The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.
I think there is a primary, recurring historical trend that continues to limit progress, which goes something like this.
- Someone evil rises to power.
- They have tremendous success because most people are happy to listen to anyone who has both 1) a decent-sounding plan, and 2) is effective in carrying it out.
- They cause extraordinary damage because everyone they face either lacks vision or lacks courage, and thus cannot oppose them.
- Finally, someone—or a select few—come from the ranks with the strong morality and the fortitude and courage to oppose this evil.
- They mobilize everyone else who secretly felt the same way but lacked the attributes to fight back without a leader.
- They are victorious in opposing the oppressor after a long, costly battle over many years that defines the next two generations.
- Everyone who survived the ordeal is deeply imbued with the understanding that true evil exists in the world, and that it is the job of good people to do whatever is necessary to oppose it.
- Two generations pass, which is roughly 60 years, and the memory of the hardship under true evil falls away.
- The population starts to equate strong opinions and the willingness to fight for them—even if they’re focused on fighting evil—as equally evil.
- This leads to a universal relaxation of our guard, and of our ability to identify danger in ideas and strong personalities that desire power, which then results in another start of the cycle.
I’m confident that people who study such things could point to numerous examples, but WWII is the best one I can think of.
Hitler rose to power partially because people were too afraid to speak up, and because he boiled the water slowly until the last moment. And yet—even when it was obvious that he was malignant—the prevailing thought in the west was to stay out of the conflict. To leave him alone. To avoid confrontation.
The default state was cowardice and indecision.
It took Churchill to oppose him. It took Churchill to be strong enough to convince others that they must fight as well.
But we know now that Churchill was also morally compromised. By our standards he too was a monster. And we have to ask ourselves whether such people must be somehow trained and nurtured, and kept in standby, or kept dormant among the everyday citizen, for when they are needed.
I worry that not enough such people exist in the second and third generations after a major conflict. I worry that good people lose their confidence, strength, and conviction as they move further away from a catastrophe that required those attributes.
Postmodernism is a direct rejection of such conviction because it sells as its primary product the idea that it’s impossible to say what is truly good or evil, and that it’s really just a matter of opinion.
In that model, Churchill is no different than Hitler because he’s just another western colonizer who seeks power. In that model it’s impossible to distinguish the undesirable from the unthinkable.
This is one of the most dangerous ideas to penetrate a society—the notion that the only people to have an actual moral structure, and who hold actual beliefs within that structure, are evil people.
Evil people have a belief structure. They believe in telling lies and gaining power. If we are to have any hope of surviving, we must be a society in which good people can also have belief structures with actual opinions.
Not having an opinion on evil is not a sign of sophistication. It’s an indication of emptiness. And I think it’s likely to correlate with a loss of meaning in the population as well.
I think both of those have been happening to the west for the last 20 years especially, and they represent an opening to evil men who will offer an alternative.
It’s not immoral to hold opinions on how the world works, or how it should be organized. What’s evil is when those opinions cannot be discussed and debated freely, and when people are so afraid to have them that only sociopaths will do so.
- I mentioned something similar to this trend in the past on Twitter, and someone said it sounded like a white supremacist theory, which I can’t remember the name of. It struck me as very strange. Assuming some racist types did see such a trend, which is doubtful, this would not convince me that it’s wrong or negative. Many racists I know enjoy toast, and coffee, and a nice stroll in the park. These things are not soiled by their attention, and ideas that can be shown to be true should enjoy the same protection.
- To be clear, I am sensitive to the idea that Postmodernism presents, i.e., challenging one’s convictions when they feel sure about something, and being able to see situations from multiple angles. I think that’s good, and healthy. The problem is when it’s taken to the extreme of saying—therefore—nobody should hold any opinions. Or, more accurately, that anyone who does is throwing in with the ignorant and dangerous. That is when Postmodernism moves from a useful self-analysis tool and into ridiculousness.