Civilization

Longevity of the revitalization movement

Anthony Wallace wrote in his famous essay almost 60 years ago:

That regularity of patterned behavior which we call culture depends relatively more on the ability of constituent units autonomously to perceive the system of which they are a part… It is therefore functionally necessary for every person in society to maintain a mental image of the society and its culture…

Whenever an individual who is under chronic, physiologically measurable stress, receives repeated information which indicates that his mazeway does not lead to action which reduces the level of stress, he must choose between maintaining his present mazeway and tolerating the stress, or changing the mazeway in an attempt to reduce the stress.

The main contention is that most cultures were built to withstand certain level of “pressure”, either an outbreak of epidemic, an unassailable foreign invasion, or a heated irreconcilable internal societal strife. While most of the time cultures are able to maintain the homeostasis through digesting waves of “stress” and evolve gradually, a total breakaway from the old culture is not rare in the history of mankind. Wallace called this social phenomenon The Revitalization Movement, wherein new cultures (either newly created ones, existing minor ones, or existing foreign ones) are embraced by the populace over the old ones, in response to the out-of-range societal “stress”.

He was talking about how culture/religion responds to unexpected societal crises, with the claim that all religions arise in response to the crisis, from the origin of Judaism and Christianity in Levant, the Reformation in Western Christendoms, to the rise of Taiping Rebellion in late Qing China. This is where things get interesting. Within a first glimpse, his view seem a bit extreme. But to think further in his thesis, it starts to make a lot of sense. The introduction of monotheistic Judaism with the replacement of Aramaic-influenced Hebrew from Phoenician-related Paleo-Hebrew alphabet coincided when returned Israelites were puzzled why their holy temple was destroyed and their people subjugated into alien dominion. Christianity emerged as a formidable urban religion within the Roman Empire when people in the Roman cities were baffled by the devastation of the two deadly plagues in the 2nd and 3rd century. Reformation came into history after the infamous bubonic plague and years of harsh exploitation from the papal hierarchy. Taiping Rebellion erupted soon after the humiliating defeat of Qing to the British in the First Opium War. All of those changes of religions/cultures could be simplified as a change of belief. And in his assertion, all beliefs are blind, and all beliefs are constructed on some sort of “dream”.

One can ask whether a large proportion of religious phenomena have not originated in personality transformation dreams… The circumstances of whose origin have been distorted and forgotten, and whose connection with dream state is now ignored…It is tempting to suggest that myths and often, even legends, read like dreams because they were dreams when they were first told…

It is known that the spread of a religion/culture has little to do with individual enlightenment but rather its societal background and the influence of personal networking. In Wallace’s theory the emergence of dominant culture/religion only happened at those critical points when the old cultural structure can no longer relieve the exploding societal stress. According to this theory, all existing religions/cultures nowadays are the evidences of those old revitalization movements. This is such an eye-opening contention to me as I immediately try to apply it to interpret the rise of modern nationalism and more recently, the hegemony of leftism/liberalism in the contemporary world.

Modern leftism got everything it takes to be counted as a religion. It has a central belief exclusively consisting of emotional dreams like human rights, absolute democracy, freedom and egalitarianism. Those beliefs has been reinforced stronger than ever with the invention of mass media over the populace. One could even trace back the emergence of leftism in the era of Enlightenment as a revitalization movement in response to the decadence of social order and ethics with the rise of capitalism and industrial revolution in Western Europe.  This notion would further be propelled into a dominant position over its main competitor nationalism/patriotism that arise from the same societal stress, thanks to the two disastrous global wars and their final victory of both. However, when talking about modern leftism, I think “the inclusion of the savageland, and the escalating deterioration of the traditional societal structure in post-industrialism” deserves particular attention as the kind of societal stress that significantly facilitated the upgrade of modern leftism since the 20th century. The bafflement over the biological diversity, disparity of civilizations, the hollowness of modern lifestyle, serves as a major hit that struck modern leftism to forcibly (and painfully) evolve but have not yet mounted to a critical level to blow up the whole belief system.

In reality, the final blow to this old religion is on the way. The insurmountable pressure is accumulating from the discrepancy between reality and leftist dreams. The upcoming collapse of welfare economy, the foreseeable failure of multiculturalism, the growing frustration of the show business of democracy, and the increasing hostility against the equilibrium among corporate-bank-politician, would only grow bigger. This new window of opportunity will inspire various currently humble cults into the center of attention. Eventually there will be one that would supplant the old and prevail. We dissidents are the pioneers in this upcoming wave of revitalization movement. We appear, for the current religion can not handle the newly encountered stress fundamentally. Hopefully we would also be able to nurture and witness the arrival of the next revitalization movement.

Entertainment to mediocrity

Finally I could have a break from the hectic schedule at the beginning of 2012.

This afternoon I was on the train back home from work. I usually read with my Kindle the whole time on the train. But today I was a bit exhausted of focusing on every word in the line of Schopenhauer all the time since sometimes it could be quite distracting on the train with the noise from other people and the train itself. So I stopped reading and started to lose myself in the universe of musing. As I unconsciously gazed around, I quickly discovered something way more interesting and started to observe people’s behavior in the train. It was a one-hour-trip, and guess what most of people were doing nowadays in the train?

8 out of 10 people (of all ages) were busy bowing down to the extreme and staring at their tiny little phones as if that 3~4 inch screen of magic gadget has inexplicable magnetic field to drag their eyes closer, closer, and closer…

In fact, I recall when I was having lunch today with my colleagues they were exactly doing the same thing, leaving me alone eating my sandwich “ordinarily and in a fully committed manner”.

Whatever they stared at, it is absolutely irrelevant, forgettable, and worthless.

I am not here lamenting about the increasing distance among people nowadays and ranting on the abuse of virtual device for it. That’s just cliche. What I really thought sad was the fact that people nowadays were wholeheartedly swamped by the wasteful and absolutely unnecessary entertaining information all their spare time (esp the younger generation).

It’s simply amazing to see how fast the entertaining business self-magnifies in our civilization in the past few decades:

20 years ago the presence of TV, which was already considered the then greatest threat to the intellectual enlightenment of the society, only “compelled” people with enormous retarded pictorial information when they were at home. I suppose most people could still have their own time while away from home. 10 years ago there was the massive proliferation of internet, which overtook TV as the major source of entertainment in a blitz manner. The amount of wasteful and irrelevant tabloid gossips simply jumped more than tenfold of that from the TV. I guess humans must have sickly obsession for the garbage information intake. Since the era of internet more and more people have spent more and more time in front of their computers, even at work (everyday works with computers nowadays and everyone checks random stuff that you would forget one second after at work on the internet for nothing other than meaningless entertainment/time-killing?).

Nowadays, as the zeitgeist represents: the plague of smart phones all over the world (even in places like Africa). The ultimate objective of the entertaining business has finally achieved (next step is… the dream?). People are finally overwhelmed with unnecessary overloading information with their entertaining gadgets ALL THE TIME.  (The screen, however, does get smaller and smaller…)

Of course I believe everyone’s excuse for having a smart phone (excluding those hipsters!) is to use it as a productivity boost for our everyday life. I, myself, have a smart phone as well for this purpose. But how many really makes their life more productive with such device? And how many hours have you killed straight with your smart phone at the same time?

I really have to give credits to the development of the entertaining business. It abuses our vulnerable psychological flaws to the fullest. The entertaining technology, as I categorize it (TV, video game, internet, smartphone etc.), most of the time just serve the purpose to trap us with higher and higher level of addiction to the business itself without realizing it. This entangles us mortals forever in the wonderland of mediocrity. With dull, repetitious, and mechanic office work that most people spend most of their day time, we are already being retarded in our intelligent potentials. And this is not enough. With the ultimate entertaining technologies we are even stripped off the very last remaining moment of being ourselves. When could we ever have the time to rejoice the enrichment of solitude, reading, or even contemplation? Alas, but what we have been stripped off from this hypnosis are exactly what has prompted the advancement of our civilization all along.

People already lost the prudence for rational reasoning, logic. It is already getting increasingly difficult to educate the public of something that is a little bit beyond the immediate appearance of the objects. Social Media, Art, Music, Literature, Religion, and especially Politics, are appealing for those who knows the tricks of charlatans: psychology and signaling. Quoted from Schopenhauer, who still claimed at that time humans would respond to motives rather than causes (inorganic) and stimuli (plant and animal), the difference being humans use reasoning to use “will” to respond beyond the immediate intuitive response to the physical cognition (emotions being a high level of stimuli in such taxonomy). I dare to paraphrase this assertion to be more applicable for the brave new world: people are repressed with their reasoning capabilities submerging in the ocean of information solely for the purpose of entertainment. Hence human “will” merely degrades itself into a superficial reflection of immediate intuitive (like the interface nowadays: intuitive) and emotional response of the surface of the consequence, for we barely have the precious time and virtue for intellectual cognition now.

In this endless ouroboros, we do not grow wiser nor our civilization advances much further other than in the entertaining business. Immediately it reminds me of Neil Postman and his famous claim: “Amusing Ourselves to Death“…

Most people just never get it.

The thoughts about human evolution

Darwin evolution tells us organisms evolve because of natural selection as to better adapt the living environment. That explains why giraffe has long neck, lion has sharp teeth, and white peppered moth turned black under soot pollution in the industrial England. However, the evolution of our intelligence does not really comply with the Darwin evolution theory. Contrary to the evolution principle, the evolution of humans (since the early hominid species) has always been driven to dissociate ourselves from the nature. The emergence and development of our intelligence allows us to walk out of the forest and create an artificial environment that would fit our own nature. Looking backwards into the development of human civilization, the use of tools for hunting, the invention of animal husbandry, agriculture, the emergence of the urbanized settlement, the structure of polity, industrial revolution, electronics etc, are the indisputable footsteps we left along this human evolution path. Following this logic, I dare to hypothesize that the ultimate objective of human civilization would be one abstract sentence: to dissociate ourselves from the given nature.

Thinking a step further, this seems also to be observed in the modern social mentality as well. I have always said that leftism, an appendix of modern surplus productivity, stem from the very idea that humans ought to be and act god-alike. Thou shalt love others just as much as yourself. Despite the myth about the origin of leftism (with several disputing theories), it is unanimously agreed that leftism tends to associate more with the intelligentsia with extremely high intelligence. While leftism itself has lots of incurable defects and I am sure there are noticed by the smart leftists, its core supporters (really smart people) appear to be rather stubborn in believing there are no other alternatives that would keep up with the advancement of our civilization.

What accounts for the advancement of the civilization anyway? Science and technology? As if the answer is that simple as all science and technology are neutral to our social beings… In my opinion, egalitarianism, that’s what the left intellectuals are really aiming for. Leftists think our achievement in science and technology has reached a milestone where the pursuit of a pure egalitarian artificial world starts possible. You see there are lots of facts that need numerous tests to confirm their existence in our realm. But it wouldn’t make any sense to look for even a slight degree of egalitarianism in this sensory world. In fact the pursuit of egalitarianism, a specious claptrap, has been destined to fail since the very beginning when this idea was nurtured 200 years ago, for it just simply goes against literally every empirical axioms we witness in the nature. Ignore the natural diversity, bell curves, and individual variations to guide our actions, and the only result is failure, for we don’t have the science and technology yet to make all individuals, all races, all species the same. This is THE perfect example of mankind’s desire to dissociate ourselves from the given universe.

Burrowing into deeper analysis and specific illustrations, egalitarian perspectives regarding the environment and the nature is best interpreted as gaiaism. For instance, terms such as preservation, conservation, and mitigation etc. have deluged the mass media in recent years. The hegemonic tone has never ebbed since the day they were created in the show business. But why do we want to preserve the nature? Why do we want to mitigate the climate change? Why do we want to protect the endangered species? Of course, there are so many conspicuous explanations that emphasize on the importance of “co-existence” , “ sustainability”, “rights to live” etc. Modern gaiaism has long jumped out of the spectrum of mere environmental problem control. In most western countries people’s livelihood are no longer susceptible under the compromising environmental conditions. Modern gaiaism is all about “value” and “lifestyle”. Beyond all those eloquent apologies, the true interpretation of this recent environmental fad is rather embedded in our own brains: the desire to dissociate from the nature. “We are transcended creatures with our artificial realms and thus we shall do everything we could to leave the old place the way it was, undisturbed and absolutely harmonious.” Therefore some advocates to stop slaughtering animals, some advocates stop pumping the fossil fuels, and some advocates even stop the modern technology for it disrupts the rhythm of the earth…

Western elites came up with the ideas and ensure that most people are well drilled to feel the same way. This luxurious emotion would be magnified manifold before a kid even learns to see the real cruelty of the world. That you think you care about African starving babies is nothing more than a sheer result of repetitious drills from the hypnosis organ. Nevertheless, this all may have worked perfectly fine, if our science and technology drive didn’t stagnate for the past half century. I have no problem with leaving in a real Brave New World where people just fool ourselves to death. At least that’d be a system that works. But once again our reality could not be offset by our intelligence yet, and worst of all, we are still insolently blind to the dire consequences that are about to ravage our incoherent civilization.

As far as I concern our human evolution has entered a dead end. The only way out would be a regrouping after the collapse of what has been built up for the past 50 or even 100 years and consciously refrain us from turning the divine thirst of mankind into a dead cult of leftism. For all I know, that window of opportunity is accumulating its momentum as we speak.

Emotionalism > Rationalism

In my previous post about the information wasteland, I have made it clear that signalling is the most important character that attracts people’s attention. The medium of current information technology, which is the fragmented information overload itself, craves for drama and people who create drama. No gimmick, no fame. I for one have always followed this rule in my 6 years membership of the Toastmasters International, a public club that aims to improve participants’ public speaking and presentation skills. During my time with the Toastmasters International, one thing I would always do is to speak in a dramatic tone with wide range of body language and eye contacts. Over the time I have found out that no matter how irrelevant and non-sense my speech was about, people would always pay attention to me and recognize my performance even months after. They most likely couldn’t recall what I was talking about, but always remember some catchphrases I blurred and those laughs I brought to them with my sense of humor (dramatic performance). So in the end of the day, I easily got famous and favored by the crowd. Whenever I stand in front of the stage, people would pay extra attention to me with the expression to get ready for some nice entertainment once more.

Those gimmicks, as far as I can see, are not some novel invention of mine. It existed since the mankind learned how to communicate with each other even way before the maturity of our linguistic skills. It is natural that people dig the emotional signals and resonates with them. I am not saying it is a bad thing. We are driven to a decision by our emotions subconsciously, and that is a fact. Nonetheless, we have another intrinsic character that could help us for the decision-making independent of emotions: the ability to reason. Rationality is a discernible trait especially among high intelligent people, who are the real driving force for technological breakthrough and the societal governance. The widespread of printing press in the medieval era injected a strong boost for the growth of rational thinking among the populace all through Europe, with the help of books, a perfect medium detached with all forms of emotion in favor of emotionless logic thinking. That was truly an era of enlightenment. Both life science and social science experienced a rapid leap forward: universal education, modern democracy, industrial revolution, modern economics etc. Rational thinking for the first time supplanted emotions as the cornerstone of our decision-making principles.

When Neil Postman was talking about such things in his enlightening book “Amusing ourselves to death”, he overlooked one critical point, a point that could well explain the “proliferation of the show business via new information technology”. That is: we naturally prefer visual representation, emotional signalling over detached rational thinking and objective contextualization. Plenty of theories why we behave in this way (I have written an article to explain our visual representation), which I won’t probe further here. The point is the blossom of printing press era was the only meteor-alike exception in the long path of our human civilization history. It is not natural for most people to stick to some static objective paragraphs as our ultimate guidance. Once the technology advanced to a stage where we could develop a better information medium, we would just simply dash to that one almost instantaneously. Over 500 years of printing press dominance and its glory were easily overwritten by the introduction of mass media in less than 100 years.

Thanks to television, personal computer, internet, google, youtube, we have quickly reverted back to the most primitive stage of philosophy: emotionalism. Beg to differ? Turn on your television and see one image that isn’t intended to hypnotize you with emotional resonance: news coverage, advertising, TV opera etc. Even the most sacred and serious domain of human civilization, politics and religion, are no longer sacred and serious. “Democracy” is merely a fig leaf for the popularity contest based on emotional barometer – polls (Some are “bad” because they are “bad”, others “good” because they are “good”). Everyone is all of sudden a specialized theologist that see religion either as a superstitious gimmick or the supernatural power (Even the Islamic theology is a joke nowadays thanks to the rise of Jihad martyrs). Thanks to the dominance of some smart minority in this show business, minority in all social domains are now portrayed as simply the victims of the majority, regardless of what happens. Hence, minorities are always right and should be protected and worshiped as the blessed ones (we are not). This perfectly fits our emotional demand. Whenever a man defies a massive order. The first reaction from the public is always sympathy, followed by consequential supports. It doesn’t matter what and why the man was doing it. The theory part, the pseudo-rational thinking part, is largely marginalized and simplified with a few lines of a so-called expert on the TV or a pissed-off protester showing off his V-for-victory sign. We’d amplify the emotion and strongly abide the hunch, thanks to the information era. There are countless examples here, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, JFK, Che Guevara, Greenpeace, Arab Spring etc. … This is also the case of Ai Weiwei, an edgy post-modern artist in our home country that deems “politically active and heretic”. When people flock to pity him with great compassion against the old-evil CCP, few could calm their over-heated brain and contemplate: “what on earth is this fella doing for?” To me he tries to act like a hero but without any solid ideas or concrete dogmas. His “arts” are vulgar and explicit, and his “politic views” are immature and ambiguous.

Back to where I started in this article, the wisdom of intelligence has been downplayed in favor of emotional heroism today. All abstract thoughts are pushed back in the bottom of the library, a place that people barely visit. All leftism, rightism, communism, and even environmentalism, are merely a form of simple pictorial representation of different emotions nowadays, at least in the mainstream. True intelligentsia, the last remaining fraction of the printing press era (leftovers), are all labelled “reactionary” and squeezed in the margin of the society where nobody really cares. As long as the modern mass media sticks to the concept of the show business, there will never be a sober day for all of us. It’s not that we got retarded (we probably are thanks to the infusion of dumb people in the social welfare era), it is just we got hypnotized in this Brave New World – the prophesy of Huxley.

Information wasteland

Neil Postman once concluded in his marvelous book “Amusing Ourselves to Death“, that in the current world the media serves no purposes other than entertaining ourselves with information that is irrelevant, impotent, and incoherent to one’s actual life. He calls this age the age of show business, where rationality and logic are no longer the cornerstone of the public value. The rise of signaling and human psychology parallels with the abuse of human emotion in this information era. In another way of saying, people are losing interest in the detached, impersonal, and objective rationalism and embracing whatever that amuses and touches their heart the most rather their souls.

I couldn’t agree more. I have written a post sometime ago on why people prefer visual information over reading texts these days. The conclusion back then was that we are designed to process faster and bigger amount of information through a picture than a few lines of words. Overwhelmed by excessive information garbage, of course it is natural to select the easiest and the most straightforward way for the information intake. But seriously, why on earth do we need to know so much information garbage anyway? Current news reporting updates information faster than the speed of sound. There is literally little value to any sort of information that we are forced to receive nowadays that could be worth the attention longer than a week. And just asking yourself by knowing that life is the closest to hell in Congo or there was an earthquake hit Turkey, is there anything that would affect your daily life action?

Mostly not. The only purpose/value of such information to you is only: personal entertainment. You could use it to boost your smugness in a social event, impressing your date. That’s it. Probably in a month the only thing you’d remember is the country name of Turkey or Congo. Such news information at least have a sense of decency as it reports some “serious issues” around. Let me remind you that the most watched news on daily basis would always be the gossips of celebrity’s private lives and probably some stupid sneezing panda in the zoo. My friend spandrell recently opened a blog (popularity yet to be boosted), and he told me the hits reached an unbelievable height after he wrote a post about that Secular Liberal Feminist Vegetarian Individualist Egyptian pussy Aliaa Magda Elmahdy with a link to her naked pictures. The blog was immediately immersed with waves of horny web surfers that came from the google search (you’ve got to turn to 20X page to find his link on such “hot topic”). That tells you how depraved our information system is these days.

People lost the sense of abstract thinking and grow unprecedentedly impetuous towards intellectual curiosity. If you can’t read, back in the days, you are a stupid illiterate doomed to be trapped in peasantry; nowadays if you can’t read, you have “reading difficulties”, “short attention span”, but no worries, you are still fine – because you are not alone.

Using your hunch, your heart to feel the world looks way more appealing under the age of show business today. This may explain some of the reasons why we end up with such a lousy leftism as the predominant doctrine of our modern society. It’s way easier to use a photo of weeping starving African baby and a smiling Libyan rebel with AK-47 (or a picture of a 20-year-old Egyptian pussy) to convince people that there exists a utopia of freedom, democracy and equality.

Well you can’t really think beyond the picture about what and why on earth this happens, can you?

More people pretend and play-act. Few still think. Everyone suffocates in this information landfill and amuses ourselves to death. BNW coming!

Do you always need a picture to draw your attention for the reading?

Sophomoric perplexity

Many people are desperately looking for jobs in such economic downturn, including some acquaintances of mine. I have heard a lot of stories recently. Those fine young men, living in constant fear, anxiety, and depression, are struggling for months without a decent job. It is disheartening for me to see those great potentials to be lost in this transition, for I firmly believe they absolutely deserve way more than this.

Meanwhile, I am also aware that the destination they fiercely long for is unfortunately the starting point of banality, at least to most of people. I for one have well witnessed the mediocre nature of most desktop work myself. The state of inundating wholly into something grammatical or mechanical tranquilizes our intellectual curiosity. Sooner or later whatever “extra” ordinary ideas that pop out of your mind would be brutally pinched off one by one and you will be gradually sliding into the confined hourglass as a weightless granule of sand.

Of course, most people beg to differ about the definition of “job”. I have observed smart people rejoiced on their success in stepping into this middle class trap in rapture. Their fear of being the outcast from the expected social structure easily overruns their intelligent audacity. As much as they are dubious about the new journey they are about to take, a sense of grave relief submerges their minds, for social recognition and social security are guaranteed on board.

We humans have to live under the boundary of various definitions. If looking for a job brings recognition and security to us, we would feel like going after that as an inevitable part of the life. It is as if  a man in a lonely raft finally gaze afar the land from the horizon. However, only a handful would think ahead about the discovery of the land and the land after the land. Everyone wants to discover a continent rather than a deceiving island. It is rather the irrational nature of us, the courage, the willingness for risk, that could ignite those with a flair for the magnum explosion to go on with further expedition.

But the question is, if not A, then what is B? Perfect abstraction scales down to everyday life and then becomes the origin of this sophomoric perplexity that confounds the few pitiful mortal souls. Invalidating the definition of your social being means the choice of a drastic unknown destiny. The world is too wondrous to be comprehended by its humble organic creations, yet our drive to discover every little detail of the significance of everything is simply inexplicable with rationality. I do feel sorry for those who is suffocating in the purgatory of joblessness; and I also do share the joy with those who were immersed in the excitement for finding a contracted employment. Maybe it’s a folly not to stay in the social ouroboros after all; but I want out, emotionally.

Hourglass society

That means, enough with the middle class myth.

Look at what is happening nowadays, it’d be lying to say the good old middle class is still going to sustain the materialistic modern civilization as well. No more mediocre blue-collar jobs for the college graduates. As we are trapped in the money ouroboros, there’s going to be more and more smart fellas diving into the virtual business like finance, software etc. This transforms the western society into a hourglass-shaped structure. While lots of people are drifting upwards to become ferociously rich, more people simply could not adapt to the transition and get squeezed down to the bottom.

The worst part is, the group in the lower part of the hourglass thinks they should be in charge of hourglass, just as much as the upper part group thinks. But in reality they would never do. So here comes the social conflicts. Not to forget the third world countries are still non-stop supplying new babies to the lower part group (most of them). Maybe they will occasionally win the battles and some of them would have the chance to be upgraded into the upper group. But the transformation trend persists.

How do I see the future? Human masters in an electronic robotic automation. Of course the pre-assumption is that current modern civilization would be undisturbed by any drastic social turmoil that put an end to scientific advancement. Well, what ends up in the Occident I see the chance for the Orient to continue at least. Of course I hope all smart fellas end up well in the end. Need a piece of inspiration? Check out the creepy robots.