"Downfall," an article of mine published here on Alternative Right, generated some interesting comments. Since I'm thankful to readers for paying attention, I'll answer these in clusters by topic.
The first cluster of reader questions addressed decline itself. Decline is one phase of a cycle. Like our own lifespans, civilizations have youth and old age. Many of the most productive years are in a decline phase. Unlike individuals, however, societies can renew themselves and avoid mortality.
"To characterize Western civilization as 2000 years of continuous decline since the height of the Roman Empire is patently absurd," a reader stated. Since the fall of the Greeks, Western civilization has been increasing in technology but with each year, producing fewer of the greats that defined culture. This is not to disparage the Beethovens and Faulkners of our past, but to point out that they were working against the grain, and stood out in part because of their increasing rarity.
With each passing year, we produce less great art, fewer great thinkers, a sparser crop of warriors, reduced leaders, and smaller numbers of actually important ideas. In their place we have many trivial ideas, mass culture, democratic leaders and lots and lots of commerce and technology. This process is not recent, although it has accelerated with technology, which allowed more of our people to live in comfort and thus spared them from natural selection.
Some will argue that the path of a civilization is arbitrary and we may have a greater "progress" now. As a modern person accustomed to material nihilism, I accept that there is no inherent purpose to society. However, there are a series of options. Do we want hygiene? Great art and culture? An interesting, thoughtful, realistic place to live? These are all choices, but a young society makes clearer choices than a declining one.
Many readers wanted to know whether the decline I described was brought on by Christianity. While I'd really like to find some tangible outlet to blame for this decline, and then to bash it with all my strength, the reality is not that simple.
Christianity is not the source of the decline, nor was it the topic of the article. The 2,000 year time frame was not based on Christianity but on other historical events. In fact, the only sensible position that one can take on decline it that it is its own cause.
Civilizations are born through an idea and a tribe. As in the founding of Rome, the tribe has a goal and ideals and works to make those incarnate. When a civilization declines, it is through loss of this shared idea. The fundamental cause is that civilization becomes a victim of its own success and generosity because it generates too many dependents and collapses under its own weight.
This is one reason why the healthiest societies tend to be warlike and focused on external conquest. If our civilization survives, our goal will be to conquer space and in it, any species we encounter. If we don't find new lands to conquer, we turn on ourselves. In nature, there is either forward through conquest or death by stagnation. "Nothing gold can stay," as the mostly-abominable poet Robert Frost writes.
Liberalism itself is a product of this excess. The burdens on citizens vary inversely with the strength of that civilization. The stronger the civilization, the more likely it is to produce a mass of people who are not good at anything in particular and are dependent on that society. This dependency outrages them because it offends their sense of self-worth, and so the dependents band together to overthrow their leaders and take over. Since they are not as competent as their leaders, they then destroy that society.
One reader observed, "I don't think societies shape the individual," and opined that the situation is in fact the other way around, and that individual moral and mental traits shape the society. Both are true. All societies change the method of selection employed by natural selection to reflect the values of that society. If your society adores men with large ears, in three generations most successful men will have large ears. In the same way, societies tend to eliminate themselves by losing sight of what made them great, and instead selecting for novelty and social popularity.
In the third world we see the remnants of many once-great states. Mexico for example was home to two of my favorite epic empires, the Mayan and Aztec empires. Both were highly advanced civilizations which had advanced science, medicine, martial prowess and cultural wisdom. Both were in decline when the Europeans arrived, and in each case the conquistadors conquered with only a few hundred men by using the empire's slave peoples, who had grown numerous under prosperity, to unite into a revolutionary force and overthrow the empire.
In the same way, Christianity was not responsible for the decline of the west. Rather, the decline was responsible for a dangerous interpretation of Christianity, which like Judaism before it is an aggregate of previous faiths, myths and philosophies from the European, Indian and Middle Eastern spheres. The goal of religion is to explain more than prescribe, which allows it to be easily re-interpreted to support a range of ideologies.
Caste and Aristocracy
Modern readers are usually not familiar with the idea of caste because it is the traditional idea that the modern concept of "equality" is designed to destroy. Castes are hereditary social ranks based on ability. These are parallel to aristocracy itself, which is a hereditary social rank based on nobility, which is itself the raw material of the ability to govern well.
Castes are general "bands" of ability that separate people by how much of the cultural goal of a civilization they can understand on their own. This idea is in opposition to the notion that we can "educate" people with the "correct" ideas and have them robotically implement them. Caste placement is not based on memorized conclusions as it is in the managerial society, but on the ability to derive those conclusions from very little raw input. Castes usually include nobles, warriors, artisans and laborers, in descending order of autonomy.
Perhaps the best comment here was this one: "The lower classes will resume productiveness and avoid disillusionment when their heads are no longer filled with mush about their unfulfilled potential or inherent dignity." A society that is ascendant tends to be paternalistic toward its poor, and look out for them, but also strong-handed because it can never forget that its leaders actually do know better than its poor, the two are unequal, and the poor thrive best under strong benevolent leadership.
Without a strong hand over them, they tend to revolt and use their numbers to overthrow their leaders, thus sending the society into final decline much like the French Revolution did to Europe. This destroys the society, as the aristocrats are those who most clearly represent the ideals of the civilization. They emerge, as Schopenhauer says, through "mating the most magnanimous men with the cleverest and most gifted women." Leadership, like any other fine ability, is a rare and specific intellectual skill.
We cannot shape our leaders with rules and checks and balances, as is intended in the American system, or with "oversight" and participation by every group known to humankind, as in the European system. Instead, we need people who are good leaders because they understand the goal and stay focused on it. We need people who can break the rules if need be and not defeat the mission.
This mission, goal and cultural ideal is complex. It cannot be distilled to words on a page. It requires a deep understanding of the types of value judgments a culture might make, but more importantly the underlying structure behind those decisions and the interactions between different value judgments that reflect how each can influence others. No decision is made in a vacuum. It requires a subtle, diligent and perceptive mind to grasp even the basics of this cultural goal.
A reader wrote that "Fitness and strength with respect to a capitalist society are not fitness and strength with respect to nature." The broader principle here is that only declining societies believe in exoteric orders, which include (a) the notion that you can "educate" people with conclusions and have them implement those successfully and (b) the idea of "invisible hand" systems like capitalism which assume that an external rule takes over from good leadership.
In this sense, Social Darwinism and other invisible hand theories are substitutes for the leadership principle. We can't have both equality and leadership; they're opposite goals. Like most mistaken ideas, Social Darwinism is our attempt to set up a few rules and hope society runs itself autonomously like an air conditioner or vending machine.
What's important to remember about Social Darwinism is that since the moment humanity made fire, we took over from natural selection by changing what "selects" people for survival. Every society shapes its people through this new form of natural selection; every society has social Darwinism. In egalitarian societies, the index of selection tends to be conformity to popular notions and government propaganda. In a pure libertarian society, it would be commerce.
Much as leadership is not autonomous, this process should not be left up to bureaucracy. Modern humans would not exist without social selection. The evidence shows our ancestors had a strong preference for powerful people who could balance that power with wisdom and kindness, corresponding to our definition of nobility. We can implement this type of selection again, but it's not going to happen through SATs and bank statements alone. It requires a cultural filter that picks the best and ignores the rest.
By the same token, however, it's probably not sensible for us to insist on perpetuating the state-versus-people dichotomy of American Libertarian politics. One reader wrote: "The west can be regained but first we must crush the state perversion that has been the poison of our society."
As with many things, there is both truth to this statement and an ultimate missing of the mark. The governments of the West oppose many good things, mainly because many people oppose those good things, and governments are prostitutes who earn their keep from performing as the people want them to. We are democracies but even more, we are consumer states, and the people vote with their dollars. Those who exemplify the values that are desired get pushed to the top.
Our task is not as simple as smashing government. In addition, smashing government would create an anarchy in which the left would prevail. When social order is removed, people turn toward that which obliterates the immediate problem, which is almost always the leftist-style "let's all get along" mentality. This is the same mentality that is behind the tribute payments of welfare, war debt, reparations, etc. that seem to be constant in our society. If the underclass threatens revolt, we'll just buy them off and "problem solved," at least for this week.
What will keep government under control are strong social values that do not give in to this easy answer of tribute payments. This requires not smashing government, but co-opting it. The most dangerous idea in the right-wing today is that we cannot work with the democratic system and must destroy it, or do nothing. In most people this immediately translates to "do nothing."
For this reason, I think the question of statism is an irrelevant one, and the state is not the cause of our decline nor the obstacle to our success. Culture controls society. We need to create a social revolution, or we're going to be fighting the wrong battles.
A more interesting challenge is brought by this statement from a reader: "However free communitarian societies have been the ones who have brought most progress and well being to our people." This is true and shows us the danger of advanced societies. Civilization itself incubates its own doom in the form of a vast mass of people who know nothing of survival except how to attend a job and how to buy.
More than statism, this is the question we should answer: how do we structure our civilization so that it does not produce a vast mass of people with nothing in their lives but jobs and consumerism, thus making them alienated and prone to blame-projection ideologies such as liberalism?
Several people expressed doubt that a solution exists. My response is that with cultural change, political and economic change follow, and these are the most effective as they directly influence the lifestyles of people.
For example, one commentator observed: "It will be difficult for Westerners to change their course with this Third World anchor chained around their waists made up of the multitudes who generally will have no interest in what they will perceive as exotic boring conservative traditional irrelevant Western values and ideas."
Whether or not this is true, we should not focus on what we don't want. We should focus on what we want, and nurture a cultural shift that has people desiring that ideal. When culture shifts, laws that do not follow that cultural shift are commonly violated and eventually get changed.
Approaching this problem from a cultural perspective will succeed where direct political change cannot. Fighting imposed dogma with other imposed dogma is pointless because few understand why the fight is important. Changing attitudes so that people want a different kind of social order defeats the government propaganda.
Another interesting comment: "The cure, for those who may not know, is the removal of the influence of Jew materialism from the psychic and social lives of White men and women." As with Christianity, Judaism is not the source of our problem; cultural decline is. The solution to materialism is not anti-materialism, but nurturing of a cultural shift toward a shared values system and heritage.
When you are in a civilization that is in its final days, the most radical act is to notice the decline and to act against it. Most people will fight you because they would rather remain in denial. It is always this way. You have to trust your perception of the whole situation and not get mired in details.
Someone asked, "You are talking about an incredibly complicated subject but you never reference any specific facts or examples or scientific models or any particular piece of evidence at all!" There is no such data; there is only observing the whole. When we deconstruct, we get lost in details and lose sight of the whole picture.
We face an enemy that is inherently intangible. It cannot be fought by slicing at heads of the Hydra. We must instead destroy its central idea, which is that a society can be composed of individuals without a central values system and heritage holding them together. If we get rid of that foolish illusion, we can halt decline and while we can't reverse it, we can re-start society and move past decline to a brighter future.