Every now and then I suddenly feel just how fascinating it is to be present at the twilight of a dominant civilization, just at the moment of climax when everything is beginning to crash to the ground and burn.
The inflection point that no one noticed was the moment—sometime in just the last few years—when everyone finally came to agree that yes, this is what is happening. Once you all agree you’re giving up, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a project with universal participation and endorsement.
And this endorsement has exploded.
Of course, different factions and tendencies have different rationales for supporting the collapse of their civilization, but the one thing that virtually everyone agrees with is that it is going and must go. (A few people try to wear a weak kind of denial like a pose, suggesting that it’s not that everything must go, only certain little chunks of it that are of course actually massive chunks when you look objectively, which no one does, but everyone in the end knows that it’s just a pose—we are all willing to destroy it without any promises for what’s to come next).
Those that came before us wouldn’t have tossed it away so lightly, but then they’d seen “things you people wouldn’t believe…”
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What everyone gets wrong about Reagan is that it wasn’t about the idea that America was being saved (“morning in America”) but the underlying notion that the west was worth saving that led to his victory and that forestalled the collapse for another generation, as the final wave of holdouts found in him a champion for an otherwise (and soon enough to be fully) discredited idea.
But that demographic reality is long gone and any suggestion that it’s worth saving now, implicit or explicit, is met with derision on all sides, or that kind of disagreement-that’s-not-actually-disagreement by which people say it’s worth saving and then describe it in such a way as to make clear that they’re not actually proposing to save anything, but rather to tear everything down and refer to whatever takes its place using the same name.
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The most comical thing—not amusing at all, but comical—in all of this is to watch our elite (vanguard) play at being The Very Serious People Who Analyze Such Things while all actually frantically working to avoid any analysis (as this might lend doubt to the project) and instead drive the bus onward.
It takes a while to spot this, but once you do, you can’t unsee it.
I was a fool for a very long time (I mean that in multiple ways) and played a role in their stageplay. For ages I was frustrated at the strange ways in which the incentives and sanctions of the environment didn’t seem to support the work that I thought we were all meant to be there doing.
Then, it began to dawn on me, that as someone that society was investing in, I was there to provide a return on that investment, and the return being sought was precisely to destroy things, first and foremost myself, my demographic fellows, and my corner of the population and geography.
Not to identify problems and solve them—not to build things. Building things is precisely what everyone doesn’t want in return for their investment in elites. Because we’ve all decided that this whole thing has to go. I was a commissioned officer in a very particular kind of army, I had a tactical mission in the larger strategic theatre, and that mission was the only thing for which I would receive support.
Once I realized that there was no particular market for anything in elite circles other than destruction vanguardism in my sector, everything began to fade for me, and soon I was out of such circles.
But I can still see them all from a distance, because they march very loudly wearing bright colors. There they go, Very Seriously Onward, putting on this odd, even twee puppet show as the fallout spreads and the bodies fall and everyone knows that everyone knows that everyone is in on the suicide.
— § —
I’ve thought a few times about returning to writing in a professional way. After all, I’ve written and published a minor stack of books, I know how to get it done. And I feel that pang of concern that suggests that a project ought perhaps to be in the works.
But such “projects” are rightfully the children of other kinds of epochs.
Now, the outcome is known in advance; you can quote the reviews, both positive and negative, left and right, before they’re written. You can quote them before the damned book is written. A dedicated artist could sit down and write, as a book, the entire media universe of coverage, discussion and counter discussion, that will arise in response to the book. Then, release the book and point, gigglingly, at everyone haplessly doing precisely what the book says they will in response to it.
But what’s the point? The giggle would be a shallow one and precisely in keeping with everything that such a giggle set out to “critique.”
We know what all the reviews from all of the parties in all of the valences about all of the products say. We know it in advance. We know it because it’s all just pantomime; everyone already knows because everyone is in on this together. We’re full of ennui and we’re going to burn this shit down, and we’ve all agreed that that’s what we’re going to do. The civilization, the neighborhood, the faith, our families, ourselves.
Not in that order. Because it doesn’t work that way. Together, ecstatically and while denying everything.
There is an ancient language that is no longer in play here—that has been lost. It is the language of making, rather than destroying things. At the start of our epoch, it was called “The Word.” No longer with us, we’re left only with technologies and discursive tools of death, despite (and indeed at the same time to the regrettably and regrettably indulgent ecstatic delight of) ourselves.
— § —
It’s not clear what the path out of this sort of vortex is, or that finding a path out is the right path in the first place. (Bit of self-deprecating QED there.) I tend to think that nihilism is like a contagious prion; once you have a critical mass of nihilism, it turns everything it touches into more nihilism—it even does this to anti-nihilism.
It sure is interesting to watch. Interesting times. The death of an entire way of being.
(This post will just have to stand in for the book.)