No, It’s Not Always You

Modern life offers a whole host of contradictions. For every benefit or ailment we’ve kicked, something new rises up to replace it.

  • We’ve traded subsistence living for atomization and isolation.
  • We’ve traded typhus and the plague and polio for cancer and diabetes.
  • We’ve traded the threat of war and starvation for the threat of obesity related diseases, drug overdoses, and suicide.

Not everyone is pleased with the status quo. Not everyone who accurately points out problems and contradictions with the current order of things literally wants to live in the past. The past is not as ideal as we all think it was, the future is not all doom and gloom, and the present is not always as bad as advertised.

But it is not always as glorious as advertised, either.

The status quo tends to be loved and fiercely protected by those for whom it works best. Any attempt to change it to encompass more people within its benefits is decried as “Communist!” or “Reactionary!” depending on the political bent of those doing the decrying.

In the interests of full disclosure, I suppose you could call me a social conservative and an economic liberal. Whatever that makes me, I don’t know, but I’m a strong believer in the fundamental tenets of Christendom (what we now call Western Civilization) with a belief that a government damn well better do what’s in the benefit of the people. And if that includes spending money, so be it.

Of course, the American system of government is just as flawed as the people running it. But again, any attempt to change the system, or even tweak along the edges, gets shouted down by the people who think the status quo is just fine, because it’s enriching them.

It’s against this backdrop a fundamental contradiction of 21st century American life rears its ugly head: the primacy of the all-holy business, and your work within it.

I’m going to stop here and anticipate some of the counterarguments.

No, I’m not lamenting work per se.

No, I’m not against or averse to hard work.

Yes, I understand I can always “Go work in a field!” and blah blah blah–the standard rejoinder to anyone that dares find fault with office work.

No, I don’t want to hear your “Bootstrap, snowflake!” argument. And this is not the same as wanting a big nanny state to take care of everything. You can’t reduce every single disagreement to an all-or-nothing binary either-or.

I mean, you can, but that’s dumb and annoying.

So work. Business. Your career. At some point, America bought into the idea that we don’t need any of this religious, spiritual, or other nonsense and instead could rely on cold, hard facts . . . and dollars. Lots and lots of dollars.

We, as a nation, bought into the idea that if it makes money, it’s good, and if it doesn’t make money, it’s a waste of time.

And if it makes more money, all the better.

Who needs art, literature, pretty architecture, or any of this culture stuff if it doesn’t maximize the bottom line?

This is why I view all of this Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) stuff as a whole bunch of garbage designed to sell. If CSR didn’t make money, corporations wouldn’t do it. They don’t give a good damn about the environment, or their workers, or Bangladeshi clothing manufacturers. They care about separating gullible old you from your paycheck.

Let’s talk about this paycheck for a second. You can already tell my distaste with the idea that “Economic Man” is the be-all, end-all of civilization, and that “enlightened self-interest”–that is, selfishness and in some cases greed–is the best way for humans to interact with the world and each other. Believe it or not, the profit motive isn’t the most holy, noble, and pure driver of human behavior.

Man has discovered that being a cog in the global engine of economic progress isn’t nearly as fulfilling as advertised. In fact, it’s responsible for a whole host of physical, social, mental, emotional, and spiritual problems. But that bottom line, though . . .

The question arises, whose bottom line? Because it sure isn’t yours or mine.

I have these thoughts as work has become orders of magnitude more busy lately. I work late, I’m stressed, I’m not seeing my family, and for what? For what? I’m certainly not getting richer. If we’re all supposed to chase our own selfish interests and do whatever it takes for money, this is a waste. I’m not seeing an extra cent for any of the long hours, any of the working at home off the clock to meet deadlines, none of it. 

“Well, that’s your fault! You should have gotten a better job that pays more and provides a great incentive for extra work and a tangible way to see the fruits of your labor! If you’re not filthy stinking rich in the United States of America, that’s YOUR fault, you loser!”

THIS IS WHAT A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY ACTUALLY THINK.

We have a perverse relationship with money. We have a perverse relationship with work. We’ve set aside worship of a Creator for worship of creation. We’re a pagan nation, and we’ve been a pagan nation for a good one-hundred years, slavishly devoted to Mammon, among other false idols.

Several generations were told to go to school and join the rat race. It’s the only way to be successful! You have to apply yourself. You can’t waste your potential being a plumber or a mechanic or a restaurateur! You’ve gotta work an office job! Get some security! Good benefits and a pension so you can retire at age 65!

I laugh hysterically when anyone born pre-1964 asks me about my retirement plan. My retirement plan is “Don’t die.”

Nirvana’s graphic designers knocked it out of the park with this one.

Something’s not working right in this nation. I cringe when I see young high-school graduates go to college. I cringe harder when I see them graduate college. I really, honestly, truly, and sincerely want what’s best for them, and often that means I want them not to be saddled with unapayble debt working super-hard for relative peanuts and being utterly unable to afford a house or a family of their own. Because when both spouses have to work, who the hell is going to raise the kids? Both parents have to pay off their student loans and other debts, and one of their jobs essentially leaves enough left over to pay for daycare. 

It’s bleak and depressing, but I’m not despairing because I see so many younger people trying to break out of this trap. I’m also thankful for what I do have–health, family, and relative safety that would make my ancestors a million shades of green with envy. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got and deal with the hand you’ve been dealt . . . and lest you forget, sometimes you picked the cards yourself! You can always turn a bad situation around if you have love in your heart and hope in your life.

The future will be good because we’re on to the game. Us generations trapped between the grinding wheels of transition are forearmed with the knowledge it will take to make sure our descendants will avoid the mistakes our progenitors either didn’t know about it or, in some sinister cases, knew about it but pushed anyway.

Things will get better. The old order is crumbling. Something new is emerging as people turn away from Mammon and set their sights on something more fulfilling, more lasting, more sustaining, more loving, more caring, and more real. Consumerism and short-term gain will give way to considerations about the only thing that matters: Eternity. And the nation, and the world, will be better off for it. 


My new book The Last Ancestor is full of action, adventure, and danger, but also hope, love, and light. And aliens, giant snakes, lizardmen, and gladiatorial combat. I’m sure you’ll love it–lots of people have been enjoying it so far!

27 comments

  1. I blame Protestantism. For Protestants, “love of money is the root of all evil” became “God blesses the elect with lots of money.”

    As an aside, you can always move to Los Angeles. Why choose between modern diseases and medieval diseases when you can live in a city that has both?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know who to blame, and I hate playing denomination wars. All I know is that it stuck me recently that the US has basically been a pagan country for a while now.

      The communists are right in their diagnosis when they say the US’s god is money. They’re wrong, of course, when they say the answer is to make government our god.

      No. We need to make God our god. Things will fall into place thereafter.

      For crying out loud, we’ve turned the birth of Jesus Christ into a disgusting consumerist orgy with a vague smattering of “good vibes, man!” and the glorious Resurrection into chocolate and bunny egg-hunting day. We deserve everything we’re getting.

      And savage comment about L.A.! But the truth is often savage.

      Like

      • It’s interesting, in a life without meaning the career became God.

        I’ve probably over simplified it but when asked at a party ‘what do you do’ the stock answer is responding what pays the bills and not ‘I play badminton’ or whatever gives someone a greater purpose.

        I’ve made mistakes, the positive is owning them now as I’m wise in hindsight. Like you I feel sadness with people going to college just to work a minimum wage job.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah. Or a job that pays just enough to run on a treadmill for the rest of your life.

        Here in the United States, “just move” is a shorthand way to mock a conservative writer for the National Review who, during the 2016 election, wrote all about how white working class communities “deserve to die” because sure, the manufacturing jobs have all been shipped overseas, but these meth-head, opioid-popping losers who are to blame for not knowing computers and seating in their communities. They should just move, right? Because who cares about family and tradition and rootedness!

        THAT’S the attitude I hate in America right now. I don’t know what it’s like in the UK, but here, both of our wonderful political parties have nothing but contempt for people like you and me. The binary is false and is poison. Something’s got to give. I see young people opting not to play the game, which gives me a lot of hope.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Politics same in the UK. I don’t know if it’s always been like that and I’ve just noticed or the caliber of todays politicians.

        Used to think it was embarassing to not know about politics and who are leaders are. Now I’m that person. There not getting my vote I guess I’m one of the growing many like you say not playing the game.

        If it doesn’t hurt me, my family or community I don’t worry about todays latest issue!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The problem with people who are religious, is that they presume, in quite an unjustified manner, that it’s a lack of religion that leads to immorality. That is absolutely not the case. There are plenty of people, like myself, who are not religious, and yet have a strong sense of morality. For instance, I agree with your point of view on work, the government etc. And plenty of people who are so-called deeply religious are the biggest proponents for greed and capitalism. The prosperity theology is just one example of religious people being the worst kinds of people in modern society.

    Unfortunately, when I hear religious people blaming the problems of society on a lack of religion, it reinforces my view that religious people are as much a part of the problem as anyone else on this planet.

    Like

    • “The problem with people who are religious, is that they presume, in quite an unjustified manner, that it’s a lack of religion that leads to immorality. That is absolutely not the case.”

      But you and I, who are not religious, have to accept that our morality comes from a 2000 year old religion that is derived from the teachings of one man: Jesus Christ. We are inoculated against immorality and amorality because of that, and we have to thank our Nth-generation grandparents, and Jesus, for our morality and what they bequeathed us, and to maintain the civilisation they built, whatever our personal religious beliefs.

      Alexander is _almost_ right when he describes the West as a pagan civilisation. The institutions are now mostly pagan, but the people aren’t – yet. But the loonies and fanatics have been getting into more and more positions of authority recently and pushing this paganism on everyone.

      In fact, it’s worse than paganism. ‘Wax my balls’ is the new ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law’. Crowley would be proud of his Satanic spiritual children. Unfettered individual liberty for all means unfettered individual liberty for fanatics, lunatics and child abusers. That’s literal Hell for any sane and normal person. That’s why my First Law says Western Civilisation is now run by, and for, the infantile and the crazy.

      I’m glad to see Alexander using my new ‘witch test’ here. Because Western Civilisation is based on Christianity, it makes sense to call it by its original name of Christendom. It is literally the most accurate description for our civilisation that I can think of, despite its diluted religious state. I’ve racked my brains to think of a more concise way to describe our civilisation and can’t. ‘Christianity’ is the single word that defines our set of societies so that it can’t be mistaken for anything else.

      Take a look at this Twitter conversation. The other guy was _literally_ trying to argue that Western Civilisation didn’t exist. That is the ultimate goal of the loonies we are facing – they don’t just want to say that the West is evil, they want to deny that it even exists.

      Of course, being a magical thinker, he was saying that the West is evil AND that it doesn’t exist –mutually contradictory positions.

      I drove him away pretty quickly by insisting that ‘the West’ means Christendom. The lesson is that unless we in the West accept that it is a Christian civilisation, then the SJWs will be right – there will be no way to say that what we have is a coherent civilisation at all. We’ll be relegated to just a bunch of atomised nations – much like we are in danger of having a society full of atomised individuals. IE the danger is fractal.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Even the non-religious in western nations are culturally Christian whether they like it or not. Otherwise, please provide an alternative set of morals and guidelines and boundaries on human misbehavior! I’m all ears and have been waiting my entire life for this new set of shiny sexy secular rules that will lead us into an evolved utopia.

        I’m being hyperbolic, but my point stands. Your point, Paul, about malignant individualism reduces morality to personal preference. That is no way to live nor structure a functioning society, forget living a meaningful life. Stefan Molyneux fries desperately with his principle of Universally Preferable Behavior (UPB), but even that runs into the trouble all secular codes and constitutions have: why is any one set of behavior “universal,” or even “preferable”?

        Call God mystical sky daddy feel-good nonsense for succor in a harsh and uncaring universe all you want, but at least Christians, for example, can say “Child sacrifice, rape, theft, and murder are wrong bedside God says so and nothing is going to change my mind.”
        And spare me, people, any “But muh Bible genocide!” and “but muh religion causes more wars than anything ever!”

        I swear to God Muslim nations have it right by trying to keep contemporary Western culture way the hell out of their societies. Want to destroy your enemy? Inflict 21st century American culture on them.

        I do not want the United States to be a Muslim nation or any type of theocracy. I do want it to be a nation where people don’t worship material things OR government, and instead place their trust in something else, something bigger than them, be it God or be it something beneficial beyond the accumulation of more stuff.

        “The lesson is that unless we in the West accept that it is a Christian civilisation, then the SJWs will be right – there will be no way to say that what we have is a coherent civilisation at all.”

        I can’t argue with this.

        Like

    • I’m not even discussing conventional morality in this post, just the American replacement of anything remotely genuinely spiritual or religious with consumerism and secular humanism. But since you brought it up, sure, plenty of non-religious people are good and moral. Still can’t explain why or what “moral” means. Also, sure, SOME religious people are hypocrites. So are SOME non-religious people. So are SOME of any group of people. Anyone who professes any standard is going to fail to live up to the standards at some point. That’s human nature.

      It might surprise you that I also blame religious people in America for Mammon-worship becoming our national religion. They just stood by and let it happen. Like you, the prosperity gospel kind of stuff pisses me off to no end. But plenty of non-Christians push the exact same idea, just without the pretense of religion.

      I’d love for people to have SOMETHING, some kind of future orientation to keep the dangers of consumerism at bay. I mean, sure, European nations are held up as exemplars of how you can be prosperous and post-Christian, but they’re not even having enough children to repopulate their own countries. They are not showing hope for the future, nor are they even showing up. And they don’t seem to care. Is that good? Is that ideal? Religion didn’t do that.

      “Unfortunately, when I hear religious people blaming the problems of society on a lack of religion, it reinforces my view that religious people are as much a part of the problem as anyone else on this planet.”

      This is like saying when you hear a doctor blame obesity on the lack of exercise that doctors are as much of a cause of obesity as anyone else on the planet. Diagnosing the problem and offering what you think is a solution based on reason, experience, and observation isn’t being part of the problem. I’m all ears to any other solutions—please offer some here!

      And I also want to restate that this post isn’t about *morality.* It’s my take on what I see as a huge problem in priorities America has, and I’ll say it again: the communists are right about our problem—money is our god—but their solutions are just as bad unworkable, and destructive as the conservatives’ and libertarians’.

      Like

      • Unfortunately none of the responses here actually address my point: a person’s moral compass does not come from believing in a religion, or something higher, etc.

        It’s intrinsic to their experience, the structure of their brain, and genes. Alexander, I suspect you would have had your moral compass regardless of whether you were brought up in a Catholic culture.

        Increasing religion will not improve society.

        In fact, it’s the opposite that is the solution: U.S. society needs to foster a sophisticated understanding of morality and philosophy, strengthen its people’s critical thinking skills to bolster their mental resistance to the cons perpetrated by their corporate and political elite, and train their people to take action as a natural response to resolve unjust laws and practices. Religion has never encouraged any of these things: it relies on the same apathy and mindless agreeableness to be successful.

        The U.S. asked its people to blindly follow religion, and now they blindly follow any master.

        Liked by 1 person

      • If I understand your point, that religion and Christianity specifically does more harm than good, I disagree with it.

        My comment was trying to address that my post wasn’t about morality. It was about finding meaning in life. I have come to the conclusion that money worship is a poor substitute for worshipping God.

        “Alexander, I suspect you would have had your moral compass regardless of whether you were brought up in a Catholic culture.”

        I wouldn’t know. I was brought up in America, and the idea that America is a Christian society is laughable. We’re running on the fumes of the past, and those fumes are running out. I was brought up in a strongly Greek Orthodox subculture, and that’s the only thing that prevented me from being as fucked up as all the people I went to high school with.

        Again, your mileage may vary. And I’m not trying to convert you. And I do enjoy other points of view. Here’s an example:

        “U.S. society needs to foster a sophisticated understanding of morality and philosophy, strengthen its people’s critical thinking skills to bolster their mental resistance to the cons perpetrated by their corporate and political elite, and train their people to take action as a natural response to resolve unjust laws and practices.”

        What philosophy? Whose morality? Define “justice”? I’m not trying to be difficult. These are questions I’m honestly interested in.

        “Religion has never encouraged any of these things: it relies on the same apathy and mindless agreeableness to be successful.”

        Maybe this is true if the totally bastardized and completely cucked late-20th and 21st century American versions of Christianity. But I respectfully disagree and so does history. The first abolitionists were fiery Christians. My own ancestors, the Greeks, kept fighting the Ottomans for four centuries by keeping the flame of their faith alive—the Orthodox Church and Orthodoxy in general played a huge part in Greek independence.

        Those are but two relatively recent examples of Christians not “following blindly” and going against the grain of the status quo.

        “The U.S. asked its people to blindly follow religion, and now they blindly follow any master.”

        The Founding Fathers specifically did not. But the assumed “Freedom of Religion” would mean “Freedom to be any Christian denomination.” Maybe it was an error that they didn’t have an official faith. I don’t know. I’m not going to play historical armchair quarterback. I will say, though, the American system of limited government relied on he assumption that everyone was Christian or at least shared Christian values. I mean, many of the founders were not Christians, and I still laugh when anyone tries to say America is a Christian nation. I disagree with this wholeheartedly.

        American elites, secular and religious, played a bait and switch by teaching us that money is God. In doing so, they’ve proven all their critics right. This is what incenses me.

        TL;DR: I still am yet to encounter a moral code that has objective limits and isn’t subject to sophistry to argue that it’s morally good, to use an extreme example to make a point, to kill and eat your own children. I’m looking for the “Why” and personally I haven’t found a “Why” better than “eternal damnation.” Laugh if you want.

        Like

  3. Alexander

    Once again this neo paganism is due to an absolute and willful ignorance of what life was really like under real paganism if people really knew their history they’d protect and transmit Christanity.

    Guys like Epstein were regarded as totally normal. Petronious in the Satyricon has a passage where an 8 yr old claims to have lost her virginity. Everyone’s about Nero and Caligula but not Tiberius who was just as monstrous.

    It providential that Catholic Answers major conference for this year is on the Early Church fathers. A reading of the Latin and Greek fathers makes for sober reading especially with sexual ethics.
    I’d really like to have some on Twitter or on YouTube explain the real reality of life during the classical period with a particular look at kids and women.
    I wonder if there are any accounts written from time that provide a window of the real sexual morality of those times.
    Cringe isn’t the word I’d use

    xavier

    Liked by 1 person

    • That would indeed be fascinating. What people don’t realize is that the advent of Christianity into not just Europe but elsewhere ended many practices we find abhorrent today (or most of us do, at least) that we’re ho-hum normal back in the day. Sex with little boys in Ancient Greece and Rome comes to mind. Disgusting.

      This is similarly why I’m not bothered by Old Testament stories about the Israelites wiping out other tribes who sacrificed children to dark gods.

      Like

      • Alexander

        Little boys. That’s Tiberius. He called them his little minnows when he was in the pool.
        Girls and women were worse off. Chivalary is one of Cheistendom’s greatest gifts and legacies to the world. Sure it took until the 10th for the Church to tame the warrior thugs into real warriors. Since then nobody until now has wanted to go back to the pre chavlary times

        xavier

        Liked by 1 person

      • “He called them his little minnows when he was in the pool.”

        God, that’s disgusting.

        “Chivalary is one of Cheistendom’s greatest gifts and legacies to the world.”

        Indeed it has been. And we modern “enlightened” folk have spent centuries trying to undo it.

        Like

      • Alexander,

        Tom Holland (@Holland_Tom) has a forthcoming book called Dominion: the making of the western mind.

        He argues that Christianity was utterly revolutionary and completely upended the ancient world and still does so today. Not just in the west but even countries like China and India have to come to grips with it.

        Tom mentions he’s agnostic and secular. He wrote the book to discover why did he think the way he did on various issues. Dominion is the result.

        xavier

        Liked by 1 person

      • Alexander,

        Read this review of Dominion
        https://www.newstatesman.com/dominion-making-western-mind-tom-holland-review

        The money quotes

        Twenty years of reading and writing about classical antiquity wore away his(Hollands’s) youthful admiration for pagan culture.

        And this one:

        Across the Roman world, wailing infants could be found on the roadside, on rubbish heaps or in drains, left there to perish. Female infants who were rescued would be raised as slaves or sold to brothels. It wasn’t simply Roman callousness that Holland was repelled by. It was “the complete lack of any sense that the poor or the weak might have the slightest intrinsic value”. His values were not those of classical civilisation, He realised, still less of “human nature”. They were the values of the modern West’s Christian past

        O Lord this canard:

        The religion that came to be called Christianity was mostly an invention of Paul and Augustine and would likely have been unrecognisable to Jesus himself.

        Proof? And how exactly did those 2 separated by centuries invent to create the Christanity we know? Seriously Mr Reviewer that’s an incoherent swipe.

        St Paul is still so right. Everyone is deeply scandalized by the Incarnation

        But still worth reading the rest and draw your own conclusions

        xavier

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can’t stand that “Paul and Augustine ruined Christ’s message!” point of view. It assumes the early church fathers were so stupid they didn’t know what they were doing, talking about, or looking at.

        Like

  4. Alexander
    Yup. Which is why the reviewer’s complaint about pagan tolerance and humanity’s need for different mythologies is a misleading delusion. Lies in fact

    Well Catholic answers’s conference for this year is on the early Church father.
    So that’s providential

    xavier

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Not been on the blog for months Alex. This is an awesome post. My thoughts below:

    “This is why I view all of this Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) stuff as a whole bunch of garbage designed to sell. If CSR didn’t make money, corporations wouldn’t do it. They don’t give a good damn about the environment, or their workers, or Bangladeshi clothing manufacturers. They care about separating gullible old you from your paycheck”.

    Cynical but undoubtedly true. I see the other side of the coin as I work for a large charity in the UK where we interact and run volunteer days for a large number of global companies. Whilst the staff who turn up are by and large great I cannot help thinking that the whole CSR movement is essentially positive PR for organisations who want to top up the bottom line – lets face it they wouldn’t give staff time off if they were losing money…

    “have these thoughts as work has become orders of magnitude more busy lately. I work late, I’m stressed, I’m not seeing my family, and for what? For what? I’m certainly not getting richer….”

    This struck a nerve. My workplace is currently going through a “restructure” whereby a management consultant has come in and reorganised everything. So whilst we now have 4 new managers and several supervisors the actual number of operational staff has not changed whilst the targets and workload have increased. This is why whenever anyone asks me about donating to charity I tell them to volunteer their time…

    Its funny, I don’t have family yet but am going through the realisation at 29 years old that the whole “career/make loads of money/consumerism” that is thrust down our throats really is worse than I ever thought…we have replaced religion with the cult of careerism and work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great to see you again EA!

      Glad you enjoyed this post. It was a tough one to write and I sat on it for a while because I know I would run the risk of sounding whiny or ungrateful. But I can’t help how modern life makes me feel.

      The word that keeps coming back to me is “disconnected.” The whole modern office workplace is inorganic yet it tries to cram a feeling of family or community into its workers. Now, I understand needing buy-in for a team, but it’s so artificial one can’t help realize it’s a faint echo of the real thing . . . that just makes you want the real thing. And yet the real thing is so hard to get because you’re at work all of the time . . .

      I know full well how difficult working in the fields is, but way back when, you were working in the fields with your actual community which was, quite literally, your family and your extended family, which is what a culture really is.

      In the modern office environment? Not so much. These are transient relationships of convenience. Who actually keeps in touch with former co-workers once you’ve left? You are forgotten in a day or two.

      Like

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