Archive for January 12th, 2012

The Decline of the West

January 12, 2012

Its time to clear the deck with some faux philosophical cogitations beginning with Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West, Volume One being published in 1918. As the wiki entry notes, Spengler’s investigation into the origins and trajectory of Western civilisation, consisted of a rearvision review of the eight High Cultures in World History. And such big picture stuff greatly exercised the chatterati of the day.

Apparently, we are all participants in a Faustian culture… where the populace constantly strives for the unattainable—making Western Man a proud but tragic figure, for, while he strives and creates, he secretly knows the actual goal will never be reached.”

Now there may be a grain of truth in his observation, since we are basically acquisitive creatures never satisfied with our ownership of stuff and coffee shop conversation points. Lord knows, I have a heavy wish list at the moment eg. new Ray Bans, an expensive timepiece plus holiday in Jamaica.

However, Spengler was way off in his Romanticist ruminations, since he timed the beginning of Western decline in the early twentieth century, primarily because he took a dim view of democratic processes and money politics. And for Sino pertinence, Spengler characterised China as the third High Civilisation coming in a close third after Egypt and Babylon. Not bad associations, when we think about 1) the construction frenzy taking place in China today and 2) the wealth divide and the Hurun list.

Hegel: Preemminent Idealist Philosopher @ snuff user

Hegel, another big picture dude, claimed that China had no history. It simply ‘vegetated in the teeth of time’, as a cyclical political entity, with its repetitious rise and fall of Monarchs/Dynasties, but no actual political progress, as instanced by the West in its long shift from feudalism to the modern democratic state.

Pls note, I’m not talking about China’s recent ability to manufacture stuff for both domestic consumers and the global market. The idea of Monarch or Sovereign must be viewed within the classical philosophical context, as both a system of autocratic government and a popular consciousness or Sino mentalite of passive acceptance, Charter 08 notwithstanding.

In googling this line of though, I came across Metaresearch on Hegel and these paragraphs caught my attention:

“The Chinese regard themselves as belonging to their family, and at the same time as children of the State. In the Family itself they are not personalities, for the consolidated unity in which they exist as members of it is consanguinity and natural obligation. In the ‘State they have as little independent personality; for there the patriarchal relation is predominant, and the government is based on the paternal management of the Emperor, who keeps all departments of the State in order. .. The duties of the Family are absolutely binding, and established and regulated by law.

This family basis is also the basis of the Constitution, if we can speak of such. For although the Emperor has the right of a Monarch, standing at the summit of a political edifice, he exercises it paternally. He is the Patriarch, and everything in the State that can make any claim to reverence is attached to him.

The next thing to be considered is the administration of the Empire. We cannot speak, in reference to China, of a Constitution; for this would imply that individuals and corporations have independent rights — partly in respect of their particular interests, partly in respect of the entire State”.

(The self-described ‘Prussian patriot’ who runs this site, and who direct quotes Hegel above is onto something. However, I would not recommend his conclusions found at the bottom of his Hegel quote. Hit his About button HERE. He looks like a Rastafarian and espouses a variant of Anarchism and anti-Semitism, surely a weird mix. No, that is too mild. The dude is barking mad.)

While Hegel also had made some acute observations about the first wife and concubines in the Sino-household (cf Metaresearch), I’m going with the main thrust of his argument. Substitute the CCP for the Emperor, Monarch or the Head Honcho of the Patriarchal Household, and it’s hop step to the argument that Chinese political discourse is one of Autocratic Absolutism. Dynasties establish themselves, collapse and succeeded by a variant of the same. Calendrical time is of little consequence. All you have is the discursive time of a Sino-Absolutism, and that is time perpetually suspended.

Okay, lets lighten up here and return to Spengler and his claim that the West began its decline in the early twentieth century. Now, if you think of this decline in terms of military capacity, and with the US in mind, forget it. The US has a lock on the military world domination button till about around 2040. And given what I have said above, the PRC will again be a civilisation of much lesser consequence by then.

If we turn to the social decline of the West, what would be the seminal markers leading to this u-turn onto the Perdition/Decline Highway?
The Tate-LaBianca murders?

Not even close.

This was a two-step process, which began with the advent of MTV in 1987 which well and truly broke the Faustian Western attachment to creativity and imagination. The second step in this dumbing down of popular culture has to be the 4 hours of Asian Pops broadcast every Saturday morning on tubbyland’s multicultural broadcaster SBS.