Bill was very kind to write a long comment to my last post. I was answering when I saw that it was getting even longer, and consequently I thought it’d be wise to just start a new post for it.
So here’s the original comment:
The post is about the 1960s. Seen that way, it is largely right. What happened in the 1960s is that the elite decided that they no longer wanted the (minor) inconveniences imposed on them by the norms and enforcement mechanisms which existed to prevent the proles immiserating themselves. They assigned their children the job of “making it so.”
Traditional sexual mores protect Joe and Jane Sixpack, but pretending to comply with them is annoying to the great and the good. The police dealing out rough justice protects the working class from the predators amongst them but can be inconvenient for hippies: hippies who have other methods to escape the genuinely unwashed. Etc.
The New Left / SWPLism / PC is, in effect, a war on the stupid by the smart. “Taking away this support of civilization will fuck up your life, your family’s life, the life of everyone you know? Well, you see, I find that prop slightly annoying, so, well, fuck you, yours, and everyone you know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The mainline Protestant denominations by this time were empty shells, consisting of some guy bleating out platitudes before the main event: coffee, donuts, and networking. Post Vatican II, the Catholic Church tried its best to become just one more of these sad zombies. So, your points about religion are similarly apt, for that time and those religions.
“Reactionaries” who want to go back to the 1950s or to Victorian England are daft. It’s like wanting to go back to the soaring feeling you get after jumping off a skyscraper or the high feeling you have at the peak of your bender. The crash may not be the part of the experience you like, but it is part of the experience.
I agree that simply going back is not possible, though. Social roles designed for a society in which 99% of the workforce is farm labor are not going to be functional for a society in which 1% of the workforce is farm labor . . . It seems a bit of a strawman.
That the Orientals and Muslims have their own scholasticism is also true.
What are you talking about here? Confucius and Mencius? The “Golden Age of Islamic Science?” If you think these are equivalent (even very roughly) to the European intellectual project which culminated in Scholasticism, then Simon is right about the need to read more books. Approximately everything people have done was done either in the strange, short burst of golden age Pagan Greece or in the long, fertile history of Christian Europe. This long advance is closing as Europe is becoming non-Christian.
Western elites did not become openly non-Christian until the 19th C at the earliest and, I think, more accurately not until the 20th C. America’s founders, for example, were not openly non-Christian. Revolutionary France had openly non-Christian elites, but it didn’t really last all that long (and it sucked). Napoleon, for example, sometimes pretended to be Catholic. Hell, President Obama is not openly non-Christian.
The problem for your larger story, though, is that the current slowdown in intellectual life seems to have started in the 1960s also. The elites, freed from their social constraints, have not done great things. Rather, they have not done much of anything, except devising every more intricate ways to con morons out of their money, of course. If you believe the conventional story that scientific advance begets technological advance (I don’t), then we are surely headed for a doozy of a technological slowdown real soon now. Oh, and kinky sex is an elite thing and always has been.
Americans have this fixation with… well, America. So I wasn’t talking about 1960s America, but rather about the late 18th century French Enlightenment, which is what I’ve been reading lately. The freemason, philosophe milieu was mostly anti-Christian, and they mostly caused the French Revolution, which killed traditional politics forever. Even as Napoleon lost, the same people kept causing revolution after revolution, so in effect they won. And even if they professed lip-service to Christianism (which they increasingly didn’t), traditional modes of behavior were dead. They had intellectual freedom, and slowly by the late 19th, all of Europe’s upper class was positively decadent.
That’s what I call the double standard, where elites did what they pleased (wife swapping at Kenya, orgies with Napoleon III), yet workers were subject to harsh discipline, and behaved well. That era of the double standard was from say, Rousseau until 1968. Was the most productive and innovative era of mankind, and we are still living off its advances.
What happened during the 1960s is that elite decadence trickled down. So it wasn’t just the jet set playing around, it was total freedom for everyone, with the added chip of state redistribution of wealth to make possible for the poor to play around. Of course intellectual advance has slowed down. The ‘freedom’ cult overextended. Freedom for elites meant gentleman science, writing novels, surveying Africa or simply doing drugs and group sex, all sustained by dozens of poor servants. Of course many elites still behaved, but they could choose not to.
But with universal freedom its different. Freedom for the proles can only mean debauchery. And that without even touching the racial angle (as I say I’m not American so it was never a priority here until recently). So freedom for Joe Sixpack has meant… lots of sixpacks, soccer, and kinky sex. Which is everywhere now, just google around. Even Roissy puts his dick in girls’ rectums. Eek.
As for the foreign reference, I have some expertise on Chinese classics (I can read the stuff), and they aren’t that bad. Not saying they arrived to the level of logical inquiry that Ockham or Abelard achieved, but still, there’s good thought there. The problem being that Confucius designed very stable social manners and they have been following them since, not really bothering to think anymore. And Chinese just don’t dig metaphysical abstraction, they think its pointless. I think Neoteny may cause short-termness.
And Islam had some ok philosophy until Al-Ghazali appeared and told everyone to shut up and pray.
Common point being scholasticism was based on a dogmatic authority, and if something as half-assed as Descartes was able to revolutionize it, its because scholasticism didn’t have much appeal left. But that’s another discussion.
Anyway why are people so touchy when talking about other cultures? I know leftists talking how we owe our culture to the Moors are annoying as hell, but it doesn’t mean everything out there is crap. I’m all for European supremacism but lets remove the outsiders before we insult them.