support, and are instead relying on the Borgist media to spread wild lies about Corbyn. Outrages are continuously concocted about the vegetarian pacifist Corbyn being a raping, homophobic, woman hating anti-semite. (Its getting just as bad as the Syrian coverage, where, if the rebels are losing badly, you know there'll be reports of a new gas attack). But no one believes the lies any longer.

There is one difference between some intelligent bloke in the C4th watching boatloads of Anglo Saxons row over the horizon and now. We live in democracies (however debased). The arrival of Trump and Le Pen (and as a socialist I say thaT with difficulty) and Orlov and Steinmeyer and others are a sign of health. Grassroots health. A grasssroots prepared to fight for its jobs and fight for its democracy. And who have a very clear idea of who their enemies are (not Putin or Assad). In democracies things are not written in stone. Neville Chamberlain did not last forever (it just seemed as though he did).

David Habakkuk

Balint Somkuti,

On problems with the way that ‘liberalism’ has developed, three pieces which might be of interest to you and others, if you have not seem them already:

One is a piece published in the ‘Atlantic’ back in May 1995 by Benjamin Schwarz, under the title ‘The Diversity Myth’. The sub-heading: ‘The hortatory version of our history, in which America has long been a land of ethnic tolerance and multicultural harmony, leaves us with nothing useful to say to the failed states and riven polities of the post-Cold War world.’

(http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/foreign/divers.htm .)

The subject Schwarz was trying to open up was that the American (and increasingly Western ‘myth’) is based on the premise that ‘peaceful coexistence’ between cultures is somehow a natural state. As he argues, this rests on a very shallow reading both of American and European history.

Another is a piece on a – quite interesting – British site called ‘Spiked-Online’ by Peter Ungar, who apparently is a ‘Green’ councillor in Budapest, entitled ‘In Defence of Borders’. In it he quotes a remark by the anti-Zionist Jewish scholar Tony Judt:

‘It is not by chance that social democracy and welfare states have worked best in small, homogeneous countries, where issues of mistrust and mutual suspicion do not arise so acutely. A willingness to pay for other people’s services and benefits rests upon the understanding that they in turn will do likewise for you and your children: because they are like you and see the world as you do.’

So, as elsewhere, one sees distinctions between ‘left’ and ‘right’ not necessarily helping to get issues into clear focus.

(See http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/in-defence-of-borders-hungary-immigration-eu/18606#.V6GjPvnyv6o .)

The third is a review by William Anthony Hay, on the ‘Kirk Center’ site, of a recently published study entitled ‘The Habsburg Empire: A Reconsideration’ by Pieter M. Judson.

(See http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/bookman/article/the-habsburgs-a-reconsideration/ .)

Commenting on the situation left by the Empire’s collapse, Hay concludes:

‘Having rejected the idea of a multinational state with independence, the postwar world lacked a framework to manage diversity. The pressures of total war – along with the miscalculations of feckless generals – shattered the structure that had provided a cohesion that could not now be recovered. Not surprisingly the Habsburg Empire came to look much better by contrast with what followed. Reconsidering its history from a fresh perspective does much to explain why.’

A key point, of course, being that to create ‘small homogenous countries’ out of the territories of the vast multinational empires which traditionally dominated Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and the Middle East was simply impossible, without massive amounts of violence.

The violence resumes today in the ‘borderlands’ between the old empires, notably Ukraine, and throughout the Middle East: with Western ‘élites’ fuelling the fires.

How to find different kinds of ‘framework to manage diversity’, to replace traditional ones, remains a key modern problem.

It is symptomatic of the intellectual bankruptcy of these Western ‘élites’ that, not only do they have no useful answers to it – in general, they have not even got so far as acknowledging the problem. In Syria, and Ukraine, the story that they want to tell is one of unitary ‘peoples’ striving for ‘freedom’ against tyrants.

And Benjamin Schwarz left the ‘Atlantic’ for the ‘American Conservative’, where, it seems, the idea of a serious journalist is Jeffrey Goldberg (LOL!)

Laguerre

"Like their American counterpart the Borg the Eurocrats are unable to change, or even see the necessity of change."

This is fatuous. The Borg may not be ready for change, but the EU definitely is. Major changes, already prefigured, are coming in the next decade.

All you can see is the Brexit propaganda of a fossilised dictatorial EU. Well, if that's the way Hungary looks at it, I'd say fine, leave. It was only Tony Blair who wanted Eastern Europe in the EU, anyway.

JJackson

David
I rather think the point is that religions are matters of faith and are consequently not subject to refutation by logic or reason. While religion may predate science I am fairly sure Christianity does not. Humanity has been building up its scientific and technological knowledge by gradual accretion at least since the beginning of recorded history - and probably long before that.

LondonBob

I've always been struck with how accurate Rear Admiral Chris Parry's projections have proven to be.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-390230/Britain-faces-mass-migration-warns-Admiral.html
http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/04/24/admiral-warns-potential-for-islamist-raids-on-european-islands/

Unfortunately I think Francois Hollande's France will be the new normal for the West. The elite needs to change direction, and quickly, as I agree with Nicholas Nassim Taleb 'My prediction, particularly for Europe. Eventually, violence never stays 1-way.'
https://twitter.com/nntaleb/status/759925779979505665

jld

The "God premise" is plainly a scam, it doesn't "explain" anything:
Where does God comes from?
What/who "created" God?
It is just replacing a "mystery" with another one of a more paranoid flavor (Big God is watching you) while OTOH:
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."
Philip K. Dick,

jld

I have had many "experiences" with shamanic, spiritual practices and so-called entheogens ( https://erowid.org/entheogens/ ) and my conclusions are that most of it is just delusional.
It is true, indeed, that current "Western Rationality" fails to properly account for a LOT of what's currently happening in the world but the "spiritual approaches" are not any better and likely even more misleading, they just point at our inadequacies at describing the world we live in.
As I said above the "spiritual experiences" are mostly delusional but not entirely in that they point at missing elements in our image of the world, but indulging in comforting beliefs about "purposes and meanings" is not a proper attitude, this is (only as an example) what brings the Jihadi's ideology.

Babak Makkinejad

In the East of Diocletian Line, you could infer that the Dark Ages of Un-Reason had started when Christian fanatics destroyed the Academy in Alexandria.

A few centuries later an analogous process among Muslims did the same thing in Muslim Civilization.

In the West of Diocletian Line, I do not think there were any Dark Ages.

Fred

Michael,

To quote Heinlein:
“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as "bad luck.”

Fred

Balint,

I agree. My experience in the US is that religious faith is at best tolerated but mostly ignored and often despised, especially in or near colleges and universities. I believe Theodore Dalrymple captured the essence of decline in his book “Not With a Bang But a Whimper: The Politics and Culture of Decline”

Seamus Padraig

That's a great quotation! Do you know which of Orwell's writings it came from?

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