Stop Trying To Save America
Why America’s decline is great for the rest of humanity
Historians will look back upon our current period of societal convulsion with utter fascination.
What made them neglect the homelessness crisis while touting “economic productivity” in the same breath? Why did they propagandize their own people against all other rising economic powers of the day? Why was the formal military budget so high in an age of unrestricted warfare?
There’s a thick fog of stifling cultural myopia that is ever exacerbated by the media. You should be outraged, so-called activists say, about an obscure injustice happening on the other side of the world. What they’re really saying is you feel guilty about your first world comforts and have no idea what human life can actually mean beyond the accumulation of capital, so here’s something to give meaning to your life. Rage is the new social currency, and if you’re not in the club, you’re part of the problem.
It’s not a new strategy by any means. The cold war’s infamous red scare still has us shaking in our boots whenever someone merely utters the thought that crony capitalism might not be the way to go. Black Lives Matter is considered a debate, and a controversial one at that, rather than something as basic as a movement for reparative dignity for the builders of the nation. Educational reform is a history of continuous failure. In all likelihood, we are one of the most propagandized people in human history. If our worldview fails us so utterly and consistently over the decades and yet it’s clung to nonetheless, what does that say about us?
There’s one thread connecting all of this. It’s the insistence that we can still get out of the mess we’re in by using the same exact paradigms that created the problems in the first place (a reflection from Einstein himself).
This begs the question: what other paradigms are available to us? The Native American ethical, moral and psychological epistemology that inspired Maslow? Likely inaccessible, since they’re still fighting for clean drinking water and being arrested by the U.S. military and Canadian R.C.M.P. for being on their own ancestral lands. Is it insight borrowed from Chinese Confucian Modernism? Even more impossible — China is supposed public enemy number one simply because they’re thriving with an economic system that balances socialism and capitalism.
It’s as though America (and the Anglophone nations that follow their every beck and call) are begging for things to remain just as they are. Which is straight on the trajectory toward collapse. Just look at the kind of language floating around about the new Democrat victory — “the return of democracy,” “a blue wave in the south,” “balance-tipping control of the senate.” Don’t these hopeless optimists realize that Democrat incompetence is literally what caused the rise of Trump in the first place?
Ask yourself, honestly. What radical structural transformations are going to take place under the new administration? How likely are they?
In the year 476, offshore tax havens, military overspending and income inequality in the Roman Empire all led to its collapse. Outright imbeciles even became its leaders toward its final days. Sound familiar?
All empires naturally rise and fall. Even finding solutions to pretty much every predicament the West faces, in a calm and dignified manner, is not at all impossible, or even particularly difficult. There just isn’t the collective will and competence for it. Systemic racism in the media can’t even bear to report non-white COVID success stories. We should be lowering our western supremacist egos at least enough to learn from others for our own sake— but even this is proving to be impossible.
It’s as though our collective unconscious is silently screaming for something to forcibly shut things down and restart because none of us wants to be the Debby Downer or dreary declinist that “isn’t very fun at parties.”
This is further exacerbated when the societal impetus of gathering as much material wealth as possible is still the only dominant cultural thread linking us together. After 400 years of settlement on the American landmass, not much has really evolved in our mindset.
This isn’t to say we should hang our hats and resign ourselves to a life of complacency or nihilism. Optimism literally changes the composition of your blood. It is the bedrock of so much resilience crucial to make it through any tough circumstances. There is, however, a prerequisite for it to be able to fully flower in these turbulent times.
That prerequisite is a perspective shift.
The first time I voiced my rage about the pathetic cultural and ethical poverty that life in the current Western-dominant era transmitted, I had a wonderful wake-up call. I was speaking to a friend about the dehumanizing effects we experience through seemingly every piece of modern architecture, mass media and leisure form. They all seemed to leave us feeling hollow, gazing at the world with a cynical indifference or inflated sense of self-importance. It seemed that our deepest needs for community, morals, meaning, and personal evolution were being thwarted, ignored, erased, laughed at, or labeled as some brand of traditionalism, ludditism or neo-fascism.
But it was simply the act of voicing that we were in decline, coming to terms with it, and seeing it for what it was that brought me joy. Perhaps it was the inner congruence of a worldview that actually reflected reality providing me with harmony, or the realization that a sinking ship can provide no new building material. The freedom that comes with such a radical acceptance, when everything around us conditions and encourages us to the contrary, was deeply healing.
The longer we keep deluding ourselves that a country built on immorality can provide us with moral dignity, the more profoundly we damage our ability to break the mistakes of history.
This is all to say that whether we tire of doomscrolling or reading hopelessly optimistic thinkpieces about the future, such extremes only serve to further the problems at hand. Blockchains, AI, crypto-commerce, electric vehicles and carbon capture technology won’t actually transform the very core of what needs to be transformed.
We are a society that has the knowledge to send people to an orbiting space rock thousands of miles away yet falls short of finding a way to extract resources from bedrock without poisoning drinking water supplies for locals. We are masters of self-improvement, but have no clue how to build or create healthy, unified communities that can weather political partitioning and division.
We are bankrupt in the kinds of onto-epistemological thinking that might solve our interdisciplinary issues with the breadth and depth required, because the chains of history bind us to one particular way of knowing and way of life.
Other nations, however, do not have this problem. One upside to the decline of America is the chance for other iterations of human modernity to be the torchbearers of human progress. Here’s to hoping they won’t be bombed back to the stone age for daring to do things differently.