When considering the religious aspect of the fanatical MAGA mob and their QAnon conspiracies, I can’t help but be reminded by Kierkegaard‘s leap of faith. Just as Abraham was told to do something heinous in the name of God, and despite the fact that nobody would understand why Abraham had done it, he must still do it.
The article written by Michael Lind titled “The Five Crises of the American Regime” attempts to diagnose the underlying causes of the United States’ current situation – that of increasingly polarized politics and the anger and grievances of the polity. It is a great article, and I recommend reading the whole thing. Here, though, I want to discuss five other crises that are contributing to the decline and fall of the American Empire.
Something tells me the storming of the capitol building wasn’t so much a putsch attempt as just a release of pent-up anger – more Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 and less the takeover of the Winter Palace on October 25, 1917. However, we all know what the Storming of the Bastille eventually led to.
During these declining days of the U.S. Empire, everything has become politicized. People demand political participation, if not full on activism (for their preferred positions, of course), from celebrities, corporations, and family members alike. The politicization of everything is, of course, a prelude to totalitarianism: your every action has political implications, and therefore you must always be virtue signaling, demonstrating your loyalty to the cause. My own deep-seated cynicism about politics has been a blessing and a curse. And it’s also why I voted third party.
Humans seem to be evolutionarily predisposed towards interest in what other people are doing, since this has allowed for the social cohesion that’s been instrumental to our survival. There is also an element that, the more other people there are who care what a particular person says and does, the more people will care what that particular person says and does, creating a positive feedback loop. Social status in the form of notability must have developed as a way of attaining reproductive access.
COVID-19 is yesterdays news. The number 200,000 is too large, it becomes abstract: those aren’t people, they’re just a number – a statistic rather than a tragedy. Now we can enjoy the bread and circuses of (national) politics while the tent collapses around us: the election is less than 6 weeks away and a liberal judge inconveniently died. Amidst the politically-motivated hagiography being heaped onto the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Trump has put forth his own candidate: Amy Coney Barrett. For many, this is beyond the pale.
Ludwig Wittgenstein famously talked about language as an interconnected assemblage of language games that make up a world-picture. A world-picture are all of the assumptions, norms, and grounds that a community holds as certain, and from there certain propositions in the language games the community employs will be either true or false. While I somewhat disagree with Wittgenstein’s conclusion that the truth criteria of any proposition is its proper usage within a language game, rather than the proposition’s correspondence with reality, I think his analysis gives a good framework for examining the epistemic disunity in the culture of the west.
Critical Theory is a methodology of critiquing power relations within society. It takes as axiomatic the new-Marxist analysis of oppressor-oppressed dynamics being inherent in all human relationships. As such, Critical Theory is not about whether such power dynamics exist, but in what ways they manifest. There is little talk about why these dynamics manifest.
The news these days often cover issues that, for some reason or another, leave people either angry and hateful toward one another, or furrowing their brows in a vain attempt to understand the situation. Here I will give some simple answers to these thorny issues.
What is the meaning of life? This question is profound, but has become so cliche that its profundity is often overlooked. The problem, though, is that to produce an answer to the question requires that we hold prerequisite suppositions: what is the nature of humanity? Where does meaning originate? Does meaning itself have some yet other transcendent meaning?
Imagine a terrorist group infiltrated your country. For my hypothetical, I am going to use the U.S. since that is where I live, but this thought experiment could apply anywhere. Imagine it is known by everyone – you, your friends and family, your government – that this terrorist group exists, but nobody knows who is in it. This terrorist group is very secretive and good at keeping theirs and everyone else’s identities a secret.