The Destruction of Culture

(Globalization, Pop Culture, Dumbing-Down, Failed School System, and Participatory Democracy)

If porn was allowed on YouTube the next president would be a pornstar.

If the theme song of Homeostasis Dwellers is Girls Just Want to Have Fun, then the theme of Homeostasis Breakers is Push it to the Limit.

“You will observe with concern how long a useful truth may be known and exist, before it is generally received and practiced upon.”      ~Benjamin Franklin

“Unfortunately correct knowledge and sound principles are not enough. An unexciting truth may be eclipsed by a thrilling falsehood.”
~Alduous Huxley

 

Part 1: Is Culture Improving?

One of the most interesting critics on popular culture is Alan Moore. You may know him as the Author of Watchmen. In an interview I watched on YouTube, he said:

We had the Beggars’ Opera in 1910. In 1969 we have Donald Cammel’s Performance. Then JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series in the early 20th century. All three were big, important cultural events of their times.

If you were to plot them on a graph, the line is not going up. I think it’s a fair comment that our approach to culture in the mainstream has degenerated. The values people used to put into a work of art, have been eroded.

In another (written) interview, when asked about superhero movies, he responded:

To my mind, this embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th century inception seems to indicate a retreat from the complexities of modern existence. It looks to me like a significant section of the public, having given up on attempting to understand the reality they are actually living in, have instead reasoned that they might at least be able to comprehend the sprawling, meaningless, but at-least-still-finite ‘universes’ presented by DC or Marvel Comics.

I like Alan Moore, but I think he is being a bit hard on DC and Marvel.

I grew up reading comics like Spiderman, and I watched X-Men as a TV show.

When I read Spiderman now, I feel a tinge of nostalgia, but I’m not exactly riveted. I haven’t revisited those X-men shows, so I don’t know. But I can say this: My favorite childhood comic–The Phantom–has endured.

I don’t keep a storage around, but when I come across the Phantom, I still like it. Why? Probably because its premise is so different. It’s based in a variety of historical periods (so you could keep inventing stories about it forever) and it teaches you, the reader, new ideas and sound values in an entertaining way.

In marketing lingo, the Phantom is the ultimate example of an “Evergreen” concept. I have a lot of respect for the creators of The Phantom, and if I have kids, I will surely buy a large collection for them.

Now, compare this to Marvel.

Marvel is a part of the Disney empire. Disney is an interesting company for the reason that it has a near-monopoly on popular culture. No other company can occupy their role, at least not fast.

I watched an interview with CEO Bob Iger, who is brilliant. He was asked about the makings of the Black Panther movie (2017) and what made him give the thumbs up for that project. He said they looked for three things:

  1. Can we sell it globally?
  2. Can we sell merchandise?
  3. Can we make a franchise out of it? (movies, TV series, video game, etc)

The answer was “YES”, so they did it.

The Black Panther movie did well at the box office. $200M budget and $700M Gross. I’m no pro at analyzing movies, but let’s guess the net profit was $400M. That’s still 2x–9/10 movies never make a profit–not counting future profit from Iger’s three Disney commandments.

I’m guessing the Phantom never made that much money–at all.

It could perhaps be done, but there are no big polarizing trends to capitalize on, no big waves to ride. The Phantom is sustained by its own brilliance. It’s not a macro bet; it’s an insulated atmosphere. It lives long and prospers, but won’t go viral. You probably can’t make it a universal concept. At least not without simplifying the premise into a stupid 1-2-3 story.

The Phantom is the perfect example of what Alan Moore was talking about when he mentioned “infinite worlds”. The Black Panther is an entertaining story that appeals to black people. Fortunately, there are many black people all over the world who might feel inspired by such a movie. To whom does the Phantom appeal? There’s no specific target group. It’s just a great comic that aims to teach and last.

Part 2: Culture Does Not Improve Gradually

Has culture improved between the years 1000-2000?

Without a doubt.

It’s not something we can easily measure, but since more people were killing each other for no good reason back then, I’d have to say yes.

Does that mean culture is steadily and gradually improving every year?

NO!

It’s not even a fair comparison to make.

Popular culture did not exist before mediums of mass communications existed. There’s always been spheres of society that were intellectually and morally superior to the rest. Domain knowledge existed, but remained isolated, taught only in the organic form by master-to-apprentice. Then you had the State and Church setting the belief system, education, and cultural traditions for the rest of society; that was their equivalent to popular culture.

And the smart people stayed out of it.

Although globalism and consumerism are only a few decades old, the decay of culture and nations is not.

One of the best explanations for how this happens is the historic pattern that a nation is born stoic and dies epicurean.

A Nation is Born Stoic and Dies Epicurean

The late and great historian Will Durant said that a civilization is not conquered until it has destroyed itself from within.

“We are giving up the study of how the Greeks and Romans prevailed magnificently in a barbaric world; the study too, of how that triumph ended, how a slackness and a softness finally came over them to their ruin. In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security, a comfortable life, and they lost all.”

—Edith Hamilton, Historian (written at age 91)

“One wonders whether a generation that demands instant satisfaction of all its needs and instant solutions of the world’s problems will produce anything of lasting value. Such a generation, even when equipped with the most modern technology, will be essentially primitive — it will stand in awe of nature, and submit to the tutelage of medicine men.”

—Eric Hoffer, Philosopher

Every western politician should print this on their wall.

Another historic parallel may be useful–

The Revolutionary War:

The American Revolutionary War erupted over a 7% stamp tax. Today governments raise taxes by more than 7% without so much as wincing an eye. And we, the people, just take it. Like passive peons.

What made the Americans angry enough to risk their lives fighting the big British Empire? Not cold logic (“we can’t afford to give away 7% of our income”), it was the principle that they owned the rights to their work.

It was their refusal to acknowledge the authority of oppressive bureaucracy.

It was their refusal to set a dangerous precedent in the direction of enslavement for their children.

Taxation without representation.

The early Americans were a generation of hardened individuals, who came from all-over. They didn’t come for a welfare check, they came to build and conquer. A selection of the most motivated, adventurous, and entrepreneurial people across the world. Possibly one person like that being the equivalent of 2-10 average people. 1

They hadn’t crossed the sea for nothing. Especially not to be pushed around by some paper-pushers from across the ocean.

In the words of Founding Father John Adams. “You will never know how much it cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.”

Part 3: Popular Culture is Full of Falsehoods and False Idols:

In his book Consilience (1998), E.O Wilson angrily denounced radical leftists at universities, and postmodernists for corrupting academic research.

Now, more than 20 years later, everyone is talking about it. Why did it take so long? Did people need to hear it from Joe Rogan?

Bad things can go undetected or unchecked for a veeeery long time in popular culture. Why is that? Because the incentives to stop it aren’t strong enough (lots of money to be made making a big lie, not much money to be made proving something is wrong; especially not if you’re putting your reputation on the line, and there are lobbyists whose job is to destroy you).

Popular culture is more likely to tend towards bad, wrong, and debauchery — than what might be deemed as “good” or virtuous.

It always takes a critical mass to raise awareness of falsehoods and misconceptions outside of the tiny group of people “in-the-know”, out of which positive change can emerge.

Popular culture will never be optimal, it cannot be policed.

There are too many retards.

Popular Culture is a Sludge of Slow-Moving Mud

Popular culture has its flaws.

In fact, I can’t think of one good thing right now.

Popular culture is a repetition of the most basic tropes and stories.

This is evident in the repetition of shocking news by news-anchors and mundane gossip by talk show hosts sitting on their sofas.

Somehow, people are conditioned into believing that these topics are worth mentioning. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

But do you know what’s worse than that? That which isn’t mentioned. 

–From the topics censored due to political correctness, to editorial opinions, and financial interests. And recently: “Deplatformization”

But do you know what’s even worse than that?

The inability for popular culture to adapt to scientifically proven facts and useful practical tips based on a big body of research.

Popular culture is typically 100 years behind the thinking of pioneers, and a few decades behind the latest research of experts.

Why so slow?

When some useful insight finally does get into the mainstream, it’s usually simplified beyond all recognition (SIBAR).

What can we learn from this?

That which finds its way into the mainstream of society, into popular culture, should never be taken at face value. It should be assumed to have been placed there by special interests and harmful to the average person; the naive individual going about his or her life in a happy-go-lucky kind of way, unknowingly borrowing his or her sense of values from dangerous strangers.

Popular culture is full of falsehoods.

Here are a few:

  • Noble Indulgences wedge themselves into popular culture and remain as dogma (Remember the quote from Huxley at the beginning)
  • The overpowering influence of female consumers is typically downplayed or not even mentioned in public debate 2
  • Mainstream media has its own biases and incentives. They do, say, and report on what gets attention and makes money; not what’s useful or truthful. Social media is not exempt from this; it just does it differently. I won’t elaborate (you probably know from personal experience anyway)
  • Long Wikipedia list of misconceptions 3

We all have our own hobbies and fields of special interest.

When was the last time mainstream media covered one of your favorite topics in a fair or exhaustive way?

As a kid, one of the few things I had superior knowledge on was martial arts, video games and Mangas. One day when I was perhaps 14, on a Friday, I ate a big chocolate cake and watched TV. Then a show came on about Sweden’s most genius kids (similar to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, except with multiple contestants). The kids could pick a topic and the host asked them questions about it. One guy, who went on to win the show, selected Dragon Ball as his pick. I was so jealous. (“Why is this kid on TV being a genius, when I know all these answers on the top of my head, and have average grades.”)

Litmus Test:

The best example is when a forum or community goes mainstream, and suddenly all of the ignoramuses come in at a rapid rate and dilute the quality to the point where you no longer want to spend your time there.

Part 4: Popular Culture is Not Improving

This has been corroborated by teachers and academics of the educational system. Historian and culture critic Christopher Lasch wrote in Culture of Narcissism from 1979 that:

One study after another documents the steady decline of basic intellectual skills. In 1966, high school seniors scored an average of 467 points on the verbal section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test–hardly cause for celebration. Ten years later they scored only 429….

Such studies merely confirm was everyone knows who has taught high school or college students in the last 10 or 15 years. Even at the top schools in the country, students’ ability to use their own language, their knowledge of foreign languages, their reasoning powers, their stock of historical information, and their knowledge of the major literary classics have all undergone a relentless process of deterioration….. you can’t expect as much from a student as you could 15 years ago….. it should not surprise us that Americans are becoming increasingly ignorant about their own rights as citizens.

Out of every eight 17-year old, one believed the president does not have to obey the law.

Half of the 13-year olds thought the law forbids anyone to start a new political party.

Not that the President is lawless or that Political Parties are forbidden, but literacy has decreased.

A teacher in Deerfield, Illinois, reports, “The students are used to being entertained. They are used to the idea that if they are just the slightest bit bored, they can flip the switch and turn the channel.”

–That teacher’s report was nearly 40 years ago!

Dopamine addiction only got worse.

Battle of Dystopias – Last-Round Knockout: Huxley Beats Orwell 

Take anything too far and it becomes a bad thing.

Human are wired to respond to rewards and punishments, pleasure and pain.

Neil Postman got it right in his foreword of Amusing Ourselves to Death:

We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. We had, at least, not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another–slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Contrary to common belief, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”

“People will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”

“That truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

“Man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”

Social media, social media, social media. Have fun!

As of 2019, Huxley is the decisive winner.

This is exactly what I wrote about in BOOH!!

However, Neil Postman puts it into much better words than I ever could. Do yourself a favor and read the first half of Amusing Ourselves to Death.

Orwell’s dictator state vs Huxley’s pleasure society: Both ideas were equally awesome at the time of publication. So why did Huxley win? Because of computers, smartphones, social media, and whatever’s coming next (next big evolutionary mismatch).

I used to keep an open mind about this, now I don’t.

It’s much easier to live vicariously (like a spectator) than it is to take drastic action to change your life.

Humans can easily detect gross injustice (it’s programmed into our DNA) but humans can barely detect incremental increases of stimulation.

It’s too bad Neil Postman is dead. I would love to talk to that man.

A Media Billionaire Sums Up the Past 20 Years

Michael Bloomberg defies pop culture - as an entrepreneur and as Mayor of New YorkMichael Bloomberg had a strong career in Wall Street, ending up as a partner of Solomon Brothers, then he was fired. After that, he used his savings to start Bloomberg, which has become the #1 provider of premier information services to finance professionals. It’s one of the most lucrative businesses in the world and it has made him one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet. Then he became the Mayor of New York and served between 2002-2013.

In his biography from 1998, Bloomberg criticizes the American education system:

Look to our schools for more of technology’s failed promises. Every parent wants his or her child to be computer literate. We all believe those without PCs in elementary school are doomed to a life of poverty and illiteracy, so we spend millions to equip classrooms with computational abilities and Internet access.

The results? For all the purchases of computers in the classroom, our children don’t read as well, have a worse sense of historical perspective, know less geography, possess fewer mathematical skills, and have reduced exposure to the great literary and cultural achievements of mankind. (“Why bother to learn that? I’ll look it up if I ever need to know,” a kid might say. “Forget spelling, I have a spell check in my word processor.” “Math? That’s what calculators are for.”) In terms of work habits and social skills, we’re creating a disaster. Not only can’t Johnny read, he can’t speak grammatically either.

Written nearly 20 years ago, it could just as well have been written today.

Bloomberg was correct, and in 2019, we are now living through this disaster. It’s one of the main reasons people are so intolerant and have a low capacity for ambiguity. Many people are cognitively weak.

Instead of pushing themselves to become mentally strong, they succumb to homeostasis and victimhood tendencies; making excuses for their inability to cope with a world of increasing complexity.

Pop culture burrow head in sand

As if burrowing their heads into the sand will save them….

Instead of trying to build a more sophisticated and nuanced world-view, they opt for the knee-jerk response of burrowing their head in the sand. This behavior is acceptable among children and teenagers, but not among adults.

What About The Democratization of Information?

For the past couple of years it’s been a big talking point how social media and the distribution of free content would change the world. I think we can now safely conclude it didn’t work out the way the idealists had hoped.

A few people are becoming smarter and having more opportunities, while the majority of people seem to only become dumber and more habituated; more isolated in their knowledge and perception.

Rapid dissemination of information has not resulted in a more informed and educated population.

Instead, it has made for a stronger spread of disinformation, propaganda, and separation by status and increased jealousy. Mob mentality.

Most people do not actively look for new ideas outside their hobbies or spheres of knowledge. They’re likely to do more of what they’re already doing, staying in the domain they are most comfortable with. Whether it’s billiards, movies, porn, Facebook, Twitter, chemistry, or business.

It makes sense.

People now have more sophisticated means for educating themselves and entertaining themselves. Will it lead to a better educated population?

I sincerely doubt it, but we can check back in 20 years.

It’s like the Marshmellow Test on steroids. People can engage in stimulating drama for a quick dopamine kick, or they can do something that produces a lasting change.

* * *

Do you want to keep up with popular culture? Do you have an incentive to do so? Snoop Dogg does.

 

* * *

P.S:

In case you are already up-to-date with what’s going on in the world, I got something else for you.

The Expanded (print) Version of Breaking out of Homeostasis will be out around the New Year / January.

  • It will finally be available in print
  • It will include lots of new material

I will also take on a limited number of people for coaching based on the BOOH Methodology. 

(Hand-on implementation of the most powerful advice from the book, and direct access to me).

If you’re interested you can read more here.


  1. The opposite of immigrants flooding into Europe for welfare checks. 

  2. Could it be that women are ashamed of their shopping habits?

  3. Funny that the part about Soy should require 5 citations where most other bullets contain just 1.

Comments

  1. Excellent article!

    If you consider what you’ve highlighted as the “problem”, it’s important to consider the “solution”. I thought about this and concluded several points.

    1, Most people shouldn’t be alive. This is figurative & literal – the complacency, decadence & moral turpitude of modern society is a symptom of rewarding the most consumptive (not fittest).

    2. A pyramid scheme has evolved (to support this) called “capitalism”. Capitalism, in its real form, is good and whole, as it’s based on the supply & demand of objective value. Modern “neoliberal” (I think some call “late stage”) capitalism is not, as its value is subjective.

    3. Because “value” is subjective, it can be manipulated. This manipulation has been compounded by the printing of money (which wouldn’t be possible if still on the gold standard), and (most importantly) enforced by pushing false narratives to the masses.

    4. These narratives are driving the moral decay. Rather than the pursuit of excellence, to facilitate consumption (required for “economic growth”), people are raised as slaves. They have no perspective on what “real” life is, and, consequently, indulge in the intrigues you’ve highlighted. Plato’s cave.

    5. Whilst many attribute this to conspiracies (Jews, NWO, Freemasons, Rothschilds, reptilians, Illuminati), the reality is that it’s a race to the bottom. Given two options, the majority choose the easiest (as you call Homeostasis Dwellers). The best do the hardest.

    With this in mind, the “solution” becomes clear.

    The modern lie is cohesion.

    A city state, nation state and (to a certain degree) empire was built around the idea that it was better/safer/more profitable to work TOGETHER. In ancient times, this was a necessity. Not now.

    The modern (Western) world decries unity, and has become the realm of the individual. Individuals working against each other for profit. This is both a blessing and a curse.

    The curse is evident from the consumption you’ve highlighted – why sacrifice yourself when you can buy dopamine instead.

    The blessing is that it’s never been easier to pursue your *own* vision. This is what most people lack, as they have neither the insight to create their own “value” (economic prowess), nor the means through which to consider what “life” is to them. This is what Homeostasis “breakers” need to be aiming for.

    TL;DR you can’t change what you don’t control. Most people are so embedded in the system that no amount of “waking up” will cure them. Focus on your own path.

  2. Excellent observations, Ludvig. But you’re way more optimistic than I am.

    The degeneration of humanity is not just an illusion created by nostalgia for “the good old days”. It’s natural after a period of change that some older people don’t like it, but to look back at history you’ve never experienced and appreciate that things were even better (or less bad) than “the good old days” is not nostalgia.

    Nor is the decline purely cyclical. There have been previous epochs of mass stupidity before, about five decades apart for the last century. But there is also secular change – and that change is in no way encouraging.

    It’s not quite true to say that popular culture did not exist before mass communication, but it was (as you point out) fragmented. It was also relatively static; core changes like e.g. nationalism took centuries to emerge. And it was very weak; peasants had no economic or political influence and “grassroots” movements manifested as heresies or insurrections, swiftly extirpated.

    In his famous book “Only Yesterday”, Frederick Lewis Allen describes the mass culture of the Twenties as a new phenomenon in history. It was the first age of what we would call fads and viral memes, spreading through the whole of Western society in a matter of months or weeks and fading away just as quickly.

    The Twenties saw the dawn of modern celebrity worship, along with wide interest in such bullshit as Spiritism, Communism, Prohibition, and leveraged speculation in stocks based on momentum. There were the first inklings of sexual liberation and the first vaguely coherent youth culture. But there were also fads for self improvement of all kinds, for reading, and for mentally challenging crossword puzzles.

    Radio was an obvious contributing factor; there were at least two others: the Hearst newspaper monopoly and the growth of public education in previous generations. Television was a worse influence than radio, and the Internet much worse again in turn, but I think public education may perhaps be the most pernicious, if subtle, cause of our cultural decay.

    Another wave of mass stupidity dominated the Seventies – actually it appeared in the late Sixties, but at first only as a kind of sub-culture. People believed in all sorts of rubbish – “renewable” energy, electric cars (though none were built), bicycles as a replacement for cars, colonization of outer space and the oceans, weather control, UFOs, astrology, health food, etc. Individual responsibility was rejected; society was held responsible for providing an unconditional living to all its members, and society was to blame for the violent crimes of individuals.

    The Seventies were not without merit, though. In rejecting established values, popular culture also neutralized racism and sexism and eroded (for a while) the habit of blind submission to authority and (so far) the acceptance of war as an extension of diplomacy. The Zeitgeist then was gullible, optimist, hedonist, and collectivist, but not passive or purely selfish.

    In the current culture of smug imbecility, I can find nothing of value. Art, literature, and entertainment have diminished greatly in quality. Piracy and the infinite deluge of “free” content has obviated financial incentives to produce anything requiring effort. But “free” content is not free. Those providing it do have a motive – often it’s a lever to spy on people and to manipulate the opinion of the herd.

    https://pumpkinheadpie.com/?p=203

    Technology continues to advance, but our culture certainly is not a contributing factor. Only a tiny fraction of the population is needed for this, or even capable of contributing. And some of our technology is conspicuously *not* advancing, when it should be. When was the last time Google or Microsoft actually improved the functionality of any of their products? Spying and lying are rewarded, progress is not.

    Current popular culture is characterized by shallowness in every aspect, by a pervasive sense of entitlement, by a lack of personal standards or discipline, by rigid conformity, by vehement intolerance, by escapism, by group identity and group “victim” status, by gullibility, self indulgence, passivity, contempt for freedom and privacy, pathological fear of negligible threats like terrorism or white supremacists or nuclear meltdown, and above all by a fear and hatred of individuality.

    Some have worried that low birth rates will result in the inability to support the next generation of retirees. They are looking in the wrong direction – we should be more worried about who will support the increasingly unproductive younger generations, especially those weaned on Fecesbook, as the older generations fade away.

    All this may seem like opportunistic and excessive criticism. I see it as the natural result of a historical process, enabled by technology but driven by other factors.

    What each of the three mentioned epochs of stupidity have in common is the increasing prolongation of childhood and the growing coherence and power of a childish “youth culture”. This has often been blamed on the “baby boom”, and even now there is a somewhat disproportionate number of twenty-somethings, but I don’t think this is a sufficient explanation.

    https://www.populationpyramid

    Technology is an obvious contributor – there is no Internet for adults. Dopamine addicted children (up to the age of 70+) with time on their hands drown out any serious discourse. Nearly the whole developed world is now combined into a single audience, and advertisers pay the same for a click by a ten year old as by an adult who might actually buy something. Nearly all discoverable content is controlled by a handful of megacorporations. Wikipedia is the only remaining major Internet presence that doesn’t overwhelmingly cater to children and morons.

    The spread of English is also a factor. Uneducated masses all around the world now know enough English to at least grasp things on a child’s level. Dumbed-down English is a global /lingua franca/.

    But the chief culprit is the structure of public education. The schools control more of a child’s waking hours than do the parents, and schools are a culture of children. “Teachers”, i.e. babysitters, are too few, generally apathetic, often grossly incompetent, and in recent decades disempowered to impose discipline. With children segregated by age in large groups, inadequately supervised, and sharing a great part of their life experience in common with (and only with) each other, it’s no surprise when a conscious and conformist youth culture emerges.

    Children have always, of course, had a distinct culture; rhymes and games have propagated among children for centuries on end without adult assistance. But since the late nineteenth century, successive generations of children have had different childhood experiences than their parents did – and they’ve been aware of it, thanks to being packed together in schools as much as to mass media.

    I suppose that adolescent males have rebelled against older males since the rise of mammals, but they didn’t see themselves as part of any different “generation” or group. I have never seen any evidence of generational consciousness, or stereotypes, or generational conflict as such, before the twentieth century, in spite of the inevitable hostility to everything new. Disruptive movements like Abolitionism and Socialism were not youth movements. Had Hesse written Steppenwolf in 1827, no one would have understood it.

    The present cycle of stupidity may be the last – because it may never end. Whatever forces existed to curb the dementia in the Thirties/Forties were not the same as in the Eighties, and neither exists now. The insanity of modern culture is also more extreme, more pervasive, and more powerful than that of the previous cycle, which in turn was much stronger than the youth culture of the Twenties.

    Another discouraging factor is the unmistakable physical and mental decline of Westerners. There may be a cultural component of self indulgence here, as well as dysgenic factors like birth control, medicine, and welfare programs, but it’s a long term trend and I fear a major cause is our unavoidable reliance on technology. Machines replaced the exercise of our bodies; software is replacing the exercise of our minds. Even using a pocket calculator for arithmetic is something like using an elevator instead of the stairs.

    A frightening number of “adults” today (and not just young ones) are hardly human in a meaningful way. They are flaccid meat puppets, dancing on the strings of a “smart” phone, echoing the voice of the herd and lacking responsibility, thought, or personality. I call them Pod People (after Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

    There have always been people like that, probably more in each decade of the last century, but most were soon forced to grow up, and they never completed the destruction of culture.

    There are more Pod People every day.

    • Great comment Abgrund. I just shared it on Twitter.

      I like this term, “the current culture of smug imbecility”.

      I didn’t know about the cyclical periods of social decay, but find it interesting. I do see some relatedness to the Fourth Turning and Generational hypotheses though.

      As far as the idea of this last cycle not ending, I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be the least surprised if the “self-correction” takes a lot longer than previously. The feedback loops of financial incentives and biological stimuli are so firmly entrenched that I don’t see them ending any time soon. And if there’s one thing that doesn’t happen easily–especially not on a large scale–it is behavioral change.

      I was on a boat today and thought a bit about your comment and how insane/irrational popular culture and much of society is. Three snapshots from 2019 will suffice:
      (1) Adam Neumann of WeWork absconds with 1-2 Billion dollars from a failed corporation propped up with borrowed money
      (2) New social media platform TikTok (built for quick dopamine kicks) becomes the world’s most downloaded app and social network
      (3) “Deepfake” video and audio technology is now available at consumer level

      Now – are these indications of “peak insanity”, soon to be self-corrected? Or merely signposts of what’s yet to come.

  3. Hi
    I disagree. I believe your article is only a variation of “the old times were better, now things are worse” and I don’t think that this is correct.

    Take the last 100 years, we had not Mozart, but we had Gershwin. We had not Newton but we had Einstein. We had not A. Smith but we had L.v. Mises. We had not Pasteur but we had A. Fleming. We had not Leonardo da Vinci but we had Santos Dummont.
    And I can keep going,we had Orwel and Huxley (and many more). And W. Disney and H Hughes and…..

    I really don’t see things going worse, they are improving (I am only afraid of a war, politicians can make things worse)

    If you want to take only the last 20 years I don’t think it’s fair, because you are comparing with the last 1000 years, it’s like 2%, 100 years is a better measure.

    But take a look: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_scientific_discoveries is a timeline of scientific discoveries.
    I see things improving.

    Still, last 20 years: just take a look at the internet, how many literary magazines? Movies? Songs? Everything! This is like Paris in (19)20’s. Is like Alexandria Library.

    Well, for me is improving.

    • Ludvig Sunstrom says

      Things are definitely improving in some areas, but also devolving in others.

      It’s not black and white.

      The problem is there is no appropriate measure for it.

      As you allude to, perhaps one of the key points of such a measure might be choosing an appropriate time frame.

      However, I would strongly argue in favor of more homeostasis dwellers on average.

    • Gustav Adolphus says

      I think Ludvig was highlighting the context through which those improvements could be considered.

      For example, as you asserted, science/technology has improved significantly.

      Even though this has given us the tools through which to live longer, more comfortable & indulgent lives – are people using them to fulfill their highest potential, or are they taking ass pics in Dubai?

      If a cure for AIDS & HIV was released tomorrow, would that push people towards a more celibate & spiritual existence based on the gratitude of being alive…. or would condom sales fall off a cliff? What about a cure for cancer? What would happen then?

      One of the things I found from reading about the classics was the Greco concept of “mortality” was an antonym of “immortality”. In other words, some consider the Greek Pantheon to be defined not by their embrace of the immortal but by their LACK of mortality.

      Because of this, it’s been postulated that many of the myths are based on the idea that as mortal beings, with a finite time to pursue destiny, ours should be a purpose-driven life. The Gods did not have this, and thus ended up playing with intrigue.

      The latter is what we’re seeing from a lot of people today.

      • I am not saying that everything is great, I just think that is in many ways as before and in other ways better or worse, but is not like destruction of culture or in profond decadence.

        “Even though this has given us the tools through which to live longer, more comfortable & indulgent lives – are people using them to fulfill their highest potential, or are they taking ass pics in Dubai?”

        The second option but why now is different from before? Of course to travel is easier now, but look at the gossip websites, before we had gossip magazines and before we had the tabloids and before we had small printing newspapers. Is nothing new.

        “If a cure for AIDS & HIV was released tomorrow, would that push people towards a more celibate & spiritual existence based on the gratitude of being alive
. or would condom sales fall off a cliff?”

        Probably the same as with the cure of syphilis, in the beginning people will calm down and later they will… In case of syphilis the cure really only appeared in (19)40’s, 20 years later we had the beginning of “sexual liberation”.

        But if you check the history of condom will see that is something old, the modern condoms are from (19)30’s but you had other options before.

        By the way, still about syphilis: “the inhabitants of today’s Italy, Germany and United Kingdom named syphilis ‘the French disease’, the French named it ‘the Neapolitan disease’, the Russians assigned the name of ‘Polish disease’, the Polish called it ‘the German disease’, The Danish, the Portuguese and the inhabitants of Northern Africa named it ‘the Spanish/Castilian disease’ and the Turks coined the term ‘Christian disease’. Moreover, in Northern India, the Muslims blamed the Hindu for the outbreak of the affliction. However, the Hindu blamed the Muslims and in the end everyone blamed the Europeans”

        Which means that blaming others is also something old (and later they said that was the American continent the origin but right now no one knows).

        I just think that in the end, you always had few improving themselves and even more few really changing the world and the most part will do whatever or nothing.

        So is not a destruction is more like old news. And I still believe right now you have many things going better.

        Thank you.

      • Gustav Adolphus says

        Hugh, agreed. I wanted to play Devil’s advocate :)

    • Hugh, why are all your examples from the first half of the twentieth century?

  4. Such a brave article Ludvig, to sum it up … “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Jiddu Krishnamurti

  5. Zachery Moy says

    I’m glad you’re back Ludvig. Thank you for the article. I’m pressed for time so took a quick skim. I will need to sit down and do a deeper read.

    I’ve been saying politics is WWF for pseudo-intellectuals for years. This article further validates my belief.

    Mad about what xyz politcian said? You’re addicted to drama.
    Is xyz’s advisor going to jail for the 100th time the TV man exclaimed? You’re stupid, go work on your life.

  6. Jason Collister says

    In reference to popular culture, just a few thoughts:

    The Joker (Dark Knight, 2008) was all about Chaos. He had given up on society, on humans because he saw them for what they are. Therefore, he started to try to make the whole world to see society as he did. This is quite interesting if you consider that the same year, (2008) the financial crisis broke out. Occupy Wallstreet, The 1%, all these protest movements started around that time.
    (Ironically that’s also when Obama got elected into the White House)
    It was implied this Joker became the Joker as a result of his traumatic experiences. Furthermore, it is implied that something (society) is crumbling away and this impacts people and they need to take action.

    The New Joker (2019) shows an interesting development. Not only story wise but how our society has changed in just ten years. We still haven’t overcome the feelings of insecurity and ambiguity towards the people who were responsible for the crisis. Joker is this time more of a stand-In for the viewer. (Hence, why they feared terror attacks when the movie premiered.) This new Joker is more about rebellion and what being an outcast with nothing in life looks like. (Victimhood has become a new and dangerous trend) He already has mental problems and tries to deal with them more or less. His transformation into the Joker is not even a transformation as it seems to be the direct result of the diagnosed decay of society.

    It’s tremendously interesting if you compare not only these two movies and their respective version of the Joker, but also the societal context of these movies. Society didn’t become any better after 11 years, no I would argue things became worse.
    I would this attribute this party to the lobbyists you mentioned who are out there to destroy people. It happened to the Occupy Wallstreet protestors and it happens now to other dissidents who talk too much sense.

    I also agree with the suppression of important information and “scapegoat” topics as I like to call it. Who talks today of Fukushima or the swelling conflict between India and Pakistan?
    2 years ago nobody talked about climate change and suddenly Greta appears and gets more attention than Justin Bieber? I smell foul play….

    The same goes for “Deplatformization”, I laugh at the people who argue that these platforms must provide free speech. Don’t these ignorant people know that these platforms are not public spaces but privately owned companies?!? They can do whatever they want to do with their product. “Truth” and radical views don’t sell and are unsexy to the ignorant peons, so they get kicked out.

    “The best example is when a forum or community goes mainstream, and suddenly all of the ignoramuses come in at a rapid rate and dilute the quality to the point where you no longer want to spend your time there.”

    Haha! Ok I am guilty of this myself but I immediately knew what you meant. I used to work for a website of a popular videogame and when the franchise became a push again there was a huge influx of new users. Usually three categories: The Trolls, the 15-year-old-know-it-all and the newbs who start talking about basic topics they should have already read through. It was hugely annoying and one reason why I quit popular culture and videogames altogether.

    Another sign of the cultural decay is the increasing use of Memes in my opinion. Look, how fast these things have spread in the last 5 years! We aren’t using proper language to communicate anymore but pictures with 10 letters max.
    Of course these Pics often depict Pop cultural figures what an coincidence… this is another form of dumbing down. Memes and the ideas behind it can spread globally within an hour or so now. Look at how fast the recent “OK Boomer” meme exploded all over the internet. This is a dangerous development.
    Wow, I didn’t expect this post to become such a long rant but I guess, I really enjoyed your article. You found an interesting topic and I like your new style. Keep up the good work!

    • Hey Jason,
      Thank you for a very interesting comment. I will respond to it in more detail soon.

      Updated comment:
      It’s not something I have thought about much, but I think you’re probably right about the timing of the two movies (2008 vs 2019). I also agree that victimhood has become a dangerous trend.

      The example you give with Greta Thunberg is a joke. Completely absurd. I’m not very into this environmental debate, but if I were, why should I listen to a kid’s opinions when I could listen to expert debates or read the research myself. My best guess is that story took on a life of its own after it went viral, and then the media kept commenting on it because it was in their interest to do so (get more attention).

      I haven’t kept up with memes such as “OK Boomer”, but I see what you are saying. As a parallel to that, I’ve noticed a clear development over the last few years that people are commenting less online, and more on social media. Not unexpectedly, there is more trolling going on with social media. I wholeheartedly agree that it’s a sign of social decay. Where there used to be a dialogue, communication is now carried on with grunts, jokes, and emojis. It’s also inherent in the media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) – you can only say so much with 140 characters or an image leading a post. Especially when you’re competing with strangers for attention.

  7. Knowledge of history is valuable but never appreciated or acknowledged on time.

  8. I dont agree with Bloomberg. What does a billionare know about education!

    • Hi Martha,
      If you re-read the quote, you will see that he basically predicted 20 years of the education system not only in the U.S, but all around the world (at least in western countries). If you don’t find that impressive, I don’t know what will.

  9. Rob the bob says

    While I enjoy your articles and applaud your efforts for putting a lens on weird parts of society, I cannot help but say “move along, nothing to see here”.

    I’m older than you and I have seen this type of thing go on for a long time. When you get older you will also be able to see this. It’s part of pattern recognition.

    The only difference is that now more debate which used to be (somewhat secret) is becoming increasingly public for those who frequent special communities.

    To be quite frank with you, I have grown complacent.

  10. You put the joker as a picture on top. What did you think of that movie?

    assuming you have seen it.

    I thought it was decent but didn’t live up to all the hype i heard.

  11. I agree that literacy and public knowledge has decreased, and also that the world is becoming more lop-sided. But the big question is what’s next.

    No one can predict the future and things are becoming only more hard to predict. In the last year I have seen things that I would have deemed as worthless and irrelevant become the subject of public debate.

    What is your opinion this?

  12. A refreshing article. And also a good reminder to beware of dangerous strangers. Jokes aside, I enjoyed this quote:

    “That which finds its way into the mainstream of society, into popular culture, should never be taken at face value. It should be assumed to have been placed there by special interests and harmful to the average person; the naive individual going about his or her life in a happy-go-lucky kind of way, unknowingly borrowing his or her sense of values from dangerous strangers.”

    -John

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