I have been seeking an honest appraisal of how we arrived at a state of consciousness where up is down and in is out. In short, where there is little objective truth. Toward that end, I sought the opinion of a number of people including Jack Barsky, the former KGB spy who was embedded in America before being caught. His orientation had already turned away from the deceit of the governments that had trained him to become an observer of culture and people – the former Soviet Union and Republic of East Germany. He chose to become an American and has been observing the American customs, culture and zeitgeist for over 3 decades. Because of his observational and analytical abilities, I am choosing to share his thoughts on how America has come to the place it finds itself in, a place where simple Will and Desire aren’t meeting the demands of the times. His concern was that his appraisal might be too harsh an analysis, but I think it has value so it is being shared -unedited. (You can get a better feel for Jack by going to Gaia and watching my interviews with him.)
‘Welcome to the Age of Unreason’ (by Jack Barsky, May 23rd, 2020)
January 15, 2020 marks the first day in the reign of his majesty COVID the 19th, which officially also ushered in the Age of Unreason in the Western world. As a supernatural being, emperor COVID feeds on reason, and the more reason he is able to suck out of human minds, the stronger he gets. The ultimate purpose of this assault on the ability of the Western man to think rationally is to cement COVID the 19th’s power for a millennium and beyond. The impact of that brain drain on Western society is manifested in behaviors that would previously have been considered bizarre. So, in this brave new world it seems to be normal …………
- When common sense has been replaced by uncommon nonsense.
- When the abnormal has been declared a precursor of the “new normal”, and the masses respond to the declaration of this new paradigm by nodding wisely in agreement.
- When large aspects of the ‘new normal’ are defined by introverted tech heads who prefer the company of machines to that of human beings.
- When conspiracy theories sprout up like mushrooms in the forest after a warm spring rain.
- When an angry mob is tirelessly searching for the villain that is to blame for their misery. Depending on who does the blaming and what day of the week it is, the culprit might be Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Fauci, China, the Republicans, the Democrats, Disney movies, and even space aliens waging war on the earth from the safety of a bunker in the Fourth Dimension.
- When the media proclaims healthcare workers to be the new heroes, while featuring clueless celebrities (politicians, athletes, half naked women, actors, influencers) and their inconsequential stories and opinions to excess.
- When computer models of a phenomenon that is much more complex than the weather are prematurely released and promptly taken at face value by a gullible public (including policy makers) and when subsequent revisions of the very same model are being ignored because they do not fit the established narrative.
- When experts in one field boldly step out of the area of their expertise to make predictions that are nothing more than opinionated wild guesses.
- When a superrich IT industry mogul, who missed the biggest revolution in his own field, is suddenly elevated to the status of National Oracle.
- When virologists and medical doctors go mostly unopposed in their opinions on measures that impact the functioning of an incredibly complex system, human society.
- When those who are only minimally or not at all impacted by this crisis proclaim that “we are all in this together” and many of those truly impacted actually buy this nonsense.
- When the reality of hospitals closing for lack of patients flies in the face of the justification for the lockdown namely, the prevention of a health care system overload.
- When one nationally acclaimed political leader closed the schools while at the same time sending infected elderly back into nursing homes, with countless deaths as a result, and when that political leader managed to maintain his “acclaimed” status.
- When various self-serving agendas displace reason from the public discourse, resulting in a public arena dominated by declarations which resonate only inside an echo chamber occupied by those who make them and their staunch followers.
- When hypocrisy is considered a virtue (how else can one explain the fact that openly hypocritical politicians get re-elected) and virtue is seen as a sign of weakness.
- When wide open state parks, golf courses etc. are closed while people are mandated to lock themselves in a place where most of the infections occur – their own home.
- When you are allowed to go to the beach to walk on wet sand but prohibited to rest on dry sand.
- When even a gentle attempt at counseling overweight people to reduce their virus related risk by maintaining a healthy weight is immediately attacked as evil “fat shaming”.
- When the most frequent good-bye message is now “stay safe” a phrase I never heard before venturing into the highly dangerous vehicular traffic that is responsible for $4,000,000 injuries per year.
Fear and anger based on ignorance and the lack of ability or willingness to apply reason is a toxic stew that may succeed where other enemies have failed, bring Western society to its knees.
So, how did we get here, and how will this all end? Let us first look at the path that brought us to a point where a fundamentally weak force (the virus) was able to significantly upset the balance in the Western world. To illustrate I will use an event that occurred in my childhood. There was a public playground within a few steps from the building I grew up in. It was a very basic playground, a sandbox and a swing. Next to the swing there grew an oak tree. It was not much of a tree, only about 30 ft high with a trunk not much thicker than a foot. But to a ten-year-old that tree was a giant, a symbol of strength. Every time I climbed that tree to rest on a V-shaped perch formed by two branches, I felt like a victorious warrior who had just vanquished a powerful enemy. But one day this warrior actually slayed the powerful enemy. I had ventured as far out as possible on a strong branch when the tree commenced to emit an aching sound while slowly moving towards the ground. As the fall accelerated and the dirge of the dying tree got louder, I hung onto that branch for dear life. Luckily, a number of smaller branches broke the fall and I walked away with only a few scratches. I went inside crying and told my father: “Dad, I just broke the tree.” With a look of incredulity on his face, my father opened the window to confirm my tale of woe. He took me by the hand, and we went over to the playground. I will never forget the what I saw. The tree had broken off at the bottom, and at the break it was hollowed out with a large number of brownish beetles scurrying about on the inside. My dad consoled me: “Sonny, you did not kill that tree – he was already dying.”
In order to deal successfully with external threats, a nation needs to have a high degree of collective resolve (I. e. it must be a sound, strong uninfested tree). The Western nations had that resolve during Word War II and during the Cold War. Both were existential crises, the first one causing more than 70 million deaths and the second one bringing us to the brink of total destruction. So, what changed to allow a real but far from existential threat (the current pandemic) to have the potential of bringing the Western world to its knees? There are several internal developments that conspired in the weakening of Western society and the near disappearance of collective resolve.
When the Berlin Wall disintegrated into a pile of rubble practically overnight to be followed by the epic collapse of our arch enemy, the Soviet Union and the entire communist camp, the West had won the most consequential battle in the history of man. Freedom had prevailed over tyranny, and it was time to distribute the peace dividend and to enjoy the fruits of that victory. And thus a “me first” attitude slowly displaced collective resolve. Putting oneself ahead of everyone else is an intrinsically arrogant attitude that requires a foundational belief in individual man being the most important entity in the entire universe. Given the fact that the observable universe consists of more than 200 billion galaxies and that is almost 14 billion years old, such a belief does not stand up to reason, it is plain insanity.
And so, in order to justify the relentless pursuit of self, reason had to be thrown out and replaced with feelings. Lots of feelings, with the underlying idea that as long as it feels good and it does not hurt anybody else, it is good. And who can argue with such encouraging phrases such as “be all you can be”, “self actualization” and “you can be whatever you want to be”. Upon close examination these cheerleading words are lacking a key element. Even Maslow was ultimately not satisfied with his hierarchy of needs that declared self actualization as the highest state of being for an individual. Consequently, he grafted the concept of an outward looking “transcendence” on top of the existing pyramid. Today, this addition is mostly ignored by a pleasure seeking “me first” society.
The act of sharpening a tool has no meaning – meaning is derived from how the tool is used. Therefore, in order to breathe meaning into the concept of “be the best that you can by” one needs to have a purpose, a reason why. There are many such goals that transcend the fleeting existence of man on this earth, all of which have in common a desire to serve others and to improve the conditions for all life on this magnificent plant of ours.
None of those noble goals have anything in common with the widely accepted utilitarian approach that prescribes a successful and monetarily rewarding career that enables one to put a check mark next to all items of an elaborate “bucket list” which consist mostly of adventures and pleasures focused on self.
This increasingly inward focus was cogently documented as early as in 1979 by Christopher Lash in his book “The Culture of Narcissism’. Today, the view of narcissism as a personality disorder has been widely replaced by acceptance of it as a feature of healthy self respect. We are now in an age of the ubiquitous selfie, which has been taken to ridiculous heights which includes such self-loving features as the double photograph, having oneself recorded while taking a selfie.
The replacement of reason-based self-discipline by feel-good selfishness has resulted in the splintering of society into millions of individual pieces. In turn, those pieces have banded together in groups and factions of common characteristics and goals in order to maximize their influence on society as a whole. As a result we are now focused on what sets us apart rather than what we have in common and thus collective resolve has been replaced by internecine warfare within our society , a situation aptly described by the well-known phrase “We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.” And that is the root cause of this real but clearly non-existential threat that COVID-19 poses to our way of life, our very way of being.
There are other developments that led to the hollowing out of Western society such as the emasculation of the male warrior, the establishment of a permanent political class, a mass media that has erased the dividing line between factual news and agenda based opinions, the democratization of what masquerades as news via social media, and others. But ultimately it is the focus on self and the sheer inability to apply reason to a given situation that is the main culprit. The self-centered individual interprets all threats in this world as directed specifically at oneself; and the most likely response to this seemingly overwhelming onslaught is raw unreasonable FEAR. In our current situation this fear manifests itself differently depending on the individual situation. What they all have in common is the fear of losing what we have rather than the excitement over what we might gain. For the average person it is the fear of getting sick or even dying, the fear of losing a loved one, the fear of losing one’s job, etc. For the politician, it is the fear of making the wrong call which could result in the inability to hold on to their position of power. And even the scientist is subject to fear, the fear of not being competitive in the race for a solution and the fear of being plain wrong.
There is no worse foundation for a decision than fear. As FDR so poignantly stated, albeit in a different context, “all we have to fear is fear itself”. The only way to defeat fear is reason. However, as a nation we have lost the ability to reason coldly and based on facts. And that is why I am somewhat pessimistic concerning the future of the West.
If unreasonable fear continues to be a key feature in our world, people will readily give up precious individual freedoms to a “benign” government that promises to protect us from the evil we do not know and we do not understand. And of course, since most Americans’ sense of history goes only as far back as the recent episode of a Netflix series, they are not aware of the immense danger inherent in highly concentrated power. If there is no counter force, nothing can stop a benign power from going bad; it has happened before and in the resulting regimes millions and millions of people perished. But, of course, that consequence is too far down the road. In our myopic view of the world we only see the gnat right in front of our nose rather than the tiger lying in wait further away in the woods.
I see two possible outcomes for the current situation. There are forces that would like to carry the power they have gained as a result of a partially manufactured emergency into the future. Those are the forces who, under the guise of helping protect us from ourselves, desire ever more control over society. And there is a sizable portion of the citizenry who, out of fear is willing to relinquish parts of their freedom in return for protection from future threats.
And then there is the possibility I am hoping and praying for, the possibility that reasonable men manage to ascend into leadership roles and steer the ship of state away from iceberg in her path. Given who we are today as a nation and Western society as a whole, this can only happen if the perceived short-term self interest of the majority of our citizens is aligned with the long-term vision of rationally thinking leaders. I am an optimist at heart, but it is hard to imagine that a 180-degree turn is possible. However, I also believe that a rapid descent into Armageddon is not likely either. The nonconformist resistant streak in the American psyche will prevent that. In the end, it is very likely that we will witness a slow but inexorable decline of the Western world that will occasionally experience spurts of acceleration by such catalysts as COVID-19. For the sake of my children and grandchildren, I hope I am wrong.