Increasingly I find myself reading about how systems decay and collapse. It is a subject that appeals to me because I like finding patterns in things. As a kid, I enjoyed taking IQ and personality tests because it was fun to deconstruct the exam and figure out how the test maker was filtering the answers. Figuring out how a puzzle works or how a system is designed tells you something about the person who created the test or system. At least I think so. I could be completely nuts on that score.
There’s not a lot of literature on the subject of collapse. This is probably the best known book on the subject. This may be a better known book or at least as well known. I don’t know of a way to compare them in that regard. I run across more references to Tainter on this subject than Diamond, but maybe that’s just due to hanging with a bad crowd. You never know about these things. Sometimes it is not the world; it is you.
Anyway, the common element in social collapse is that the leaders cannot break free of their traditional mode of thinking in order to address a new challenge. The Late Bronze Age featured a series of cities collapsing, but being rebuilt as they were before the revolt, earthquake, invasion or famine. It is as if they learned nothing from the calamity. Eventually, the destruction was so thorough the city was abandoned or the society was swept away.
That’s what comes to mind reading this in the Spectator.
The West’s movement towards the truth is remarkably slow. We drag ourselves towards it painfully, inch by inch, after each bloody Islamist assault.
In France, Britain, Germany, America and nearly every other country in the world it remains government policy to say that any and all attacks carried out in the name of Mohammed have ‘nothing to do with Islam’. It was said by George W. Bush after 9/11, Tony Blair after 7/7 and Tony Abbott after the Sydney attack last month. It is what David Cameron said after two British extremists cut off the head of Drummer Lee Rigby in London, when ‘Jihadi John’ cut off the head of aid worker Alan Henning in the ‘Islamic State’ and when Islamic extremists attacked a Kenyan mall, separated the Muslims from the Christians and shot the latter in the head. And, of course, it is what President François Hollande said after the massacre of journalists and Jews in Paris last week.
All these leaders are wrong. In private, they and their senior advisers often concede that they are telling a lie. The most sympathetic explanation is that they are telling a ‘noble lie’, provoked by a fear that we — the general public — are a lynch mob in waiting. ‘Noble’ or not, this lie is a mistake. First, because the general public do not rely on politicians for their information and can perfectly well read articles and books about Islam for themselves. Secondly, because the lie helps no one understand the threat we face. Thirdly, because it takes any heat off Muslims to deal with the bad traditions in their own religion. And fourthly, because unless mainstream politicians address these matters then one day perhaps the public will overtake their politicians to a truly alarming extent.
This may be comforting to some, but where is the evidence to suggest the ruling elites think anything of the sort? If they really think Islam is a violent antagonist to western society, the easiest step to address it, without admitting error, is to cut off immigration to Muslim countries. If after 9/11, American elites concluded Islam is the problem, why did they increase the number of immigrants form Muslim counties?
This bit from Tony Blair posted on NRO today seems to confirm that it is not just a pretty lie. Blair is the Prime Minister who ramped up immigration into Britain in order to increase diversity. He and his coevals remain convinced that diversity is the answer to every problem, even the problems that arise from diversity, like Muslim terrorism. The madness is so through that many have declared themselves experts on Islam, claiming the terrorists are simply bad Muslims.
The evidence is all pointing in one direction. The people in charge have no answer for the current threats. To take on the Islam problem means a) admitting prior error and b) abandoning the keystone of their ideology. To do either undermines their legitimacy as a ruling class. Even if they could plausibly claim we have reached peak diversity and therefore are shutting off immigration, the implications are obvious.
In the palace system of the Bronze Age, the rulers existed to control the palace economy. All goods flowed through the palace, which was pretty much a distribution center with ceremonial buildings. Even though a centralized system could not work beyond a certain scale, what else was there? A distributed system would not need a king so it was unthinkable. Instead they kept trying to make the palace system work until they failed utterly.
That’s what we seem to be seeing in the West. Cultural Marxism may be a dead end street, but what else is there? If the alternatives cannot prop up the pseudo-meritocracy and the attendant exam system, what’s in it for the people in charge? The answer is nothing so alternatives are unthinkable. Instead they keep racing around, trying to keep an increasing number of plates spinning.
At some point, it simply stops working.