Note: This coming Thursday I will be on with the great Ed Dutton to explain to him that intelligence is a social construct used to defend white supremacy. The livestream is on the YouTube at 2PM eastern. He posts replay on Bitchute so when that link is available, it will be posted here.
If you were a typical European in the 17th century, you would not have been brimming with optimism. Life was tough for most people in that age because the margin for error was so small. If you made a wrong step behind the plow, you could break a leg and before long some guy is sawing off your leg to stop gangrene. Knock over a candle on the way to the latrine and your hut could burn down. Disaster was always lurking as even small things could quickly turn deadly.
If you were educated, material life was usually better, but being educated in an age of general ignorance is a special sort of curse. If you were an educated man in the 17th century, you knew about the Thirty Years War, so you were not all that optimistic about the intellectual future of mankind. Parts of Europe were reduced to cannibalism in an effort to hang onto antiquated modes of thought and order. Few people saw them as antiquated, which meant grinding war was normal.
Despite this, the West was on the cusp and the Enlightenment. Most people date the dawn of the period of Western intellectual flowering that is still with us today to around the start of the 18th century. Galileo was a man of the 17th century and Nicolaus Copernicus was a man of the 16th century. James Harrington published The Commonwealth of Oceana in 1656. As with any era in human history, pinpointing an exact starting point is mostly out of convenience, not accuracy.
The point here is that for most people alive in the 17th century, these intellectual stirrings were unknown. Even educated people were limited by the circumstances of the age as the dissemination of information was by foot. The printing press had revolutionized the production of books, but books were still expensive. Of course, most of the best and brightest were Thomist, so the new ideas from science would have looked like a threat to the natural order.
Of course, the political outlook was grim. The Peace of Westphalia had settled the Thirty Years War, but the underlying issues remained. The division of the world into Protestant and Catholic suggested eternal conflict. The English Civil War suggested that religious conflict within the Protestant side was inevitable. The great unity of faith maintained by the Catholic Church was forever broken. A reasonable, educated man could easily foresee a dark future for mankind.
It is a good reminder that we are not very good at judging the times in which we are living or seeing around the next bend. The cynical in the 17th century had no idea that the 18th century would be an unprecedented intellectual flowering. It was not all kittens and puppies, for sure, but in the rubble of war and upheaval were the seeds of a great leap forward intellectually and materially. No one living at the time knew that the birth of modern Europe was just over the next hill.
We could be in a similar period. Like the 17th century, this age looks like it is headed to endless conflict and barbarism. The old order is falling to pieces and random lunatics pop up with new religions. Just as 17th century man struggled to come to terms with what was happening, people in this age struggle to make sense of it all. Ours is an age of pointless chaos, often created by the people in charge, who should be the most aggressive defenders of the old order.
Like the 17th century, what lies at the root of the chaos is a collection of new ideas and new questions about the world. Genetics is promising to give us new insights into the nature of man. More important, it is threatening the old ideas about equality and the power to shape society. Extreme egalitarianism and the blank slate lie at the heart of the liberal democratic order. Questioning those concepts questions the legitimacy of the current political order in the West. Revolutionary stuff.
Like the printing press, the information age is threatening the flow of information in unpredictable ways. Much of the current crisis lies in the realization by the ruling elites that the people no longer take their word for anything. The natural authority that comes from the monopoly on information has been shattered. Lots of gentlemen scholars and part-time intellectuals are now challenging the definitions of those terms by spending their free time reading forbidden material on-line.
The 17th century was a revolutionary time, even though the people living in it did not realize they were at the cusp of a revolution. The expression about bankruptcy being slow and then all of a sudden applies to revolutions as well. Angry mobs in the streets are lagging indicators of revolution. Long before the masses raise the black flag and declare war on their rulers, clever men privately declared war on the ideas that gave the rulers their legitimacy. This is what we see today.
Like the people in 17th century, we now find ourselves in a time when the old order is desperately trying to adapt to new information. It is easy to forget that revolutionary thinkers like Locke and Hobbes were trying to adapt the old models of thought to the new information of their age. In other words, even the defense of order can be a revolutionary act that expedites challenges to the status quo. We see this today as people try to make science prove the blank slate.
There is always the possibility that we get at the macro level the equivalent of the peasant knocking over a lantern on the way to the toilet. The hysterical response to the plague and suicidal impulses of the new religion are ominous signs. The flicker of this new enlightenment could easily be extinguished by madman with super weapons destroying civilization to save democracy. History, however, tells us that this is not the way to bet. Instead, we are on the cusp of a new enlightenment.
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