Friday, June 23, 2006

The Epochal Sea Change of the West

An annoying thing happened on my way to post today’s post: I wrote about half of it, then lost what I had written. I’m confident, nevertheless, that I can make a refreshing glass of lemonade out of that unfortunate lemon.

For one thing, if my memory serves me, I indulged in a preface that was too verbosely circuitous. I rather prefer to get to the nutshell and the punchline from the start. So here goes:

The epochal sea change of the West was a change from being a predominately noetic culture to being a predominately Gnostic culture.

In history, there have been many flavors of Gnostic culture: they have not all been the same, stamped from the same monolithic mold. Like any other phenomena that belong in a category, there will be variations. One Gnostic culture may be more dangerous and deformed, another Gnostic culture may be less so. The Gnostic cultures of Nazi Germany, or of Soviet Communism, for example, were far more dangerous and deformed than is the Gnostic culture of what I shall call ‘PC multiculturalism’.

Usually in history, Gnostic cultures have not been massively successful: they have tended to be subcultures, cults or more amorphous and disparately coherent parasitic malignancies that cling to a larger host culture that is, by degree, less Gnostic and more noetic. (This is mainly because people and societies, particularly societies that last and grow, tend to be healthy rather than diseased.) And most of the examples that could be adduced of massively successful Gnostic cultures tend to exhibit a rather brief and convulsive life-span. The two examples I noted above, Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism, are cases in point (the latter lasting longer than the former, but still with a rather brief career—roughly 70 years—in the view of history).

The usually convulsive nature of otherwise successful Gnostic cultures is directly related to their major project of trying to immanentize the eschaton, or to put it in another way, of trying to utopianize an imperfect reality. By itself, the project of utopianization need not be violent or convulsive, but it can veer off into that kind of disorder when its adherents and master planners are fanatical and invest their intolerance of humans who resist the ‘new order’ with demonization. Demonization of recalcitrant humans, in turn, when it becomes a project within the overarching project of utopianizing reality at the hands of fanatics, often leads to tactics of oppression and mass-murder, which then devolve into wars against other sociopolitical entities who resist, in one way or another, the ‘new order’. These surrounding sociopolitical entities will usually be comparatively healthier, and they—along with comparatively healthy elements within the Gnostically inflamed culture—will not tolerate for long such violent outbreaks and wars, and will eventually work to dismantle the Gnostic culture, more quickly to the extent that the Gnostic culture behaves egregiously and flagrantly (the Gnostic culture of the French Revolution in its final Napoleonic phase would be the most famous example of this).

We noted that the Soviet Gnostic culture lasted longer than the Nazi German Gnostic culture. The other major Gnostic culture of the 20th century, PC multiculturalism, has so far enjoyed a slightly shorter duration—at least in terms of being a successful culture: approximately 50 years, though the determination of its chronology is somewhat more difficult than it is with the aforementioned Gnostic cultures. This difficulty is indirectly related to its relatively less deformed and dangerous nature: PC multiculturalism is more of a process within a culture—that has become dominant within that culture (sort of like a virus making a host body ill), and as such, it never had a clearly defined tumultuous beginning in a political revolution or coup d’état. The distinction is quite fine: German Nazism and Soviet Communism were also like processes within a culture that attacked that culture like a virus. What distinguishes PC multiculturalism from them is that it grew more organically and less tumultuously, notwithstanding the tumult of the 60s Cultural Revolution—and also keeping in mind that other major convulsions that informed it (World War I, World War II, the dismantling of Western Colonialism) were indirect etiological factors, not direct manifestations.

In Part Two, we shall unfold further implications:

1) that PC multiculturalism is subsumed, on one level, under a category of which German Nazism and Soviet Communism are also types—that category being the epochal sea change that is our overarching subject;

2) that PC multiculturalism, while only approximately 50 years old, has deeper historical roots that reach further back over several centuries and which partake of the larger process, the epochal sea change the West has undergone;

3) that Islam is another example of a Gnostic culture—the most successful and longest-lasting of all, in fact;

4) and that, finally, PC multiculturalism—the latest manifestation of the epochal sea change of the West—is the principle factor that might ensure the victory of Islam over the West in the coming century.

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