By Richard Gale and Gary Null Ph.D.
“We have this ability in Lake Wobegon to look reality right in the eye and deny it.”
Keen observers of history realize that the US and the West have entered a new Dark Age. The light of reason and the capacities for critical thought are rapidly being snuffed out by widespread emotional immaturity. The erosion of American culture has largely been the result of a decades’ long merger of adolescent attitudes and the corporate commodification of human life and values. Mass culture, Hannah Arendt observed, was not culture but personal entertainment, or better stated self-aggrandizement. Our civilizational collapse into intellectual darkness and the catastrophic failure in democracy were presciently predicted by many of our wisest cultural critics such as Lewis Lapham, Morris Berman, and Robert Kaplan two decades ago. Likewise, earlier works of science fiction such as Fahrenheit 451, The Perfect Day and The Canticle for Leibowitz describe not only the dystopian triumph of a puerile citizenry blindly subservient to the tricks and treats disbursed by an elite corporate and political class, but also the consequences of the intentional disorientation of a distracted human mind. Aldous Huxley perfectly predicted our times in Brave New World. Hungarian-born journalist and author Arthur Koestler (d. 1983) envisioned a future America being populated with human automatons in a replay of the fall of the Roman Empire; at such time the US will have turned into a “soulless, politically corrupt, everybody-for-himself civilization.” Although these modern critics and fiction authors may not have foreseen the exact structures and popular social values society has now transitioned into, such as the worst expressions of critical race theory’s inverted racism, institutionalized woke culture, endemic mental disorders, and growing gender dysphoria, they nevertheless accurately observed the trends that have led America to this impasse of moral anarchy.
Critical race theory and the woke movement will never democratize society; rather it will further erode universal ethical norms to a cacophony of subjective emotions and aberrant personal beliefs felt at any given moment. These mythologies about race and gender, which are mistaken for hard truths, now permeate our elementary schools and universities, which are being fashioned into what Morris Berman calls “a gigantic dolt-manufacturing machine.” And the global elite, political legislators and pseudo-intellectuals dominating our educational institutions, willingly or not, declare this feat of social deterioration as a political victory.
At the core of our society’s collective daze in the marketplace of frivolous pursuits resides a deep existential emptiness. In particular this vacuity of a life enriched by meaning and purpose is being acted out by the younger generations. In 2022, the national suicide rate again rose to 14.3 suicides per 100,000; two years earlier 5.2 million either planned or attempted to take their lives. The prevalence of gender dysphoria continues to rise significantly and starts at younger ages. Although the percentage of people either professionally or self-diagnosed, with gender dysphoria remains very small, it has nevertheless been raised to a level of national priority at the expense of other mentally and physically handicapped persons that make up 27 percent of the population.
This brief reference above noting the consequences of the dark abyss at the center of American culture only highlights a small sliver of the consequences of the intellectual ignorance underlying critical race theory and woke culture. During the past five years, there has been an aggressive encroachment of woke and postmodern race ideologies into every aspect of society: local school boards, college campuses, corporations’ human resources, and the halls of federal and state legislative bodies. The leaders of this trend are by no means our culture’s best and brightest; rather those are the first to find themselves canceled or handed their termination papers. Rather it is the activists who shout the loudest who manage to be heard. Those of us who critically recognize social dynamics observe this hysterical phenomenon with credulous amusement. When Tucker Carlson reports about a woman who wouldn’t change a baby’s diaper unless she received the infant’s permission, the sane among us step back and wonder what the hell is going on. Self-righteous university students demand professors abide by their demands and teach only what they want. Those teachers who stand up for educational integrity and the teaching profession’s tradition, are ostracized. Students petition college administrators to have dissenting un-woke professors fired.
What is especially notable is how rapidly this raging woke and inverse racist movement has become incorporated into our public and private institutions. This includes the adolescent tantrums by political parties to censor their opponents, pass laws banning certain kinds of free speech and the gradual erasure of social norms of binding relationships that fueled the founding of the nation. None of this could have happened if the majority of Americans were not asleep. In the twenty-first century we can agree that equality is crucial for harmonizing the historical aberrations such as slavery and the denigration of women and gays that have haunted us through the generations. Everyone should be able to have the opportunity to succeed in reaching their goals. However, despite the new woke and critical race movements’ condemnation of meritocracy, its followers demand the same outcome.
Of course, once Rome passed a certain threshold after several centuries of decline, its final collapse accelerated quickly. This is the nature of entropy. Aside from the enormous disparity in wealth between Rome’s social classes, a perpetual war economy, widespread political corruption and the decline in literacy, Roman society was also plagued by a mental virus of magical thinking and superstition. In our own time, the level of American illiteracy is astounding. The average American likewise lives in a garbage heap of superstitious hopes for a utopian carnival where a superficial free thought reigns; however, at the same time a future utopia requires a new vocabulary and the banning of words the new woke order finds personally offensive.
Following the warnings of social psychologist Leon Festinger in the 1950s, the American populace is being “deindividuated.” Deindividuation is a state whereby individuals lose their sense of self-awareness and their realistic and healthy personal identity in order to become part of a crowd that opposes other crowds. Normal moral restraints are cast aside and replaced by impulsive and deviant behavior.
The entire woke narrative now giving way to antisocial behavior is a notable consequence of the deindividuation being approved by government and private industry. Deindividuation reinforces illiteracy and blatant stupidity. For example, when Democrats brought Aimee Arrambide, an executive for an abortion rights organization, before the House Judiciary Committee to give testimony, she claimed men could get pregnant and have abortions. Again, we are reminded of Jefferson’s words “Illiteracy is the enemy of progress and the ally of tyranny.”
Dr. Henry Nasrallah, editor in chief of the journal Current Psychiatry, remarks that we are in a historical moment when “the passage of time ruthlessly increases the entropy of everything in life.” We not only witness entropy in civilizations and societies, but also in our possessions, dwellings, businesses, and our physical body and mental faculties. Therefore, new energy must be invested in order to slow or reverse entropic processes. Yet without the restraints of a new constructive and restorative vision, entropy runs amok. During the dramatic public shock triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns, social distancing, business and school closures, and financial loss, there was a parade of incessant media porn reminded us repeatedly that death could knock on our door at any moment. The federal governments and medical establishment’s gross negligence on multiple fronts during the pandemic gave rise to a rapid degeneration of America’s social order. Distress from the loss of normalcy accelerated the nation’s collective psychological entropy; this in turn contributed to resurrected racial tensions, hateful biases, toxic relationships, drug addiction and suicide, permissible crime, homelessness, rampant disinformation across mainstream media, the implosion of social norms, a psychological disoriented citizenry and a ruthless cancel culture that is utterly intolerant of others’ beliefs.
Remarkably, the mobs in the street are little more than bland reflections, a Jungian shadow, of the instability and disorder created by the agents of chaos and entropy who sit in the seats of power. “Just as the individual has a shadow,” wrote Jung, “so does society at large. And just as the individual must come to terms with his shadow so too must society if it is to be healthy and whole.” The rising psychological deindividuation and existential angst infecting our youth over their self-identity, gender, moral alienation and a lack of existential purpose in our technological driven materialistic society has reduced our youth to sentient robots screaming for self-expression. This is a cause for today’s woke groupthink contributing to social and political unrest with its destructive outcomes. Or as Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell warned, the “collective passions” have a penchant to inflame “hatred and rivalry directed towards other groups.”
Despite the original values of American liberalism and non-dogmatic healthy skeptical inquiry, today’s Left has perverted its own legacy. The woke have become every bit as intolerant and wrong-headed as the most zealous fundamentalist on the Right. This “exclusivist humanism,” as the prominent cultural philosopher Charles Taylor has termed it, is giving rise to a faux universalism. The new woke order’s myopic obeisance increasingly relies on the secular power structure of the ruling elite that in turn legislates on its behalf to marginalize and imprison alternative belief systems that do not embrace a secular universalism. Hence the new radical Left no longer tolerates the diversity of traditional beliefs and worldviews. The entropic descent into irrational hostility, collective emotional hysteria, and what the Russian-American sociologist Pritrim Sorokin called “cultural schizophrenia,” clings desperately to a grossly materialistic society and a fragile false sense of individuality, an empty void, which is completely divorced from any deeper purpose in life.
America is a “society in chains,” an expression stated by Nelson Mandela to describe a citizenry psychologically crippled for making informed decisions and incapable of participating thoughtfully in a democratic process. Consequently, a democratic renaissance, a new energy to reverse entropy, can only proceed following a revitalization of moral and spiritual values that have universal appeal, which respects pluralist ideals both within and beyond national borders. To be worthy of participating in any viable possibility for a democracy in the 21st century, it is necessary to return to becoming John Adams’ “moral people.”