No, I’m not going to talk about the people who think they’re edgy and dangerous by breaking statues, in the most traditional habit in history, that of damnatio memoriae, where the memories of people who are disapproved of by those currently in power are expunged from public consciousness. The ancient Egyptians did it, for crying in bed. The problem right now is that this generation is so history illiterate they are trying to erase the memory of the entire past, not just a particular person of whose actions they disapprove.

There are several reasons for this, one of them being that, nope, they don’t know history, but more importantly, they don’t understand that history exists: that is, they completely fail to understand and believe, much less internalize the fact that people in the past weren’t exactly like them, didn’t have exactly the same ideas and the same interests, and were driven by different pressures. They never reasoned, for instance, that slavery was all pervasive in the past, not because people in the past were somehow uniformly evil or stupid (as opposed to their enlightened selves) but because there were different pressures on human society before widespread mechanization. That is, to be fair, everyone (but a very privileged few, did an insane amount of work and there was simply work that was too unpleasant and boring for free people to do it, or that it was impossible to pay people enough to do. Slavery — and as far as the impulse to force others to do what one wants, that’s the oldest sin of mankind — filled that niche. What eventually freed the slaves (which to be fair some religious souls always aspired to do, but there is no society in which “if everyone just” worked, so while the religious souls might have freed their own slaves, preached against slavery, that wasn’t going to make it vanish wholesale) was the mechanization of work. In places in the world where mechanization isn’t common, de facto or de jure slavery still exists.

Anyway, taking slavery as an example, one can understand a feeling of disgust at the practice leading young people to want to destroy, say, statues of famous slave traders (there are none that I know of) but they have gone past that to destroying statues of anyone who might have owned slaves, to statues erected by recently freed slaves, to commemorate their freeing.

That’s just wanting to expunge all memory of the past, partly because they assume all the past is somehow tainted, but also and more importantly because they have imbibed deep the Marxist-neo-Rosseunian ethic that if you destroy everything somehow paradise will emerge.

It is also not that ethic, the “everything in the past was wrong and I’m going to destroy it” that I’m going to talk about, but perhaps the comeback from it.

If I’m right, the time we’re entering could rightly be called “A time of iconolasts.”

Except of course, since it’s coming after a time of the iconoclasts themselves being in power and engaging in wholesale condemnation of what came before, it’s going to look very odd.

To understand what is coming you have to understand what the late nineteenth and early twentieth century did. By being the culmination of the industrial revolution, and bringing in mechanization of all processes, and making a lot of things cheaper via mass-manufacturing, it ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity. It also ushered in an era therefore in which many of the rules of the past no longer applied. When technology or economics change and make the previously inescapable rules and necessities optional, it becomes easy and natural to imagine that all rules and all social restraint and all the centuries-old ideas of “how things are done” can also be done away with. And because many can indeed be done away with with little harm or harm that only becomes obvious in retrospect, a lot of things get swept away — like the wholesale breaking of statues just because they’re statues.

This was one of the forces of the 20th century. It was further fed by a popular understanding of Darwinian theory (popular and very wrong) that led people to believe that each generation got better or more enlightened.

The other force, because people need and seek “leaders” and wish to believe their leaders are special, was the odd cult of “experts.” It started fairly early, much earlier than any of us will think, if we don’t know about it. It was fed by the idea that there were many discoveries being made that brilliant people were coming up with amazing things every day in which they were experts. While this was absolutely true — to an extent. Many of those “discoveries” were wrong or partially wrong and didn’t connect easily into the “system of everything” that these people tried to create. But never mind.

At the time there were discoveries in astronomy, in physics, in biology, and a discoverer could make a pretty good living of lecturing on it. There were also lectures on what we’d consider “Self help systems” including how to improve your memory (That being the one I remember.) This was going on from the eighteenth century at least, but in the mid twentieth century, it coalesced with the prevalence of mass-manufacturing, and the subsequent concentration of power in big cities and a powerful state apparatus, and fed off the subsidence of churches so rulers couldn’t say they were ruling by the power of G-d. A new vast apparatus of “experts” appeared, culminating in all the governmental departments which are supposedly advised and staffed by “experts” and “trained people” and well… “best men.”

I don’t know if “very capable” “best men” were ever involved in any of that. Personally I doubt it. Having been involved in artistic and scientific endeavors of various kinds, the “expert” who “knows everything about” whatever it is usually turns out to be either a sham or grossly exaggerated. And the number of even middling scientists or artists who are willing to leave their field of endeavor to become government bureaucrats is zero, meaning those associated with government are usually useless.

However by the mid century the press was also centralized, and in service of big government, which could burnish those “experts” and make them seem like supermen.

But that is the culture all of us grew up in. I’m sixty one, and I grew up in this mind set of “ask the experts.” By the 90s, we seemed to have “new experts” with “new theories” coming out every day. Most of them of the “self-help” variety. The “wonks” of the 90s made me roll my eyes, because what they kept coming up with amounted to “a new way to collect pocket lint.” However people piously believed it, and if you paid attention, friends and colleagues would tell you “Actually, research proves the best way to collect pocket lint is to–“

Only, as we’ve found out, as the control of the media escaped those (largely Marxists and neo-leftists) who kept the appearance of infallibility and expertise in place, most “scientific research” is falsified (quite literally most of it) particularly in the soft sciences, and most “experts” are no such thing, and most “new way to” is just a variation on rotating the cat.

Long before the watershed of 2020 people had the uneasy experience that those in control of the ship of state had escaped from the proverbial ship of fools and were just old fools in a new floating vessel.

But the last 4 years have been a mind-blowing demonstration of the falibility, incompetence and sheer ridiculousness of the “experts” and “top men” (not to mention “top women” or “top people who aren’t sure what they are.”)

I don’t think they can recover from this. And of course from such events two courses of results flow. One is that people stop believing in everything. They just devolve to savagery and inability to function. There is some of that, but curiously not as much as you’d expect, and most of it seems to be from that fringe element who would otherwise be mental patients anyway.

What we’re mostly seeing are people who are reaching back, beyond the mid-century and trying to recover what has been lost. People 30 and younger are desperately trying to figure out how things were done, and how things worked.

And yeah, part of it is that tech has changed again, from mass-everything to far more personal, which means what we have doesn’t work and older things might work.

If my feeling is right, the coming era is one at which we dethrone the “experts” and cock a snook at them. (I don’t know what a snook is but I’m itching to cock it.) And instead we try to figure out what used to work, and try it to see if it works. And we study and inform ourselves on whatever we’re trying to do — aided by the internet’s availability of information on everything — and figure out how to do it the best way. Which often is the old way, though perhaps modified for current circumstances.

And if my guess is right it’s going to be glorious.

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