…but the sudden Stop at the bottom.
Ace of Spades over at 80-Proof Oinomancy has written a couple of posts concerning “the Decline.” In the first post, titled The day has come, the day has come,” Ace explains how he views the subject of the Decline:
All this talk of “the decline” is laughable.
It has already collapsed.
Who goes to church NOW?
Who has an intact family NOW?
Who has a well-paying, secure job NOW?
Our institutions have ALREADY failed and fallen.
Everything you are witnessing now is merely pocket-groups trying to make sense of the chaos.
In his next post, “When all the while, a pontiff smiles” Ace provides a metaphor for the situation:
Empires and civilizations do not fall like stones.
They fall like dominoes, neatly arrayed.
It’s called “the cascade effect”.
And you’re simply in the center of cascade.
You, as they say, “can’t see the forest through the trees”.
Which is the entire point of my work here.
When I read this I realized that Ace and I have been on parallel tracks when it comes to our mental approach to the current “crisis.” Many people seem to expect that there will be some kind of “collapse”, or catastrophic event which marks “the Decline,” or perhaps its culmination. This is proceeded usually by a period of free-fall which may be what most think of in terms of “the Decline.”
Instead Ace provides us with an analogy which highlights that the Decline is a series of discrete events, each of which when triggered will fall and potentially trigger another event. The sheer complexity of the situation is too much for a single line of dominoes, instead we are talking about lines and lines of dominoes, linking around and intermixing with one another, all connected by a myriad of pathways. So even a few dominoes being toppled will quickly lead to line after line being set into motion; before long matters will quickly spiral out of control. Everything will topple. Here is an apt visualization of the process:
Understand that dominoes are falling around us all the time , and each moment we are only able to observe a few of them. Hence Ace’s statement about how we “can’t see the forest through the trees.” Many people, when they see a domino fall, think its a big deal. But they fail to realize that other dominoes fell at the same time which we didn’t see. Most fail to realize that other dominoes had to fall in order for this latest domino to topple. And they fail to realize that yet more dominoes will be toppled as a result of this latest domino falling. Only when we examine the totality of the circumstances do we begin to understand the scale of the game.
Now, some people are trying to pick the dominoes up and place them upright again and to line them up as before. Whether this is even possible or not at this point is a major issue of contention in certain segments of the manosphere. That debate is outside the scope of this post, although I hope to address it later.
The analogy of the “Collapse” or “Fall”
I think a more common visualization that people use when trying to understand our current predicament is to imagine our civilization as a car hurtling towards a cliff. The “Decline” is considered the point where the car has hurtled off the cliff, and is spiraling towards the ground, and the “Collapse” represents the final crash or Stop at the bottom. While this has merit as an analogy, most folks are probably using a picture which is too simplistic to accurately capture the nature of the situation. I’ve created a few crude pictures of some different takes on this analogy to try and help people visualize what I am talking about. Here is what most people are likely imagining the situation is like:
To provide something of a legend for this, A represents the “path” leading towards the cliff, B. C represents the “Fall” between the Cliff, B, and the bottom, D (which I will refer to in the future as “The Stop”).
As I said earlier, I imagine that most people will be using a mental model much like this. The principal debate this model engenders is whether we (we being the West generally, and the USA specifically) are still at A, have reached B, or are somewhere in the process of C. I think it safe to assume that most everyone realizes we have yet to reach the Stop at the bottom yet. The principal relevance of our current position is that it determines if anything can be done; after all, once we hit the cliff at B we are no longer in control.
However, this model leaves much to be desired. A slightly more advanced version might look something like this:
The legend for this model is slightly different. A represents the “safe” path, or a road which can be traveled safely without fear of necessarily going downhill. Of course, one can be heading towards the downhill section, B, without having reached it yet. C represents the Cliff, and D is the long Fall towards the Stop at the bottom, E. This model incorporates, somewhat, the domino effect which Ace mentions. Section B, “downhill”, is illustrative of a situation where once you find yourself there, matters will invariably get worse and worse, even without active effort to do so. This would be like the dominoes falling in a line, moving the “car” ever closer towards the cliff. However, because the “car” is still on solid ground, it is possible to reverse the situation, that is, “re-stack” the dominoes and place them upright once again. Once you hit the cliff at C this is no longer possible, everything is in free fall.
But even that model has serious problems when it comes to conveying the situation we face. This third and final model attempts to explain the true complexity and difficulty of our situation: The legend on this last model is even more complicated, naturally. A represents the pinnacle point of civilization, the point where everything is optimal and working as it should. B represents the downhill slope. Note that it is no longer a straight line but a curve; the further along you go, the greater the incline down. C represents the point where the slope is so great that the tires on the “car” can no longer maintain enough friction for you to control the car; the momentum of the “car” will carry it forward despite all efforts otherwise. D represents the gulf between that “point of no return” and E, which is the first stop. I say first Stop because as F indicates, there are other “cliffs” which the car of civilization faces further onward.
Why do I like this visualization better? A couple of reasons:
1) By imagining the optimal point of civilization, A, as a pinnacle it helps us understand that civilization is always in a precarious position, even when everything is optimal. In fact, the balance point is so narrow it is essentially impossible to perfectly balance everything, which means that civilization is effectively always moving downhill on B. In that sense, A represents a theoretical or ideal point, rather than an actual, real state.
2) The inclined curve of B accurately demonstrates the always unsteady nature of civilization. B’s ever increasing curve showcases how as more dominoes start to fall, they will trigger even more dominoes. 1 domino triggers 2, those 2trigger 4, and so on. The further along you go, the harder it is to stop.
3) What this model shows, and most people fail to understand, is that dominoes are always falling. ALWAYS. The theoretical pinnacle of A is meant to demonstrate that civilization is never safe. Why? Because civilization is nothing more than an ordered attempt to restrain the worst of human behavior, and to try and channel some of it towards positive ends. But human behavior is one of the few universal constants. Just like a gas will always expand outward to fill its container, humans will always push against social constraints in order to have their way. These pushes are the equivalent of dominoes falling. Commit a crime? You just toppled a domino. Ignored a long-standing social convention? That’s another domino knocked over. Civilization is maintained by picking up the toppled dominoes and setting them upright again. Punishing a criminal and ostracizing someone over their egregious social behavior are all examples of replacing dominoes. This process is one of a Sisyphean nature, it never ends, so long as civilization lasts.
It is vital that we understand this, because unless we all actively work towards setting the dominoes upright again, and putting new ones into place, civilization will fall. It will fall and fall, until it hits a Stop. At which point there is a massive social/civilizational upheaval. Assuming some measure of Order is restored, then the slow and steady climb back up the mountain can begin. Otherwise, the slide downward continues.
4) The Stop, that massive crash or collapse which we all [should] fear is the culmination of a long slide downhill. Some people, however, seem to look forward to it, a few even eagerly await this coming catastrophe. They fail to appreciate several things. The first is that the “Decline” is a cakewalk compared to what is ahead. As the title of this post mentioned, the Fall doesn’t kill you, the Stop at the bottom does. Those who have actually lived in societies which have collapsed will tell you that there is nothing to look forward to in that kind of environment. The second is that it is terribly difficult to pick up the pieces after a Stop. Before you can set up new dominoes, you have to clear the old ones from the board, and that is easier said than done. Wiping clean the detritus of a fallen civilization is the work of generations, not a few years or even a lifetime. So if you are cheering for a collapse, go ahead and Enjoy the Decline. Odds are, its the last fun that you will have in this world.
There are plenty of analogies and metaphors out there which can serve to describe our situation. But one thing is clear: the dominoes are falling, and they are falling faster than we can replace them. It may well be that we are past the point of no return. Yet I caution those who cheer this news, do not be so eager for what lies ahead. Those who yearn for the collapse are alike to those who yearn for the Day of Judgment, which shall be a day of Darkness:
18 Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why do you want the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, not light;
19 as if someone fled from a lion,
and was met by a bear;
or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
and was bitten by a snake.
20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?
Update: Leap of Beta has a post up about this topic as well.