I received a stimulating comment from a regular reader who wrote, “We don’t talk enough about the ‘one step back’ that often precedes the ‘two forward’”. He writes, “Germany’s Third Reich was a nation-state’s ‘one step back,’ and illustrates the suffering and calamity that comes from lack of vigilance and courage-in-action, but also the pain inherent in progress.”
There’s a lot in that statement, and I attempt to address it in the following video. My basic thesis is that we probably worry more than we need to about the “one step back” that cultures sometimes take.
A good example is the US response to the World Trade Towers attack in 2001. In the aftermath of that event, we did slip from a center-of-gravity modernist country to a center-of-gravity traditionalist country. We became more nationalistic and aggressive and probably launched one war too many (the war in Iraq) as a result.
But what we did not do was round up American Muslims into internment camps.
Of course, internment did happened to Japanese Americans after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the middle of WWII. But that’s my point. We have evolved since then; there was a far larger percentage of people with modern and postmodern values around in 2001 than in 1943, people who are able to see more complexly, and who have more sophisticated responses to crises. 9/11 pushed us back into nationalism but not all the way back to ethnocentrism.
So while events may knock a society back one stage of development, we’re not likely to be knocked back two or three stages. In other words, I see very little danger of the US or any first world country devolving into totalitarianism, which is two or three levels previous to our current developmental center of gravity. Or human sacrifice, which is four or five levels previous. Or cannibalism, which is five or six levels previous. Aside from an exogenous event, such as an asteroid hitting the planet, which could take us right back to survival values (including cannibalism) the biggest risk postmodernists have is reverting back to the shadow expressions of modernity, which include mindless exploitation and consumerism. It’s a real danger, and indeed happening as we see economic issues rising in the polls of things people are worried about and concerns about climate change falling. Now that’s a real step back. Let’s worry about that instead of grand dystopian fantasies.