2017 January 26 Thursday
Jonathan Haidt Sees Unstoppable Rising Outrage

Moral psychology researcher Jonathan Haidt appears to be turning pessimistic about the prospects of lowering rising disgust that each major faction in American politics feels for the opposing side.

I've been concerned for years now that migrations are creating physically separated Left and Right in America that deeply distrust and misunderstand each other. The animosity could build and cause a split of America into separate countries. The secession of one faction away from the other might even prove beneficial as each faction could rule only members of its own faction and therefore the two new societies could be higher trust than the single united society we now have.

By Randall Parker 2017 January 26 09:41 PM 
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2017 January 21 Saturday
Historical Departures

Picture the world in 1975. It looked like China and Russia were going to stay hard core communist places for decades to come. Few thought otherwise Then move forward 20 years. How did the world look in 1995? Kinda unipolar with communism a discredited historical relic fading quickly except for a few small hold-outs. People tend to overweight the current state of things as the way things will continue to be.

But not everyone sees the world in such a static fashion. I'm slowly reading (slowly since I cycle between lots of books reading small pieces of each) Samuel Huntington's 1996 book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. It is impressive just what a great job he does of not getting caught up in the current moment and looking at big trends, recurring patterns, and what causes them. I highly recommend if you haven't read it already.

Some people are shocked and very upset by the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election. I think part of the upset is that it threatens faith in some imagined historical inevitabilities. These people would have a better time coping if they could learn enough about history to develop an appreciation for how many seemingly destined outcomes (e.g. continued rule of the Roman Empire or of the West over the Rest) turned out not to be. It wasn't all that long ago that fascism and communism were seen as on the march as well.

As a sign that our civilization is losing its most valuable attributes consider the turn against free speech. Older liberal social democrats are bemoaning the rise of anti-liberty postmoderns who demand space spaces (places where people can't be honest if they disagree with a postmodern doctrine). Conservatives are left watching from the outside while in academia liberals get threatened and cowed into silence by postmoderns.

One should really not take one's civilization for granted. Its preservation isn't just a matter of getting the right message to the masses to strengthen their faith. If the elites have to continuously reinforce faith in one's civilization then that civilization isn't built on very stable ground.

Progressives are more willing to implement supposed improvements to Western civilization with the assumption that their changes will only do what they intend and won't undermine the foundations. Their faith in the rightness of their cause and the inevitability of their way of thinking comes across as the dogmatic faith of the true believer in the one true faith. But in a way, political correctness is a sign of fear and vulnerability because is a recognition of the threat faced by their preferred form of civilization. People who try to enforce progressive norms of speaking and thinking have got to know that the norms they hold to be self evident really aren't self evident or else they wouldn't be trying so incredibly hard to suppress other points of view. Their values aren't destined to win.

Just as communism came to be seen as a failure so will postmodern progressive thought. We are actually nearing the end of an intellectual era. The foundations of progressive belief are increasingly threatened by demographic changes, economic developments, and discoveries in science. This isn't to say some other of the factions of the West's internal culture war will necessarily win. Demography is destiny and for Europe especially it looks like the old civilization is headed for replacement.

If world values aren't going to converge then that's bad news for the West. We've peaked in our influence on the rest of the world.

By Randall Parker 2017 January 21 07:08 PM 
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