All the way back. Not to the 1950s. The rot had already spread far and deep by then.
Express a desire to turn the clock back to a better time, and nine out of ten Americans will instantly assume you mean the 50s. That’s because there are no real traditionalists in US pop culture or politics–just two flavors of Liberal.
When a populace spends decades marinating in a single ideology, they’ll naturally jump to the conclusion that your rejection of the white chocolate vs. milk chocolate dichotomy means you want dark chocolate. Only with difficulty will you be able to explain that you want steak.
It’s clear to anyone with eyes that Liberalism has failed, catastrophically and completely. Those with keener insight will see that Liberalism failed because it succeeded. A branch cut off from the vine technically becomes free, but that’s a secondary effect. The ultimate, primary result is withering.
You can tell that Classical Liberals are rebranded Leftists because they argue like commies, i.e. dishonestly. Point out that radical individualism is a poor solution to our broken families and shattered communities, and they’ll give you the “It’s never really been tried!” shtick. It never dawns on them that Modernism hasn’t achieved utopia, despite a field trial three times longer than Communism enjoyed, because it’s impossible.
The other objection you’ll get comes from generally honest, well-meaning people who are genuinely concerned that dialing back Modernism means giving up cancer drugs and indoor plumbing. This false narrative arose from anti-Catholic propaganda later taken up by nu atheist fedora tippers.
The notion of a “scientific advancement gap” in the Christian Middle Ages is pure fiction. James Hannam is just one researcher who’s taken his turn torching that old straw man. In reality, the Middle Ages produced a cornucopia of technological innovations, including eyeglasses, perspective in art, the tidal mill, the heavy plow, the blast furnace, mechanical clocks, and the printing press, to name a few.
In practice, no one bothers explaining why abandoning Modernism would promptly hurl us back to the stone age. The causal relationship between the Enlightenment and current technology is simply assumed. If pressed, a Modern might make allusions to an open public square and the free exchange of ideas fostering scientific advancement. But this assertion rests on a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Correlation, as those who fucking love science are fond of reminding us, is not causation.
What we’re finding out now is that the free exchange of ideas no more ensures the best ideas win than filling a vat with champagne, Kool-Aid, and sewage ensures the champagne rises to the top. Indeed, the sewage usually proves more buoyant.
Truth and the good place hard limits on desires and behavior. Thus a philosophy that holds up liberty as an absolute must by definition jettison any acknowledgement of objective truth. It’s a good bet that the scientific method died in the cradle everywhere except in the Medieval Christian West because only Christianity supplied the necessary condition of a rational God who made man in His image.
The direct implications of Christian cosmology, which weren’t lost on Medieval scholars, are that the world operates according to consistent rules, and man’s intellect is really capable of discovering and grasping those rules. We don’t call the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity the Logos for nil.
Liberalism trades Christian authority for a public free-for-all where any idiot’s cockeyed ramblings carry equal weight to the most learned scholar’s exacting conclusions. In so doing, Liberals cast about in a litter box for grains of truth while cutting themselves off from its source.
The Liberal counter-argument goes that we can separate the intellectual wheat from the chaff using reason. But they conveniently forget that the human intellect is not infallible and needs to be properly formed. Garbage in, garbage out.
What’s really at issue isn’t a question of the perfect political system or the best conditions for technological innovation. The crux of the matter has always been a question of authority. The same people who called Conservatives science-deniers for questioning if men could control the weather now insist that sex is a social construct because under Liberalism there’s never an adult in the room to put his foot down and say no.
Playing “what if” is always a gamble. But not only is there no hard evidence that the Enlightenment directly advanced technological progress, I suspect we might be at an even higher technological level without it. Even if we grant that Modernism gave tech a boost, the momentum is demonstrably gone. Not only haven’t we gone to Mars or colonize the moon; the newest generation of smartphones actually have fewer features than the last.
Liberalism squeezed quite a bit of mileage out of its Christian patrimony. Now it has not only stalled, but is rolling, driverless, toward a cliff. If we visualize years as miles, there’s a service station about six hundred miles back.
The arts have to go back, too. Rest assured, I’m doing my part.
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