The Decline and Fall of Civil Society – Chapter One

The Decline and Fall of Civil Society

Chapter One

By

Cognitive Dissonance

 

 

From my perspective at least, it’s a chicken or egg question. Was civil discourse among a diverse human population desired, or even required, in order for civilization to form and flourish? Or did civilization initially coalesce, with civility to follow shortly after as a means to increase socioeconomic efficiency and to encourage people from killing or maiming each other by setting minimum standards for public conduct?

Or could it possibly be more symbiotic, with both components required in varying degrees and amounts for either component to survive and thrive in the combined form of ‘civilization’?

I am a child of the 1950’s and 1960’s, a time so far removed from today’s brave new world that, even to me, feels like ancient history. This is not to say it was all pomp and circumstance back then, but in many respects so-called civilization was much more civil in my youth than it is now. And this applies to just about all modern social interaction, regardless of the underlying medium, method or mix.

Nothing brings this stark contrast to mind more than when I am out and about pursuing simple chores and errands. ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ are nearly absent from the public’s vernacular, particularly among those under the age of thirty. Holding a door open for either sex has actually earned me a sharp rebuke on several occasions, always from someone young enough to be my (grand)son.

Whenever I walk in front of anyone, such as along a narrow supermarket aisle or inside a crowded restaurant, many of the younger people I encounter are somewhat surprised to hear me say “excuse me” as I transgress their personal space. On more than a few occasions, the perplexed person asked why I was excusing myself or indicated I had offended them in some manner. But those over fifty years of age nearly always understand and appreciate my consideration.

As a child I was taught that polite niceties and respectful manners in public are the social lubricant of a civil society. That manners make the man, enabling people to quickly assess who you are by your respectful demeanor, polite behavior and social etiquette. I speak to others as I wish they would speak to me, with me always going first and never really expecting anything in return. Sort of the original “pay it forward” on a personal and recurring basis. Or as my mother was fond of saying, proper manners put the ‘gentle’ in gentlemen and gentlewomen.

It was, and remains, a deliberate attempt to take the communication high road regardless of the chaos in our mind, the dirt beneath our boots or the jerk standing in front of us. Sure, some people abuse the process for their own personal gain by leveraging polite society to their own advantage. But this is not an acceptable excuse to refrain from engaging in polite and respectful behavior both in public and private.

So…what happened? Or maybe a more accurate question would be, why is this happening, since it appears our plunge down to the lowest common denominator isn’t over yet by a long shot.

Those looking for one-word answers should just keep looking. Anything explaining or describing human behavior in any detail consumes reams of paper (or megabytes) and entire lifetimes of study. But the desire for simple answers to complex, codependent and manipulated human behavior is a fundamental part of the problem itself.

A perfect example of this is the repeated claim that a crude, rude and egotistical President Trump is the reason this country has devolved into petty snips, snide Twitter storms and other assorted vulgarities. While there is no doubt We Prefer our Sociopaths Well Dressed and Spoken’, Trump is little more than a symptom of the larger social disease writ yuge. Those individuals too ideologically blinded and emotionally invested in their own (political) naval gazing to see anything other than Trump (and his supporters) as the source of nearly all the nation’s problems are themselves a significant portion of the problem.

The same can be said for all sides of the great sociopolitical divide.

Morals, ethics, honor, fairness, justice, even freedom; these essentially esoteric concepts vary widely between race, religion, culture and nation, and have radically changed in definition, usage and structure since human beings began to congregate and cooperate.

But civility, in principal and practice, remains nearly constant over the millennia. Either we greet others with respect and deference, or we do not. It is that simple. Who, what, when, where and why we treat others in this manner depends upon all the previously mentioned esoteric concepts. But civility itself varies only in the words, body language and physical interaction (hand shake, bow or curtsy etc.) if any.

While by definition, something concealed is essentially impossible to see, know or understand, one may examine its secondary effects and attempt to discern an outline or pattern. But this can be hazardous when it comes to humans, for we do not truly know the intentions of our fellow (wo)man, regardless of how close we may think we are to him or her.

Therefore, the social purpose for civility is to even the playing field, to create a common consensus when it comes to (initial) human interaction, particularly between unknowns and even if only on a superficial level.

It is my supposition the human race is insane beyond redemption; therefore, no amount of applied logic, critical thinking or examination can make much sense out of pure unadulterated madness. If this is so, what better way to deal with our collective madness than to begin each interaction with civility in action, word and deed?

It seems perfectly reasonable, even to unreasonable people, to impose commonly accepted rules and regulations when everyone is driving a variety of vehicles on commonly shared roads. And yet so many people ignore the same concept when it comes to basic human interactions on a much more personal level.

It seems to me that as civility among the teaming masses ebbs and flows, so to does the tendency for humans to bicker, fight and war. And it appears this ebb and flow is cyclical.

The one redeeming characteristic we humans possess is our ability to adapt to, and survive, our own insanity….so far. Unfortunately, our technological leaps, particularly in the ‘art’ of warfare, applied propaganda and mind control, far surpasses our ability as a species to evolve and mature. Until relatively recently, one mad man or woman could only inflict so much mayhem upon his or her fellow madmen. Sadly, this is no longer the case.

All that said, there is clearly a cycle, an ebb and flow of high peaks and deep valleys, to our lunacy. I am an interested observer of the theory of repeating historical cycles mirroring the length of a human life (approximately 80 years) laid out in Strauss and Howe’s ‘The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy – What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny’. If there is a single book (or audio book) one should read, then read again in 2020, it’s this sparkling gem.

To quote the Amazon book description “First comes a High, a period of confident expansion as a new order takes root after the old has been swept away. Next comes an Awakening, a time of spiritual exploration and rebellion against the now-established order. Then comes an Unraveling, an increasingly troubled era in which individualism triumphs over crumbling institutions. Last comes a Crisis—the Fourth Turning—when society passes through a great and perilous gate in history. Together, the four turnings comprise history's seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and rebirth.”

Does that sound and look familiar?

Cycles within cycles within even more cycles.

 

An Unfamiliar Family Unit.

In my opinion, a major contributing factor to the growing incivility is the accelerating breakdown of the family unit, the single most stabilizing factor that directly counteracts the tendency of the insane to become even more spastic, erratic and destructive. Sadly, there are forces at work inflaming, if not outright encouraging, this trend of family dissolution if for no other reason than to divert attention from blatantly maniacal power grabs and consolidation, economic pillaging and corruption, excessive self-indulgent obsessions and various other obscenities.

For various biological, psychological and spiritual reasons, we hopelessly addled humans are prone to addictive behavior. We are, for all practical purposes, born addicts.

Be it alcohol, drugs or a multitude of various other externally ingested/infused/inhaled chemicals that modify the brain/body chemistry in order to alter perceived reality, or obsessive-compulsive behavior such as the mad dash to consumerism, food, sex, money, video anything, thrill seeking, gambling, electronic gaming, hoarding, texting/Twitter/Facebook etc.; the list of addictions and addictive behavior in one form or another is endless.

Addiction has been the scourge of humanity since Eve got drunk on Adam’s Boone’s Farm apple wine. Shortly after World War II, governments, various (multinational) corporations, pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, intelligence services and wealthy private individuals and organizations began extensive scientific research designed to develop products and services that feed off, and feed into, our collective tendency towards addiction.

To be fair, they might describe their research a bit differently.

Over the last decade this targeted R&D, combined with the exponential speed and capacity increase in fixed and portable computing, has culminated in powerful handheld, portable and fixed computing devices. When combined with access to websites specifically designed to feed our obsessive need for instant gratification, social interaction and personal/social affirmation, these computing devices have turned much of this nation, and most of the ‘civilized world’, into little more than walking talking zombies incapable of critical thinking, independent thought or polite personal interaction if it doesn’t involve a keyboard, handset or glowing screen of some kind.

The modern-day phenomenon of instant (often anonymous) long distance communication has succeeded in breaking down the customarily observed social and civil discourse rules normally encountered when personally interacting with someone within arm’s length or stone’s throw.

One simply does not call a total stranger an asshole (or some other vulgarity) to his or her face, if only out of fear of severe and instant retribution for the insult. Yet this type of rude, anti-social and, at times, repugnant behavior is quite common within the Twitterverse, in comment sections of blogs, vlogs, alternative/mainstream news websites and wherever else a ‘user’ feels sufficiently removed from any sense of close proximity to others.

How far has this gone, you ask? People hook-up, make-up and break-up via the ‘verse with nary a second thought. Two or more people have entire conversations via messaging services while seated at the same table, including fights and flirting sessions.

I actually once witnessed a face-to-face fight via an unknown messaging service, something only obvious by closely observing flying fingers on smartphones, expressive body language, dirty looks and the sudden exit by one of the parties who swore at the other party before leaving in a huff. Not a spoken word had passed between them until the very end, yet obviously plenty had been said.

While there always existed the means to communicate over any distance using pen and paper, even personal messenger, the passage of time in order to do so was always a significant and limiting factor. For this reason and others, words were usually carefully chosen and deployed. If nothing else, cooler heads tended to prevail when one needed to compose something long hand and dispatch it via pack mule, rather than compressing your shorthand diatribe into 140 characters or less before punching the ‘send’ button.

Interestingly, I just read that while Twitter recently increased the 140-character restriction to 280, the average message length decreased from 34 characters to 33. So even though our Twitterverse is twice the size, we have somehow managed to find an even lower lowest common denominator. There is no low road to travel, only lower and lower roads.

Basic social skills normally absorbed by the age of five are strangely absent, or at a minimum not fully formed, in fully grown adults these days. But is this really surprising when we recognize the vast majority of people thirty-five years of age or less have spent nearly their entire lifetime consuming manufactured reality in the form of computer gaming, starting with Sega and Nintendo game consoles in 1983 all the way up to stunningly realistic virtual reality devices available today?

No!

What is surprising, at least from my point of view, is the fact gaming addiction and abuse is only now beginning to be seriously studied and medically described so treatment plans can be formulated. I suspect the only viable ‘treatment’ is total withdrawal, similar to alcohol and drugs. And while the actual addiction rates may be comparable to alcohol, meaning as little as 5%-10%, it appears those not addicted, but still abusing gaming, is probably another 10%-20% of all gamers. And I would hazard a guess nearly all those under 35 engage in gaming now and then.

As with nearly all recognized and acknowledged addictions, the gaming addict’s social, emotional and intellectual development is severely stunted or stopped completely. As with those addicted to television, movies or streaming video, one would be hard pressed to convince me spending a significant portion of one’s time in front of flickering screens is healthy and beneficial to life as we know it. Something has to give and the loss often expresses in social interaction deficiencies.

The sum total of this particular slice of insanity is a slow breakdown of polite society among the younger generation who have known nothing else other than instant verbal and non-verbal communication with few, if any, filters. I personally think if all wired/wireless networks, including cell phone and satellite, suddenly went down, withdrawal symptoms would begin immediately, followed shortly afterward by signs of severe psychological stress, including suicide, by anyone under the age of thirty.

I say this with tongue only slightly in cheek. Without providing any links for you to follow (Google is your spying intrusive stalking friend) there have been plenty of academic and scientific studies released over the last several years that conclusively show the corrosive damage done to the psyche of individuals from long term use of video gaming. One simply cannot insert an electric cattle prod of this magnitude into the structural mechanisms of civil society, beginning with the youngest and most impressionable, and not inflict (massive) damage.

The bane of civil society.

 

Children Having Children

While one may think the title of this section is self-explanatory, meaning a discussion is about to commence regarding under-legal-age children producing offspring, while applicable this is not the case. What is rarely discussed publicly, because to do so would question certain polite lies we wish not to challenge, is adults of legal age and sufficient intelligence, but not of mental and emotional maturity, producing offspring.

For millennia, the common family unit consisted of a man and woman (married or not) their offspring (which may have consisted of children from multiple biological mothers and/or fathers) and often grandmother(s)/grandfather(s) living and participating in the family unit.

Even as the national standard of living rapidly increased after World War II, the parents of the parents, even if no longer domiciled within the primary home of the child, were often still in close contact on a near daily basis, particularly when the grandchildren were young.

In addition to offering physical help with the exhausting task of raising a newborn or toddler, the grandparents were there to offer guidance, wisdom and experience in the delicate and critical art of child rearing.

Using a transmittal mechanism as old as the human species itself, that of hands-on presentation, participation and assistance combined with verbal explanations and encouragement coming from the most trusted source, those who have a vested interest in long term success, valuable life skills only recently practiced by the birthing parent(s) are once again imprinted upon the new parent(s) and, for the first time, upon the child.

I’ve heard and seen the term “adulting” (as in “adulting is hard”) used by twenty somethings (and younger) to describe the act of applying adult life skills they either did not previously possess or were only now putting into practice with varying degrees of success. The very fact there is a unique term used to describe an age-old process of cultural skills and ‘knowing’ transference speaks volumes about the fundamental deficiency of life skills in an entire generation and counting.

I can fully understand the lack of experience when dealing with admittedly difficult first-time life situations. I suffered the same lack of hands-on experience when I was younger. We all did. What is missing is the near complete lack of critical thinking skills, intellectual curiosity and imagination and simple this-then-that diagnostic skills when confronting a first time unknown. The problem is between the ears, not the object in hand.

If not for the availability of YouTube videos and blogs discussing basic skill sets (simple money/banking activities, medical services procurement, insurance, basic tool use and repairs etc.) an entire generation would have collapsed under the weight of its own ignorance before ever getting off the ground.

One simply cannot overstate how vitally important it is for the next generation to learn firsthand from personally invested and intimately involved teachers possessing personally experienced knowledge and wisdom. A lifetime of experience and understanding consistently applied through loving, caring hands to young parents eager to do their best and a child void of preconceived notions and institutional bias often results in a mature and stable relationship between parents, child and civilized society.

While I romanticize the practice a bit, the process as outlined is fundamentally correct and critically important for the long-term survival of the human species. From our log cabin windows and decks, we see on a daily basis this ancient method practiced by the animal kingdom, especially the doing and showing by the parent and community for the benefit of the child. The animals intuitively understand their only purpose on Earth is to teach their children how to survive and flourish.

There is no greater calling or purpose in life than to successfully perpetuate life. To consistently fail in these duties is an extinction level event. We arrogantly insane humans are abrogating our sole responsibility to properly prepare our children for life beyond the nest in exchange for self-indulgent pleasures and self-gratification.

With grandparents increasingly absent or warehoused into nursing homes and retirement communities, the precious life cycle of handed down knowledge and wisdom has lost its most vital component. All other information sources that might be employed to replace the grandparents’ role in the teaching process are tragically inferior and, at best, third rate.

That Dr. Spock book, YouTube video or helpful neighbor lack the critical ingredient needed to bring the parent(s) and child to full bloom, a vested interest in raising that specific blood legacy child under those exact circumstances to the best of their ability. Nothing can replace the sacred familial bonds firmly established when the older parent helps the new parent teach and mold the youngest member of the extended family.

The unfortunate result, after sixty plus years of slow and steady entropy of this precious teaching/learning cycle, is the disintegration, in conjunction with the other influences outlined above, of the self-sufficient, self-sustaining nuclear family unit. We are now in a situation where the birthing parents have not only been poorly trained in life skills by their captured-by-self-interest parents, but now they don’t even have the physical presence of those very same (grand) parents to help raise the grandchild precisely when they are most critically needed.

While today both parents must work in order to pay the bills, whereas two generations ago one working parent provided the same level of financial support, with grandparents absent or warehoused, the new parents have little choice but to warehouse their own infant or toddler into assembly line ‘child care’ institutions. The family destruction cycle perpetuates endlessly, with only a few exceptions to be discussed in the next chapter.

As each subsequent generation fails to pass down critical life navigation skills they were never taught, we eventually arrive at a situation where emotionally and intellectually stunted Eloi adult children are bearing additional Eloi children. Each generation slides further towards the lowest common denominator until we have Eloi acting out like spoiled children demanding free everything, including a life devoid of conflict, safe spaces free from bad Morlocks and someone else (OK Boomers) to foot the entire bill. Again, this concept will be greatly expanded in chapter two.

Obviously, I’m painting with a very broad brush here. Not every family has devolved in this manner; in fact, I suspect it isn’t even a majority who have. But all it takes is a small, determined and very vocal petulant and demanding minority to change social and political policy to suit their immature world view. And by doing so they’re actually helping to widen the political divide they too are caught within.

Seen thru the eyes of a child, the world is a cruel, unfair, unjust and inhuman place to live. I get it. The observation is not without merit and you will not find me arguing otherwise. But children of all ages see the world from a powerless and victimized point of view. From that position, all they are capable of doing is demanding the strongest authority figure fix what’s broken.

But what if that authority figure is causing most of the problems and is quite possibly the principal antagonist? Is the solution more of the same, and then hope it all just goes away? Not for an instant am I dismissing the significant responsibility of the previous generations, including the Boomers of which I am a charter member, for the mess the younger generation finds itself engulfed in.

But unless the generation now entering the halls of power are willing to face the ugly truths, and instead turn their heads and look for the first available scapegoat (just like ‘We the Boomers’ did) exponentially more of the same insanity will be utterly disastrous on a scale unimaginable and unprecedented in the history of human civilization.

I was not being melodramatic or nonsensical when I described the dissolution of the family unit as a potentially extinction level event for the human species. At the very least, absent extinction I expect this situation to eventually result in us willingly frog marching ourselves into a life of human bondage as we surrender our lives to the control of sociopaths and vile despots.

Only the human species has abandoned the family unit.

 

Denial and Cognitive Dissonance

Probably the most difficult ‘truth’ we all must face, at least if anything is to change, is the stomach-churning realization that all is not as it appears. And I’m not just talking about garden variety ‘official’ deceptions, such as the constant political lies and narrative manipulations in order to start, maintain or expand various wars, covert operations, extrajudicial drone killings or even outright illegal foreign military incursions.

If nothing else, the very fact the US government has been blatantly and repeatedly lying about the war in Afghanistan for the last 18 years should be more than sufficient proof for anyone to recognize those in power are institutionally and psychologically incapable of telling the truth. Psychopaths lie, and for us to deny this fundamental truth is the ultimate in self-destructive self-deception.

There is a deeply embedded political, corporate and institutional corruption operating in plain sight within both houses of Congress, every federal agency of the executive branch, especially the intelligence, investigatory, military, tax, and judiciary agencies, essentially all state and local governments and just about every Fortune 500 company out there. It permeates our learning institutions, the mainstream media, charities, even religious institutions. The only question remaining is the level of corruption one must either remove or endure.

This is the fate of all Empires in terminal decline. The question is always when, not if.

Politicians piously preach about relatively minor political party differences while proclaiming exclusive political party purity. The entire political system is neck deep in pay-for-play kickbacks, corruption, influence peddling, nepotism and pure political partisanship.

I could go on, but I think we already get the picture.

Or at least we think we do, hope we do, are desperate to believe we do…but fear we do not. Something evil lurks in the background where there exists barely audible voices, unrecognizable shapes and fleeting movements lost among the shadows. We dare not approach because we so want to believe we’re the good guys, the world’s policeman bringing truth, justice and democracy to lands far and wide. But we have the sneaking feeling we’re actually delivering death and destruction, pain and suffering and “We the People” are the black hat wearing bad guys.

Can we really be the good guys in the white hats while simultaneously bombing the shit out of second and third world countries because they happen to be sitting on valuable natural resources we want, or draw their sovereign borders within geopolitical hot-spots we insist on controlling? Better not ask, because we might not like the answers we get.

So we pull up our collar, button up our overcoat, don dark sunglasses and plug our ears with our fingers in an ultimately futile attempt to carve out a safe space within La-La Land. Is this not the true American Way, that of feigned ignorance? Or at least abject indifference? Tell me another lie Daddy so I can believe it’s the truth.

We live inside a world view narrative created almost entirely by external ‘authorities’ that, quite frankly, doesn’t make a lick of sense. Rather than face that ugly reality, we massage, mold, spin, embellish and deny portions of it, all in an effort to make it fit within our own uniquely spun version. But just because the externally imposed narrative allows us to choose between two or three different sets of silverware doesn’t mean we have control over the dinner menu, guest list or even when or where we eat.

The secret behind controlling a large diverse population who believe themselves ‘free’ is to let them think they are in charge by offering vigorous debate within a narrowly defined subject list while offering the ‘election’ of easily controllable and pliable puppets drawn from a narrow selection of idiot savants who are experts solely in affable media presentations while staying on message.

Or as I like to say, I love my wife because she lets me think I’m in charge.

One may always complain about the effects of Empire, but one must NEVER question the basis and validity of Empire itself. The only purpose of power is to use it. Or more effectively, threaten to use it while not actually doing so. For example, we don’t like paying taxes, regardless of whether or not we agree with the concept of a shared social burden. And many people would not pay taxes unless there was an implied threat of fines, imprisonment and even death if they did not.

So how do we reconcile the conditioned-from-birth belief we are all free (and therefore free to exercise our free will) with the reality that the vast majority of our lives are controlled to some extent or another by various government edicts (papers please) financial obligations (I owe, I owe, so off to work I go) and the simple fact we must pay someone somewhere merely to exist, necessitating the need to participate in the controlling and suffocating money meme narrative?

The taxes, for example, are a relatively modest example of a narrative variable we all massage in a slightly different manner in order to live with the inner tension of our own cognitive dissonance. Unlike the widely accepted myth of American justice, where we are all supposedly equal and innocent until the state proves us guilty (though some are much more equal than others) when it comes to Federal income taxes, we are all declared guilty until we prove ourselves innocent at our own expense. There are no public defenders in tax court.

Then again, there are exponentially greater dissonances to battle with, such as living with the emotional distress of looking too closely at the men, women and children we bomb into oblivion under the banner of bringing freedom to the world. Can you say boomerang collateral damage? Is it any wonder nearly all of us desperately attempt to self-medicate away the pain, if only through various mindless distractions or via emotionally soothing intellectual masturbation?

Don’t Bogart that joint my friend.

By no means is the infantilizing of civil society restricted to the US. Wherever Empire has spread its cultural infection, stomped its military boot or corrupted the native socioeconomic systems, we witness a similar spiral downward into the abyss. The only significant difference is the degree of desecration and the amount of cultural assimilation achieved so far. Maybe a few more car bombs or random shootings orchestrated by the Empire’s hidden hand are in order to subdue the population.

Ah yes, the America Way in full display.

In chapter two I will more fully explore how our inner demons, grossly inflamed by the Empire’s poisonous sting, exert overwhelming influence over our day to day emotional and intellectual being. And the most powerful control mechanism known to man (and soon AI machine) the money meme.

 

Cognitive Dissonance

12-15-2019

 

Cycles everywhere you look.

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