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Decline of the Western Male, Part 1

[1]3,060 words

Part 1 of 2

Martin Heidegger, Oswald Spengler – “Martin Spengler” – these two 20th-century thinkers provide the main source of inspiration behind this project. Both sought to understand the times we live in, and to bring into view the deeper historical and philosophical significance underlying many of the political, economic, social, and cultural issues before us today. Both offer profound insight, and our goal here will be to lean on them in order to tease out what is at stake in many of the day to day problems, challenges, and controversies that grip our attention across the Western world.

Spengler’s masterpiece is his Decline of the West, which first appeared in Germany in the years immediately following World War One. His contribution is to set contemporary events within a civilizational context, as milestones in the development of a culture whose evolution has been dictated by its own internal laws and dynamics, apparent at its very birth 1,000 years ago. Spengler allows us to see how the impulse that drove Medieval European craftsmen to construct magnificent Gothic cathedrals that soared towards the heavens, while betraying ever more intricate detail in their stonework, is the same motivating force behind the transgenderism agenda today, Hollywood’s obsession with the superhero genre, and in the attractive power of the dream of space travel.

For Heidegger the key event has been the rise of Modern science and technology, and it is the implications of this development he seeks to reveal. It is Heidegger who helps us to understand how the Modern project is in its essence nihilistic; if followed through to its logical conclusion it means no less than the annihilation of both the world and humanity. This is a cataclysmic perspective, but Heidegger’s reasons for sounding the alarm apply with a monumentally increased force since he first raised this prospect during the 1930s. It was Heidegger who understood that the “subjectivism” which reduces the world to a “standing reserve,” a resource to be used at our convenience, is at its core empty, that the desire for comfort and ease is in fact a death wish. Nietzsche understood this too. The danger does not lie so much in an ecological disaster, the consequence of reckless actions such as the use of GMO crops, but from the success of technology rather than its failure. We can see this with “climate change,” first global warming will be successfully held at bay, then extreme weather events prevented, and then . . . the outside world will be made to look and feel no different from the carefully controlled environment we have inside every shopping mall. After all, if you could push a button from your beachside mansion to stop an oncoming hurricane in its tracks, and instead select for a pleasant view offshore, why wouldn’t you?

No one openly articulates such an agenda, and it does not matter whether it is realistic or complete fantasy, the logic is there nonetheless. It has been present for a thousand years, and it is immensely powerful. Our entire civilization is testimony to its power. This is the value both Heidegger and Spengler bring to a discussion of such issues, they allow us to approach topical subjects such as climate change or transgenderism from a very different angle, to understand why these are the battlegrounds today, and what is at stake.

A third dimension, however, is also needed. It is one neither “Martin” nor “Spengler” were aware of in their lifetime, nor is it a question that has ever concerned Western philosophy to any significant extent in its 2,500-year history. It is a product of our time, and as such is the key to understanding everything. In this respect, “the West” is unique, and at its heart lies a contradiction.

Civilisation by its nature is a masculine project, but Western civilization is in its essence – feminine.

The driving purpose behind the science and technology of the West is to make life easy, comfortable, safe, and amusing. These are feminine desires not masculine ones. Western men have striven for centuries to deliver such a lifestyle to their women, and over the last 70 years or so this effort has borne fruit in the unsurpassed standard of living enjoyed by large sections of the population in Western countries. But the more it has done so, the more the essentially feminine character of the West has come into play. Masculine values, masculinity, men, these were all necessary to bring us to this point, the achievements of science and technology are products of the masculine impulse to make an impact on the world, to understand it, shape it, to create with it, to build with it, for their enjoyment in part but most of all for their women and children, and for the sake of the larger civilizational project to whose success they are committed. But to the extent this project is realized, and life does become easy, comfortable, safe, and amusing, masculinity becomes increasingly redundant, and fades into the background. In its place the feminine becomes primary, a process that has accelerated to an enormous extent over the past half-century with the arrival of the “sexual revolution” in the 1960s.

In the world that is emerging, there are no limits, nothing that women cannot do, nor anything that requires the masculine impetus to turn outwards towards the wider world, to discover its secrets, confront its dangers, for there is no longer is an outside world. Once we reach the point where everything that exists is either an oversized shopping mall, an air-conditioned office building, a campus safe space, a theme park, or a McMansion, masculinity has served its purpose and has no further place, other than to supply routine maintenance services in the background. In this world everything is self-referential, reality is what we make it, truth is what we decide it to be, on the basis of what makes us feel comfortable, safe, and amused. This is why the internet and social media are so central to our culture, why reality TV is our iconic genre, celebrities our key figures, entertainment our main industry, marketing our critical skill set, and brand value our ultimate asset. It is also why #fakenews is a thing.

This self-referentiality is Heidegger’s “subjectivism.” It is extending its influence everywhere, even such former bastions of masculinity as the military. Western militaries are completely feminized, with the partial exception of special forces, the only units who actually experience real combat. This is not to say that US or NATO forces do not kill and destroy, they do on a massive scale, their mostly male members also die, but they do not fight, they do not even engage their “enemy.” Instead they conduct operations against fictitious opponents who are figments of their own imagination, and take casualties at the hands of real adversaries about who they know nothing. The disastrous British campaign in Helmand, Afghanistan, from 2006-10 is the classic example of this, launched against an insurgent force that did not exist at that time, but which soon did come into being with a vengeance as a result of the “counter-insurgency” operation.

Helmand is the rule rather than the exception. It is no accident that the weakest branch of the US military machine has always been Intelligence, because this is the one element that cannot be self-referential if it is to be effective.

The Eclipse of Truth

We see the contradiction that runs through the West above all in the current state of science as an institution. In spite of its critical role in the Western civilizational project, science today is in an appalling state of disrepair. This is so even though vast amounts of data and new information are becoming available to many scientific disciplines due to earlier developments in technology, and also to the enormous resources being thrown into research and academia. Astronomy is a good example of this. However, the ability to intellectually process these sources into theoretical advances, to improve our understanding, has been all but lost, at least in the mainstream. Instead, astronomically related areas such as cosmology and astrophysics have disappeared into a fantastical set of rabbit holes that bear no relation to any reality outside of their own mathematical set of fictions. As a result they are completely sterile, there has been no progress in these branches of science for decades, in sharp contrast to the revolutionary breakthroughs that marked the first half of the 20th century. These gave us the technological advances that make the present possible, although the irony lies in that they also have contributed in large part to the dead end we now find ourselves in. This includes its poster boy Albert Einstein, who in spite of his personal integrity has been the single greatest catastrophe ever inflicted on the scientific enterprise. It is no accident that this individual was the first ever science “celebrity,” in no other period could a set of intellectually incoherent nonsense be mistaken for genius, but then again, it did so because it suited certain purposes . . . long before #fakenews came #fakescience.

The reason for this is the eclipse of truth, which is a masculine value, as the determining factor in decisions over what ideas to accept, papers to publish, research to fund, who to appoint, and who is selected to go viral, at least on the media circuit. Science as a practice has to balance its inquiry into the world as it really is with a whole series of competing interests. These might be commercial, political, ideological, institutional, or personal. The more important a branch of science is to Western society as a whole, the more corrosive these other influences, so that when we get to a central political issue such as “climate change,” we soon find that the quality of the science being produced on this question is utterly corrupted, and from a scientific standpoint completely worthless. This is because its purpose is not to find the truth, but to support an agenda, which it does by creating “models” of how the world should be and then using these to justify policy decisions whose motivation always lay elsewhere – self-referentiality once again. The reality is that climate “science” is not science at all, which goes to explain why its proponents refuse to honor any of the principles that guide genuine scientific inquiry – honest debate, transparency of data, willingness to admit uncomfortable facts, or explore alternative hypotheses.

An indication of the West’s true character and current state of decay can be seen in some of the intractable problems that plague modern society. Many of these revolve around health, arguably the area that provides the greatest source of pride to those who believe in the achievements of Western civilization. But while it is true that life expectancy is at record levels, infant mortality at its lowest, and that a cut finger is unlikely to result in death from a ravaging infection, it can hardly be argued that the population of a nation such as the United States is “healthy” in any meaningful sense. If we look at the obesity epidemic, for example, what is most significant about this problem is less that people are getting fat, but that Western medicine has proved totally incapable of making even a small dent in the constantly rising numbers of the obese. A different approach is clearly needed, but one will only be found on the basis of civilizational values that understand medical treatment in terms that do not involve drugs or surgery. Counter currents of this nature do exist, such as the ancestral health movement, or the advocates of LCHF, but these are defined precisely by their rejection of the Western project and its conception of what a healthy way of life is. The same applies to mental health issues, or the unbelievably high rates of addiction across the West, to everything from pain killers, shopping, gambling, gaming, porn, anything that offers an escape from an otherwise entirely meaningless, but materially quite comfortable, existence.

The Desire to Escape

It is Spengler who shows us that this desire to “escape,” in his words towards “the infinite,” was present at the very birth of the West, and is in fact its driving force. This too needs to be understood in terms of masculinity and femininity. The masculine impulse is not to escape the world but to go out and engage with it, to learn how to navigate through it, to understand it, and with this knowledge to create and to build with it. A man may seek an escape from the wind and the rain for his family, but the shelters he constructs are made from real materials, and if they are not built according to the natural laws that govern civil engineering they will fall down. This is why truth is the paramount masculine value, and this truth is never self-referential, it is truth about the external world, so that humanity can live within this world.

The feminine impulse is the opposite, it is an attractive force and its ultimate point of reference is the woman herself and her children. If the masculine seeks to expand outwards towards the infinitely large, to ever extend knowledge and understanding, then the feminine measures this in terms of what it means to her, how it affects her, whether she likes what emerges around her as a result of this, or not. Men build houses, but women decide whether they want to live in these structures, and turn them into homes. The feminine is in its essence aesthetic, its measure is beauty, and the beautiful is appreciated through emotion, how it makes her feel.

During the rise of the West, this masculine impulse is harnessed and the Modern world takes shape over time. The feminine character of the Western project, however, is expressed in the ultimate end state Western civilization sets as its objective. This is Spengler’s “infinity,” but in everyday terms it goes under the slogan of “freedom.” The dominant motive behind the entire development of the West has been the desire to be free, and this means freedom from any and all constraints. Science and technology emerge as the means by which to escape the constraints of nature, but alongside this there is also the desire to escape social constraints. During the first centuries of the West, this mostly involved the struggle to overcome the Catholic Church, which dominated the social and cultural landscape of medieval Europe, and this lead to the Protestant Reformation. Later it becomes the desire to be free of any religious imposition on life whatsoever, whether through moral codes or the law of the land. Western society becomes secular.

Freedom is a feminine value, not a masculine one.  Femininity resents any external constraints on it, whether natural or social, because its reference point is the woman herself, in her singularity. There is no such thing as a feminine morality, because even two women form a set of entirely different compass points for any moral code. These might coincide, the two might agree and cooperate well together, but they also might not, there is no force behind the agreement, as soon as it feels like a constraint to either of them it will be abandoned. Women approach all relationships in this way, except with their children, there the rules change.

Masculinity does not strive for freedom, it seeks to serve. A man is measured by his contribution to something larger and outside of himself, his family, his tribe, his nation, his civilisation, its Gods, the truth. This service must be voluntary, and it must be valued. The Roman slave in revolt may kill his master but he will also willingly give up his life in the army of Spartacus, and ask only that in battle his general not throw this away cheaply.

For the same reason, equality is not a masculine value either. Men contribute to the best of their ability, because that is the source of their worth, but the end results are measured externally. The input is irrelevant, only the output. Masculinity naturally gravitates towards hierarchy, because some are more talented, experienced, or able than others, and what matters is the common venture, success or failure, victory or defeat. Men will accept the leadership, and even the domination of others, if this leads to a good outcome, because that is all that counts. Better to follow the victorious general, than lead an army to its destruction.

The feminine, on the other hand, does aspire to equality, because like freedom it is an abstract concept, it means the removal of any expectations placed upon her by anyone, which she might perceive as a constraint. Equality is the stepping stone towards freedom, which is the ability of a woman to act as her own point of reference in any aspect of her life. Today this goes under the term, “empowerment,” or “You go girl!” This is one form of the “tendency towards abstraction” we will try to elaborate on further.

Masculinity, however, acts as a counter-balance to this female “solipsism.” The masculine overrides this impulse and it is the woman who benefits, because it allows her to serve something greater – children, to become something larger than herself, to contribute, to leave her mark on the earth, to attain a slice of immortality. Men do this by imposing an order that serves the civilizational project they are committed to, in other words they impose social constraints on women. This is the “patriarchy,” it ensures that a society will continue because there will be future generations, that women will bear children. It is a civilizational project that makes women have babies, and this is its greatest gift to femininity, to those same women, it overcomes their own drive to “self-referentiality” and allows them to be something more, to participate in something larger.

The project of Western civilization, on the other hand, has been to escape this very civilizational constraint. By the 1960s it had achieved an important milestone along this path through the application of science and technology, with the invention of the contraceptive pill. As a result, birth rates have plummeted, well below the numbers required to reproduce the population. This is one reason why it is safe to predict the coming demise of the West, a social order can not survive if its women do not have children.