What kind of society can survive modernness?

The Dinocrat’s grandparents were born into the hardscrabble America of the late 19th century. Half the people were farmers and almost no one was rich. It was a world of short lives, a world without cars, telephones, airplanes, pharmaceuticals, access to books, and often without running water and indoor plumbing. News came sporadically and late if it came at all. The Dinocrat’s grandchildren experience a generally much richer America of far greater longevity, a world of instant communications among everyone on the planet, and instant access to a global encyclopedia of immeasurable size. Every kid with his cell phone has far greater resources at his fingertips to broadcast and receive the news of the world than were ever available to Edward R. Morrow.

It is a world of great promise, but also of considerable peril, as we have discussed on many occasions. More has changed in the last 130 years in terms of population, long life, prosperity, communications, available knowledge, technology, and global reach than in any comparable period of human history. It is perhaps trivial to say, but it is also true: we do not understand the vast complexity that has grown up about us. The complexity of the modern world has overtaken our ability to understand it, and this creates instability — how much instability is a little hard to say at the moment.

Meanwhile, instability comes from another angle as well. Any ideology that insists on the literal truth of books that are millennia out of date is ipso facto at war with the modern world. It is an inevitable conflict. It is unknown at this time whether George Bush’s ambitious but ahistorical approach to solving the problem will have any lasting impact on the matter. What seems clear to us is that an unambiguous understanding and defense of the Judeo-Christian-Enlightenment values that underpin our freedom and prosperity is necessary for America and the West to make it through the 21st century in a form recognizable to our forbears. At the moment it looks somewhat unlikely that the Western world will pass this test.

Western Europe appears to be doing a pitiful job of defending the values that led to the modern world, and it is hard to see anything but terrible strife and conflict down the road in that area of the world. In the US, the situation isn’t much better. The educational system has been dumbed down, and people have taken to putting all their faith in silly superstitions — Chesterton was right, it appears. Meanwhile, the Obama administration makes sweeping and ridiculous promises, passes budgets that are only feasible if the laws of economics are repealed, and no one seems to notice or care.

The modernness of the modern world is a thing that we do not understand. It has all happened so fast. The proper reaction to so much change in so short a time is modesty. Instead we have just the opposite. In Europe there are substantial elements of the population who would like to see the modern world destroyed. In the US, many people want “change” at an even more accelerated pace, but many of the changes they are getting are a fantasy — the numbers just don’t add up. Maybe we’ll muddle through, but a train wreck of some sort seems likelier to us at the moment. Are we unduly pessimistic?

3 Responses to “What kind of society can survive modernness?”

  1. Neil Says:

    6 months ago, I thought the silly season would last for 30 years and bring down Western Civilization.

    3 months ago, I thought the silly season would last 15 years and destroy the U.S. Constitution.

    At the moment, I’m watching the Fed adding Treasury bonds to its balance sheet because China didn’t show up to the auction, and I’m wondering whether silly season can really last even 2 years? What gets destroyed here, other than the Obama administration?

  2. reliapundit Says:

    YES: postmodernism is as bad for modern civ as jihadism.

  3. A can of warm milk Says:

    America was healthy as long as it had a western frontier. It went away when Alaska & Hawaii stopped being news. To keep from stagnating, we need to spend enormous sums of money to colonize space.

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