- Guest Blogger Nitzakhon
The Atrophy of Civilization
The Atrophy of Civilization
“The curse of every ancient civilization was that its men in the end became unable to fight. Materialism, luxury, safety, even sometimes an almost modern sentimentality, weakened the fibre of each civilized race in turn; each became in the end a nation of pacifists, and then each was trodden under foot by some ruder people that had kept the virile fighting power the lack of which makes all other virtues useless and sometimes even harmful.”
— President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt
THE GREAT HEARTBEAT
In a fantastic lecture (1 hour, 44 minutes) by Bill Whittle, The Assault On Civilizational Structures, he talks about many things. At about 53:02 he starts to discuss the critical threat facing our civilization; he discusses the heartbeat of civilizations, and how civilizations start, rise slowly, accelerate, and then the collapse happens almost overnight. The pattern is very clear time and again. The question is why.
Bill offers an explanation in the course of the rest of the lecture, and I agree with every word. But I think there’s another element, another layer, to that question of WHY.
Also, BTW, check out the 90-minute discussion between Whittle and Stefan Molyneux, On the Brink of War and Economic Collapse | Bill Whittle and Stefan Molyneux. At about 14:20 they discuss a very good analogy to our culture-of-plenty, infinite-resource mentality our current civilization has, Whittle observes: “As resources become more abundant… peoples’ behavior changes in the presence of [that] abundance…” And a little later: “… it is success that kills a culture, it’s wealth and abundance that kills a culture from within.” But watch the whole thing. Fascinating.
THE DOOR TO THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE
So consider this example to set the stage – sorry for the length of the excerpt, but it paints a picture typical of today’s reality:
Anyway, our new friend was busy singing the praises of these Turkish beaux when something came in over her cell phone, which was sitting on the table in front of her. She picked it up, punched a few keys, saw something, reacted, and then – to our astonishment – leaped out of her chair, called a number, and began pacing back and forth in front of the bar screaming loudly and furiously into the phone in what turned out to be Turkish.
This screaming went on for several minutes. Finally, shaking with rage, she ended the conversation, returned to her seat, and, holding the cell phone up to us so that we could see the screen, explained to us what had happened.
On the screen was a close-up photo of a woman whose face had been beaten to a pulp. This, she told us, was a Finnish friend of hers who, like her, has a second home in Turkey, apparently in the same town as our friend. The Finnish woman had just now taken the selfie and sent it to her, along with a note identifying the assailant. The individual in question was a local fellow with whom both women were acquainted.
It was he whom our new friend had phoned and screamed at. Of course, neither she nor her Finnish friend had phoned the Turkish police, because in such jurisdictions the physical abuse of infidel women – also known as “whores” – by their Muslim paramours are of no concern to the authorities. Instead, our friend had told the perpetrator that she has connections with gangsters and had warned him that if he didn't keep his hands off the Finnish women, she, our friend, would see to it that he got what he had coming to him.
After that dramatic little interlude, it was surprising how quickly our friend resumed being her previous cheery self. We gathered that this was not the first time she had been involved in such an incident. She was used to such difficulties. They were an integral part of the culture. It appeared, in fact, that for her they were part and parcel of what made life in that corner of the world – so far from her homeland, with its bland, well-behaved men, its responsible policing and courts and equality of the sexes – so wonderfully colorful.
Three things come to mind on this.
First, doubtless this Turk who had just beaten the Finnish woman to a pulp was just trembling in his boots.Seriously, he was probably laughing his ass off after the end of the call.
The second point is the utter naivete to think this screaming had “handled it”.
But the third one – ah! – that’s the key point. To wit, the total lack of fear on the part of this woman who, almost certainly, plans on continuing her sexual feasting in Turkey despite what should be an obvious threat to her own continued well-being by going there, as exemplified by what had just happened to a friend at the hands of one of the boy-toys she herself engages.
THE SEAT OF FEAR
I will opine that fear is one of the oldest emotions, perhaps the oldest emotion as it is intimately linked to survival and reproduction; animals that do not react to threats do not pass their genes onward. Residing in the oldest part of the brain there is a structure called the amygdala – to which Bill has referred repeatedly in his video pieces – which has been shown to be intimately related to threat recognition (and the associated fight-flight response from the adrenal system).
In the late 1930s, researchers discovered that monkeys with damage to the amygdala and surrounding areas of the brain showed a dramatic decrease in fearfulness. Later, scientists found that rats with targeted amygdala damage would snuggle with cats, their natural enemy.
But one does not need to have actual brain damage to this region to not recognize actual threats. I’ve been referred to the book The Brain that Changes Itself on the basis of an inquiry into what I remember from my one Psychology course many years ago. In that class, and going from memory, I read about several experiments in which animals were raised from birth in environments devoid of specific stimuli that occur in nature, e.g., horizonal or vertical lines, specific colors, etc. Then, as adults, these animals were then exposed to reality, which contains these things.
Again, going from memory and awaiting delivery of the book – and finding time to read it! – these animals were confused and confounded by these stimuli to which their brains had never been previously exposed during their development. (The person who referred me to the book strongly implied that my recollection was correct.)
Whittle and Molyneux actually discuss the amygdala at about 41:00.
Here’s my hypothesis: In today’s society of plenty, where food is available virtually 24 hours a day, where for most people true fear is a passing thing at most, where helicopter parents insulate children from even slight boo-boos and rush to administer sprays filled with pain killers and antibiotics within seconds… I propose that our amygdala structures been so deprived of stimulation early on that people now, having been raised in an environment free of genuine dangers since birth, quite literally cannot recognize actual threats when faced with them.
It certainly would explain a lot. The philia for Islamic refugees, who depredations are documented, extensively, by what is happening in Europe. A similar philia for illegal immigrants whose similar crime sprees are dismissed with those who point it out excoriated as racists. Gays taking the side of Islamists who would, quite literally, execute them if given half the chance.
Women who, despite news like this (quote and picture, below, come from this article), the spiraling rape stats, and assaults like this one related by a German victim, and myriad other incidents sexual or not across Europe, still push for more Islamic Hijra:
The woman died while being raped. Police say the perpetrator continued to rape the woman’s corpse well after she had died. The Somalian was apprehended by the police while still in the act of raping the murdered woman.
And within living memory of the Shoah (Holocaust) and the near annihilation of our people, my fellow Jews in America want more Islamic refugees to America… despite Synagogues in France (let alone elsewhere in Europe) needing armed guards 24/7 and even concertina wire atop newly-installed high fences with closed-circuit cameras for protection against those very same refugees. Like the Swedish woman from the example above, whether gays, women, or Jews, or just liberals-in-general, they seem absolutely unable to see plain evidence before them of what happens when Islamic immigrants get brought in en masse.
And so on. Another analogy is also apt: it is currently believed that the rapid rise of allergies in the modern world is due to the fact that our hyper-clean societies, obsessed with sterilizing and cleaning and such, deprive the child’s developing immune system of stimuli that permit it to differentiate between genuine threats and foods that to prior generations were just fine. (E.g., in Israel there is a treat that’s like Cheetos but with peanut butter; Bamba is routinely given to children early on, and peanut allergies in Israel are virtually unheard of. Compare that to the dire warnings our pediatrician gave us about peanut butter and how we needed to avoid peanuts and other nuts like Yersinia Pestis for our children.) Again, the critical point: a lack of stimulus creates a lack of ability to recognize actual danger – or differentiate between it and something that is, in actuality, harmless.
Add in a belief by so many these days, as Bill and Stephan discuss, paraphrased, that the “fields of clover go ever, ever on” and that this infinite abundance will continue endlessly. Again, tied to the lack of true hardship.
(As an aside, I am a huge critic of the Internet of Things, and regularly point out that we are putting electronics into things and connecting them together with virtually no thought to security – as evidenced by events, time and again, by hacking of things like children’s toys that have been enabled with cameras, microphones, and a wireless connection. Or driverless cars; or a world where robots and AI have taken over virtually all labor – no thought, no thought at all, seems evident to the hubris of this technological brilliance as to how utterly vulnerable civilization would then be to people who desire to bring it down; for example, by pulling the power plug on this brave new world. It’s like the potential risks are not even a factor; the curve, in the minds of technophiles, only goes up forever.)
OTHER EFFECTS: FERTILITY
“Be fruitful and multiply” says the Bible, yet the western world is doing the opposite. The decline in fertility has been a topic for discussion on many sites and by many people, including the notable Mark Steyn. His book America Alone discusses this, among many other, topics.
But it is not just a hedonistic, immersed in abundance, live-for-the-moment philosophy that is behind the reduction of fertility – though that part of it is undeniable (consider this Time Magazine cover). Now comes news that sperm counts, particularly in the West, are decreasing.
Certainly there are many potential explanations. Diet. Physical activity (or lack thereof – guilty!). The foil-hat brigade doubtless opining on surreptitious food additives. Certainly the first two play a role, though I’m not quite so far gone as to buy into the last one. But I will put forth the claim that fear and reproduction are linked.
Reproduction, the passing along of genes, is a fundamental drive; whether plant, animal, or whatever, this is perhaps THE fundamental imperative. When one lives in a dangerous environment, it stresses the body. Danger and stress require strength (and not just physical) to handle those stressors and dangers; just as testosterone drives strength development in men, the need for physical strength and stamina drive testosterone production. Testosterone also fuels the sex drive and sperm production. And while I’m not familiar with research in women specifically, I have read that women – for all the talk of wanting a “sensitive new-age guy” – are actually, drawn to “bad boys” that exude a cruder, masculine aura. (Warning: retch-worthy material.: Just consider this guy who actively knows about, and encourages, his wife to have affairs to satisfy her sexual needs… and who thinks he’s oh-so-enlightened for doing so.)
Men with higher testosterone levels are also more prone to be willing to fight to protect what they have; the flip side is also true – especially when our children are raised that “fighting never solves anything”. Well, actually, it does, and the truth of the quote below is made no less relevant because it’s from science fiction (link to a scene from the movie; the quote is from the book, bolding added):
Anyone who clings to the historically untrue and thoroughly immoral doctrine that violence never settles anything I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and their freedoms."
WE’RE KILLING OURSELVES WITH SUCCESS
So a civilization nearing its peak provides a low-stress environment; devoid of real fear or hardship, devoid of prolonged and truly-demanding physical activity, where virtually every need is achievable, this environment drives two biological results:
- The atrophy of the brain’s ability to recognize threats, whether to oneself on an individual level or to the civilization as a whole, because the brain is not exposed to the critical stimuli at the age when it is needed to develop that ability
- The lessening of reproduction through lesser physical activity, in particular among the leadership, and its consequent reduction of testosterone production
Lack of understanding of genuine threat from amygdala atrophy, combined with shrinking populations from both a culture of instant gratification and falling fertility (and countless distractions via instantly-available entertainment)… all contribute to what Bill Whittle observes in that video, “… and you see that we are in a rather ripe place [for collapse]”.
Are there other factors to civilizational collapse besides these? Of course, doubtless many, and worthy of discussion at another time. But the focus of this essay is to put forth a biological hypothesis explaining it.
I will not claim to be wise enough to know The Solution, but I think some things jump out as obvious:
- Physical activity for kids; lots of it. Limit or, ideally, turn off the iPad and other games. Attempt to cultivate an attitude of life-long physical activity.
- End “helicopter parenting”. My wife is always after the kids for any dangerous stuff; I tend to view things through a “Will that be life threatening, or permanent-injury causing?” lens. “Just a flesh wound” means I’ll let ‘em learn experientially. (My son broke a couple of bones several months back doing something stupid. Odds are good he won’t do that again.)
- “Manly stuff”, for both boys and girls. Which means I’m taking them fishing and target shooting. When they’re older we’ll attend to survival school, and we’ll go hiking and hopefully hunting. Even now I’m teaching them about edible plants, and lecturing them about the imperative to not trust everyone at first sight.
- Education; about real history, wars, starvation, and so on, imbuing an understanding that for the vast scope of human history, and even in a cross section of humankind today, the life we live in Western society is the exception, not the norm – and therefore priceless and worthy of being defended.
- Genuine competition is critical; things have winners and losers. Have standards against which children are measured; no grade inflation or relaxing of rules. Set high goals. No participation trophies.
- Responsibility for actions, and for making decisions. Being an adult requires both, and in particular the ability to make decisions means bumping up against the often-encountered situation where there is no truly “good” choice, but the weighing of trade-offs and then accepting the consequences.
- Self-reliance and the need to do things for oneself. I run into this with my own kids; it’s certainly easier to just do it myself rather than let them fumble – or spike my blood pressure with explaining umpteen times what is obvious to me. But I’ve started to say “Go start first, and I’ll help in a minute”. Often, by the time I’m meandering over, they’re mostly done already.
- Get kids, from early on, to understand that the only reason they are there is because every generation before them had children. They owe a debt to that unbroken chain from the past – a debt to be repaid by having children in turn. When you have to factor in having a family as an expected part of your life story, living on the wild side of self-gratification actually looks strange.
What else can anyone think of? How else can we make sure that – as kids develop and grow to adulthood – that their amygdalas are properly stimulated? How can we make sure they have, and maintain, a sensible exercise plan to avoid the sedentary life that, clearly, leads to problems with fertility? And how can we hammer home the idea that the only reason they are there is because every prior generation reproduced, and part of returning the debt of their existence is to reproduce and create another generation in turn?
L’Nitzakhon! (To Victory!)
nitzakhon (at) yahoo.com