## The cultural climate in the contemporary West - Thoughts?

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• 61

Agreed. I suppose the sense of cultural decline depends on what part of the culture you're looking at. Although, I sometimes wonder about the very real possibility of the meta-narrative being controlled and manipulated by a technocratic / corporate elite through the media. If that narrative is one of hopelessness and despair, then it seems like the potential for us (the masses) to be influenced negatively is quite plausible.

Of course, not all of us are so easily misdirected, but those a probably in the minority. Perhaps we are being divided and conquered, and are being "nudged" in the direction of government intervention and control, by making it seem as though we were already lost and divided to begin with.

More Huxley's Brave New World, rather than Orwell's 1984 though...

And yes, those darn evil spirits. Can't rule them out either.
• 9.4k
For what it's worth, according to the web, more than 60% of high school graduates go on to college. That surprises me.

It should surprise you. In 2019 29% of students aged 25 to 29 completed a BA degree. [nces.ed.gov]

The percentage of the population 25 years and older holding at least a bachelor's degree has increased by about five percentage points across the 15 years. In 2005-2009, 27.5% of this group had a bachelor's degree. That increased to 29.3% in 2010-2014. And in 2015-2019, the percentage reached 32.1%. [Census Bureau]

The college drop out rate is fairly high because a) college is more difficult than high school; b) college expenses may be unexpectedly high (living expenses, books, fees, tuition, etc.); c) success in college requires more motivation than success in high school; d) students fail and/or drop out sometimes because they do not know how to self-manage in college.

Many students are not well advised to attend college. They are not well prepared and they are not very interested. There are other manual/technical kinds of work that pay well that may be far more suitable (not talking unskilled or semi-skilled labor).

If college were free, and people didn't have high expectations for employment afterwords, then millions would benefit from higher education. Their cultural sophistication would get a boost, if nothing else. They would be able to appreciate finer grades of porn, for instance.
• 9.4k
controlled and manipulated by a technocratic / corporate elite through the media

You can rest assured that the technocratic / corporate elite is, or would like to control and manipulate the masses for purposes of enhancing their return on investment. Their efforts include the media, but a lot of their effort takes place in the workplace and marketplace. It may be pervasive, but it's not all that difficult to evade. You can tune out, for instance, and turn off. You can pursue ends that are quite different than those which the techno-corp elite pursues. Sure, there are some costs [you won't be invited to the annual elite Christmas Party, for instance] but you will be free of a lot of their corrosive influence.
• 9.4k
hopelessness and despair

The corporo-technik elite is more likely to lull you with hope and happy talk rather than despair. Hopelessness and despair are not useful corporate values. People without hope and who are deep in despair are unlikely to either produce or consume at the desired Level. If they are hopeless and despairing enough, they might blow up the factory, office, or the store--and then where would we be?
• 61

If they are hopeless and despairing enough, they might blow up the factory, office, or the store--and then where would we be?

Or, they might buy into more governmental intervention - when this intervention is sold as hope and happy talk. Why work, when we can pay you a basic income, and we can give you all the drugs and porn that you want to tune out and live out your life as cattle. Don't think about it man, don't worry, let us shoulder all your burdens. You go back to sleep now.

It takes too much effort to blow up the local factory or store, wouldn't it be better if you could just stay at home on the sofa, eating your potato chips, and getting paid for it?
• 1.3k
The corporo-technik elite is more likely to lull you with hope and happy talk rather than despair. Hopelessness and despair are not useful corporate values.

I don't think there is a conspiracy either way here. Having some strong personal connections to media (TV, radio and on-line news) the one thing all producers I've known agree on is that bad news and tales of disaster and woe provide the strongest interest, bringing in the highest potential revenue. Through a lens of perpetual crisis is how news and 'non-fiction' media locate and deliver their narratives.

If you insist on an oligopolistic conspiracy - a divided public that thinks everyone is corrupt and nothing changes is less likely to vote and take actions to maintain civil society. Instead they'll simply look for distractions and buy shit to cheer themselves up.
• 42
This is a theme I have been wondering about for years. I will just copy-paste a couple of my blog posts on this subject:

For me history is at the centre - it is the central science, the central study. In comparison physics seems a simple if quite an esoteric field, mathematics a self-evident logical game with only fairly mechanical complexities etc. etc. About the structure and workings of the subject matters of all natural sciences we understand so much more than about our inexplicable human experience of being in the world. We have next to no penetration of this chaotic process, being immersed in it, seeing only dimly and never far. We have ever more minute comprehension of the nature and dimensions of space-time but have no theory of historical causation.

We can explain the physical universe in the language of hard science but can't do the same for the smallest of historical events. Perhaps that is why we have only a very limited perception of the strangeness of our path, of this mad shooting arc that has brought us to this completely unique new society, only mere decades old. One can only wonder what is yet to come - will the explosion into more complexity continue or will it all come to arupt halt at some stage? In any case there is no control of our direction, we ride a huge wild wave without any meaningful way to influence its course.

--------------

It is interesting to note that so far the attack has mostly concerned the Christian part of the twin pillars: the chipping away of the non-materialist universal values, of compassion and kindness, of charity. The cancer has also manifested in the many perversions of Christianity witnessed today (especially in the US), that have not much common at all with the old universal church and it's traditions variously kept and stressed in the traditional Western and Orthodox denominations (including the church of Rome which is no universal church). Instead there is a kind of mock-"Christianity" as fashioned by Capital: brutal and non-compassionate sanctioning all sorts of moral sacrileges.

Athens, I suppose, remains at the core: the rebellious idea of emancipation and personal liberty. But without the influence of Jerusalem it was a savage, barbarian creed - narrow to the very point of meaninglessness. And it might easily be the next target with this feast of greed and hatred and willful ignorance. For without christian-humanist values why should we be overly concerned with notions of citizens' rights and impartial justice, wouldn't they just be empty, undefended, uncomprehended past citadels then?

Well, this is history - we had lazy days of blind hedonism, minding our private businesses (as one should in a civilized society) but that might prove to be only a temporary pause and now those interested in maintaining the structures of enlightenment and reason might have to find another mode of passion and fighting to defend them.

---------------

There is really much in us that has come via Jerusalem - our vague, christian-agnostic humanism is basically just the New Testament translated into secular society. (In my personal case the connection is of course much stronger coming directly from a background of living, if very liberal, Christianity.) Liberalism, in the end is not a very Greek value. (And we don't hold it in the Greek way, but tepidly, half-heartedly.)

But the basic modern situation: freedom, passion, emptiness, is quite pure Athens. Not that many really would confront it. Some problems do arise in connecting liberal humanistic values with this Nietzschean condition of being in the world, but to my mind there is nothing inherently impossible in achieving a rational balance.

Art also is a very Greek thing - especially in the form where esthetics are seen as fusing with ethics (a view very close to my heart). Art is the central thing, next to it love and justice. Perhaps that is the fusion, our common inheritance - increasingly wasted inheritance, I suppose.

These recollections, echoes are indeed quickly fading. And not only of Athens but of Jerusalem as well, and there is a certain Roman luxury and opulence in our lifestyle, a certain decadence. One does wonder what is to follow all this, what rough beast.

https://stockholmslender.blogspot.com/2016/12/athens-and-jerusalem.html
https://stockholmslender.blogspot.com/2008/02/from-athens-via-jerusalem-to-shopping.html
https://stockholmslender.blogspot.com/2011/09/inheritance-of-athens.html
• 9.4k
It takes too much effort to blow up the local factory or store

We wouldn't want to give too much away but actually, blowing things up doesn't take all that much effort. (that was a joke)
• 9.4k
I don't think there is a conspiracy either way here.

I don't think it's a conspiracy either. It's just business as usual.

bad news and tales of disaster and woe provide the strongest interest, bringing in the highest potential revenue

Aka, "If it bleeds it leads." Totally agree. We enjoy watching disasters that don't have anything to do with us.
Instead they'll simply look for distractions and buy shit to cheer themselves up.

Just so you know, my comments were following on @CountVictorClimacusIII's comments, above.
• 5.4k
They would be able to appreciate finer grades of porn, for instance.

Yes, there's no doubt. With my bachelors degree in civil engineering, I tend t be very sophistomicated in my erotica selection.

Everything else you wrote makes sense. I know two of my three children were not ready for college and neither of them graduated. One is back in school now at 36, which is when I went back to get my degree.
• 5.4k
We wouldn't want to give too much away but actually, blowing things up doesn't take all that much effort.

Said the man from Minneapolis.
• 5.4k
It takes too much effort to blow up the local factory or store, wouldn't it be better if you could just stay at home on the sofa, eating your potato chips, and getting paid for it?

I've heard, although I don't know the details, that UBI would not cost any more than current welfare programs but would be more effective and much easier to administer. As a pragmatist, that sounds good to me. Even some Republicans are on board. Your homiletic position is all about virtue. I care about results.

"Homiletic" - preaching moral values. I was going to say "moralistic," but I wanted to soften it because I didn't want to be confrontational. Learned a new word in the process. Homiletic, homiletic, homiletic. Feels good to say. Love thesauruses. Thesauri.
• 10k
I don't quite comprehend what culture means but if it includes religious elements such as rituals, festivals, ceremonies, etc. and anything that can be affected by the ongoing digitilization mania e.g. book culture then yes there's been changes, a lot I suppose, but I wouldn't characterize it as a decline, it feels more like how novels are adapted to films, there's a change that's technology-driven but the story is still the same. Of course, there'll be major differences between the before and after pictures of culture as I understand it, caused largely by tech industries and science, but the old should be recognizable in the new. Televangelists, online prayer groups, e-book reading groups, etc. I should stop now because I'm just about certain that I'm talking out of my hat!

The bottom line, old wine in a new bottle.
• 9.4k
There are substantial overhead costs to delivering welfare benefits, just as there are substantial overhead costs in delivering health care, paid for by private insurers. How much is spent to relieve poverty per se is a bit difficult to prize out of budgets. Should the cost of Medicaid be folded into the cost of single payer health care or the cost of UBI?

In 2010 Minnesota spent $20,000 per person in poverty. Nationally, however, the amount spent was just$11,000. Similarly in 2018, Minnesota spent $30,000 per person in poverty. Nationally, the average was just$17,000. — American Experiment

Minnesota is between Massachusetts and Rhode Island in spending--we are #5. Fine by me; my source for these statistics (American Experiment) lamented that so much was being spent [WASTED!]. Then there is the issue of state funds, federal funds, and NGO programs. Determining amounts spent for what becomes complicated quickly.
• 1.1k
paid for by private insurers.

Paid for by premiums and investment returns. Private insurers don't pay anything unless they are bankrupt. Indeed, they skim enough off the top between doctor and patient to invest and gain returns for shareholder dividends, plus paying $60k per year to each individual in thousands upon thousands of sky scraper cubicles around the country who stamp "pay/deny" on a form, between posts on FaceBook and emails with family and friends. Don't get me started on CEO pay. Ross Perot would call it a giant sucking sound between you and your doctor. Also, I want to whine about another point. Why is it when we talk defense and all kinds of other industries, we include the spin-offs of service and product jobs in the nearby community, but when it comes to servicing welfare, we don't count all the downstream beneficiaries? Seems to me if we paid someone$40k per year to burn money, we'd have to offset the loss by the benefits to that employee, his family, the store he spends the \$40k at and etc. At least it's staying in the U.S. and trickling out, instead of going to emerging markets overseas and raising a Chinese man's boat from 30 cents an hour to 40 cents an hour, all while sinking boats at home (except for the CEO's nesting doll yacht, of course).

And then we have to deal with that stupid mantra about "Well, there will be winners and losers if this program goes through". As if losers should vote for and support the program in return for retraining opportunities.

• 9.4k
Ross Perot would call it a giant sucking sound...

Goodness gracious! Almost 30 years since Ross got his charts out and cited that 'giant sucking sound' from 'South of the Border, Down Mexico Way'. About which he was at least partly correct: There are so many giant sucking sounds, one can be forgiven for not naming all of them.
• 1.1k
There are so many giant sucking sounds, one can be forgiven for not naming all of them.

I wish I had one of those vacuums putting money in my pocket. Well, maybe not. :chin:
• 61

Fair. We can only really assess these results (and the success or failure of the initiative) when we have sufficient data.
• 61

In any case there is no control of our direction, we ride a huge wild wave without any meaningful way to influence its course.

An interesting take. We have only really been able to evaluate in hindsight. We can see where the wave hits the shoreline, but we don't see the wave coming - or, we see it too late.

Instead there is a kind of mock-"Christianity" as fashioned by Capital: brutal and non-compassionate sanctioning all sorts of moral sacrileges... Athens, I suppose, remains at the core: the rebellious idea of emancipation and personal liberty. But without the influence of Jerusalem it was a savage, barbarian creed - narrow to the very point of meaninglessness...there is nothing inherently impossible in achieving a rational balance.

I think here is where the crux of it lies, if we are to interpret it in this way. If we see Christianity as the prevailing worldview, one of rapture / awe, its dying or death has left a vacuum of spirit. Yes, I think emancipation and personal liberty (or these Greek / Athenian values) are vitally important, but with the vacuum of spirit, an imbalance occurs.

This imbalance has to do with our connection to the infinite, as Kierkegaard would put it. The vacuum of an infinite (God / Awe), has left us in a loop of hedonistic despair that has arisen from an imbalance in our self relation (to the finite / infinite). We now end up searching for the infinite in finite things and lose ourselves. What's missing is a new connection to the infinite, one of rapture and awe. Nietzsche suggested that this could potentially be our connection to growth itself. To act as bridges for the elevation of our species, growth as the essence of life. To feel ourselves grow in strength and power in the struggle for growth itself. Interesting proposition, but does it bring the same rapture that a "God" might? Perhaps not. Unless we see ourselves becoming gods.
• 5.4k
Fair. We can only really assess these results (and the success or failure of the initiative) when we have sufficient data.

Agreed.
• 42

This imbalance has to do with our connection to the infinite, as Kierkegaard would put it. The vacuum of an infinite (God / Awe), has left us in a loop of hedonistic despair that has arisen from an imbalance in our self relation (to the finite / infinite). We now end up searching for the infinite in finite things and lose ourselves. What's missing is a new connection to the infinite, one of rapture and awe. Nietzsche suggested that this could potentially be our connection to growth itself. To act as bridges for the elevation of our species, growth as the essence of life. To feel ourselves grow in strength and power in the struggle for growth itself. Interesting proposition, but does it bring the same rapture that a "God" might? Perhaps not. Unless we see ourselves becoming gods.

Well, obviously there is a huge hole left by the primitive organized Christianity in our modern Western civilization, blown away fundamentally by very efficient, very much working and amazingly profound and far penetrating natural science - and its considerably less impressive applications. Mad Friedrich lamented this situation too. But I don't think magic tricks and insence would do the trick with our enlightened, rational and technocratic civilization still being around. Obviously if it would collapse we would get after a period of sheer barbarity and bloody chaos a new organized superstition as a certain improvement to the primitive chaos.

(Ps. Getting to be kind of gods through techonology and the end of scarcity would actually be one of the more realistic alternatives to either apocalypse or ever continuing cycle of primitivity and aggression. Iain M. Banks is hopefully a clairvoyant :smile: )
• 61

But I don't think magic tricks and insence would do the trick with our enlightened, rational and technocratic civilization still being around

I agree. The idea would be to create a new prevailing worldview that appeals to the enlightened, rational and technocratic individual within us (in the Western sense). Whilst simultaneously, providing the rapture we need for our spirit to thrive.

The Gods through technology is a good alternative.
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