On the precipice of the Kali Yuga

The idea of decline is an old one. See The Idea of Decline in Western History for a culturally delimited view. But whether it is Pandora opening her box or Eve biting the apple, the concept of an idyllic past and the ripeness of imminent decline seems baked into the cake of human cultural cognition. It was always better in the good old days.

Of course there is the flip side of those who presume that the Eternal City will continue as it always was unto the end of time. Meanwhile, cornucopian optimists of our modern era, such as Steve Pinker, are the historical aberration. But they are influential in our age.

Tanner Greer has a profoundly pessimistic post up, Everything is Worse in China, which is getting some attention (as I’ve stated before Tanner’s blog in general is worth a read). Rod Dreher has two follow up posts in response. First, A: Confucius, Basically, which is somewhat an answer to Tanner. And then an email from Tanner himself. It is here that he suggests to Rod’s readers Xunzi: The Complete Text. That is all for the good (for a broader view, A Short History of Chinese Philosophy).

Readers can probably read between the lines that I have been gripped somewhat by Sinophilia of late. I am rather pessimistic about the state of American culture and the prospects for the American republic as we have known it. I don’t see any of the major political factions offering up a solution for the impending immiseration of the middle class.

So I look to the east. Much of the history of the world has been a history of Asia, and it seems we are going to go back in that direction. If we are pessimistic about China, to a great extent we are pessimistic about the world.

Perhaps then we need to abandon the idol of the nation-state, or in China’s case the nation-civilization. Rod Dreher has the Benedict Option for orthodox Christians* But we need to think bigger. Men and women of civilized inclinations may need to band together, and form secret societies shielded from the avarice of the institutional engines which channel human passions toward inexorable ends. We need a strategy for living as civilized people in an anarchic world, an archipelago of oligarchy in the sea of barbarism. Sooner, rather than later.

History comes at you fast.

* I mean here Trinitarian Christians of a traditionalist bent, not Eastern or Oriental Orthodox Christians.

54 thoughts on “On the precipice of the Kali Yuga

  1. Tanner Greer’s basic problem is that he’s much more concerned with morality than means and ends. He looks at China completely from a conservative moral perspective when he says everything is “worse” in China. From a conservative moral perspective, sure, but that is hardly important. For example, China is hostile towards the free practice of religion. Yes, but, from a material and national power perspective, so what? If the main goal of the Communist Party is to make China the most powerful nation in the world, then why would it matter that the free practice of religion is curtailed? This might be a big deal for Western conservatives but it definitely isn’t a big deal for legalists. As he said, there aren’t many true believers in China, so the hostility towards religion is because the Chinese state doesn’t want any potential challengers, not because homosexuals want to win the cultural war. The means and ends are different in China and America, even though to the Western conservative they’re both morally bad.

    Since there aren’t many true believers in China, people clearly are also much more realistic about the conditions of society. If there is money to be made by producing vulgar cultural garbage, then they shall be produced since capitalism is the ruling economic system. Why pretend otherwise? It is also hardly any different in South Korea and Japan. My personal opinion is that Kpop is vulgar cultural garbage, but who cares? There’s money to be made. Or, another example, is it a sign of a healthy society when almost every female either wants to get or already got plastic surgery? As the Unabomber said:

    *The conservatives are fools: They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can’t make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society without causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values.*

    My prediction is that civil society in USA will become closer to China, South Korea, and Japan as time goes on because of the fundamental economic conditions. Therefore, I think Karl Zimmerman is entirely right when he writes “It is entirely possible for China to both be morally “ill” and relatively well-governed.” If economic wise it is impossible (and I think it is impossible) to create a “moral” (whatever that means) civil society, then the best one can do is ensure detrimental effects do not eat away at the governing caste, and this will become the main decisive difference between nations. The problem isn’t that a secret society has more advantages than society, the problem is under the current economic system it is impossible to have a “moral” civil society.

    On a final note, I honestly doubt Tanner “transversed elite circles”, and that the people he met are the “best and brightest” (how do you even define this? university test scores?). I know from first hand accounts that many Chinese students taking bachelor degrees in the West are those who did not get optimal scores on the Chinese university entrance exams. In China, being rich doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best and brightest or an elite.

  2. As an aside, several years back I read several stories detailing the rise of the religious right. They all concluded that it had nothing to do with abortion (which was a Catholic issue initially) but was a “whitelash” to desegregation of religious schools in the South, with the religious right not embracing the pro-life stance until 1979.

    My cynical prior says that lots of people really, really want to believe that anything they disagree with is tied up with racism. And there is a big market for stories giving them specifics (like the Christian market for stories about “angels among us”).

  3. My cynical prior says that lots of people really, really want to believe that anything they disagree with is tied up with racism. And there is a big market for stories giving them specifics (like the Christian market for stories about “angels among us”).

    the fact that evangelical protestants didn’t come in mass to the prolife movement until late 1970s is well known. *christianity today* even published articles in favor o abortion rights around 1970.

    the desegregation story is one randall balmer tells, but i think it’s pretty clear that religious right would have emerged in some form in wake of 1960s counter-culture.

  4. Mr. Khan,

    the fact that evangelical protestants didn’t come in mass to the prolife movement until late 1970s is well known. *christianity today* even published articles in favor o abortion rights around 1970.

    They can thank me and my fellow Catholics for their awakening on this score. But awake they did.

    the desegregation story is one randall balmer tells, but i think it’s pretty clear that religious right would have emerged in some form in wake of 1960s counter-culture.

    Although I do not dismiss the role of race-related issues, I think the Religious Right was destined to emerge given the cultural and political changes in the 1970’s.

    name change,

    Tanner Greer’s basic problem is that he’s much more concerned with morality than means and ends.

    Well, that’s a perennial debate, isn’t it? Whether the material realm or the transcendental one matters more… Personally, I am of the view that the former is the physical expression of the latter, and a truly healthy society requires wellbeing of both realms.

    He looks at China completely from a conservative moral perspective when he says everything is “worse” in China. From a conservative moral perspective, sure, but that is hardly important. For example, China is hostile towards the free practice of religion. Yes, but, from a material and national power perspective, so what? If the main goal of the Communist Party is to make China the most powerful nation in the world, then why would it matter that the free practice of religion is curtailed?

    Are we human beings with souls (and, therefore, inherent dignity) or merely smart animals always bent on higher status and more power? If latter, are you happy with an orderly and affluent (and, yes, powerful) China in which no one bats an eye when a person is run over by a car and lies dead, with the subsequent vehicles just using the dead body as a speed bump?

    My prediction is that civil society in USA will become closer to China, South Korea, and Japan as time goes on…

    I certainly hope not. And even if the general culture were to become so monstrous, there will still be those of us in the catacombs whose progeny will emerge to rebuild civilization.

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