The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
11.1 (Winter 2011)
the polis vs. progress
courtesy of artrenewal.org
Megatrends and Megatraumas
This is a brief sketch of some of the major world-issues: exploding technology, escalating urbanization and migration, proliferating communications media, spreading tribalism, and growing violence. Canada and the United States certainly participate today in a worldwide trending towards more and more technology (sci-tech), urbanization and migration, electronic media (both variety and degree of intrusion), tribalism, and violence.
Together, these factors might generally be seen as constituting the ongoing crisis of national sovereignty and meaningful democracy in today’s world.
Although these problems are relatively easy to identify around us, and although the proposed remedies are also to some extent obvious, effecting these solutions will, of course, be far, far more difficult.
The world today is characterized by the exponential growth of various modern technologies. The ultimate result is an ever-expanding “technosphere” that tends to annihilate the natural world and that challenges a stable and durable sense of human nature.
At the same time, the unsettled and rootless world created by modern technology results in the burgeoning of anomic urban cityscapes, as well as in massive migrations across the planet.
Western societies are characterized by the problem of media (or “the mediocracy”) — which combines processes of “amusing ourselves to death” in the promotion of a commodity-consumption society. Such processes inevitably stir antinomian impulses — in advertising, entertainment, and the purveying of news. Those who are deemed to represent notions of traditional nation, family, and religion are frequently under relentless media attack in most Western societies. There is also not much of a hearing offered to those on the left who criticize the dogma of economism and the current-day imperative of unending economic expansion.
Largely because of the pressures that accompany assimilation into the global pop-culture, a reaction of rampant tribalism (as well as of religious extremism) is flaring up in many quarters of the globe, mostly among non-Western societies.
Violence has become an increasing element of the planet today. This may be a phenomenon related to tribalism: for instance, irregular wars that are extremely difficult to win by “conventional” armed forces and endemic conflicts in the Third World. Yet it is just as observable in crime-prone urban areas within the West itself.
The problems of modern technology, as well as of urbanization and migration, could be addressed by the coming of a new ecological paradigm of “limits to growth”.
The problem of media (or “mediocracy”) could be addressed in the West by a renewed emphasis on literary-humanistic culture: that is, on the truly reflective spirit of Western humanism and rooted diversity.
The problems of rampant tribalism and religious extremism in the world today could be addressed by an increasingly reflective (and therefore more moderate, but NOT non-existent) nationalism or religious spirit.
The problem of increasing violence in the world today could be addressed by a renewed emphasis on state-authority, and on the acceptance of the legitimacy of the exercise of state-power, in terms of upholding the civil order. This authority would have to be predicated within a reasonably and undogmatically conceived legal framework. Well worth considering, also, is the resolution of many regional and ethnic conflicts through true federalism and a subsidiarity emphasizing locality (in contrast to a centralized, behemoth bureaucracy).
Indeed, what all of the megaproblems or “megatraumas” above have in common is a degree of “illimitedness” or “boundarylessness”. An over-all sense of limits or “horizons” is needed.
To discuss the question of how such solutions are to be applied would be practically a lifetime endeavor for the greatest thinkers, high-politicians, and cultural and religious figures of the age.
Among the sages who have begun this work are Philip Rieff, who identified today’s “triumph of the therapeutic” (and called for a “sacred sociology” in response); and Christopher Lasch, who criticized “the culture of narcissism” and “the revolt of the elites”, pointing to the family as a “haven in a heartless world”.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian freelance journalist and historical researcher based in Toronto.