Apologies. Family matters have me frazzled to the bone. Only snippets of time for this blog.
But here's a bone for those eager for something to chew over...
An Aside about Human Nature
Before continuing with my overall points about Modernism and its enemies, let me suggest that we should always drop back now and then and contemplate that minefield topic: "human nature".
All ideologues - and indeed all modernist-pragmatists - base their arguments and agendas upon assumptions about human nature, often explicitly stated, but far too often not. A worst-case example was Karl Marx, whose marvelously ingenious just so stories about destiny and society began with excellent foundation in contemporary economics... then marched right off a cliff of Tex Avery ditziness an teleological determinism that ignored any reference to evolution or real science.
Ayn Rand is just as bad, doing exactly the same things that Marx did, casting romantic incantations without ever offering falsifiable statements or opening her ornate reasoning to CITOKATE (Criticism Is The Only Known Antidote To Error.)
When it comes to "human nature," I am skeptical of all explanations of human nature that leave out the neolithic.
By far a majority of human generations took place, strove, endured hardship and evolved during that long epoch. We may have adapted and developed a lot of sophisticated culture since then, but the UNDERLYING genetic predispositions nearly all arose in a context of migratory hunters gatherers, chipping clever stone tools and singing by camp fires, interacting with each other at a level similar to LORD OF THE FLIES.
Neolithic people had very sophisticated minds and tremendous strengths. They had minds basically as good as ours. But they almost certainly lived all that time in systems of power and interaction that were not democratic. Our knowledge of more recent tribal societies suggests that we are internally wired for some degree of fealty to chiefs and shamans. A distressting image, but sobering.
I do believe that we are genetically different from neolithic people is a few ways. The discovery of beer probably unleashed a very rapid culling of drunks, resulting in the astoundingly high percentage (at least 2/3) of humans who can "just say no". (This glass-half-full way of looking at human addiction is rare, but worth pondering.) Likewise, the effectiveness of kings at utilizing harems has been shown to have had a notable genetic effect. (8% of Chinese people are descended from Ghengiz Khan, apparently.)
If interested in how culture may continue evolution, see CHILDREN OF PROMETHEUS: The Accelerating Pace of Human Evolution, by Chris Wills.
Still, most of our proclivities arise out of neolithic people who were almost genetically the same as us. Leaving me amazed at how MUCH democracy and enlightenment and science we actually turn out to be capable of! The paramount trait of those neolithtic folks seems to have been adaptability.
In the end, though, we are foolish to ignore the fact that we still carry buttons that can be pushed, often cynically, to get us reacting to tribal totemic images and threats etc.
Chiefdoms became feudal societies because that transition is an easy extrapolation, while democracy (as the Athenians found) is hard. Really hard.
Modernism and the enlightenment are hard. They do not come easy. Today there are many, left and-right, who are busy pushing neolothic buttons to try and end the modernist experiment.
Example: I think one reason for the anti-modernists' hostility is the fact that our current high priests and shamans don't behave as mysteriously and in the domineering but reassuring way that they used to (and that they are depicted doing in fantasy: e.g. Gandalf and that horrible demon, Yoda.) Many people do not like the way today's high priests of knowledge fizz and pop on PBS about our steadily growing knowledge & power, eager to share it with all, unlike every other priestly class.
Far deeper inside us is the expectation that priests should keep secrets, domineer, and cast incantations. Very authoritative and convincing. Far more than watching some TV physicist gush "we don't know! Ain't it great?"
Finally, let me correct a notion that anti-modernists never look forward in time. As described by Leon Wieseltier in the New Republic: "Utopianism is back. We are exhorted from all sides to believe in happy endings. Russell Jacoby has just written Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought for an Anti Utopian Age, a woozy and peculiarly unpolitical volume in which he demands that the old liberal anxiety about the consequences of the belief in the perfectibility of the human world be retired."
Another example is The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, by Jeffrey Sachs, in which he calls for "ending poverty in our time"- specifically, "by the year 2025." This is also the goal set in a report released last month by the United Nations Millennium Project, led by Sachs. Both modernists and anti-modernists can share GOALS, and even short term political desires.
The difference (and culture war) lies deeper down.
soon... addicted to mysteries...