Archive for the ‘Sun Sets in the West’ Category

The Current Age

June 1, 2019

One of the central figures in my book, “Street Song,” is a man I call Ed. He was twice my age, a serious student of reality, and he kept me grounded when I was having my toughest times on the street. I remember one day in the summer of 1976 when he came looking for me, wanting to see how I was doing and told me something that made a big impact. He said the next big thing in human history was going to be computers. He didn’t actually say it, but the implication was that computers were going to be the next big distraction to keep us from taking a clear look inside ourselves. It sounded ominous, and I think what he told me has been borne out.

 

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Street Song, Street Songs, and Collapse

April 6, 2019

I’ve been making  noise about addressing at length what I see going on given the results of the 2016 election—what I’ve been calling “The Sun Sets in the West.” It’s not some new insight, but something I’ve been watching and studying all my life. I think what we’re seeing is the collapse of the old system—not just in America, but in Europe as well. When I say “system,” I mean the elaborate environment that has been created since the so-called Western Enlightenment of the 18th Century and has taken over the world—capitalism, democracy, the nation state, progress, science, and so on. It has gone as far as it can go and is contracting. To a lot of people, that sounds outrageous and demands further explanation—which is my intention. But I can’t do it right now. There are two reasons. One is that my understanding keeps changing—not in the sense of “shifting.” It’s more like, “yes, that’s all true, but that’s not half of it.” The other reason is that, quite unexpectedly, the recordings I’ve been making to supplement my book Street Song have grown far beyond my original idea. They’re demanding all my time, and I don’t like to split my attention. I will get around to detailing my ideas about the collapse of the system—I think they are quite valid, I see evidence of their truth every day—but that’s going to have to wait a little while yet. I foresee the music being finished this summer.

The Sun Sets in the West #5: Changing Course

February 18, 2019

I started this series with the intention of methodically explaining my views about what happened in the 2016 election. I wanted to build my case like a lawyer, step by step, but I find that I can’t do that. After 12 and a half years of working on a book, my brain rebels at doing that kind of dry structuring  again. The reason I wanted to do this carefully is that my understanding will be considered radical and crazy. But it’s not. I started seeing certain things around 50 years ago and they have been borne out continually. I’m not the only one who thinks the way I do. But it is less common nowadays–at least since Reagan. My essential point is that America is an empire and that, like all past empires, it has entered a state of collapse. But simultaneously there is something else going on. I believe that Western Civilization has peaked and is on its way down as well. I don’t consider this a bad thing. I think our civilization was built on a number of false assumptions, and nothing built on false assumptions lasts.  I’m going to go into all this, but not in any orderly way. I also want to address what I think will, or should, take its place. All hope is not lost. But those who see Western Civilization as humanity’s great effort to get things right will surely disagree.

More as the mood strikes.

The Sun Sets in the West #4

December 26, 2018

Before I delve into the heart of this series, I need to make one more preface-type statement.

My point of view is highly unorthodox—well-outside the mainstream. If my book Street Song was already in print, it would be much easier to explain how I arrived at my positions. Some are from direct experience, some from half-understood experiences that were given greater clarity by others whose books I’ve read and trust, and some purely from books I’ve read by these same trustworthy people. I’ve been going through these ideas for decades, over and over again. I’m not making any wild suppositions based on their current appeal to me. A lot of people mistrust non-mainstream views because it’s widely assumed that Western science and philosophy have pretty much figured out the basics at this point. I don’t think so. I think Western science and philosophy have made some fundamental errors in the building of their foundations and those errors have hidden many of the deeper realities. I’ll go into what I think those errors are in my posts.

Next up: the nature of evil.

The Sun Sets in the West #3

December 18, 2018

One gloomy grey afternoon in the late winter of 1972, I was walking around Seattle’s Capitol Hill thinking about things when it dawned on me that the central idea of American life—that every generation must have a higher standard of living than the generation that preceded it—was an impossibility. I‘d never read anything about economics, but I understood that resources are limited. I also saw that even if we could accomplish it, it would be a bad idea since we’d overheat the planet to the point that it was uninhabitable. I thought it was something that even a child could understand, and yet most politicians, economists, and intellectuals did not see it—or at least wouldn’t admit to seeing. They didn’t dare because anyone in a powerful position who said such a thing would be scorned as a heretic and lose their position. I came home from that walk feeling that America was doomed, that when a nation’s core idea is false, there’s no hope for it. And for the great mass of Americans—liberal and conservative, Democrats and Republicans—a constantly rising standard of living has been our central idea. It’s only been a question of how we accomplish it. Over the decades I’ve been simultaneously adding to the detail of my understanding (that we would lose jobs to cheaper overseas markets was obvious to me long before it started) and watching the country steadily fall apart. The election of Donald Trump to the presidency is stark evidence of that fall. But I’ve come to believe that it is not just America that is in a state of collapse. The situation is much more complex—more epochal—than that.

There is an ancient, ongoing problem with human evil, which I think is the only real evil. Many people I know don’t like the word because it takes on the aura of a bogus religious force—medieval ideology. But evil is simply egotism—something we’re all familiar with. At times, the effects of our egotism become so overwhelming that we’re roused to try to counteract it. In the Western world, there have been at least three major efforts: Greek philosophy, Christianity, and most recently the movement that began around the late 17th century known as the Enlightenment. I think what we’re seeing right now is the collapse of the Enlightenment values—democracy, progress, equality, individual freedom, reason, science, and so on. It’s happening in both America and Europe. I think the last election, Trump vs. Clinton, was representative of that collapse. It pitted a representative of hardcore egotism versus a representative of traditional Enlightenment values, and evil won. It’s important to understand why, but not many commentators, politicians, journalists, or intellectuals do. This series, which I’m calling “The Sun Sets in the West,” and which I’ll work on as I find the time, is devoted to my particular understanding of it.

The Sun Sets in the West #2

December 10, 2018

I remembered something today while trying to remember the title of a book I once read. The book was Stop Time by Frank Conroy, which I liked at the time. I don’t know that I would like it now. The guy who turned me onto it was an interesting conversationalist—well-read, intelligent—and for a few months I sought him out. One day I said something to him about having noticed that some guys think they’re men just because they have a pair of balls. He looked at me straight-faced and said, “That’s what a man is.” At first I thought it was a joke; then I thought he was making some kind of statement about biology—but that would have been almost a non sequitur. Then I realized he meant it. He even repeated it—quite seriously. I knew then that he was tremendously cynical, and it was the beginning of the end of our friendship. His belief was a little unusual at the time, I think. There was still some feeling of the 60s and early 70s in the air. And this was San Francisco.I think his belief is quite common now—so much so that I don’t think it’s a conscious belief for most guys. It’s just “reality”—not worth taking the time to examine. The world is saturated with porn.

A man is someone who disciplines his ego, who doesn’t seek personal advantage at the expense of others, who makes sure that what goes down around him is just. There shouldn’t be any argument with that, and yet I find that people do argue with it. And not just men. A year or so ago I had a long debate with a woman who took the a-man-is-someone-with-a-pair-of-balls side. This is one of the reasons our culture is collapsing.

The Sun Sets in the West #1

December 3, 2018

Alexander wasn’t great;
Augustine was not a saint;
Freud was nuts, and that’s not all,
Supply and Demand is not a law.

I wrote that bit of doggerel around 15 or 20 years ago. I called it “The Sun Sets in the West.” Now I want to start a series on my blog with that title. For more than 50 years, I’ve been watching and thinking about our civilization. I came to the conclusion almost immediately that we are heading for collapse. I know this raises the image of a long-bearded nut carrying a sandwich board sign announcing that “The End is Near!” But I am not a nut and I have thought long and hard about the collapse that we really are seeing all around us now. It’s not just America, but Europe too. None of it surprises me. And none of my ideas are unique to me. I learned a lot of them from others. But most of those others are dead now. And since Reagan the voice of warning has been shut up. We’re still living under the fantasies he put in place.

I’d been thinking about writing an essay regarding all this. But it kept getting longer and started turning into a book, and I don’t have the patience for another book right now. I feel the need to get what I’m seeing out there now. Whenever I have time and inclination, I’ll post here about it. (I’ll continue to write about other things as well.) My posts have tended to be relatively short, but I intend to write longer pieces now. It’s a difficult subject. People tend to attack anyone who brings up the things I want to bring up. We’ll see how long I last.