Resist Decay. Resist Post-modern Politics.

And protect the foundations of our prosperity from pre-modern tyranny

Hey there!

I’ve been struggling with this piece for a bit now, but I’m trying really hard to not let myself workshop & edit it so much that I begin to hate it.

That being said, I’ve been observing some concerning trends in political movements over the past couple of years (who hasn’t?), but I’ve struggled to articulate them in a manner that I think makes sense to others until recently.

Artistic and cultural movements appear to be cyclical in nature

One of my favorite YouTubers, JJ McCullough, talks about the three phases of culture (pre-modern, modern, and post-modern) through art in this video:

McCullough suggests that these artistic movements might be cyclical, and suggests that the post-modern culture that appears to be ascendant will eventually be replaced in turn by a snap back to pre-modern culture. I fear political movements may follow suit.

So do political movements

McCullough outlines the change in culture by talking about how pre-modern art was displaced by modern art, which in turn was displaced by post modern art. He roughly describes each like this:

  • Pre-modern art emphasizes beauty through the lens of an in-group and highlights the artist's technique in making beautiful things.

  • Modern art takes a rationalist approach, rejecting the tribality of pre-modern art and focusing on function and purpose.

  • Post-modern art rejects rationality, embracing chaos and irrationality, skeptically mocking any suggestions that one can make sense of the world we live in.

My working theory is that politics follows a similar structure, being divisible into the pre-modern, modern, and post-modern categories:

  • Pre-modern politics were tribal in nature and prioritized viewing the world viewing the world solely through the eyes of the in-group, considering all resource allocation questions as zero-sum games

  • Modern politics are driven by a rejection of the tribality in favor creating open societies and promoting protective institutions to safeguard the liberties that create progress

  • Post-modern politics reject conceptions of equality and distrust nearly all institutions, mocking any suggestions that societies can ever begin to accomplish meaningful liberty or equality

Fear pre-modern politics

While pre-modern art can be impressive, its advocates often use it as a weapon to devalue modern art.

I don’t see a compelling reason that pre-modern politics will be different.

Where post-modern art incorrectly asserts that existing artistic conventions are driving artistic meaninglessness, post-modern politics incorrectly asserts that morality is declining and driving a worse quality of life.

If pre-modern political activists gain ground, they could tear down institutions of progress, hindering growth and embracing a fixed-sum mindset. Post-modern politics, upon achieving victory, may eventually turn on its own members, leading to a shift towards pre-modern tribalism and authoritarianism.

And post-modern politics would make it all possible.

Post-modern “liberation” feeds pre-modern tyranny

In contrast, post-modern politics distrust institutions and often reject rational approaches to governance. This skepticism can lead to a breakdown of essential structures that have facilitated progress, potentially hindering advancements in science, technology, and societal well-being.

Post-modern artist Reynold Reynolds’ short film Burn sounded apocalyptical alarm bells, and the post-modernists at the Claremont Institute like David Reaboi ask if you “know what time it is”.

Reynold's film implies that we ignore our looming demise, and that the status quo distracts us from taking necessary action and therefore must be replaced. Likewise, Reaboi and Co. view the future with apocalyptic fear, and call for “modern” politics to be replaced with a bare-knuckle fighting style that replaces the conventions of compromise and agreeableness with left and right hooks.

Post-modern movements seek to subvert and destroy the conventions and institutions they feel hold them back. But after they succeed in toppling modern institutions, the activists eventually turn on each other. History shows this pattern, as seen in the French Revolution's leaders' demise and the in-fighting within the Soviet Politburo. They then embrace pre-modern tribalism and authoritarianism with the new in-group in control.

Protect the miracle of progress by protecting modern politics

Scientific discoveries and technological innovations, supported by modern political systems, have revolutionized industries, communication, healthcare, and transportation. Modern politics prioritize education, ensuring that knowledge and skills are accessible to all, leading to a more informed and adaptable society.

We live in good times. We failed to teach this to the rising generation. But we can resist the calls to tear down institutions we dislike.

Every generation, civilization is invaded by barbarians; we call them children.

Hannah Arendt

The pre-modern, tribal barbarians came and this time, we failed to convert them to the modern cause. Now the barbarians are at the gates. Equipped with post-modern memes and the poor education we gave them, the new terminally online generation aims to tear down the social, technological, and political institutions that created the conditions for our prosperity. Be they members of the judiciary, vaccine makers, churches & religious communities, or bowling leagues & book clubs, post-modern political movements see them as enemies to be defeated or destroyed.

In doing so, they sow the seeds of a tyrannical crop for a pre-modernist to one day reap.

But maybe we can help stitch back together the recent tears in our cultural fabric. These tears—that destroy mutual trust, undermine feelings of community and camaraderie, and reduce the care for humanity that drives us as a species to do hard things—must be repaired if we want the world to reembrace the institutions and ideals that make progress possible.

By resisting the temptations of post-modern politics, we can help to protect the institutions which in turn protect American progress. This entails active involvement in local communities, constructive disagreement, and adherence to the rules of the game even when it means we lose. It means pushing back on vaccine denialism without villainizing the confused, or countering election fraud conspiracy theories without dunking on the theorists.

Post-modernist politics rejects the idea that people can be reasoned with. But I think we’re better than that. Don’t you?

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