The question of who is to be held accountable for the tragedy of the human condition has crossed the mind of every serious thinker at least once. As a result, governments and common folk alike face an intractable problem that has no easy solution, and that is the problem of accountability. As Thomas Sowell wrote in a book titled “Intellectuals and Society”, either no one is to blame, or everyone is to blame for the prevailing human condition: “Without some sense of the tragedy of the human condition, it is all too easy to consider anything that goes wrong as being somebody’s fault.”
Historically, in Western societies experiencing social and political decay, the blame is often pinned on immigrants or Jews when the actual cause has always been government corruption and social degeneration. When we delve into what drives government corruption and social degeneration, we enter into the unchartered waters of the subconscious mind and collective consciousness. There are debates as to what drives the subconscious mind as well as collective consciousness, the most renowned of which is the Freud-Jung debate. Adler’s “Power Principle” as well as Frankl’s “Logotherapy” and the search for meaning are also subconscious factors that weigh heavily on the conscious mind.
With the adoption of Christianity by Western Paganism and the further layering of Western consciousness, the bloodletting and pervasiveness of death on a global level is attributed to a political hoax. The result is “a world turned upside down” in the words of Charles Taylor and the struggle between a paganistic and monotheistic thought paradigm within the collective conscience. The social implications of these clashing paradigms equate to the difference between “oneness” or “wholeness” in the words of David Bohm versus fragmentation and disarray. Adding to the morass is our current “info-demic” that is exacerbating an already dire situation given that information or the lack thereof shapes thought, and in turn thought shapes reality. With so many reasons for hopelessness, where does one derive hope?
Based on Max Weber’s three stages of political evolution, we are securely placed in an era of bureaucratic politics after having experienced both the feudal and charismatic stages of politics in the Western world. The result is the American military establishment becoming not only the most powerful bureaucratic force within the United States, but also in the entire world. By virtue of deliberate planning, the United States spends more on its military than the next nine or ten countries combined. What was traditionally the power elite in American society, namely the mainstream media, academia, the medical industry, and the financial sector, are all at the behest of the military. For almost twenty years now, the balance of power between the civilian government and the military has tilted significantly in favor of the latter. Due to its newfound clout in what is traditionally a society that puts civilian rule ahead of military rule, the military is now the gatekeeper of a global peace that can only be achieved politically, not through military strategies. It is why Kant attributed “Eternal Peace” to the expansion of commerce and dialogue on a global level. Moreover, “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD) ensures that the only path forward is a political peace, not the continuation of military tensions with China. One military incident with China can trigger a chain effect that would lead to a global meltdown.
America’s fears, however, are not unfounded. For one, America fears that if it lets her guard down, the Chinese will capitalize within a zero-sum framework of international relations. But we have yet to fully explore the diplomatic route, nor have we made an effort towards the establishment of equilibrium with China through what Kissinger called an all-encompassing political dialogue aimed at forging a shared meaning of existence. One should ask: are we here to simply annihilate each other and die? Or is there a broader meaning and purpose to human life?
The discernment of this particular meaning and purpose is the core objective of a dialogue between the United States and China that is still outstanding, and as a result mutual understanding is replaced with mutual assured destruction. America may have espoused a legitimate cause during the Cold War, but virtually everything America did over the past twenty years led to an incredible loss of American credibility, legitimacy, power, and prestige on the global stage. America’s actions abroad amounted largely to adventurism and “a flight of fancy” in the words of Andrew Bacevich, and it also amounted to incredible loss of blood and treasure that was mostly incurred by American citizens and taxpayers.
The West’s infatuation with the “Orient” is something that has been well-documented by the likes of Edward Said. But the exploration of the Orient in the cavalier fashion that was done over the past twenty years led to irreparable damage to both Americans and non-Americans alike. Instead of promoting mutual understanding and peace between people, America’s foreign policy largely stoked the flames of war and made bad situations worse. There has been a constant violation of the principle of non-interference in international law for decades on the part of the United States, which in turn has undermined America’s diplomatic efforts around the world. This occurred despite George Washington’s admonition in his famous “Farewell Address” where he urged Americans to avoid entanglement in the affairs of other countries.
If the United States cannot be a stabilizing force in the world and if it cannot serve as an anchor for world order, then it should withdraw from the world and allow for countries to manage their own affairs while maintaining friendly relations with everyone. What we are experiencing with the current coronavirus pandemic is merely karma for the actions of the past twenty years. Everything that goes on inside of a country is the direct result of what goes on outside. As Kissinger wrote, politics is psychological, and the most fundamental task of a statesman dealing with foreign policy is to put ourselves in the shoes of others. How empathetic have we really been over the past few decades?
In a nihilistic environment dominated by the United States and China, war is the raison d’être of the former, and money is the main driver of the latter. Both war and money are the means to power, and as mentioned before, power is the leitmotif of the postmodern epoch. If we fail to find an alternative to militarization and homo economicus as the purpose of creation, humanity is doomed. Or are we in fact doomed to meaninglessness as the overarching theme of life as advanced by postmodern thought? As a result, politics has become a futile enterprise due to the hyper-militarized state of our world. Foreign policy under Donald Trump now resembles classic American high school bullying rather than the maintenance of world order. Some would argue that this is simply the way things are due to realism and the inherently anarchic nature of our world. But that would be resorting to a fatal type of determinism that excludes something very real in the life of man, namely, free will. Thus, we are steered towards the oldest debate in the history of mankind, which is the debate between free will and predestination. Are humans fated to merely die? Or can they steer history towards an enduring peace and the “everlasting life” that is promised in John 3:16?
Four basic ontological states that remain somewhat viable in a postmodern environment (Liberalism, Marxism, Populism, and Romanticism) are all zapped of essence and meaning due to the advent of what is known as the “cyborg era.” As a result, the global situation is a paradoxical one, namely, one of hyper-centralization of power amidst increasing fragmentation of society in the words of Fukuyama. As Eisenhower warned in his famous “Military-Industrial Complex” speech, political institutions like Congress or even the storied Papacy are now a shell of what they used to be due to the concentration of power in the hands of a very exclusive group of individuals. The era of kings has now been replaced by the era of flimsy and corrupt politicians. Even the once potent “Iron Triangle” of Congress, the Bureaucracy, and the Media that is ever ready to take down presidents is now nothing more than a shallow source of entertainment. Bureaucratic politics has turned government service into an inward act of self-service as opposed to what used to be an outward act of public service.
Intellectualism is yet another victim of our current condition. Derrida’s “deconstruction” not only becomes a hermeneutic tool for textual analysis, but it also serves as an interrogator of a reality that is in a constant state of flux. As the Qur’an states, all will perish, except for the face of the Lord. On an international level, the idea of law is one that is mutually exclusive from the idea of hegemony because the foundation of international is law is the scientific principle of equilibrium. According to Thomas Sowell, intellectualism is the trafficking of ideas. Whereas a doctor deals with medicine and financiers deal with money, intellectuals deal with ideas. However, the trafficking of ideas can lead to disastrous consequences if done haphazardly. Nevertheless, there is a need for ideas because there is a never-ending demand for solutions to remedy the problematic human condition that is the cause of suffering for kings and paupers alike. There is no denying that there are problems in the world, and the first step towards solving problems is by identifying them. Once problems are identified, ideas are put forth as solutions. Daniel Drezner, in a book titled “The Ideas Industry”, gives three reasons why novel ideas now carry more weight than those of establishment figures and intellectuals.
For one, there is a general erosion of trust in authority. “Experts” of politics and international relations no longer possess the clout they used to possess because it was their ideas that led to America’s decline vis-à-vis China. Second, there is increasing polarization in America that needs to be bridged. And third, there is a dramatic increase in economic inequality in a country that once took pride in its prominent middle class. State institutions like the military are the last resort in an anarchic world driven by war and poverty. Before resorting to military action, however, there needs to be an exploration of ideas put forth by a range of sources in a society that has been made exceptional due to a singular reason, which is pluralism.
There are now a wide range of progressive ideas pertaining to everything from politics to even polyamory, prostitution, marriage, sexuality, education, friendship, and love. As Heraclitus wrote, if you want a war, get married. The internet is now the chief socializer of our time, and as a result people will adopt ideas and preferences from all over the world. The downside of our postmodern world, however, is what Foucault identified as the history of madness and the organization of our society modeled off of one large psychiatric ward. There are people who perhaps subconsciously are trying to bring an end to everything rather than allowing progressive ideas to come to the fore in a postmodern environment due to their inability to adjust to a rapidly changing world. As Dick Cheney once said, the goal is to save mankind from itself. The focus in the short-term is the breaking of bad habits and ideas because the way one lives and thinks is the way one dies. There are those who cherish and value life, and there are those who simply want to die out of misery, and we must tilt the balance in favor of those who cherish and value life.
Yet, there are those who would rather die than to give into scientific thinking. As demonstrated by the recent protest at the Michigan State Capitol, some people are willing to cast aside all safety precautions to go out in the midst of a pandemic than to take the opportunity to sit home and learn or to explore existential questions. David Hume’s argument that passion overrides reason proves to be sound at this point: “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”
Passion is also driving the irrationality behind the back and forth between the United States and China amidst the current coronavirus pandemic. No one could have imagined in their right minds that the origins of a virus would be made into a political issue that could potentially gamble the security of the entire globe. As Kissinger noted, power is the greatest aphrodisiac. Thus, there is no rhyme or reason to what most people do if we cannot even expect an ounce of common sense from our leaders. Yet, there is a historical process that science is supposed to discover through rational inquiry. The inquiry, however, is largely overshadowed by bias and emotion. There is an Afghan poem that depicts the current situation quite accurately: “When spring is gone, so is the flower; drink, because the season of reason is over.” As noted by Wittgenstein, given the fact that the quality of a leader is often intuitively determined by their voice and what is known as “absolute pitch” rather than anything else demonstrates the power of passion over reason.
As a result, the Ancient Greeks seemed to have summed everything up the best when they described life as a tragicomedy that is far-fetched from rationality. Nevertheless, it is the tragicomedy that is the source of cultural richness in Western civilization. Bertrand Russell and even Otto Weininger, despite being Jewish, suggested that the main source of friction between the West and Russia, China, and Jews is the fact that the latter are not Greek enough and they lack a sense of humor. Neurosis is apparently curable if the patient has a sense of humor, and dancing is the prime indicator of a person’s ability to reproduce, thus demonstrating even further the limits of reason and science. After all, Sir Winston Churchill managed his bipolar disorder amidst war by cultivating an incredible sense of humor. Moreover, humor is connected to Eros, which in turn is the source of life in general.
Politics and international relations are within the realm of morals, and morals are obscured by the recurring cycle of mania and depression, which in turn is the mark of genius as demonstrated by Sir Winston Churchill. Harvard medical professor Nasser Ghaemi wrote about the connection between bipolar disorder and genius in a book titled “A First-Rate Madness” where he argues that in times of crisis, those with mental illness are better suited to lead than those who are deemed “normal” because the latter are not tested by adversity the way those with mental illness have been tested throughout their lives. Those who went through bipolar disorder like Sir Winston Churchill and Henry Kissinger knew better than anyone that mania is an unsustainable condition and that balance and equilibrium are the only solution to breaking out of the manic-depressive cycle that is embedded in our politics and economic system.
Those of us who were able to pull ourselves out of the manic-depressive cycle saw this current crash coming, but we differed on our views of what constituted the shape and form of the crash. Some of us believed it would be in the form of a war between the United States and China, while others thought it would come in the form of a natural disaster due to climate change. Some like Bill Gates, however, were correct in predicting that it would stem from a pandemic and public health crisis. As demonstrated by Gates, contemplation and rational inquiry ultimately pierces through the manic-depressive cycle to uncover the historical process. But unfortunately, not everyone is capable of contemplation and rational inquiry. One could argue that over 99 percent of the people in the world are incapable of contemplation and rational inquiry. The Islamic tradition suggests that if you can control your appetite for food and sex, you can rule the world. How many are actually capable of heeding that advice?
After all, leadership is a divine attribute unattainable by the masses. As the Falun Gong tradition states, the attainment of leadership qualities abides by a three-step process. For one, one must accumulate what is known as “de”, which is a white energy substance that eliminates dark energy from the body. Second is “Xinxing,” or detachment from the world. And third is “Gong,” which is the transformation of “de” into power and the attainment of eternal salvation.
To be functional in today’s world, one must know a little bit about everything. In a world of specialists, generalists rule. David Epstein, in a book titled “Range,” illustrates this point by stating that even a diverse group of specialists cannot replace the contributions of generalists to a wide range of fields. Passion ultimately stems from love. As one song suggested, life is a game, and love is the prize. Epicurus suggested that friendship is the greatest virtue, but the foundation of friendship is also love. As one scientist argued, love is the central organizing principle of the universe. One particular woman with no formal education once said the wisest thing possible. Her argument was that if you have good health, you will fall short on the economic side, and if you are strong on the economic side, you will fall short on the health side. But if you have love, then you will have both health and wealth.
Wittgenstein, whose primary focus was on the philosophy of language, is believed to have converted to a spiritual movement known as “Irfan” within the Islamic tradition. Irfan is an Islamic form of spirituality that is solely based on the love of God and humanity, regardless of race or religion. Wittgenstein, who was the philosopher of knowledge and language, ultimately adopted the philosophy and language of love. When one has love, one also retains friendship with God. The deepest insight that one can acquire in a world that is on the brink of collapse is that the only remedy for the human condition is love and empathy towards all human beings. As the Qur’an states, if one single human being dies wrongly, it is as if all of humanity has died. Every single human life is worth cherishing and protecting. As Otto Weininger wrote: “Love is the greatest thing of all.”