The Poison of Modernity

As I was mindlessly reading on my iPhone a few days ago, I came across an article discussing the effects of smart phones on the muscular and skeletal structures of their users. Nobody doubts that contemporary technology and social media are having enormous effects upon our attention spans, relationships, and self-perceptions; it should come as no surprise that such technology is starting to affect us physically as well.

This led me to reflect upon the particularly insidious nature of contemporary narcotics. Mankind has always had access to various intoxicants and stimulants in order to affect our perception of reality in some way, either by purposely deadening the senses in order to dull some physical or spiritual pain, or by increasing our energy and sensory faculties. Whatever the case, except in periods of utmost despair, this was never intended as a perpetual state and typically was a form of recreation or sacrament that did not prevent the individual from performing their duty in the world. Nowadays our poison is administered to us in a steady drip, just enough to keep us perpetually in its grip. And unlike the more unpredictable and self-destructive narcotics of times past, one can indulge in these pastimes and still be a nominally productive wage slave and consumer.

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Take the especially pervasive matter of pornography. I will not belabor the case, which I happen to agree with, that the mass consumption of pornography is a great social ill. I simply wish to call attention to its incredible ease of access. With nothing more than a smartphone every man, woman, and child has access to hundreds of thousands of hours of pornographic media. Not just homemade amateur stuff, either: top-shelf, studio-produced content featuring professional “actors” and catering to every imaginable curiosity or perversion. I have often wondered how pornography even turns a profit, since I simply cannot imagine why anyone would pay for it with so much free content out there.

If I were of a conspiratorial cast of mind, I would suspect that the pervasiveness and ease of access was all part of the plan. For at least five hundred years the social engineers of the Cathedral have been at war with the antisocial aspects of the human male, chiefly his sexual and martial instincts. In traditional society these were harnessed to family and community defense, but as these forms of tribalism became inconvenient to the enlightened despots who sought to run society along more rational  (and manageable) principles. Attempts to channel martial aggression into sports and business were moderately successful but could not entirely stamp it out, leading to the “hostile workplaces” and “sexual harassment” complaints of the contemporary workplace. Now, for the first time, our social engineers have succeeding in producing a completely neutered male, and without any coercion whatsoever. Rampant online pornography satisfies the sexual instinct; video games placate the longing for heroism and martial exploits, providing hundreds of hours of simulated warfare for only the cost of a day’s wages; and, if those don’t do the trick, Adderall and SSRIs are cheap and easily obtained through legitimate channels. The wayward and recalcitrant can be suppressed through punitive school and workplace policies, social opprobrium, and a strongly biased criminal justice and family court system.

Just as men have seen their traditional social roles become objects of disrepute and mockery, women are also increasingly encouraged to abandon or minimize their maternal instincts, or pressured into juggling full-time employment and childrearing duties as well. They, too, have their own narcotics, but as their biological inclinations are not considered disreputable and since in the current climate they are something of a protected class, their situation is not as dire.

Irrespective of age or gender, with every passing year the Cathedral increases its area of surveillance and its intrusion into our lives. And rather than the jackbooted totalitarian tyranny of antifascist nightmares, this Orwellian situation came about largely with our consent and applause. The numbers of people who spend days in line for every new iPhone release is a testimony to how willing people are to harness themselves mind, body, and soul to the hive that gives them meaning.

While in some ways more insidious than any fictional dystopia, this reign of simulacra and artifice does have one silver lining: it is to a large extent voluntary. “Corruption has never been compulsory,” as Robinson Jeffers once wrote; and if one is willing to put up with a certain degree of discomfort and social opprobrium it is possible to extricate oneself mentally and spiritually, and in many ways physically, from the corruptions of the present.

When I consider how I first began my ascent from the cave, I attribute it to a number of factors: the place and era of my upbringing, various books I read, sojourns in old Europe, youthful existential crises. The most important factor, however, has been my experience of wild nature. My solitary travels in the mountains and forests, listening to the water trickling in a stream, watching the wind blow across the prairie, hearing the wolves howl at twilight – all of these experiences throughout my life taught me that there is a force in this world that transcends human consciousness and our ephemeral concerns. There is a natural law that demands our reverence. Wilderness, in short, taught me the reality of God, a fact that is easy to forget in our lives of artifice and ease. This is one reason why the wilderness prophets of the nineteenth century, Thoreau and Emerson and Muir, sought to preserve it against the onslaught of industrial civilization.

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The struggle against the elements likewise taught me the finitude of human power and the necessity of strength, willpower, and observation. Wilderness is the last arena for the expression of authentic masculinity; this was the motivation for its preservation by early twentieth century WASPS, Madison Grant and Theodore Roosevelt and Sigurd Olson (the last wilderness defenders and, indeed, the last Americans worthy of the name).

Perhaps in this age of mass entertainment, incessant distraction, rootless cosmopolitanism, and widespread degeneracy, a time when God has been forgotten or transformed into a humanitarian imperative, and when every feature of the traditional social order has fallen into disrepute, the experience of wilderness can help us to reawaken one quality in which the modern world is most glaringly deficient: the sense of reverence. Once we have allowed this sense to awaken and suffuse our spirits, the reverential impulse can be carried forward into a defense and embrace of all that is good, all that is holy, and that is pure on Earth and in Heaven.

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