It’s now clear that the West, and the world generally, are in a race to the bottom. The question is, what lies at the bottom? And what happens when we reach it?
All optimistic conceptions of human history are essentially ascensional—they move upward. However all pessimistic conceptions of human history aren’t declensional—they don’t inescapably move downward. At least mine doesn’t.
From Teilhard de Chardin’s progression of human consciousness to the Omega Point, to New Age notions of a higher consciousness evolving, human development has been seen as an upward arc.
Indeed, the most famous quote of incorrigible optimists is Martin Luther King’s, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
The day after Donald Trump won the election, and the country roundly renounced everything Barack Obama has worked for, President Obama gave this bit of strained and feigned optimism: “The path that this country has taken has never been a straight line. We zig and zag…and that’s okay.”
Yes, he really did say that; and no, it’s not okay. Indeed, it’s not even true. Humankind is in a race to the bottom, and we urgently need to find out which way things can go when we reach it.
“I don’t believe we are a fundamentally different country today than we were two weeks ago,” Jon Stewart told Charlie Rose.
“The same country, with all its grace and flaws and volatility and insecurity and strength and resilience, exists today as existed two weeks ago. The same country that elected Donald Trump elected Barack Obama.”
My God, what country is he living in? Stewart, as a comedian, used to be America’s strongest voice speaking truth to power. Obviously when he’s serious however, he’s just politically correct.
The election of an admitted, repeated, criminal sexual assaulter is being normalized because Donald Trump is an expression of what had already become normal in the United States. It is only our image of America that has been shattered.
A senator in Ireland, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, spoke the truth: “We are at an ugly international crossroads. What’s happening in Britain is appalling. What’s happening across Europe is appalling. It has echoes from the 1930s. And America, the most powerful country in the world, has just elected a fascist.”
What does it mean to be ‘politically correct?’ It means saying acceptable, respectable things intended for public consumption. Either things people want to believe, or things that the government and media want people to believe. Both imply, essentially, propaganda.
Here’s a good example, also from President Obama’s remarks to his despondent White House staff the morning after the election: “We’re not Democrats first, we’re not Republicans first, we are Americans first. We’re patriots first.”
How is that message different than Donald Trump’s “America First” and “Make America Great Again?” Essentially, it isn’t, and to believe so is to maintain a psychological distinction without a philosophical difference.
I’m not saying there is no difference between Trump and Obama. Of course there is, since one is a decent man and the other is not. What I’m saying is that there is an underlying progression, or rather regression, from one to the other.
‘Progressivism’ is the word spineless liberals adopted when they allowed conservatives to smear liberalism until it became the worldview that could not speak its name. But they exchanged the right word for a wrong one, since social progress is tenuous at best, delusional at worst.
On the other hand, pointy-headed conservative commentators really believe balderdash like this: “Where religion atrophies, the family weakens and patriotism ebbs.” It’s become easy for them, surprised to find themselves on the right side of history (if still on the wrong side of humanity) to gloat over Trump’s triumph over liberalism/progressivism.
It’s even easier to mock the radical change that’s urgently required, and painfully being birthed, as “no heaven, no religion, no countries, or borders or parochial loyalties of any kind, set to the tune of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine.’”
What conservatives fail to realize, and liberals fail to internalize, is the unstoppable erosion of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The foundation has become rotten through and through, and there is no choice but to pour a new one spiritually, philosophically and politically.
National identity has become the center that cannot hold; in fact, it has become the hold that is destroying the center.
The remedy is not reactionary restoration. The remedy is transcending identification with particular groups, be they national, ethnic or religious. The remedy is seeing one’s home as the earth rather than ‘the homeland.’ The remedy is seeing oneself first as a human being, rather than an American, Russian, Irishman, Englishman or any other tribalistic thing.
“Whoever can’t see the whole in every part plays at blind man’s bluff;
A wise man tastes the entire Tigris in every sip.”
The accelerations in technological advance, global interconnectedness, and ecological destruction have converged and combined. The bottom is clear, and near—a singularity of darkness. At which point there will either be spiritual extinction, or creative explosion. It’s up to us, the living.
“The road to change is before you always:
The only line stitching this world’s scattered parts.”