Between 1935 and 1975, Will and Ariel Durant published a series of volumes that together were known as “The Story of Civilization.” They basically told human history (mostly Western history) as an accumulation of great ideas and innovations, from the Egyptians, through Athens, Magna Carta, the Age of Faith, the Renaissance and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The series was phenomenally successful, selling over two million copies.
That series encapsulated the Western civilization narrative that people, at least in Europe and North America, used for most of the past few centuries to explain their place in the world and in time. This narrative was confidently progressive. There were certain great figures, like Socrates, Erasmus, Montesquieu and Rousseau, who helped fitfully propel the nations to higher reaches of the humanistic ideal.
This Western civ narrative came with certain values — about the importance of reasoned discourse, the importance of property rights, the need for a public square that was religiously informed but not theocratically dominated. It set a standard for what great statesmanship looked like. It gave diverse people a sense of shared mission and a common vocabulary, set a framework within which political argument could happen and most important provided a set of common goals.
Starting decades ago, many people, especially in the universities, lost faith in the Western civilization narrative. They stopped teaching it, and the great cultural transmission belt broke. Now many students, if they encounter it, are taught that Western civilization is a history of oppression.
Counted values (reasoned discourse, property rights, public square) turned out not to be sufficient. Two values were and are missing now: the sense, the purpose of life and, based on it, the main value, the main moral law: survival of our civilization for the current moment and attainment of unrestricted lifetime on a bigger scale. More about this see Values and sense of life on this blog, but here I will add some concrete, necessary and for most people unacceptable steps for achieving this.
1. New and completely different morality: abandon the hypocritical or uneducated talking about human rights: restriction of planet’s populace, consumption and damaging of living world are much more important values, but these values are not to be reached by wars like current ones. Or current social inequality.
Death penalty is the most natural sanction for each essential violation, which natural selection has used for thousands of years. It is possible that the following generations will dare or will be forced to restore these natural processes. But today there are many principles completely unacceptable for current populace, fop example, taking the donor organs from individuals sentenced to death. Or using some drugs for individuals, who are able to manage their behavior.
2. New and completely different sense of life: the main task and obligation, the main possibility and responsibility for every individual is the life of future generations, in order they can come to much more fulfilled and unrestricted life. This is the holiness, the sanctity of our life today, for current time. (More: Carl Sagan).
3. For achieving the united behavior of all state citizens completely new government information politics is necessary: the state’s mass information and education has to teach its citizens the scientific basis for values and morality. All religions, ‘secret’ knowledge and mystics are to be abandoned, we have only the evolutionary facts, physics and information theory, and on these we have to base our thinking and solutions. If we want to survive.
4. How to come, how to reach this ‘new world’? One is clear: extermination of ‘wrong’ people and their survival conditions (environment) does not work. Although this ‘method’ is just the most used now.
Genetically inherited human reward system is outdated: strong emotions drive individuals to suicidal behavior. There is the strong necessity for completely new education system, which will prepare possibly more people to start understand and manage their lives. Education is the only way to teach people to make reasonable choices and, for the short current moment, to achieve a bit happiness. This is not easy or simple task: human beings don’t have genetic predisposition for learning complicated survival problems, but they do have predisposition for more simple tasks: to attain and have more eatable things, sex, and self -actualization. These processes dominate our societies.
The second possibility: the evolution will use its way. I.V.
It’s amazing what far-reaching effects this has had. It is as if a prevailing wind, which powered all the ships at sea, had suddenly ceased to blow. Now various scattered enemies of those Western values have emerged, and there is apparently nobody to defend them.
The first consequence has been the rise of the illiberals, authoritarians who not only don’t believe in the democratic values of the Western civilization narrative, but don’t even pretend to believe in them, as former dictators did.